As many of the blog posts here blabber on about, I rather enjoying both figuring out web tech solutions thought often, given my internet- and self-taught skillset, I end of more often than not fixing my own stuff, ongoing.

This happened recently after being excited to blog about my latest bookmarklet tinkering. I tend to be more eager to write things up than obediently testing them, and days after I was going back and making changes, perhaps trifling ones, that were just bugging me.

I was reminded of the well know XKCD “Duty Calls” comic (“I can’t come to bed, someone is wrong on the internet”) that I ended up making for no real needed reason, my remix version – that looks kosher given the originals are licensed CC BY-NC.

Conversation with off screen voice and figure seated at computer. 'Are you coming to bed?' 'I can't .This is important' 'What?' 'Someone's code is wrong on the internet.... mine'
Remix from CC BY-FC licensed XKCD “Duty Calls” by Randall Monroe

I thought I had an idea for a blog post for this, but I must have gotten so lost in making the graphic that I forgot.

That sense of accomplishment is much greater when it comes to fixing things out here in the “real” or “non-metaverse” world. I am far from being a naturally adept handyman (I see you Dave Cormier building doors), but like coding, I love figuring out solutions, and my path is nearly always enabled by looking up s***.

There is a cartoon character I heard of but never actually have seen on the screen named Fix-It Felix, described in a Disney fandom wiki

Fix-It Felix Jr. is the tritagonist of Disney’s 2012 animated feature film, Wreck-It Ralph and a supporting character in its 2018 sequel. He is the benevolent star of the classic arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr., in which he serves as Niceland’s resident handyman and the “nemesis” of Wreck-It Ralph.

With his trusty magic hammer, Felix has the ability to fix and heal any damage or ailment, hence his name.

I heard of him long ago, like 2016, when I adopted this Felix from the Payson AZ Human Society.

2016/366/98 "Did Someone Say Go for a Ride?"
2016/366/98 “Did Someone Say Go for a Ride?” flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

His story was that he continually ran away from his home as the owners left him alone. The last time he was found, his collar had gotten stuck on a fence he hopped.

I was camping that summer with friends, and someone in the group recognized my Felix. She lived in the neighborhood where his original owners lived and told me “Fix-It Felix” was his neighborhood nickname because he always was escaping and coming to other people’s houses. Being unaware of the cartoon I had no idea of the mis-match to the character.

Anyhow, I rather like the idea of fixing any ailment or damage with a magic hammer I just cannot seem to find that hammer in my tool room.

Today I must have come close to the hammer’s essence.

This 2 1/2 story home Cori and I moved into a year ago (built in 1917 as an Eaton kit home) has in our second floor bedroom an electric fireplace insert built into a rather ornate wooden frame. It’s needed in the winters as this room takes the brunt of the cold winds from the northwest.

Fireplace Back in Action
Fireplace Back in Action flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

We thought we had seen it working on our walk throughs. The lights worked, but we found the heat came on for maybe a minute and cut out. Or not at all.

We started researching in November finding a replacement, but no one we contacted could get one the exact size, and with Covid we could not find anyone even with one we could order as a replacement not to mention either options being kind of pricey. None of the places I called seeking help offered a repair service.

I pulled out the unit and in the back found the manual! So I knew it was a Twin Star 33e01 model from 2005. The company’s web site offered no helpful support for old models. Most searches yielded PDFs of the manual I had or links to buy parts on eBay.

In the end, Fit-Alan’s magic hammer was of course… YouTube.

I was excited to find this video by “Channel Ron” who showed how to repair a very similar looking model

I have to say I appreciate his pace and instructional style, so many of these how to videos feel more like attempts to “build audience”. Ron is no frills but explained it cleary.

In Ron’s case, the non functioning fireplace problem was a problem of gunk, hair and dirt that clogged the fan that blows warm air. I felt assured enough by seeing how he popped the op off and cleaned his unit that I might find the same problem (and there are tons of comments to Ron from people who said they were able to fix their units the same way).

A few weeks ago I was able to open our unit, but I found no clogging or anything blocking the fan. The problem was obvious though– one of the electric wires that attached to left side of the heater was not attached. In fact, the metal tab it clipped to had corroded and was gone.

I could not see an easy way to firmly attach it, but I gave it an effort by pinching the clip of the wire to the stub of the missing attachment point. The heater did work, but I knew that the wire would not hold.

So we used it a few times, but eventually it stopped. I am sure the wire detached.

The next step was considering finding a replacement fan/heater part. You can find tons of sellers in eBay, Amazon. It’s not always clear if a model will replace a unit, I aimed for something 1500W or less (the spec on the original) and what looked like the closest match.

I narrowed it to a few and a Hongso unit looked promising and for $80 it seemed worth a try (weird, as Amazon goes, the price is like $30 more than what I payed). Most of the comments indicated some guess work as it came with no instructions, it had an extra wire, and the mounting holes would not line up.

Today was Fix-it Day.

This is a replacement for the fan/heater in our electric fireplace (off screen on left), ordered from Amazon. I could see where the black and white wires from the motor would connect, and guessed the two white wires that attached to the top and right side of the heater would just clip on. There was one extra black wire on the left.

The wiring was pretty easy, the harder part was attaching the base since the holes were not the same. A bit of drilling, rummaging for metal screws, and figuring out how to get a screwdriver to work through a narrow slot.

Anyhow, I am rather stoked to report that the magic hammer was with me, because everything worked. It is all patched together, and is heating the room nicely as I sit here and blog.

This is hardly major repair work, but the fact we have a working unit with a relatively cheap replacement part feels really good. I may not have had the confidence to try this were it not for Channel Ron’s straight forward video.

Be it code fixing or appliance fixing, the internet is my magic hammer. What’s next?

Feature Image:

Fix-It Felix, Jr.
Fix-It Felix, Jr. flickr photo by Sam Howzit shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Back in 2006, as luck would have it I had similar experience with a refrigerator fan (that blows air across the compressor coil underneath). No listed part, for a fridge that was circa 1992. Same thing for me, someone had shown how to buy an electric motor rated to the same specs, and just, replace the motor. It used a funny, 3 point claw system to wedge itself into the hole where the fan sits. Not very precise, but the fan blade migrated easily and attached snug. And all 3 claws wedged in and tightened down so the fan wouldn’t move. We ran that same fridge for another 5 years before the freon dumped out and the compressor went bad.

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