620 South Lakewood Avenue, 2002

I spent all of my available time from Friday morning to after midnight on Monday working on a video project for WRI. Much of this was in direct communication with a remote video editing team, but there were sections of time where they were working and I needed to be on call near a computer. So I busied myself with some digital archaeology.

The path to the rabbit hole began with a simple question I had about my old 68K Macs, and I spent a fair bit of downtime on Sunday shuttling machines up and down the stairs to boot up and check out. At some point I’d wiped and formatted two of my legacy machines for looking through legacy files; it’s been so long since then that I forgot what I’d done. So a lot of this was a pleasant surprise. I made a list of all of the legacy machines, their specs, their OS condition, and any notes needed to make repairs or updates to each one.

Then I got to thinking about files. I’ve got CD’s burned with working files that date back to 1997 containing work I did all the way back to 1995. When I organized the drives on the basement server I copied a lot of it to a new disk. But there are things I know I had that I couldn’t find, so I dug deeper. Buried within some of these disks I found more of what I was looking for:

  • Old backups of my original website, the first and second versions, which I’d thought were lost to time
  • Old pictures of the Scout, which I also thought were lost to time. I remember taking a lot of pictures back then; the number of good ones I have of that truck are strangely few
  • Work backups from Back In The Day—my first two pro jobs, to be exact
  • An archive of the Mad Puppy work I did with Robby, back in the day, which I thought was lost forever on a scratched CD drive
  • Email backups from 2002-2006 (gotta figure out how to save these in a viable format)
  • Pictures of my first house, many of which I only had small thumbnail versions of. Gonna find something good to do with those
  • Various writing projects, some of which make me cringe rereading them 20 years later; some of which make me feel good. I found something I wrote about driving up to Grandma’s funeral that I thought was lost forever
  • Backups of the old IHCDigest from 1998
  • Tons of my site archives from System Source, from the Wild West days of web development (I miss that time)

There’s more to sift through but for now I think I’m done.

Date posted: January 18, 2022 | Filed under geek, history | Leave a Comment »

Brian sent me this picture with the caption “13 years ago today”.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: January 18, 2022 | Filed under Chewbacca, history, Scout | Comments Off on 13 Years

Today’s forecast called for snow starting in the early afternoon, going until early Monday morning. It’s currently 29˚ with the wind howling outside our windows. I worked on an editing project for WRI for most of the day through Zoom, where two editors shared their screens with me and we made real-time edits to 3+ hours of a 4-camera shoot virtually. I have to thank whoever is responsible for the technological advances that made it possible for me to avoid driving to DC in this weather to sit in an editing bay until the weather got truly miserable for the drive home.

* * *

Working on the bus this summer with Brian, I realized pretty quickly that my welding “skills” are terrible. If I’m going to get any better at welding, either for the Scout or for working on projects with him, I need to learn how to do it properly. There’s a Fundamentals of Welding class taught at a welding supply and distributor here in Baltimore. This isn’t a 2-hour teaser; it’s twelve 3-hour sessions in April and May that goes through the basic principles, teaches gas-tungsten, gas-metal and shielded metal arc welding, plasma cutting, weld inspection, and basic metallurgy. It’s exactly what I need to learn what I don’t know, practice what I should, and be prepared for whatever trouble we get ourselves into with Brian’s next project. I don’t think we’re going back to full-time office work anytime soon, so I don’t think a Tuesday/Thursday evening class should be a problem.

Date posted: January 16, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Waaaay back in 2007 I traded an inoperable Powerbook 100 for a working Powerbook 160, which was a welcome upgrade allowing me to open and view legacy files from my early days of design. The 160 worked for a couple of years and then died around 2013. I did some reading at that point and replaced the PRAM battery, hoping that would fix things, but it had no effect so the unit went back in the box. At some point recently I learned that there are inexpensive power supplies available for early Powerbooks, so I got one on Amazon for $10 and tried it out. Amazingly, I was greeted by the comforting early Macintosh startup chime, and the screen lit up for a brief moment before going dark, and then all of the pixels on the display smushed over to the right side of the screen.

