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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Review Of The GE Disposall GFC720T 3/4 HP Garbage Disposer

Last week, after a long and laborious struggle, my old garbage disposer finally died. It was an Insinkerator Badger model which had a 1/2 HP motor. It was installed about 5 or 6 years back, and it was never a great disposer. It worked OK, but it was loud, and got stuck quite frequently. It required my wife and I to unclog it pretty regularly with a plunger.

Eventually, one fine day last week, the disposer simply refused to work. I could hear the motor humming when I turned it on, but the motor would not turn. I used the provided allen wrench to turn the motor externally thinking something was stuck. But I could turn the motor externally quite easily, but the motor never wanted to turn by itself. I even turned the motor this way and that way externally while it was on, but apart from humming and becoming warm, the motor refused to turn.

It was time to do some shopping. I called and fixed up an appointment with my usual plumber to replace the garbage disposer. Then, I went out and shopped around for a new garbage disposer. I checked reviews on various sites also and found that the best ones were very expensive (well over $250). When I went to the stores, I found the best-reviewed garbage disposers selling for well over $300. The best-reviewed garbage disposer is one made by Insinkerator, by the way. I also found the disposer I eventually purchased, the GE Disposall GFC720T selling for just over $100.

The specs of this disposer are quite reasonable. It has a 3/4 HP motor, and a 2-stage grinding mechanism. I had used Insinkerator brand garbage disposers for the past 13 years, and had gone through 3 of them in that time period. I decided it was perhaps time to try a different brand. It also helped that the GE Disposall was about $200 cheaper than the Insinkerator brand disposer of the same power rating.

Like all 3/4 HP disposers, the GE Disposall is quite large around. At least larger than 1/3 or 1/2 HP disposers. It seems to be slightly smaller than the corresponding 3/4 HP disposers from Insinkerator. It should fit under most sinks without much of a problem, but if you have an extra small under-sink space, you might want to check the clearances before buying a bigger disposer.

I did not do the installation. That was what I paid the plumber over $300 to do! It took him well over 2 hours to do it. It took about 15 minutes for him to test and remove the old garbage disposer. After I showed him how the motor never turns even though it hums, he concurred with me that it was possible the motor was partially burnt out. He also tried turning it manually and found that there was no obstruction to the motor turning. The motor had just given up, and it was time for me to give up on the disposer.

Next it was time to put the new disposer in place. The fittings that attach this disposer to the sink are a little different from what were used for the Insinkerator. This is not surprising since every brand probably uses proprietary, and perhaps patented, fittings to attach it firmly to the sink and prevent leaks. Insinkerator is by far the best-selling garbage disposer, so plumbers are much more familiar with installing those than any other brand. The plumber had to refer to the installation directions that came with my new disposer several times during the installation to get it all squared away.

Next came the process of hooking up the drains. This took a long time because the outlet of this disposer was lower than the outlet of my previous disposer. This meant that all the under-sink plumbing had to be adjusted to make sure that the drains worked as before. He had to extend one section of pipe (well, actually that simply meant he had to replace the existing pipe with a slightly longer section of pipe), and some others had to be cut down to size. I am not going to hold this against the new disposer because I would have probably had the same problem simply by going from my original 1/2 HP disposer to a 3/4 HP disposer, even if I had stuck with the same brand.

Then came the process of hooking up the disposer to the electric system. Here, I think GE could have definitely done a better job of things. The problem was that the new disposer did not come with all the hardware to hold the electrical connections inside the body of the disposer. The old disposer had come with a nut that holds the electrical connections in place. This disposer did not, and the old nut would not fit on the new disposer. The plumber had to use a lot of electrical tape to simulate what the nut did by taping the electrical connections securely to the disposer so that they don't eventually come apart.

Finally, it was all done, and it was time to test the disposer. We did not have actual garbage to test it with, but we filled the sink with water (the disposer comes with a sink drain plug that can be used to plug up the drain and therefore fill up the sink), and then pulled the plug while running the disposer. There were no leaks anywhere, and the disposer itself ran quite well. Like all garbage disposers I have used, this one also has motor overheat protection, that trips a fuse when the motor gets overheated. You can reset it after the motor cools down by pressing in a small switch on the side of the garbage disposer opposite the water outlet.

