Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flashlight project and other thoughts

I have a pair of DeWalt DC527's (battery powered hand-held florescent lights). The reason I have two, is that one doesn't work! I'm too lazy to go through, what I assume would be, a difficult returns process; so I'm fixing it myself.

The not so functional light does sort of work; the bulb glows; but does not fully light. I may have narrowed down the problem: the not so functional light is running at twice the frequency of the good light. I'm working on a circuit diagram (for diagnostic purposes), hopefully I can determine which components create the AC switching frequency, and test them next.

I may have given up trying to tape and skim coat my walls upstairs, I'm just not very good at it. I found someone to hire to help me with the work. I hope he calls tomorrow.

- Sy

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Congratulations Mom!

I voted today! - I'm not 100% sure I voted for the correct people/things but who is; either way it's an important civic duty.

Congratulations go out to my mom who is now the director of the MMLC!

Mideastern Michigan Library Cooperative?
Mortality and Morbidity Liaison Committee?
Minnesota Master Logger Certification?
Management Markets and Legal Consulting Group?

I know what she does, but not what the acronym is exactly. Is it?: Madison Masonic Learning Center? Regardless; when I think about where my Mom works my mind instantly jumps to the: "Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too" -- Yes you should watch that movie. In fact I'm going to go see if Gretchen will watch it with me tonight.

Peace out! Oh and play more Alien Swarm!]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fungus/Insect Free Car

My car got crop dusted today. I was driving to Dugway, on my way to work, when PhWOOP! All my windows, front, back, and sides were covered in a fine white dust. It was so uniform, that it looked like some sort of white wash paint.

I flipped on the wipers so I could see the road, and by the time I got to my destination the rest of it had blown off the car.

It was quite startling!

Healing my sprain.

So I can walk, somewhat... I've been going to work the past two days, but just doing partial days. Today I did 8.5 hours (out of 10) - and it was very hard on my ankle. One more day, then I get to rest up over the weekend. Chuck, Gretchens cat, has enjoyed R.I.C.E.'ing with me every evening (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation). I've been told that when it gets stronger a wobble board is a good idea to strengthen the muscles and such. I like the idea of having strong ankles; mostly because:

I never want to sprain my ankle again!

Friday, August 13, 2010

New pets the: GDC's

Gretchen decided to get some chickens. They are generally quite nice, here is a picture of them perching in the grape vines:

Today however, they hopped there way onto the wine barrel, onto their makeshift perch, onto the top of the fence, over the makeshift steel cable that was supposed to help keep them inside, over the rock wall into our neighbors yard, through their fence, and into our neighbors-neighbors yard.

Our neighbors came round, baby carriage in tow, to kindly ask us to get our chicken out of their yard. They have a hunting (pointing) dog, a German short-hair, and they couldn't put it out into the yard without seriously endangering the life of the chicken.

To make a long story short, I tried to catch the chicken, and am now in nausiating pain due to a sprained / rolled ankle. I've never rolled my ankle before! - I'm so upset. I thought I had really strong ankles. - I had weakened it by partially rolling it earlier at work though; and it was apparently too much. I am very disappointed with my ankle...

Saturday, August 07, 2010


So two of my friends were riding in separate caravaning cars. This is a conversation they had, translations in parenthesis. I will refer to them by nicknames:

Rain:Nom?(Are we stopping for the promised food soon? The girlfriend is starving)
Bunny:Nom.(Yes, most definitely, food is something we must have.)

They refer to this as the four letter conversation. I like my friends.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Early User Space - Bah!

So I'm setting up our new router/server here at home, and I've decided to finally get around to trying out a full disc encryption. The idea is that the kernel has embedded in it (or separately loaded by the boot loader) a tiny file system with the necessary decryption utilities. A script runs, does the decryption, mounts your regular file system, then turns the computer over to your regular booting up process.

This works very well, if one can get it to work.

