Friday, December 30, 2011

Sputnik has Landed

привет товарищ!  This little moster is the Sputnik 3D camera, and it's quickly becoming one of my favorites.  It takes 120 film, which you load upside down and wind the "wrong" way.  The viewfinder is a top-down thing that unceremoniously pops up four separate spring-loaded metal pieces, which you fold back down one at a time.  There are no frilly American conveniences .. and yet everything is completely adjustable to your precise desire.

Click the portait over there, and revel in the detailed awesomeness.  Three gears around the eyes keep the focus in sync.  The bar under the lenses sets the aperture of both at once.  A manual lever cocks the shutter spring and another fires.  There's a delayed shutter feature, even.  A dial around the right eye sets shutter speed and displays the current f-stop.  Everything you need, with none of the corrupt western extras like batteries and cheery auto-everything modes.

.. first roll on Sputnik.
I've shot a roll of Ilford XP2 Super, to see how it functions.  I then used Anaglyph Workshop to combine the two eyes into red-blue composites, which works nicely.  My favorite shot is the kid by the fountain, but everyone else seems to like the hall of flowers interior.  You be the judge.

Agfa "Thing" Joins the Club

Time for another Five-Dollar Mystery!  This is an Agfa camera, and beyond that I've got no idea.  Yet.  On the outside, it's pretty simple.  There's a dial-up flash reflector dealie, you can switch between "outdoor" and "flash" modes, and that's pretty much it.

The insides are the interesting part.  It uses a "Rapid" film loading/winding system.  It seems like the thing requires you to have two canisters in there, and the camera has no rewind dial anywhere, which suggests the take-up is done into a second canister and that one is pulled out without rewinding.  That would explain the "Rapid" moniker.  On the back, they recommend Agfa AG-1B Blue or AG 1, when shooting with a flash.  And there's an empty battery compartment that I'll need to figure out.  This should be interesting!

Meet the Kodak Stereo Camera

Say hello to the Kodak Stereo Camera.  Handily, it takes 35 mm film.   Teh wikipedias say that these were manufactured between 1954 and 1959, and it's not the usual Kodak "just point and shoot." Mere mortals are allowed to adjust aperture, focus (close ups, groups, or scenes) and shutter speed.

Do not drop it!  You won't harm this hulk of a camera .. but you might fracture a toe.

..click here for the first roll.
To see what it can do, I shot a roll of Fuji Provia 100 slide film.  The results suggest that full daylight is definitely the best.  Tho I can coax better low-light performance out of it, now that I've seen my first tries.  Oh, and it looks like this one exposes the left eye just a tad more than the right.  "We'll fix it in post."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Couple Rolls on the Brownie Reflex

I finished shooting a couple of rolls of film on the Brownie Reflex Synchro Model camera.  I've uploaded the results of both a black & white roll and a color slide roll.  I'm really pleased with the character of this thing.  I can't wait to shoot another roll of slide film, but no one's got 127 format available, lately.

Hmm.  I could 3D print a 127 spool no problem .. so now I've just gotta invent something to make the small batches of film.  Kickstarter?

Fuzzy Logic

You know how your mobile carrier likes to accidentally "forget" that you don't want to receive marketing messages?  Gosh I wonder how that happens.

Anyways, the folks programming the automated texting system seem to understand your frustration.  You don't necessarily need to reply "stop" ... if you can find better words to express it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arduino Ethernet is Alive

I've attached two LEDs, a dial, a light sensor, and a passive infrared motion detector to the Arduino Ethernet.  I've got it running a telnet server and a web server.  I can telnet to the little guy and instruct it to turn the LEDs on or off.  Or point a web browser at it, to see the current status of lights and sensors.  It tries to return JSON, but my structure might not be entirely clean.  Also, it's behind a few layers of NAT, so not yet publicly available.  (Soon!)

It's all stand-alone, which is pretty kewl.  Give it a connection and a few volts -- it'll happily start up and begin sensing things and controlling its lights.  You can imagine keeping these in a data center, with DHCP and a dynamic DNS client.  Plug it in, it reports its IP to you and awaits queries about the environment, or commands for the LEDs.  (Or reads sensors and sets LEDs by its own logic, while it waits for a human.)

The whole thing -- board, power adapter, cable, sensors, lights -- is well under a hundred bucks!

Download my kludgey arduino code and my chaotic fritzing layout, if you like. (Remember, it's a weekend project -- it doesn't have to be pretty.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Arduino Ethernet is Running

Look carefully, you can see the link light on the ethernet connection there.  It's an Arduino Ethernet board.  In the picture, I'm running it on a 9v adapter, but it'll draw power off a USB-to-FTDI connection as well.

I ran through the Client DHCP example on the arduino.cc site, and that worked great.  I ran through the Server example as well, but that needed a couple modifications to work for me.  (Add `#include <SPI.h>` at the top, change the Server and Client classes to EthernetServer and EthernetClient.  I'm not a programmer, so don't quote me on that.)

Up next: muck about with Pachube, try some Wikiduino, see what I can do about tunneling to its web server (behind a cable modumb) ...  And after that?  Same thing we do every night, Pinky.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Smallest Federated Wiki is Runnning

The Smallest Federated Wiki project came up in conversation the other day .. so I had to see how it works.  Not much to report yet on the app, but I'm pleased to say the base install is running ... even if I'm running it in a `screen` instead of really daemonizing.

I followed the super-simple instructions (same page as above) with a couple modifications:
  • I did the RVM install in user space.
  • So, in "Install and Launch" I needed to remove the `sudo` from commands.
Seems to be running!  Now, to mess with it..

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pathway Genomics Kit

So the question is, do you want to know if you've got some wacky genetic disease?  I've got a Pathway Genomics kit, right here, courtesy of a member of the Quantified Self group.  For a few minutes, I thought it would be a really big deal to take a close look at my own genome.  But now I've decided I'll send the thing in for processing, and see how I feel once my data come back.

Will it feel like that moment when you open the college admissions response?  Will it feel like getting the results of an HIV test?  Of course, it's all just probabilities and map units, so maybe it can't be compared to a boolean.  Do you resize your bucket list, based on your results?

Brownie Reflex Synchro

I picked up a Brownie Reflex Synchro at the swap meet, the other day.  It takes 127 film .. though swap meet dealers will happily tell you, "yes, it takes 120."  Luckily, B&H had both a color and a black & white choice for 127 film.  (Since then, the color has mysteriously disappeared from the site.)  I've finished a roll of each, to see what the camera works best with.  Who knows, it might not even work at all.  This stuff is not exactly while-u-wait film processing .. but then again, while-u-wait probably won't return your empty 127 spool to you, either.  This should be interesting!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Coronet "Three-D" with a Stuck Shutter

I picked up a Coronet "3-D" camera (their quotes).  It was in total working condition, but then I messed with it too much.  So I had to un-stick the shutter pin.  Apparently shutter *pins* were all the rage for a while there .. don't ask me why.  Seriously, look at cameras from the forties and you'll see shutter pins everywhere.

