Zoneminder in a comic

November 20th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So a recent xkcd comic reminded me of a current problem I’ve been working through.  So I’ve been messing with ZoneMinder off on and on the last couple of weeks trying to get that running again.  And I swear I can relate to this problem all to well.  I really don’t get why video surveillance has to be so complicated.  Especially when it comes to configuring local webcams, when an app like Cheese can pick it up automatically and Zoneminder is such a chore.  And in general Zoneminder is definitely an app that was written by a programmer and the UI and configuration is just so bad.

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IP Power 9258 Perl Control Script

November 11th, 2011 / 2 Comments » / by Sean

So I’ve recently purchased a IP Power 9258 in order to reset my flaky cable modem (thanks Time Warner for blaming my network gear and not yours)  automatically.  So since I’m programmatically checking to see if my internet is up (BTW pinging your dyndns address is a great way to check if your internet is up)  I needed a way to programmatically set the power state of various ports on the IP Power 9258.


You will need to modify the script to set your own ip username and password.  As well as you may need to install Perl Telnet module (“apt-get install libnet-telnet-cisco-perl” on Ubuntu)


perl -p 1 -s 0

Where -p option is your port (1,2,3 or 4), and -s option is power state 1 for On, 0 for Off.

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Tracking Apple Devices using the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature in iOS 5 & OS X Lion

November 9th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I’ve been wanting to track my devices for years since I had a Macbook stolen from me a few years ago.  I put together some cron jobs and logged ip information but this only goes so far.  I know there are some commercial applications such as LoJack that do such things but I have lots of devices and that would be a bit costly.  So when Apple recently updated OS X Lion & iOS 5 to push the ‘Find my iPhone’ functionality to the iCloud this basically is what I wanted for free.  As good as the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature works it isn’t historical and is only a simply on-demand feature.  This isn’t bad but I wanted more.

So after some searching there is a great API sosumi interface Tyler Hall reverse engineered the ‘Find my iPhone’ app so calls can be made on the fly. Tyler Hall has some great stuff here and includes some good examples but it isn’t quite collecting all the data that is there.  So I expanded on his example and am polling all data and device info, and inserting it into a database.  This needs to be taken a little further with a web interface front end but for now this is what I have.  Read the README and you should be able to get this up and running on your LAMP system.


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From Junk Mail to ‘Like’ in 3 steps

September 24th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I got some junk mail from some relator who apparently made a lot of assumptions about me.  1. That I want to buy or sell a house in the next few months.  2. That I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. 3. That I own a refrigerator that is magnetic. He failed on all counts.  So I decided to take his nice magnetic mailer and convert it to something with a little social commentary.  And of course having access to vinyl and a vinyl cutter makes this much easier.

So now what to put this now awesome magnet on!  There are so many things I like.  Maybe a Bus, as I like public transportation, or a police car, or a plane.

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My old comic

September 7th, 2011 / 1 Comment » / by Sean

So I found some stuff floating on a hard drive. I made this up a few years ago when the olympics were on, in the xkcd style.

The importance of light

September 6th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

Light is a pretty amazing thing.  It can do so much and as a civilization we have learned to harness light in so many ways.

Light is energy

The light from the sun powers quite literally everything on the surface of the Earth.  Light is absorbed by plants to create oxygen.  These plants are eaten by animals and starts that food chain.  Additionally even oil we pump from under the earth is carbon from long dead plants and animals which contains stored energy from millions of years ago from our sun.

Light is a means of seeing into the past

So light from stars travel for in many cases millions of years before they are seen and detected by our human eyes.  So when a great even such as a supernova happens it an even that has occurred millions of years ago.

Light it’s the speed limit

So based on Einstein’s theory it would require infinite amounts of energy for any mass travel at the speed of light.  Without some sort of short cut like a black hole (where it is unlikely someone could survive the trip in one piece) it simply isn’t possible to go faster.

Light can be manipulated

Photographers know this well.  But photography is completely about light, and how it can be represented.

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Who would buy HP’s Consumer PC division?

August 18th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

First of all I must preference this in that I have no sort of inside knowledge to HP’s hardware division and my day to day activities have zero relationship to anyone in that division but I am intrigued by this and would like to theorize.

So today’s announcement has made it abundantly clear that HP is looking to sell off it’s hardware division.  And it’s no real secret that PC margins in today’s industry are so close to zero it’s ridiculous.  So obviously the bigger players, Acer, Dell, Lenovo could in theory double up their business and quickly take over the number one slot in PC volume, if they could offer up enough cash.  But really with the PC market in decline, and margins so low the bigger players probably aren’t interested unless they get it for a fire sale price.  Maybe some investment firm with too much money could buy it sure, you know that scheme worked wonders for Chrysler.

What I suggest is Apple buy it.  Apple certainly has the cash laying around to make a decent offer.  They would instantly take down a huge competitor, pick up their manufacturing. Probably triple their manufacturing capabilities as well as pickup their vendor agreements to buy hardware at a nice price.  This would lower manufacturing costs of their hardware, and maybe just maybe they would lower the cost of their machines to consumers.  With Apple’s marketshare rising on all fronts (except for maybe AppleTV), Apple could use increased manufacturing capacity.

This would distract the PC manufacturers as they would be jumping over each other trying to suck up as much of HP’s former PC market as they could.  They would be looking for new ways to beat each other, and not Apple.  And if by chance Apple is having some heartburn over buying so much manufacturing capabilities they could very well sell some of it the other PC manufacturers who are trying to ramp up.

The only question is would HP sell to Apple?  It of course would be the ultimate irony considering Apple’s history, where Steve Wozniak left HP to go start Apple.  But in tech there seems to be this full circle that happens more often than we care to admit.

