Archive for the ‘diy’ Category
It’s not just photos. I want the same for my whole expanding set of digital objects, including medical and financial records, commercial transactions, personal correspondence, home energy use data, you name it. I want all of my lifebits to be hosted in the cloud under my control. Is that feasible? Technically there are huge challenges, but they’re good ones, the kind that will spawn new businesses.
From Gordon Moore‘s MyLifeBits to most recently Stephen Wolfram‘s personal collection of data and now to Jon Udell. Witness the ever expanding universe of personal data. Thinking about Gordon Moore now, I think the emphasis from Microsoft Research was always on video and pictures and ‘recollecting’ what’s happened in any given day. Stephen Wolfram’s emphasis was not so much on collecting the data but analyzing it after the fact and watching patterns emerge. Now with Jon Udell we get a nice kind of advancing of the art by looking at possible end-game scenarios. So you have collected a mass of LifeBits, now what?
Who’s going to manage this thing? Is anyone going to offer a service that will help manage it? All great questions because the disparate form social networking lifebits take versus other like health and ‘performance’ lifebits (like Stephen Wolfram collects and maintains for himself) are pointing up a big gap that exists in the cloud services sector. Ripe pickings for anyone in the entrepreneurial vein to step in and bootstrap a service like the one Jon Udell proposes. If someone was really smart they could get it up and running cheaply on Amazon Web Services (AWS) until it got to be too cost and performance prohibitive to keep it hosted there. That would both allow an initial foray to test the waters, see the size and tastes of the market and adapt the hosted lifebits service to anyone willing to pay up. That might just be a recipe for success.
- The Personal Cloud (jonudell.net)
- ‘Personal Cloud’ to Replace PC by 2014 & I’m lovin it!(manojpant.wordpress.com)
I’ve seen the future, and not only does it work, it works without tools. It’s moddable, repairable, and upgradeable. Its pieces slide in and out of place with hand force. Its lid lifts open and eases shut. It’s as sleek as an Apple product, without buried components or proprietary screws.
Oh how I wish this were true today for Apple. I say this as a recent purchaser of a Apple re-furbished iMac 27″. My logic and reasoning for going with the refurbished over new was based on a few bits of knowledge gained reading Macintosh weblogs. The rumors I read included the idea that Apple repaired items are strenuously tested before being re-sold. In some cases return items are not even broken, they are returns based on buyers remorse or cosmetic problems. So there’s a good chance the logic board and lcd have no problems. Now reading back this Summer just after the launch of Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), I read about lots of problems with crashes off 27″ iMacs. So I figured a safer bet would be to get a 21″ iMac. But then I started thinking about Flash-based Solid State Disks. And looking at the prohibitively high prices Apple charges for their installed SSDs, I decided I needed something that I could upgrade myself.
But as you may know iMacs over time have never been and continue to remain not user up-gradable. However, that’s not to say people haven’t tried or succeeded in upgrading their own iMacs over the years. Enter the aftermarket for SSD upgrades. Apple has attempted to zig and zag as the hobbyists swap in newer components like larger hard drives and SSDs. Witness the Apple temperature sensor on the boot drive in the 27″ iMac, where they have added a sensor wire to measure the internal heat of the hard drive. As the Mac monitors this signal it will rev-up the internal fans. Any iMac hobbyist attempting to swap out a a 4TByte or 3TByte drive for the stock Apple 2TByte drive will suffer the inevitable panic mode of the iMac as it cannot see its temperature sensor (these replacement drives don’t have the sensor built-in) and assumes the worst. They say the noise is deafening when those fans speed up, and they never, EVER slow down. This Apple’s attempt insure sanctity through obscurity. No one is allowed to mod or repair, and that means anyone foolish enough to attempt to swap their internal hard drive on the iMac.
But, there’s a workaround thank goodness and that is the 27″ iMac whose internal case is just large enough to install a secondary hard drive. You can slip a 2.5″ SSD into that chassis. You just gotta know how to open it up. And therein lies the theme of this essay, the user upgradable, user friendly computer case design. The antithesis of this idea IS the iMac 27″ if you read these steps from iFixit and the photographer Brian Tobey. Both of these websites make clear the excruciating minutiae of finding and disconnecting the myriad miniature cables that connect the logic board to the computer. Without going through those steps one cannot gain access to the spare SATA connectors facing towards the back of the iMac case. I decided to go through these steps to add an SSD to my iMac right after it was purchased. I thought Brian Tobey’s directions were just slightly better and had more visuals pertinent to the way I was working on the iMac as I opened up the case.
It is in a word a non-trivial task. You need the right tools, the right screwdrivers. In fact you even need suction cups! (thankyou Apple). However there is another way, even for so-called All-in-One style computer designs like the iMac. It’s a new product from Hewlett-Packard targeted for the desktop engineering and design crowd. It’s an All-in-One workstation that is user upgradable and it’s all done without any tools at all. Let me repeat that last bit again, it is a ‘tool-less’ design. What you may ask is a tool-less design? I hadn’t heard of it either until I read this article in iFixit. And after having followed the links to the NewEgg.com website to see what other items were tagged as ‘tool-less’ I began to remember some hints and stabs at this I had seen in some Dell Optiplex desktops some years back. The ‘carrier’ bracket for the CD/DVD and HDD drive bays were these green plastic rails that just simply ‘pushed’ into the sides of the drive (no screws necessary).
