Record Player to Largest iPod Speakers Ever

November 8, 2006

Awhile back we found a good deal ($10) on an old Columbia Records Phonograph player that was cool looking, but not functional in the slightest. The speakers were blown out and the amp system was tube based.  It didn’t even hum when I plugged it in.  So I decided to gut it and add some newly acquired/free computer speakers to it, making it into the largest iPod speaker system on the block.

Old Electronics

Some of the original Electronics

The whole process wasn’t that hard at all.  All it involved was removing all the speakers and electronics that were in it previously, and fitting the new speakers and electronics in.  The hardest part was finding ways to attach the much smaller new speakers into the holes left by the old ones, without spending any money.  Attaching material I found include lighting fixture brackets and other random metal scraps from our house.  I also created some make-shift padding out of a ‘super’  rag that we hadn’t used much.

new Speakers

New Speaker Setup

I think the whole process went pretty well, and the sound quality is about as good as you would expect from free computer speakers.  Luckily I’m not an audiophile.

This week, I’ve been trying to use the old Volume controls to control the volume of the new speakers, with limited success.  The original setup has three knobs: ‘Loudness’, treble, and bass.  What’s really going on under the hood is that the treble and bass loop back to the volume potentiometer to mess with the high and low ends.  This is unnecessary and non-functional, so I decided to use the volume knob to control the left channel and the bass knob to control the right channel.  This works, but the problem is that the change in resistance in these two devices is apparently not linear.  Meaning, there is not much increase in volume until you get towards the last bit of turning, and then it gets really loud, really fast.  I’m pretty sure this is a problem with the potentiometers and not with my wiring job, although I was just winging it and was using probably the worst soldering iron ever created.

So, now the next step is to go to radio shack and grab some volume knobs that are actually made to control volume and were produced in the last decade or so.  If I can get them to fit in the same spots, then that should make my modification a bit more functional.

Schematics

Schematics included 

pump up the jams

ready for jamming


Gmail as a Recipe Organizer

July 26, 2006

logo1.pngMy wonderful wife (of 13 months and one day, today) has come up with the brilliant idea to use a Gmail account to save recipes she finds online.

She had been using Yum, but got frustrated with trying to format the recipe correctly and stopped using it. It would try to be smart and convert the ingredient measurements to standard abbreviations, but usually didn’t get it right, and just made more work for her.

Now with her Gmail Recipe Book, she can log in, copy and paste the recipe and send it to herself. Auto-magically she has the recipe saved for future cooking.

But with Gmails tagging system, she can organize her recipes into categories like ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’. Since you can add multiple tags to an email, she can put recipes into different sections.

In the future, she could create two tags: ‘eaten’ and ‘uneaten’ to further differentiate from those recipes she has tried, and those yet to come.

She also came up with a good rating system. After trying a recipe, she can reply to that recipe and input our thoughts in the reply. That way each time she looks at that recipe, she can see all the replies (reviews) that go with it. Perfect! And if she wants a visual cue to the ratings, we could always use one of the alt symbols: ◊,†,•,‡ etc.


Welcome, G4, to your New Home

May 28, 2006

g4.jpg

Thanks to a very generous group of people, I now have in my possession a lovely new (for me) Power-mac G4.

It's a bit slow (400 MHz) but its running Tiger just fine. I looked this particular model up in MacTracker and it looks like it is a pretty decent machine.

What I plan on using it for is to combine all my server processes into one machine. Up until now, I had been using two computers to handle various tasks: web server, printer server, backup server, ftp server, afp server. The two machines I used before were a very old / slow machine running FreeBSD, and my newer 1 GHz Ubuntu box.

Printer sharing was a pain to set up in FreeBSD. That seemingly simple process took me probably a week to get it up and going. With Mac OS X, all the processes were set up simply by going into System Preferences and checking some boxes.

My afore mentioned custom backup system needed to get setup again on the new machine, but that wasn't difficult as Mac OS X already has rsync on it. I did have to add a new hard-drive in it, as the 10 gig default doesn't give much extra storage space, after the OS install. Hopefully that disk drive will last for awhile, but they are pretty old.

With all the excitement of the new Intel based Macs, it was kind of fun to be just as excited with a machine built in 1999.

