?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Bill Haley
me drawing
tww1fa
Growing up I never noticed how chauvinistic some of Bill Haley's lyrics were. Sort of ruins the songs for me now.

Ping dryad_song
me drawing
tww1fa
Petri Dish Soaps

Geekologie via Make: Online

Wow...
me drawing
tww1fa
Coffee Kiss

Seen on the Make: magazine blog
me drawing
tww1fa
Melting Table. There's something really cool about stuff that looks impossible, like melting wood.

I'm very slightly famous in Croatia...
me drawing
tww1fa
Apparently the video I made of my "Ornery Machine" was embedded in the webpage of a Croatian newspaper. I was wondering where the spike in views came from :)

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Dear Swissco:

In future when attaching the bristles to your otherwise very nice bath brushes you might want to consider the use of waterproof glue given that there is the possibility that one of said brushes might at some point get wet.

Sincerely, tww1fa

Making my own toys
me drawing
tww1fa
I just finished building The Ornery Machine. It's my version of The Most Useless Machine Ever which is a version of the original 1950's Ultimate Machine conceived by Marvin Minsky and built by Claude Shannon.

Here's a video of it in action:


The electronic guts consist of the toggle switch shown, a microswitch, an ATTiny13 microcontroller, a battery box, a diode and a standard R/C servo.

I'll be producing an Instructable shortly with the schematic and microcontroller code.

What if Shakespeare had written The Big Lebowski?
me drawing
tww1fa
Two Gentlemen of Lebowski

via BoingBoing.net

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
I seem to have caught a cold. Strange expression, that. "Caught a cold" as if I'd gone out with traps and snares and an orange vest in an attempt to bag the elusive Rhinovirus. Do I need a license to catch a cold? Apparently not.

I think we'd be better served by the expression "A cold caught me."

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Just back from spending most of the day sailing in the Sacramento river delta. It was the first time I've been on a sailboat, and it was a lot of fun. Learned how to tack and steer! It could have been a little warmer, but all in all a great day. Now time for dinner and TV :)

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
The fact that Rendezvous with Rama is such an awesome and amazing book just barely makes up for the sequels being steaming piles of stinking crap.

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Just made another 8-quart batch of my vegetable soup un-recipe. This is the best it's come out and from prior experience it will be even better when it's gone through a freeze-thaw-reheat cycle. And when I was finished there were less dirty dishes in the kitchen than when I started :)

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Manners are to social interaction as lubricants are to machinery - they keep things running smoothly and reduce wear on our often frazzled nerves. Liberal and honest application of "thank you" and "please" can greatly reduce the need for percussive maintenance with a large hammer.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
me drawing
tww1fa
So I'm playing WoW, with my machine booted into Windows, and I get a message from AVG free that a virus has been found. Oh crap. So I tell AVG to run a scan - it finds yet another virus, this one in svchost.exe. I.e. the Windows executable that runs most every system service.

Luckily, I only use Windows for gaming (and even most of that I do under Wine on Linux - I boot into Windows only when I must have the maximum performance) so I decided to just reformat the partition and reinstall Windows. So now I have a nice clean Windows XP SP3 install into which I'm reinstalling WoW. Better safe than sorry.

Ping sunnybananas
me drawing
tww1fa
What's your take on this?

Faster than a speeding photon...
me drawing
tww1fa
Package tracking through Amazon shows my package departing from Harrisburg, PA at 4:04AM and arriving in San Pablo, CA the same day at 4:05AM. Apparently Amazon and UPS have figured out the secret of teleportation. Or at the least (if adjusted for timezones) they're using supersonic transports.

80!
me drawing
tww1fa
w00t! Dinged 80 for the first time on WoW!








Epiphany...
me drawing
tww1fa
I just came to the realization that E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series is essentially The Untouchables IN SPAAACE!

Dragonfly
me drawing
tww1fa
dragonfly

Damn
me drawing
tww1fa
I knew there was a reason I hadn't reread Childhood's End in over twenty years. I can't really handle it any more often than that.

