Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Brett & Laurie

IMG_7093 originally uploaded by colt911

This is such a good pic of them, that I had to steal it for my own personal use. Lookin good, guys! Brett has always been sort of the family photographer. He continues to archive the family pics, both new and old. He has several photo sites, ofoto, yahoo, and flickr.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me!

Me, at work, in the cleanroom, on my birthday. Like my getup? I think its quite itchy. Just waitin on break time, Sharon's makin my fav cake. Just her way of saying, “sorry I forgot it was your birthday.” Sheesh, I told her I didn't wanna make it a big deal, well forgetting is DEFINATELY not making it a big deal. Not exactly what I had in mind though. Next year, I'll just have to remember to be more specific.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Holocaust Memorial

Sharon and I stopped along Congress St. in Boston to take a look at the Holocaust Memorial. The very simple yet beautiful glass and metal towers display the perhan numbers of those who were victimized. Six towers represent the concentration camps, each six stories tall, each piece of glass covered with numbers. It was a very somber experience, not to mention incredibly moving. This is definately a must see for everyone, regardless of age or background.

Another picture, from the inside looking up. These were taken by my phone, but we have quite a few taken with our digital which should be up sometime soon.

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Hackaday Boston

I just got home, and I'm already planning the next hackaday meeting for the Boston area.

Everyone seemed to like the once a month idea, so that means put Thursday, July 21st down as the next definate meeting. 7:30 Seemed to work really well, so barring any major upset we'll meet then.

I will say that the hall turned out to be a not so great place to have the meeting, even if its easy to find. The common worked quite nicely, and will be the fallback venue if we can't come up with something else.

That being said, please send in your suggestions for another meeting place. We'd probably make plans for somewhere indoors, in case the weather isn't so cooperative. Strazz suggested meeting at UMASS, maybe we can get that together.

As much as I like keeping the meeting informal, expect the next meeting to at least start with a bit more structure. Bring your hacks, mods, or stories. Everyone seemed to get along well tonight, so lets keep that up. All in all, a good time was had by all.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Shay the librarian

Shay spent most of the afternoon going thru our rather large collection of books (about 12 boxes). Most of them were willed to me by my grandmother, and have been packed up since she died. There's a lot of memories associated with the collection, and a handful of very interesting finds.

I must say I'm rather irked to find out that my favorite series, a collection of 25 World War 2 books from Time are missing. I used to be fascinated by them; I probably read most of them as a kid.

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The end of a beautiful relationship

Sharon & I switched to Verizon today.

We'd been having soooooo many issues with sprint lately, the 600$ phone bills, the crappy customer service, and the bullshit surrounding our number change. We were at the mall yesterday morning after I'd gotten off of work, and stopped by the VW kiosk to check out the new EVDO phones they have.

The manager offered us a great deal, including up to 5 phones & a bunch of really cheap accessories. We got a lot of info on plans/features/phones & such, but left without buying anything. That afternoon, I called sprint to see what they'd be willing to offer me to stay with them, seeing as we've had 6 straight months of <CENSORED>shit</CENSORED>ty service & insane billing problems.

The initial offer was “free n&w@7” which they offer everyone. I told them that I wanted my credit limit raised so I could add an EVDO connection card (and about 100$/month to my bill). The supervisor told me that there was nothing that they could do, that the credit limit was handled by computer. When I pushed him about it he informed me that my credit was pretty much locked in when I opened my account. I was 17 when I activted my phone with sprint, but they are still using that information to determine my “credit worthiness”. The guy actually told me that if Verizon was offering such a good deal to go ahead and switch.

So we did.

We went back to the mall, talked to the same woman, and before we'd even paid the bill our new phones were working. It took less than 5 minutes to port our numbers & actually leave satisfied. It was incredible. I'm still rather impressed, and the EVDO is AMAZINGLY fast. I can't belive I put up with Sprint's <CENSORED>shit</CENSORED> for 4 years!!!

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Saturday, June 18, 2005


Moved here.

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Hackaday Meeting

Sharon and I drove the entire 350 miles to PA Thursday for the first-ever hackaday meeting. Check the map. (thanks, google!) The drive was great, until we hit the Cross Bronx Expressway (isn't that how it always is?) There were plenty of wrecks and construction zones to go around, not to mentioned the car broken down in the middle lane of the GW bridge. All in all, we managed to be about an hour late getting to the park.

We were instantly welcomed and introduced, Vince was pretty impressed that we actually came all the way from MA. I'm pretty sure we missed most of the actual meeting, as it was mostly a social event after we arrived, but we did get to hear about the insecurity of moveable type (and default admin logins in general) and some of the CVScam discussion.

Shortly after we arrived a rather loud group of PA'ers showed up and effectively crashed the party. They seemed content to sit toward the back of the group and talk amongst themselves. Sharon and I tried, but couldn't think of anything they contributed to, other than the eventual breakup of the meeting.

Around 9ish the meeting split, and several of us, including Vince & Scott (TUAW) went to a fast food mexican place just down the street to eat & socialize till around 11. There were several discussions about WiFi security, Apple, and hacking in general.

