Russ' Do It Yourself Home Workshop

Finding Fixes to Just About Anything and Everything

Archive for January, 2010

Making an HTML Email Look Good in Outlook 2007

Posted by Russell Wright on January 18, 2010

There have been numerous posts about the lack of HTML and CSS standards support in Outlook 2007.  Basically, Microsoft gutted the rendering engine in Outlook 2007 and replaced it with the (very) limited rendering engine in Word.  They took a fully functional product and moved it back in time when “the only thing that existed were Troglodytes.”  And I thought we were moving out of the stone age.  Oh well…

I inherited a program that was sending out very plain emails to subscribers on an externally facing SharePoint site and thought it would be better to “spiff it up” a little when a change to the HARD-CODED EMAIL (ugh!) was requested.  So, I converted it into an HTML email.  It instantly looked better, but now I was on a quest to give it some branding to make it match the site.  Oh, the giant sucking sound I heard from the artistically limited side of my brain…

I started with a background image but, of course, background images are not supported in Outlook 2007.  So, I resorted to slicing an image.  I have an old version of Ulead PhotoImpact that makes it pretty easy to slice an image into components that can be placed in table cells using IMG tags.  I know Photo Shop and other image editing tools have this same capability.  You can see the slices I made.  I did this a couple of times and opted for this layout with the cell at the bottom in the middle because it can be pushed down using the VALIGN property.  You can see some of the shifting problems I ended up with in Outlook 2007.


On a couple of my tests I ended up with shifts in Outlook 2007, while the rendering in other fully functional clients looked fine.  The first image is a right side shift.  This was from my first slicing that was done with three rows and a center cell for the text content.  I could never seem to find the right alignment commands to reliably put it in position (for Outlook).


The second shift was from slicing job #2 (shown above).  This slicing job fixed the left and right sides so I only had to fix the bottom alignment.


To fix the bottom alignment problem, I enclosed the first (inner) table in another (outer) table.  The outer table has one cell.  The bottom cell of the inner table is VALIGNed to the bottom, thus forcing it back in to position.   The IMG is also bottom aligned for good measure.  So far, so good!

<TABLE CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="0" BORDER="0"><TR><TD width="661" height="844">
        <TD ROWSPAN="3"><IMG SRC=
Images/Left1.jpg BORDER="0"></TD>
        <TD><IMG SRC="
Images/Top1.jpg" BORDER="0"></TD>
        <TD ROWSPAN="3"><IMG SRC="
Images/Right1.jpg" BORDER="0"></TD>
        <TD width="661" height="422">Your text goes here!</TD>
    <TD valign="bottom"><IMG SRC="
Images/Bottom1.jpg" BORDER="0" align="bottom"></TD>

It’s amazing how much time you can waste trying to make a retro product function like it’s the 21st century!

Posted in Computer Software | 3 Comments »

Repairing My Life Fitness x5i Elliptical Console (Part Number XCI-0000-0102)

Posted by Russell Wright on January 8, 2010

I have this real nice Life Fitness elliptical trainer that I really like develop a console problem at the end of December 2009.  Many of the keys would no longer work.  One of the keys that wouldn’t work was the ENTER key, so that made the console almost worthless.  I could select one of my custom workouts, but I couldn’t start the workout because ENTER wouldn’t work.  Along with the ENTER key, there were several other keys that just stopped working.

I contacted Life Fitness but alas, there was only a 3 year warranty and we purchased the elliptical in February 2006.  It was going to cost several hundred dollars to fix, so I decided I had nothing to lose by taking it apart.  They did suggest that I could save about $200 in labor costs by replacing the console myself.  $200?!?  It takes about five minutes to take the thing off and put it back on!

I had already removed the console (four screws on the back), pulled the connectors off and reseated them with no luck, so I began by cracking open the console.  After removing the console from the elliptical (four screws), I had to remove eight screws, two of which are located under the label on the back (which is stuck securely down with very sticky double-sided tape), in order to crack open the console to expose the entire board.

