Thursday, December 26, 2013

A picture of forming habits

I've started using Beeminder to track new habits I'm forming with my newly upgraded habit formation system. Here's this month's habit. Each dot is me using my new habit.

Yeah baby!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shrinking a Bike Tube

For example, this lets you fit a 29" tube in a 26" tire. Here's a video tutorial. What a clever hack!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Solving My Oldest Technical Problem

One of the first unsolved problems I can remember, is probably from when I was about 10. I wanted to connect loose wires to a headphone plug. I don't exactly remember why. Maybe I was splitting a signal to 2 headphones. Anyway, I remember it being a complete pain in the ass. I'd try to twist the wires onto the 3 contacts on the plug in various ways and they'd always slip to one side and short across contacts.

Eventually I grew up, bought splitters, learned to solder, and otherwise moved past this problem.

On a recent flight, I had this classic situation again: the stupid plane had the weird old headphone jacks which have 2 mono 1/8" jacks instead of the standard single stereo jack. This means you can't plug normal headphones into them and hear sound in both ears. Of course the headphones they gave out which plug into these jacks sounded like crap. Unacceptable.

I ripped apart the plane headphones and tried to figure out how to connect them to my nice ones in a way that wouldn't screw up 10 minutes into my movie. Low and behold, I came up with a pretty damn good solution! I used pieces of insulation to tie bands around the connector in a way that both held the wires in place, and prevented them from shorting!

You may notice that the tip doesn't need a band to keep the wire from falling off because it narrows at the end away from the tip so the wire stays in that indented area.

It was so satisfying to be able to use my upgraded problem solving skills to solve the oldest technical problem I can remember having!

Life is good.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

OSE: Ironworker disassembly and documentation

OSE: What I've been up to recently

First off, an amazing video of me testing the backhoe in the shop and Marcin discussing our outdoor testing.

Then a series of short, not-quite-as-exciting videos from today of us disassembling the ironworker so we can reassemble it with thicker metal to try to fix the bending problem, and creating detailed assembly instructions as we went:

And here's a quick summary of all the stuff I've been doing out here over the month:

I worked on the backhoe 3 for a couple of weeks, redesigning a bunch of it and building it. Now I'm finishing up the ironworker 3. If I have time after that before I leave on Wed, I'd really like to take a quick pass at getting the torch table up and running. I'm also cleaning up the wiki, helping with assembly guides, and trying to improve various tools and processes (eg using github for issue tracking). And I've spent a bit of time working on the microhouse and fixing odds and ends at the hablab. Holy shit that's a lot of stuff!!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

OSE: Microhouse Overview

Here's a post on the OSE blog with an overview of the Microhouse project and what I was doing for most of last week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Open Source Ecology Work Log

If you're interested in the details of what I'm working on at Factor E Farm, keep an eye on I'll still try to post interesting pictures here though.

Friday, October 4, 2013

OSE: Plastering the Microhouse

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Happiness Habits, review

I got too busy and distracted to do constant updates but I did keep the plan in mind. I didn't do each thing every day though.

Weekends continued to be a challenge for remembering the experiment.

I missed exercising many days although now that it's getting warm and I fixed my flat, I'll be biking to the office many days, so my exercise will happen automatically.

I feel like I did ok and continue to do ok at trying to be in the moment semi-regularly.

I probably need to step up my random acts of kindness. They're fast and easy and make me and the recipient feel great right away. I'll put a daily reminder on my calendar to do them!

I think I feel happier overall although there's so many variables it's hard to know if this is why. It can't hurt though and I feel really good about doing this and trying to keep these habits in my life.

Good experiment!

Next experiment- I'm trying to see if I can get some partners to do HIIT workouts for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happiness Habits, day 7

The past few days haven't been good. I'm been tired, which makes me grumpy, and I haven't been keeping up with these habits. On the up side, I had a really fun hackathon with my friend on Saturday and went for a jog!! Amazing!

The weekends tend to be hard for me to keep up with any kind of regularly scheduled thing because I have a random schedule and often don't look at my computer for a day or 2. I think I'll try setting a daily alarm for this coming weekend to help myself stay on track.

I'll try to resume my normally scheduled happiness routine today. Here I go!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happiness Habit, Day 3

I got distracted last night and didn't do everything. I did get in some exercise biking home from work and had a few nice moments of mindfulness and presence. I also got in an act of kindness. So still a good day.

I want to incorporate my gratitudes and journaling into my schedule earlier than I've been doing it. I've been getting to the end of the day and going "Oh shit, I need to do that." I thought about doing it when I woke up yesterday but I was too groggy and not in the right frame of mind. I'll try linking the behavior to lunch. That's not always the same time, but I'll try to remember that right after I eat lunch, I should do those things.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happiness Habits, day 2

I'm grateful that I could buy a new computer when my old one broke. The new one works so nicely in a hundred little ways that it almost seems like magic.

I'm grateful that I have a boss who's a great listener and talker.

I'm grateful that I live in a beautiful neighborhood filled with friendly people and no honking :-)

I relived playing music with my friend Dave. We do this once in a while and it's always fun. Tonight was a blast, especially since we played so many songs I know well.

I realized at 1:30 this morning that I hadn't done my exercise and did 5 minutes of it even though I was really tired. Go me!

I forgot to be present/mindful when sitting and drinking but I did get in some good mindfulness when walking around so that was good.

I sent a nice email to my brother.

I'd like to try doing this stuff in the mornings instead of right before I go to sleep. It might put me in a good frame of mind to approach the rest of the day.

