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May 9th, 2012 by Ian

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Rudders – Kind of a Big Deal

September 5th, 2010 by Ian

I had a fright this afternoon on Lake Harriet.  I am chronicling it hear so that I will never make this mistake again.

Xiaowen and I took out a Catalina Capri 16.5′ on Lake Harriet.  It was a very brisk day for small boats, winds gusting up over 15, steady at 10-13.  Our club boats are moored to buoys in a buoy field, and typically you row them with a tender (rowboat) to the dock to rig them up and take’em out.  Towing her through the field was mighty tricky as the waves were extremely choppy.

But we got the boat to the dock, rigged her up, and shoved off the dock on a port tack.  Or so we thought.  Then we started going backwards, drifting towards the boats in the buoy field and the shore.  I had no idea why the boat wasn’t responding.  At first I thought maybe I just was stuck in irons, the bow  pointing into the wind.  But it was obvious that this was not the case as no matter how I adjusted the sail trim, I couldn’t get any forward momentum.  Steering seemed really unresponsive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Instapaper an Entire WordPress Blog

August 22nd, 2010 by Ian

I love Instapaper, the web service that converts long form articles into beautifully typeset documents for offline reading on your iPhone or iPad.  There are many blogs that have a very chronological progession, or tell a story in a linear way that isn’t dated over time (IE not a tech blog).  I was thinking it would be cool to have an ebook  of these blogs, but why bother figuring the epub format out when Instapaper is right there?

The problem is Instapaper assumes you only have one file your are instapapering, not blog posts split into many many pages.  So I needed a way to make this one monolithic file.  I couldn’t find any programs for free that do this, so I wrote a little Python script I call Cheeser.  Cheeser downloads WordPress blog posts in chronological order.  Why is it called Cheeser?  From Urban Dictionary, Cheeser definition:

In the gaming world, a person who repeatedly performs the same moves in fighting games (such as in Soul Caliber, Street Fighter, etc) in order to win.

Read the rest of this entry »

Herb Garden Week 5

August 10th, 2010 by Ian

Update in the Herb Garden saga.  It’s going well, particularly in basil land, which is the most important to me anyway.  Have picked a few batches of basil as well as salad greens, but they keep right on’a growing.

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Notes from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting

July 25th, 2010 by Ian

Just finished reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting on my iPad.  So I remember the details here are some notes.

The central theme of the book is don’t over think composting.  You don’t have to measure the pH level, or calculate your precise nitrogen to carbon ratio.  Mother nature will compost naturally, no matter how badly you screw up.  Comforting.

The three ingredients for good compost are carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.  You get the oxygen from turning the compost occasionally.  Micro-organisms come from the ground underneath your compost, and are the workhorse of the process.  They are mostly kinds of good bacteria.  But worms and other macro-organisms are also really helpful.

Carbon to nitrogen ratio should be 30:1 in your compost.  As a point of reference, cut grass is 20:1, fruit waste is 35:1, wood chips are 400:1.  But basically, you should just strive for 50:50 brown to green.  Half carbon based, half nitrogen based. Read the rest of this entry »

Herb Garden Week 2

July 23rd, 2010 by Ian

I planted an herb garden with my sister two weeks ago.  Here is the progress so far.

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Project Idea: Consultant Market for PhDs

July 19th, 2010 by Ian

For academics with doctorate degrees, consulting on the side is pretty common.  But it’s mostly the gray beards who do all the consulting.  They’ve been in their field a long time and have had years to network their way into a steady stream of side gigs.  For younger PhDs, getting into the consulting world is a mysterious step.  Kind of like landing your first job, how does a PhD get into consulting if they’ve never been a consultant before?

Then there are the companies that need to hire a PhD for a short project.  I can’t find a good place for these companies to go.  One option is to call their local university, rely on alumni connections or cold call an academic department.  But it seems like a crapshoot, who knows if there will be anyone there that is even interested, has the time, or relevant experience.

I’m thinking a solution would be something like or, but for PhDs.  So rather than a job board, it’s project based.  PhDs post their profiles, including academic resume, past consulting experiences, rate, etc.  Read the rest of this entry »

Project Idea: Clean in these Countries

March 12th, 2010 by Ian

Today I made up a word to name a top sekrit project.  It’s one of those words you look at and wonder “Does this means something obscene in Croatian?”  I looked around for a tool that could quickly tell me what this word means in a bunch of different languages, and I didn’t have much luck finding one.

There are plenty of tools that will let you do translation, and even a few multi-translators.  But they all assume you know the language you are translating from.  In this case, we don’t.

