How to Make Christmas Lights Last Longer

Decorating the house for Christmas is always exciting, but who really enjoys stringing 3000 lights onto a Christmas tree only to have to remove them a month later? The next year you pull out the same strings of light bulbs and half of them don't work. There must be a better way!

Many Christmas trees are offered as "pre-lit" trees, but those weren't always available. For people with non-pre-lit trees who only enjoy stringing Christmas lights for the first ten minutes, this article should offer some encouraging suggestions. First buy one of the long green extension cords with outlets positioned every 12 inches or so. These should be available at your local home improvement store and are made specifically for plugging in Christmas lights. The very last plug should be positioned within about a foot from the top of the tree and the remainder of the cord should run down the center of the tree. You may want to wrap the cord around the center pole of the tree so that it will stay towards the center and not stand out.

If you will be using an angel that requires electricity on top of the tree, go ahead and situate her on top and plug her in. Now, begin at the top and work your way down wrapping each branch with several Christmas lights. Pull the lights out to the end of the branch and wrap towards the center. Leave several lights loose in the middle near the center. You will appreciate the effect once the entire tree is lit and you see that the lights appear to be scattered within the tree and not just on the outside portion of the branches. Use lots of lights! Don't worry about how long it may take to remove them later...

Now, here's the best part, when Christmas is over, leave all of the Christmas lights on the tree! Remove the delicate ornaments and the angel and wrap the tree carefully with a blanket. Pick up the tree, lights and all, and move it to your storage building. Stand the tree up for storage. The reason for leaving the lights on the tree is because removing them contributes to the reason why they don't work the very next year. Most strands of Christmas lights will work if several of the bulbs burn out, but the entire strand goes out if a single bulb is loosened or removed. By carefully wrapping the tree in a blanket and then storing it standing up, you are protecting the bulbs from unnecessary pressure and movement. They will last for years. If some of the bulbs burn out, they may be replaced or fixed.

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How to Fix Christmas Lights

You just finished decorating your Christmas tree with ornaments and Christmas lights. Suddenly, you notice a few bulbs are burned out. No problem; you have several spare bulbs in a drawer that you saved just for this moment. Wait, these are old bulbs from several years ago and the base of the bulbs won't fit into the socket of the burned out lights. What now?

Remove the burned-out Christmas light bulb from its socket. Do this by carefully applying upward pressure on the plastic base just below the glass bulb. It helps to have fingernails when doing this. Try not to pull on the glass bulb.

Once the old bulb has been removed, compare its base with that of the replacement bulb. If it matches, then you should have no problem easily just inserting the new bulb into the socket. If the bases do not match, then you will need to remove both bulbs from their sockets and swap them.

To remove a Christmas light from its socket, find the two copper wires at the base of the bulb. Push both wires downward so that if the tip of the bulb is pointing at the ceiling, then the wires will point towards the floor. Firmly pull upward on the glass bulb and it should separate from the base. Do the same thing with the replacement bulb.

With both copper wires from the new bulb pointing straight down, insert the new bulb into the old bulb's socket and try to align the copper wires with the two holes at the bottom of the base. Once the wires have been inserted, press the bulb completely down into the base. Push both wires upward so that they follow the groove on each side of the bulb base. Now they should be facing the same direction as the tip of the glass bulb. Insert this new arrangement into the empty light socket and the bulb should illuminate!

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How to Print to Tray 3 on a HP Laserjet P2015 Printer

The HP Laserjet P2015 printer has the option to add an additional paper tray, referred to as "Tray 3." This tray may be used to double the capacity of paper that the printer can hold. It also may be used for printing special forms or paper that differs from the plain white letter stock in the main tray. For example, if you print a lot of documents on company letterhead, but you do not want to manually load letterhead into the printer each time, Tray 3 may be used specifically for this purpose.

If you just purchased the printer, remove it from the box and be sure to remove all of the inserts that were included to protect the internal moving parts during shipment. Apply power to the printer and install the toner cartridge. If this printer will be used as a network printer, connect it to your network at this time. Now install the software that accompanied the printer.

When setup has completed and you have been able to send a test print to the printer, it is time to install Tray 3. Load the preferred paper into Tray 3 and pick up the printer and set it onto the tray. There are posts on top of the tray that must be aligned so that the printer will sit on the tray.

On your computer, click the Windows "Start" button and then choose "Settings" and then "Printers." You should see the print driver for the "HP Laserjet P2015 series PCL 6" (or 5E.) Let's assume that you are using the PCL 6 for this example. Right-click the icon for this printer and then left-click "properties." Click on the "Device Settings" tab. Under the listing "Installable Options", there should be an entry for "Tray 3: Not Installed." Click on "Not Installed" and change it to "Installed" Now, under "Form To Tray Assignment", set Tray 3 to the type of paper that will be used (ex: letter.) Configure any other options, such as duplexing, as needed and then click the "OK" button.

Open the application from which you wish to print. Click the print button to send the job to the printer. On the "Print" window that opens, click the "Paper/Quality" tab. In the field that reads "Type new Quick Set name here", type the name of the type of paper in tray 2, (ex: white paper.) Set the size to "Letter", the source to "Tray 2", and the type to "Plain." Click the "Save" button and then do the same thing for Tray 3, but for the Quick Set name, choose a different name (ex: letterhead or packing slip.) Click "Save" again. When you send a job to the printer, all you have to do is choose the type of paper that you wish to print to and the Laserjet P2015 printer does the rest!

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How to Measure Level of Material in a Large Bin or Hopper

Let's say you have a large bin or hopper and you regularly fill it with wood chips or powder or even liquid. How can you accurately measure the level in the bin?  In applications where it is necessary to measure the level of material in a large collection bin, there is not always an obvious way. This article will describe one method, using an ultrasonic sensor.