My favorite feature of the PowerMac: The built in speaker. Combine this with iTunes and the "say" command and you get endless opportunities, like setting an alarm and have iTunes play me a song in the morning. Or press a button and have my Mac tell me the current time… or even the current temperature! Pretty exciting stuff. I'll have to play around with some scripts and see how much my Mac will tell me.


A House Hunting we shall Go

April 7, 2006

Pretty exciting stuff, we might be making an offer on a house today.

We started looking at houses with a Realtor this last Friday. It was a bit of a rush job as we met her in the parking lot of Reece & Nicholas, jumped in the car, and went to 5 or 6 vacant homes and townhomes in the dark. While she stressed that this was not the typical meet-and-great she usually does the first time she meets clients, for us it made house-hunt much more real and made us more comfortable with this stranger who would eventually sell us a home.

Nothing we saw was really great that first day, and so we scheduled to meet Wednesday night and go out again, this time with a more focused and accurate search criteria, and with the opportunity of seeing houses that were currently occupied, as most people want 24 hour notice before the Realtor comes through.

It is kind of a strange feeling going through someone else's house while they're away and looking at the placement of their stuff, as well as flaws in their home. I probably spent too much time making fun of their stuff and not enough looking at the actual house, but that's ok.

We looked at probably 7 more places on Wed.  When we got to our (hopefully soon to be) house, it just felt a lot different then everything else we had seen.  It is not the same stock cookie-cutter place.  It is essentially a two story, two bedroom, two bathroom townhome with a one car garage and a basement.  All pretty nice for the price.  Some of the things that make it a bit more special are: the second bedroom is actually a loft that looks down onto the living room, the kitchen has a very cool white-wood paneled finish that's probably from the 70's, but looks very unique, and there is an enclosed patio on the side which will be great in the summer to hang out in and eat lunch.  The place has also been owned by the same elderly lady for at least 20 years, which gives the place the feeling that it has been very well taken care of.  All and all, it just feels very much like a home instead of a house (how cliché can you get?).

We went out again yesterday, to look at some more places, but I think we had already made up our mind with this one, and everything else just looked flawed.  This will be a problem if we don't end up getting this place, but for now, that's a good thing. 

The hardest part so far, not surprisingly, has been the mortgage work.  We initially went with Commerce bank, thinking that since we do all of our banking there, it would be an easy thing to get a loan from them.  This is turning out to be the wrong idea.  First, the loan guy there said it might take a few days to get pre-approval.  Which seemed fitting, since we didn't know anything about the process.  Now we know that almost everywhere else preapproval takes just minutes to complete, once you have the correct paperwork together.  Then he really pushed a 5-1 ARM loan, as the interest rates would be lower for the first 5 years.  Seemed good, as we plan on moving in 3-4 years.  But now we understand that not all 5-1 ARM's are that simple, and the original quoted APR is quite different from the one he sent us in the paperwork.

For some reason, this loan offer started looking pretty shady really quickly.  I'm still not sure what's going on, but I don't think we are going to go with Commerce, now that we know what we know.

Our Realtor is about as good as you could ask for.  She just turned 23, drives a modest but cool car, and likes to talk (which is good cause we get quiet quick). She has seemed very up front with us through the entire process.  Every place she's taken us to she doesn't try to push, but just ask's us how we rate them compared to previously seen places.  She seems real, and on top of things (though she has a pretty bad sense of direction and we got lost on the way to almost every home).  If anyone needs a good Realtor, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest her. 

She turned us onto Wells-Fargo, who I think we will go with for a loan, if everything works out.  A very nice representative from Wells-Fargo just called me, and said everything looked great and that pre-approval should be sent to our Realtor in a few minutes (this is after we applied for pre-approval just yesterday!).  Plus, she said we might be able to get a "Mortgage Express" loan which means we wouldn't have to worry too much about digging up tax info and W2's.  Quite different from Commerce's tone, who wants everything for the last 2 years, including transcripts from Pittstate.

Things are looking good.  Should know more tonight.
Pray, and keep your finger's crossed that we get it and there isn't a huge termite colony behind a wall or enough mold / fungus to call it a garden.