What I want is a tool where you put in a word, it translates it from every language it possibly can, into English.  Then it would show all the results in a list.  It looks like Google AJAX Language API could be used to do this.

Project Idea: Bitchy Tweets

March 8th, 2010 by Ian

Bitchy Tweets would be a website where you quickly rank a person’s twitter stream on how much they complain about stuff, and determine their positive/negative tweet ratio.  The result would be a ranking of where they sit on the complaintometer.

I’m imagining you enter a user’s name (or just, and are given a quick ajax listing of their last 15 tweets.  You can then just quickly check off the ones that are considered bitchy.  You click ‘I’m done’ and you get one of those dials similar to DSL speed test, of where the person ranks on the bitchometer.  A link to this graph for future reference is given.

A history of rankings would be kept, so hopefully overtime the ranking could become more accurate, and given an average as the result of the ranking.

Project Idea: Annotate Screenshots, Easy Instructions

February 10th, 2010 by Ian

As part of my IT job, I sometimes have to put together instructions for how to install or use a program.  Would be nice to automate this.  The hardest part of the whole thing is taking the screenshots and integrating them into a document.  The more visual the instructions are, and the less words, the generally more effective they are.

I’m thinking of a webapp where you could import screenshots, and then easily mark up the screen shots with instructions.  Draw a box around the ‘OK’ button in a screenshot, and enter ‘Click this’ and an arrow with the text is automatically painted on the screenshot.

It would also be cool if you could customize certain fields based on a query string.  So if I am sending instructions to user ‘szissou’, the user field in the screenshot is automatically filled in with szissou.

Wire it up: A Modular Project

January 24th, 2010 by Ian

This experiment was the longest yet.  The goal here is to build up a circuit that makes a pulsating style noise, like a burglar alarm.  In the process I learned about programmable unijunction transistors (PUTs), and how to use bipolar transistors (in this case the 2N2222) to amplify a signal.

Making some notes to myself here about PUTs, as this is the major new component introduced in this experiment.   The most common PUT is model 2N6027.

Like a bipolar transistor, a PUT has three leads.  However, they are called the anode (input), gate, and cathode (output).  The lead orientation of a PUT is opposite of a 2N2222.  So if you have the flat side facing left and the round side facing right, this will put the anode at the top and cathode at the bottom.

There are two main differences between a PUT and a bipolar transistor. Read the rest of this entry »

Two More Electronics Books

January 21st, 2010 by Ian

My startegy for learning stuff by lonesome is triangulation.  When you are book learnin, often times there will be gaps in one author’s explanation.  By getting two or three books that cover the same material, you can can use your secondary books to backup your ‘main’ book.

Make: Electronics is still my main book.  But now I got the classic Getting Started in Electronics too.  Also picked up Electronics for Dummies.  I’ve already run into a few things I was spotty on.  For instance, with a unijunction transistor, I get that you program it’s voltage tipping point via a resistor.  But what I don’t get is how you know what that point is.  Hoping that when I run into these kinds of situations, the other books will help me out.

Project Idea: Highscore Website

January 20th, 2010 by Ian

I’d like to see a video game leader board website.  It should have a super simple API.  Anyone game can submit to it once the developer has an API key.  It would not be tied to any particular game engine, totally neutral.

Each leader board would have an RSS feed that can be used be rebroadcast that data on other sites/within a game itself.  It would be nice if there was a way for people to ‘claim’ their scores somehow, so they all show under one unified account.  Not sure how this might work.  Maybe facebook connect/oauth is part of the puzzle.

XBox Live certainly has this concept, but it’s an island (a really big, totally awesome island).  But what about random flash games, iPhone games, etc.

There might be some sites out there doing this, but they seem to be tied to specific platform or engines.

Resistor Color Code Trainer

January 20th, 2010 by Ian

Resistors have a color code that tells you how many ohms of resistance they offer.  This site quizzes your memorization of the codes.

Wire it up: Transistor Switching

January 10th, 2010 by Ian

I’ve wired up Experiment 10 from the book Make:  Electronics by Charles Platt.

I show a couple of things in this video.  First off, I’m using an NPN style transistor to switch complete the circuit to an LED.  A NPN transistor has three leads: a collector, a base, and an emitter.  When the base receives current it enters a switched state, which connects the collector and and emitter leads.  The collector is positive and the emitter is negative (this is reversed for a PNP transistor).

Read the rest of this entry »

Wire it up: Time and Capacitors

January 10th, 2010 by Ian

I’ve wired up Experiment 9 from the book Make:  Electronics by Charles Platt.

