Archive for January, 2008

Aqua Teen Day — January 31st, 2007: Never Forget.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


Evil Mad Scientists Laboratory has made the foundation of this build available as The Peggy for $80.

In typical EMSL fashion, that link includes tons and tons of information, including full details, board design, source, and loads of implementation notes.

So, apparently, it is being called Aqua Teen Day. Good enough.

Better yet, though, is that the fine folks of boston — the level headed public that makes the city such a great place — are celebrating the first annual “Aqua Teen Day” by decorating the city with LED art.

Mooninites & Lemur

On January 31st, 2007, the authorities in Boston completely lost their minds. It wasn’t the first time, but this particular date was heavily reported and even the most head-in-the-sand die-hard “OMGWTFBINLADENFTChildren!!!one!!!” fear mongers found it ridiculous.

I am, of course, referring to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force “Hoax Device” bomb scare.

I could go on a political rant about fear based leadership and the general stupidity of the security theater played out in our cities and airports.

But that is boring.

Lemur in Blue

I’d rather remind people of the jackassery that has happened and, once again, laugh at it. Then vote appropriately.

To that end, I purchased memorial kits from the fine folks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and put them together over the last few days.

The results are just stunning. And effective. I brought the boards into work on Monday and, on the way home, stopped for a beer with boards in hand. Several folks asked about them and, upon explaining the history of the boards, they became just a touch more enlightened as to the stupidity of certain leadership and just a slight bit more inclined to learn more and vote accordingly.


Mission accomplished. With laughter included.

(The kits were a special edition from EMSL — you’ll have to contact them for availability. The LED “peg board” is generic; you can lay out the LEDs anyway you want to make any kind of similar display, including a “charlieplexed” mode that allows simple animations. I believe EMSL will be offering the generic form of the kit sometime soon.)

City of San Jose; Intertubes? What are them? Sounds ‘xpensive.

Monday, January 28th, 2008
San Jose Museum of Art 17

We visited the San Jose Museum of Art over the weekend. Roger totally dug it; sketching various scenes that he found inspiring.

Of course, we ended up with a $28 parking ticket. No surprises there. I mean, we parked in a marked parking space that had no parking limitation signs on Saturday near a meter that had no documented weekend rates are anything.

Obviously, a city that is trying to attract more tourists and more nearby residents would make accessibility to the downtown as easy and painless as possible. And a complete lack of posted parking policy is a BIG help. So is the total lack of grocery stores or other services that are necessary to support residents.

But I digress (and fully admit that it was my fault for not assuming that the city wouldn’t maximize revenue opportunities).

So, I went to pay the parking ticket online. Clearly, a city at the heart of silicon valley in the proactively environmental state of California will have an online payment system!

Sure does! And the fine City of San Jose will charge you $3 for the privilege of paying via their web site. Let’s see — $3 surcharge for a transaction that involves no paper, no illegible handwriting, no check processing, and less bookkeeping? Makes perfect sense.


So, I’ll just pay that damned ticket via online banking.

Uh, no. The Fine City of San Jose effectively requires that you submit your Parking Violation payment with the Parking Violation Ticket itself.

No online banking for you!

Clearly, the City of San Jose hates them pesky trees.

MMm…. the smell of hot solder in the evening.

Monday, January 28th, 2008
Lots of Soldering to Look Forward To!

I spent a chunk of the evenings this weekend soldering together the aforementioned kits from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

As I said before, truly awesome kits.

While assembling the kits, I whipped out the camera and took a few random photos.

The kits are done, but I’m holding on the final photos until tomorrow.

So, for now, click on through for a bit of macro electronic assembly pr0n.

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday, January 26th, 2008

In the last week, I received two very cool packages in the mail.

The first to arrive was my lemur from Mike Lee. While avoiding a sharp kick in the gonads (as threatened by Wil, anyway) was certainly a motivator, I joined Club Thievey primarily because Madagascar is a terribly cool place (that I hope to visit with my son), nature is an awesomely cool thing (of which I hope there is some left when my son grows up), we should all be doing our part to help out (both locally and occasionally throwing $$ at the abstract), and Mike is just one genuinely really nice dude (or 2.5 * dude, as it were).

And it was also because I have a coincidental soft spot in my heart for lemurs. In college, my frat — yes, I was in a frat, but it was the anti-frat… hazing not allowed, most honorable bunch of folk around, zero tolerance rape policy (sad to even have to say that, but I wouldn’t have been there unless it were true), etc… — participated in buggy races.

Anyway, we had a series of buggies named after various critters such as Jerboa and Lemur.

At the time, a bit of research revealed that these are some damned cool critters often living in some challenging areas of the world. Thus, lemurs have been of interest to me for over a decade.

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Objective-C: Printing Class Name from Dtrace

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

When analyzing an Objective-C application with Dtrace, one big challenge is how to introspect any objective-c objects that are passed as parameters into the various trace points.

While you can use the Objective-C provider (documented on the dtrace man page) to trace particular methods of specific classes, it doesn’t really help for actually introspecting an instance or class.

By “introspecting”, I mean “printing out the damned class name”, for example.

Full monty on the click through.

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House Colonoscopy Results

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

We have had sporadic drainage problems with all drains on one side of our house, the side opposite of the sewage outflow to the city’s pipes. When it gets clogged, I shove a hose with a clog blaster on the end through the pipe and have had some success at restoring the flow. Of course, this is no permanent solution.

