SitRep

Lots of balls in the air right now, as it were.

  • Custom re-work of a NOS Desert Storm-era fishtail parka. Re-fitting the entire coat, as it was designed as an over-over-coat, and that’s not my intended use.
  • Backpack V2.0 needs attention. Fabric choices, paints (yes, paints), hardware, etc all to be picked- but progress!
  • Roof top fly rod tube- for transporting multiple fly fishing rods. Finalized hardware today, started amassing parts and paints for the build. Not a complicated thing, but the paint job is non-trivial. Pictures will follow.
  • Just finished a small “impossible artifact”- it’s a ceramic set of “brass” knuckles made as if NASA during the Apollo era might have spec’d such a thing. Sort-of. They were a fidgety thing to make- air drying clay is fickle, and free-handing a red worm NASA logo as an embossed thing into the clay? Yeah. Again: pics to follow.
  • Custom macro keypad (as mentioned in the previous post). I’ve got the key layout done, the keyplate bought (but not cut…), and I’m making progress on the enclosure. Some hardware sourced, some decisions still to be made.
  • New camera storage unit is built- needs some tidying of wires and whatnot, but it’s holding all the cameras and looking good.
  • Project Xserve is complete- it’s up and running 10.11.4 with no problems, it’s got a new video card and a USB 3.0 card (with a separate controller for each port), and tons of storage. Odds and ends to come, I’m sure, but for now: done.
  • My 1970’s KLH speaker overhaul drags on- turns out making wooden ring spacers is tricky. I’ve not given up yet, though.

Annnnddd that’s it for now. Plenty of other things, but those can all wait until next time.

obsessions.

The obsession with mechanical keyboards that I seem to have developed is… troubling. To the degree that I’m thinking about building a macro-specific keypad Keypad Layoutfor a number of the repetitive tasks that I handle on a regular basis. So, for example, one layer of this keypad would make the Mod 3 and Mod 4 keys the Edit In and Edit Out commands in FCPX, with the Mod 1 and Mod 2 maybe triggering transitions or media imports. Alt 1 would be to show video scopes, and so on. Then, with another layer, Mod 3 and Mod 4 would become Cut and Paste (in a single key press), with other keys (maybe) being mapped to insert small batches of heavily used HTML. Or something. Regardless, I’m figuring out parts lists and where to order key caps and switches and whatnot. AND how to get a Teensy 2.0 to act like a keyboard and handle all the macros and whatnot. All doable, mind you.

 

Research List #36

Trying to do these more regularly. Though I’ve no idea who (besides me) finds them useful.

Current Research:

  • Mechanical Keyboards (as in mechanical-switch actuated vs membrane switch)
    • 35% vs 40% vs 60% Keyboard form factors
    • Custom Keycaps for said mechanical keyboards (for mounting on Cherry MX Clear switches)
    • Fully custom aux keyboards for media keystrokes
    • Aesthetically pleasing USB -> Mini USB cables
  • Alternate graph paper patterns
  • Curing Air-drying clay without cracking
  • Sizable Mid-Century Dining room lighting
  • TIG welding rigs (110v units)
  • Military Nose art

ResearchList #35

I haven’t done one of these in entirely too long.

Current Obsessions:

  • Desert Storm Night Camouflage
  • Document Boxes (aluminum)
  • Rack Mounted Firewire 800 (or, maybe USB 2.0) Storage solutions
  • New Shoulder bag design parameters, referencing
    • TOPO Designs
    • Able Archer
    • The Hill People
  • Air-Hardening Clay
  • Custom Palet racks

SitRep

Oh man, I’m in deep.

My (most) current obsession is monochrome everything. Here’s the run-down of how that’s manifested (thus far):

  • My iPhone’s home button has been set to toggle the entire phone into greyscale mode with a triple press.
  • I’ve installed Lenka on my phone- it’s a camera app that only does B&W photos. I know you can apply a B&W filter, or that you can set the stock camera app to B&W mode, but you can’t make the camera stay in that mode, and applying the filter after-the-fact robs you of a B&W viewfinder.
  • I’ve spent a mildly embarrassing amount of time researching B&W only digital cameras. Yes, there are (a few), but they’re wildly expensive (Leica) or super-specialty (custom conversion).
  • I’ve got my analog film processing gear all located and ready- I’m likely due for some new fixer, but we’re nearly ready to develop the growing backlog of film I’ve shot.
  • [edit] I’ve also just swapped the display on this computer to greyscale, too. Lovely.

