Archive for the ‘ How-To ’ Category

Factoring Trinomials

Specifically, factoring trinomials where a is greater than one (assuming the form ax2+bx+c).

Everyone hates these. You can’t factor them using the method normally taught in school, so many teachers just teach “Guess and Check” for this type of trinomial, in the hopes that they’ll get good enough at guessing and checking.

This is dumb.

There IS a method to factor this sort of trinomials; it’s called The British Method. It’s the only memorable thing my Algebra II teacher taught me. Ready? Here we go.

Here it is in its generality, i.e. with variables And here it is as an example.
1. Realize that your trinomial is of the form ax2+bx+c 1. 2x2+x-1
2. Find a number s such that a*c=s. 2. 2*-1=-2.
3. Find two numbers p and q such that p*q=s and p+q=b. 3. p=2; q=-1: 2*-1=-2 and 2+-1=1.
4. Split the middle term into two binomials, thus: ax2+px and qx+c 4. 2x2+2x and –x-1
5. Factor completely the left binomial to obtain kx(ex+f). 5. 2x(x+1)
6. Factor the right binomial such that you get m(ex+f). 6. –(x+1)
7. Create two binomials (kx+m) and (ex+f); these are your factors! 7. (2x-1)(x+1)

Cleanup and Maintenance

My little brother was running out of hard disk space on his computer.  When it got to the point he had 9 MB (that’s not a typo) of free space left, he called me in.  That computer is several years old, so there were a lot of old files neither he nor my parents needed.  I cleaned out old files, uninstalled programs, defragmented, fixed startup, and so on and so forth.  End result?  Fourteen and a half gigabytes of free space.  Even if your computer hasn’t yet gotten to the critical disk space yet, I still highly recommend you do at least some of these steps:

Note that they are in no particular order, and you can do any of them at any time – except defragmentation, which should be done last.

1.  Uninstall Old Programs
You’d be amazed at what is lurking on your computer.  Don’t use the Add or Remove Programs option;  it leaves incredible amounts of stuff behind.  Instead, use Revo Uninstaller – which even has a portable version if you’re adverse to installing more programs.  Be sure to download the free version.

2.  Empty Recycle Bin Norton Protected Files
If you happen to have Norton, right-clicking on the Recycle Bin has an option, “Empty Norton Protected Files.”  The files in that folder don’t get cleaned up by emptying the Recycle Bin; I found at least two gigabytes of files in that folder.  Just click the option in the Recycle Bin context menu. 

3.  CClean
CCleaner empties the Recycle Bin, clears out stuff like old temporary files, old browser history, and so on.  Like Revo, you can get a portable version of this one too.

4.  Clear Out Old Files
This one’s the most tedious – but possible the most helpful – of the steps.  Go into My Documents (or the equivalent).  Open every single file, one at a time.  Decide which ones you no longer need.  Delete them.  Be sure to empty the Recycle Bin after doing this – otherwise the deleted files are just sitting on your disk.  Also, if you didn’t create the file, check with whoever created it.  Mom and Dad still had some stuff on that computer that they really wanted to keep.

5.  Clear Out Program Files
If a program was uninstalled through Add or Remove Programs, there’s a good chance its folder is still in Program Files (C:\Program Files).  Any folder that belongs to a program you know you no longer have, delete.  If you don’t know what is, don’t delete it – it could be important.  Just use good judgment.  Keep in mind that deleting a program’s folder in Program Files does not remove the program from your computer – uninstall programs you don’t want anymore.

6.  Startup
If you have too many programs set to startup, they all try to launch at once at drastically slow down your computer for a while – much like what would happen if four cars all tried to merge into the same spot in the same lane at the same time.  Startup Delayer can help.  It automatically finds which programs are set to startup, and lets you delay them – you probably don’t need, for instance, your printer manager right at startup – so delay for 30 seconds or five minutes or however long you need. You can also disable programs from starting, if you don’t need them at startup anymore.