Rama
me drawing
tww1fa
A couple weeks ago my brother tagged me on Facebook with a meme - in short, to write down "fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you."

My first choice was obvious - Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. No other book has ever filled me with the same sense of wonder, of infinite possibilities. A book about nothing other than the glory and joy of exploration (if you leave out the whole Hermian subplot1.)

After answering the meme, I of course had to reread it - and it still filled me with that same sense of wonder.

Very few other books have come even close to doing the same. The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the Ainulindalë from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster come closest - butRendezvous with Rama still comes in a full length ahead of any of those.

[1] I personally think Clarke should have left it out of the novel, but that's probably just me.

Requiem for a stove?
me drawing
tww1fa
The electronic igniter on our stove is broken. Sometimes it will work, but most of the time there's no spark on any of the burners (or the oven.) Not that surprising, since the stove is over 20 years old (in fact, we've seen exactly the same stove as a prize on The All New Let's Make A Deal reruns - those episodes were from 1984-84!) We can, of course, use a match to light the burners, but the oven is currently unusable.

We'll call in a repairperson to see if we can get it fixed, and if not we'll have to get a new stove. Interestingly enough, per Consumer Reports electric stoves seem to produce more heat than gas ones (unless you spend $$$ on a pro-style gas range.) I like the instant response of a gas stove, but the faster cooking of an electric stove also beckons. Also, a gas range would be cheaper to operate than an electric one (we pay less than $20 a month for gas for the stove + water heater.) So they both have advantages and disadvantages. Electric smoothtop vs gas... a weighty question.

Bullet dodged
me drawing
tww1fa
Today was the day to do some long overdue maintenance on my Gentoo Linux home server/firewall. One step in the maintenance was to run "emerge --depclean". What this command does is figure out what packages were pulled in as dependencies of other packages that are no longer installed and allows you to deinstall them. Usually, Gentoo does a pretty good job of figuring things out. However, today was one of those cases where it didn't do such a good job. One of the things it said it needed to deinstall was gmp-3.0 (the Gnu extended precision math library.) So I deinstalled it. Once I deinstalled it, I ran "revdep-rebuild" which figures out what executables or shared libraries have dependencies on other shared libraries that are no longer installed and either rebuilds the missing libraries, or rebuilds the executable without the dependency on the shared library.

revdep-rebuild said that /bin/expr was broken because it needed libgmp.so - apparently it was built as depending on gmp but didn't tell Gentoo that. OK, so I can rebuild expr without gmp support - one easy command - "emerge --oneshot coreutils"...

It wasn't that easy. You see, to build most open source programs you need to run "./configure" which needs to run - you guessed it - /bin/expr. I couldn't even rebuild gmp, since not only was the 3.0 version no longer available in the repository, but the newer version also needed to run "./configure".

Luckily, I had a statically linked version of busybox installed on this machine. I symlinked /usr/bin/busybox to /bin/expr, ran "emerge --oneshot coreutils" and everything was fine once more.

So the morals of the story are

1) Run "revdep-rebuild -L<library name>" before unmerging a library
2) A statically linked copy of busybox can save your butt if you do something stupid.

So, if you don't have a statically linked copy of busybox on your Gentoo or other source distribution based Linux install (or on any Linux/UNIX system, for that matter) go install one. Now. I'll wait.

The new Mac
me drawing
tww1fa
On Tuesday I received my new MacBook Pro - 2.8GHz 15.4". I'm liking it a lot. Pretty much everything has "just worked" except for:

- Having to install MPlayer Extended and Perian for video files that QuickTime didn't know how to handle.
- For some reason, the field to paste in the WPA key for my wireless network didn't allow me to paste the key - I had to type in all 63 random characters.

Otherwise, things have been going great. Safari is a fast browser, it connects just fine to the other systems on my network, it automagically found my newer networked HP printer and found the older printer as soon as I typed in the hostname, and appears to get a much more solid wireless signal than my old laptop did. WoW runs fine on it as well.