So anyways, I pulled off the face of the thing so I could look at the shutter apparatus.  I applied tons of trimmer oil (this is why you keep that little bottle when you get a new trimmer) and did some screwdriver prying, and did some pulling with jewelers' pliers.  (Everyone should own a set of jewelers' pliers, btw .. and a good pair of diags.)

So what was the best way to unstick the shutter pin?  After all that, you just gotta pretend you're James Dean with a soft-pack of cigarettes.  Holding the camera with your right hand, smack it into the crook of your left hand.  The pin is the cigarette in this scenario, and it ends up popping out very swankily.

Seriously.  Save the oil for another camera project.  You just gotta smack this one firmly and the pin pops out.  Probably.  I hope.  But it never hurts to have a bit of trimmer oil, I guess.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Minecraft on Mac OS X with 64-bit Java

So you're a slave to warning messages and you want Minecraft to use 64-bit Java.  Here's how to do it on the command line.  These instructions were crafted on MacOS Lion, which should prefer 64-bit Java when possible (Applications/Utilities/Java Preferences).  These instructions assume the default Minecraft.app location, in the main /Applications folder.  I had a few tabs open, while I was sussing this out, including an excellent forum post, a post on JavaApplicationStub bits, and the official reference for CF keys.

Here we go.

Swap out Minecraft's JavaApplicationStub for the current OS' version:
  gzip /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/MacOS/JavaApplicationStub
  cp /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/MacOS/JavaApplicationStub /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/MacOS/

Then, add 64-bit architecture to Minecraft's possibilities:
  /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Add :Java:JVMArchs:0 string 'x86_64'" /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/Info.plist

Launch.  That should do it.  Watch out for creepers.  Have a nice day.


* * *


If everything goes wrong, here's how to roll back from here to your original configuration:
  rm /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/MacOS/JavaApplicationStub
  gunzip /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/MacOS/JavaApplicationStub.gz
  /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Delete :Java:JVMArchs:0" /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/Info.plist


How to tell if you're using a 64-bit kernel in the first place is easy.  Look for "x86_84" in the output of the below command.  If you see i386 or ppc, you might be on a system that can't handle 64-bit, or you might need to instruct the system to boot with a 64-bit kernel.
  uname -a   # should include "x86_64" in the output.


What's this JavaApplicationStub anyways?  It's like a chain loader .. only different!  When you double-click the Minecraft icon, the Finder looks in Info.plist for the CFBundleExecutable value.  It launches that, to start the app.  The JavaApplicationStub is a native binary that helps invoke Java in the right way to get Minecraft running.

What's that PlistBuddy command?  It's a command-line tool included in more recent releases of Mac OS, that lets you directly read, write, erase, fold, spindle and mutilate Plist.info files.  It's got a man page, but here's a quick example of reading your JVMArchs array, if you want to double-check that it's got x86_64 at the top:
  /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Print :Java:JVMArchs" /Applications/Minecraft.app/Contents/Info.plist

What's with you and the command line stuff?  I don't know.  I suspect that my epitaph will simply be an elegant one-liner.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Suzuki Gladius SFV650 Turn Signal Size

The Suzuki Gladius SFV650's turn signal bulbs are 1156 A Offset Pin size.  Since it took me a while to figure it out, hopefully this will save someone else a bunch of searching.

I have no idea what the 1156 is for, except that one of the 1s indicates that it's a single filament bulb.  The "A" is for "Amber" because the bike's turn signal cover is clear, so the bulb has to be amber tinted.  And the "Offset" pin configuration means that the two bayonet pins are not exactly across from each other on the circumference .. one is "offset" from a straight-across position.  So, the pins are closer to each other on one side, and farther on the other.  Wacky.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Sysadmin's Wiki and the Advertising Executive's Rolodex

I've been pondering this a little, but I'm not sure where it belongs.  It's in my blog backlog, though, so here it lives.  I worked in advertising for a short while and noticed some fun quirks of the industry.  ("Worked" in the industry?  Hah!  Actually, I was answering phones.)

You see, executives had a rolodex on their desk, that they protected like a vital organ.  And it *was* a vital organ -- the contacts in there were "theirs," and made the executive uniquely valuable.  When an executive quit, or was fired, the first thing they did was grab their rolodex.  Only then would they make sure they had trivialities such as car keys or their wallet.

Sysadmins have an analogue ... our wiki pages.  But they're typically hosted on an internal company server, readable by the rest of the team.  And then, some sysadmins refuse to post information to the wiki, guarding it like their "rolodex."  They don't say as much, but you know which ones are trying to stay valuable by not spreading tribal knowledge.

How similar are these?  Sysadmins and ad-people have mostly opposite attitudes towards the information that makes them valuable, but the analogy itself might hold water.  Has there been a change in the advertising field, as companies have moved to shared, server-based customer relationship systems that the corporation owns?  I wouldn't dream of hoarding my information, and I think *that* makes me uniquely valuable ... so am I "right" or just used to having the corporation "own" my information?  I wonder.

P4 Chronicle Beta on CentOS 5

(UPDATE: "Getting into" the beta is actually no big accomplishment.  Installing on 64-bit CentOS 5 is, tho.  Got it done!)

I got into the P4 Chronicle beta.  They support it on Centos 6 .. but my stuff is all still 5 .. at least the publicly available servers are.  It looks like the only thing I'll need to do is get PHP 5.3, which EPEL has.  I'm gonna document this one on its own page.  The neat shift in Chronicle is that it puts real version control right on the server .. which is worlds apart from just an RDBMS.  At least that's how I'm summing it up, so far.

New Toys

A couple weeks ago I swung by the swap meet again, and I've got a few new friends.  On the left is an Agfa kinda-thirty-five-mm camera -- which seems to take 35 mm film, but how it's taken up on the other spool (which is actually a cartridge) is unclear.  On the bottom is a Brownie Reflex -- which I thought took 120 film (not the first time I've made the custom-Kodak-size-film side-quest) but actually takes 127 film.  And finally there's a classic Sawyer's View Master -- which promises "third dimension pictures in full color kodachrome."  We truly live in the space age.

Time for another obscure-film-size rabbit hole!

An Evening with Joli OS 1.2

I decided to spend an evening installing and playing with Joli OS 1.2.  The idea is pretty kewl.  It's a linux distro that's optimized for running on stinky old machines, like netbooks.  In an always-connected world, where "applications" are increasingly just web sites, you can slim down your computer to merely a kernel, a web browser, and a handful of "native" utilities.  (iPhone 1, anyone?)

Your login credentials are checked over the internet.  You use a jolicloud.com account or your Facebook login to identify yourself and pull up your customized desktop.  You can use any computer that's running Joli, as long as the computer's owner has allowed guest access.  Or if you're on a completely foreign computer, you can access your stuff as a normal web site.

