The ABCs of securing your wireless network, from Ars Technica. An article written for people, not engineer robots, which I like.

Date posted: April 30, 2008 | Filed under projects, shortlinks | Comments Off on Securing A Wireless Network

Hello little one. That bumping you felt on your head yesterday morning was our latest prenatal checkup, but you’re probably getting used to that by now. Your mother and I are a little upset with you for being so uncooperative with the technician. Every time she tried to get a profile of your head to measure, you kept wiggling around and sticking your nose in the way. I can see already how you’re going to behave as the progeny of photographers. I will admit, though, that it was great to see you moving around so much.

Everything else is looking beautiful! You have ten little fingers and ten little toes, which made us both very happy, and your little heart is going strong at 151 beats a minute. We’re going to start seriously kicking around some names for you in the next couple of weeks, but we have a lot of names that we know we don’t want and very few that we like, which makes things difficult. A lot of the good ones are already taken. Don’t worry, though—we’re not going to get all trendy on you, if we can help it.

Out here, most of the pretty flowers are gone, and the trees are filling in with deep green leaves. I hope your first spring is as beautiful as this one has been, because everything seemed to be richer and more colorful this year. This is the tree in our front yard blooming from the end of March up until this morning:

Sleep tight, little pepper, and try to stay off your mother’s bladder. She’s getting tired of going to the bathroom every fifteen minutes.

Date posted: April 30, 2008 | Filed under finn | Comments Off on Dear Red Bell Pepper.

The NYT hand codes their website. I’ve seen lots of links to this recently, and everyone seems amazed. Why is this such a surprise?

Date posted: April 30, 2008 | Filed under projects, shortlinks | Comments Off on old-skool at the NYT

Mac Mini Media Centre (center) A nice howto on building a media center as opposed to buying an AppleTV. Good juicy info here.

Date posted: April 29, 2008 | Filed under projects, shortlinks | Comments Off on Mac Mini Media Centre

I’ve found all kinds of evidence of cost cutting here at the Estate, perpetrated by contractors, handymen, journeymen and bums who may have been “going through rough patches”, trading services, or simply drunk on the job. Scavenged, straightened nails, scrap lumber joined to form studs, leftover wire joined by junction boxes doubling back and forth through walls where it could reach the farthest. THis kind of thing is so common now that I’ve factored in the added cost of redoing everything I touch, and my SOP is to gut everything to the bones so that I can fix everything possible.

Ring shank nails

With that in mind, I had to pull a section of floor underlayment out in order to install a wall between the bathroom and the office last week. As I started levering out the fibrous board, I realized the floor tile installers were probably the only professionals ever to enter the house, because they used approximately three metric tons of ring shank nails to hold everything down. Now for a little tool edumocation: Ring shank nails are specially designed with threads along the body to go into wood and stay there, offering twice as much withdrawal resistance than an average nail of the same size. This makes them specially suited for jobs like floor underlayment, where thousands of pounding feet over the course of years on the corner of a board will eventually work the average nail loose, leaving a maddening squeak in its place.

I’ve had experience, too much experience, with ring shank nails. They were used elsewhere in this house but applied with a fraction of the brio evidenced here: one nail every two inches, and on sixteens (every foot and a half, following the floor joists). Using a hammer to pull them is a joke, because they’re designed to go in but not to come out. The heads shrivel and wilt like flowers in August drought, leaving their sharp stems sticking defiantly out of the wood. Of course, they can be driven below the surface with a hammer and a punch, but they have little or no shear (side to side) strength, so more often than not they’ll bend or twist with one good hit. And if the floor has a date with the sander, the law of averages says they’re going to shred a few belts.

End cutting pliers

My Dad had an old, blackened tool in his collection I always assumed was (and used) for snipping wire, but it was only recently that I learned of its purpose. End cutting pliers have a misleading name, because their primary design is not for cutting, it’s for pulling. It’s a blunt, wicked-looking tool with a shallow bite and a wide, curved jaw, designed with the same efficiency as a pitbull: It grabs the shank of a nail right below the head, and does not let go.

Step one

The curved edge is a lever very close to the fulcrum, which provides more focused power than a hammer and doubles to hold the jaw closed as that little SOB comes out. If, by some chance, the nail gives way before it comes out, a squeeze on the handle will snip the head as close the floor as you can get it. A tap with a punch will drive the remainder into the wood below sander depth.


I had to do some sleuthing to find a new one, because your average Home SuperStore doesn’t carry them (or, at least, their websites don’t) and I’ve got better things to do than wander the aisle of a Tool Corral trying to find where a stoned 17-year-old hid them last year.

I found mine at the local Ace hardware in under two minutes, and after I got it home I was pulling ring shank nails like daisies. I bought the 8″ Ace store brand for $13. Buy something large enough to fit comfortably in your palm, because if your job is anything like mine, you’ll be pulling nails for a long afternoon.

Date posted: April 28, 2008 | Filed under house, porch, tools | Comments Off on The Right Tool For The Right Job.

Arizona Then and Now. I love this kind of stuff. (via)

Date posted: April 28, 2008 | Filed under photo, shortlinks | Comments Off on Arizona, Then and Now

Is it just me, or do all the trailers for “Speed Racer” look like extended acid trips? I have no honest desire to see this movie whatsoever. I guess that makes me sound old.

Date posted: April 28, 2008 | Filed under humor | Comments Off on We Now Return You To Seizure Robots.

Create better PDFs by understanding the formats, a primer on the various types of PDF format used for printing. Yeesh, what a mess.

Date posted: April 25, 2008 | Filed under design, productivity, shortlinks | Comments Off on Understanding PDF formats

Having just fired up our shitty balky lawnmower for the first time this year in breezy 73° weather, I am completely overwhelmed with the urge to blow off the next week of work and overhaul the front yard of our house. The problem is that I don’t have the $10,000 it will take to have a crew come in to scrape, level, and replant our lawn, yank the hedgerow and replace it with a 6′ privacy fence, bust out the lousy concrete walks, lay down a brick sidewalk, yank the retarded bushes flanking our front door, replant new evergreens around the perimeter of the house, and trim back the holly tree.

Date posted: April 24, 2008 | Filed under house | Comments Off on Spring Fever.

Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve had a very simple email address based on my domain name, and the spammers figured it out pretty early on. The amount of junk I got has been steadily increasing to the point where lately it would take my custom filters and’s junk filter about five minutes to sort my incoming mail in the morning. It wasn’t unusual to see 600+ junk mails by the end of a business day, which didn’t seem out of the ordinary for me.

Yesterday I started getting a ton of “Mail Not Delivered” messages coming back to me from various places, and did a little header snooping: the messages weren’t addressed to my account at all, but an foreign account from an old server I used to host on. I contacted my old host and he apologized for the crossed wires; within five minutes the onslaught had dried up and I went from 5 junk mails a minute down to 5 an hour. I hadn’t realized how much of that crap wasn’t even coming to me directly.

Date posted: April 24, 2008 | Filed under housekeeping | Comments Off on Junk Drawer.