It is much quieter than the old disposer. Most of the time, all you hear is a faint humming sound from the electric motor. The actual grinding mechanism is well-insulated and you don't hear it most of the time. However, the problem this disposer has is that if the motor is slowed down from its usual speed because of the load it is under, the whole disposer starts vibrating violently. This vibration is then transmitted to the sink, and from there to the entire counter-top.

Most of the time that I use the garbage disposer, I am very happy with its performance. But when it gets a little overloaded and it goes into this vibration mode, it produces quite a racket with everything in the sink, and most of the stuff on the counter-top jumping around because of the vibration. Once the disposer is able to get back to its normal speed, it quiets down, but in the meantime, it is quite scary. I don't think it is healthy for the sink and counter-top either to be so violently shaken every time this happens. If you have breakable stuff on the counter-top, better move them well inside from the edges of the counter-top before switching on this garbage disposer.

The user manual suggests never to let garbage get into the disposer before it is switched on. That way, the disposer deals with the garbage while it is spinning, and never gets into a situation where it tries to start up under load. And I have noticed that this slowdown and vibration occurs only on start-up, not after the disposer has started spinning at speed. So, if you are very disciplined about making sure that your disposer is not clogged with garbage before you switch it on, you may never have to deal with this vibration problem.

The next thing to note is that this garbage disposer does not come with an allen wrench to turn the motor externally. If the motor is stuck, the advice in the user's manual is to use a broom stick inside the garbage disposer to try and get it unstuck. Personally, I think the allen wrench to turn the disposer from outside is a much better, more practicable idea.

Also, the garbage disposer has a very narrow opening from the sink. I am not a large man, and I have smaller than average hands, but I can't put my hands into the disposer through the opening in the sink. I used to be able to do this quite easily with the old disposer, and regularly used to do so when something was stuck inside, and had to be taken out to the garbage rather than being disposed off down the drain. My wife and kids, who have smaller hands than I do, can reach in, but the disposer seems to be designed to prevent most normal-sized hands from being inserted into the body of the disposer.

What do you do if something that does not belong in the disposer does get stuck inside the disposer? The user's manual's suggestion is to use long tongs to fish out such offenders from the body of the disposer. Well, so far, I have been lucky that things like spoons or forks have not fallen into the disposer. But I can tell you that I don't like the prospect of fishing for things like that with tongs. Can you imagine manipulating a spoon or fork using tongs carefully enough to retrieve it through the narrow opening of the disposer? My advice would be to be very careful about what goes into the garbage disposer so that you never have to take anything out.

So, what is the bottomline? For the cost, this is a very solid garbage disposer. It is powerful, and quiet. It has never jammed or had problems disposing of any garbage so far. However, installation was a bit of a problem, not only because plumbers are unfamiliar with this brand, but also because it does not have the correct hardware included for securing the electrical connections.

Even though it is quiet when running at its normal speed, any slowdowns caused by extra load result in excessive vibration that could be damaging to the sink, the counter-top and the plumbing under the sink. There is no way to get the disposer unstuck by using an allen wrench from the outside of the disposer. I am not entirely sure how successful poking around the inside of the disposer with a broom handle will be. And more importantly, the sink opening of this disposer is designed to prevent most adults from being able to reach inside the disposer to retrieve stuff that does not belong in there. The user's manual suggests using long-handled tongs to do this. I would say, good luck doing so!

But it is early days still, and I don't know how durable it is going to be. If it works like it does right now three years or five years from now, I would have no complaints about it whatsoever. I will update you on any problems that it develops down the road. For now, there are no insurmountable drawbacks to this disposer except for the vibration under load. I would therefore give this a 3.5 or 4 rating out of 5. If the vibration problem were fixed, it might merit a 4.5 out of 5.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Online Shopping Could Mean More Christmas Day Disappointments

The Christmas shopping season is in full swing. Malls are full, and even worse, many mall parking lots are full too. I recently had a coupon to a store inside the mall, and I think spent more money on gas circling the parking lot for a spot than I saved by using the coupon! It is quite insane, without even taking into account the long lines in front of checkout counters and the mad rush of shoppers who make picking out what you want a real-life race against time!