Clearly there’s something amiss with the display, and from what the Interwebs say it’s a pretty common thing for the capacitors on passive-matrix grayscale monitors to fail, leading to these issues. I contacted a guy who streamed a repair live to see what he’d charge to fix it; we’ll see if he gets back to me.

Update: there are several videos on how to disassemble and recap the display online; given that I don’t have a lot of winter projects lined up, this is something I’ll tackle myself. I’d need a sharper soldering iron and the proper solder, but this isn’t anything I’m particularly scared of. The problem is that several of the capacitors aren’t in stock at Mouser or Digikey, so I’ll have to revisit this project in the summertime.

I also think I’ve got an old Powerbook Display Adapter in my antique computer bin somewhere; I’ll have to dig it out today and see if I can hook the unit to a monitor for testing.

Date posted: January 14, 2022 | Filed under apple, geek | Leave a Comment »

The first day I noticed symptoms of COVID was Thursday the 30th, right before New Year’s. I took the first OTC test on Sunday the 2nd, and I had my PCR on Wednesday the 5th, making it official. The CDC’s redundant, confusing, and overcomplicated quarantine guidelines specify keeping separate for 10 days after the first symptoms appear. I’ve been stuck in this fucking room for nine days now, and it’s been fourteen days since the first symptoms. I’m coming out tomorrow.

One thing to be thankful for is my Mom’s old TV, which I dragged home after we replaced it with a better one at Thanksgiving. It works, but the backlight died at some point so there’s a blue cast across most of the picture. Right before I sealed myself in this room I brought it up and stuck it on the dresser, figuring I’d need some kind of entertainment. I only get local channels, so I was able to watch football on the weekends, and crappy reruns for the rest of the week. So I’ve had my fill of CSI:Miami, CSI:NY, CHiPS, and most comfortingly, Emergency! (We used to watch Emergency! as kids with Mom and Dad before bedtime).

Jen has been taking excellent care of the invalid in the bedroom this whole time, and I’ve tried to be as easy on her as possible. She’s been doing double duty dealing with Finn home from school and Being A Teenager and our dopey dog, who can’t understand why I haven’t come out of this room. I don’t know who will be more excited for me to leave this room, Jen or Hazel.

Date posted: January 12, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been using Evaporust to clean up small parts for a couple of months now, but it gets pretty expensive in large quantities; a gallon is about $20 via Amazon. I just soaked a window scissor mechanism in a tub for two days and got it pretty clean, but a gallon was barely enough to cover the metal. Electrolysis is a great way to remove rust at scale, and all it requires is a tank of water, some salt, and a hunk of sacrificial steel. This video compares the two methods in detail, and finds that they both work about as well as each other. All things considered, I think I’d rather spend $20 on a rubbermaid tub and some salt.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: January 12, 2022 | Filed under Future Plans, Scout | Comments Off on Evaporust vs. Electrolysis

In a Slack chat before Christmas, my colleague mentioned that her Dad restores and sells antique fountain pens. We talked about how awesome that was, and the fact that he’d replaced the furniture in her childhood bedroom with an industrial lathe so that he can manufacture new parts for them; I spent the next five minutes swooning over the pictures of the refurbished lathe and some of the pens on his website.

She surprised me with a small package right after Christmas from her Dad, containing two beautiful matching Esterbrook pens: a fountain pen and a mechanical pencil. They feel wonderful in my hand. The lead in the pencil is thick and smooth and is the exact opposite of everything I hate about mechanical pencils; it actually feels like a pen instead of dragging a wire across sandpaper. I can’t wait to put some ink in the pen and try it out.

* * *

I’m currently down to ~986 broken links on the site; in my spare time I’ve been cleaning things up, and I feel like I’m finally turning the corner. There are now a TON of outgoing links that point to the Wayback Archive; I’m going to have to make another donation to them this year. The Verge wrote about link rot last year, citing a study that used the New York Times as a test case; since 1996, over a quarter of the links within a 550,000-article test study were broken. As the articles got older, predictably the number went up: 72% of the links from 1998 were dead. Another thing I wasn’t aware of is an underground economy where people can pay to have broken links redirect to their sites; I guess any traffic is good traffic?

