The Toyota's seen a fair bit of work and has spent a fair amount of time in the shop so far this past year. Mostly things that have just worn out from age. Radiator, gaskets, engine mount, hoses, more gaskets.

Most receently, the check engine light has been persistently on due to issues in the emissions/vacuum system. Get one thing fixed, light comes back on with codes pointing at something else in the same system.

Now, considering the age of the car (15 years now), we're starting to look at replacing the Toyota sooner rather than later.

Not sure what we'll replace it yet, but it will be a newer older used car, probably about the same size. The folding rear seats with the opening into the trunk is very handy, so having that in the next car would be nice.

Car budget has taken a pretty big hit with all the recent repairs, so we'll need to fill that back up before we go shopping.

Castle Wolfenstein!

Not very long ago, the Internet Archive introduced the Internet Arcade, a huge collection of games from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I spent some time browsing around and found all sorts of classic games that I grew up with playing in the arcade and at home.

The other day, a random web page I was browsing made a reference to Wolfenstein 3D, which made me think of Castle Wolfenstein, a game I spent many hours playing on the Apple ][+ and //e.

I wandered over to the Internet Arcade to see if it was there, and sure enough, there it is: Castle Wolfenstein in all its low res glory, free to play in a DOSBox emulator right there in the browser. The manual for the Apple ][/][+ version is even available on the Internet Archive so you don't have to press random keys trying to remember the controls.


There's even Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (and manual) as well, another game I spent many hours playing.

The Arcade is a place to hang out again :)

Newish location of Marco's Pizza opened up next door to the Publix on James Island so we gave it a try.

We had a sausage and meatball pizza. Pretty decent, lots of meat.

MarcosPizza.jpgBig chunks of sausage and whole meatballs cut in half, not slices like you might expect from chains or takeout places.

Nice place. Not fancy, not a whole lot of seating (3 booths, a few seats by the window and a couple of 2-top tables) but reasonably comfy. Most of the customers we saw while eating were coming in for pick-up/take out orders.

The 2015 storm season got off to an early start a couple of days ago with Ana, which started off as a subtropical system and got upgraded to a tropical storm yesterday.

It skirted by Charleston making things breezy with occasional rain the last couple of days. Ana made landfall around Myrtle Beach this morning.

According to my blogmemory, the last time a storm popped up this early was back in 2007 with TS Andrea. That year ended up being a kind of busy-ish but uneventful storm season.

Hopefully this year will be similar.

The draft schedule and other SELF events was just released.

I'm not going to be able to make it this year, but it definitely looks like it will be another good time.

Ubucon, BSidesCLT, Chef training, and Zero to DBA are in the lineup along with a bunch of other interesting looking talks.

Some of the ones in the schedule that caught my eye:

  • Git: Just say "No!" - D. Richard Hipp
  • MariaDB 10.1 101 - Daniel Bartholomew
  • Keynote: Team Near Space: Computing at 80 000 ft - Francois Dion
  • Keynote: Net Neutrality: From One Non-Evil ISP's Perspective - Zach Underwood
  • Amateur Radio at the Boston Marathon - David Cantrell

Once again, there will be an amateur radio licensing test being administered on Saturday. The Craft Beer Bottle Share is back again this year (last year proved to be pretty popular).

Friday night is something new, Geeks with Guns, tentatively scheduled to take place after the talks at a nearby indoor shooting range. That ought to be interesting and fun.

I hear hotel rooms in the SELF block are going pretty quick and the SELF room rate will be expiring soon so if you're planning on going, better make your reservation pretty soon.

Bike repair station

Walking to my car after work yesterday, I noticed a new thing  that popped up on campus.


Upon closer investigation, it turned out to be a bike repair station complete with air pump and tools for doing some very simple basic repairs.

This bicycle front mounted to the column serves as a hanger for the air hose. The valve for the air compressor is located near the ground at the base of the column.


A tubular stand bolted to the concrete sidewalk serves as a bike stand and also houses the tools which are attached to the column by cables. The label on the column identifies it as a Dero Fix It. The QR code and website takes you to a web page with some videos for some very basic repair jobs you can do with at the stand.