The interface is rendered in a build of Chromium, and offers you pretty much all the "apps" you'd want to start with.  You've got the usual suspects .. Twitter, Faceyspace, Flickr, YouTube ..  And you can link-up using Gmail, Skype, Google Voice, Pidgin.  Heck, add a link to chatroulette and it looks like just another application on the desktop.  It augments the social functions with work-stuff like Google Docs, Office Live, box.net, and similar "my content lives in the tubes" stuff.  More apps are available for download, just a search away.

There are a few great use-cases for Joli OS.  Say your family has an iPad, but mom or dad take it with them to work, this is a way to use the old netbook (paperweight) to get roughly the same functions (Angry Birds) when you're "slumming it."  If you're reading a Pynchon book in bed, this makes a nice substitute for trying to look words up on your iPhone's dinky screen.  And the men in black can search your hard drive all they like, since your map of Area 51 is safely stored online.

Under the plastic, it's running Debian Squeeze.  Some portions of the configs are copypasted from Ubuntu.  They load a 2.6 kernel, chosen for your particular CPU, and boot through GRUB.  Note, whatever code line it's on, some Ubuntu-specific hacks/fixes don't work like you want them to.  Wanna take it apart?  Alt-F1 gives you a terminal, just like you'd expect, and you have sudo.

The whole install takes a little over 2 GB on disk, so it's not a big investment to throw it in a small partition on your hard drive.  Or, if you prefer, the LiveCD-style bootable usb disk is fully functional.  I'm gonna have a little more fun with it, locally installed, though I don't expect it to replace my "real" OS.  I *do* expect that I'll be able to recommend it to someone with a well-suited environment .. where shared access to old intel hardware is the norm and the users all have facebook accounts.

Mounting an iDisk on Linux (Quick and Dirty)

Here's how to get your iDisk mounted in your home directory on a linux machine.  You'll need to have sudo privileges.  Also, you'll need to type your iDisk username and password by hand, when prompted.  You could automate all of this quite nicely, but I'm only interested in an as-needed one-liner that I'll copy and paste (or script).

First-time, you'll need the davfs2 package installed.  If you're on debian (ubuntu) apt already knows where it is.  If you're on redhat (centos) you'll need to add Dag's rpmforge repo, before yum will be able to find davfs2.

  sudo apt-get davfs2  # for debian/ubuntu users.
  sudo yum install davfs2  # for redhat/centos users who have rpmforge enabled.
  # if yum can't find it, you need to install the rpmforge repo from http://repoforge.org/use/

Then, you can issue this one-liner to make a mountpoint (fine if it exists already); and mount your idisk on it, owned by you.  (You might make this is a script in your home directory, for easy access.)

  sudo mkdir $HOME/idisk ; \
  sudo mount -t davfs https://idisk.me.com/YOURICLOUDUSERNAME \
    $HOME/idisk -o rw,uid=`id -u`,gid=`id -g`

After, when you're done, unmount your idisk, to make sure that all of your changes have been uploaded.

  sudo umount $HOME/idisk

Hopefully this is a good starting point for someone who wants to automate this when a user logs in.  You may need/want to have FUSE involved in that.  I'm not talking about just adding it to /etc/fstab .. there's a "right" way to do it magically per user, and only when they're logged in.  Extra points for letting it remember your password.  Please add a comment if you've done it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Arduino Presentation for Quantified Selves

Arduino is such an easy way to work with data from sensors.  Plenty of folks who want to play with sensors have heard of it, but don't really know what it's capable of.  Is it worth investing time in?  Well, I'm a fanboy, so I cooked up a really quick presentation for Quantified Self in San Diego on the basics.

I was really pleased with how it worked out!  Folks came up to me afterward and said they'd wanted to check out Arduino, but didn't really know what kind of project to apply it to.  And I think the simplicity and affordability of the thing got plenty of people brainstorming.

If you've seen me do a quick, casual presentation, you know that my favorite thing in the world is to introduce folks to really useful tools that get them scheming.  I'm pretty sure I got the ball rolling for a few people.

Installing Puppet on Centos 5 directly from Puppet Labs

photo: wikimedia commons : User:Liftarn
If you want the latest stable release of puppet on a Centos 5 machine, you can get it from Puppet Labs' own yum repo.  Other "usual" add-on repos (epel, fedora, e.g.) can lag by as much as one minor version.  Puppet Labs tries to keep the version in their repo as stable as possible, according to the Puppet professional services guy sitting across from me, today.  (Hi, Carl!)

First, download an rpm to add the puppet labs yum repos.  Then download an rpm to add the EPEL repo.  Puppet requires a couple sneaky ruby pieces, and EPEL has 'em.  (ruby-shadow and ruby-augeas, fyi)

  cd /tmp
  wget http://yum.puppetlabs.com/el/5/products/x86_64/puppetlabs-release-5-1.noarch.rpm
  sudo rpm -Uvh puppetlabs-release-5-1.noarch.rpm
  wget http://download.fedora.redhat.com/pub/epel/5/x86_64/epel-release-5-4.noarch.rpm
  sudo rpm -Uvh epel-release-5-4.noarch.rpm
  yum repolist  # just to see that they actually installed

Both repo definitions enable their main binary repos, for a normal `yum install` command, so there's no need to add flags to enable them.  Source repos and testing versions are disabled, but can be enabled if you have some nutty reason to do it.

You should now be able to `yum install` the puppet client and/or server -- with all the dependencies being available.

  yum install puppet # for a client
  yum install puppet puppet-server # to include the server pieces, as well.
  # actually, pupper-server just adds an init script
  # and some scripts that pretend to be things like puppetmasterd

Ta da!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bees, Hives, and Hobbies

I was watching Vanishing of the Bees, the other day.  (Netflix streams it.)  It was really interesting .. as much for the issues facing modern pollination in the face of Colony Collapse Disorder as for the view into the strange community of bee keepers.  This is my kind of strangeness, so it got me to wondering what it takes for a hobbyist to get started.

There are bunches of apiary sites out there -- most, poorly maintained -- so it's hard to find a starter kit.  I ended up with tabs open on the Pollinator Partnership, Knox Cellars, and Mann Lake LTD.  Not exactly an exhaustive list, but hopefully it's a nice starting point if you've seen the movie and wanna try your hand at it.  With a reasonable dose of research, would it be possible to create an open hardware project that uses rapid prototyping equipment to build hives on demand?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nook Color as Android Sandbox

(Update: I have a page of notes from my weekend of hacking around.)

My friend Andrew has lately been showing up to pub night with his full size Android tablet, and showing off the apps he's been writing.  Naturally, this means I have to get my own, so I can suss out the development process a little more thoroughly.  I just can't stand not knowing things.