Most everything has been very easy to figure out - I'm still getting used to some of the quirks, but the learning curve is not at all steep.

So yesterday I wiped my old laptop and gave it to my wife. Even though it's six years old, it's still OK for browsing and email.

Oh, and the MacBook's name is Cornelius.

I suppose I'll have to start drinking Caramel Lattes now...
me drawing
tww1fa

My iPhone was the gateway drug. Now I've gone and ordered a new MacBook Pro. My old laptop is six years old and can't handle high definition video. I wanted a laptop that didn't run Windows, and Linux on laptops is still a crapshoot, so that left the Mac. The fact that it's also very pretty is just icing.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.


Doing Da Vinci
me drawing
tww1fa
Dear Discovery Channel,

Making a show about modern-day craftsmen building some of Da Vinci's inventions - way cool.
Making the emphasis of the show be the disfunction of said group of craftsmen - not at all cool.

If I wanted to watch people snark at each other while building stuff, I'd watch American Chopper. Since I don't, I'm not watching another episode of Doing Da Vinci (or any episodes of American Chopper.)

No love,
The World War 1 Flying Ace

Maker Faire Bay Area 2009
me drawing
tww1fa
I spent most of the day yesterday at Maker Faire. Lots of fun. Amongst the things I saw:

- Steampunk belly dancers (now with extra Theremin!)
- A large metallic snail car that shot fire from it's eyestalks.
- A life-size Mouse Trap game.
- An electromechanical pinball game with plexiglass sides so you could see all the moving parts.
- Two twelve foot Tesla coils shooting sparks 10 feet.
- Tesla roadsters - one was parking just ahead of us, and there was one on display beside a Tesla roadster chassis.
- A demonstration of sand casting for pouring metal.
- Neverwas Haul.
- A huge display of Lego construction.
- A mechanical President Obama.
- Cup cake cars.

All in all, a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to next year.

I am plumber, hear me whimper
me drawing
tww1fa
I spent most of yesterday evening replacing the faucet in the guest bathroom. Not the easiest task in the world:

1) The supply pipes didn't want to disconnect from the old faucet. It took a lot of pulling on them to get them out.
2) The drain plug mechanism rod on the new faucet is about 1/2 inch past the hole in the sink, so I had to rout out a new hole for the rod.

However, the installation is now complete. The only casualties are a hacksaw blade and a Dremel rotary tool. Modern incarnations of the Dremel seem to have bearings made of butter - I've broken two in the last ten years with not very heavy use.

On the good side, the installation instructions included by Peerless Faucet were written with quite a sense of humor.

Sensitive New Age Geek
twoo wuv
tww1fa
A few weeks ago Woot.com had for sale some LED headlamps and I picked up a couple for my wife and I in case we went camping or something.

Last night I figured out another use for them... painting my wife's toenails. I can never get enough light to do the job as well as I'd like - this should solve that problem.

Association meme
me drawing
tww1fa
Comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate you with. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given.

1. Flying: I've always been fascinated with flight, for as long as I can remember. One of the first computer games I ever played was Flight Simulator 1 on the TRS-80, and I'd spend hours playing it while humming the theme to "Baa Baa Black Sheep." At some point I'd like to learn to fly full scale, but it's expensive. So I do the next best thing - flight simulators and RC model airplanes. I have several electric model planes, as well as three model sailplanes, and I'm a member of the Sacramento Valley Soaring Society, where I go to fly.

2. My call sign: WW1FA is my ham radio call sign. The origin of it is related to point 1. My favorite era of flight is World War 1, and when I discovered IRC and a place called #callahans, I had to pick an 8 or less character identifier. I went with tWW1FA, for "The World War One Flying Ace" (I'm the guy Snoopy thinks he is.) Since then I've used tww1fa almost everywhere online. My original callsign was KE6TAW (sequentially assigned by the FCC) but when I upgraded to Extra I decided to spend the $20 for a vanity call sign. Since call signs in the U.S. must start with an A, K or W, I lost the t and picked WW1FA.

