Saturday, June 22, 2019

Shipping Container Hanging Shelves (and my recycling system)

You can never have too many shelves.  A while back, I built some shelves for the end of my shipping container.  Recently, I've built hanging shelves for the side of my shipping container - and then built some for our church's shipping container as well!

They aren't designed for handling insane amounts of weight (I'd put 300lb on them without worrying about it), but they'll support lighter boxes without any trouble.  If you've got a shipping container and want more storage, you may find these insanely useful!


Like my other shelves, these don't require any penetrations through the wall.  They're entirely supported by the chains run to the hooks along the top corner.

Plus, for fun, I added some additional shelves to help organize my recycling better.


If you've got a shipping container, you'll almost certainly want to build hanging shelves for it!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Clank: Reviving an Ancient Netbook (and replacing an iPhone 6S rear lens)

I admit to an odd enjoyment of making old, slow hardware (or new, slow hardware) into something useful.  I've been making very good progress on the front of "Making usable desktops out of things people think are too slow."  Raspberry Pi 3s, Jetson Nanos, ancient netbooks...

This week, I'm talking about Clank: An old Asus 1215N I found at a local pawn shop for nearly nothing.  The battery was stone dead, the hard drive was shot, it had 2GB of RAM, and was covered in dust - but it powered on to the BIOS, and showed promise.  So, away we go!


What's it take to restore something this old to being useful?  Is it useful?  Join me for the journey!


Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Best USB Power Supply I've Found Yet: A Home Depot Surge Protector!

Sometimes, "smart" isn't the right answer.  Sometimes, dumb brute force is the right answer to a problem - and I've been having problems with USB power lately.  Over the past year, playing around with Raspberry Pi 3s and Jetson Nanos, I've learned that they can be very, very power hungry beasties, and most USB power supplies will sag out when you really crank up the load.  The official Raspberry Pi power supply will keep up, but most other USB power supplies struggle and sag if you load them up quickly.

What about a big, dumb power supply?  Your local home improvement shop probably has plenty of things like this - which claims to be a 3.1A USB charger, plus a surge protector and outlet splitter.  What's in it?  Is it any good?  Does it actually put out an honest 3.1A?


Actually, it's one of the most impressive USB power supplies I've met - and surprisingly not-dumb.  Not only does it do an honest 3.1A, I get a reasonable voltage at the end of a normal USB cord!  The thing has cable voltage droop compensation!  Keep reading for more details and the teardown, because this thing is good!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

What happens when you try to quit Facebook?

Have you ever gone through the flow for deleting your Facebook account?  It's a very interesting process that can best be described as, "Customer Retention."  Or, in other words, "Please don't go!  We can change!  We promise!  Look, see, here's a solution to all your objections!  Think of all the friends you won't see updates from!"  And so on.  Since Facebook is busy re-inventing their UI to pretend to be less toxic, let's look at their UI for detoxifying them entirely - and what we can learn about their thinking from it.



If you haven't played with it, it's worth messing around with!  Or, you can enjoy the overview here!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The 200th Post Reflections

In news that's likely just as surprising to some of you as it is to me, this post is the 200th post on my blog - slightly over 4 years after starting it.  I've written extensively about a wide range of topics, and, surprisingly, haven't run out of stuff to say yet - despite nearly 600,000 words written!


I'm over 2.3 million pageviews (!), well over 1000 comments, have a surprising amount of media coverage around the internet, and am, in general, quite happy with how things have gone!  What's the history of my blog?  Where do I plan to go?  Keep reading!


Saturday, April 13, 2019

nVidia Jetson Nano: Desktop Use, Kernel Builds, and Deeper Analysis

Last week, I unboxed the Jetson Nano, set it up, and did some basic benchmarking on it.  This week continues the Jetson Nano analysis.  I'm making it into a desktop, I'm measuring power use, and I'm poking at various other places I find interesting or useful.

The result?  After some tweaking and playing around (and the normal-for-me kernel build), it's a very solid little desktop that can handle an awful lot!


What we've got here: A Jetson Nano, running a 4k display at 60Hz, running an Ubuntu Server virtual machine (somewhat slowly - still working on virtualization), Netbeans running, Chrome Chroming with a few fairly heavy tabs open, IRC connected, and Plex Media Server running a video.  Plus the usual terminals.  It's responsive enough that I'm happily typing this post on it.  Does this count as desktop use?  Up to you, but I sure consider it impressive for a little $100 board!

If you haven't read last week's post, go do so.  I'm building on it this week.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Benchmarking the Brand New nVidia Jetson Nano: 4GB, USB 3, $99!

Early delivery days rock!  I wasn't supposed to have this delivered until Monday, but it showed up this morning, and I'm very, very excited.

If you keep up with little ARM boards, as some people do, you may also be properly excited about the nVidia Jetson Nano.  I've been excited about it for a few weeks now - and I've got one right here on my desk.  As you might expect, I'm about to run it through it's paces and see what makes it tick (after tearing it apart for science).