So, as many others have done in recent times, I have switched more and more of my shopping online. You can do online shopping from the comfort of your armchair, without having to fight traffic or trying to find parking somewhere within the same city as the shop you are trying to visit. You can take your time browsing through the merchandise online without having to jostle with other shoppers in crowded stores. And when it comes to checking out what you bought, you can do it without having to wait in line.

But the main problem with online shopping is that you have to take shipping times into account when you figure out how close you can cut it and still get away with it. If you are going to pick something up at the mall, you can shop the night before Christmas and still have time to get everything under the tree. If you buy online, you have to figure out what each store's policies are about shipping times, and make sure you place your order so that you can get your stuff before Christmas day.

Previously, you had to go to each store's website, and read through their shipping policies and what not to figure out when it was OK to place an order and when it was too late to get it by Christmas. Recently, I have come across a website that provides a valuable service by compiling information about Shipping Deadlines for Christmas 2011 from various stores into one convenient place. Stores are arranged in alphabetical order, and the BestOnlineCoupons.com site lists the deadlines associated with each store for different shipping methods.

As the name of the site suggests, these shipping deadlines are just icing on the real cake, which is coupons that you can use at these stores to lower your Christmas shopping bill too. The coupons are probably one of the best reasons to keep this site on your list of bookmarks. Consult it before you buy anything online anywhere. Shop around to find the best prices. Then find out what coupons are available, and recalculate the price of what you want taking into account the coupons that each store makes available. That way, you know you are getting what you want at the lowest price possible.

Let us say, you have shopped around and found out that Best Buy has the lowest prices on a gadget you have had in mind for a while. Now, just go to the Best Buy Coupons section of the site, and find the best coupon that is applicable to your gadget from among the numerous coupons and deals on that page. Then, just click on the appropriate coupon, and you will be transported directly to the appropriate page on the Best Buy website that shows you the details of the coupon, and allows you to complete your shopping by placing your order and taking advantage of the deal you wanted.

Online coupons are valuable as more and more people shift their shopping online to avoid crowds and have a bigger choice of merchandise at lower prices. Combine that with timely information about how long you have before you really need to nail down your shopping list and place your orders, and it becomes doubly valuable. BestOnlineCoupons.com is an online shopper's dream come true.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Daughter Gets Her Second Pair Of Glasses

It has been almost 2 years since my daughter started wearing spectacles to correct her nearsightedness in one eye. As I wrote in an earlier post, I was able to cut the cost of getting her her first pair of glasses by ordering cheap eyeglasses from Zenni Optical.

Zenni Optical sells directly to customers without using retail outlets or middlemen. There are minimal overheads because of this method of doing business. There are no rents to pay on retail premises. No salaries or commissions to pay salesmen in these retail premises. So, they are able to keep prices low. But low prices do not mean low quality because they have invested in high-tech factories where lenses and frames are manufactured to perfection out of the latest high-tech materials.

Why is all this relevant to me? Well, the dreaded letter came from the school nurse saying that my daughter needed another eye checkup. My daughter did not feel that her vision had improved or deteriorated since her last checkup. But it is hard for her to tell because she has perfect or better-than-perfect vision in one eye, so it always compensates for the other, and makes differences in the less-than-perfect eye hard to notice.

In any case, this last weekend, I took her to an optometrist inside a large department store and had her undergo an eye test. The optometrist examined her eyes and found out that the power in her eye had actually increased over the past 2 years. It was time to get a new prescription filled. And that is where Zenni enters the picture once again.

