Archive for category Things that aren't busted

Above-tank mounted sump design

There are few things that can benefit an aquarium, particularly a salt water aquarium, as much as a good sump. Sumps allow you to create an entire system separate from the main tank that contains all your water processing, heating, conditioning and so on without crowding or visually afflicting the main tank; they allow you to add chemicals and treatments to the water and have them pre-mixed with a large volume of water before they reach your aquarium’s inhabitants, and much more.

But traditional sumps require expensive main tanks with plumbing ports (you can’t add ports to your typical large, inexpensive aquarium, as they are inevitably built with tempered glass), and are mounted underneath the main aquarium where they require bending over to service. Both of these issues go away with this design. You can use any non-ported aquarium as your main tank, so that $500, 75-gallon aquarium with stand from Petsmart you’ve been eying is just fine, and the sump is above the tank, perhaps on a floor above, where you can actually get at it and maintain it.

Here’s my design. You are most welcome to use it.
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Linux and OS X console: Are you working too hard?

Recently, I had a friend, a serious Linux aficionado, come over and we had occasion to sit in front of my machine while I was doing some console work. I do a lot of work under OS X using the GUI, and previously that is what had been on-screen when he had visited. This time, however, I had some consoles open to one of my web servers.

I did a few things during which he was uncharacteristically silent. During a pause in my typing, he spoke up with a note of real interest: “That’s unbelievably awesome. What is that?”

“Midnight Commander”, I told him.

Now he uses Midnight commander too. All the time. I thought I’d tell you why.
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Cat Watering System

cdishSo. Watering cats is always an issue. They go to the dish with food still in their mouths which inevitably falls in, they clean themselves with their tongues, then drink with them, cat hair gets in there, and when you have several, as we do… well, it just gets worse. Then they can — and do — get sick. Mouth infections, general degradation of immune systems, passing bacteria and viruses from one to another… it’s not good at all.

This is my final solution. I cut an adequate hole in the floor to install a drain plus some extra room, then built a drain into a watering dish and “plumbed” it with some adapters and a garden hose that drains into a utility sink in the basement almost directly below.

Then I drilled the side of the dish, dropped the assembly into/over the hole in the floor, routed the hose to the sink, and inserted a small diameter pipe/hose into the bowl that connects back to our reverse osmosis system. The water flow from that pipe to the dish is gated by a 12 volt DC valve.

To control the valve, I bought a commercial infrared proximity sensor that has an AC outlet on it, plugged the 12 VDC power supply — just a run of the mill linear wall-wart — I use to activate the valve into it, and set the IR sensor for a one minute recycle.

So the way it works is, cat walks up, IR sensor sees them, AC turns on, 12 VDC power supply comes up, valve triggers, fresh water comes out of the pipe, they drink from the arc of water — almost never from the dish — which runs for one minute, and the dish drains immediately.

This way, the water doesn’t stand. Doubly important with an R/O system, as there is almost no chlorine left in the R/O water, so the water is less able to sit around in the first place without “things” growing in it.

The IR sensor, and therefore the valve power supply, is powered from a UPS in the basement. This was done so power outages, quite common in the summer here, won’t deny them the opportunity to drink. As the UPS only has this one load on it, and the power demand is extremely low as well as intermittent, the up time, that is, the amount of time the UPS can power the system without the AC returning is many, many hours, almost the same amount of time the UPS can run without any load at all other than its own internal workings. Due to the massive explosion of UPS designs for computers, the UPS itself was surprisingly inexpensive. It cost about what the dish, drain, valve, hoses and IR sensor driven AC outlet did all taken together, which let the entire project cost come in under $150.00 USD. I consider that a bargain.

This system works extremely well. The cats figured it out within just a few minutes, there was no significant adaptation period. This, or something like it, is something that can really benefit your cats health and well-being, which in turn will extend their lives, while saving you a ton of effort, time and attention that you can put into working so you can buy better quality cat food and more cat toys. That’s why we all work, after all!

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NewBurgersOk, here’s the deal. I was sitting around one day recently, contemplating having some hamburgers for dinner, and feeling kind of “meh” about it, because I never get them right. They’re too big, they’re too small, they aren’t cooked right in the center, or if they are, they’re overcooked on the outside, they’re too thick, too thin, they shrink too much (some burger is made by mixing shaved ice in during the grind down process in order to increase volume; if that’s been done, the burger will shrink quite a bit when cooked as the water evaporates out.) Anyway, it just never works out. Burgers have been my cooking downfall forever. And I really don’t like those frozen patties much, either. So I thinks to meself, see, “can this be gotten around?” Well, as it turns out, yes, I figured out a way.