Purchase an industrial ultrasonic sensor (uses sound waves) with a range long enough to bounce from the top of the bin down to the lowest possible level of the material, or at least the lowest level that you care to measure. Be sure to select an ultrasonic sensor with an analog output.  Be aware that all ultrasonic sensors have a "blind zone" beginning at the face of the sensor and extending to various distances away. For this reason, the material to be measured should never be allowed to enter this "blind zone" because accurate measurement cannot take place in this range.  Also note that ultrasonic sensors are affected by drastic changes in temperature and may need to be recalibrated occasionally.

Install the ultrasonic sensor in the top of the bin pointing downward so that it faces the material in the bin. The analog output from the sensor will need to interface with the PLC or computer so that the reading may be interpreted and any necessary functions may take place when the level reaches certain points.

Empty the bin and take note of the output from the sensor. Then, fill the bin to the maximum desired level and take another reading from the sensor. Now you have your high and low margins. You can program certain things to happen when the material hits a certain level, for instance, when the level of water in a bin reaches the top, the pump that supplies the water shuts off until the water is lowered again to another predetermined level.

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Clear IE History, Temporary Internet Files in a single click

Wouldn't it be great if there was an option to clear your browsing history from Internet Explorer 7 without having to click each button under "Delete Browsing History?" There is a simple solution for this.

First, create a shortcut on your desktop. To do this, right click in any open area of your desktop. On the menu that pops up, put your cursor on "new". This should expand another menu. Left click the "shortcut" option. This will open the "Create Shortcut Wizard."

Copy the following text:
%windir%\system32\RunDll32.exe InetCpl.cpl,ClearMyTracksByProcess 255

Now, paste this text into the field under "Type the location of the item." Click the "next" button. Now it will prompt you for a name. Type something descriptive that will easily remind you what the shortcut is for, like "clear IE7 all." Click the "finish" button. This will create a shortcut on your desktop that will, when clicked, erase all history, cookies, passwords, etc. from Internet Explorer 7.

Using your right mouse button, click and drag this new shortcut down to the task bar beside your Windows "Start" button." When you let go of the right mouse button, a menu will pop up asking what you would like to do with the shortcut. Left click the "move" option.

Now you have a single-click shortcut that will erase your browsing history. Try it out. Visit several websites using Internet Explorer 7. Look at IE 7's history to verify that they show up. Now, click your new shortcut and then go check the history again. All gone!

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Fix "C:Documents.xls' could not be found" error in Excel

When opening any Excel spreadsheet by double clicking the file, Excel successfully opens, but so does the following error: "'C\Documents.xls' could not be found. Check the spelling of the filename, and verify that the file location is correct. If you are trying to open the file from your list of most recently used files on the file menu, make sure that the file has not been renamed, moved or deleted." This is followed by several more errors referencing similar filenames which do not exist. The spreadsheet will eventually open, but only after much aggravation.

The fix for this problem is simple. Excel must be unregistered and then re-registered. To do this, close your spreadsheet if it is open and exit from Excel. Click the Windows "Start Button" and then click "Run." Type this phrase exactly "excel /unregserver" (minus the quotation marks.) Click the "OK" button and the window will close.  Then click the Windows "Start Button" again and click "Run." Type this phrase exactly "excel /regserver" (minus the quotation marks.) Click the "OK" button and the window will close.

Try to open your Excel spreadsheet again by double-clicking the file. It should open this time with no errors. This procedure resets Excel to it's factory defaults in the Windows registry. You should not have to reactivate Excel after performing these steps.

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How to Install Automatic Foundation Vents on Your Home

Do you have problems with moisture and mildew in the crawlspace under your home? Do you have a termite infestation? If so, installing automatic foundation vents may be an easy and relatively cheap preventative measure for both problems.

Most old metal foundation vents are equipped with a lever or slide switch which allows the homeowner to manually open and close the vents in response to changes in the temperature outside. Let's face it though, how many people remember to switch these vents at the appropriate times? Leaving the vents open year-round wastes energy and can lead to excess moisture under a home. This creates a perfect environment for mildew to grow and is also a welcome home for termites.

To remove an existing foundation vent, the cement around the vent needs to be chiseled away. Strap on your knee pads or position your stool in front of the vent to be replaced and use the hammer and either a chisel or a flathead screwdriver to tap on the cement around the existing vent. Most of it should crack and fall away. Be sure to only loosen the cement around the vent and try not to loosen any of the bricks.

If the existing foundation vent is made of metal, try to wedge the claw portion of the claw hammer behind one of the metal slats on the face of the vent. Now use some leverage to pry the vent out of the wall. Don't worry about damaging the vent. It should be discarded at the end of the project anyway. When the vent is removed, use the hammer and chisel or screwdriver to remove any excess cement in the rectangular opening left by the absent vent.

Installation may vary depending by the type of automatic vents that you purchase, but the current standard uses metal clips and also pointed screws which apply pressure to the bricks at each corner of the automatic vent to hold it in place. Position each clip and screw in place and then, working against the resistance caused by the metal clips, insert the automatic vent into the opening. Once it is flush with the existing brick wall, tighten each screw carefully.

That's it, the installation is complete. When the temperature drops to approximately 40 degrees F, the vent will close automatically using an internal metal coil. This same coil will cause the vent to reopen when the temperature returns to 70 degrees F. There are powered vents available which include a fan, but these simple automatic vents only use a metal coil and no power to operate.

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How to Reduce the Amount of Dust in Your Home

A dusty home is an unhealthy place to live and very uncomfortable for those with dust allergies. Follow these easy tips to remove much of this dust from your home.

The first step in reducing the amount of dust in your home is to understand what causes this problem. Dust forms due to a number of things, including pet dander, dirt particles entering from outside the home, the decomposition of upholstered furniture and clothing, insects and their waste, dead human skin cells that have been shed, and many others. Through routine cleaning practices and some preventative measures, all of these problems may be controlled to an extent.

