Monday, December 19, 2011

Arduino - A Poor Mans Alarm

So, I've been playing around with an Arduino (or two of them). I started out with an Arduino Nano, and implemented a fully functional "alarm" system. (I called it the "poor man's alarm"). Simply, it used an ethernet shield, and when a pin input went high (or low, depending on how it's configured), it would send a notification to a webserver. That CGI would then post an SMS message via Google Voice (if you had "enabled" the alarm via the CGI).

The hard part was installing all of the cabling to the doors for it. I ran cat5e to all of the doors, and implemented magnetic reed switches. I also had code to detect a garage door state using two of those switches, so I know when the door is opening, open, closing, or closed. (Binary logic, here). Nice and simple!

If anyone wants to see the code, let me know! (My e-mail username is joe, and my e-mail domain is

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Technology and Civil Engineering - the real thing

After finishing the post, I realized I missed what I was going to talk about. Must be something in the air.

Anyway, my wife and I are trying to locate a hotel to stay at in Saint Johns, New Brunswick, Canada. We followed instructions pulling off of route 1, but that one is full. We key in another location to the GPS to head there, and the device keeps sending us around the block. The device kept saying that we had missed the turn off, but the on ramp to route 1 was closed. After the second time around the block, I ignored the device and drove EAST. Right by another on ramp, the device kept telling me to go to the other on ramp, but it didn't matter to me.

Not the first time the GPS device was annoying on this trip. When we first arrived across the border, we were driving up route 2 (trans-canada highway), and (while in the middle of the route, at the speed limit of 100 kph), the device kept saying "please proceed east to the unpaved road, then proceed to route 2". It thought we were in a field.

Two things - either the road moved, or the GPS satellite in the area is not synchronized. Sometimes the device thought we were heading east instead of north, and just plain got it wrong.

All this time I thought nerds were smart!

Technology and Civil Engineering

Wahoo! Another rant!

It's been an eventful trip. We pack up, and head on in to Plaster Rock, NB, Canada for a family reunion. I've never had to tell my "banking institution" where I'm traveling. Usually, I just end up with a nice "these charges are suspect" message waiting for me when I get home.

Not this time. They locked my checking account (and the visa card associated with it), while in Plaster Rock. How do they think I can get out of this place? Ah, resorting to an American Express. (Keep credit cards, even if you don't use them).

So, I call to find out why - and I get told that I had insufficient funds. I was spending $55.05 on fuel. I had $600.00 in the account. Yup, my math must be messed up. $55.05 is definitely greater than $600.00. So they released it, and they took down notes as to how long we'd be gone so they wouldn't do this again.

Next up, I get a phone call from them. Since reporting where I was, they then flagged ALL transactions in the area as potential fraud. I had to manually verify EVERY ONE!

What happened to the notes?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Testing is for the Birds

Being a systems administrator, I often get to see developers and team leads run into the operations center under the gun (news to the admins) that they have been getting pressure for a while to fix their application.

Most recently (this morning), a team lead for a group of developers came in, trying to figure out why it was broken. So we dug into the logs. It's a java app, so it uses log4j as the logger, making it nice and easy to see the problem.

Clearly, in the log file, I see a message similar to "we are creating file /application/work/datafile.xml". It is followed up with a line about it transferring the file to another location. That is followed by a stack trace, clearly showing that it failed to transfer a zero byte file "application/datafile.xml".

How did the application make it through testing? It's not even the same directory. In one instance, it's "/application/work", but in the next, it is "/application".

Do we really feel like we shouldn't test? [sigh].

Friday, June 10, 2011


I run a few blogs, but this time I thought I'd start it by introducing myself. First, I'm your average joe. I love listening to U2, the arts (I'm an artist who finally managed to kick the art habit, sort of, and I've been free of that for 3 months), I love cars (working on them, currently restoring and customizing a C3 Corvette), and my wife.

Incidentally, she is the most phenomenal woman. Ever.

Trust me, you can't prove that one wrong. Many have tried. All have failed.

From here on out, I'm actually going to blog about working in the I.T. industry. It's a fickle industry, and continually evolving, so it will always bring a little adventure (even if it's virtual adventure). I'll be covering topics like Linux, security, command lines, scripting, systems integration, communication, and resource management.

Yeah, resource management is an I.T. thing. If you become a follower, you will learn how, and why I believe this. (How and why are almost synonymous in this case).

BTW, I'm not selling the blog this time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just because you Can doesn't mean you Should

Here we go. Another rant against people that do things just because they can.