After everyone left, one of the locals took us to a small Irish bar & we had a few beers before starting the long trek home. All in all it was a lot of fun, and totaly worth the drive. I can't wait to see if we can get something set up here in MA so I can try to go every week.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

SanDisk MobileMate MS+ meets PEZ

A lot of people have been hacking their pez dispensers lately. Well, I noticed it lately. So maybe I'm behind, but whatever. I found a few pez dispensers and decided to try and pair one of them with my recently aquired SanDisk MobileMate MS+. For those of you who don't know, thte MobileMates are flash memory devices designed to look like every other USB flash drive, but instead of having built in storage, there's a slot for your particular flavor of memory card. I grabbed one to help me cope with the lack of friendship between my MAC & my Sony Clie. My wife, Sharon, and I did this this afternoon. It was pretty fun. If you have any questions/comments post them here. I am gunna try to keep this simple, so here it goes.

Step 1
Gather your supplies

I found these PEZ dispensers when we moved. I picked up the MS+ from BestBuy for about 20$, it came with the cable.

As you can see I already disassembled tweety and opened the MobileMate MS+.

As for tools, I used a small screwdriver, a cheap radio shack soldering iron, a cheap radio shack multimeter, pliers, and a dremel.

Step 2

To open the MS+ take the sticker off, and use a small screwdriver to pry the two pieces apart.

If you're carefull you might not mess it up like I did, and it may go back together if you get cold feet.

Step 3
The cable

At this point I drilled a hole for the usb cable. My original plan was to have the cable centered on the back of the PEZ the way it is here.

My entire plan was centered around keeping the PEZ usable, while adding USB MS functionality. I don't have a lot of tools, or a lot of patience.

Step 4
Neuter your MS+

Removing the male USB plug is key to limiting interference with candy dispensing.

I looked up the chip, a GL817E, and discovered that it is capable of reading SD/MMC in addition to MS.

Step 5
Making it Fit

The MS+ board is a bit too big to fit nicely inside the PEZ, so I had to dremel down the edges of the board. There isn't much room to dremel, so be careful. If you sand any of the contacts you'll ruin your 20$ investment.

It was about this time that tragedy struck. The MS+ board won't fit, even after sanding as much away as I dared.

There was only one thing to do, make more room in tweety. Trying to dremel out tweety proved disasterous. the brittle plastic cracked easily.

Tweety had a rough life. We'd found her on part of the roof of the downstairs apartment all covered with mud.

Her sacrifice wasn't in vain, however.

Step 6
Get a new PEZ & start over

Step 7
Making it fit, again

Some quick testing with bugs was reassuring, the sanded down board fit quite nicely.

Taking apart the dispenser mechanism is pretty simple, just cut the plastic. Make sure you keep the spring and the spacer piece. I almost launched mine across the yard. I'll spare you the details on how the PEZ works.The important thing is to cut as far from the head as you can. Our finished dispenser sticks out just a tad farther than it should.

Step 8
Step 3, revisited

This time, the hole for the cable is on the side. After careful consideration, we decided that it would be a much better fit, even if it doesn't look as nice.

Step 9
Let the memory stick in

Cut a hole in the PEZ so you can fit the memory stick into the reader. I used the disc cutter bit for this cut. Originaly it was quite clean, and only as long as the memory stick itself.

While trying to widen it the dremel jumped and make the hole a LOT longer than it had to be.

As you can tell from the pictures, I waited until the last minute to actually disassemble bugs' dispenser. We'd pretty much figured out the dispenser part, and being impatient, I wanted to get on to the stuff we hadn't worked out already.

Step 10
Making the connection

Next, solder the wires from the USB cable to the terminals that used to connect to the male plug.

If you followed me this far, then the pins, from right to left with bugs facing left are red, white, green, black.

Sorry about not having a pic for this step, but its not that hard. I used my multimeter to measure the resistance between each pin and wire to determine which was which.

Step 11
Status update & product test

At this point you should have a fully functional usb memory stick reader in your not quite functional pez.

If you're like me, you'll already be rushing to your computer to test it out.

Step 12
Making it work

Satisfied with the MS reader, Sharon and I went to the store to get some super glue to reassemble the dispenser.

Once again, I'm assuming that you've got the basic concept of PEZ operation. feel free to ask if you need help getting it apart or back together.

Sharon cut a piece of plastic from the unuzed portion of bugs' candy dispenser and glued to the rails to make a new base for the dispenser.

Step 13
Making it beautiful

Sharon went and cut another slightly bigger piece of scrap and glued it to the bottom of bugs. Now not only does it work, it looks nice too.

All in all this was a fun afternoon project. I was very pleasantly supprised when it worked the first time I tried. There are a few improvements that need to be made. Our solder job looks like a one arm drunk 3rd grader did it, and has proven to be slightly unreliable. One of these days I'll redo it. Also, bugs sits about 1 candy width too high, which can be fixed or ignored. I'd like to thank hackaday & the other bored people who've butchered their pez despensers for the inspiration for this project.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

A (few) day(s) in the life...