The Time-sink of a new web site

March 26, 2006

Over the Spring Break, I spent some time developing a new web site for my mother's RV park and campground business. Over all I'm pretty happy with the results (especially considering what it used to look like). The main drive for making the site over was to make it easier for people without much web experience to navigate through it. I made the buttons very simplistic (and most are based on signs you would see in parks), and over all the site is very picture driven.

I also wanted my mother to easily add her own content without having to email me every time she wants to update. I found a hosting service which allowed me to easily install wordpress and gallery. Now she can post news updates and pictures easily through the application interfaces or even by email (with wordpress that was easy, haven't figured a way to email with gallery yet). I think the wordpress "news" sections will really allow her to get info out quickly, and it shouldn't be too hard for her to manage.

I wrote most of the site by hand using Textwrangler and later with Taco HTML Edit. Both really great and free text editors. Textwrangler is my new favorite, and I use it for just about everything. But Taco has some nice features and I can see how it would be a good idea to keep it around. I used a great CSS template to not have to worry a lot about the basic layout.

One thing I am still frustrated about is that my mother uses a lot of punctuation, namely: "", ', &, and !'s. I've found that these characters don't transfer over to HTML very gracefully and so have been trying to find a quicker way to replace them with the correct codes, besides doing it all by hand.

I think Textwrangler is powerful enough and scriptable enough to do this, but I couldn't figure out an easy way to search and replace multiple characters at one time (although it did a good job when finding and replacing just one character at a time).

I am still looking for a good solution to this problem. I tried "MassReplaceit" and "iReplace" but neither worked very effectively. I would think there is an easy solution to this kind of problem. What do professionals do when they get a large amount of text from a higher up to be placed in a web site? Is there a trick I'm missing, or an industry standard I don't know?

I'll keep looking, and hopefully find a better solution than, "use dreamweaver".

Any suggestions about the new site? Tell me

Update:  I remembered that Textwrangler has the ability to "Open from ftp/sftp" which allows me to just edit and save directly to the site.  This should make updates for the base pages go a lot quicker.  Thanks Barebones software for the awesome free-ness that is Textwrangler. 

 


Heidi Is Moving On

February 24, 2006

Sorry for the lack of updates.  School eats away at energy, time, and creativity.

Just a personal note:  This Sunday is Heidi’s last at Our Saviour Lutheran.  She is moving on to bigger and better things over at Christ Lutheran.

So that’s pretty exciting.  I think this will be a very good experience for her, and that she’ll get to impact a lot more people’s lives like she did mine.  Plus, pastor Jeff is a cool guy, and should be fun to work with.
I’ll try to work up some more posts soon, as soon as I think of something smart to say.  In the mean time, Blogera has  some good battles on her site you should check out (if you can stand the Xanganess of it)


Blender my new Buddy

February 10, 2006

I recently acquired a 1.5 Ghz Pentium 4 from the donation pile at work.  This is now my second fastest desktop, and so I wanted to do something useful with it.  I decided to set it up with the latest version of Ubuntu and use it to power the colaboration efforts of our JAVA development.

Ubuntu is really a nice distro, and I can see why it’s becoming so popular.  Once you get a feel for where everything is, you can easiliy get it to do what you want, fast.  There isn’t a lot of the grunt work that a lot of other UNIX based systems make you do.

Anyways, one program I installed on this machine that has been taking a very large chunck of my time recently is a 3d modelling aplication called ‘Blender‘.

I was worried about how we were going to get images for our isometric  game, so I thought if we could make a 3D model of our units, then we could get all the still images we want.

This is probably a bit overkill, but it gives us a lot of flexibility.  And with Blender, even though I’m no artist, I’ve found I can make at least decent looking models which we can use.

The theme we’ve kind of decided on is one dealing with navel battles, specifically, pirates!  So here is a pirate ship.  This is actually the 1st one I made .  We now have a set of 3 pirate ships which I think we can do something with.  And my group members seem to agree.

If you have any inkling to do 3D modelling, check out Blender.  While it is a bit confusing to learn (the video tutorials really helped me) once you get the hang of it, it becomes intuitive.  And it’s really fun.

If any one wants to try their hand at a pirate ship, I’d be more than happy to include it with the rest of the group. wink.