So, I start working on a 1997 Toyota Camry to replace the outside door handle, and I found that to change it :
  1. Roll down the window.
  2. Remove the door panel screws.
  3. Remove the power window switches and disconnect the connector.
  4. Remove the screw holding in the interior door handle bezel.
  5. Warp the bezel - it locks in when pressed in. Here's one engineering school flunky that made it to Toyota for the design.
  6. Slide the door panel upward (why you have to lower the window).
  7. Reconnect the power window switches, turn the key into the on position (don't have to start it), and raise the window. (Yet another flunky from engineering school).
  8. Now, reach all the way inside, and disconnect two latch rods, one for the lock and one for the handle. One you can't disconnect until the door handle is out, but you have to disconnect it before you can get the door panel out anyway. (Another flunky. See where I'm going with this?)
  9. Remove the latch bolts (on the edge of the door) using a torx wrench or driver.
  10. Remove the three bolts holding the door handle in place - just disregard that you can't get to one until the handle is out without coming from the side. (Did Toyota hire anybody who passed an engineering class at all?)
  11. Remove the door handle.
  12. Attach the lock to the new door handle using the bracket and the lower of the double bolts.
  13. Attach both latches to the new door handle (yes, it's still not in place). You must use some magic here, since the latches are in the inside of the door, and the handle is on the outside. (Really, you attach the handle rod first, then you have to slide the handle in behind the lock latch rod and slip it into place.)
  14. Slide the door handle top inside of the door, lift, and lower it in place.
  15. Insert the bolts to hold it in place using a nice magnetic holder to keep from dropping the bolts into the nether regions of the door. Just in case, have extra bolts handy. (Another failure at automotive engineering).
  16. Tighten them.
  17. Re-attach the door latch using the torx bolts.
  18. Reconnect the window switches, turn the key to the on position (don't start the car), and lower the window.
  19. Disconnect the switches.
  20. Lower the door panel into position and press the clips in to hold it in place.
  21. Install and tighten the door panel screws.
  22. Set the interior door panel bezel into position, clip it into place, and install the screw that holds it down.
  23. Install the window switches.
  24. Cuss up a storm at the idiots at Toyota who have never, ever, worked on a car they've designed.
Are they similar results to what the corvette had? Two bolts, from underneath. Go figure.

And who says progress is good? Let's take things back to simplicity. After all, just because you are classified as an engineer and can make design changes doesn't mean you should. [sigh].

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Shanna Point of Personal Preference

I received a link from my brother (uh, in-law, but he is more like my brother) that discussed the mean time between failures (MTBF) of solid state devices (SSD). The article uses a quote from "How I Met Your Mother", which identifies a "crazy/hotness" level, in which over that line, the woman is allowed to be crazy because she is so attractive.

The next thing I know, my brother (in-law) and I are discussing a variation of the "good", "fast", and "cheap" triangle where you pick any two. For example, "good" and "fast" will not be "cheap" when producing something. "good" and "cheap" will not be "fast". Hopefully, you get the idea.

Now, I had seen a variation of this applied to women. It consisted of "stable", "hot", and "smart". Pick any two.

The resulting discussion about the three returned a quick identification of a new rule of thumb that I'd like to introduce - the Shanna Point of Personal Preference. Based on a three dimensional grid, X axis being the intelligence, Y axis being hotness, and Z axis being stability, the perfect woman does not consist of full intelligence, aesthetically pleasant visual representation, and mental stability. Just so you know, the Point of Personal Preference does not equate to insurmountably intelligent, absolutely attractive, and severely stable. Rather, it is a point of preference, e.g. "what you want".

Now, in my mind, the perfect woman must have intelligence, attractiveness, and stability. I'm just not willing to cope with anything less. I didn't want a woman that, when I'd start gabbing about DBA's would say "I have no idea what you are talking about, so I am going to tune out and not learn". I didn't want a woman that caused hefty roller coasters of mental anguish. And I definitely wanted a woman that was attractive (just think about that one - it would have been an arranged marriage if that wasn't a requirement).

I suppose you can all determine where the theory "Shanna Point of Personal Preference" received it's name. Now, I think I'll go home and have a nice conversation about family, and then move on to an in-depth discussion of genetic recombination, and proceed to later frisk her for weapons (with someone that smart, you never know).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Windshield ready for prep work

Okay. Almost have the windshield prepped. I need to sand a few places, then I can slap some POR-15 on the frame, and after that sets, apply some primer to fiberglass, set, paint (flat black, of course), and then install a windshield. When THAT is complete, I'll finish cleaning out the foot wells, and then apply the sound deadener. Then it's time to install a little interior, the first time the car will have seen carpet since way before 1997!

In other news, my wife is a phenom. Today, while being on-call and getting the stresses of all of that, I just had to sit down by her and those frustrations melted away! How did I live with on-call rotations without that woman!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Got some headlights into the car

Finally got headlight supports in place. Frankly, I don't even know why I tried those stationary headlights. The regular support brackets fit so much nicer! I just should have realized that there are better alternatives to vacuum systems, and now I just need a couple of 3" linear actuators - I'll leave the current hardware in place and slap a nice circuit in between the headlights so that as soon as power is applied, they pop up. Much cooler than the stationary, and much more unique than the original wink-way of the poor vacuum system! Next up... getting those painted to match!