I bought a new computer.

Ah, so. The time had come.

My “current” computer is a very (10!) old MacBook Pro- it’s been great, but it’s gone all glitchy, and keeping it up and running has become entirely too time consuming- and inconsistent. I’ve written before about my affinity for Plex as a media serving solution, and this machine had been pulling Plex Media Server duty. It’s gone so flakey that it can’t be relied upon for that anymore, so it was clearly time for something new.

Or, I should say, new-er. I had planned to ante up and grab a 27″ iMac Retina of some flavor- by all accounts a lovely machine. It’s minimally user-serviceable, though, and the most you can really do is upgrade the RAM a bit. And: $1500 base price. So I also looked at a Mac Mini, but the price of those can be stiff, and they’re not user upgradable anymore, so… used? Nope- they hold value like crazy, and you’re effectively better buying a new one. So that’s out. And I don’t need the portability of a laptop.

Enter: Xserve. They dropped this line in 2010, but these were rack-mounted Macs meant for use in data centers. They are proper servers, too: dual redundant power supplies, lots of space for disks and RAM, dual gigabit ethernet, etc etc etc. I bought one on ebay, and it should be here early this week. Mine’s from 2008, and you might be thinking that I’m nuts to have bought an eight-year-old machine, but let me point out a couple of things:

  1. It’s faster than the iMac I might have bought- mine has 2x 3.0ghz quad-core Xeons, and the benchmarks for the machine are still pretty quick. It’s roughly a 6x improvement over my existing machine.
  2. It’s got plenty of RAM- mine has 16gb, but it’ll handle (at least) double that.
  3. It’s got space for 3 hard drives. Mine has 3x80gb, but I’ll eventually swap that to 3x2tb, so I’ll have 6tb of internal storage.
  4. It has an internal super drive (HA! well, useful for ripping existing parts of my DVD collection…)
  5. I paid $200 for it. Plus $90 for shipping, since the thing’s a TANK and is coming from the west coast.
  6. It’s entirely user serviceable. All the parts can come out and be swapped- it’s a industrial computer, after all.

Some downsides, of course:

  1. It eats power. It idles at 150W or so, but I’ll be running it on a scheduled boot/shutdown cycle to minimize that problem.
  2. Officially, it’s only supposed to be able to run 10.6.8 as an OS. Really, though, it’ll run 10.11.x without any real trouble- Apple dropped support for it’s video card, but I’ve got a much more modern card en-route that will fix that issue.
  3. It’s huge and rack mounted- but I don’t care, as I have a rack in the basement anyway.
  4. It’s loud under load- again, irrelevant, as it’s in the basement, and I’ll be managing it via screen sharing remotely anyway.

I’m excited. It’s been a very long time since I had a proper work-horse of a computer, and it’ll be nice to finally have my data and projects all consolidated onto one capable machine. The next stage will be monitors for it- the new video card will push 2650×1600 resolution, but I can’t figure out of that’s across one screen, or if that’s each on two screens. Whatever- it’s enough either way, really. I’ve got a 24″ 1920×1080 kicking around that’ll do in the meantime.

I figure even if I only get a few more years of life from it (which, honestly, seems unlikely- these were built like brick houses, so it should keep ticking along), it’ll still have been less expensive than an iMac, and I’ll have roughly the same speed and power, so that’s a bonus. And, given the price, if I want a “couch computer” for browsing, I can grab an iPad or Chromebook or whatever, and still have the total cost be less than an iMac.

SitRep

Oh, my, how times flies. Things that have/are happening:

  • The shelf project lags on. Honestly, I’m polyurethane away from being done, but the temperatures have just been too low.
  • New computer project- progress! A slightly batty solution, perhaps, but interesting none-the-less.
  • Summer shoe purchase has arrived- the spiritual successor to my favorite summer shoes of all them, the mesh slip-on converse all stars (which, for reasons I don’t understand, they don’t make anymore).
  • At work, I’ve been working on some best practices for online video- and now I’m at the storyboard-it-out phase. I’m not looking forward to being on camera for this end product, but that’s part of the job, you know?
  • I’m shaping spacers to replace the tweeters on my vintage KLH Model 30 Speakers- these are hopefully destined for the study room, and they’re two steps away from done: new tweeters installed and speaker grill fabric replaced with something less hideous.
  • This site saw a bit of a behind the scenes overhaul- there were some nasty people trying to brute force their way into the WordPress install here, and I had to take some steps to deal with that. Done, anyway.

