I was going through some old files (I’m kind of a pack rat in that sense) and discovered the schematic above. For those of you who’ve seen The Good at any point since about 1996—and shame on those of you who haven’t—you’ve surely noted the four floorstanding houselamps we have on stage. They’re the kind of thing your grandma had in her house in the 70’s. We drilled holes out in the lampshades so they spell out G-O-O-D. See what we did there?
We’d been touring with them for a while, I think, when the idea struck me that it’d be fun to animate the lights, to set them up to blink rather than just be on all the time. There were various professional lighting devices available at the time that would have met the requirements and more, but we were already in debt and barely clawing out with our gig money. It was cheaper to build than to buy. So I designed and built this digital controller circuit for under $150. That’s it in the second picture. The control circuit is in the leftmost junction box, and the second one has solid state relays to control the 120V lamp circuits. It’s all screwed to a 2x6. There is also a remote footswitch to turn the lights on/off, and to initiate the blinking sequence.
Here’s what struck me as I looked at the yellowing schematic: I have been building technology, first as a hobbyist and then professionally, since I was about twelve years old. None of the software I built for a living (not counting my current “job”) is running anywhere. I don’t think that’s so much a referendum on the quality of my work—just life in a corner of the financial services world where ideas don’t work forever, so by definition neither will your software. And all the audio gadgets I’ve built over the years are in landfills. Most couldn’t handle life on the road, or were inferior to commercial products that are also cheaper.
But this stupid thing—after years of rough treatment traveling the country, being stomped on, having beer spilled on it, being chucked into trailers at 2:00am—is still running strong since 1996. Other than a couple of failed receptacles which you can see are disabled by duct tape, this has never required maintenance. This is by far my most enduring engineering work.
Setting up a Minecraft server (PE edition) on my linux box in the basement for Danny. Next step will be to poke a hole in the firewall and set up a whitelist (and a network ACL) so his buddies can play with him.
I know that Minecraft is much decried as a terrible time waster, and some kids display borderline addictive behavior around it. I kinda feel like there are analogies here to giving them condoms when they get a little older: they’re going to do it anyway, so they might as well do it under the safest conditions possible.
Anyone else noticing some very long load times for tumblr lately? I caught this one in the act — took over 20 seconds for www.tumblr.com to respond to the initial GET. Slower than Stephen Hawking on a Tough Mudder course.
My uncle is a bigger nerd than me. He worked for a part of NOAA called the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL…really). Even though he’s retired now, he is still into it. This map shows the paths of six buoys that they dumped into the middle of Lake Michigan four weeks ago. The buoys have been reporting their position that whole time, and their paths and a lot of other data have been tracked. Their current positions are not far from where we are right now; my uncle thought I should know in case they beach here.
Here is a hypnotizing animated GIF of their progress. I’d post it directly but Tumblr hates it. My uncle says the small circular motions are primarily due to the rotation of the Earth, and to a lesser extent, thermal striations in the lake.
I’ve been away from C++ programming for a few years, and I am getting back into it at a time when all the C++11 standard changes are widely available in the compilers, including gcc. The thing I am perhaps most struck by is how right they got some of it, while at the same time, how much further…
Hey. Hey there.
It won’t be updated a whole lot, a couple times a week at most. No hard feelings if you don’t follow.
(Kinda surprised Pyongyang has an airport code.)
Free business idea: parallel LED Christmas lights
When I was a kid, Christmas* lights were big. Exclusively. One huge advantage of those big ones was that they were shrunken versions of the 120V lights around the rest of your house, so they were wired in parallel on the strings. This meant that when they burned out, they didn’t affect each other at all. You found the dead ones and replaced them.
The little lights came later, but as we all know, they came with a huge downside: since they are wired in series, if one burns out, a whole segment of the string goes down with it. Maybe all of them. You can either spend hours swapping each bulb out with one you hope is good, or trash them. If two are dead, you’re basically fucked, since the number of bulbs you have to swap grows combinatorially.