I asked my daughter whether she was happy with her previous set of glasses. Not only with how it corrects her vision, but also how it looks, how it fits, etc. I did not want to go for the cheap option and leave my daughter fending off mean-spirited schoolmates who made fun of her for glasses that did not look or fit right. But my daughter said she was perfectly comfortable with her glasses and would love to get another pair from Zenni Optical. In fact, some of her classmates had asked her where she had gotten her glasses from. Far from being made fun of, the glasses were actually making her popular!

Saving money is a hobby of mine I enjoy greatly. But sometimes I take it too far and end up with things that are not considered workable, fashionable or even tolerable! Sometimes I end up wasting money because I buy something that is cheap, and then have to end up buying something more expensive anyways because the cheap stuff does not work or look presentable.

At least with Zenni Optical, I made the right choice. I went with the cheap choice, and it turned out to be good too. The quality is wonderful, and the frames fit perfectly. And they look good enough that my daughter does not stand out in a negative way. My pocketbook is certainly very thankful for that!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Beginner's Method For Solving A 3x3 Rubik's Cube (Part 2)

You can find Part 1 of this guide here.

Now onto step 4.

Step 4: In this step, your aim is to solve the upper face (the green face in my case) to a cross. That is, I want to align the edges that involve green such that the green side is on the upper face of the cube. At the end of this step, you may not have those edge pieces placed correctly, but at least all their green faces will be on the green side of the cube. If you already have the 4 edge pieces involving green placed in such a way that their green sides are on the upper face, skip step 4 and proceed directly to step 5.

At the end of step 3, you may find yourself in one of three situations as far as the upper face is concerned.
No green edges on top
Step 4 Before, Option 1
Two adjacent green edges on top
Step 4 Before Option 2
Two opposite green edges on top
Step 4 Before Option 3

Ignore the corner pieces and concentrate only on the edge pieces involving green. You might find that none of the green sides are on the top face (option 1), or you might find two of them on the top face on adjacent sides of the cube (option 2), or you might find two of them on the top on opposite sides of the cube (option 3).

If you find yourself facing option 1, it does not matter how you hold the cube. If you face option 2, make sure that the two adjacent sides on which the green edges are on the top face are on the back and left. If you face option 3, make sure the green pieces form a bar parallel to the front face of the cube.

From all three options, you can execute the following algorithm to get to the point where all the edge pieces are placed such that their green sides are on the upper face: F R U R' U' F'. When you do this, you will notice that if you start from option 1, you will end up in either option 2 or option 3 when you execute this algorithm once. If you start from option 2, you will end up in option 3 after one execution of this algorithm. If you start from option 3, after one execution, you will be ready to move to step 5. If you want to cut down on one application of the algorithm, you can apply a modified algorithm from option 2 to skip option 3 and end up with a green cross on top. That modified algorithm is F U R U' R' F'.

Either way, you should now have the following configuration in front of you at the end of step 4 (ignore the green corners. You may or may not have them as shown below. All you need is a green cross on the upper face).
Green cross on top
Step 4 After

The edge pieces involving green may or may not be in the correct positions. We will deal with that in step 5. If you have blue solved fully, four sides solved two-thirds of the way, and the edges involving green positioned with the green sides on the green face, you are done with step 4.

Step 5: In step 5, we are going to align the edges of the green face so that they line up with the colors on the sides of the faces. You may have 1, 2 or 4 of the top edges aligned correctly with colors on the sides (if you look at the picture above, you can rotate the upper face clockwise by 90 degrees to align the green and yellow face). If all 4 edge pieces are aligned correctly, skip step 5 and go directly to step 6.

If you find only one top edge aligned correctly, make that part of the front face, as shown in the picture below. You are now going to apply the algorithm below that will move the edge piece from the left face to the right face, the one on the right face to the back face, and the one on the back face to the left face. The piece on the front face does not move. So, it is an anticlockwise rotation of the edge pieces skipping the edge on the front face.
Edges before rotation
Step 5 Before

The algorithm is: R U R' U R U U R'.
Edges after rotation
Step 5 After

Since three of the edge pieces move when this algorithm is applied, if your cube already has two top edges aligned correctly, you may have to apply the algorithm multiple times to get all the edges aligned correctly. In the first application, you will end up destroying one or both of the original alignments, and then you can rebuild all of them by applying the algorithms a couple more times. Make sure you understand what changes the algorithm makes (anticlockwise rotation of the edges, skipping the front face), and you will have no trouble figuring out how best to use it.