Let's begin with the central air conditioning system if your home is equipped with one. It makes no sense to clean and dust while there is a large machine recirculating dust and spewing it all over the house. Make an appointment to have the ducts cleaned and in the meantime replace the air filter with a high quality filter that is rated for maximum filtration of dust and allergens. Regardless of the directions specified on the filter, replace it every month. Leaving an air filter in place for several months at a time in a home with a high level of dust will cause unnecessary stress on the central air system and result in costly repairs.

Now do a thorough cleaning of your entire home using furniture polish and clean cloths where applicable. Don't forget to dust ceiling fans, blinds, drawers, and cabinets. Clean every surface in the home where dust could settle. Be sure to wash all bedding materials and if possible wash your curtains. Mop all hardwood and laminate floors and vacuum all carpeted areas using a vacuum with a Hepa filter. Clean your shower and bathtubs. At least once a month, move furniture, including dressers, beds, refrigerator, clothes washer, and clothes dryer and clean behind and underneath them. As this is a time consuming and often strenuous process, it may be necessary to alternate one area of furniture a month and then another the next month. Cleaning behind these pieces of furniture just a few times a year is better than never cleaning behind them at all.

Verify that each entrance of your home is equipped with a mat for guests to wipe their feet on. If you own a pet, be sure to bathe and brush them frequently. Check for cracks and crevices in your home where air may be flowing from the outside and repair them. If your home is equipped with attic stairs, verify that the door is sealing properly when closed. Products are available now that may be installed on an attic entrance that seals the door when shut.

If the dust problem persists, invest in an air purifying machine. The ionic air purifying machines do not require replacement filters and help capture a large amount of dust from the air. Consider removing large area rugs and upholstered furniture from your home. Switching carpeted areas to hardwood or laminate flooring will also greatly reduce the level of dust in a home. Be sure to keep closets and drawers which contain clothes shut at all times when not in use.  Following these simple tips will reduce much of the dust in a home and will simplify the cleaning process in the future.

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How to Magnetize and Demagnetize a Screwdriver

When working with small screws it is very handy to have a magnetized screwdriver to pick up and hold the screws while they are installed. Be sure not to use your magnetic screwdriver near a computer hard drive!

Find the strongest magnet that you can. The magnet found on the back of an old audio speaker is perfect for this. Hold this magnet in one hand and the screwdriver in the other.  Touch the magnet to the base of the metal shaft of the screwdriver and pull the screwdriver until the tip reaches the magnet.  Repeat this several times to make the magnetic field stronger. Place some screws on a flat surface and test your new magnetic tool. The screws should stick to the screwdriver, making them easy to pick up and retrieve if dropped.

To demagnetize the screwdriver, do the same steps above, but in reverse. Place the tip of the metal shaft on the magnet and push the screwdriver until the magnet reaches the base of the shaft. Repeat several times and the screwdriver should no longer be able to pick up the screws.

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How to Keep a Small Dog Still While Grooming

Are you trying to brush a hyperactive smaller dog that just won't stay still? Do you need to get that harness on, but your dog has other plans? Here's how to take charge.

One of the challenges of owning a small dog is that they tend to be a little hyper at times. This poses a problem when you need to do something as simple as brush the dog or put a harness on it. The first thing to do is to issue the dog the command to "sit." If the dog has not yet learned this command, then just try your best to corner it and pick it up.

Carefully place the dog in the middle of the nearest counter top or table. A bathroom counter top is another ideal place. The dog normally will stand completely still while you apply whatever treatment is necessary. Be sure to keep a firm hold on the dog. You do not want it to get away and fall off the counter.

While brushing the dog or putting on it's harness, speak soft words of praise to reassure them that they are behaving appropriately and that what you are doing is not punishment.

When the ordeal is finished, carefully pick up the dog and place it gently on the floor. If the dog is familiar with commands like "sit" or "stay", have it perform one of these tricks and then offer a treat as a reward for being so good.

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How to Remove Dust, Specks, and Blemishes from Photos Using Photoshop

When restoring old photographs using Photoshop, often dust, specks, and blemishes disfigure otherwise beautiful works of art. This article will explain a few easy methods for removing these imperfections.

Open your photograph using Adobe Photoshop. The tools used in this article should be available no matter which version of Photoshop is used. Find the problem area on the photograph with dusk and specks. Use the zoom tool to take a closer look at the area.

If the imperfection is small and also if the background is mostly a solid color with minimal texture, the smudge tool may be used to make a speck of dust or a blemish disappear.

Some areas of the photo may have too much texture or definition and the smudge tool will not work without leaving an obvious trail. For areas like these, use the lasso tool and copy portions of the background which look similar to what the area behind the blemish should look like. Copy a piece of the background and then paste and move it into place. Some rotation or scaling may need to be done to complete the edit.

For areas where you want to blend similar tones, while leaving the pixels intact, try using the "Clone Stamp Tool."  Select this tool and then left-click an area that you would like to clone and then release.  Hold ALT and left-click in a nearby area to apply the cloned pixels to that area.  This tool takes some getting used to, but the results are worth it.

Continue these methods until the picture is free of dust, specks, and blemishes. Zoom in close and inspect the photo for mistakes. Adjust contrast and color balance as needed.

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How to Make Objects Disappear from Photos Using Photoshop

Otherwise perfect photographs are often obstructed by unwanted objects or people. It is possible to hide these unwanted invaders from the naked eye forever!

Open the picture that requires editing. Study the image and determine which objects should be removed. Let's assume that the offending object is a person. Analyze the area all around that person. Are they casting shadows? Are they blocking a person or object that will be difficult to recreate? Assuming the background is not too "busy", it may not be difficult to remove the person from this picture.