This experiment shows you can use use a resistor and a capacitor to create a timer.  The multimeter on the left measures voltage.  As I swap in a 100K resistor, a 47K resistor, and a 10K resistor, the charge up time gets faster and faster.  In other words, the less resistance in the circuit, the “quicker” the flow of current to the capacitor, and the faster it charges up.

I’m using the push button in this experiment to complete the circuit, that way it’s not always going while I swap out resistors.

Project Idea: Open garage door with iPhone

January 10th, 2010 by Ian

Garage doors are a big deal when a mistaken open means precious seconds waiting in the sub zero outdoors.

Current problems with my garage door…

  • I don’t know if the doors open or closed.  I have no line of sight, so I often close the door when it’s open, or am uncertain if I had really opened it.
  • My remote sucks and sometimes the signal is too weak to open the garage door, and I have to walk outside to do it.
  • Sometimes I just plain forget after I’ve already walked outside and left the remote locked in the house.

Once I get better at this electronics thing, I’d like to setup a rig that:

    • Opens or closes the garage door via an iPhone formatted web page
    • Checks the current open/close status of the door and posts that to the web page

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Wire it Up: A Relay Oscillator Breadboard Version

    January 3rd, 2010 by Ian

    The same circuit as this one, but breadboardified.  Finally (nearly) free of alligator clips.

    Wire it up: A Relay Oscillator

    January 2nd, 2010 by Ian

    I’ve wired up Experiment 8 from the book Make:  Electronics by Charles Platt.  I’m 90% I’ve got it right.

    By adding a 100uF capacitor to experiment 7, the relay stays in the non-relaxed switch position for a little under a second, then very briefly relaxes, and then re-engages.  This is why the green LED (relaxed state) blinks on every second, but the amber LED appears to be almost solid.  The amber LED actually is blinking for a split second, but it’s imperceptible in this video.

    Wire it up: Relay and push button

    January 1st, 2010 by Ian

    I’ve wired up experiment #7 from the book Make: Electronics by Charles Platt.

    This purpose of this circuit is to demonstrate how to use a relay to switch between two LEDs. Using a DPDT non-latching 12v relay + SPST push-button switch, two LEDs, and a 680 ohm resistor. Power is off of a spliced radio shack 1000ma DC power supply set at 12v.

    God I hate alligator clips. The circuit is a tad wobbly due to my crummy wiring.


    Waitin for my flight to, as Rumsfeld used to say, “Old Europe”. Germany you just ain’t no Latvia.

    My sense of schadenfreude for GoDaddy being down would be stronger if this wasn’t affecting two of my favorite clients. Hover dot com folks.

    It’s really hoppin @CoCoMSP today. Awesome vibe.

    Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour this this Saturday! I am non-sarcastically excited about this.

    It takes guts to rhyme “shark” and “heart” in a pop song.

    Twin Citians: Can anyone recommend an excellent CPA that has experience helping freelancers get setup?

    Oh my. SFTP plugin for Sublime Text just changed my life.

    Volunteering at #minnedemo tonight. Looking forward to giving back to the Minnestar folks for all the awesome work they do.

    Portland, yea.

    Excellent discussion about freelancing on this HN thread:

    Home via @claycollins

    Only when in China do I start having thoughts like “Maybe I should go get a pedicure.”

    Landed Tokyo.

    The GFW is the original distraction free writing environment.

    Actually no, forget that, setting up a freaking VPN.

    Headed to Beijing Monday, and you know what that means. Time to setup a proxy server.

    At Halcyon Cafe in Austin…love a coffee shop with a full bar.

    Nostalgic buffer overrun detected. Debug output follows.

    Headed to #minnewebcon

    Found someone’s iPhone in a parking lot, but lock screen prevents me from calling their friends to let them know. Design fail :(

    Feels like I haven’t been to CoCo West in ages. Headin in now to get me some of that fancy new wifi.

    Feeling the urge to build a chicken coop.

    Submitted (silly project I demoed at Minnebar) to Hacker News. Mind up-voting for great justice?

    There IS a retro arcade in Minneapolis. Does it have a bar? #importantquestions #dealbreakers

    Folks seemed to dig my lightning talk for at #MinneBar , to my great relief!

    Here’s a fun weekends project I just took live. HAWT BREAD. Hot or Not…for bread. Yea, get excited. really enjoys notifying me of new women’s entrepreneurial groups for some reason.

    Congrats to @maxticket on releasing the new version of @GetRevisu. Pretty sweet.

    Used Twitter Boostrap? Help! I’m testing a product idea, please fill out this 4-question survey with your thoughts.

    Okay, wow. Once you get the hang of it, Bootstrap for clicky mockups is FAST. Good freaking luck Axure.