SitRep

We’ve finally got snow, here.
Something like 8 inches dropped last night, and now I’ve got to go shovel it off the driveway. Before I do, I thought I’d bust one of these posts out, just to bring things up-to-date. Things I’m working on:
+ Repairing a Konica C35 Automatic camera (who’s light meter isn’t currently working)
+ Installing replacement tweeters in a pair of 1972 KLH Model 30 speakers
+ Installing some custom shelving in my new dining room (this includes painting the hardware, building the shelves, and finishing all the materials)
+ Looking for entryway seating/storage
+ Keeping the newsletter running (just put out #46 this morning)
+ Designing a administrative pouch/portfolio for my EDC needs
+ Getting back to taking pictures more often again
+ Getting back to shooting video more often again
+ I’m also (for the first time in a long time) looking at doing another degree- it’s not like I’ve got lots of time or anything, but it’s something that’s been nagging at me for a bit now, and it might be time to at least entertain the idea of scratching the itch.

There’s a bunch of other back-burner stuff going on, but most of that is longer-term and in the planning stages anyway, so we’ll leave that for now.

It’s Back.

So- it’s time. The newsletter is back.
I sent out a smaller edition of it last week, and that was fine. But it was short, and I’m hoping this week will be the first full-sized edition in a few weeks [edit: nope! still a small one…]. To that end, if you’ve not subscribed, you probably should (the sign up form is over on the left side of this page). I’ve realized that by volume, the vast majority of my writing is *actually* in my newsletters. Sure, they’re composed of a few links a week, but I try to offer some commentary as well as some context for my choices. Remember, what I’m trying to offer is a steady stream of useful and inspiring material that you might not have stumbled on yourself.
Anyway.
If you’ve been following here, you know that I’m “in between” computers at the moment. As a result, I’ve been writing and working on an iPad as my “primary” device- though, I suppose, if you were to do the math by calculating hours of screen time, my iPhone would be my “primary.” Whatever. The iPad I’ve been using used to be in heavy rotation by my kids, but they recently got upgraded devices, so me, not being someone who lets something go to waste, decided to see if I could make use of their old devices. I’m writing this now on an iPad. Not an iPad2, not an iPad Air, an iPad. The first one. OG.
Honestly? Not bad. I’d rather browse the web via my phone anyway, so that’s not much of a hangup. And I’d rather play games or consume media elsewhere, too- so that’s not much of an issue. Indeed, what I use this for is writing and drawing (and, I suppose, to a lesser degree for reading…). I just picked up a docking keyboard (the original Apple deal- which has a much nicer keyboard action that it has any right to…) for something like $6 on eBay. It’s a wickedly nice setup, now- it looks nice where it lives (which is weirdly the kitchen counter), it comes apart easily, and it’s a decent sized screen for me to write on. I managed to research, write, edit, do the graphic work, and send the newsletter entirely from this here ancient device. Not too shabby, eh? And this keyboard? No joke, this thing here. Great key action, lovely dedicated buttons to lock/unlock/home/play/volume/etc, and (this might be the best part) Tab actually works to move from text field to text field on the web. That’s key (sorry).
So. Where to next?
Obviously, my ancient device system isn’t workable for all my projects- I like the iPad on the counter in the kitchen, but it won’t do for heavy lifting tasks (In my world, that’d be photo management and editing, video editing and management, IoT development, and other administrative tasks). Clearly, then, a new computer is in the works. Likely an iMac, likely 27″, likely Retina. Speaking of IoT, that’s further to the front of my mind than ever. I have a garage project in the works for that, and the list of things I’d like to do keeps growing faster than I can manage, so plenty left on that front. Also, a slew of crafting projects (mostly in front of a sewing machine), and some looming house projects (getting the library up and running, for example). Plenty to keep busy.