I'm familiar enough with installing my favorite GNU/Linux flavor, Gentoo, that I'm not having any difficulty doing what I want to do with it. However my scripting skills are weak, and I don't have enough knowledge regarding the busybox environment to figure out what's going wrong.

Cryptsetup gives some warning messages or errors when creating a decrypted device mapper node of the encrypted hard drive; but it finally reports success. However I am unable to mount the result. It's very annoying.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I hate Diebold and ES&S voting machines.

Alvin Greene is a broke, unemployed guy who is facing a felony obscenity charge. He made no campaign appearances and raised no money, but he is the brand new Democratic Senate nominee from South Carolina.

How many senators in the senate were picked by these faulty, poorly designed, freedom destroying machines instead of by us? This case stinks only because it seems so unlikely to us, as outsiders, that this guy was really the choice of the good people of South Carolina. But how many times was a vote close, and with a few button pushes or keystrokes was the balance tipped? - We don't know.

VOTING MACHINES TODAY ARE EASY TO TAMPER WITH!!!! Until people like Bruce Schneider, or other well know security researchers, evaluate and give a thumbs up to a voting machine, or machines, I'm just going to have to hate all voting machines. Lets use paper ballots and count them by hand; then we can at least recount them if we think there was a mistake.

Although, honestly my hate is probably misdirected. Possibly, the guy just won because voters are lazy, and his name was first on the ballot.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gretchen is OK!

But her truck is destroyed...
Click on it to get a bigger image.

Gretchen was wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash. As soon as she could squeeze her legs out from under the dash, she crawled out the window.

When the police got there they had to ask the crowd: "Who was the driver of the red truck!" Cause she was walking off the adrenaline rush.

The dashboard and steering column were shoved back several inches. It's a good thing she was skinny, otherwise she would have been stuck.

I would like to thank all the people that rushed to both the aid of my wife, and the other driver.

I didn't get a picture of it but some of the wires in the dash board had started to melt and burn the plastic. That's why the fire department was called. They brought a large crow bar; pried the hood up, and cut the battery cables.

Pictures of the other car...

I don't know if the other driver was wearing his seatbelt. Notice the head shaped bulge in his windshield. I saw blood on his forehead; and heard that EMTs were not getting clear responses to the questions they were asking him. The driver of the white car was taken to the hospital.

Gretchen's right arm started to swell up, I made her take an X-ray of it. I'll post that picture too. It appears to be OK. She is resting with ice packs and compression bandages. She says that when the frozen spinach on her knee thaws, she's going to heat it up with some mozzarella. ;)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I just ordered my first Mini-ITX board! I did some figuring and the electricity cost difference between a computer burning less than 20 watts, and my current server ~300W was enough to justify the purchase. The processor speed is almost identical, but the new one has a two core ATOM chip (four threads). So it should do much better, than the old single core Athalon it's replacing.

The old computer I'm going to try to give away to the owners of a horse Gretchen is breaking. They have a 13 year old daughter, and she will be needing a computer for school. That old machine has served me well for years, and it's still useful, just not what I need any more. That's one of the advantages of living in a small town. There are plenty of people to give my old computers to. This will be, I think, the third that I've given away.

I wonder how giving a computer away could benefit my taxes? Maybe I should be giving them to a charity. - But I'd be concerned that they'd just end up in a land fill. When I give one to a friend or neighbor, I just ask them to give it back when they are done so I can have it recycled...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Old Man Time

An unremarked moment passed, just this Saturday sometime shortly before 9:00am; I think I was still asleep.

What my sleeping mind did not wake me for was the moment when I was 365.242199 months old.

I am now older than one month for every day of the year;

and I'm ok with that.

But it's a good a time as any for a new beginning. So I've decided (again) to become a programmer. Not to worry I'm not giving up my current career, I'm just going to reorganize my free time. and dedicate some of it to expanding my programming ability.

In that regard I spent three hours this evening watching and listening to lectures:
Linus Torvalds - git
Luis Von Ahn - Human Computation
Richard Hipp - SQLite

Tomorrow I'm going to mess around with QEMU, with OpenVZ on deck.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

hOtBoX "Fixed"

So um, I found the real problem.

