Monday, September 30, 2013

Watched: Breaking Bad

I finished the finale of Breaking Bad tonight.  Fantastic show.  The logical and methodical progress from one minor evil to another minor evil eventually evolving to heinous acts was beautiful.  The desire to be "someone" instead of another nameless face also speaks to me.

Behind the scenes trivia:  The "meth" they used in the show was actually cotton-candy flavored rock candy.  In every morbid scene of death, violence, and horror the actors were working in an environment that reeked of cotton candy.

Personal note: The little boy living in the crackhouse with the meth head mom ... was me.  I came from that before I was adopted.  I am immeasurably fortunate.

Read:Running Blind: A Jack Reacher Novel (Lee Child)

I just finished number four in the Jack Reacher series.  <spoiler>The author overstates the power of Hypnotism</spoiler>, but it's still a good read.  If you're into action fiction, this series is worth reading.

The one where I get a new phone

It's time for me to upgrade my phone.  Yeah!  I got an HTC 8x. 

Full disclosure: I'm politically motivated to get a Windows phone by my employer. 

Previously I had a Samsung Focus and I was relatively happy with it.  It had its "features", but it worked. 

The step up to the new phone and Windows 8 was "not great".  Damnit.  Here's the high points.

Operating System:


On the Focus, I could punch in an address and then tap the screen and the phone would read the next step in the directions to me.  If I tapped the screen again on t would tell me how far until the next turn.  It worked.  I would have liked to have turn by turn directions, but I adapted.
Windows mobile 8: I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.
Shat.  Tapping the screen makes the directions disappear.   No voice directions, and the font for the directions is now tiny.  MERDE.


I installed the (free) Nokia Drive application.  It gives turn-by-turn directions, Vocally.  Yeah!  I can nail the map to 2-d and force North to always be on top.  Yeah!

Gmail Searching:

Next up, I set up my Gmail account.  That works.  Contacts, Calendar, Email: Check.  Then I searched for a message.  Wait. What? Where did my fracking search more on server button go? DAMMIT!!

Apparently this works properly for others.  Maybe its a bug.  I'll try to figure it out.


One other thing I liked was that I could tap a letter on the  screen and insta-scroll to the app I wanted.  Now I have to click the search box, wait for the screen keyboard, type what I want and then click the app name. Grr.



So, lets move off the operating system and gripe about the platform.  I cracked a corner of the screen on my old phone, and I didn't want to do that again.  I swaddled this phone in a SG Maxx Ballistic Case and a Moshi(R) Black Anti-Glare/Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector.  I'm happy with these.  The little rubber hinge flap for the headset hole cover looks a little flimsy.  It will probably tear off eventually.  It'll last longer if I can stop ADD fiddling with it.  I installed the screen protector a couple millimeters off center.  Oops.


The out-of-the box battery life on this fellow sucks.  Yesterday morning I pulled the fully charged phone off the charger at 7:15.  I used the phone for directions to take Big B to a class.  I got to the class at 8:00 and played hex war and browsed on the internet.  By 10:30 the low battery warning popped up.  Crap.


This is apparently a pretty common problem.  Turning off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Near Field Communication is supposed to help.  Today I've done a half dozen or text messages, a couple of pictures, and probably 20 minutes looking at various settings.  I'm at 78% after 6 hours off the cradle.


I was dissappointed that the manufacturer didn't include a set of earbuds with the phone.  It is advertised as "With Beats audio."  As it turns out that refers to a software equalizer that boosts the bass when you have headphones or bluetooth connected.  Suck.

On the subject of suck, my headphone jack doesn't work.  Argh!!!  The internet recommends that I blow in the hole and plug the headphones in and out a bunch of times.  It worked.  But really, on $200 phone that's unacceptable.  I'll probably file a warranty claim on this.

What they got right:

All righty.  Bitchathon all done.  I love the screen on the HTC.  The camera is much faster than the Samsung and you have quick access to it by holding down the camera button.  The maps function allows you to download offline maps, that's convenient for my infrequent trips to BFE.  The new OS has a music search to the bing button, that's cool.  The larger screen is fantastic.  I'm unimpressed with the re-sizable tiles, but that might grow on me over time.  They fixed the text selection, cursor positioning, and you can now copy-paste a phone number into the dialer.  Yeah!

