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Blog Archives for April 2008

Home Improvements

Monday, April 28th, 2008 - Comments (4) in House, Life

This weekend we did a couple things to the house to make it a little better. First we finally got rid of the decorative bricks that bordered our back patio. They were such a pain in the butt; I've tripped on them about a thousand times and broken a few by hitting them with the lawn mower. So we pulled them all up and plan on filling the hole with dirt and plant some grass.

We were just going to throw the bricks out, but according to the town's website, they have to be in plastic bins each being no more than 60 pounds. It would've taken forever to get rid of them that way, so I put them up on craigslist for free. It was amazing; about 50 people contacted me wanting the bricks.

Then we decided to put a storm door on the house. There is a straight shot through the house from the front door to the back door, so with a screen door we could get a nice cross breeze. We got the door at Lowes Saturday afternoon and got caught in a torrential rain storm (complete with hail) on the way home with the door on the top of my jeep. This door is said to be the easiest to install and can be done in 60 minutes. It took longer than that, but it was really easy to put in. Everything fit like a glove except the top trim piece. I guess the door hole was just a snitch too short. Nothing I couldn't fix with a mallet, a block of wood and sock.

New storm door

I going to end up walking right into that door one of these days...

Lincoln and Kennedy

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 - Comments (2) in Life

When I was in fourth grade my teacher handed out a sheet that had some fun-facts that related presidents Kennedy and Lincoln. I lost that paper almost immediately (like most fourth graders would) and over the years since I've thought about it here and there.

This morning while testing our new web content filter I was randomly clicking around and landed on a web page that had some (if not all) of these fun-facts:

  • Abe was elected to Congress in 1846
  • John was elected to Congress in 1946
  • Abe was elected President in 1860
  • John was elected President in 1960
  • Both were concerned with civil rights
  • Both lost children while living in the White House
  • Both were shot on a Friday
  • Both shot in the head
  • Both shot by southerners
    • John Wilkes Booth, Abe's shooter, was born in 1839
    • Lee Harvey Oswald, John's shooter, was born in 1939
    • Both assassins known by 3 names
      • Both names contain 15 letters
  • Both succeeded by southerners named Johnson
    • Andrew Johnson, Abe's successor, was born in 1808
    • Lyndon Johnson, John's successor, was born in 1908
  • Lincoln was shot at a theater named 'Ford'
  • Kennedy was shot in a car called 'Lincoln' and made by 'Ford'
  • Abe was shot in a theater and JWB ran and hid in a warehouse
  • John was shot from a warehouse and LHO ran and hid in a theater
  • Both assassins were killed before their trials
  • Abe was in Monroe, Maryland the week before he died
  • John was with Marilyn Monroe the week before he died

Fascinating huh? I stole all of this from The OfficeSpam Blog.

Failures at Work

Thursday, April 10th, 2008 - Comments (16) in Computers, Life, Nerd Stuff, Work

This has been a bad week for computers at work. First the librarian brings me a laptop with all the keys in the wrong order. One of these spoiled rich kids felt it necessary to rip every key off the keyboard and put them back on in the wrong spots. Not a huge problem, just annoying.

Then on Tuesday I'm sitting in my office eating lunch watching a youtube video when the video suddenly stops playing. So I wait a little bit and let it buffer, but it doesn't start up again. Then I start to notice a very distinctive odor, that of electronics on fire. Ok, not really on fire, but when capacitors get too hot and explode, they have a very specific scent. So I start sniffing all the servers in my office and find the culprit: the one that routes our internet connections. I thought it was just the power supply, so I changed that out, but it still didn't work. Finally I had to find a spare similar piece of hardware, install Linux and set it up as the router again. All together it was about 2 hours of down time.

The next day I find more fallout from the dead server. Apparently years ago a policy was set that changed everyone's IE homepage to a page on that server. This was for displaying custom alerts and messages to faculty and staff. Since then almost everyone has changed their homepage to something else. The few who did not however got the "This page cannot be displayed" message when opening IE. So they naturally thought the internet was down. I told them to change their homepage and all would be fine. Then I disabled that policy since it really wasn't in use anymore. My expectation in disabling it was that all homepages would stay the same and it would simply stop forcing the local page for new computers. I was wrong. When it was disabled it reset EVERY domain computer's homepage to whatever the default was (MSN or Dell's site). Any time anything changes, users freak out; imagine opening IE and not seeing what you're used to seeing. So another email to everyone went out telling them to just change their homepage and all was well.