Since the system is a big GPU with some ARM cores bolted on, most of the early reviews so far have focused on the GPU - and the sort of AI, Machine Learning style stuff the board seems to be designed for.  I haven't seen a good review with more standard benchmark results (and especially storage and browser benchmarks) - so I did them myself!

I know I promised some solar related posts, and they're coming - but this little gizmo is way more interesting, and is one of the few times you'll see me reviewing a brand new bit of hardware that just came out.

Interested in what a modern little quad core ARM dev board can do?  Keep reading!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Boeing, Airbus, Tesla, and Automation

If you've been paying attention to the news recently, you might be aware that the FAA has grounded the Boeing 737MAX series airplanes, pending investigation into what appear to be MCAS-caused crashes.


Since I'm a (private) pilot, and have more than a slight interest in automation systems, a few people have asked my opinion of the whole situation.  Of course, this being me, the whole thing scope creeped badly into a post containing more than a few thoughts on Boeing, Airbus, control system design, automation, complexity... the works.

So, keep reading and let's dive in.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Our Little Neighborhood Library

On rare occasions, I manage to get off our property - and this week, I have proof!  My wife and I have put together a Little Neighborhood Library, which is almost exactly like a Little Free Library, except $40 cheaper and not listed on the LFL website.


And you should build one for your neighborhood!  Or, at least, a useful neighborhood near you.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

UE Mini Boom Teardown

I've not found a great teardown of a UE Mini Boom - and, especially, nothing talking about battery replacement.  The Mini Boom is an older Bluetooth speaker that was quite popular some while back - and they're not particularly well documented.  So, of course, I ripped into mine.

This little gizmo is a perfect example of "nearly unmaintainable consumer crap," and I'm going to rip on it as I go - there is no reason to build something this hard to work on, and I think it's irresponsible for consumer product companies to build stuff this way.  It's hard to get apart, you can't get it back together without heroics, it doesn't look the same after you get it back together, and... I just don't understand why you'd do this.  It's not even waterproof, which is a common excuse for hard-to-take-apart things.  It's got glue, it's got soldered connections where headers would make sense, and it's just a pain to work on.  On the plus side, they did design it to last - but, seriously.  Don't build things like this.


Anyway, what's inside?  How do you get inside, anyway?  Keep reading to find out!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Thinkpad T430S IPS Screen Upgrade

If you have a ThinkPad T420/T420S/T430/T430S laptop, I have great news for you: You can replace the screen with something that doesn't suck!  It's a bit of moderately deep laptop surgery, but it's doable!

If you don't have a ThinkPad of that series, well... you're not missing out on the screen side.  They have one of the worst screens shipped in recent history - and that's comparing them to an awful lot of the cheap netbooks out there.


The replacement is fairly straightforward - but it does involve diving pretty deep into the laptop, and it does involve a sketchy bit of display translator hardware.  So, what's involved?  Keep reading to find out!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Solar Ultrasonic Critter Repeller Teardown

One of the problems I have on my property out here is burrowing critters.  We have voles, rock chucks, and gophers - at a minimum.  There might be more I haven't found yet.  I've attempted to deter them from areas we care about (like the garden) with some little solar "burrowing critter" emitters.  In theory, they make enough annoying noises under the ground that the critters just go somewhere else.

Maybe you've seen them - a solar panel on a stick that you wedge in the ground.  A 4-pack on eBay runs about $25, maybe a bit less.


Do they work?  Hard to say.  They're faintly annoying to me, but I'm not a gopher.  Would a gopher find them annoying enough to stay away from the garden?  Maybe.  Ask me in a few years.

How do they work?  Well, that's a question best answered with a teardown - and that, I can do!


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Shipping Container Shelves

You know what I always need?  More cowbell shelves!  This week, I'm adding shelves to the back of my shipping container - because the back of a shipping container is a good spot for shelves, and I've not been making very good use of the vertical space in the shipping container.  I've got a high top container (9.5' high), and I've been mostly using the floor for storage space, which is quite silly.  So I've added shelves!  This is a fairly simple build that should work for any more or less normal shipping container - it's completely free standing, just wedged into the corrugations of the container.


How do you build such a thing?  Keep reading to find out!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018 Reflections, 2019 Resolutions

Well, 2018 has wound up - time for the annual reflection post, and the 2019 resolution post (combined this year for your reading convenience).


The big news in 2018 was the new kid - he showed up in June, and is doing great!  I also spent most of the spring working on a giant time-sink of a building that our church purchased - it needed a lot of work, and I happily dove in to work on demolition, rebuilding, roofing... everything that needed doing.  However, I didn't get as much done around the property as I'd hoped for this year.

On the other hand, I've got some seriously large projects lined up for 2019 that will be documented in proper blog form.  So, keep reading to find out what comically absurd project will take my 2019!