Friday, March 18, 2011

How time fries with that

Title says it all. It's been a while since I've posted, and frankly, nobody cares (not even me). But once in a while, someone checks, so I figured I'd better toss up a status report.

I finished up some sprinklers in the front yard this week. Now I can add some more dirt, and the front flower beds will be complete. Wahoo! Spring is here!

Speaking of spring, I couldn't get the springs to connect on the fixed, rectangular headlights. So... I am falling to plan D - I'm going to have someone copy some paint for me and mix a quart, and I'm putting the old pop-up headlights back in. But instead of a vacuum system (383 strokers don't handle vacuum very well), I'm going to have to switch over to an electric actuator. Might actually use my electronics fundamentals that I took in college, but it will be reliable, look original, and be very sweet! (and costly. I have to replace the support brackets, because mine are broken. Don't let anyone kid you, it may NOT be cheaper to fix your original vacuum system versus going with the fixed headlight kits!)

I did finally manage to get the trim installed on the door panel the body guy didn't line up. The trim had to be installed by cutting into the bottom of the trim and bending it. It doesn't look bad right now, so I'm pretty satisfied with the lemonade. I also managed to move the door striker enough that the gap on the outside isn't painfully obvious (just obvious, now). I had a quarter of an inch gap with the door closed against the striker. It looked hideous. Make sure you have the body shop install all of the hardware - so they can see where they made the mistakes and fix them for you. Now I only have an eighth inch gap. Not so shabby if you ask me.

So, I'll log off. I'm done with computers for the weekend.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Window hardware installed

All of the window hardware is installed. Before I install the actual windows, I need to get the windshield weatherstrip installed, and the rear pillar post weatherstrip installed, then the t-tops. Then I can install the door glass and adjust it.

Once the glass is in, I'll finish the door lock actuators (wohoo, keyless!), and put the door panels on.

But first, I'll try and finish the headlights and bleed the brakes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The sounds are dead

Okay. The doors are ready for the hardware. The locking mechanisms are installed on both sides. The keys and outside door handles are installed. The window regulators have been removed and cleaned up, and the botors are fried. So, replacements will be here tomorrow. Perhaps by the end of the week, the doors will be complete.

Simply, I need to attach the motors to the regulators, clean them up once again, install them and the other glass channels, install the keyless units, the trim for the doors, weather strip, and the door panels. I could have those done this week! Sweet!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The update on the car

Okay, okay. It's been a while. But, alas, I've been spending more time on the car than online. Seriously. I think I might be able to finish this project in spite of struggles, mine or otherwise.

The fuel tank is installed and the lines are connected. I have the rubber lip for the tank to be installed. I've had someone ship a new drivers' side door latch to replace the one the body shop (NuDeez Customs) forgot to put back in the car and subsequently lost. At $90 for a used part, it hurts, but alas, I gotta get this thing done.

I have the drivers' side exhaust panel installed.

I have the brake booster installed and I cleaned up the master cylinder. (Believe me, chrome rusts, and it is tough to clean up, but it does clean up. Not all master cylinders are the same, either, mine apparently has a smaller cylinder than what was in there originally. Or the parts stores rebuild kits are too large.)

I have the T-Top's trim cleaned up, polished, and installed.

I found that I am missing one of the brake lines that goes from the distribution block to the master cylinder, or I'd have those hooked up, too.

So, here is the list of things to finish :

  • Headlights
  • Fuel Tank protector (sits around the gas cap)
  • Transmission radiator installation
  • Hood
  • The last brake line, then bleed the brakes
  • Intake manifold
  • carburetor
  • distributor
  • Dynamat
  • Glass hardware cleanup
  • Door glass
  • Door panels
  • Fabricate 1/16" plate to house the shifter
  • carpeting
  • windshield
  • install the center console
  • install the ignition switch and alarm switch in the fender
  • install the dashboard
  • connect the emergency brake and speedometer cables
  • install the door glass
  • Install the battery and starter
Sounds like a big list, but it's really small stuff. Yahoo!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Body Damage before I start going

Okay. I know, Nudeez Customs didn't do as good a paint job for 16,727.21 as I would have liked, and there are a few issues. However, I just added even MORE trouble to the infamous corvette.

I'm trying to install the passengers side mirror, and the bolts just DON'T want to attach. I lost three bolts, and the fourth one caught. The mirror slid and scratched the paint. No biggie, I can wet sand/cut it and fix that. I try installing the OTHER bolt to ensure the mirror is on there, and realize that the bolt holding the mirror is cross threaded. I try to pot the mirror forward, and it ends up flying about two feet forward, gouging the paint and fiberglass, and falling to the concrete and chipping the paint on the mirror in a number of places.

This is bad, because I don't have the paint formula, and I'm unwilling to take it back to the painter who did the paint job. He broke his contract in providing pictures of the body work, and also in providing the paint formula. So, he's no longer an option.

Instead, I need a local shop who can :

  • re-formulate the paint
  • fix the mirror
  • provide me with a little extra paint to get back and repair the body gouge
And I can't wait to see the bill.