The Damaged Nickel Experiment

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

So I came across a penny a few days ago that it looked like someone took a pick axe to.  So this got me wondering could a piece of currency be damaged to such a degree that a retailer would not accept it?


Because this interests me to a great degree.  It’s pretty cheap to perform this experiment.  Plus if I give a retailer exact change they are forced to count it, and notice the damaged nickel.

Is this legal?

Based on my internet lawyering I found the following statue:

Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States. This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.

So that being the case I don’t think I am committing any sort of fraud in that I am not trying in increase the value of the coin, nor am I lighten the coin.  If anything I’m actually trying to see at what level I can deface a coin to devalue it to zero.


So bending nickel is actually fairly easy with the right tools.  The nickels I bent as pictured above were done by placing the nickel in a vice and a few good whacks with a hammer.  Depending upon how this first batch of nickels goes, I may need to further deface the coin.  I think it would be curious to flatten the nickel (while not reducing the weight, as to stay legal) to such a point where none of the text or even textures are readable.  Or dip a nickel in paint.

Experiment 1: Pei Wei in Lewisville, TX

So I had lunch with my girlfriend out there.  Paid in cash, and some 91 cents in change.  I gave the clerk 86 cents plus a damaged nickel.  So immediately the cashier noticed the nickel and made a comment of ‘Where did you get this nickel?’, then further went on to say ‘Looks like someone ran over it with a train’.  I didn’t exactly give him an answer and simply shrugged.  He took the nickel for the value of a nickel, experiment 1 failed.

Ideas for future experiments

Gas stations, banks, Sonic (because they have those coin dispensers so certainly they would notice when trying to refill their dispenser).

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The media I want to buy

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

So I’ve dropped cable almost 2 years ago and have never regretted it since.  I am a 20 something, fairly successful person and I could certainly afford to pay for Cable however it doesn’t really fit the way I want to consume media.  The Tivo was perhaps the first glimmer of how I wanted to consume media.  I was an early adopter into Tivo’s and had several Tivo’s since then all the way up to the Tivo HD which I sold after dropping cable.

My current media setup is:

TV in the living room, connected to a Windows 7 computer with an OTA TV tuner using Windows Media Center

TV in the bedroom, connected to a Mac Mini

I have a computer hooked into my TV’s and NOTHING else.  I’ve been watching streaming video, and downloaded content onto my TV’s for YEARS.  And as more and more people find Netflix and Hulu I think others will not be far behind my sort of media setup.  I have no doubt that I am costing someone somewhere because I don’t think Hulu, ABC, NBC, or other streaming content providers have been able to recoup their bandwidth costs with their piddly advertising.  I for one am willing to say I am more than willing to pay for the service.

I think Hulu plus is the right idea, however it doesn’t have enough content to back it up.  I’d be more than willing to pay $20-30 a month for an equivalent to basic cable 100% streaming on demand, with the commercials and everything.  As well as I understand content providers don’t want to give away their entire content library forever since it will cut into DVD sales.  However, as far as I’m concerned I don’t want to own physical media. It’s much easier to call up a show and stream or play it on the computer vs. trying to find a disc.  That being said I would be perfectly okay with a 2-3 week period to which I can watch the latest episode of something, and perhaps ‘buy’ it and stream it forever whenever I feel like it for a fee.

When you consider how much normal service providers like AT&T or Comcast have to spend on the lines, overhead etc an online revenue model could very well net more money to the content developers.  Sure the cable companies are negotiating rates for each channel they carry.  But who is to say and online provider can’t do the very same thing, it is already happening in some cases.  And an online aggregator has many advantages to this because they can easily…

1. Tailor commercials to the individual demographic, interests heck even what they make public on their Facebook profile.  This could mean a targeted advertising which they could charge a premium for.

2. Offer tiered levels of service that traditional media cannot do, they could offer a commercial free version for a higher cost.

3. Offer up sales to buy rights to stream content in perpetuity.  Or even revenue sharing deals where customers can call order the show or movie on Amazon shipped to their door.

As we’ve seen with Roku and Netflix if a decent service shows up hardware will be made so perhaps the less technically savvy can join in on the fun.  I think there is a lot of attempts out there trying really hard such as Apple TV, Google TV, Hulu, and Netflix but not really any one of them offers what I want to buy.

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Being the best ‘new’ guy your boss has ever had

August 11th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So a new job is always fraught with anxiety and fear.  While you hope you get a good feel for the job during an interview you never quite know what to expect when your actually doing the work.  And there is a perception by new employees and managers that the first few weeks are slow going for a new hire. Here are some tips to be the best ‘new’ guy your boss has ever had.

Get your required stuff done quickly

Doing your W2, or 401k, or benefits enrollments won’t really impress your boss.  Everyone can do that stuff so get your required stuff done as soon as possible so your boss doesn’t have to hassle you to get it done.  These mundane tasks are not why your boss hired you.

Ask questions

Make sure you know everything you need to know about doing a task or working on a system to be effective.  As soon as your trainer or peer who just trained you walks away it’s too late.  Your boss will assume you know as soon as your trainer stop doing their job.