All I want is a small (seven or eight inches diagonal) device, that's got a color display and is capable of multi-touch.  From my research, the Samsung Galaxy Tab was a really top-shelf choice.  But I also know that a Nook Color can be convinced to run a full Android install.

I popped down to my local retailer and played.  Man those Samsung devices are pretty .. but at half the price, the Nook Color was just too compelling a device for my "hack around for fun" purposes.  I decided to be fiscally responsible.  Don't ask me why.

Up next: I'll load a "real" install of Android on it, replacing the stock "just an Android-based e-reader" version that it ships with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Toy

This little guy arrived the other day, just in time for a quick Arduino and Beer trip I'm taking up to the Bay Area.  It's a little thermal printer, similar to the ones in cash registers.  It's light, and it seems to only need one or two amps at five volts.  I have a battery pack that puts out two amps at that voltage.  My brother has some plans.

The manual is kinda fun .. it's chinese and bad english .. but the last page shows some extended characters, one of which is a solid black square, so I might be able to do QR codes on self-adhesive paper.  Extra checksums plz!

Some of the docs mention RS232, so I'm gonna pack a usb-to-db9 connector with me.  They also mention useful configuration bits for running on battery power, so we're in the right neighborhood for a battery-powered application.  Hey and the example code is for Processing!  Plus, there's a link to some good-looking Arduino hackery.  I think we'll hit the ground running!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

iTunes Isn't Opening when You Plug in Your iPhone (Fix)

I guess this happens sometimes, for no clear reason, iTunes stops automagically opening when you plug in your iPhone.  (Weird, because iPhoto still opens happily.)  Well it's possible that iTunes Helper went and borked itself, so before you go down a more complicated rabbit-hole, try this quick fix.
  • Plug in yer iPhone.
  • Open iTunes.  (If it wants to sync, at this point, let it go ahead and finish.)
  • Click your iPhone in the left-hand part of iTunes, under Devices.
  • In the right-hand side, under Options, deselect "Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected."
  • Click the button in the lower-right to Apply, and then click Sync.
  • Now, again, under Options, click to re-select "Open iTunes when this iPhone is connected."
  • Again, click the Apply button.
  • At this point, you will hopefully get a dialog telling you that iTunes Helper will be installed.
  • Click OK to install it on your Mac.
  • Unplug your iPhone.
  • Close iTunes.
  • Plug your iPhone in and see if iTunes opens automagically.
If that wasn't the problem, I'm afraid you're on your own.  This worked for me .. so I won't have to write a more complicated how-to until it breaks worse.  Hopefully my iPhone doesn't consider that a challenge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Precision Text Placement on an Underwood

So, while getting going on my new calling cards, I needed to be able to do pretty precise placement of type, using the Underwood.  It's not that tricky, but it's been a while, and the IBM Selectric I last used, had a pretty obvious reticule for this purpose.  So, here's a picture of where the Underwood will place a character ... which you can figure out with a couple sheets of paper and a pen, but it's nice to know someone else got the same results.

Also, it's not easy to keep a calling card level, when you're just kinda stuffing it in there and trying to type on it.  I winged it, and two out of the first nine cards are passable.  But next I'm gonna try using graph paper behind it, to keep things lined up.  Happily, there's a site that'll make custom graph paper, in a downloadable PDF, to your specs.  The site's an ad-laden mine-field, but the app itself is perfect.  Is graph paper retro now, too?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Restoring Wifi on a Vaio Updated to Ubuntu 11.10


  • You were running Ubuntu with a 2.6 kernel, say 10.10 or 11.04
  • You let (or asked) update-manager to upgrade you to 11.10
  • Now it doesn't even think you *have* a wifi interface.
I'll bet, like me, you'd previously told the 2.6 kernels to ignore the realtek 2xxx kernel modules, because it was causing an unfortunate mess.  And you did it scattergun style, blacklisting a bunch of them all will he, nill he, until it worked.  The shotgun method is a lovely, time-honored tradition .. you just gotta undo your work now that you're on a 3.0 kernel.

  • `sudo vi /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf`
  • Find all of your "blacklist rt2something" lines and comment them out.
    • If they're not there, check other files in modprobe.d
  • Restart your cute little netbook.
  • If that was the problem, on login, it'll connect to wifi as usual.
That was all it took for me to get my just-updated system back on the intarwebs.  Mine's a Vaio M111AX, but I think Sony used the same chips for other models.  If you really did a number on your module configuration for the 2.6 kernel, a clean install of Ubuntu 11.10 (Obsequious Ostrich) might be your best bet.  But hopefully this did the trick!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gunnar Computer Glasses - Review

"Do those things work?"  Half the department has now asked me about my new Gunnar Digital Performance Eyewear.  "Yeah, they actually seem to," is my reply, "borrow 'em for a day!"  But it seems like people are willing to take my word(s) for it, with a few asking for a real review.

The story starts while I'd been enjoying some really gnarly eye strain.  Like, "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," strain.  You can look out the window and touch-type, part of the time, but it wasn't enough.  I needed to do something before people started to wonder why I got so sad in meetings.

So there I was at a conference in Las Vegas, wandering the vendor village, and Gunnar had a booth.  You've probably done the same calculation ... the idea of reducing eyestrain is great, and the glasses look nice, and you can try them on and stare at a screen for a minute or two ... but you just don't know if they'll do anything after a whole day of use.  Am I right?  And you don't know whether the yellow tint is going to get annoying.  And your cow orkers might laugh at you.  You just don't know, standing there for five minutes.  You need a real scientific experiment.

Well, this being Las Vegas, I decided to take a gamble.  If I played casino games, I'd be out at least a hundred bucks by now, I figured .. and with nothing to show for it, either.

So now it's been a couple weeks, and I suppose there's the possibility that my seasonal allergies just happened to completely disappear when I put these things on, but I think my little bet has actually payed off.

See if you can borrow someone else's pair for a day .. but I think it's reasonable to take a chance and get yourself a set.  If it doesn't work out, you can always sell them to one of the people who inevitably asks you "Do those things work?"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Weekend with the Hak5 Pineapple

It's been a fun weekend!  I finally dove in to the Hak5 Pineapple more deeply than I'd been able to do at the conference.  I took notes as I went.  I've got the basic configuration all sorted out and I'm getting good at the OpenWrt side of it.
I've got a couple complicated network topologies that I want to try.  Well, I've already "tried" them ... I need to get them to actually work.  ;)  So, there's at least one more weekend of fun to get everything configured right.  And after that, at least a few days of fun carrying it around and seeing what it sees.  It's like the wifi-scan-and-tweet zipit .. on steroids.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Would You Do Your Job for Free?

This is one of those standard questions that life-career-touchy-feely people like to ask you to consider.  "Would you do your job for free?"  So I considered it.  Yes, I actually would do it for free.  It's got fun systems puzzles, new stuff to learn, customers that I can please.  When it's going well, it's really totally what I'm about.  They *do* pay me, which reflects my time and talents .. and I provide them a measurable value in return.  If time and value balance each other equally, it actually is sorta "free."

