Category Archives: Entertainment

Shapeoko: Part 2

This continues from where I left off in my previous post Shapeoko: Part 1.

I alternated my Sunday afternoon/evening between tackling my grading backlog and building pieces of the Shapeoko. This pattern works well for tapping since they are both exceptionally tedious tasks, but in different ways. Gallery with captions below the fold:
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Shapeoko: Part 1

My Shapeoko kit arrived from Inventables while I was away at SC.

I’ve been trying to build myself a small CNC milling machine since 2009, and contemplating it for longer than that. It became clear that my original design, however educational, was a dead end sometime last year. I’d been idly watching the Shapeoko project for some time as it had similar aspirations to my design, and a couple months ago I was in a particularly mechanical mood when I saw that a batch had reached enough buyers to be produced, so I bought in for a mechanical kit to mount my existing electronics on.

The Shapeoko community is really excellent, and the kit was designed to be flexible, so I’m starting off with some suggested modifications – I’m using NEMA23 motors instead of the usual NEMA17 on the X and Y axis, because I already had some nice Lin Engineering 130 oz-in NEMA23 motors and the frame can fit them. I’m configuring for dual Y motors, which give more even force across the Y axis, and routing my belts on the outside of the frame, since I needed to buy different hardware for the NEMA23 motors anyway and this particular modification is widely recommended.

There is a gallery to document my first round of assembly below the fold (captions don’t display properly in the RSS feed).
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As a fun aside to the previous post, there is a story my parents like to tell from my childhood, which generalizes the kind of permissive learning objects learning computers are an instance of. When I was very little, I … Continue reading

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Raspberry Pi

I finally got my Raspberry Pi yesterday, and wanted to ramble about it for a bit under the fold.
My Raspberry Pi
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The WiFi Common Ancestor

WaveLAN PCMCIA Card

We’ve been doing some parts closet cleaning along with the sysadmin types in our building on campus, and I spotted an original AT&T branded WaveLAN PCMICA card (Model 3399-K2624) in one of the bins. These are the precursor to all modern wireless networking devices – they don’t just predate the 802.11 standards, but were actually the contributed technology that eventually became the basis for the standard – I love computer history artifacts, so I had to play with it.

Sadly, the wavelan and wavelan_cs Linux drivers were demoted to staging in 2.6.33 in 2009 (commit) and removed in 2.6.35 in 2010 (commit… gods I love well documented F/OSS projects).

This is eminently reasonable, since it is non-standard in every way, and I may be handling one of the only remaining functional examples – assuming it is fully functional. I tried to verify with some LiveCDs of suitable vintage, but inserting the card either errored the module on load or crashed the machine… which is probably why it was removed from the kernel. It’s still a neat artifact and will be getting tucked away with my odd vintage machines.

Internals of the EAM

While I had it out I opened it up (Imagine! Opening a consumer device without having to pry the fucker apart with spudgers while praying to whatever gods you believe in that none of the tabs break.) The picture above is the “EAM” (External Antenna Module) pulled apart. There isn’t too much to see among the RF cages, but the fact it is assembled with the wire harness apparently hand soldered into a row of machine pins is amazingly quaint, and the fulls-scale R/F parts are awesome.

I’m pretty enamored of the industrial design on this thing – it looks like an important transitional device. It is the dull gray that was common on (especially AT&T) computer equipment in the 80s, which has grown even uglier with UV yellowing, so the color, logos, and sharp edges look like it crawled out of the 70s, while the rounded accents, domed round indicator LEDs, and darker molded stress relief look surprisingly modern.

Posted in Computers, Electronics, Entertainment, General, Objects | 2 Comments

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year Vol. 6

As happens every year around this time, I just finished this year’s edition of the Jonathan Strahan edited The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year collection. As in previous years I’ll mention the high points.

Where last year was heavy on the feminist lit, this year had a lot of “World building while world building” – stories about construction or changing a world that engage in a great deal of world building themselves. This suits me. As always, it also includes a few authors filling their niche stories, most egregiously, Cory Doctorow’s “Borrowing a title” trope this time was The Brave Little Toaster, and if you have read any Cory Doctorow pieces you already know the rest. It also had Strahan’s usual knack for picking winners; the Novella, Novelette, and Short Story Nebula winners for the year are all included (although except for the Novella, the winners were not the things I would have picked – What We Found over The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees? What were they thinking?).