And when I considered my experience working with the 27″ iMac actually went pretty well (it booted up the first time no problems) after all I had done to it, I consider myself very lucky. But it could have been better. And there’s no reason it cannot be better for EVERYONE. It also made me think of the XO Laptop (One Laptop Per Child project) and I wondered how tool-less that laptop might be. How accessible are any of these designs? And it also made me recall the Facebook story I recently commented on about how Facebook is designing its own hard drive storage units to make them easier to maintain (no little screws to get lost and dropped onto a fully powered motherboard and short things out). So I much more hope than when I first embarked on the do it yourself journey of upgrading my iMac. Tool-less design today, Tool-less design tomorrow and Tool-less design forever.
Whenever you need to work with data, don’t overlook the Unix “hand tools.” Sure, everything I’ve done here could be done with Excel or some other fancy tool like R or Mathematica. Those tools are all great, but if your data is living in the cloud, using these tools is possible, but painful. Yes, we have remote desktops, but remote desktops across the Internet, even with modern high-speed networking, are far from comfortable. Your problem may be too large to use the hand tools for final analysis, but they’re great for initial explorations. Once you get used to working on the Unix command line, you’ll find that it’s often faster than the alternatives. And the more you use these tools, the more fluent you’ll become.
This is a great remedial refresher on the Unix commandline and for me kind of reinforces an idea I’ve had that when it comes to computing We Live Like Kings. What? How is that possible, well think about what you are trying to accomplish and finding the least complicated quickest way to that point is a dying art. More often one is forced to follow or highly encouraged to set out on a journey with very well defined protocols/rituals included. You must use the APIs, the tools, the methods as specified by your group. Things falling outside that orthodoxy are frowned upon no matter what the speed and accuracy of the result. So doing it quick and dirty using some Shell scripting and utilities is going to be embarrassing for those unfamiliar with those same tools.
My experience doing this involved a very low end attempt to split Web access logs into nice neat bits that began an ended on certain dates. I used grep, split, and a bunch of binaries I borrowed for doing log analysis and formatting the output into a web report. Overall it didn’t take much time, and required very little downloading, uploading,uncompressing,etc. It was all commandline based with all the output dumped to a directory on the same machine. I probably spent 20 minutes every Sunday running these by hand (as I’m not a cronjob master much less an atjob master). And none of the work I did was mission critical other than being a barometer of how much use the websites were getting from the users. I realize now I could have had the whole works automated with variables setup in the shell script to accommodate running on different days of the week, time changes, etc. But editing the scripts by hand in vi editor only made me quicker and more proficient in vi (which I still gravitate towards using even now).
And as low end as my needs were and how little experience I had initially using these tools, I am grateful for the time I spent doing it. I feel so much more comfortable knowing I can figure out how to do these tasks on my own, pipe outputs into inputs for other utilities and get useful results. I think I understand it though I’m not a programmer, and couldn’t really leverage higher level things like data structures to get work done, no. I’m a brute force kind of guy and given how fast the CPUs are running, a few ugly, inefficient recursions isn’t going to kill me or my reputation. So here’s to Mike Loukides article and how much it reminds me of what I like about Unix.
There is no easier or more complete way to keep your mower in good shape than to remove the metal carburetor bowl. Let all that gas drip out, take the bowl off and look inside. I once did this for the first time on our snowblower the first season I was running it. To my shock and horror there was a small pile of black fragments sitting in there! It appeared to be bits of vulcanized rubber or a similar substance. I freaked out knowing that any debris in that area can affect a motor adversely (especially a small 3.5hp one). I cleaned it out and it helped a little. But what I really needed was a good new accurately gapped spark plug. Ultimately it was that spark plug that made a bigger performance difference than any other. But it never hurts to remove that bowl and wipe it out. For good measure I will leave a little bit of carburetor choke cleaner in the bottom of the bowl when I reattach it. That way anything that might form there will stay in solution until the following season when I first prime and start the motor. Doing this, I usually get one big puff of grey smoke out the exhaust until it warms up. Then everything is free and clear and runs great.
Even if you’ve run your equipment dry as part of your usual end-of-season maintenance steps, some fuel can remain in the bowl of the carburetor. If you don’t drain the bowl, you might see some of the telltale white residue and related corrosion associated with ethanol blends. Four-cycle engines in particular seem prone to the buildup, although two-cycle engines can also suffer from the problem.
I own a very large metal file, and I use it to sharpen my lawnmower blade. Everything I’ve ever read about sharpening a mower blade indicated you don’t ever use power equipment. By that I mean something that spins at a high rate of speed with a sharpening wheel attached. The reason given is always the same. The steel used in lawnmower blades is hardened along the edges to hold the sharpness longer. When you try to resharpen the blade using a high speed spinning sharpening stone, the metal in the blade heats up. Sometimes it can heat up so much the metal turns color. When you see that color, you have effectively removed the hardening of the steel. It will now be just as soft as a wire coat hanger and not hold the sharp edge for very long. However today I read in Consumer Reports blog that they use a Dremel tool with a blade sharpening attachment. How is this different from your average cheap bench grinder? It’s hand held, but other than that, does it heat up the blade any less? I also have one of the electric drill attachments they mention in the article. I don’t use that tool for the same reason why I probably wouldn’t use the Dremel attachment, it’s going to heat up the blade as the sharpening progresses.
Another good sharpening option is Dremels Lawn Mower & Garden Tool Sharpener attachment about $8 is. Peter Sawchuk, our outdoor-power-equipment expert, uses this attachment at our mower/tractor-testing site in Fort Myers, Florida, where we check out several dozen models every year. “I see value in the attachment for homeowners,” says Sawchuk, noting that the nylon guide holds the blade at the right angle for maximum sharpness. In Sawchuks experience, the only drawback to the attachment is that it cant grind out major nicks. You can also get similar drill attachments for sharpening a mower blade. Properly clamping the blade in a stationary position and using two hands to guide the tool will help you get a uniformly sharp cutting edge.
from consumer reports