7.  Defragment
My favorite defragmentation tool is Defraggler – made by the same people who created CCleaner – which also has a portable version.  Once the program has launched, click “Analyze.”  Once it’s done click “File List” and check the checkbox just to the left of the “Filename” column.  This should select all.  Then press “Defrag Checked” and let it run.  Repeat until no files come up after analyzing.


Enjoy your cleaner, hopefully faster computer!

How To Change the Color of Office 2010

This is, in essence, an update to my previous post, How To Change The Color Of Office 2007.

If you’re running the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010 (available free (as in beer!) from the Microsoft website), you can change the color scheme from blue (default) to black or silver, just like in Office 2007.  If you’ve already changed the color, I found that Office 2010 preserved that change upon install.  If you haven’t yet, or if you want to switch the color, or if it didn’t preserve that color change, here’s how to do it:

For pictures with each step, see this Instructable.

0.  Steps 1 – 3 detail how to download the Office 2010 Beta.  If you already have it, skip to step 4.

1.  Go to this site and click through the various Download Now buttons until you can actually download the installer.  You’ll need a Windows Live ID (if you don’t have one, click the link anyways; the site’ll tell you how to make one) and you’ll have to sign up (email, name, country) to use the beta.

2. Save the installer to your Desktop or wherever you put installer downloads, DON’T CHANGE THE FILE NAME.

3. Once the download completes, run the installer.  Follow the instructiono in the subsequent window.

4.  Open any Office 2010 window (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc)

5. Click on ‘File.’  In different programs, this button will be different colors:  Red in PowerPoint, Blue in Word, Green in Excel, and so on.

6. Click Options, the second-to-last button.

7.  Make sure the subsequent window is set to the ‘General’ tab.

8.  Under the dropdown list titled Color Scheme currently set to blue, choose either Black or Silver.  I personally prefer the black scheme.

9.  Click OK.

10.  You’re done!  Doing this affects the following Office 2010 windows: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, OneNote, and Publisher.  I do not have any other Office programs.




How to setup/print half-letter-size booklets

If your window looks like this

You have this version of Word.  Remember this.  You will need it.


Microsoft Word 2007


Microsoft Word 97-03



For Microsoft Word 2007

1. Click on the Page Layout tab
2. Click Size
3. Scroll to the bottom of the list, and choose ‘Half Letter’ (Fifth from the bottom)
4. Under the Page Layout tab, click Margins
5. Choose Narrow

For Microsoft Word 97-03
1. Click File
File Menu
2. Choose Page Setup
Choose Page Setup
3. On the Margins tab, set Top, Bottom, Left, and Right to 0.5
Small Margins
4. On the Paper Size tab, change Letter to Half Letter (6th from the bottom)
Half letter selection
5. Press OK



For Microsoft Word 2007
1. Look at the table below to find how many blank pages you’ll need to put on the end of your booklet
2. Click on the Office logo in the top left hand corner of the window
07 - Office Logo
3. Hover over Print, then choose Print again in the resulting list
07 - Print Hover 07 - Choose Print
4. Set Pages Per Sheet to 2 (Under the Zoom heading)
07 - 2 Pages
5. Use the table below to find out how to finish the print job

For Microsoft Word 97-03
1. Look at the table below to find how many blank pages you’ll need to put on the end of your booklet
2. Click File
File Menu
3. Choose Print
03 - Select Print
4. Set Pages Per Sheet to 2
03 - 2 Pages
5. Use the table below to find out how to finish the print job



If you have written this many half-size pages (including the title page)

Add this many blank pages to the end

Put this in the Pages box (under Page Range).  Then follow the paragraph below the table.