Prompted by the hackaday podcast. (the first one) I rented hackers yesterday. I haven't seen it in quite a while, so I had to re-watch it just to make sure, but yup, its one of the WORST movies ever. Bad acting, lame computer references, and a corny plot all contribute to make this movie just plain bad. That being said, I throughly enjoyed it again, and its clearly achived cult-classic status for a reason. I'd like to thank the guys at hackaday for an... enlightening experiance....

So far we're on a week long shopping spree. Between food, clothes, and random stuff for our apartment, we've blown through almost an entire paycheck. It feels nice to watch the tv (no longer on a plastic box) in my new clothes, but man oh man do I need to work some mad overtime!!! Someone's gotta pay the bills, lol or I'll be mighty comfortable watching the black screen and walking my happy-ass to work.

We're thinking of having my punk lil brother come up for the summer. He's twice the size, twice as stubborn, and twice as dorky as I ever was. Poor guy will NEVER get laid. But maybe if I can get him up here and get some of that beach air (not to mention a few beers) in him, maybe all won't be lost.

You can't possibly have any idea how much not having internet access sucks. But BM5k, you say, how can you post without internet? (You wouldn't be askin questions if you'd a been paayin attention, but *sigh*) I'm suffering with PCSvision as my only source of connectivity. And I do mean suffering. Its slow, unreliable, not to mention I'm not sure I'm not violating my TOS. Anyway, it sucks, and I am getting pretty fed up with it. Too bad I'm broke-read cheap. Now I'm off to encrypt my hard drive; keep an eye out for the man...

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Memorial Day, a Call to Arms

While driving around town Monday evening, I was pleasantly supprised to see that there were dozens of american flags lining the walkway near the harbor. It was amazing.

As <CENSORED>fuck</CENSORED>ed up as our country is, and as fucked up as the people who run the nation are, this is still my home and it was very empowering to see such a subtle display of respect.


I've become so disillusioned lately. Everyday it seems like everything that made America great is dying. The people of this country are content to sit and let their freedoms disappear. This country was founded on several undeniably important principles. Everyone has the right to have their own oppinion, the right to voice that oppinion, and the right to defend that oppinion.
These days, everyone has the right to be scared.
The tragedy of the September 11 terrorist acts aren't the thousands of innocent lives lost, but what's been done in the aftermath.
Increased airport security, national ID cards... what's next?
Everywhere around us companies are telling us what we can and can't do. The MPAA tells you where you can watch your movies, and what movies you can watch if you're under 18; the RIAA tells you what you can do with your music; the FCC decides what you can hear or see over the airwaves; there is a TERROR ALERT LEVEL broadcast around the clock around the country on every media medium and news network.
What the <CENSORED> fuck </CENSORED> has happend to us? Those in charge are herding us down the path towards the cliff. How mindless will we let them make us. These are people that WE voted for. People that work for US. They aren't special. They aren't more important than we are. Who the <CENSORED>fuck</CENSORED> are they to force us to bend to their will?
Who's right is it for some corporation to decide what you can and can't buy at the store, or what devices can play your music or movies?
People in this country need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that they aren't the center of the <CENSORED> fuck </CENSORED>ing universe.

In this new age of connectivity the power of the indiviual should be growing, but its not. People need to get a grip and realize that by limiting our freedom and feeding our fear with all of these new security laws and terror alerts we are letting the people responsible for the attack on our country to win. They wanted to distroy our way of life? We're doing it ourselves. Osama bin whogivesa <CENSORED> fuck </CENSORED> is probably laughing his <CENSORED> ass </CENSORED> off somewhere, because we've already done his work for him. We are already fast on the way to becoming extinct. There are 3 paths the path to freedom is behind us, and ahead we're faced with oppression by an evergrowing network of corporate government or defeat at the hands of an invading force.

The only thing that can turn us around is you. You have to vote. You have to participate. The people in power want to stay in power. If you do nothing, they have nothing to fear. We can't allow our lives to be taken from us one right at a time. We have to defend ourselves before its too late.

In case you have forgotten

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

2. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

3. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Oh, say, can you see,
by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd
at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd,
were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night
that our flag was still there.

O say, does that star-spangled
banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

This is the time

This is the place. Forget religion, forget race, forget sexuality. As a free people we need to come together NOW to keep our freedom. Our brothers and our fathers and our sons are dying in a far off land once again. Unlike never before our freedoms are under attack here at home. On American soil, the worst deeds have been done by American hands.

Some folks are born made to wave the flag Ooh, they're red, white, and blue And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief” They point the cannon right at you It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no senator's son It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, Lord, dont they help themselves But when the tax man comes to the door, Lord the house looks like a rummage sale It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no millionaire's son It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one Some folks inherit star spangled eyes, Ooh, they send you down to war And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” They only answer “More! More! More!” It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no military son It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one It ain't me, it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one -- CCR, “Fortunate One”

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