Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It Slices, It Dices

It probably even makes julienne fries, though I wouldn't recommend it.

Long story short: my free saw arrived today. Yay!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

There's more than one way to do it

I like to keep a minimal patch kit on every bike I ride, or at least the ones I ride any distance away from home (so the BMX gets a pass). At one point I'd been using an under-saddle bag to hold these goodies, but over time it got old and faded and it never really held things securely and rattle-free. So given that, I decided to explore different options and ended up with 3 different solutions for 3 different bikes.

First up: Purple Haze.

The tool roll under the saddle is perhaps the most classic solution for road bikes, and so I bought 3 different tool rolls to test out which one I liked the most. I'm glad I got more than one as they seem to be of highly variable design quality.

One was from SKS, which is a fairly highly regarded european cycling accessories brand. The tool roll was, somewhat curiously, designed to fit under the handlebars rather than the saddle, and despite its fairly large size it was incapable of holding even a bare essential set of tools before becoming too bulky to properly roll up. Total fail.

I had more success with the Lezyne tool roll, as you can see from its place securely strapped under the saddle. However, it too suffered from a mild lack of space, and I wasn't able to include a CO2 inflator without the roll getting too bulky. Luckily I run fairly low pressures on this bike so it's not too difficult to pump up by hand. (You can see the purple mini-pump just behind the bottle cage on the down tube)

So with that bike down, it's on to the next: Blackbirb.

For this bike, an under-saddle solution wasn't a good option as the motion of the dropper post would put the tool roll/pouch/bag/whatever too close to the rear tire when the saddle was in the low position. For a while I was running a small frame bag that I designed and sewed myself, but there were a few features I wasn't happy with (mostly that it didn't mount tightly enough to not rattle against the frame) that lead me to the thought of either taking another shot at designing a new one, or going for an off-the-shelf solution. The latter won out and I got this Dakine down tube pouch.

That's not to say that the pouch was without its own flaws. The designers had intended for it to hold a pair of CO2 canisters, a MTB-sized tube, and some tire levers stuffed in the elastic sides. I personally have no use for tire levers, and instead opted to put a multi-tool in the elastic sides, but since a multi-tool is bulkier and heavier than a set of tire levers it seemed likely that it would slip out the open bottom of the elastic strap. Thankfully the strap was close enough to the bottom edge of the pouch that I could just stitch the two together, and now my multi-tool is safe and sound and well restrained.

This all came together to make a nice solution for my mountain bike, but due to road bikes being a bit more slender it wouldn't work on my third bike: Dirty Dozen.

When I bought the tool rolls, I actually bought three of them all at once to decide which pleased me the most. The Lezyne was good enough to stick on Purple Haze, the SKS was a bit of a dud, and this final one, a Camelbak, did the best job of holding a full set of roadside repair tools (multi-tool, tube, patch kit, CO2 inflator). The downside of this one, however, was that it didn't have a proper strap to hold it to the underside of the saddle, so I decided to try out a standalone downtube strap (in this case a "Granite Rockstrap") for securing the tool roll.

At first I tried strapping it under the saddle and it worked ok-ish there, but the buckle that held the tool roll closed kept the strap a bit off center and it was difficult to position it in the perfect spot. So I did a little experimenting and found that just under the down tube was the perfect position for it (above the downtube between the pedals wasn't an option as the tool roll was slightly too wide and would interfere with the chainrings).

Barring some unforeseen mishaps with these solutions, I think I'm pretty sorted for on-bike storage at this point. Now I just need to find the time to actually go out riding...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Pale Reflection of Former Glories

Or maybe it's just a lighted, magnifying mirror. One of the two. I'm at home sick with a mild cold today so I decided to install this mirror I got off Amazon to cover a little patch of chipped paint on the wall.

Can't see that chip anymore!

A battery powered version (and there are many available) might have had a slightly cleaner installation, but given I almost never plug anything in to the outlet here I figured having a cord draped across the wall a little ways was a fair tradeoff for never having to change batteries.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Two-gang Done Right

Wiring multiple outlets in a single box? Save yourself some time and headache with a little advance preparation.

A little bit more power

In my pursuit of juicing up my server to act as my security camera processing box, I decided to pop in an upgraded video card. In theory, if everything goes to plan, this should allow me to encode video and run image processing and ML algorithms much more efficiently than trying to do it on the CPU.