Although it is tempting to use the smudge tool in Photoshop to just wipe background colors over this person, it would be very obvious to people viewing the photo that some edit has occurred. The intent of this article is to teach users how to wipe a person or object completely from existence without leaving evidence that they were ever present in the photo. Pick a point to start removing the person and zoom in close to that area using the "zoom tool."

Now, select the "lasso tool" from the tools menu and copy a small section of the background from just beside the person. To do this, click and hold the left mouse button down and drag the lasso around the portion of the background that you would like to select and copy. On the menu at the top, choose "Edit" and then "Copy" (you may also press Ctrl+C) This will save the selection to the clipboard. Now choose "Edit" again and then click "Paste." A copy of the selection will be added to the picture on a new layer. It may not be immediately visible as it is usually pasted directly on top of the original spot.

Select the "move tool" and click and hold the left mouse button anywhere inside the photo. As you move the mouse, you will see the small piece of pasted background begin to move around. Position this piece over the person in the area just beside where the selection was copied in a way that gives the background the appearance of a natural flow. Now, click "Layer" from the menu at the top and then select "flatten image." This will combine the layers that have been pasted with the background image. Repeat this step a few times, placing the pieces of background over different parts of the person. Be sure to pay attention to changes in the background. If there is a shadow or a change of color, you will need to follow this change closely so as not to draw attention to your edits. It may be necessary to rotate or change the size of the pasted item to make it blend well. These options are available under the "Edit" menu and then "Transform."

It may be necessary to create new portions of the background using existing pieces. Be creative. It becomes easier with practice to manipulate photos. Just remember to use the copy/paste method and minimal smudging. If the background has texture, it will look more natural to keep that texture intact.

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How to Make a Light Bulb Easier to Remove from the Socket

Do you have an old light fixture that grips the light bulb in a way that makes it difficult to remove? If too much stress is applied while trying to remove the bulb, it will often cause the bulb to shatter. This article teaches a simple way to make light bulbs easier to remove.

When installing or removing a light bulb into an overhead light fixture, it is wise to wear protection for your eyes. Position the light switch for the light fixture to the OFF position. Carefully remove the installed light bulb from the light socket. If the bulb shatters, you will need to remove the metal base from the socket before proceeding.

Find a new light bulb which has never been installed. Rub the threads of the metal base of the new light bulb with the bar of soap. Be careful not to cover the bottom tip of the metal base with soap because it needs to make solid contact with the metal piece inside the base of the light socket.

Carefully install the new light bulb into the socket. The next time the bulb must be replaced, it should be noticeably easier to remove from the socket.  Position the switch for the light fixture back into the ON position to test the new light bulb. If the room is illuminated, you have completed your task.

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How to Permanently Delete Pictures and Files From Memory Cards

The increased popularity of digital cameras, due to their ease of use and convenience, has created a problem that many people overlook. There may be pictures and files created over time on the removable memory card that should not be shared with the rest of the world. Programs exist that allow the recovery of deleted picture files from memory cards. This article covers several ways to permanently remove the files and pictures from the memory card without damaging the card for further use.

Digital cameras provide a "delete" feature that will enable a user to remove pictures and files from a memory card. The problem is that these files are not actually removed from the memory card until the space is overwritten by another file. Using easy-to-find software that is available for free on the Internet, another user may be able to recover pictures or files that have not been overwritten. This is a great tool for those who accidentally delete a picture and want to recover it. This is a horrible thing for someone who lends their camera to another person with hidden pictures that they assume were gone forever.

Transfer all pictures from your memory card that you want to save into a folder on your PC. Once all of these files are "removed" from the card, format the card. This may be done by accessing your digital camera's settings. After formatting the card, switch the camera back to "picture taking" mode. Take pictures of the floor or the wall until the memory stick has been completely filled. Format the memory card again.

Perform a search on the Internet for picture recovery software. There are some free versions available that work very well. Try to recover the pictures that you deleted and see what happens. If you can recover them, then someone else can too. Don't assume that other people aren't curious and that they will not attempt to see your hidden picture files.

Another option is to format the memory card and then transfer as many files as possible from your PC back to the memory card and then format it again. The idea is to replace the important pictures and files with less important pictures and files that you do not mind people finding.

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How to Keep Trucks from Hitting or Becoming Stuck Under Overpasses

Operators of large trucks sometimes do not accurately measure the height of the vehicle or the extra height of the load that they are carrying. When they drive these trucks under a bridge or overpass that has a lower maximum height requirement, these trucks either strike the overpass or, in some cases, the vehicle becomes lodged beneath the overpass.

Excessive traffic congestion and the financial burden of removing lodged trucks and repairing overpasses is a good incentive to apply a relatively simple and inexpensive means of warning drivers if the load that they carry exceeds the maximum height for a bridge or overpass.

Purchase a set of industrial photoelectric sensors that use an amplifier with an internal manual relay.  These photoelectric sensors should be positioned in an opposed-mode configuration (or through-beam) so that the transmitting eye is located on one side of the lane and the receiver is on the opposing side.  The photo eyes should face one another so that the infrared beam projects across the roadway.  The infrared beam should be positioned so that it is horizontal to the road surface and at a height that is just below the maximum allowable vehicle height of the overpass.  When the beam is broken by a vehicle or by cargo, it will trigger a signal from the photoelectric amplifier.  These photoelectric sensors should be located far enough from the overpass, that they will detect the over-sized vehicle in time to warn the driver to exit the roadway.

Connect the relay from the photoelectric amplifier to a set of flashing lights and use the proper signage to alert the driver and provide them with simple instructions, for example, "WARNING MAXIMUM HEIGHT EXCEEDED - TAKE EXIT WHEN LIGHTS ARE FLASHING!"  Though, this solution is a simple one and very inexpensive, the benefits will be quickly realized.