Then I considered the broader picture.  If I *was* doing this job for free, I'd be much more honest about how much I can get done in a day.  I'd integrate my personal life a little more into the job, too, spending a little time seeing what value my hobbies can add to the workplace.  And I'd stop living under the illusion that "I'm lucky to even have a job."  I like these people, I add real value, it's rewarding to me, we need each other.

Gotta ponder this some more..  In the midst of chaos and scarcity, it's nice to remember how much I enjoy what I do.  It's nice to think about what I give freely, rather than what "the man" is taking.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brownie Hawkeye with Tri-X on 620 Spool

I finally got to shoot one of the "real" 620 rolls, which come with Kodak Tri-X 400 loaded.  Justkristin's mom took half the roll, and I took the other half.  It turns out the "real" rolls are made out of plastic, not metal like the originals.  After the roll was done, I unspooled it and rewound it back onto a 120 spindle .. just to make sure I wouldn't lose my fancy metal one.

The Tri-X film seems to be subtly different from the XP2.  I'm not sure exactly how.  But I need to shoot another roll and see if I prefer the Tri-X to the Ilford.  Unfortunately, my lab sends out the Tri-X for processing, so I have to be extra careful about asking them not to cut the negatives and stuff.  I kinda lean back towards preferring the (C-41) Ilford XP2 because the local lab knows me.  Either way, fun experiments ahead!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making your Macbook Air USB Drive Read-Write

So, you want to re-use that cute little USB recovery drive that came with your Macbook Air?  You're supposed to officially say "yeah I want to update it to be a Lion recovery disk," but this fanboy knows you just want to have an adorable, Apple-branded USB drive that fits in your wallet.  Admit it .. if only to yourself.

The ultimate how-to for this, and what I'd recommend, is MacBenTosh's YouTube video.  It explains everything perfectly.  But I know I'm gonna need to do this again, so I'm writing my own abbreviated notes:

  • Download the Chinese windows-only low-level USB formatting tool.
    • It's a mine-field of ads and baited clicks.  Pay attention.
  • Pop the USB drive into your windows machine and run the formatting tool.
  • Click "Scan USB."
  • When it finds the drive, click its "Port n" line to select it, then click "Start."
  • The USB drive is now read-write and formatted FAT32.  (Geez that was fast.)
    • I leave it like this, for cross-platform compatibility.  I lose fanboy points for that.
  • That's it!  Have a nice day.
BTW, you don't need to go to so much trouble to get the nifty icon back.  Before you unlock the device, just pop it in your Mac, then select its desktop icon and "Get Info" (Command-I) on it.  Click the icon in the upper-left of the info window and Copy.  Open something like Textedit and paste it in a new document for safe-keeping.  (If you don't default to rich-text in Textedit, you'll need to Format &gt; Make Rich Text. ) After the conversion, pop it back into the Mac, select it on the desktop and Get Info again.  Then select the generic icon in the info window, and Paste the fancy one back.  Ta-da!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brownie Hawkeye in Black and White

The Brownie Hawkeye *definitely* prefers black and white film.  This is my second roll on this camera, with the same film-loading technique of using hacked up 120 spools to fit in the 620 holder.  The film is Ilford XP2 Super, which I'm really getting a taste for, despite being raised on HP5.  My favorite lab does C-41, and sends everything else out ... so I'm keeping local, where they know to expect the toy/old camera zaniness.

That first color roll showed me what to expect from the wacky lens.  And it showed me that it's designed for simple snapshots, to record a get-together or an interesting place.  So I was trying to center subjects, expecting the blur, not trying to "compose" a shot.  But the black and white film just works *whey* better in this camera.  (Justkristin's mom scolded me for putting color in it.)  Serendipity.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Real 620 Film for the Brownie

Continuing on the "where the heck do you get 620 film" journey, I purchased a couple of rolls of actual 620 film, from B&H.  Actually, I'll bet it's just 120 film re-rolled onto 620 spools, but done by professionals in a controlled environment.  No matter; it's fancy stuff.  The film itself is Tri-X, which I haven't used since high-school, so it'll be fun.  I'll report back when I've had a chance to use it!

Brownie Hawkeye Photos from Hacked Roll

SupermanI was able to wind some Fujicolor Pro 400H onto my hacked-up 620-that-used-to-be-120 spool for the Brownie Hawkeye.  So I took the camera on an outing last weekend, and snapped a dozen photos.  The lens is kinda wacky on the edges .. but I've seen some other photos by a Brownie, from when the things were contemporary, that have the same effect.  So I'm thinking it wasn't something I did, so much as the way these cameras degrade in the normal run of their lives.  And this one's had quite a bit of life.

Now I've got a roll of XP2 in the Brownie, also on a hacked up spool, so we'll see what comes out.  It's kinda fun to look for shots, when you know that all but the center of the photo is going to have a wacky radial blur.  Interesting constraints, from this device..

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hacking a 120 Film Roll Down to 620 Size

I picked up a Brownie Hawkeye camera a couple weeks ago.  I thought it took 120 format film, but it actually takes 620 format film.  620 film is the original "printer cartridge extortion" scheme.  It's exactly the same film as 120 format, but the end caps of the spool are slightly thinner, and they're of a slightly smaller diameter than 120.  The barely-bigger 120 spools won't fit in a 620 camera; you have to buy Kodak 620 Film.  Bastards.

If you're lucky, which I was, the camera had an empty 620 spool in it.  You can put this on the receiving side, to let the camera reel the exposed film onto.  So the challenge is just to get a roll of fresh 120 film to fit onto the unexposed side.
My workshop classmate Nalini brought me a stack of info on this.  (Thanks!)  Some people modify new 120 rolls that have fresh film on them.  Other people hack empty 120 spools to look like 620, then use a changing bag to pull the film off a 120 roll, and then roll it back onto their hacked 620 roll.  I haven't tried any method yet, so I don't know.  But here's what I've learned about modifying a 120 spindle to fit like a 620 spindle.

You have a few choices for reducing the diameter of the 120 roll's spindle ends.

  • I tried shaving the ends down to a narrower diameter with a Dremel.  This was really ugly.
  • Clipping the ends down with large nail clippers worked pretty well.  I recommend it.
  • But my favorite was using a pair of electricians' scissors to trim down the diameter.  Clean and easy!
And then you've got options for thinning down the spindle ends, too.

  • Some folks recommend thinning it down with a metal file.  I'll bet that works nicely.
  • I tried using the Dremel with a sanding disc, and it was a little sloppy.  (But worked.)
  • Better was to use the cylindrical sander attachment for the Dremel.  Nice and tidy!