Of course, what I didn't count on when ordering the video card is that it would be too long to fit into the existing case, and that furthermore I would need a new power supply with the right connectors for the auxiliary power inputs on it. Cue another trip to Amazon and...

Now my server is much larger. It's quite nice having so much space inside to work on stuff, for the rare occasions that I'll be digging around in there to work on stuff. The important part is that the RTX2070 card fits inside with room to spare.

Amusingly I went for a 1kw power supply just for the sake of making damn sure I'd have enough dancing pixies to keep the magic smoke contained, and after powering the system on and checking the display on my UPS, I'm only using about 100w at idle. I think I've got a little headroom left over.

Now I just have to get all the software to actually talk with the video card. Also peel off the protective plastic once I shove it into its final location in my crafts room.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Letting the Sparks Fly

... Or trying not to, as the case may be. Today's project was repairing a loose outlet. Why was it loose? Well, when it was originally installed the workers put in a 4x4 bakelite junction box in the wall, used the space to join a bunch of wires together because why not, and then put a bakelite mud ring on top to mount an outlet to. Bakelite is, of course, quite brittle, so obviously it's the material of choice for something that people will regularly smack into.

Somehow they didn't see that coming. it's a good thing they don't make 'em like they used to. And here's the mess that was hidden inside:

Naturally all the wires were cut way too short, and many of them were spliced in questionable ways, so before I could install the old-work box I had to clean things up and extend them all. That was a fun time.

It's a good thing crimp butt splice connectors exist. If you're wondering why there's two different sizes, it's because this old style romex uses an undersized ground wire. And since they don't make a splice that fits both 12 and 14ga wire, I not only had to use two different sizes of splices, but also go out and buy some 14ga wire.

Anyway, after the usual amount of struggling and cussing I got the new box in, a pair of outlets wired up, and everything buttoned up nicely once more.

Job well done.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hiding in the Walls

Today I decided to rewire the ethernet drops that go to the craft room and, since it shares the same wall, the guest bedroom (which is still entirely devoid of furniture, but never mind that). I wanted to rewire them for two reasons. Firstly, they were obviously installed by someone who had no idea what they were doing, as the wiring on the keystone jacks was hilariously sloppy and the RJ45 terminations on the other end had an inch of bare wires behind the plug.

So I remove the faceplate on one side of the wall and start disassembling the sloppy work. I'd had this plate off once before to inspect the state of things, and at the time noticed some odd items inside the wall: what looked like a piece of fabric, perhaps a glove, some folded up pieces of paper, etc, but I didn't pay much attention to them as it looked like a work glove and probably the instructions for how to wire an ethernet jack.

Oh how wrong I was.

I figured I might as well clean out the detritus, and the first thing I discovered was that what I assumed was a glove was, instead, a jacket off of a doll. Weird. Continuing to dig revealed other odd items: a piece of a toy golf club, a valentine's card from someone's grandmother, an empty packet of Certs, a painted piece of metal that looked like it was a part of a toy at one point, some handwritten notes about bending sheet metal. Then things got weirder.

A torn magazine page featuring pinups of Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson.

About 14 pages of inkjet printouts of scantily clad ladies.

A pair of women's panties with a wallet-sized photo stapled to them.

A sock.



Anyway, pulling the new wires turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I bought some pre-terminated ethernet cables to save a bit of fuss and as it turned out the hole drilled at the top of the wall wasn't quite big enough to fit the RJ45 plugs through, so I had to very carefully drill a second hole beside the first so I could squeeze them past. Then I decided I'd probably need even more space for the next pair of cables and, well, let's say I guess I got greedy. I managed not to nick the cables drilling the first hole, but the second one wasn't so lucky and I managed to completely sever one of the old cables (no big deal) and nick both of the new cables I'd already pulled (annoying, but luckily I have RJ45 ends and crimper, and the damage was maybe only 3 feet from the end of the cable, so it wasn't a total loss to have to re-terminate them).

Anyway, I had to resort to using a fish tape to pull the second pair of cables, which worked out ok. Would have been nice to use the old cable but it was no longer fit for even that purpose. Interestingly, when I pulled the remains of that one out of the wall I found that it suffered some sort of damage part way down and had been folded over and wrapped with electrical tape for some bizarre reason.

Needless to say I'm glad I got rid of all that mess. I just have a bit of electrical to fix in the guest room (one of the electrical boxes is broken, so I need to chip out its remains and replace it with an old work box) and then I can move my server into the craft room and not have it sitting in the middle of the main living area.