Step 6: Step 6 is used to position the top corner pieces correctly. At this point, you only have 4 unsolved pieces in the cube (at most). These 4 pieces could be at the correct places, but wrongly oriented (in which case, skip to step 7). None of them may be in the right place (note that at this stage, you can not rotate the upper face because that will cause the edge pieces to get out of position), or 1 of them could be in the right place, but the other three are in the wrong corners.

If none of them are in their correct corners, you can apply the algorithm holding the cube with any of the sides (that is the faces other than blue and green in my case) as the front face. If one of the corner pieces is in the correct corner (don't worry about its orientation), make sure you hold the cube such that you place that piece in the front upper right corner of the cube (this is the only corner that is not going to move when you apply this algorithm).

The algorithm below causes the front upper left corner piece to move to the back upper right corner, the back upper right corner piece to move to the back upper left corner and the back upper left corner piece to move to the front upper left corner. It is an anticlockwise rotation of the corner pieces skipping the front upper right corner. You might have to apply it more than once to position all the corners correctly. Once again, understand what the algorithm does, and you will have no problem figuring out how to use it.

The algorithm is: U R U' L' U R' U' L.

Step 7: Now you have a cube in which all the top corners are positioned correctly, but one or more of them may be oriented wrongly. If you find that the cube is fully solved at the end of step 6 (that is, all the corners oriented themselves correctly while being placed in their correct spots), you are done. Congratulations! Otherwise, you will have to orient the corner pieces.

Now, step 7 is a little confusing. Not because the algorithm for it is complicated. Quite on the contrary: it is a very short algorithm. But throughout step 7, your front face is never changed. So, pick a front face right now. I have picked red in the pictures below. You can pick any, but it is not going to change as you progress through step 7.

Once you have picked a front face, bring a mis-oriented corner piece to the upper front right position by rotating the upper face of the cube. The mis-orientation may look like the picture below, in which the top color (green) is on the right face.
Corner with green on right
Step 7 Before, Option 1

In this case, apply the algorithm below twice to get the green side on the upper face: R' D' R D. After you do this, you may notice that your cube may look very scrambled. You may find blue pieces floating around, away from the bottom face where they belong. DO NOT PANIC. Between when you begin step 7 and when you complete step 7, you will find all kinds of weird changes in the cube that you just have to ignore.

Just make sure you get the green side of the corner cube to the upper face, and then rotate the upper face (only the upper face) of the cube to get the next mis-oriented corner piece in the front upper right corner of the cube. Make sure you continue to keep red (or whatever face you chose at the beginning of step 7) as the front face. You may then be faced with the following situation pictured below where the green is on the front face.
Green on front face
Step 7 Before, Option 2

Notice how the cube looks very scrambled. That is because we are in the middle of step 7. Don't worry. Just apply the same algorithm as before (R' D' R D), but 4 times to get the green side on the upper face. Continue turning the upper face and orienting each top corner piece so that the green is on the upper face. Do not worry about how bad the cube looks in the interim.

Once you are done with all four corners, and all of them are oriented properly, you may find that your cube looks as below:
Almost there
Almost done!

Now, all you have to do is rotate the upper and down faces of the cube a couple of times to line up all the colors, and you will have yourself a fully solved cube, as shown below:
All done
Fully done!

That is all there is to it! Two algorithms in step 3 (one of which is actually a variation of the other), and one algorithm each in steps 4 (two if you want to use a shortcut), 5, 6 and 7. A total of 6 or 7 algorithms, none of which are longer than 8 steps. That is all it takes to solve the cube! I told you it was easy. Try it and let me know how it works out. Good luck!