Then I noticed a blinking amber light on my Oracle database server where there is usually a solid blue light. I yanked off the bezel and saw one of the six disks announcing its impending death. Luckily this disk was part of a RAID1 array (mirrored, so all the data on this disk is on another disk) and this particular array only holds the operating system, the Oracle data is on a different array of disks. I didn't have any spare disks for this machine so I ordered a few; they should be arriving this afternoon.

Failing hard drive in a 2850

I can't wait to see what breaks later today or tomorrow.

Spring Productivity

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 - Comments (4) in House, Life

I'm so much more productive when the weather is nice. I'm not even talking about just doing things outside, but even projects I've wanted to get done inside. This past weekend I got a whole bunch of stuff done.

Ever since we moved into this house I've wanted to change the water valves for the washing machine to newer quarter-turn ones. Our washing machine is on the first floor off the kitchen, so if we were to ever have a washer hose blow water would flood the first floor and basement ruining the floors and most likely the furnace as there are forced air ducts in the floor near the washer. My dad and I tried to change the valves last summer but they were soldered on and very awkward to work with, so I figured I would just have to live with them.

This weekend while at Home Depot I discovered just the adapter I was looking for: a hose fitting to 1/2 pipe thread. This enabled me to screw the adapter to the end of the existing valves and screw the new quarter-turn valves on the end. This way I can leave the old valves on and just use the easy quarter-turn ones to turn the water on and off when doing laundry!

Old washer valvesNew washer valves

You might be saying to yourself, what are the odds of a washer hose blowing? I had one fail in my last house, but it was in the unfinished basement and about 5 feet away from the sump-pump hole. I was also home at the time, so it wasn't a big deal.


Since Sunday was such a beautiful day we spent most of it outside doing spring lawn work. In the fall we raked and blew most of our leaves, but a lot of leaves from the neighbors ended up in our back yard. They were all wet and weighed a ton. I think I gave myself a hernia dragging the tarp to the curb with a particularly large load of leaves. I also seeded and fertilized the back yard since most of it died last summer in the heat and lack of rain. I hope it comes back, the lawn was gorgeous when we first moved in. I put fertilizer with weed and crab-grass preventative on the front lawn since that grass wasn't completely dead; at least that should look nice. From what I understand that stuff prevents seeds from germinating, which is how it stops the weeds from growing but won't damage the grass since it's already alive. I have to wait a few weeks before I can put that on the back yard though since I just seeded. If I had put it down, they say new grass (from seeds) won't grow for up to 4 months after! Good thing I read the label.

Tonight I finally fixed my broken parking brake! I was waiting until the weather got warmer because working on the driveway or garage floor when it's 30° outside sucks. So once it warmed up I started juicing the bolt that's been rusted in place since I was in middle school and finally broke it loose this evening. Once the bolt was loose it took about 20 minutes to change the brake mechanism and put the console back in the car.

Wirelessly Cursed

Saturday, April 5th, 2008 - Comments (2) in Computers, Life, Nerd Stuff

I've had pretty bad luck with wireless routers over the years. Back in 2002 when I moved off RIT's campus I got a D-Link DI-714 802.11b router but only used the wireless and the switchports. Since I wasn't using it as a router I had to turn off its internal DHCP server, but it didn't really like my choice of settings; why would I ever want to turn off the DHCP service? That caused a few problems, but I lived with it.

When we moved to Brighton in 2004 I bought a new 802.11g router. After a while this one would just start dropping the wireless connections. It started just disconnecting and then reconnecting immediately, but as time went on it eventually stopped connecting. I did a firmware update which seemed to fix it, but as time went on it got quirky again. I finally broke down and bought another 802.11g router around 2006. This one obeyed my settings unlike my first and didn't drop wireless connections like my second, but this one would mysteriously drop packets between the wireless and certain wired computers on the same lan (not even plugged directly into it). Back then it didn't pass any traffic between the wireless and my home theater pc, even though the wireless would talk to our desktops and my other server and all the other wired computers in the house could talk to the HTPC.

This past Christmas I asked for a new router, one that supports 802.11n, and my dad got me a Linksys WRT150n. I only have laptops that support the G standard currently, but I wanted to be future-proof. I set up the new N router right next to the G router in the basement to do some comparison and I wasn't too thrilled with the results:

G router speed N router speed

These routers are right next to each (on different channels with different SSIDs) and the laptop was on my lap on the couch in the same exact spot. The pic on the left at full speed is my old G router and the slow connection on the right is my new "fast" N router (in G mode). I can't believe the newer device is so much slower. That is the fastest I saw it too, it would bounce between 11Mb and 18Mb. Maybe they'll fix it with the next firmware, but who knows when they'll release it. I must be cursed.

I have 10Mb cable right now so it's not like the speed will affect my internet usage, but I do copy a lot of big files around at home so this isn't going to work for me.