The result is fabulous.
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Headless Raspberry Pi B+ via Ethernet – from zero to success

R.Pi B+ BoadSo (somewhat late to the party, but anyway), I came up with a project I could use a Raspberry Pi for. Off to Amazon I went, and purchased this starter package (select the ULTIMATE kit), which I highly recommend. Everything you need, all in one place. I’m assuming you either bought this kit, or have the things you need, which I will also call out in case you’re a masochist and plan to try to assemble all this stuff by yourself.

Take note that I’ll be updating this post as I discover more stuff about the Raspberry Pi I think is worth sharing; so you might want to bookmark it and come back again from time to time. I’ll try and make it worth your while.

To start, you will require the Pi B+, a storage card with NOOBS on it, a power supply, a wired USB keyboard, a wired USB mouse, an ethernet cable, a free port on your network router or network switch, an HDMI cable and an HDMI capable monitor.

No, there’s no other way. You need the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Sorry. Not my fault. Everything I listed except the network cable, keyboard, monitor and mouse is supplied in the kit I linked to just above. As well as a lot of other really cool stuff. Hint. Hint.
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Review: E-Flite Blade 350 QX Quadcopter

The Blade 350 QX quadcopter is an almost-perfect example of its class. Three flight modes provide almost the perfect range from well behaved and safe to crazily agreeable to any insane set of control inputs you supply.

Blade 350 QX

Blade 350 QX

It is light, provides a reasonable flight time with the supplied battery, and you’re pretty well guaranteed to have more fun than you expect fooling around with it.

But that’s not all. The 350 is powerful enough, and stable enough, to carry a Go Pro camera and take awesome HD movies and stills from the air. You can spin the quadcopter in place and create a fabulous pan, or fly right up to something you otherwise can’t get to and take a closeup. Or just fly around and take a look at the countryside.

Everything you need is supplied in the package; the quadcopter, the hand controller, batteries, a charger (12 vdc… meant to hook to your car’s electrical system so you can recharge in the field), and you even get a set of extra blades. Which you are unlikely to need if you are even just a little bit careful. The manual is a little dense, and because of that you’ll have to read it carefully, but everything you need to know is actually in there within twelve pages.
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Buitoni Toaster Pizza

Buitoni Toaster Pizza.

Buitoni Toaster Pizza

Buitoni Toaster Pizza

Seriously? Yes, seriously. These were amazing frozen little za’s you put in, heated a bit, let sit so they’d defrost all through, then you subjected them to another heating, and finally let sit for a minute after that, and then you could eat them. Oh, man… these were amazingly good. A great sauce, excellent cheese, and the shell came out as a lightly browned, delicious crust.

You could do it wrong… over- or under-cook, not let it defrost completely, not wait that extra minute and burn the heck out of your mouth… all risks eminently worth taking.

Ever think you might like to do me a favor if it was easy? Then please go to Buitoni’s facebook page or their website and nudge them about this. Or go to the Buitoni Toaster Pizza page, join, “like” them, and say something nice to encourage them. I guarantee the odds are very high that if you love good pizza, you’d like these. It wasn’t fast food. It was something else entirely. Call it an accident, or a fortuitous event in frozen foods, but don’t write it off.

Buitoni Toaster Pizzas. Oh, man.

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Credible Feminism and “Being Nice”

The following is taken verbatim from a letter I wrote to the New York Times on July 31st, 2013, in response to an article where the author spoke to the desirability of asexual dressing and avoiding being nice just for the sake of smoothing social interactions:

Credible feminism drives equality of power, pay, opportunity, and recognition. It’s not about wearing pants to deny or distance gender. Men and women are naturally and irrevocably different in their sexuality: behavior that celebrates this — including that which drives sexually tuned plumage — is not only reasonable, it is healthy.

Women will never bridge the very real gap by attempting to subvert their own sexuality, because in doing so, they cede many cues of desirability to others.

The same thing applies to “nice.” Nice people are selected ahead of others for many roles simply because it is perceived that it will be more pleasant to be around them. If you eschew “nice”, you cede yet another social slice of desirability to others.

In either case, such a choice is completely up to the individual — but the consequences won’t be.

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