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How to Design an Inexpensive Trade Show Backdrop

A trade show is an excellent place to meet new prospects and advertise a business. Without an attractive backdrop and signage, many prospective customers will pass you by.  Promoting a business at a trade show requires special equipment to attract visitors, including a backdrop, signs, lights, and other advertisements. There are now many companies that will build trade show displays in a variety of shapes and sizes. The problem is that these solutions often exceed a small business' advertising budget.

Visit a local provider of retail store equipment. In addition to the ideas mentioned in this article, you may discover many useful pieces of equipment to promote your business through simply browsing their inventory. We chose 4 pieces of black powder coated steel grid panels, measuring 8 feet by 2 feet. Also, we purchased grid connectors and specially designed lights that connected easily to the top of each grid panel.

Arrange the grid panels so that each stands 8 feet tall. Connect the panels using special grid connectors to form the shape of a letter "W." Use at least 3 connectors between each panel. This structure is very sturdy and will stand on it's own with no support. To increase the strength and add additional safety, special "L" shaped footers may be purchased which attach to the bottom of 2 grid panels and hold them together in a right angle. Using two of these footers will allow the four grid panels to stand together, connected as a "W" shape.

Contract a local sign manufacturer to produce several signs with your company logo and some information about your products. If you provide the art work, this should be relatively inexpensive. The material called "sentra" is very sturdy and makes an attractive sign. The signs that were made for us used a white sentra board with vinyl printed stickers attached to it. Drill a hole in each of the upper corners to allow the sign to hang on the grid panel using cable ties.

Attach the signs to the grid panels and position a light above each one to illuminate it. This is very important as a dark sign looks very uninviting. Now all that is needed is a table, some sample products, brochures, and several sales people to work the booth.

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How to Throw a Halloween Lock-In Party

It's that spooky time of year again when ghost and ghouls walk the streets in search of fun and yummy treats. Keep children safe and sound this year while entertaining them and create long-lasting memories with a Halloween lock-in party!

A lock-in party is an exciting way to entertain a large number of children, while keeping them safe from the outside world. During the Halloween season, a lock-in is the perfect way to celebrate with a large group of children, while reassuring parents that their little ones will not be roaming along dark streets, accepting candy from complete strangers.

The first step is to acquire a building for the event. This building must be safe and all entrances must be capable of being locked in a way that outsiders cannot sneak in and insiders cannot sneak out. Many churches have family centers that serve this purpose perfectly and will allow members of the church to use the facilities for free. A perfect building will be equipped with a kitchen, a large room or rooms for sleeping, a gymnasium, adequate restrooms, and many smaller rooms for separate events.

Well before the event is scheduled to take place, the coordinator of the lock-in should determine approximately how many people it will be possible to accommodate during the lock-in. Be sure to also check fire safety codes and set limits to the number of people who will be able to attend based upon these limitations. As you begin to generate interest in the event, try to determine the total number of people that will need to be fed and calculate the total cost of refreshments. It is a good idea to charge a small amount for each guest to cover these expenses unless an organization or church is willing to sponsor the event. Collect permission slips for all participants who are under the age of 18. Verify that a phone number and contact name is available for each child. Be sure to arrange for enough adult volunteers to be present during the entire event to assist with the festivities and to ensure the safety of all guests. It is not a bad idea to hire a security guard to watch the building and to regulate who comes and goes through the main entrance.

In the days leading up to the lock-in, begin decorating the rooms of the building. The adult volunteers will be very useful for this work. Orange, black, and white streamers, fake spider webs, and large sheets of black paper make good decorations. If colored lighting is available, it may be used to create eerie effects. Plan which games and activities will take place in each room. Some suggestions are bobbing for apples, a cake walk, a bean bag toss, and even a maze or a small haunted house. Another popular idea is to create a fake jail cell in one room. Play a game where you have people "arrested" and put in the jail cell for 5 minutes at a time. Allow enough time for other recreation as well. Be sure there are some basketballs and misc. sports equipment available in case you run out of Halloween games. Depending on the age group, you can also organize some games like "Duck, duck, goose" and other physical activities that will keep the children occupied. Also do some research and come prepared to tell some scary and some funny ghost stories in case there are moments when the children become bored.

Buy all food supplies and drinks just before the event. Be sure to make some treat bags to send home the next morning with each child. If the building has a sound system, prepare a recording with some scary sounds to play randomly throughout the evening. Be sure to set a time for everyone to be present for the lock-in and also have a time when the doors will lock. Arrange a time for everyone to go to sleep and a time when the doors will open the next day for parents to pick up their children. Develop a complete set of rules for the event and post them on a sign for all to see as they enter the building.

The night of the event, be sure that, as the event coordinator, you are constantly monitoring the activities in all areas of the building. Delegate this task among the adult volunteers as well. Have fun, but be mindful that the responsibility of the safety of each guest is in your hands. If anyone becomes too disruptive, use the contact information for that individual and contact the parents, regardless of the time of night.

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How to Clean Your Home a Little Each Day

In one week or less, a home can transform from a perfectly clean living space to a completely horrific nightmare of clutter. It's difficult to explain what causes this phenomenon, but I do have several solutions for how to recover from it.

In most homes, it is natural for clutter to accumulate in a short period of time. This does not mean that the inhabitants are filthy people or that they do not care to keep a clean home. Clutter is evidence that people; busy people at that, are living in the home. The following steps should assist in maintaining a clean home within a budgeted amount of time.

Share the responsibility! If two or more people live in the same home, then EACH ONE should be responsible for cleaning it unless one of them is under the age of three. Each person should take responsibility for their own belongings and also for their messes. This is simple. If only one person in the home wears a size 13 shoe and there are two of them lying in the living room floor, it is that person's responsibility to relocate the shoes to a closet or appropriate storage space. If food that is packaged in a wrapper is opened and consumed, the wrapper should be deposited in the garbage can and not on the coffee table or on the floor.