That's it, my new traveling companion: The HTC 8x.

Hunter Safety Course

Big B passed his hunter safety course today.  He can go hunting now!  I'm very pleased for him.

On the same day we put a new tire on his bicycle, moved all the leftover deck wood to the shed, re-tensioned the garage door torsion spring, moved the old dead lawnmower off the driveway, watered the plants, winterized the pool, did a week's laundry, packed, and headed back out.

My weekends grow shorter as a function of time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Read: Dark Tide (Stephen Puleo)

This book tells the story of the great Boston Molasses flood.

The book can be roughly divided into thirds.  One third covers the actual Molasses flood.  The second covers the Civil Trial related to the event.  I liked learning the story of the people, the tank, the flood, and the trial.  The final third (laboriously) covers the political climate and history around the time of the events.  This part seemed to drag on, but really was necessary to give context of the history.

1915 was a vastly different time.  Today's NIMBY groups would literally combust at the idea of constructing something like this in a busy commercial district of the Boston waterfront.

Nook Color Screen Replacement

Today I fixed Little B’s Nook Color.  Last week she came to me sobbing.  She’d dropped her nook from her bed and it landed screen-first into a chair.  The LCD was shattered.

I followed this YouTube video to disassemble the nook.
Warning: This video is WRONG about one part of the disassembly.  Removing the front bezel before removing the LCD and PCB damages it.  There is a small brass bushing molded into the bezel that is ripped out of the plastic by doing it this way.  

 If you reuse the same bezel you won’t notice this, but installing a new bezel will cause an ugly hump in the plastic next to the “n” button.  Instead you have to pull the Bezel/LCD as an assembly to get to the screw holding this bit on.

The corrected the disassembly procedure is:
  1. Open the MicroSD card slot.
  2. Remove the MicroSD card, if equipped.
  3. Remove the two stickers covering the two screws
  4. Remove the screws.  They are a Torx T-5. 
    • As an aside, I bought this screwdriver from Home Depot for $5 for this project.  It has T4-T10 and T-15.  It’s not magnetized by the manufacturer, so I rubbed it across a magnet to make this job easier.  Chasing dropped screws _sucks_.  I also bought some other new tools, but that’s a post for another day. 
  5. Using a thin flat blade, gingerly pry the locking tabs out to remove the back cover.
    • This is easier if you start in the middle of a long edge.  I didn't know that when this was taken. 
  6. Remove all of the visible screws, and the ones hidden under the tape in the corners.
    • At this point, my instructions diverge from the youtube video.
  7. Using your thin flat blade pry the battery, volume control, and power button cable connectors straight up.  Try not to knock the soft foam blocks off of them, as they help keep the cable from vibrating loose.
  8. Push on the PCB/LCD/Bezel assembly from the corner where the microSD card goes.
  9. Simultaneously, use your flat tool to pry the front bezel latches away, loosening the PCB/LCD/Bezel assembly from the aluminum nook body.
  10. Remove this screw to free the bezel.  It is now held on only by the sticky tape.
The PCB/LCD disassembly matches the process in the video.

Reassembly tips:  When replacing the back cover of the nook put the microSD slot cover corner together first.  It won't snap in properly if you leave it for last.  Also double check to make sure the power and volume buttons are lined up neatly before you screw it all back together.

I got my parts from this ebay auction “Nook Color Display and Digitizer Assembly”   by the seller wallachee.  It is the complete LCD/Digitizer assembly with the bezel.  The auction describes it as used, but the one I got was flawless.  I would have guessed it was NOS if I didn't know better.

Post-nook-fixing we had dinner at the Bell Buckle CafĂ© and I played Modern Warfare on the xBox with Big B.  He gets hilariously annoyed when I kill him in the game.  Muahaha.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Read: Ashen Winter (Mike Mullins)

So about that insomnia..  I read the next book in the series: Ashen Winter.