3. Ham radio: Ham radio is a side hobby with me. I got my Technician license twelve years or so ago, and didn't do much with it after the first year. I got the bug again a little while ago and studied for my General and Extra license. I still need to set up a proper radio shack, but I have a lot of the equipment - an HF radio, a VHF radio and a 30 amp power supply. I need to set up a good HF antenna and ground system, and then I'll be able to communicate across the world! I also want to learn Morse code - although it's no longer a requirement for licensing, I think it's cool.

4. Coding: I've been coding since before I was a teenager. After my mother passed away, my father bought me and my brothers a TRS-80 Model I computer, and I took to it like a fish to water, learning to program in BASIC and Z-80 assembly language. This served me well, as I was hired by a friend's father as a programmer and I've been making my living at computers ever since. I find coding is as much an art as a science. You have to have a logical mind that can split complex tasks into small pieces, but you also have to have a complete overview of the problem as you're handling the small pieces. You need to see the forest and the trees, or you'll never get things done. And any programmer worth his salt always looks for elegant solutions to problems. A good example of what a good programmer can do is found in The Story Of Mel.

5. Traveling: I don't like to travel. I'm very much a nester - I feel very uncomfortable when I'm outside familiar surroundings. However, sometimes travel is necessary. Sometimes it can be fun, like the trip I made to the U.K. about ten years ago. I had a couple weekends to myself so I did some exploring in London. But usually I'm counting the days until I return home.

And that, down there, is the shark we're jumping over.
me drawing
tww1fa
Five years ago, some genius at Animal Planet had an idea. "Well, there's no sense in running any expensive shows opposite the Superbowl - so how 'bout we cobble together a two-bit set that looks like a football field, get some puppies from the pound and toss 'em in, get an intern to dress up in a referee's uniform to pick up after any accidents and call it the Puppy Bowl?" And it was a sleeper hit. And then the success got to their heads. Puppy Bowl II was still pretty good, what with the addition of the Kitty Half Time Show. But from Puppy Bowl III on, things have just gotten worse and worse. The charm of the Puppy Bowl was that it was nothing other than puppies playing. It wasn't a football game - that was the whole point! Now it's full of cheesy commentary, instant replays, "creative" camera work... ugh. And tonight - when they had the parrot "sing" the National Anthem... that's when I knew that the show had jumped the shark. I'll still watch it with the sound turned down, but I'll lament the innocent wonder that was the original. As usual, the sequel can't hold a candle to the real thing.

Wow... this is what makes me want to be more creative.
me drawing
tww1fa
Wooden Vespa. I'm speechless.

Electronics geek powers activate!
me drawing
tww1fa
Last night, as part of my new foray into the world of electronics, I soldered up a Boarduino. What's a Boarduino, you ask? It's an Arduino clone that plugs directly into a solderless breadboard. "OK, smartass, what the heck is an Arduino (apart from an 11th-century king of Ivrea in northern Italy?)" you ask? It's an open-source physical computing platform based around the ATMEL ATmega168 AVR processor. Physical computing means that it's very easy to interface to physical things.

Let's take a look at the ATmega168 chip in more detail:
- 16 MHz 8-bit RISC processor
- 14 digital input/output pins (6 can be configured to output pseudo-analog PWM)
- 6 analog input pins with built-in 10-bit A/D converter
- 16K bytes flash memory
- 1K bytes SRAM
- 512 bytes EEPROM

All this in a chip that costs under $5 in quantity 1, and half that in quantity 100.

The Boarduino consists of a small (2.75 " x 0.8" (75mm x 20mm)) printed circuit board that holds the ATmega168 chip, a few resistors, capacitors, a diode, a ceramic oscillator to provide a clock reference, a voltage regulator and various connectors. Most of the connectors are on the underside of the board and plug directly into a solderless breadboard. The EEPROM in the included chip is preprogrammed with a boot loader that knows how to load programs through the serial pins included (a USB->TTL cable that works with the board is available for $20.)