The bike holder integrated to the stand is a pretty cool idea, and gets the bike up high enough to make it easier to work on.


All the tools you need to do simple emergency repairs or adjustments on your bike are right there: wrenches, screw drivers, allen wrenches, and tire irons.


It's a pretty genius idea I think.

Work computer upgrades

Finally got around to replacing the work desktop (cobbled together from parts of old retired PACS display stations) with a "newer" workstation (cobbled together from parts of slightly less old retired PACS display stations).

It's one I put together about a year ago, but just never had time to move it down to my desk. Quad core Xeon 5120, 16GB RAM and around 750GB of hard disk space spread over 4 drives. For something pieced together out of spare parts, this new computer is significantly beefier than the old one. It's capable of driving 4 monitors, so I think I'll have to go scrounge for a third one.

My old web/database server is being retired, so I'm moving those functions down to this new computer. Spent the day working on migrating stuff over from the old server, which went surprisingly smoothly.

Pro tip: When something should be working, but isn't, check for unnoticed SELinux alerts. Might just find something useful there.

For the past 12 years, my blogs have been powered by MovableType, then OpenMelody (the open source version of MT), then back to MovableType (MTOS).

With MovableType solidly a commercial product now (at $999/license for MT6) and development on MTOS 5 down to bug and security fixes, it's time to find something else.

It's a move I've been considering for a while now. I've been wanting closer integration of the photo gallery and blog, as well as a place that could serve as an online notebook for my electronics experiments.

At the moment, I've got the usual suspects installed on my computer to play with

Most of them have a fairly sizable collection of plugins, modules and themes to work with so I should be able to get pretty close to what I'm looking for eventually. Except for Joomla, I've played with each of them a little at some point. Of the 5 so far, Wordpress is the only one I've been able to import a MovableType export file into. e107 has an import facility but I wasn't able to get the import module I wrote to work.

I think of the bunch, it will likely come down to either Drupal or Wordpress. I've still got a lot of playing around to do though before I decide on anything.

Dishwasher maintenance

The dishwasher is original to the house and is getting on 10 years now. It's a pretty basic model and nothing very fancy. Lately it started having problems where it wasn't filling with water. Figured the dishwasher was finally starting to give up the ghost and it was time to start shopping for a new one.

Fortunately, I had remembered someone I follow on Google+ describing a similar problem and that the solution was a stuck flood float. Giving it a tap got it working again a few times, but then the dishwasher started doing the same thing again.

This time I decided to dig a little deeper. A single screw holds the cover of the flood float on so it wasn't hard to remove.


Warning: If your dishwasher is as old as mine, this operation is not for the squeamish.

Underneath the cover is the actual flood float, which is a similarly shaped plastic cup that sits on top of a plastic pin that does the actual switch/valve actuating. Between the cover and float was years and years of built up gunky moldy goo that used to be food debris. Lifted the float off and inside there was even more built up gunky moldy goo. Well, no wonder the float was getting stuck.

I didn't think to get any pictures, but it's probably better that way.

After clearing out all the goo and giving things a bit of a rinse, I put all the pieces back together and the dishwasher went back to work like it was supposed to.

If your dishwasher has one of these, you might want to grab a screwdriver and see if it needs clearing out. Might save you a bit of trouble down the road.

Resistor storage

At the hamfest back in February, I picked up a big bag of resistors that's been sitting on the shelf since then. They turned out to be 50 strips with 50 resistors each. The values are conveniently printed on the paper strip, which saves me time decoding the stripes on the resistors.

DSC02115.JPGI don't have room in any of my storage bins to hold them all, and searching through them in that pile isn't the most convenient thing. Then I remembered reading a while ago about someone using pill bottles to store components in. It seemed like a workable idea, and I happened to have a bunch of them sitting around. I don't have enough for all of the strips, but I can get more pretty easily.

I wrote down the resistor value on a sticky note folded in half, rolled up a strip of resistors and stuck it into the pill bottle. I had enough bottles on hand to do 21 of strips, leaving 29 left to go.

DSC02118.JPGI figure I can order them into three groups, 100 (Ω), 103 (kΩ) and 106 (MΩ). The big printing should make it pretty easy to find the ones I need.