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My Bucket List

August 15th, 2011 / 1 Comment » / by Sean

So after watching Adam Savage’s 100 Wishes video I got to thinking I know I have specific goals that I want to achieve so I figured I would document them. Adam has some pretty fanciful and grandiose things on this wish list. I am far too practical and well everything on my list is things I believe I have the power to attain.
  • To get to a senior level technical role by the time I’m 30.  I know this goes by many titles but on a technical career track, most people get to a senior level role, and often get stuck there since the higher level roles are so rare.  So I would like to be at that plateau role by the age of 30.
  • To be making over 100k a year in salary when I’m 30, and if I am at such a role this should be easy.
  • Have a reputation for taking on nearly any job or task and having great success, to be a fixer of things.
  • I would like to be in a positon where I call the shots.  Where I conceive of some wild idea and I tell others to go research and build it.
  • I’d like to have to travel some.  I know constantly being on the road wears on people, but I’d like to be in a role where I get to travel 15% of the time.
  • I’d like to have an idea for a product or piece of software that is sold and used by millions of people.
  • When I’m older (or perhaps retired) I would like to work as a Sushi chef
  • I’d like to teach in a high school, teaching Economics and/or Government.  I have serious reservations that I could be very good at it but I personally believe that those two classes are perhaps the most useful after you graduate.  And, partially to as a tribute to Scott Parks whom today is still my favorite teacher I ever had.
  • To have 2 children, because 1 is too few, and 3 they just outnumber you.
  • Instill a passion or drive to do something meaningful in their lifetime.  This doesn’t have to be grandiose like be the President, or cure Cancer.  But I want to instill a pure drive and passion for something.  My personal beliefs is if enjoy what you do and the success will follow.
  • I would like my child beat me at Chess
  • I would like to make a pure fantasy of my child come true.  Something like drive the Batmobile, and build a child size Batmobile for them to play with.  Kind of like what the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation does, but not.
  • I want my child to fail in a spectacular fashion but learn and be a better person for it.
  • To have a patent with my name under it
  • Make a significant enough contribution on technology to eventually be recognized for an EFF Pioneer Award
  • Be offered an honorary doctorate but turn it down.
  • To own a Nissan GT-R (2009+) by the time I’m 30
  • I would like to own something exceedingly rare that I can pass on to my children.  In this world of mass production, I long for something of value that is quality that I could pass on to my children.  The only example that comes to mind is a special edition Lecia camera from the 1950’s.
  • A shop where I had an array of fabrication tools like a CNC, 3D printer, Laser Cutter, along with your standard shop staples.
  • I’d like to have a movie prop gun from a Sci Fi series.  I know they are completely fake usually painted resin but I think that would be so cool to have something like this, ideally from Battlestar Galactica.
  • I want to learn how to use a TIG welder to the level where I can weld Aluminum
  • I would like to build very intricate and complex items.  Like building a decent fabrication of a Lightsaber, or R2-D2 made completely of metals.
  • I would like to drive on a technical race track for an afternoon in a sports car.
  • I’d like to have a picture I’ve taken published on a respectable magazine like Time or Life.
  • I’d like to have lunch with…
  • Adam Savage
  • Jonathan Ive
  • Steve Wozniak
  • (I left out the other Steve, because I’ve always figured he would be a jerk in person, and I like the feeling of the reality distortion field.)
  • To go on a road trip with no plan, or destination in mind.  Just drive and find new experiences.
  • I’d like to have a month long vacation
  • I would like to make an amazing Soufflé

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Convert your Best Buy, Target, Staples gift cards / Reward Checks/Coupons to credit

August 14th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I found a rather curious loophole to convert your Best Buy, Target, Staples Gift Cards, Reward Zone/Check to credit.  There are many reasons you would want to do this, specifically avoiding taxes (in most states), and overall cheaper prices.  Since these gift cards are common gifts and you may not actually want to buy something at these stores Amazon certainly makes good sense for a lot of us.  As well as of late it seems as though there are deals every week at Target and Best Buy where you purchase and item and you get a store gift card with it.  So all of these stores sell Amazon Kindle branded gift cards.    There is no perceivable difference in these gift cards.  You can redeem them here (link on the right) and then spend the value on darn near anything you want that Amazon sells!

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More Nickel damage

August 14th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

Ok so a little bit more experimentation.  So pounding on a nickel with a hammer to flatten it out is surprisingly easy.  The above former nickel only took about 3-4 minutes of pounding.  And well all of the text and any distinguishing features are completely gone from the Nickel.  Furthermore the flattening on the Nickel is fairly close in size to a quarter.  I think I have successfully devalued some currency.

Now I’m a fairly honest person and I certainly wouldn’t want to break any laws trying to pass off this former nickel as a quarter.  However, this did get me thinking.  Based on the US Mint specifications the weight difference between a Nickel and a Quarter is fairly imperceptible.  In theory someone could create a quarter die and flatten out a Nickel and make a fairly good Quarter facsimile from the material.  Obviously this would be highly illegal.  And I doubt this would be at all practical for the financial gain as building a die and press system wouldn’t be cheap, and the dies wouldn’t likely last all that long due to pressing an already pressed coin with uneven textures.

It’s worth noting that the melt value of US Nickels today are worth more than the coin itself, and of course the US Mint spends more money manufacturing these coins than their value.  Perhaps we need some currency reform. Since the US government is so straddled for cash perhaps we impose a ’rounding tax’ so all purchases end in 10 cent denominations, and do away with pennies and nickels.  The state governments could even simply direct that money to schools, and who could argue with that?