Use the "Back and Forth" method of spot cleaning. This really works! Start at one end of the home and identify all of the things that do not belong. Pick up a few; not too many, and walk to the other end of the home. Upon passing the spot where each item belongs, deposit it neatly and continue on to the other side. Repeat this process, starting from the opposite end. With a radio positioned at a halfway point, music may be heard throughout the journey. Several things are accomplished using this method. The home slowly becomes organized. The person cleaning gets some valuable exercise and entertainment by singing and possibly dancing as they go. The entire house does not have to be cleaned each time this method is performed, but it is a useful means of managing clutter in high-traffic areas.

Once clutter has been cleared, it is a good idea to perform deeper cleaning. Scrub or mop floors, dust furniture, and vacuum carpets and rugs. As with the "Back and Forth" method of cleaning, deep cleaning does not have to be done all at once. Pick one day to clean the kitchen. Clean the bathrooms another day. Only do as much as time or energy allows.  By using these steps to keep a home in a manageable state, there will be less stress involved when a surprise visitor drops in unannounced.

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How to Make Money Risk-Free Online Without Spending Your Own

I am going to share with you several easy ways that I have made money online over the last few months. They are all easy to do and best of all, they're all FREE. Not a scam or a sales pitch. I don't want anything from you other than your attention for a few minutes. Money will never exchange hands between us unless you buy something from me on EBAY.

After having tried and failed to make money using advertised systems and even setting up a website with paid links and spending more than I made, I decided that I wanted to make just a little money; something for my troubles. It didn't have to be a lot. I just didn't want to have to pay anything to do it and I wanted to do something simple. Using this advice won't cost you anything other than your time.

Set up a free checking account at your local bank using whatever their minimum deposit is. This should preferably be a new account that doesn't contain your life savings. It will be used, for starters, to set up a PayPal account and then later it will be used to hold the money you make. That money can then be withdrawn as cash or transferred to another account for safekeeping. Set up a free email account and then set up a free PayPal account. PayPal will require you to have a checking account (your free one) and you have to verify your account by confirming two small deposits that PayPal will make to you.

Sign up with a trusted online survey website and complete surveys for money. Now, find several of your friends who want to make money too. Have them set up free email accounts and then refer them to the same survey websites. Use your best judgment and don't give away too much personal information to any website unless you trust them. Keep in mind that when you do reach your payout point, there may be a waiting period from the end of the current month before they issue your check. This is normally done for security purposes and it is a little inconvenient, but it's free money.

Join an online auction website and sell random items throughout your house that are taking up space and that you no longer need. Some examples of things that sell very easily are video games and systems, DVD's, die cast model cars (very popular!), and books. There are usually fees involved when you sell things online, but I've found that if you regularly pay off your auction account using your PayPal account, you will stay fairly well ahead and never spend any money out of your checking account. Just be sure to leave enough money in your PayPal account to cover these fees. If you do not have enough money in your PayPal account to cover the fees, it will be withdrawn from your checking account.

Another useful online tool are online classified ads, which are comparable to the classified section of the newspaper. The major difference is that most of these online classifieds do not charge you to list items for sale! Do you have some exercise equipment or furniture that you want to get rid of? Why not make some money from it and have someone else take it away for you? You can also find items on these classified ad websites that people are giving away for free! All you have to do is contact them and go pick it up. What are you going to do with all this free stuff? Well, remember that online auction account that you set up? Sell these items for profit. Friends and family are also good resources for free things. Offer to help them clean out their storage areas and get rid of old junk. You'd be surprised how much of that "old junk" is very valuable to someone in another part of the world.

True, using these methods will not make you rich overnight and I don't expect to be featured in any financial magazines any time soon, but these ideas do help to make some money. For example, using the ideas mentioned above, I've made over $600 in just a little over a month. Granted, you and I may not have the same type of personal possessions to sell, but yours may be worth much more than mine. One last tip, set up an account on, write articles like this one, and share your success and your ideas with other people. If your article becomes popular, eHow will pay you. I hope these tips are helpful to you and that they make you as much money as they have for me!

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How to Install and Maintain Photoeye Sensors for In-bay Automatic Car Washes

If you own an automatic carwash, this article will help you to learn more about the function of your photoelectric sensors and how to maintain them in order to keep your wash running smoothly.

In-bay automatic car washes rely on sensors to control the car wash equipment. Without sensors, the wash computer would assume that every vehicle is the same length, height, and width. Applications for sensors include starting the wash, measuring vehicles, and controlling the opening and closing of doors. Photoelectric sensors have become a preferred method of detection due to their performance and ease of use. Proper installation and regular maintenance will ensure uninterrupted performance from the photoelectric sensors.

The first thing to consider when choosing a sensor for an automatic car wash is the type of application that the sensor will be used in. Photoelectric sensor systems typically consist of, at very least, an infrared transmitter, an infrared receiver, and in high-powered systems, an external amplifier. For the simple detection of a vehicle, the photo eyes are positioned on either side of the car wash. The transmitter photo eye emits an infrared beam of light across the bay that is detected by the receiver photo eye. When the infrared beam is interrupted by a vehicle, a signal is sent to the equipment to perform the desired application. This may be starting the equipment, measuring or profiling the vehicle, or simply opening and closing the doors. Usually, one sensor is mounted high, while the other is mounted low so that the sensors form a diagonal line to the ground. This causes the beam to pass through the area where the largest portion of the vehicle will pass and helps to reduce false signals. Mechanical treadle plates that are used to position the vehicle may be replaced by photoelectric sensing systems.

