Misc. Projects Including A Baby

To look at this long neglected unblog one would thing I've stopped doing things, but quite the contrary there's been so very much doing of things that there's been no time for posting. In no particular order we have:

  • Installed a home security system -- No particular need, but I've always enjoyed alarms and now our home has an RSS feed
  • Installed an electric garage door opener -- No more brushing off the car in the morning after a snow. Granted it's still powered by an extension cord running from the basement, but hey so goes it.
  • Installed nifty iButton electronic locks -- Now the same key opens every door to which I've got access including the Swarmcast offices.
  • Un-finshed the basement -- wool insulation and moisture: a winning combination. The project included a fun trip to the city trash transfer station.
  • Remodeled the kitchen -- I did almost no actual labor on this excepting some tile installation with Kate, the adding of rolley shelves in the pantry, and having to eat out for four straight months.

Add to those minor projects some time spent on general upkeep of an 85 year old home, scouts and a decidedly non-zero number of hours spent at work, and it becomes clear that what Kate and I need is a baby.

Kate's due on July 28th, and we're very excited.

Comments


Mazel tov on the baby news!

I happy to see that people from past who I have not kept up with in such a long time are living enjoyable and exciting lives!

-Mark Reck

You know how I have a strong distaste for breeding, and the products of breeding, but I suppose my stance has softened a little since several friends have produced, as far as I can tell, all together not terrible offspring. It's fun to prod at their ill proportioned chubby bodies for a while at least. So now I may offer my sincere congratulations on the upcoming baby. -Grrrk

Autobahn Accelerator for iTunes

My company, Swarmcast, announced one of our first public releases today. Previously we've been primary selling to content providers, but now we're putting out a user facing free release. If you download our Autobahn Accelerator for iTunes you'll find your purchases from the iTunes music store come down three to ten times faster than they did before. We'll be adding support for lots of other sites (you tube, etc.) in upcoming weeks.

Sadly we've got a MacOS version done, but the installation was deemed too clumsy for the polished Mac experience, so we'll have to wait a few weeks to get that out. Windows only for now (says this Linux user).

Customer Service Call Log

Between telecom troubles, warranty repairs, botched on line orders, and marriage related changes in insurance, mortgage, and bank accounts I've spent a lot of time on the phone with customer service representatives lately. Few issues get resolved in a single call and even fewer without a transfer to another office.

I put together a sheet to keep track of who I spoke to, when, how to get back to them, and what they promised me. Now I grab one whenever I'm about to dial a 1-800 number to talk to the almost-friendly, nearly-helpful people on the other end. Besides the convenience of being able to say "On January 21st at 3pm Janice, CSR number JA5692, told me she'd ship the replacement FedEx overnight," representatives seem on their best behavior when you start out every interaction asking for their name and customer representative number.

printable form

View Any Simon Delivers Order

I forwarded a Simon Delivers order receipt email on to a friend, and he was able to view the order without being logged in as me. Turns out that if you have a Simon Delivers account at all they let you view any order. I created a quick web form to let anyone view any order using my account. Here's my favorite order so far:

Qty Item Name Each
1 Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion $10.99
2 Coke Diet - 24/12 oz. Cans $7.49
2 Dr Pepper Diet - 24/12 oz. Cans $7.49
2 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Candy Bars - 6 ct. $3.49
2 Life Savers Wintergreen Flavored - Individually Wrapped - Bag $1.89
1 Nabisco Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies $3.79
1 Nestea Cool Lemon Iced Tea Fridge Pack - 12/12 oz. Cans $4.19
2 Pepsi - 24/12 oz. Cans $7.49
2 Pepsi 8/12 oz. Bottles $3.69
1 Seven-Up - 12/12 oz. Cans $4.19
2 Seven-Up Diet - 12/12 oz. Cans $4.19

I'm sure fixing this problem is simple as adding whatever the .asp equivalent of this is:

if (currentUser != order.user) {
    return;
}

Funny, though.

If you try you own and stumble across any funny ones put the order number in the comments.

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3885593 - Five boxes of cereal and two gallons of milk. -- Nick

2566520 - 15 gallons of bottled water, Milk Bones, and an issue of Minnesota Parent magazine. -- Dan

Alarm System

My favorite book in the Wren Hollow Elementary school library was The Gadget Book by Harvey Weiss. I must have checked it out a hundred times during the second and third grade and tried to build most of the half-practical projects it detailed. The best among them was the burglar alarm. It used wooden blocks, a door hinge, and a strip of metal to make a simple normally-open contact switch. It was the first electrical work I ever did and almost certainly shaped my interests and career path.

As a winter (read: indoor) project I decided to install a security system. Our system at the office uses DSC components and works well enough, so I used the same. I bought a Power 632 panel on line along with some wired and wireless contact switches, and keypad. The only difficultly during installation was routing the wire for the keypad from upstairs to downstairs where it couldn't be seen. Programming was nothing like modern computer programming. Bits and bytes were entered directly into numbered memory registers by toggling boolean flags and entering hex characters on the keypad. It was oddly fun.