Read: Ashfall (Mike Mullins)

Just finished Ashfall, a book about trying to survive in a post-yellowstone caldera apocalypse.  I liked it.  There is a sequel called Ashen Winter.  Amazon here I come.

Maintenance window was uneventful.  302 non-production servers restarted.

Chinese food for dinner at China Wall.  I love their green tea ice cream.  I noticed a new building going up as I was leaving work.  They are building a Jimmy Johns within fair weather walking distance of the office.  I am ecstatic.

Insomnia sucks.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Movie Night

Last night was a movie night.  I went to see Riddick and Elysium.  I enjoyed Riddick.  There was a great line in it about Bad days and extraordinarily bad days.  You get to "see" a lot more of this planet, not like pitch black.  Visually loved the movie.  The monsters were realistic, otherworldly, fantastic.

Elysium is also visually beautiful, and I enjoyed the action sequences.  That's the good part.  The bad part is about 10 minutes in when you get that whole movie is a bad metaphor for the immigration situation here in the United States.  The non-citizens scrimp and save for a chance at a coyote ride  to get to the space station equivalent of the Hamptons.  The comparison really falls apart if you put some mental effort into it, and that broke the movie for me.  Also, short of fairy dust or nuclear fusion you aren't going to shoulder-fire a missile capable of intercepting a target on an orbital trajectory.  Not. Gonna. Happen.

There is a maintenance window tonight at work and I'm going to work on the kid's Minecraft server too.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Import: Greene Aquaponics

I'm importing my "Greene Aquaponics" blog.  This details my semi-unsuccessful attempt at growing fish and vegetables. 

The blog ends rather abruptly, so I wrap up the cliffhanger here.

I acquired a large wellwater tank and removed the top with a circular saw.  I cut a hole and added a Lexan window bolted in with stainless steel bolts and silicone sealant as a gasket.  This left a fishtank of about 600 gallons.  I placed it in the garage and filled it 75% full.  This was stocked with Tilapia from the nursery tank.  I added the sponge filters from the nursery tank and a 12" aerator stone.

Since I couldn't get the Tilapia to survive outside, I left them in the garage.  To get the nutrients to the plants I used "offline aquaponics".

I added a rubbermaid garbage can beside the tank as a nutrient collector.  A gravity siphon pulled water from the bottom of the tank into the collector. The siphon drained into a 5 gallon bucket raised above the middle of the can.  The bucket was filled with hydroponic lava rock.  A pump in the bottom of the collector returned the cleaned water back to the main tank.

Clarifying, the water flow was bottom of the tank through the gravity siphon into the bottom of the lava rock bucket through the lava rock matrix into the trash can and pumped back to the tank.  To move the nutrients to the growbeds, I hauled the (nasty) bucket of concentrated fish-poo to the growbeds and poured it in.  Then I reassembled the filter as described. 

A layer of bleh accumulated at the bottom of the trash can, but I didn't have any issues with O2 concentration or nitrates.  I did grow some lettuce in rafts on top of the tank, but I had issues with the fish eating the roots and pulling the rockwool cubes into the tank.  I also did NFT on top of the tank, and it worked pretty well despite the poor lighting in the garage.

I harvested the plants and ate them, then disassembled the grow beds.  The weight of the beds was causing my deck to sink.  Oops.  I grew out the fish and ate a bunch.  They were good.  Midwinter my heater failed and I had a large fish kill due to cold temperatures.  Those got composted.  The survivors got eaten in the spring.  I drained the tank and it's empty in my shed now, awaiting another project.  I did not record yield numbers of either flora or fish.

Here are my youtube videos about the fish.  All but the last were recorded in my living room.

Tilapia Nesting Behavior

Tilapia Mouth Brooding

In the nursery tank

One Month Old

Last day in the nursery

Eight Months


Mower Hitch, Welding, and Thermite

I've been busy.

I mowed the whole yard and helped Big B with the Weed-eater.  Took Little B to the Ascent, an indoor rock climbing place.  Played on the Xbx with Big B.