The body of the sensor should be durable and designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the wash. There are sensor bodies available in plastic, nickel-plated brass, and stainless-steel to meet the requirements of the car wash environment. A simple infrared sensor like the ones used in a residential garage door application are not designed to withstand the conditions in a car wash and should be avoided in this type of application because they lack the proper sealing. For the car wash environment select a sensor with an IP67 rating. This rating is used to inform the end-user that the sensor is sealed in a way that will not allow the internal circuits to be damaged by water spray or submersion. The range of the sensor is important for two reasons. It is much easier to mount the sensors in a place where they will not be hit if they have a long enough sensing distance. A strong infrared beam will also assist in penetrating the steam, mist, and soap that are present while the wash is running and will provide fewer false signals and the resulting down-time.

Required maintenance to photoelectric sensors is easy, and requires very little time. Check the alignment of the photo eyes using a length of string or wire long enough to pull in a line between the sensors. This line should be parallel with the sides of both sensors. If you are using a set of photoelectric sensors that uses an external amplifier, periodically check to be sure that the seal on the enclosure box is still intact and that no water has penetrated into the inside of the box.

If you have problems with the photoelectric controls, determine the nature of the problem. Are they giving an intermittent output that flickers? Do the sensors report an output all the time? Is it impossible to break the beam between the photo eyes? Once you determine the nature of the problem, it is then easier to isolate the cause. If there is a flickering output, check the alignment of the photo eyes. Next check to be sure the photoelectric system is turned high enough. (On amplified systems, this setting is located on the amplifier, inside the water-tight enclosure.) If both of these things appear normal, check for corrosion at any points where the cable has been cut and spliced. If you find corrosion, be sure to cut and reconnect the wires using a soldered connection and heat-shrink tubing. This will help seal out moisture from the connection. If you still see flickering from the output of the photo eyes, check to be sure all wires that should be grounded are connected to ground. The wires from the photoelectric controls should not share the same conduit as the wires from any motor controls.

If a constant output is the problem, check both photo eyes for obstructions. Be sure trash hasn't blown in front of the eyes and found a permanent home in the path of the beam. Alignment may also be an issue, but if they are out of alignment far enough to give a solid output signal, then this should be fairly obvious to the naked eye. Next, look closely at the face of the photo eyes. Check for visible cracks or bad abrasions. Even an IP67 sealed photo eye can be rendered useless if a large enough crack forms in the face of the sensor, thereby allowing moisture to breach the internal circuits of the photo eyes.

If it appears that the infrared beam between the eyes is impossible to break, the cause is one of several things. The first is simply that the intensity of the infrared beam is too strong and that it is literally not being blocked as the vehicle passes. Reflections on the wet walls contribute to this problem also. Try turning the strength of the system down a little. If this doesn't work, check the alignment of the photo eyes. Maybe the photo eyes see each other at an angle and when the vehicle passes through, the beam is not being broken at that angle.

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How to Find Things To Do in Gaston County, North Carolina

Whether you are a visitor to Gaston County or a native, a common question that I hear is "what is there to do in Gaston County?" In this article, I will provide some entertaining alternatives that will provide fun at a minimal cost.

One great attraction that will provide hours of beauty is the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The entrance to the garden is located at 6500 South New Hope Road in the city of Belmont, NC, which is between Charlotte and Gastonia. This is a fun way to spend the day while enjoying the beauty of nature. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is located just minutes from Lake Wylie.

An exciting new attraction in Gaston County is the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This multi-channel recirculating whitewater training facility has been recognized by the United States Olympic Committee. Rafters and kayakers will enjoy a full day of rafting without leaving the 300 acre facility. This center is located along the Catawba River and also provides scenic hikes, a climbing center, a restaurant, and bathroom facilities.

If you are visiting Gaston County during the Christmas holidays, you absolutely cannot miss the town of McAdenville aka. Christmastown USA. Each December, this beautiful little town becomes a brilliant spectacle of Christmas lights and decorations that has become known far and wide. Visitors from all over the country come to drive or walk through McAdenville, singing Christmas carols as they go. McAdenville is located off I-85 N, Exit 22 at Lowell/Cramerton and also I-85 S, Exit 27 at Belmont/Mt. Holly.

A perfect place to take a day hike and/or a picnic is Crowder's Mountain State Park, located at 522 Park Office Lane in Kings Mountain. There are covered shelters in the picnic area and several easy to moderate walking trails that take you up the mountain. Rock climbing is available for those with experience. One of my favorite things to do is to pack a backpack with some sandwiches and drinks, hike to the top of Crowder's Mountain, and enjoy the view while eating lunch. Be sure to take whatever you came with back down the mountain with you.

Martha Rivers Park is a beautiful park located on Neil Hawkins Road off of Union Road in Gastonia. This park offers numerous sports fields including baseball and soccer. There is a tremendous playground which resembles a castle that you have to see to believe. Children will enjoy hours of fun, running and climbing on the structures and playing in the sand. There are picnic tables and covered shelters (may be reserved for special events) located near one side of the park. When you need to cool off, there is even an ice cream shop located just outside the entrance of the park and within walking distance. Martha Rivers Park is free to use and offers a whole day of fun for the entire family. Public restroom facilities and water fountains are also available.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History is another amazing attraction located in the City of Gastonia. There are several scenic hiking trails around the facility with a replica of an 18th century farm, a Grist Mill, and an authentic Catawba Indian village. The museum has a planetarium as well as numerous exhibits featuring species of animals native to the Southeast United States.

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How to Avoid Online Money Making Scams

Opportunity presents itself around every corner on the Internet for the average person to become a millionaire overnight. I have spent some time and money "investing" in some of these opportunities and I want to help you avoid spending money on something that will offer you no return.

The first thing to consider when reading an article about making money online is, does the article sound believable? Does it sound legal? Does the program or system that you are buying into produce anything tangible or of any real worth to anyone? Does it offer a guarantee or trial period?

If everything seems to be legitimate at first glance, then it's time to do some investigating. Does the website offer contact information? Is there a phone number listed? If so, call the number and try to speak to a living human being. If you can't get through to anybody now, imagine how hard it will be to get a refund later if needed.