So now I've got an empty 120 spindle that fits in a camera that takes 620 film.  I'll try pulling 120 film off another spindle and feeding it back onto my make-believe 620 spindle.  Then I'll try taking a loaded 120 roll and trimming off the ends with the unexposed film still on.  And after that, well, you can actually still buy 620 rolls, it's just a specialty item.

I'll report back with details about what worked and what didn't.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making Google TV forget your Netflix account info

I've tried the "official" way.  That's where you go into the application settings for the TV, find Netflix, and select "Clear Data."  It even warns you that your account information will be lost.  And then it does absosmurfly nothing.  Punks.

Here's how to *actually* get your Google TV's Netflix app to forget your login information.
  • Launch the Netflix app.  (Even if it gives you an error about connecting.)
  • Use the navigational arrow buttons in the upper-left region of your remote's face.
  • In sequence, press these arrow buttons : up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, up, up, up, up.
This will either make Chun Lee shoot a big blue fireball that decapitates your enemy, or it will pop the Netflix app into a bit of a debug mode.  Press the down arrow to select the "Deactivate" option and press the Enter button on the remote.  Poof!  The app should restart itself and prompt you again for all your account eenfos as if you never met it.

Should Corporate IT embrace its inner Ma Bell?

Okay, bear with me here.  I was thinking about this on the ride home, and I could be on to something, or I could have just inhaled too much exhaust.  Is "Corporate IT" (with capital letters) reaching a point where it looks more like Ma Bell than a helpful and innovative organization?  That's not a bad thing.  Look what happened when Ma Bell got shaken up.

Remember the old days, when you got your phone service in one-size-fits-all "service offering?" (Put down the ITIL book, I'm using it derogatorily.)  The phone company actually owned the wiring in your house, and you rented the handset from them.  (Kids, skip down a paragraph or two.)  And that made perfect sense!  Their product was intended to connect people, not just run a stupid network.  And who the hell wanted to manage their own infrastructure in the house, anyways?  Seriously, what do I care about my stupid phone service?

And then along comes the Sports Illustrated Football Phone.  (Kids, skip another paragraph.)  It just looks so awesome on TV and it's free fer chrissakes and it's a nice way to show your friends just how enthusiastic you are about ritualized, non-lethal battle games.  That guy in the ad looks so chummy and smart!  You must have one.  But it's a piece of junk and it breaks. So you call the phone company and they natter on at you about how it's an unsupported device and who do you think you are, a phone technician, this is very serious stuff.

You could write a book about this, so I'm sure someone has.  If not, get me a ghost writer and I'll supply the technical angle.  (Sadly, Tim O'Reilly does not read my blog.)

But it was really making me think.  Do we need to just relax, put a few sandbags in the right places, and begin to define our basic offering as merely running a line to the MPOE?  Do we charge extra for inside wiring work, but offer an "inside wiring plan," for folks who never want to bother with it?  If you get tired of your answering machine breaking tapes all the time (Kids, skip another sentence.) you'll see the value in paying extra for voicemail.  If you want to run a call center, we'll happily give you a T1 ... but arranging to de-mux it and install a PBX is up to you.

It sure beats the current state .. where we continue to offer services that are somewhat appealing to end-users, and mostly manageable at scale for IT, but kinda leave both of us a little unsatisfied.  They said I can keep the awesome football phone even if I choose not to subscribe!  Why are you making me use this hideous, heavy, putty-colored thing!?

Maybe it's time for Corporate IT to learn to stop worrying and love the football phone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Toy Camera Workshop

Sven and Kristin and I are taking a three-Mondays, two-Saturdays Toy Camera Workshop over at UC extension.  The Holga 120 CFN is the recommended camera for the course .. pretty kewl so far, and it has an option to tint the flash red, yellow or blue.  It takes 120 format film.  The Mini Diana is something I picked up a year ago.  It takes normal 35 mm film.

Our story so far:  
  • The teacher recommends films that use a C41 processing technique.  Dunno why yet.
  • When you advance a new roll of 120 film in the Holga, you'll see "11" as the first number -- it's just "1" twice.
  • These viewfinders are notoriously inaccurate .. take a picture of something square filling the viewfinder, and when you process the photo you'll see how far off it is.
  • Use 400 speed or faster .. even if shooting in daylight.
  • The switch that says B and N is the shutter style: N just snaps the shutter normally, while B opens the shutter for as long as you have the trigger pushed down.
  • The Holga's two internal masks are optional, and not using them gives some interesting affects.
  • The Holga's nearest focus setting is about 3 feet away from the lens.


I haven't had anything developed yet.  George's apparently develops your film, does a contact sheet, and scans the output onto a DVD.  There's a field trip tomorrow at a nearby Swap Meet to take a couple snapshots.  So far, so fun!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Repurposed NetApp Filer Grill

I saved an old NetApp FAS960 faceplate from the e-waste pile.  There's an arduino glued into the back, and LEDs run to the original spots on the filer's grill.  I added a photo resistor on the top left corner -- so waving your hand over it causes a measurable drop in light level, letting it be a sort of gestural input.  (Sort of.)

The initial application was as a timer for backup tape acclimation.  When you bring new tapes into the datacenter, you'd wave over the photo resistor, resetting the clock, and then in two hours it'll illuminate the blue LED, and in six hours it does the green LED ... indicating that the tapes are adjusted to the datacenter environment.  That works fine, but I'm still not sure what it wants to be when it grows up.

Frackin' Toasters.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fixing Multiple Characters Typed in a vSphere Console on a Linux Guest

You know the problem .. you're in the vSphere client, you've got a console open on a linux guest, and sometimes when you type a character, you get multiples of it typed in the console.  Yeah, try logging in like that.

Briefly, the problem is that it thinks you're holding down the keys (lag adds time between key-down and key-up events) so it repeats the letter you're "holding down."  You can disable key repeating for this guest's console by changing how long a key must be down before it's repeated.  There's a handy post that explains editing the .vmx file .. but I prefer to do it in the vSphere client:

  • Pop into the vSphere client and "Shut Down Guest"  (I know, sorry.)
  • Click to "Edit Settings"
  • Select the "Options" tab.
  • In the list, under "Advanced," click "General"
  • Over on the right, click the "Configuration Parameters..." button.
  • Click the "Add Row" button.
  • Make the new variable's name "keyboard.typematicMinDelay" and the value "2000000"
  • Boot it back up.

Now you can login as "root," instead of "rrrroooooott."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Toys

I got some new toys a couple months ago, and I stuffed a picture into a draft post here.  Which has languished.  I've got five minutes before my self-imposed no-work-during-lunch time is up, so I figured I'd just post a quick summary.

On the left is a Mio heartrate monitor watch.  Your arm presses on the back, and you apply to fingers to the front, and it counts beats.  It also works just fine putting one finger on the back plate, and two fingers of the other hand on the front.  My heart races in the middle of the day for some reason, so now I'm recording it over time, to have a little more insight.  This works well.