Had a maintenance window for work.  We're doing a Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 AD migration that is pretty cool.  This weekend we hid the old windows 2003 DCs from DNS.  Hypothetically all of the workstation and server traffic should migrate over to the new 2k8 DCs, leaving only any hardcoded stuff behind.  Those we can identify with wireshark and remediate.

I finished designing the hitch for the mower.

And I built it!

It's not compeletely done though.  I couldn't find the (expletive) chuck key for the drill press.  I'm going to get a replacement from Northern Tool this week.  I also had to change the design of the support bracket from the drawing.  I broke my vice bending the 3/16 steel and there was no way I'd be able to put a 90 bend across the long edge without completely destroying it.  Big B helped me weld it.  He did a good job for his first time out.

I also worked on the shelving in the garage.  I replaced the 12 inch shelves with 18 inch ones.  This lets a file box sit up there properly without falling off at every sideward glance. 

Looking at the picture here, it looks like that top and bottom shelf might be off by one peg.  I'll fix that.  I've been listening to a podcast with Adam Savage for a while, and he turned me on to some videos by his partner, Jamie Hyneman.  In one of these videos he describes the shelving system they use at MI5.  I LOVE these shelves.  I wish I hadn't put these up now so I could build those.  :D

Brenden and I tried a thermite reaction.  It was pretty cool, but I got the proportions of reagents wrong.  One of my upcoming science projects involves getting useful work out of this type of reaction, so it was a good first time project.  I  also I'd really like to do some science, but I have to get my garage clean.  It's bugging me.

This week I'm building a new Minecraft server and carving some foam.  Fun.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lazy Day

Today I spent a bunch of time working on CAD/CAM.  I tried MakerCam, played with Mach3, and did more FreeCad tutorials. 

A couple of random dogs came by the house.  I gave them water and offered cat food.  No takers on the latter.  I fished the lost screw out of the pool tool  It is swimmable now and will be clear in a few days.  We sold Little B's toddler bed and I watered the plants too.

The rosemary and Philodendron cuttings I started are really taking off.  If you like plants, learn to take cuttings.  It is really exciting to see them take off.  I've been successful with Christmas Cactus too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Looooong range wireless

My In-Laws live in a very rural area.  Their address qualifies for cable modem service, but the cable company wanted an arm-and-a-leg to install a new pole and string cable to the house.  They tried the HughesNet satellite, but were unhappy with the pitiful speed and latency.

So... I talked to the neighbors and got permission to share their internet connection.  Then I bought some wireless kit and today was get-it-working day.

The distance between the houses is 300 yards+.  That's a long way.  I got a 14db Directional panel antenna, a R36 Wireless router from Data Alliance.  I re-used my old Alfa High-power usb adapter.

It worked!

I used the vise to flatten out the mounting bracket that comes with the Antenna to mount it inside an attic window.  Then the AP and Alfa mounted to Roof rafters.

Viola!  They have internet now!  A speed test puts it at 1.2mbps up and 1.4mbps down.  Fantastic!

The R36 has a username/password from the manufacturer and it's not in the documentation in the box.  It's admin/admin. I got lucky and guessed it.

Lessons learned:
1. Next time I should bring my drill.  Screwing brackets in by hand is "fun".
2. Bring my box of random screws too.
3. I could have gotten a Yagi with higher gain for the same price.  I should have gotten that instead.  oops.

I'm concerned about the heat in the attic cooking the AP.  We'll see how it does.


LooooOOOoooOOOOooooong tiring night.

I promoted 12 domain controllers and fixed a DNS problem.  Then we went and picked up a new (to us)(Craigslist) bedroom suite and couches.  Then I took Mr. B's bed apart, moved our old bed in his room, moved his bed into Little B's room, took her bed apart and put it in the stuff-to-sell pile.

This morning I lit the burn barrel and torched a bunch of scrap wood.  Big B and I got the weed eater running and he did the lawn edge at the road.  Then we went to our in-laws and I setup a new Wifi connection for them.  That's the subject of my next post.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I have 4 separate blogs, all of which I've neglected.  This is the one blog to rule them all.  I'll be compiling them all into here.

I get bored very easily.  My parents always told me to "Do Something" when I'm bored.

So I do.