The power supply wasn't too small, apparently my earlier troubleshooting was partly flawed. Something went wrong with this component on the video card, and it was causing a short circuit. It completely fused itself, burnt part of the circuit board, and scorched some neighboring components.

I was very sad when I figured this out, cause that video card would be very expensive to replace. (I've already hosed my warranty by removing the heatsink, watercooling, and overclocking it.) Undaunted I grabbed my pliers, tore the offending component off the board, and plugged the card back in.

Apparently it was an appendix; the video card (so far) works fine. - Who knew!?

Although I really would like to know what kind of a component it is. Maybe I can order a new one and solder it on to the board. I'm assuming it's some kind of a power supply component for the video card that overheated and progressively shorted itself out over a period of time. If you want to help me identify it here are some more pictures.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

hOtBoX Broken

Happy because I found cheap replacement motherboard for my computer from a local craigs list type site. Unhappy because as it turns out my current motherboard is fine. After doing some trouble shooting this evening I found out that the powerswitch has done bad (It's a way nice {expensive} switch too!); and I found out that it seems the powersupplys that I've been buying aren't powerfull enough for my machine.

I started with a 750W PC Power and Cooling (My favorite brand of power supply). It worked well for a long time, until I upgraded the motherboard, CPU, and video card. Then the computer started to have strange problems. Sometimes it wouldn't start. The LED's would flash, the fans might spin just a touch, otherwise nothing. So I brilliantly stuck a screwdriver into the powersupply causing it to explode.

Then I picked up a 650w Antec (Another very good brand {in my top three definitly}). It managed, somehow, to run my computer for a time. Then I overclocked my CPU (2.5ghz => 3.2Ghz) and video card (~100mhz). Then it started to have problems again.

Assuming it was the powersupply I bought another one. A 500w OCZ with modular cords (I like their ram...) Notice that as I'm doing this it never occurs to me that I might need a bigger powersupply...

Well to finish this up. With either supply and the video card removed the computer runs fine. Add in the video card and neither one can start the machine. If, however I plug one into the video card, and the other into the motherboard the computer starts every time. (As long as I'm not using the broken power switch.)

Having said that I have not yet tested the output of the video card. But, before this whole shenanigans started I suspected the video card, and my old one is now running well in a friends computer. So I'm reluctant to assign blame to that component.

The newegg powersupply calculator says I need over 700 watts, and thats before the water pump, and the overclocking. If I want to add a second video card at some point I will need at least a 1000W. Maybe more.

I have half a mind to build my own. I've got a pair of 900va transformers down stairs that put out 8v or 16v (depending on how they are wired). It would be a pretty wicked bragging point to have a non-switching 1800w powersupply. It would need it's own dedicated 20A circuit, and would weigh over 50 lbs.

I reserve the right to edit this in the morning, I'm tired. Good night!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Happy because I installed CyanogenMOD on my Dream/G1 phone. Unhappy because a run-away script of my own making is the reason I can't get to from my home computer. Also unhappy because the blog service that I use, Blogger, isn't going to support FTP publishing anymore. One step forward two steps back.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Love or Money

Pets can be expensive. More so if you love them unconditionally.

I love my cats; to an extent. A very specific extent: $300.00. If they need medical care that costs more than that, it is fatal to them.

Yes, I will cry; but I'll also be able to afford to pay the mortgage; and, when we are ready, to adopt another stray animal.

In your opinion is that cold? - Because to some extent a financial sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of most, if not all, domestic animals. But it seems to me that usually it's just ranchers and farmers who, before treatment is needed, think about the extent to which they will spend to help an animal live longer.

Having said this, I should note, my resolve has not yet been tested!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tube Silicone

So I went to go apply silicone sealant to some joints today. The tube we have has a large UPC sticker across the front. As I finish applying it to the second joint, I realize that it's not sealant, its a lubricant. - Doe!