Beginner's Method For Solving A 3x3 Rubik's Cube (Part 1)

The past couple of weeks, I have been doing research into methods for solving the Rubik's Cube. According to wikipedia, the Rubik's Cube is by far the world's best-selling toy ever. How such a cerebral toy became so popular is quite surprising to me. More than 30 years after the introduction of the first 3x3 cube, we now have cubes in several different dimensions from 2x2 all the way to 7x7. There are also computer simulations of cubes of practically infinite sizes.

The surprising thing I found is that in spite of my studious search of several websites, I could not find a single site that has the solution steps I found in the printed booklet that came packaged with my Rubik's cube. There are solutions that involve just 2 algorithms, and solutions that involve several hundred algorithms. However, even the official Rubiks.com website does not have the solution method that I am using for my cube-solving. In fact, the method explained in the official website is quite involved, and includes some algorithms that include up to 13 moves. On the face of it, it seems quite complicated, and difficult to memorize.

So, I decided to put together the solution method I have been using as a two-part post on my blog. The link to the second part of this solution methodology can be found at the bottom of this post. This algorithm is considered a beginner's algorithm (as opposed to some other methods that are used in speed-solving, and need one to memorize a lot more algorithms. In exchange for the increased memorization, you get higher speed and fewer twists and turns from scrambled state to solved state). You are not going to set any speed records using this method. But, you are going to be able to solve the cube reliably using this method. Once you get that, you might be motivated to learn other methods, so that you can improve your speed.

I believe in the crawl-walk-run philosophy. Playing around with a cube so that you can solve one side intuitively is the crawl stage. This method will get you to the walking stage. If you want to run, you can look up dozens of methods on the internet, and choose a method of your liking to continue your cube education.

To begin with, let us define some basic notation. Take a look at the picture of a cube below.
Naming ConventionThe pictures used in the solution are all going to look like this. In this cube, I consider the red-face to be the front of the cube (F). The blue face is the right side of the cube (R) and white is the upper face of the cube (U). In this cube, yellow is opposite the white, so yellow would be the down face of the cube (D). Similarly, orange is opposite the red, so orange would be the back face of the cube (B). And green is opposite the blue, and would be the left face of the cube (L). This notation of naming faces is the same as that used on Wikipedia.

In all my pictures, the cube will always be shown with three faces. The top face will be the upper face of the cube (U), the face to the right will be the right face (R), and the face to the left of the right face will be the front face (F). It is assumed that the solver is actually looking at the cube almost directly at the front face, but with their point-of-view shifted slightly to the right and above the cube, so that the top face and right face are also visible in addition to the front face.

Every move of the cube involves turning a face of the cube either clockwise or counterclockwise. The direction of the move is as it appears to an observer facing that face of the cube head-on. Thus a 90 degree clockwise rotation of the right face of the cube is denoted as R, and it would involve turning the blue face from front to back (so that three red cubes end up on the upper face, 3 white cubes end up on the back face, 3 orange cubes end up on the down face, and 3 yellow cubes end up on the front face).

An anti-clockwise rotation is denoted with an apostrophe after the letter of the face. Thus R' is an anticlockwise rotation of the right face and would move 3 white cubes to the front face of the cube while moving 3 red cubes to the down face of the cube. Similarly, L' would move 3 red cubes to the upper face while moving 3 orange cubes to the down face. The algorithms in this methodology do not involve any face except the front (F), upper (U), down (D), right (R) and left (L), so make sure you are absolutely sure what clockwise and anticlockwise rotations of each of these faces would involve. You don't have to worry about rotating any of the middle layers or the back layer of the cube if you stick with this method.