Visit the Better Business Bureau's website ( and search for the website address (url) for the company that you are considering paying for services. Are they registered? If so, do they have any complaints against them? Do a whois lookup on the domain name. (ex. Web sites like are useful in performing a whois lookup. What name is the website registered under? If you search on this name, what information can you find online? If you find other web sites associated with the original website, search for them with the Better Business Bureau as well.

If you decide to make a purchase from a website, check to see if the "check out" page is on a secure server. If you are using Internet Explorer, look for the yellow lock symbol at the bottom of your web browser. Also be sure the web address begins with "https". When making a purchase, use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card companies usually cover fraudulent spending if someone obtains unauthorized access to your account.

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How to Pour a Carbonated Beverage With Minimal Fizz

Pouring a refreshing beverage can be so aggravating when half of the drink fizzes above the rim of the glass and then all over the counter. I have a trick that will eliminate this problem!

If you are going to include ice cubes in your beverage, save them until last. Do not place them into the glass yet!  Hold the glass in one hand and tilt it so that the sides of the glass form an approximate 60 degree angle with the floor.  Start pouring the beverage slowly into the glass. Aim about halfway down the glass so that the beverage makes contact with the side of the glass and then starts to fill the bottom. You should already begin to notice that the fizz is not nearly as thick or there may be no fizz at all if you pour it perfectly. As you pour, increase the speed of flow and also begin to tilt the glass slowly back to it's upright position.

If you are adding ice cubes, don't fill the glass all the way up. Also, you may encounter some fizzing as you add the ice cubes, so add them one-by-one.  If done correctly, you should notice a drastic improvement in the amount of fizz in your glass. This method reduces the number of times that you will have to clean up a sticky mess from your counter. Now enjoy your cool, tasty, beverage!

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How to Announce a Pregnancy to Family and Friends

So you just found out that you are going to be a parent. How exciting! How should you inform your family and friends? Here are some suggestions.

One idea is to have a huge gathering of family and friends and tell everybody at once, but the problem with that is that you don't get to see everyone's reaction. I prefer a more personal visit with each person so that you can share a conversation with each one and see the joy on their faces when you share your good news. Save the big parties for the baby showers or just have a big gathering after everybody knows.

To begin, take a piece of paper and write a list of your closest family and friends. You will want to arrange these names in order by when they will receive the good news. In my opinion the parents of the expecting mother and father, if they're still around, should be the first ones to know the good news, since they will be your child's grandparents.

Decide who lives close enough to visit and who will need to receive a call instead. Plan this carefully because good news travels fast. You don't want someone very close to you to receive a phone call from someone else before you are able to tell them. Plan your visits so that you can make phone calls to the out-of-town friends and family while you are on the road from one in-person visit to the other. This is the most efficient way of reaching more people in a shorter amount of time.

For your parents and grandparents, it is a good idea to present them with a gift; something with a significant reference to grandkids or great-grandkids. This gives an element of surprise so that you can watch the look on their face change as they realize what you're telling them. It is very exciting for everyone involved. A book about how to spoil grandkids or a picture frame or flip book with "grandkids" engraved on it are some suggestions.

Take pictures while you are visiting with your friends and family and then write about the experience, including the date and time that you told them. These will make interesting entries into your baby's book and you'll be glad that you took the time to do it when you read them years from now.

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How to Break a PC Password

So you forgot the password to your computer and you need to regain access? This article will show you a few useful methods for gaining access to your password-protected PC.

Some of these methods may or may not work, depending on the age and the type of computer or laptop you are using. Please only try this on your own computer or on a computer for which someone has specifically asked for your assistance. The first few steps refer to the BIOS password and the last refers to the operating system password.

To reset a BIOS password, the password prompt that you must pass in order for the PC to boot, you could try clearing the CMOS settings by jumping the corresponding pins on the motherboard. Open the PC case and carefully try to locate the pins labeled "Clear" or "PWD" assuming those pins exist on your particular motherboard. If you are able to locate them, place a jumper on the two pins, connecting them together. When the PC is powered on with the pins jumped, it will bypass the password in many cases.

Another way to reset the BIOS password is to remove the CMOS battery backup. When you open the case and look at the motherboard, this battery resembles a large, flat watch battery and on most motherboards, it may be removed temporarily. Remove the battery for 15 minutes, replace it, and try turning the PC back on. If the CMOS settings have been cleared, you will gain access to the computer.

An additional method is to overload the keyboard buffer by holding down a key on the keyboard from the moment the PC is powered on. This seldom works, but in some cases, it will prompt an error message and take the user through to the BIOS setup.

There is also a trick for bypassing the BIOS password on many Toshiba laptops. Acquire a DB25 printer cable. Remove the sheath from around the cable connector and note that the pins are labeled 1 through 25. Connect and solder the following wires together: (1+5+10), (2+11), (3+17), (4+12), (6+16), (7+13), (8+14), and (9+15). Protect each connection by wrapping it in electric tape. Connect the cable connector to the printer port on the back of the laptop and power it on. If done correctly, the laptop will boot directly to the operating system, bypassing the BIOS password.

If the BIOS password is not your problem or if you made it through that password and you are confronted by the operating system password on a Windows machine, don't panic, there are many ways to bypass this password as well. When the computer is booting and has just finished the power-on self test, begin tapping the F8 key. Windows should redirect to a screen prompting several different ways to boot. Choose "Safe Mode." Too many people neglect to set a password for the administrator account on Windows computers. If this is the case, you can access the administrator account and change the password for the account that you were originally trying to access.

If the administrator password has been set and you cannot gain access to it, don't worry, there are different types of software available that will allow you access to any Windows PC or laptop. Some do cost money. I do not want to endorse any of them specifically, but do a search on the internet and you will surely find them.

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