* * *
I’ve seen this pop up in a couple of places, but it wasn’t until I saw the picture at the top of this story that it hit me: A B-52 is an immense airplane. There’s a group moving a B-52 from Arizona to Oklahoma overland so that they can use it for testing new engines; this means it’s on a very long trailer moving very slowly. It’s 159′ from tip to tail; that’s just unreal.

Date posted: January 10, 2022 | Filed under general, housekeeping | Leave a Comment »

We just heard through the grapevine that our old friend A., who has been in the local Scout scene longer than I can remember, passed away in December. I remember him as a wealth of information from back in the old IHC Digest days, before I’d even met him. When someone would complain about a particular part or the size of a fastener, he would email the list moments later with the exact name of the part or the correct size and pitch of the particular bolt. When I was having issues with the throttle cable on Peer Pressure during the first shakedown trips, he saw a picture I’d posted of the bracket, recognized it as the cable for an automatic, and sent me the correct bracket from his parts stash. He was always up for a Scout adventure, even if he habitually showed up late—that was understood.

He’d moved out to the country a couple of years ago and found a different job, and it sounded like he was happy there from what we heard. I was shocked to hear the news, and I’m sad to hear of his passing.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: January 8, 2022 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Milestone

So I had an appointment for a PCR test at Hopkins yesterday through my oncologist, who I’d contacted as soon as I knew I had COVID. He basically told me they don’t consider me immunocompromised at this point even though my white blood cell count is still lousy, but got me an appointment for the PCR to check. For the first time since Sunday I left the cell room and went straight to the car, which the ladies had shoveled out, and drove myself to Columbia. I sat on line behind about eight other cars and waited until a nice lady in a spacesuit stuck a swab clear to the back of my skull and twirled it around for 10 seconds. Then I drove home and went right back up to my room. The results came back about four hours later: still positive.

I’ve been working hard on this presentation for work, and with that test it’s pretty much certain I’m not going to be going to DC to participate in the fun stuff (a live TED-style taping I helped organize) and possibly not the editing process either. We thought the issue might be that the PCR is super-sensitive and picked up the last 10% of the virus in my system, so I took an OTC test this evening and waited nervously for the results: still firmly negative. Not a hint of a line, not a blur, but a solid line. Fuck.

Date posted: January 8, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I’ve powered through about 500 broken links on the backend of the site here, and I see a couple of common issues so far:

  • Major media outlets, as I mentioned earlier, have sucked at keeping their links current. Most of them do use some kind of redirect logic on the backend, but links to big outlets like CNN, and CBS have a 50/50 chance of resolving, and all the links I’ve found to the Baltimore Sun are completely broken.
  • A quirk in how I originally built the site and how it’s structured now means that 1/4 of the internal images I uploaded and linked to (everything before about 2014 or so) are technically broken, although WordPress actually does a great job of redirecting to the right file. I’ve found a way to update these quickly, which is a blessing, because…
  • …when I ported the site over from hand-coded pages, I missed a whole swath of links that pointed back into the site. These now need to be individually hunted down and updated. This will represent roughly 75% of the time I spend on this project.
  • At some point something happened internally with the HTML parser that changed < and > with &lt; and &rt; in random places, which are the character entity references for those characters. Because the < and > characters make up a huge chunk of HTML coding, this can be a gigantic problem: the HTML won’t parse and you (the reader) are looking at gobbledygook. I’m going through and trying to find the pages where this happens and fix it.

On the whole, this plugin is awesome, and it’s doing an excellent job of automating the process: it suggests a date-coded Wayback Archive link as close to the original post as it can find, which is pretty slick. 1600+ links to go…

Date posted: January 7, 2022 | Filed under housekeeping | Leave a Comment »