Step 1: Step 1 of this method is entirely intuitive. I don't want to burden you with algorithms for this step. All you want to do is go from an entirely scrambled cube to selecting a top face, and solving the 4 edges of the chosen top face (the edge pieces of a cube have two colors on them). Play around with the cube until you can do this without any problems from any start point. Notice that each edge piece is aligned such that the top face is of the chosen top face color, and the color on the side corresponds to the color of the center tile on that face. This is called solving the top cross.
Scrambled cube
Step 1 Before
Top cross
Step 1 After

Step 2: The second step is also intuitive, and just involves solving the 4 corners of the top face. The corner pieces of a cube are the pieces with 3 colors on them. In this second step, you are going to intuitively get the corner pieces involving blue into the correct corners (make sure the colors on these pieces apart from blue line up with the center pieces of the same colors). This solves the top face, and forms short T's down the four sides of the cube. I refer to the combination of steps 1 and 2 as solving one face to a T. With practice, you should be able to do this in about a minute or so starting from scratch (don't worry if it initially takes you several minutes. The important thing is to get familiar with how different cubes move in relation to each other).
Solved one face to a T
Step 2 After

Step 3: At this point, turn the cube over, so that your solved side is on the bottom. Thus, blue becomes the down side of the cube (D). Your aim in this step is to complete solving the second layer of the cube by getting the edge pieces of the colors around blue in their right places and orientations. Thus, after the end of step 3, you will have two layers of yellow, orange, white and red (your colors may be different depending on how your cube is colored. I am referring to the color scheme on my cube in which green is the color opposite the solved blue side).

Now, if any of the second layer edge pieces are already in the correct position and orientation, you don't have to worry about them. But many times, you will find edge pieces that are supposed to go into the second layer in the third layer.

In one configuration (option 1), you will find second layer edge pieces that need to be rotated from the right face to the corner of the front and right faces. That is, the piece needs to be rotated into place anticlockwise.
Edge needs anticlockwise rotation
Step 3 Before, Option 1

Notice how, in the picture above, the white and red piece in the middle top of the right face needs to be moved anticlockwise to the middle of the edge between the front and right faces. In this case, the following sequence of steps will accomplish this: U' F' U F U R U' R'.
Edge rotated anticlockwise
Step 3 After, Option 1

Notice how the white and red face has been moved anticlockwise to its correct location and orientation.

In the other configuration (option 2), the edge piece needs to be moved from the top of the front face to the corner of the front and right faces (so, it requires a clockwise rotation). Notice the red and yellow corner piece in the picture below.
Edge needs clockwise rotation
Step 3 Before, Option 2

Notice how, in the picture above, the yellow and red piece in the middle top of the front face needs to be moved clockwise to the middle of the edge between the front and right faces. In this case, the following sequence of steps will accomplish this: U R U' R' U' F' U F. If you are astute, you will realize that this is essentially the same set of moves as in option 1, just that you start from move 5 of option 1, and cycle around to move 4 after the end. So, you only have to actually memorize one algorithm for step 3.
Edge rotated clockwise
Step 3 After, Option 2

Notice how the yellow and red face has been moved clockwise to its correct location and orientation.

Now, one complication that you might encounter when you are solving this second layer is that the edge piece you want in a particular position may be in that position, but may be in the wrong orientation. In other words, for example, the yellow and red edge piece may be at the corner of the yellow and red faces, but may be placed such that the yellow side of that edge piece is on the red face and the red side of it is on the yellow face. In that case, there is no simple algorithm to reorient the piece in place. You have to push some other edge piece into its position using one of the algorithms above, and this will pop that edge piece to the upper layer, from where it can be moved down to its correct position and orientation using one of the algorithms above.

At the end of step 3, you will have a cube that has one side fully solved (blue in my case), and 4 sides solved two-thirds of the way (two layers each of red, yellow, orange and white in my case). Your cube will look like the picture below, assuming you have the same color scheme as me. You don't see the orange and yellow sides, but they are also solved two-thirds of the way just like the white and red sides in the picture below. The green side is still a mess while the blue side (which is at the bottom) is fully solved (make sure you have not made any mistakes in applying the step 3 algorithms by turning the cube over and making sure that the blue side is indeed solved. If it is not, re-solve it, and then apply the step 3 algorithms more carefully).
Cube after step 3
Step 3 After

At this point, you are about halfway done. Continue on to the next step in part 2 of this solution guide.

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