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);

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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.

|https://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.

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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.

Home Repair and Misc.

When I don't post here in a while it either means I'm not building anything new or that I'm too busy to write about what I am doing. This time it's the later. Not that any of it's been exciting, but almost all of it involved using a saw, which totally counts.

Gwin, our eldest cat, has always kicked toys into the basement sump for the joy of watching humans pick them out later. Milo, on the other hand, likes running into the muddy sump and then running up stairs. To keep the cats and their toys out I built a little wooden frame to fit and covered it with chicken wire. It's ugly but functional.

|https://ry4an.org/pictures/web/Sump|

At some point during Monday night's storm a 20' branch fell from the sky and broke our fence gate. Neither of us woke up. Sometimes I park my car right where it landed, and I'm glad Monday wasn't one of those times. Repair was just a matter of replacing a few pickets and fixing the latch. The latch has never worked well and still doesn't, but it's slightly better, which I keep telling Kate counts as fixing it.

|https://ry4an.org/pictures/web/Gate|

Meager construction efforts aside I've been working on some big things at work and on our [http://kateandry4an.org/gallery/invitation wedding invitations], which we hope to mail in the next week or two.

Ivy and Stucco

This weekend was full of discoveries involving ivy and stucco and removing the former from the later. Summarizing them we have:

  1. Don't. Keep them away from one another. If you have a stucco home and your neighbor plants ivy secretly poison it.
  2. If there is ivy on your stucco, just leave it there. Removing it is not worth the pain.
  3. If you do remove the ivy, remove it completely. If you pull it off and plan on getting the residual debris later, you're going to find it's dried to a state where it can no longer be pulled off in strands like it can be when green.
  4. If you've let residual ivy dry to the point where it's brittle, plan on a day full of power washers, long handled brushes, and ladders. Try to drink a lot. Expect to repaint.

Caching In My Moving Karma

There's a purchase agreement in place for the condo, and it's time to organize the moving extravaganza. Saturday, June 17th at 11am moving helpers generous with their time will find everything pre-boxed, wrapped, stacked, and ready. Half the stuff will be going to Salvation Army down the street and half will be moving from 580 N 2nd St. #120 to 330 E 50th St. I'm renting a large truck (and possibly selling off a good fraction of the furniture in advance), so with luck we'll be on to the beer and lots of food portion of the afternoon after just one short trip.

Please let me know if you think you can make it so I can plan food supply and figure out if I need to start trying to call up moving karma chits by name.

Thanks,

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Yay! We'll finally have a sofa for people to sit on.

Meager Home Improvements

After moving into the house I started a series of small home improvement tasks. Some of them have genuine safety reasons but many happened only because changing things demonstrates residence. Here's an incomplete list of things I've done:

  • added a ceiling fan to the bedroom
  • rewired the doorbell with modern wire so it doesn't ring everytime you walk past the dining room heat register
  • added shelving, a phone jack and power outlets to create a server corner
  • added appliance-grade outlets behind the stove and fridge (rather than the ungrounded lamp-grade extension cords running through holes in the floor they previously had)
  • added a motion light to the break-in-ariffic back yard
  • cleaned out the gutters (I knew there's a reason I got that condo)
  • replaced the rotting wiring for the basement lighting

|https://ry4an.org/pictures/web/datacenter| |https://ry4an.org/pictures/web/motionlight|