So, today we had Roto Rooter show up with their $10,000 camera system to do a colonoscopy on the house. Of course, prior to the pipe inspection, Roto Rooter performed the equivalent of a household high colonic by shoving spinning blades through the pipe.

Their camera made it 8 feet into the house before falling out the bottom of our busted main sewage line. Pictured at left. I might have to post a YouTube video as the video is much clearer.

Now, coincidentally, 8 feet in from that particular outside wall of the is the kitchen island composed of 6 cabinets, the stove, and the oven. Actually, the hole in the pipe is exactly below the very middle of the kitchen island. Exactly.

How convenient….


And, of course, when I was clog blasting, the actual clog is about 20 feet beyond that particular break in the pipe. We’ll have to repair the pipe at the 8 foot mark to be able to shove the camera beyond to find whatever the real problem is quite a bit further down the line (hoping, of course, that there isn’t some other catastrophic broken pipeness in between).

To further complicate matters, we have radiant heat that will have to be repaired anywhere where we have to dig through the slab to fix the sewer pipe at the bottom.


This weekend, Ben and I are likely going to head to Fry’s to throw together our own pipe violator camera unit. Should be able to do so for sub $100.

HD DVD is stupid.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

So, it appears to boot to the stupid loading screen whenever this disc is inserted. The extended web enabled content looks kinda cool, though I didn’t bother with it.

The movie, itself, is just flat out gorgeous. But, wow, what a stupid user experience to play the damned disc.

Tonight, we dropped Transformers (HD DVD) into the HD DVD player to check out the amazing awesomeness supposedly contained within.

No such luck.

The stupid disc booted to a stupid “updating advanced web content” screen.

And then it sat there.

Only indication that someone was going on was the silly horizontal rule would occasionally have a rolling highlight.

But nothing happened. Not after 2 minutes, not after 20.

But, hey! There is a [CANCEL] button.

Except that there is no cancel button on the remote, nor does the UI respond to any random key-presses on the remote, nor does it do anything when you hit OK.

Or, maybe it does? Eventually, the “loading” UI went away and the movie started.

Looks really really good, too.

But, wow, what an incredibly broken, stupid, and horribly designed user experience.

This generation of media will hopefully die a quick death. I can’t imagine Blu-ray is worse, but it doesn’t sound like a party either.

I’m very much looking forward to the Apple TV software update. Depending on the experience, Netflix will either be downgraded by a disc or eliminated entirely.

Name those Objects! (Round 1)

Friday, January 18th, 2008

In response to my “everything drawer” post, my mom sent me these pictures and wrote:

We have an “everything house”, a much larger problem than just an “everything drawer”. We made it through 2 parts of the utility room cabinet.

The two articles below are unknown to us. Do they belong to you? Do you want or need them? Do they do anything? Please reply, tomorrow is trash day.

I haven’t a clue on either one. I’d almost label the wooden block a “Pen Holder”.

Cone filled with concrete?!??! Huh?

Any ideas?

Objective-C: Atomic, properties, threading and/or custom setter/getter

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Jim Correia asked on cocoa-dev:

Can you offer any advice for the times when I must write my own accessor, but want it to have similar behaviors to the autogenerated accessor? In particular, I’m thinking about the default atomic behavior. Is this simply wrapping the work in a @synchronized(self) block? Something else?

First, some context. Jim is referring to Objective-C 2.0’s properties and, more specifically, to the behavior of methods automatically synthesized by the compiler.

By default, synthesized accessors are atomic. Atomic does not mean thread safe.

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What is in your everything drawer?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008
Junk Drawer
Junk Drawer After Cleaning

Growing up, we had an everything drawer in our kitchen. As the name implied, it collected all the stuff that didn’t obviously have a home somewhere else.

Need a rubber band? Everything drawer.

Need some tape? Glue? Shoddy screwdriver? Everything drawer.

Key to unknown locks? Cap to pens long lost? Lighters with no fuel? Bent nail? Yup. Everything drawer.

Of course, we still have an “everything drawer”. My sister wrote up the contents of her “everything drawer” — or drawers in her case — for a bit of contest posted by Jules.

Pictured at left is our generic everything drawer. It has looked about like that, with varying contents, for the past five years, even though the contents have moved between houses twice.

Some content highlights:

  • Many batteries of various sizes, including a battery pack for an electric screwdriver that broke 2 years ago and a battery 4 battery packs for an “electric fence” that was in our house in CT 5 years ago (and we used once, then shut it off whne it shocked our dog when she entered the kitchen. Poor Janis.).
  • A shoddy screwdriver and a decent flower print screwdriver.
  • A strip 6 strips of staples that do not fit any stapler we own.
  • Two things of silly putty that turned to rock a long time ago.
  • Plumber’s tape well separated from its lid.
  • A dozen or more keys to unlock the unknown.
  • Glue. Some may be useful. Some already hard.
  • Digital thermometer with no probe.
  • Ear plugs.
  • Two carpet cutting knives. I think I now have four of these. No idea why.
  • Hose bits; two way valves, washers, nozzle.
  • LED flashlight eaten by battery acid.
  • Christmas light bits.
  • Two dozen keys for locks unknown.
  • A bent hanger hook.
  • A dozen different allen wrenches, but only in two sizes.

And goodness knows what else… OK. Off to clean the damned drawer. Update: Cleaned. Tons of good batteries, some bad. All tools migrated back to the garage.

Of course, I also have specialized everything drawers in my garage. My screw drawer, for example. And my allen wrench drawer. Or the drawer that contains 12 lbs of bottle openers and pocket knives.

What is in your everything drawer?