Enough electronics to be dangerous...

02.10.43 - Mark

I've been playing with my Arduino board this evening, and while I have gotten it to work with my Mac, I'm only slightly past the basic LED blinking stage. I need to crack down and read up on the Arduino language and syntax before I try and get into more advanced projects. Not having a lot of spare cash on hand after buying the replacement S3, I'm using materials on hand for my projects, which right now means lots of LEDs. A while back I bought a couple hundred blue LEDs off eBay and they've been sitting around collecting dust, but I pulled them out tonight and I've soldered together 5 LEDs for experimenting with persistence of vision and I'm in the process of finishing a 3x3x3 LED cube similar to this MAKE Weekend Project from a few weeks ago. Somehow I don't think programming it is going to be as easy as building the LED cube...

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What to do with a melted pint of Ben and Jerry's

23.39.16 - Mark

Last week the freezer died, or rather a fan cooling the compressor died, the compressor overheated, and the damn thing died, and about 18 hours later it got noticed. More than long enough for the ~4 pints of Ben and Jerry ice cream to melt, and I'm one of those people who hates refrozen ice cream, the texture just goes down the drain, which is what most of the other food in the freezer did.
Ben and Jerry's Neopolitan Dynamite - yum
However, a pint of Ben and Jerry's costs something like $3.50 and as much as I don't like refrozen ice cream, I don't want to throw out $12 bucks of ice cream, so it went back into a freezer waiting for a good idea, or overwhelming cravings to strike.

I think one pint disappeared to the later but tonight's victim was to a very good idea - milkshakes. As expensive as Ben and Jerry's is, it's not my first pick for milkshakes, but it's a great use for a refrozen pint.

I microwaved the ice cream for a few seconds to loosen it up, just to the point where it slid out of the container easily, however I might heat it up a bit longer in the future, just to the point of being soft so the blender doesn't have to work so much. Second add milk, blend until smooth and enjoy.

As for the taste, I'm going to have to explore other flavor combos with generic ice cream. Cherry / Brownie milkshakes are very good.

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Customer Service

00.01.42 - Mark

Usually I rant about how much customer service sucks, which is because it usually does, however it's always a treat to find some that doesn't suck. Canon's customer service made me happy a while back when it didn't take 5 hours to convince them my camera was broken, but Pilot Pens really surprised me. I'm a mild pen geek, and my current everyday use pen is the Pilot Precise V5 RT.

It writes smoothly, has a narrow line, and it makes a nice clicking sound. It's great to write with but I had two problems. First it's light. I personally prefer heavier pen bodies, metal pens being my favorite, second is that the pocket clip on the V5 RT's was really horribly designed. The inside of the clip was made in a way that it catches on threads all the time. I'd reach for my pen and start ripping up my pants. Not good.

Anyways I shared my opinion with Pilot, and I was really looking for a metal pen body that took the V5 ink. I guess no such thing exists, since I never heard back from Pilot (not even the automatic confirmation email most places send out), but a few days after I messaged them, a package arrived with a couple of V Ball RT pens that can use the same ink as the V5. The bodies are more or less identical, same materials and features, they weigh the same, but it's a little sturdier and the clip had a lot more though put into it.

I know most people could care less about my pen choices, but if a pen company can get customer service right, why can't larger more customer centric companies not?

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22.56.20 - Mark

My camera went missing over the weekend, most likely stolen. Some jerk took it right out of my daypack Saturday around noon and despite a very thorough search it was still missing Sunday, so it's probably long gone. I've passed on the relevant information to law enforcement so its in the NCIC Database, but it's probably long gone.

What's weird is I'm really not as pissed off as I should be about some asshat wandering away with my property. I'm certainly not happy about it, and I kind of feel stupid for not keeping it with me and then ignoring some paranoid feelings I had about the time it disappeared, but I'm far more pissed off with the replacement process.

While it's "covered" by insurance, that insurance is more or less bullshit. To replace a $350 camera kit (camera, 2GB memory card, and a decent set of high capacity rechargeable batteries) I'd have to pay a $500 deductible. I may have failed the occasional math test, but I'm pretty sure $350 !> $500.

I'm not sure I'll be getting a quick replacement. Right now I can afford a Canon S5IS package or be 100% sure that I can pay upkeep on my websites and hold onto netflix for 3 more periods. I'm fairly confident that I can manage both, half of the web site costs come in November, then the rest at the end of December, so I'm pretty sure it could work, but I need to decide if I want to work without a net.

This really is more aggravating than the theft itself.

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Refuse to be Terrorised

23.41.39 - Mark

I was about to post Bruce Schneier's "Refuse to be Terrorized" essay on my Intersting Links Page, but I think it deserves a little more comment that I like to place with links. Despite what you maybe hearing from the Government or Media the Terrorists have won - our country is living in fear. Maybe not all of us, but enough of us that we regularly see articles about "hoax devices" in Boston, or the random racist woman who keep flights grounded for 10 hours while some non-white guy(s) get questioned by Homeland Security.

We now put up with invasive security checks at airports while some other screener is taking away all but 6oz of liquid, since someone decided Hydrogen Dioxide can be used to blow up airplanes.