Day 2 down, 19 to go.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Building Happiness Habits

Based on a TED talk, I'm going to spend the next 21 days trying to form some habits which I hope will make me happier.

Every day I'm going to:

  • think of 3 things I'm grateful for,
  • relive in my mind one good experience I had in the past day,
  • do at least 5 minutes of exercise,
  • "meditate", and
  • do one random act of kindness (ARK from Evan Almighty) like sending a nice email to someone.
When I say meditate, I'm adapting that a bit to mean being mindful and present in the sense that David at talks about. I tried the sitting and opening doors scheme briefly and it didn't quite click, although to be fair I didn't give it much time. But I feel like trying something similar for this: whenever I sit or drink something, I'll try to be fully present.

I'm not sure if this counts as meditation in the way Shawn describes in the video, but I like the idea of it and this is my experiment so I'm going to do it!

I'm going to try to make each of my "things" unique each day. For example, I won't reuse things I'm grateful for.

My wife and cousin in law have talked about doing this too. We'll see how that goes!

If I feel like it, I'll write a short post each day with what I did that day.

Today (April 3) was the first day.

I'm grateful for my wife being so patient with all my crazy plans and ideas, especially when they cause her to change the way she does things.

I'm grateful for living in a place where we have law and order. I walk around without worrying about being hurt by other citizens or my government. I conduct business and know I'll be paid fairly and that I don't have to worry about my money being stolen.

I'm grateful that I'm never hungry. At any time of the day there's an unlimited quantity and an almost unlimited variety of food available to me for so little money. Whatever I happen to be in the mood for, I can eat. Amazing.

I relived my lunch. I had a really nice lunch with my friend at work. It was beautiful out and we had some really nice and fun conversation.

As has become usual for Wednesdays, we had our workout group at the office so I definitely got in more that 5 minutes of exercise.

I forgot to be mindful when sitting and I just decided on the drinking part of it at the end of the day. I'll try again tomorrow!

For my ARK, I gave change to a guy on the subway. Somehow that doesn't seem like it should count, maybe because that's not unusual for me. Ah whatever, I can use it for one of my days :-)

Day 1, pretty awesome! 20 days to go.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I wrote a download validator

Last night I whipped up a first version of Valium. It's an automatic file validator to ensure downloaded files haven't been tampered with. This is my first real OS X program, although most of it should work on Windows too. Fun!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Locking a Mac with the Keyboard

The default keyboard shortcut uses the eject or power buttons, neither of which is on my Kinesis keyboard. has a good alternate method which worked like a charm!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Auto-clicker for OSX

I just bought a macbook pro and needed a break reminder and auto-clicker. I used to used RSI Guard which is a general purpose RSI tool with auto-clicking, break reminders and more. I didn't find an all in one solution for mac.

For break reminders, I'm trying out It looks ok although I wish it lived in the tray instead of as a running program which shows up in apple + tab.

I found the auto-clicker Sure enough it's more beautiful and slicker that the auto-click feature in RSI Guard. Sigh. Why don't windows developers make beautiful software?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Genie Backup Software

For years I've been looking for good backup software for windows. To me, "good" means as close as possible to Time Machine on OSX. Specifically:

  1. Requires no interaction.
  2. Flexible about running a backup. It knows that the backup drive will come and go and the computer won't always be on or idle at the same time every day and runs the backup when the drive is present and the machine is idle. Incremental backup is helpful for this, but not necessary.
  3. If it is going to run when the system isn't idle, it mustn't kill performance for me.
  4. Makes it easy to back up and restore the whole computer.
  5. Backs up meta data like file creation times.
  6. Backs up and restores in a sane amount of time.
I've used various versions of Norton Ghost which has been the best I could find but didn't meet all the criteria. I also tried one of the recent Acronis programs which was pretty similar.

A question on pointed me at the Genie tools. I bought Timeline Pro 2012 and I've tried it out for a couple of months. It beats Ghost in some categories and loses in others. Annoyingly, there are a whole bunch of stupid easy things that they do badly. I just hit a couple more of these and got so aggravated I had to write a post about it.

Here's my list of problems with Genie Timeline Pro 2012 and the company's site:

  1. Confusing products. There are 4 similar variants of the product and it's hard to figure out which to buy since they only compare 2 at a time in various pages on their site.
  2. The process to select what to back up sucks. It's optimized for only backing up some kinds of docs. Dumb. The default should be to back up the whole drive/computer. Figuring out how to do that is way too confusing. It's also unclear if it'll make duplicate back ups when selecting certain file types + whole computer. Eventually support me that I should only select disaster recovery and that will get everything.
  3. The initial backup of less than 500GB of data took days.
  4. Trying to restore the full computer backup took over 24 hours. At that point I gave up and killed it.
  5. I happened to look at their blog post for the end of 2012. It's negative, badly written, and has typos. (The irony of me complaining about their negativity in a negative post of my own isn't lost on me.)
  6. The order process sent me 3 emails. First I got 2 slightly different receipts. No key. I started signing up for an account to log into the site in the hopes of finding my key there when a 3rd email with the key showed up.

Since I hate to be (only) a hater, on the upside:
  1. Once it does the big initial backup, it only does incrementals, which are very fast.
  2. It didn't hurt performance much while running incrementals.
  3. The UI is nice and clean.
  4. It doesn't have a temper tantrum when I disconnect the backup drive. (Ghost pops up annoying notifications that the drive is missing.)
  5. There's a free trial.
  6. The restore tool is nice if you ignore it's speed: it's easy to pick what to restore and it restores file creation time.
Phew, I feel better having gotten that off my chest. Happy new year!!