So much for the hardware, now for the software. One of the nice things about the Arduino and its clones is the development environment. It's a Java-based IDE which uses avr-gcc to compile code. This means you program the chip in C. Assembly language is available, or you can use standard tools like make instead of the IDE, but the IDE is pretty nice to work in. It also runs on Windows (although I understand it's not fully Vista compliant,) Linux and OSX. You simply hook up the board to your PC via the USB cable (it can get its power from the USB cable if you don't want to hook up an external power supply,) press the reset button on the board, and press the "Upload" button in the IDE. A few seconds later your program is uploaded to the board and it's running!

Last night after setting things up, I plugged it into my breadboard, added some jumpers, three colored LEDs and three resistors, whipped up a short bit of code, and ended up with an LED traffic light.

I highly recommend the Arduino/Boarduino if you have any interest in making electronic things that can react to the outside world.

Electronics
me drawing
tww1fa
For all my geekiness, I don't get electronics. This is interesting, considering that my major in college was... electronics! This probably explains why I spun my wheels for eight years in college before dropping out to work with computers.

The thing is, I want to get electronics. And I've made attempts in the past, but the one-cent piece has up until now refrained from allowing gravity to accelerate it a 32ft/s^2.

I've decided that it's time for another attempt. I've ordered a simple electronics kit from MakerSHED, as well as a Boarduino microcontroller. Perhaps this time I'll be able to understand how to use capacitors, inductors and transistors. Wish me luck.

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Last night my wife called Lawrence of Arabia "Larry the Arab". Just saying.
Tags:

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Thanks to the fine folk in whatwasthatbook (thanks for the pointer, ladyotterfae) I have the information about the book I mentioned in this post.

It's The Fabulous Flight by Robert Lawson. Hooray!

Picking your braaaaaaaiiiiinnnnnsssss...
me drawing
tww1fa
I figure my friends list is well read, and maybe someone has an answer to this question.

I'm looking for the title and author of a children's book I read when I was (much) younger. The title was something like "The <superlative> <synonym for voyage>". Like "The Incredible Journey" or "The Fantastic Voyage" except that it isn't either of those two.

The plot (as far as I remember it) revolved around a tiny child (as in Tom Thumb sized) who can speak to animals. In an attempt to find a cure for his size, he goes on an around the world voyage carried by a friendly gull (or maybe a pigeon.) His father builds a sort of cockpit that is strapped to the gull's back, with such features as louvers he can open to gather rain for drinking.

I've googled with no success. If any one has any clue about this book, I'd be very grateful for any information you may find.

(no subject)
me drawing
tww1fa
Yesterday was a sad day. 52% of California voters said "remember that whole pursuit of happiness thing? It's not for you, because you're different." 52% of California voters ensconced bigotry and hate into the state constitution, all in the name of "tradition."

And it's my fault.
Sure, I voted against Prop 8. Sure, I donated to the Prop 8 campaign. But it wasn't enough. I could have done more, but I didn't.

I won't make that mistake again.

Phasers on random.
me drawing
tww1fa
I voted this morning before going in to work. Usually I vote in the evening after work. I was ballot #70 at around 8:15am (polls opened at 7:00am) so business was brisk. Voted No on Prop 8, and the rest of my vote is nobody's business but my own.

In other news, as of today I've been working 15 years at my company.

Meme via dandelion_diva...
me drawing
tww1fa
Copy this sentence into your livejournal if you're in a heterosexual marriage, and you don't want it "protected" by the bigots who think that gay marriage hurts it somehow.

Not only did they lie, they stood us up!
me drawing
tww1fa
The AT&T salespeople referred to in this post were supposed to come back last night to respond to some questions we asked them on Tuesday. They were no-shows. Methinks they either got their knuckles rapped or they figured out for themselves that they'd made a mistake and were to embarrassed to show up.