Then put this in the Pages box after following the below paragraph
10 2 2, 11, 4, 9, 6, 7 12, 1, 10, 3, 8, 5
11 1 2, 11, 4, 9, 6, 7 12, 1, 10, 3, 8, 5
12 0 2, 11, 4, 9, 6, 7 12, 1, 10, 3, 8, 5
13 3 2, 15, 4, 13, 6, 11, 8, 9 16, 1, 14, 3, 12, 5, 10, 7
14 2 2, 15, 4, 13, 6, 11, 8, 9 16, 1, 14, 3, 12, 5, 10, 7
15 1 2, 15, 4, 13, 6, 11, 8, 9 16, 1, 14, 3, 12, 5, 10, 7
16 0 2, 15, 4, 13, 6, 11, 8, 9 16, 1, 14, 3, 12, 5, 10, 7
17 3 2, 19, 4, 17, 6, 15, 8, 13, 10, 11 20, 1, 18, 3, 16, 5, 14, 7, 12, 9
18 2 2, 19, 4, 17, 6, 15, 8, 13, 10, 11 20, 1, 18, 3, 16, 5, 14, 7, 12, 9
19 1 2, 19, 4, 17, 6, 15, 8, 13, 10, 11 20, 1, 18, 3, 16, 5, 14, 7, 12, 9
20 0 2, 19, 4, 17, 6, 15, 8, 13, 10, 11 20, 1, 18, 3, 16, 5, 14, 7, 12, 9
21 3 2, 23, 4, 21, 6, 19, 8, 17, 10, 15, 12, 13 24, 1, 22, 3, 20, 5, 18, 7, 16, 9, 14, 11
22 2 2, 23, 4, 21, 6, 19, 8, 17, 10, 15, 12, 13 24, 1, 22, 3, 20, 5, 18, 7, 16, 9, 14, 11
23 1 2, 23, 4, 21, 6, 19, 8, 17, 10, 15, 12, 13 24, 1, 22, 3, 20, 5, 18, 7, 16, 9, 14, 11
24 0 2, 23, 4, 21, 6, 19, 8, 17, 10, 15, 12, 13 24, 1, 22, 3, 20, 5, 18, 7, 16, 9, 14, 11
25 3 2, 27, 4, 25, 6, 23, 8, 21, 10, 19, 12, 17, 14, 15 28, 1, 26, 3, 24, 5, 22, 7, 20, 9, 18, 11, 16, 13

Print the pages according to the third column, then put them in order so that that the largest numbered page on the left side is on top (e.g. first the whole-size page with half-size pages 10 and 11, then the whole-size page with half-size 8 and 13, then the whole-size page with half-size pages 6 and 15, etc). It might already be this way. Turn them around so the blank side is facing you, then do all of the past steps again but with the numbers from the fourth column in the Pages box

My New Favorite Snack

Peanut Butter and Jelly on a Sourdough Bread Roll

Pretty self explanatory by the title, but here’s how to make it if you care.  If you don’t care, then I’m still going to write how to make it but you don’t have to look at it.

What You Need
– Peanut butter
– Jelly, preferably either grape or strawberry
– One sourdough bread roll (The small ones, about two inches tall and about four inches in diameter)

What You Do
Hold the sourdough roll so that the flat bottom is on the bottom.  Cut at the horizontal halfway point all the way through.  Put jelly on one half and peanut butter on the other half, like so:
  ==========Top of sourdough bread roll===========


@@@@@@@@@@@@Peanut Butter@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

=========Bottom of sourdough bread roll============

Then eat it.

How to Change to Color of Office 2007

The default Office 2007 color is blue; you can change it to black or silver.

If you want pictures accompanying each step, go to this Instructable that I made.

1. Open any Office 2007 window (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc)
2.  Click on the Office 2007 logo in the top left corner
3.  Choose ~ Options, where ~ is the name of your window (Word Options, PowerPoint Options, etc)
4.  Make sure the subsequent window is set to the ‘Popular’ tab. 
5.  Under the dropdown list titled Color Scheme currently set to blue, choose either Black or Silver.  I personally prefer the black scheme.
6.  Click OK.
7.  You’re done!  Doing this affects the following Office 2007 windows: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access.  It does not noticeably affect OneNote, InfoPath, or Publisher.  I could not check Groove; I did not want to make an account.


6 - Black Window

5 - Silver Window

Firefox: Uber-maximized Reading Area

I installed some Stylish scripts and some addons and got a Firefox window that is nearly totally reading area, but still has total functionality. I love it. You’ll have to use both addons and Stylish scripts to get this to work like I have it. Here’s the screenshot, to entice you to read further. *NOTE: Screenshots are being taken on my awesome 20” widescreen monitor, so there’ll be a lot of blank space on the sides. Be forewarned.