On the right is the Garmin GTU-10.  This is a GPS receiver with built-in GSM.  It monitors position and uploads that to a web site.  It'll email you if the tracker goes outside a "geofence," too.  So far, it's doing a lousy job of tracking my location -- inside buildings it's useless, of course, but outside it seems to only get a fix when I'm standing still for sixty seconds.  Fun trick, but you're better off with an android phone and an app.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Toy

It arrived today, my new 1933 Underwood Portable.  It's pretty awesome; every part of it has a heft and importance.  The case is in good condition, the typewriter is completely functional, and there's even a ribbon in it.  I'll need to re-ink the ribbon -- I remember doing that as a kid, but not how -- but it's ready to go.

This one's got the glass-top keys, and it's pretty swanky.  Each one's got a piece of glass on top of the letter -- dunno how they applied it.  The interesting thing to me is that this is a full-circle thing.  The more things change, the more your smartphone has a glass-top display, too.  Both glass-top displays are detecting your finger presses and converting it to text input, right?

This thing's been in an attic for a while, I think.  It smells like stale books, and an unused leather luggage set, and maybe the wooden slats above the ceiling that have been absorbing a little humidity and convected sunlight heat from the roof.  Since years.

So, what's my project gonna be?  I have no idea.  I can get an Arduino to detect what letter's being typed.  I'd love to feed an epaper display through the thing.  The machine is nice and open, so LEDs under there would make a wonderful glow.  I've already gotten a palmtop computer to tweet over wifi -- so it's easy enough to make it do that.  I'm determined to not compromise its functionality at all, no drilling, sawing, dremeling [sic] or otherwise breaking it.  This is gonna be interesting!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Denis Dutton at TED

I just watched a fascinating talk by Denis [sic] Dutton at TED, 2010 in Long Beach.  He makes a really interesting case for Homo sapiens' innate appreciation of beauty being explainable by natural selection.  As an ecologist, it's got my mind wandering in all sorts of fun directions, now.

Is our appreciation of beauty just runaway selection based on a sensory bias?  Can part of it be explained as an honest badge of fitness?  Does "beauty" only make you happy because those who are drawn to it are more likely to have offspring that live to reproductive age?  And if you like the feel of a well made tool in your hands, it might actually be a heritable trait.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Upgrading an AT&T Dell Streak to Android 2.2

Back when there was a lot of fanfare, I bought an "unlocked" Dell Streak right from the dell.com web site. It arrived, and it was pretty clear they'd rushed it out the door with a kluged together Android 1.6 installed on it.  It was an unmitigated heap of garbage.  But they promised a forthcoming update to Android 2.2, with unlocked units getting the update as soon as it was available.

It turns out that most of the "unlocked" units (purchased at additional expense, since you didn't sign a contract with a carrier) were actually locked to AT&T.  You can't get the update.  Dell lists a manual download in their FAQ, but that one fails to install.  Doing a manual check for new system software results in a message that you're up to date.  Nothing works.

Well, from the seventy-fifth page of a thread on Dell's self-support forums, here's the update, which will install on your "unlocked" Dell Streak that's actually locked to AT&T.  Download it on the Streak's browser, then tap it to install:

  http://mobileupdate.dell.com/PackageProductionLocations/Streak_340_14844_31.pkg

It installed for me!  If you're in the same boat, I hope this helps.  Hopefully this cleans up some of my issues.  If not, I can just throw it back in the closet for another six months..

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fixing Bluetooth Pairing Problems in Windows on Bootcamp

You're running Bootcamp to dual-boot your Mac.  You're able to pair a bluetooth device on the MacOS X side of the house, but you can't subsequently get the device to pair in Windows.  Short story: you've gotta unpair it in MacOS, then pair it in Windows, and finally go back and re-pair it in MacOS.

  • Bootcamp into MacOS X.
  • Use System Preferences > Bluetooth to unpair the device.
  • Bootcamp into Windows
  • Use Control Panel (different sub-tool per version) to pair with the device.
  • Bootcamp back into MaxOS X.
  • Use System Preferences > Bluetooth to pair with the device again.
  • It otter work in both environments, now.
Long story:  I think that basically, the device is getting confused because it's been paired with "a computer" just fine, and sees no point in re-pairing with the same computer.  I could be totally wrong.  But that'd mean that the MacOS side of things is just being especially clever, seeing that Windows is already paired, and re-using those connection credentials.  Basically, I'll bet the Mac is pretending to be the existing paired Windows sytem .. while Windows has no idea it needs to share.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Hopefully this helps someone else.  There are a bunch of discussions about this, scattered across the web, that detail the drop-pair-repair method.  But half of them are those stupid sites that've scraped someone else's content and plastered it with ads and premium-membership scams.  Honestly, I wish there was a Google preference I could set that'd just ignore those bozos every time I search.

I wonder how you'd determine that a site is scraped content with ads and membership offers.  If you just used domain name, they'd go and register new domains all the time to dodge the blacklisting.  Perhaps some sort of "deprecate sites with more than X ads" heuristic.  If anyone's got an idea, I'd love to hear it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kevin Kelly at TEDxAmsterdam

Continuing the lunch-time video habit, I ended up watching a speech by Kevin Kelly about "technology's story."  As a one-time Whole Earth Catalog editor, you might expect him to think outside the proverbial box -- he doesn't disappoint, dismissing how engineers see these tools, and talking about how we might consider our technology (without which we'd be toast) a seventh kingdom of life, with an evolution and urges of its own.

The talk is a very nice redux of his book, What Technology Wants, which I read a couple of months ago.  I found most of his written arguments compelling, peppered with a couple pies in the sky.  If Amazon auto-generated per-book hash-tags, I'd aim you at the comments my Kindle tweeted about the book.

In another intersection, I've been following the Quantified Self movement, another of his brain children.  I find the most interesting thing about "self quantifiers" is how easily we humans graft technology right onto our bodies.  (Nike+, GPS, bluetools, eyeglasses)  I guess we'll know what technology wants, once we're all cyborgs.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mark Masterson (CSC) at OSCON

I'm continuing the trend on my lunch-time videos, watching more O'Reilly stuff, and today was Mark Masterson's presentation at OSCON.  He does a really interesting job of breaking down how enterprises balance the adoption of new technologies with risk avoidance.  The upshot, to me, was that risk calculations are based on the probability of failure, times the cost of failure -- so if you can't reduce the probability of failure, virtualization can certainly reduce the cost of failure.  I hadn't seen it put so simply, before.  Very interesting!  (BTW, here is Shanley Kane's post, that he references which I enjoyed.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Simon Rogers (Guardian) at Strata

I'm still watching Strata speeches at lunch, and I just finished this interesting talk by Simon Rogers at The Guardian.  He's talking about how The Guardian makes sense of big data sets, how they open the raw data to readers, and how they present data in a visualized form to readers.  He mentions the changing role of journalists a few times.  My redux is that in the past, journalists took data sets and asked "the right questions" of the data and presented that -- but now they're able to present views into the raw data that allow readers to ask their own questions.