Still don't know what kind of product it was exactly, the sticker completely covered the front, and the back referred to the contents only as "silicone compound". It was fairly easy to wipe off, so no harm done.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Workplace safety share.

So I think today was interesting in both ways. It's not enough to wear safety equipment - You have to use the correct tools, and the correct safety equipment!

Ok that changing a light bulb thing didn't go so well. First; you should understand, this is a big light: 500W! The bulb is about the size of a two liter bottle.

We put on safety gear: steel toe bots with metatarsal covers, durable warm cotton insulated coveralls and coats, gloves, safety glasses, hard hat, climbing harness.

We set up the ladder, my co-worker climbed the ladder, latched his harness to the pole, lashed the ladder off to the pole, and opened the light fixture cover.

While opening the light fixture cover, my co-workers hard hat fell off. He had his hands full, an it was an awkward reach; so he just let it fall instead of trying to catch it. I thought this a good decision at the time and we both shrugged it off. So he begins to descend the ladder to get the new bulb...

Suddenly a noise, and commotion, and out falls the guts of the light fixture. I watch, HORRIFIED, as they tumble and spin not more than a foot past his head. The ballast (specialized type of transformer, a big block of iron and copper wire) weighs about 20 pounds. And it, bolted to a sharp edged steel plate about the size of a skate board, went just flying down past him. My work day almost turned into rush co-worker to the hospital day.

The worst part is that we had just finished having a morning safety meeting, and the client's representative explaining the rules didn't know how we would call 911 from where we were working. On big industrial sites, you _don't_ call 911. You call a local number and they get emergency care to you. However, it's a new little shack of a building, and has no company phone. So, yeah, 20 minutes away from being able to _call_ for help there was almost a severe head wound because, either a screw failed, or someone didn't correctly install a retaining screw; and the person who chose to attempt this work from a ladder mis-judged how difficult that would be.

Sorry this is so long, working safely is important. Sometimes concentrating on wearing safety gear can blind a person into choosing the wrong tools. I'd still wear all that safety gear, of course. But the decision to change that bulb from a ladder was I think, a poor decision; and my co-worker almost paid for that today.

Ok, so, I'm trying not to turn this into a rant. However, this is also important: Don't wear safety equipment that does not protect you, just to meet a perceived expectation or requirement.

A standard lanyard is six feet, stretches to, I think 12, and attaches to a harness between your shoulder blades. This harness will allow you to fall and break yourself if you are working at anything less than about 15 feet above the ground.

Frequently I have been asked to wear a harness and lanyard that offer zero fall protection at the heights that I'm working from. (6 -10 feet up typically.) When I ask for a yo-yo and I-beam clamp (which, as I understand things, does offer protection at lower heights) I'm told that I can go without the harness; because those tools are expensive, would require time to go and purchase, and as long as I'm using my ladder correctly (which I do) the risk should be minimal.

But why can't we rent/buy another little scissor lift, we have several already. A used scissor lift, costs a little more than a yo-yo, and allows more productivity. Or for goodness sake, we do have to do ladder work sometimes, I wish we had a few yo-yo's. I'm going to have to ask my supervisors to buy one (or more, hopefully) again.

When working at intermediate heights my employer sometimes doesn't have appropriate safety equipment. When we should be using a lift, or scaffolding to change a light bulb; we are told to use a harness and an extension ladder.

My co-worker almost paid the price for this today. Maybe we will all learn, that would be nice.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

if they were fishes...

I'm not sure if it's best to wish for a omelette (will come true) or superpowers (probably won't come true). Right now I'm wishing I had already cleaned my desk instead of just having started!

Happy valentines day. (If you are reading this you already are my valentine.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Holidays Are Over

It's time to buckle down, mail those belated Christmas cards, write thank you notes and take down the tree. How do I know it's time? Because school is starting again:

I Just registered for my 6th semester (out of 8) of my Journeyman Electrician Apprenticeship program! - School starts Monday. Hooray!