Enticing Screenshot

Addons I’m using to get this:

  • Hide Caption
    Hides the useless title at the top of a window (Mozilla Firefox, in this case). The close, maximize, and minimize buttons are moved to the navbar, screenshots at the bottom (as usual).
  • Hide Menubar
    Reviewed in my previous post, “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons” Screenshots on that post.
  • Speed Dial
    Shows 8 user-selected clickable thumbnails on a new tab. (Plus a weather thumbnail that… um… shows your current weather. Can be turned into a regular page.) Allowed me to remove 8 icons from my bookmarks bar, so now the whole bookmarks bar fits on my MSI Wind. Screenshots below, still as usual.
  • Stylish
    Reviewed in my previous post, “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons” Screenshots… yeah. I’ll stop telling you this. You probably got it by now.
  • autoHideStatusbar
    Reviewed in my previous post “My Recommended Firefox Add-ons

Stylish scripts I’m using to get this.

Yay! Screenshot time!

Caption Hid!
Caption Hid

Note that the close and such buttons are moved to the navbar:
close on the right

Speed Dial
Speed Dial

Bookmarks Toolbar hid…
Bookmarks Bar hidden

… until mouseover!
bookmarks bar shown

Tabs at the top, woohoo!
Tabs be at the top

Neither back nor forward buttons visible…
New tab, so no back or forward

… here’s just the back button
Just Back Button

Note the lack of home button (the button there is refresh)
No home button

Here’s just the reload button
Page not loading, so just refresh

Now the page is loading, so there’s a stop button too
Loading, so there's a stop button

So there you have it! As always, I apologize for random vertical stretching on some of the pictures.


Questions? Comments? Spam? Just leave a comment on the post and I’ll see it and get back to you as soon as I can.

If you find a typo or a grammar fail, please let me know. Thanks!

A trick for buying swimming goggles

If you’re at the store, looking for goggles, here’s a trick to tell whether they’ll actually keep water out:  put them on without the strap.  Make sure there’s no hair under them.  If they’re a good shape for your face, they’ll stick at least for five seconds without the strap.  The ones that I have stay on, even without the strap, until I pull them off.  They’ve never failed.

How to ensure good form in push-ups

This is a trick I recently learned to ensure good form while doing pushups.

You’ll need:
– A broom handle or other long, straight object
– A baseball cap
– A friend

– Put on the hat
– Get into the push-up position
– Have the friend place the broom handle between your heels so it passes over your buttocks, between your shoulder blades, and onto your head. All four (heels, buttocks, back, head) should be touching the pole.
– Do a push-up. As you go down, your heels, buttocks, back, and head should still be touching the pole. Go down far enough that the brim of the hat lightly touches the ground, then go back up, still keeping your heels, buttocks, back, and head touching the pole. Repeat.

You’ll probably be able to do less pushups, but those that you do do will be more effective then more pushups done incorrectly. Enjoy your pushup-ing fun.

Disk Cleanup & Defragmentation

Upon asking friends how often they defragmented their computer, I was amazed at how many people didn’t even know what that was.  Defragmentation is necessary to keep your computer running fast and smooth.  It’s easy to get to on Windows, just go Start Menu > Programs > Accessories and see if it’s there. If there’s no icon that says ‘Disk Defragmenter, so to Start Menu > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and it should be in there.

Also, use Disk Cleanup (found in the same folder as Disk Defragmenter) regularly.  It gets rid of old, useless files; ones that have no purpose.  It also compresses old files, deletes some cookies… Using it once on one of my friends computer, I cleared up nearly 500 thousand KB of disk space.

I tend to use Disk Cleanup three or four times a week, and Defragmenter once or twice a week.  If you haven’t used either in a month or more, or even if you have, head into your Start Menu and use them.

*Note:  Use Disk Cleanup before you use Disk Defragmenter for best results.