Or maybe it was all a ruse to get us to switch and they decided that we weren't going to play along.

AT&T is lying scum.
me drawing
tww1fa
As I've mentioned before, my TV/Internet/Phone service is with a company called Surewest. Surewest bought Winfirst, which was an early fiber-to-the-home provider who spent a gazillion dollars in installing fiber and went belly-up. Since then, Surewest has been providing damn good service.

This evening we got a visit from a couple AT&T U-Verse sales people. I arrived home from work in the middle of the conversation, but their claims were as follows:

- Surewest doesn't own their fiber lines. AT&T does and leases the lines to Surewest.
- In the coming months Surewest is going to be bought by Verizon.
- Thanks to the Verizon purchase, AT&T is going to stop leasing the lines and come December we'd have to sign up with AT&T if we want fiber.

Well, I called Surewest. Surewest's representative said the following:

- Surewest damn well does own the fiber lines.
- There's no purchase by Verizon on the horizon (Surewest did sell their wireless division to Verizon back in January.)
- Surewest will keep on providing service on their fiber lines for the foreseeable future.

So apparently the AT&T guys were lying. Or they were mislead by the company, since they didn't seem sleazy (could just be good actors.)

It's interesting that they're saying they can offer U-Verse, since I haven't seen them digging up streets to put in fiber... the only thing I can think might be happening is the PUC is forcing Surewest to share their fiber lines.

If the latter is the truth, and AT&T had been honest about them providing competition on the same fiber, we might have given U-Verse a look (for one thing, their DVR seems quite a bit better than Surewest's) but I don't do business with liars.

Reliability
me drawing
tww1fa
I looked through my records... my Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop is five and a half years old. And still works fine except for its inability to keep up with high definition video and gaming. It wasn't even top-of-the-line when I bought it...

the story of the moth
me drawing
tww1fa
...
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
...
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
...

-- Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel

Covet, covet, covet...
me drawing
tww1fa
Hmmm... the new Macbook Pros are looking mighty tempting, and my current laptop is starting to not be up to the challenge of playing pornhigh definition video.

Pop quiz...
me drawing
tww1fa
Cut for Japanese Grand Prix spoilers...Collapse )

Books read, part 11
me drawing
tww1fa
16. The Surgeon's Mate - Patrick O'Brian
17. The Ionian Mission - Patrick O'Brian

Mmmmm... good
me drawing
tww1fa
I have come to the decision that Australia seems to make the best licorice I've ever tasted. I picked up some Darrell Lea at Cost Plus a while ago and was blown away by it when compared to American licorice, and even Panda which was my previous favorite. Darrell Lea is grownup licorice. Kookaburra, of which I picked up a bag of at the supermarket the other day, is also head and shoulders above any American licorice, although not quite as good as Darrell Lea IMHO.

So if you like licorice, give Darrell Lea or Kookaburra a taste.

Books read, part 10
me drawing
tww1fa
14. Moon Shot - Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton - great story (the space race,) bad storytelling.
15. Failure Is Not an Option - Gene Kranz - a wonderful view of the space race from the perspective of the people who ran things on the ground. Highly recommended.

Bye bye, KDE 3
me drawing
tww1fa
Last night I uninstalled KDE 3 pretty much completely (there's still a few libraries left so that I can run Adept Manager.) This means that I'm running KDE 4.1.1 almost exclusively now. It's no longer quite as bleeding edge as 4.0 (in other words, I can leave it up and running for days at a time without crashing.) Still some small issues, but 4.1 was a huge improvement over 4.0, and 4.1.1 resolved a few issues I had with 4.1, so I'm pretty damn happy with it. The biggest problems are that it uses some video acceleration functions that don't perform very well on Nvidia cards with the current drivers (Nvidia's problem, not KDE's) but supposedly Nvidia's beta drivers improve the performance dramatically.