It would be interesting if this is a sea change in more than just news.  Thinking about operations, we tend to aggregate vast collections of metrics and stats and then present "the upshot" to the customer.  They take our word for it, that the data bear us out, or they ask to see particular subsets of the data.  Are there places where we could give them the full data set, with tools that help them understand it?  Already we directly show them disk space used/free on their NAS volumes ... do we take the next step?

Getting yourself started with Arduino

On of my cow orkers was interested in Arduino, and I'm a fanboy.   So when I got home, I put together a quick "dip your toes in" kit to lend him.  Roughly, it consisted of:
So now he wants to know about good books to get started.  I think when I started, I was just fiddling with parts and relying on sample code on the Arduino site.  But since then I've read a couple of kewl books.  Try these:
And of course, he wants a good starter kit.  I've tried two, and they're both great:
Have fun!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DJ Patil (LinkedIn) at Strata

Okay, so I just spent my lunch break watching this presentation from DJ Patil of LinkedIn.  It was from the Strata conference, which I thought seriously about attending.  Sending me would have had little value for my company, aside from the fact that we manage similar sizes of data, but I was actually ready to take PTO and fund it myself.

I didn't end up going.  But happily, O'Reilly seems to be putting everything on YouTube.

Fun bit about this presentation, he introduces a new project, LinkedIn Skills.  You can search for any skill and it finds related content on LinkedIn.  What's really interesting to me is that the results show related skills, with a comparison of how each has grown/shrunk compared to your search term.  For instance, if you search for NetApp, you'll see that 3PAR and Compellent are growing even faster.  (Or search for EMC or Hitachi, for the counter example.)  Neat!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My FitBit Presentation at Quantified Self SD

I gave a quick presentation about the fitbit at the Quantified Self San Diego meeting, this evening.  It was fun, because they'd had a presentation on the fitbit already, so they asked me to make mine a review of my own personal use of it.  A technical presentation would've been easier to build, but ultimately it was really fun to reflect on my particular experience.

The first slide is a quick overview of the cute little device.  I shared my own observations on its durability, chatted about how I use it day-to-day, and talked a little about the fitbit web site.  They've really dialed-in the whole website aspect -- I just don't use it, but that's me.  Surprising to some attendees was that since February 11, 2011 they've had a public API, so there were a few questions about that, which I tried to answer as best I could.  My penultimate slide was on ways I think they could extend the device to improve it.  And my final slide was a couple of ways I'd love to see people hack it -- there's plenty of fun stuff in there to mess with, and it'd be nice if a few more folks would take a shot at it.

I'm embedding the slides below, for your viewing entertainment.  And here's a link to the presentation on iWork.  Fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ambient Findability

Alright, so I clearly read more slowly when I'm not on vacation ... today I finally finished Ambient Findability, by Peter Morville.  It's funny, I was actually expecting this to be something technical about the ubiquity of GPS devices, or fun tricks with RFIDs, or geo-IP databases.  Instead, it's a really interesting philosophical wander through the ways that humans and information come together ... "find" each other.  Bring a highlighter (or, more likely, the function on your e-reader) because you're going to keep finding quotes, study results, anecdotes and references to other sources that you'll want to be able to find later.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Mad Men Tax Incentive of 2011

A few months ago, I went to the opening night of a play at the La Jolla Playhouse ... and sat next to a man in plastic flip-flops.  SRSLY?  Apparently all he could muster that day was sliding off the couch and driving to the theatre, without an ounce of energy left to dress like an adult.  I really hope he got home okay, because he must have been exhausted.  If he was responsible, he took a cab home.

So today, I'm calling for what I call the "Mad Men Tax Incentive of 2011."  (Cue patriotic march music.)  Our government needs to immediately convene a panel to survey the current state of domestic fashion, rating each item of clothing on a scale of "snazziness."  Then, when citizens purchase items that are above the eightieth percentile on the snazziness scale, they can deduct the entire purchase price from their taxable income next year.  Dressing nice is a form of "social donation," you see -- for instance, your date doesn't have to avoid running into friends, for fear they'll notice your choice of footwear.  That's a gift.

Let's face it, you feel better when you dress nice.  Folks comment on it, attractive people take a second look at you, you walk taller and have a better attitude.  I know 2010 was kinda crap, and seriously only rated a pair of baggy sweats for most of us.  But if we're gonna turn it around in 2011, we gotta start somewhere.  This is it -- write to your congressperson today and demand they support the Mad Men Tax Incentive of 2011.  For America!

I'm Gabe Schuyler, and I approved this message.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Apathy in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction

"I give up.  I'll do it your way."  They smiled and left.  I squared my shoulders and settled in to do a sub-optimal job.

The discussion was with the cinematics group.  They'd purchased a render farm and wanted one operating system (and thus one rendering engine) on each node.  I'd figured out that we could boost the output by putting two virtual machines on each block of physical hardware.  The math bore me out, but they didn't understand the math.  So after several iterations of back and forth, I just gave up.

This exchange happens at most companies.  The non-techical folks "want one of these," and sometimes we consider it and offer that they "actually want one of *these.*"  It either increases their bang for the buck, or skirts some technical limitation, or makes administration easier for us.  But not lately.  My suggestion of alternatives results in their director contacting my director and complaining (with everyone cc:d) that I "just don't understand how they work."

I've gotta fix this.  Why don't they trust my technical advice?  Why am I content to give up on explaining?  I take my work very personally -- which is great when I succeed -- but really sucks at times like this.  Where do I start, when caring less isn't an option?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Introducing HTML 5

I just finished off my second computer book in as many weeks, Introducing HTML 5, this time.  Interesting stuff, like the Python book before it, but didn't really get me itching to dive in and create anything, like the Python book before it.  Meh.  Maybe next one -- I'll just have to keep reading.

What next?  Maybe a quick trip into the land of big data.  Or perhaps something more crafty ... dunno what.  I wonder if I should find something about establishing non-profits and get a hackerspace started.  Something's gotta hook me ... can't wait to see what.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Crunch Time

While normal folks are making new year resolutions, my company's fiscal year still has three months left in it.  So today I looked at the official list of "things to do this year" that I'm supposed to accomplish at work.  Gak!  I've got a year of work to do in three months...

From what I can tell, the problem is that I've been busy getting plenty of important things done, but at the cost of not working on anything really strategic.  Virtually nothing I do during the day actually makes for progress against the official list.  My this-year goals are all strategic; the contents of my day are all fiddly bits.  I'll have to flip this around if I'm gonna make those strategic goals happen.

This is a common problem for sysadmins.  Has anyone solved it yet?