RadioShack: A little Less Sucky.

I very rarely go to RadioShack nowadays, They used to be full of cool stuff and the best place to get components for electronics parts, but in the mid 90s, all that started to change; and resistors and capacitors were pushed out by beige consumer cordless phones, and breadboards were replaced by cheap cable splitters.

I went from going to RadioShack to grab a 555 timer to avoiding the place as much as I could, but today I went in to get a replacement tip for a desoldering Iron, and was very surprised to see that they are now stocking Arduino kits and have brought back a lot of components. What a welcome sight! RadioShack is helping make electronics fun and accessible again! 🙂


Dual Screen VESA Mount All In One FrankenComputer Hack

I am converting an old Compaq Laptop and A Dell Flat-Screen Desktop Monitor into an All-In-One computer with one power supply and dual Displays.


I took the display panel off the rear mount, and behind it there is just enough space to mount the power supply for the laptop motherboard.


And here I tied the power input to the same input the monitor shares.


Here is the first bench-test connected to the lower display.


Here is the notebook motherboard mounted to the back of the display and many of the connections routed.

It is aliiiiiiive!!!! Booted into Fedora 18 with both displays active.

Here is a better picture of the rear, showing how I routed all the data and power lines.

The final project. Complete.
Working, mounted to the wall, and ready for action!!!


The Bell-curve Of Society


My job requires me to make house-calls.

During my work day, I meet people. Old, young, and everywhere in-between, I know all kinds. Most people fit firmly into the center of the bell-curve of society, but there are those that stand at the outer edges of ‘normal’. These people can range from the mildly out of place, to my favorite: the ‘Eccentric Idea People’. These are the wild-eyed ones that tell you that they know that there is an alien-brain-reading-cosmic-ray trained on their houses. They believe that they have a deep insight into things that no one else can fathom. I like these people very much.

I take care to listen to their ideas, and even try and ask deeper, more pointed questions, to get at the root of the idea. I don’t want them to think I doubt the sincerity of their thoughts; and truthfully; I don’t. I know that they really believe what they tell me, and I am fascinated in their stories. If for no other reason, than to comprehend how the brain works at the edges of reality.

Today (2010) I met such a person; for the sake of the story, we will call her ‘Barbara’.

I arrived at her apartment to install an Internet connection, and after asking where she wanted her connection, I began my work. Generally; I make light conversation with the customers, And I began by telling her she had a nice view, and asking her if she liked the sun streaming through the windows in the morning.

She said she did, and then abruptly turned the conversation: “I am an author”

“What kind of books do you write?”

“Advanced Quantum Physics Books” she said.

Now this was a first, I have met some authors in my life, but never one that wrote Physics books. I am very interested in Physics, and not doubting the truth of her statement, asked:

“Do you think that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will find the Higgs Boson?”

She hesitated, and then said:

“I study Quantum Brains”

I noted that she skipped the question, but chalked that up to a lack of knowledge in particle physics, perhaps not uncommon to be so specialized in a single field of Physics as to lack knowledge of the LHC. I assumed that by ‘Quantum Brains’ she meant the theorized Quantum nature of Consciousness, and the idea that the brain does not work in ‘Newtonian Physics’ but requires the Uncertainty inherent in Quantum Mechanics to function.

“So you write about how the brain works, on a sub-atomic level?” This sounded interesting!

“No, I know how the brain moves up into the Quantum, and this is called seeing God. There is a helmet on the brain, and it blocks the Quantum, but when the brain moves up,” -here she made a fist, to stand for the brain, and cupped it with the other hand, to symbolize the skull, and moved the brain-fist up to show it nearly touching the top of the skull. “The quantum can get in, and it is seeing God. I have it copyrighted.”

WOW! I walked right into that one!
She continued to tell me how she has done work for the government, and they owe her billions, and that she is the only one who knows these things. She told me how she has insights into the inner workings of the mind, and how she writes papers all the time for the local university. (I checked, and can’t find her name anywhere.)

Once I finally got out of there, and had the chance to really think about what happened, I came to the conclusion that we need people like this in society. For if it were not for the audacity of a patent clerk named Einstein, we might perhaps still be fighting to understand the universe with Newtonian Physics. If not for an eccentric Telegraph operator ‘Thomas Edison’, you might be reading by candlelight.

We need the people that live at the edges of reality, and insist that they have an insight into the murky waters of our world, or perhaps out brains.

99% of the time they are just what they appear; but once in a while someone steps out of the darkness, and gives us all a bit of light.


How I Rate My iTunes Tracks


My active iTunes library is 6,800 tracks long, and for the purposes of reviews, I go through a hundred or more new songs each month. This amount of music would be daunting to manage, but I have picked up a few habits over the years that helps me keep it all in order:

When adding songs to the library, I always rate them as one star.
I have a smart play-list that only shows songs that have one star and have a play-count of 0.
This allows me to quickly go over the new songs that I have yet to hear. I only listen to this play-list when I have the time and presence of mind to focus on the song. I then rate the songs from that starting point as follows:

A decent song gets 2 stars.
Good songs get 3 stars.
Fantastic songs get 4
Songs that are beyond compare get the coveted 5 star rating. (in the library of almost 7,000 songs there are only 57 that have that rating.
If the song fails the test, and is lacking in some way; I remove its one star and rate it 0. This flags the song for either deletion or repair.
There really isn’t a place for songs of one star for long, they tend to cycle through my play-list until they get rated up or down, I then use the sort by rating option to find and remove/fix album art/lyrics on the 0 star tracks.


4 Weeks With A Nike Sportband

The Nike+ Sportband has been overall a good investment for me; as I addicted to information: it gives me a way to track my running progress, and set goals to push my stamina.I use it when I don’t want to run with Music, I have an iPhone 3GS that I use when I need that extra boost with a good running track.

One thing that is mildly Annoying: the thing is too small for my wrist, it can be quite uncomfortable, and the strap is tight enough to leave a mark after my run. I do have over-large wrists, but normally don’t have a problem finding a watch to fit me.As I have said before; I have never really been a runner. I have been a cyclist for many years, and thought I was in good shape, but running uses a whole other group of muscles. Ones that I didn’t even know I had!
Feel The Burn!!