There was one other ribbon connector that was exposed when the back was removed.  Since I hadn’t reseated this connector, I pulled it off and put it back on.  Then I connected the bare console back up to see if I got lucky…and I did!  Guess there was oxidation that set in on the connector over the past few years.  I’m so happy.  🙂


Here’s an update as of June 9th, 2010.  Now I’ve got the same problem others (like Regina) have with the elliptical going into “beeping” mode.  I can get 5, 10 or maybe 20 minutes out of it sometimes before it starts beeping and changing modes randomly.  Even with taking the control display console apart and reseating all the connectors, I am still left with the same problem.  This morning, it got so bad I finally got “motor error” displayed.  Bummer.  Here’s a post on where miles22 was having a similar problem and getting parts, a flywheel servo motor, from Life Fitness.  The possibility of there being a problem in the backend flywheel area actually crossed my mind and I started taking it apart to see if I could get to the parts.  I need a little more time to do some disassembly, so it will have to wait for the weekend.

In the mean time, I talked to LifeFitness support and they were good enough to provide me the service manual for my x5i.


I’ve been working on this over the weekend and have come to the conclusion that there is a problem with the membrane switch part of the console.  If I disconnect the keypad connector on the back of the console (the 7-pin flat connector in the picture) then the erratic behavior goes away.  As soon as this is reconnected, the console goes into crazy mode.  It’s really a shame because I’m pretty sure you can’t purchase the front part of the console with the switches.  I’m going to be shelling out $350 to get my console repaired.

I guess another option would be to replace it with the “non-interactive” version of the console (XCS-0000-0102).  I really hate to dumb down something I paid extra for, but it looks like LifeFitness has decided that there’s not enough demand for a “fancy” console and all the new ones come with a blue console.  When I called the other day, I think they told me I could have mine repaired for $350 or get one of theirs for $450.  I’ll probably get mine repaired…I hope it lasts longer than four years.

IMG_1119 with Callouts

Major update 2010-06-17

After sending my console out for repair, it was pointed out to me by Glenn H. that the source of the problem could be the power supply.  I actually checked my power supply and it was between 13 and 14 VDC, so I thought, "good, 12 VDC, a little high, but not completely abnormal."  I failed to read the specs on the power supply and, as Glenn pointed out, it should be 9 volts, not 12!  Now, he has also pointed out that the $10 power supply probably wrecked the console.  I bet LifeFitness knows about this problem.

Way to go, LifeFitness!  Put a cheap, made in China, power supply on a $3 or $4 thousand dollar machine so when it goes bad, it starts taking out other pieces of the machine.  This sounds like a problem that has been experienced by many people.  If it has happened to you, leave a comment!  I’m beginning to smell a cover up on this one!  Let me know what you think.

Update 2010-07-04

I received my “repaired” console ($350) while I was out of town and installed it today.  While it was out being repaired I purchased a replacement 9 volt, 1 amp adapter on eBay for about $10, so I know that I won’t be damaging the new console with a bad power supply.  The installation went quickly and without incident.  Everything came up and worked.  From what I can tell though, the console was brand new.  At least all the plastic parts and keyboard were new.  There was a new PROM installed on the board, so I’m not sure if they used the same circuit board or not and I didn’t attempt to determine whether it was the same one.  The part that took me the longest was putting the machine back together again, as I had taken some of it apart while troubleshooting (which I’ve documented here). 

My final thought on what happened was this.  Somewhere along the line, probably about two years after purchasing the elliptical, the power supply began to fail.  This may have been caused by a voltage surge or it may just be a cheap, made-in-china power supply.  This was indicated by the console randomly beeping at times when it should be in “sleep” mode.  This was before the failure became a permanent problem (If you have this happen, immediately suspect the power supply.  Take it off and measure the voltage to see if it is still 9 volts.).  Continued use of the over-voltage power supply finally caused a failure on the circuit board…most likely causing corruption of the PROM that contains the program for the board.  I suppose it’s possible that the keyboard went bad, but I doubt it.  I think it was all mainly caused by a corruption of the programmable chip.  Anyway, it was finally corrupted to the point that the keyboard handler code wouldn’t even work correctly.  This made both the keyboard and the console useless.  Since I didn’t have access to a new programmed chip, my only option was to send it out to be repaired.  Oh well, now Mr. E is all up and working…

Posted in Home Repair, Misc Repair | 242 Comments »