For me there were two or three losers not worth mentioning and two real winners among 31 stories this time, with an overall solid showing. My favorite was, completely unsurprisingly, Kij Johnson’s high-profile story for the year, The Man who Bridged the Mist. It has the unremarkable premise of man leading a bridge construction project in a slightly fantastical, technologically unsophisticated world, and does amazing things with it. Checking online, it appears to have rightly won the Nebula award for Novellas this year.

My second favorite is much less typical – Catherynne M Valente’s White Lines on a Green Field. It is the traditional American Southwestern The Coyote and the Rabbit mythos cast by incarnation into a modern high-school, and by all rights I should have hated it. But it was fabulous for reasons I can’t quite pin down, and is very much worth reading simply for being something very, very different. I think I was more sympathetic to the “Let’s all get deeply invested in this athletic game some other people are playing” mentality reading that story than at any other time in my life, which was an interesting experience.

The other note is that Joss Whedon and/or Zack Snyder needs to be plopped down with a script for The Last Ride of the Glory Girls. It already has the aesthetic of Sucker Punch and Firefly rolled in with some nice Steampunk stylings, and I would watch the shit out of it as a moive.

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I was futzing with the bushings on my longboards last night, and made an observation that should probably be visible on the Internets: Orangatang Nipples are slightly too tall for the stock 2.75″ kingpin in Churchill RKPs. One could swap … Continue reading

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A Year of Google Reader

A year ago today I switched from visiting websites to consuming through Google Reader as my primary means of reading web content. Like most such time-saving conveniences, rather than letting me read the same amount of Internet chatter faster, it just means I consume more of it. A lot more of it.

The mediocre “Trends” metrics page built into reader tells me I have read 119,568 Items this year, which will grow by something on the order of 2,000 over the course of the day.
To be fair, that statistic is rather misleading for several reasons. First, I tend to skim feeds by locking my hand over j (next item), k (previous item), space (next object), and middle click (open in new tab, there is an upper midddle mouse button for the Trackpoint on Touchpads), so it shows my reading everything even if it flickers by as I parse the headline. Second, I’ve added some ” chatty” feeds in the last couple months, particularly Y-Combinator’s HackerNews feed, which is a ~105 item/day noise machine, full of stereotypical startup douches, presented headline-only. I tolerate HN because it brings me some truly excellent oddities that I wouldn’t see otherwise, and does so on a regular basis. For scale, reader tells me I’ve clicked 406/3000 things from HN in the past month, and only perhaps half of them were inflammatory headlines that were closed as soon as I realized what they were. Which is still more than the next most clicked feed.

The more meaningful metric is that, according to the terrible “Export starred items, then do a wc on the json file, and subtract one” method, I have starred 1188 items in the past year. Also working around the Trends page sucking by making note of the value in the 30-day sliding window from time to time, I seem to actually click into between 750 and 1000 items a month, of which I fully read probably 2/3.

As for Reader itself, I’m not fond of the current visual (re)design, and Plus is wildly inferior to the pre-Plus sharing mechanism, but in terms of features and convenience, it is still the best feed handler I’ve seen. The closest I can find is TinyTinyRSS, which is a self-hosted solution with an Android app. It is apparently something of a resource hog for cheap shared hosting, and currently doesn’t have a good “share with note” mechanism, but I’m keeping a close eye on it because it is very close to a drop-in replacement, the idea of self-hosted appeals to me, and Google dependency makes me nervous. If someone hacks together a clean flow for sharing with note into something a reasonable blog type CMS can syndicate, or Google gets any less functional/creepier, I could easily see myself making the switch.

So I have a slight reader problem, but it is an awful lot of fun, and I think it makes me a more interesting person. For the curious, my exported list of feeds is here.

Posted in Computers, Entertainment, General, Navel Gazing | 2 Comments

Exploit Exercises is magnificent: nice pre-packed virtual machines with a set of known vulnerabilities to learn various classes of security problem from. Fuzzing you own machines is never any fun, because the likelyhood of finding anything good is infinitesimal, and … Continue reading

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A Single-Image Review of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The default desktop background/log in image is the ugly 8-betta. Thanks to the GIMP and general orneryness for the flip.

This, even more than the DP, is a media-consumption OS – either we are watching the end of general purpose computers, or it will be holding the “Every other Windows release is a miserable failure” pattern. Touchscreens are horrible interface devices where other options are available, and optimizing for them makes horrible interfaces.

Edited to switch to a deader version (old version) and add source XCF with the background edges fixed and all the objects on separate layers for other’s editing pleasure.

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