Its insane with no end in sight. We as a nation need to move past 9/11 (we didn't use the Oklahoma City bombing as a righteous cause, we don't bring it up to win arguments like we do with 9/11), past our invasion of the middle, and strive towards building a country were we acknowledge legitimate security issues and address them rationally. We need to start living in the real world, and not in some fantasy land where a guy with a gun and a cell phone can foil any terrorist plot (or three) you can throw at him while dealing with personal issues all in 24 hours

Just stop being afraid.

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23.29.38 - Mark

There aren't that many movies that I want to see in theaters anymore, too many horror movies trying to induce involuntary bowel movements, tired parodies of those horror films, and cheesy comedies that while they might not be bad, they're not $10 price of admission good either, however I really wanted to see Grindhouse in theaters. Unfortunately for me the local cinema axed it after a week and I couldn't quite bring myself to driving around 3 hours to see a movie that was 3 hours.

Time passes and movies come to DVD, and yesterday Netflix provided me with a copy of disc 1 of Grindhouse Presents, Death Proof. I liked it, it was fun with everything that was promised - well at least promised by Death Proof fast cars, good explosions, weird plot ideas, classic B movie turn off your brain and enjoy entertainment.

Too bad that the enjoyment of the movie is cut off by all the stuff the distributors left out. While I liked watching the movie, I was interested in Grindhouse because it was offing a whole package. Two movies, cheesy fake trailers, everything. They're trying to screw up this release in every way possible from the near non-existent theatrical release, splitting the damned thing, doing that annoying as hell "exclusively at blockbuster" deal, and overall trying to get customers to pay upwards of $100 to get the movie as originally intended ($25 for Death Proof, $25 for Planet Terror, and probably ~50 for super special un-retarded, trailers and everything edition you know they're planning on releasing). It's almost enough to make me want to go and DL a pirated copy of the theatrical version.

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23.58.30 - Mark

I really don't like compression fittings, they're a really good example of a technology that doesn't improve on time tested techniques, such as soldering. So after 5 hours of hacksawing, filing, bending, twisting, and hitting on a compression fitting and the pipes I was trying to attach it to I'm simply going to go out and buy some lead free solder and a copper coupling and fix the damned thing in a matter of minutes.

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08.31.46 - Mark

ClonedSo it's late, you get bored, you have a little technology and next thing you know you've cloned yourself...

Actually I was helping a friend figure out how a photo was taken, and got sucked into the DIY approach. Fairly simple, take multiple photos of the subject, add each image to a new layer in Photoshop, align them, then mask off or erase unwanted background in each image (except the base image). Little more detail, and a lot of example can be found in this Flickr discussion thread. All I have to say is you have got to love the power of Photoshop.

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00.08.34 - Mark

Ubuntu's handling of network printing sucks. Apple has proven that network printing doesn't need to be rocket science, so how come a similar "User Friendly" Linux can't get it working without 5+ hours of research and working? It may get fixed after I update to the latest version of Ubuntu, but somehow, I doubt it.

Firewire is amazing, simply amazing. It's the ultimate multitasker when it comes to computer interfaces, handing every thing from printers and scanners to networking to video to mass storage (and yes, you could make random fans, lights and desktop missile launchers too, just like USB). Too bad Steve Jobs had to go and enforce a B**LSHIT trademark, pissing Intel off enough that they dumped Firewire in favor of USB, thereby making it the computer interface standard and dooming Firewire to smaller markets and higher costs. Thank you Steve Jobs. Now to find a IDE to Firewire adapter that doesn't cost more than $30.

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00.53.58 - Mark

Cold opens suck, but I finally got around to buying a microcontoller, opting for an Arduino Diecimila. I've been wanting to play with microcontrollers for a while now, but I've never gotten to the point where I bought hardware to play with. I've been reading about Arduino boards though MAKE for a while now, and they seem really powerful. Given the cost ($37 shipped from adafruit) I figured it was time to bite the bullet and buy one.

Other than general experimenting, I'm probably going to try and connect it to the analog gauge I bought a couple weeks ago. I don't know what I'm going to measure, but I'll figure that out one it's in my hands and can experiment.

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Corn Farmers Against Piracy

03.11.12 - Mark

In the whole NBC dropping iTunes / iTunes dropping NBC shenanigan the other day, bloggers started point to these comments that NBC made to the FCC on the subject of piracy and it has some great boneheaded comments like

Would the government permit Federal Express or UPS to knowingly operate delivery services in which 60-70% of the payload consisted of contraband, such as illegal or stolen goods?

Because of our nation's interlocking economy, two-thirds of the lost earnings and lost jobs are in industries other than motion picture production. For example, in the absence of movie piracy, video retailers would sell and rent more titles. Movie theaters would sell more tickets and popcorn. Corn growers would earn greater profits and buy more farm equipment.

You know, I think that somehow, those poor corn farmers will survive. They've got some really competent lobbyists on their side. On the other hand, I'm really tempted to go out and register cornfarmersagainstpiracy.org

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00.15.50 - Mark

Steampunkish 1 Milliamp DC analog gauge I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet, but I picked up this beautiful steampunk-ish gauge Saturday at the Shelby Hamfest. MAKE has had a few digital signal to analog meter projects in the past, so I'll likely draw some inspiration from them to rig this up.

The other stuff includes a pair of DC motors that will likely see some use in a bike generator or some form of robotics project, two ridiculously cheap (~$16 each) DVD burners, a $20 car stereo that I'm probably going to install in my Mom's car, and a complete with keyboard and mouse indigo iMac that cost a mere $30. I think it's safe to say I have a few projects to work on.

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