Everything's working quite well. We've got a bevy of contact, motion, and temperature sensors. We can arm/disarm from the keypad or using the wireless remote keys on our key chains. For monitoring I went with next alarm and they even make an RSS feed available (though only through yahoo, so I had to fake the User-Agent: HTTP header);

alarm-rss.png

Trash Can Snorkel

This one's dumb. We've got the same trash can that everyone who shops at Target has. The inner removable pail is handy for keeping spills from pouring out the foot pedal hole, but its air-tight nature creates quite the vacuum when you're trying to pull the bag out.

|http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-11/qid=1169524414/ref=sr_1_11/602-0868447-3796659?ie=UTF8&asin=B000JT7N7A|

After ripping the handles off yet another Glad bag trying to get it out of the pail I went to get a drill to poke an air hole in the bottom -- leak proof be damned. Next to the drill I saw a piece of 3/4" plastic tubing, which I ran from the top of the inner pail to the bottom.

|http://ry4an.org/pictures/web/cimg0280|

After a trash day that left the bag handles intact I can report that the hose allows air in without requiring new holes. Future trash pails should have top to bottom air ducts molded into them. Trashcan manufacturers please to be getting on that right now.

The Death of the Har Mar Theater

Years ago I had a bad movie viewing experience I can't actually recall at Har Mar Theater in Roseville. As an experiment in how rumors spread and as mild revenge I decided that every time someone mentioned the Har Mar Theater I was going to let them know that once a rat ran across my foot while I was watching a movie there. It's not true, but I figured it was a story that people would pass on to friends.

In six years of spreading that story at least fifty times I'm sad to say that I never once heard about rats at the Har Mar Theater from anyone, nor did I ever tell someone my story and have them mention they'd heard a similar story elsewhere.

Still, in the end I'm victorious. As Sarah let me know yesterday, the Har Mar Theater is closing. I'm pretty sure that I (and not the new megaplex opening across the highway) am singularly responsible for this happy turn of events.

Comments


This reminds me of the time I put fake fortunes in the fortune cookies at Pioneer Hall and you got the one that said "This cookie is not safe" and you told me about it, not knowing that it was ME that put it in there. -Paul N.

I remember that. I'll admit that in my retellings I'm the one who doctored the cookies. Hope all's well, Paul.

Whole House Humidifier

This weekend I put in a Honeywell 360A whole house humidifier. The instructions said it should take an hour, and it only took me four. Nothing went wrong, which what you hope for when a project means cutting holes in your duct work, tapping into your water, and some wiring. Now when we wake up our throats don't hurt.

IMG_1153.jpg

IMG_1154.jpg

Comments

Update: If you don't tighten down the compression fittings on the water supply line it will let go and you'll drain water into the floor drain all night. d'oh

From a concerned internet'er Get rid of that saddle valve at your earliest convenience, those things a prone to leaking or letting go. Have someone put in a tap on the line with a proper cutoff with a 1/4"FIP. Same connector you would use for an icemaker. To be real safe after you do that you can buy a braided steel icemaker line that will connect inbetween the cutoff and the humidifier, so no compression connectors anymore either.


The Wedding Planned With Bugzilla

If things have been a little sparse around here over the last year or so it's because outside of work the bulk of my organizational and creative energies have been going into the planning of our wedding.

The wedding was this weekend, and everything was spectacular. Photos and details can be found on the wedding website.

I've come away from the wedding planning experience with this advice for guys: Don't bother helping; no one but your finance/wife will believe you've done anything, and she's already in love with you.

Kate and I got no end of comments and jokes predicated on the notion that the guy never does anything to help with the wedding, and despite her earnest protestations to the contrary, you could tell that people came away with a belief that at most I probably helped pick the cake or something.

That assumption was all the more maddening because, in fact, my tendency to over plan events was perfect for a wedding. I'd been waiting for just this sort of opportunity to plan a large event and in doing so to put a record keeping theory to the test. -- By now it should be obvious that Kate, my wife, is a very patient woman.

For years I'd watched an event planner who worked out of the same coffee shop I did practice her trade. So nearly as I could tell she lived entirely in a world of post-it notes and phone calls. On any given day I'd watch 500 different pieces of information flit before her mental windshield with no discernible organizational system I could recognize. It drove me crazy. I wanted to offer to help her come up with a computer based solution that would patch all the holes in her process I was sure had to plague her on every project.

Meanwhile, I was sitting next to her working on computer software, which for any project of reasonable size includes tracking thousands of details. Among those details are defects, bugs, and any team with any hope of success uses a bug tracker system to keep them documented. The most popular, but certainly not the most user-friendly, bug tracker is Bugzilla. I like it a great deal.

I became certain that more than a spreadsheet or calendar or MS project, event planning required a bug tracker. I was pretty sure that Bugzilla could be put to work to keep good logs of tasks, dependences, and details in exactly the right fashion.

As alluded to previously, Bugzilla has a user-interface that only a software developer could love. Kate's not a software developer, so there was some initial resistance, but she's a trouper and took to it eventually. File attachments held contracts, and comments included phone logs. We were planning the wedding long distance so most communications were electronic.

In the end it worked well -- no details fell through the cracks --, but it was probably overkill for a two-person project. Something like basecamp is probably a much better fit. Bugzilla does have some nearly useless charts that allowed me to produce the horrible dependency graph below:

/unblog/static/attachments/2006-10-27-wedding-dependencies.png

Motion Lights and Silliness

We've got an old lighting fixture for our front porch, which we didn't want to replace with an ugly motion light. I tried putting a socket adapter in-line with the bulb, but it wouldn't fit in the globe.

More time spent staring at the lighting offerings at Home Depot turned up a workable, if convoluted, solution. An external motion detector sends a wireless signal to a replacement indoor light switch, which then turn on the external light. To make what should have been a ten minute project even sillier, I should be able to control the remote switch from the home link button in my car. Heh.