Recently, the rage is LED bulbs. They last longer, use less power, and are prettier in some people’s opinions. But they are still low voltage devices, still wired in series like the old school ones. If one fails to a short, you lose the voltage drop and the other ones burn more brightly for a brief period before they start to fail in cascade. And if one fails to an open, you’re still stuck with the possibly combinatorial exercise in bulb swapping. Either way, it’s in the landfill, now with a bunch of increasingly hard-to-find rare earth elements as part of the deal.
Solution: add, at nominal cost, a low voltage DC power supply to the head of the chain and wire the LEDs in parallel just like the old school giant bulbs. For the cost of a rectifier, a voltage regulator, a capacitor, and a small transformer, you make maintenance trivial and guarantee these bulb strings will last forever.
I’d pay $5 more for that chain; wouldn’t you?
* choose the winter solstice holiday you like
Google knows what’s best for me
Suddenly, when launching Chrome, it opens with two tabs where there used to be one. One, as ever, is my had-it-forever but soon-to-die iGoogle page, but with it is another, unadorned google.com search page. I had to go into settings to disable this. It happened on my work mac and both of them here at home.
The only conclusion I can reach is that Google is trying to wean me off their deprecated web product by pushing an unrequested change into my settings on their browser product. Anyone else seeing similar? Anyone have an alternate theory?
All within their rights, probably, but how utterly fucking creepy. It’s convenient to have all my services in one place, and it’s nice that it’s “free” and all, but the real cost of ownership in the Google family is starting to give me a serious case of the icks.
(I don’t really want to discuss how it’s free and I have no right to complain, so stifle, Edith.)
At the “explanation” page, linked above, they say in classic Google fashion that the need for those widgets is going away thanks to modern browsers like Chrome and “operating systems” like Android.
Riddle me this: how can I get a bunch of those Chrome “apps” to appear side by side on a single page, running all the time, and make that my home page? Am I just too full of margaritas to figure this out? Turning my home page into something like the home screen on my iPhone is not really what I’m looking for. I have all this real estate; why can’t I use it? A home page full of “browser app” icons is better than a short list of bookmarks…how, exactly?
God, I hate Google.
If you’re dying for the updated quick picks code that can handle PowerBall and MegaMillions, as well as an improved method of generating the final random number, the source is here.
Related: I’m back at work today.
Mega Millions: On Generating Better Quick Picks
Since everyone has Mega Millions fever today, and I am concerned that you might not know I am the biggest nerd in the universe, let me share my shame with you: a few years ago, I wrote a program to generate “better” quick picks.
Here’s the source. The picture below is a sample output run.
Why do I think my quick picks are better?
19 views, 0 replies. Here’s why grownup companies don’t just outsource their tech support to user forums, Netgear.
The good news is, the drives in this NAS which is apparently a brick (though I’ll never really know for sure) will fit right into the Thecus I’m buying.
Fuck you, Netgear. Eat a whole box of frozen dicks.
A kernel so sad it can’t find the words, but still trying to say it 40,000 times every 30 seconds.
Light a candle.
0 votes, 0 answers.
If you need another reason to hate Facebook, you can go with their decision to crowdsource questions about platform development to fucking StackExchange. Their own forum wasn’t a lot better, but there was an occasional Facebook employee around to help. No more. They figure that other platform developers, who are by definition your competition, will pitch in and solve your problems. Yeah, good.
Suck it, Zuck.
Music nerd toy: LilyPond
I found myself needing to notate some music in a hurry. I wasn’t in the mood to shell out big $ for Sibelius or the like, and while I have Logic Pro and it can do notation, it’s awkward and feels like it was jammed in after the fact (which it was, since it’s really a pro audio tool).
So I looked around last night and found LilyPond, a nifty little app that takes text files as input and typesets fairly well. You describe music in this odd looking language and compile it into a PDF. The language, though quirky, makes sense once you get used to it and I was able to translate this:
And it only took about 30 minutes. I did a second, slightly less complicated piece in about 5 minutes since I was more comfortable with the language.
Anyway, decent stuff and it’s free, including a little wrapper app that helps you manage the text files and output, even though it could probably be done from the command line in a terminal window. Mac and Windows versions are there…worth a look if this sort of thing interests you.
Bonus points if you can name that tune. (Or come to Martyrs tonight and find out!)