Don’t be afraid to jump into projects and tasks you know little about

I know this is hard to do, but the best way to learn how a company does it’s operations is to jump in with both feet and get on a project.  Listen intently and find something you know at least something about and offer to assist or perform a specific duty without being asked to.  Your boss will be impressed you took the initiative to take on a task.

Perform your tasks to over completion

Unfortunately you don’t know how everything works quite yet.  So do an overly good job on your task.  If you need to write out a document, build the table of contents, summary page, glossary, and appendixes to go with it.

Show off what you do know

Being at a new job there are more unknowns to knowns.  But pick your battles obviously you were hired for a specific job role so when you find something you know a lot about run with it and show you can do that task well.


When you start a new job your being told probably more of what you should be doing rather than actually doing.  If you are being trained, take breaks every once and a while and restate what the trainer told you.  Talk to people your working with and try to expand your circle of contacts to other people on outside teams who you may interface with.

Ask for feedback

Depending upon how busy your boss is he/she probably lined up a bunch of training and meetings for you to do.  However, your boss probably doesn’t know how well you’ve done those things and how much of the business you understand.  Email your boss a status report two weeks into your job stating what you have done and ask for feedback on how you can do a better job.  In many companies they only do at best go through quarterly reviews.  As a new employee you need to make sure your on track to get the best possible rating right out of the gate.  So ask for feedback early, and make this a regular habit, your boss may get tired of this over time but I can guarantee you that they will be impressed the first time, and that leaves a lasting impression.

Perform work better than your peers

Sure this is a very difficult thing to do being the ‘new’ guy.  However, you need to show off why they picked you over the other people who applied for your position.  It may take twice as much effort to get things done, than your peers but this will show determination and over time you’ll be an old pro and can do it without killing yourself so much.  Just be careful to not give the impression you are willing to work all hours, just a few more than expected.

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Yes it is HOT outside

July 12th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

In case you were wondering a coke can left in a car at 100+ degree temperatures will result in a mess.



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How to download EVERY ‘This American Life’ episode for free and download new shows early!

June 26th, 2011 / 5 Comments » / by Sean

So I was obsessing over ‘This American Life’ this weekend and my love for Ira Glass has compelled me to download EVERY TAL episode in existence. Perhaps I’m lazy but I hate having to got to the website every week to download the new episode. So in digging around I found that there is a way you can download the episodes from the same source of the streaming player. Additionally it would appear they release the NEW Episodes sometime Friday and you don’t have to wait till Sunday evening to go download them.

So I’ve developed a perl script to go download EVERY TAL in existence. Additionally if you setup the script to run in your cron you can pickup new episodes automatically.

tal_download script

Read through the comments it should explain how to use the script.  And I HIGHLY suggest you donate to ‘This American Life’ if you choose to use this script as it will download almost 12GB from their servers.

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New Site Design

June 4th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So I saw several other sites using the iNove theme and I figured it was due for a refresh.  So I tweaked the Firebug theme to be a little more unique than the other techies out there.  (I know it’s not unique persay but I’ve seen iNove too many times to count)

Workaround: Fix dd-wrt Port Forwarding on Netgear WNDR3700 build 16785

May 2nd, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

So it would appear that is a bug in the dd-wrt build 16785 (and probably several versions older) on the Netgear WNDR3700.  Basically you can set as many Port Forwarding rules you want and they will not work.

The issue appears to stem from a loopback issue identified for r15760 and later.  The fix is described as here.  Once the actions are taken the port forwarding functions work!   There is a brief mention of this loopback issue on the dd-wrt Port Forwarding Troubleshooting guide, but it does not make mention of it’s prominence.

The Fix

  • Telnet to the router
  • If you are using the default 192.168.1.x subnet issue the following command:
iptables -t nat -I POSTROUTING -o br0 -s -d -j MASQUERADE
  • Otherwise issue the command:
LAN=`nvram get lan_ipaddr`/`nvram get lan_netmask`
iptables -t nat -I POSTROUTING -o br0 -s $LAN -d $LAN -j MASQUERADE


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Install VMware Tools on an Ubuntu 10.04 Server Guest running on VMware Server 2.0x

April 25th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

In doing some recent virtual build out’s I’ve found that there isn’t accruate documentation online for how to do this from a fresh Ubuntu 10.04 install.

Steps Prior

(install Ubuntu Server 10.04)

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install gcc

sudo mkdir /media/cdrom/

sudo mount /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom


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

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The middle ground device

March 4th, 2011 / No Comments » / by Sean

The latest refresh of the Macbook Air is truly Apple’s middle ground device.  It bridges Apple’s successes with their mobile devices with their historic roots of the Macintosh.

The Macbook Air uses Core 2 Duos?
So the original Macbook Air in 2008 debuted with a Intel Core 2 Duo, and the latest Macbook Air still is packed with the Core 2 Duo what gives? The ULV Core 2 Duos are really marginally different performance wise to the ULV Core i5. The reason why the Macbook Air isn’t i5, is the fact that Nvidia is not allowed to make integrated graphics/chipset chips for i series and newer processors. That is why the the latest Macbook Pro refresh is using Intel Graphics + ATI graphics hybrid. And when your talking about such a diminutive form factor that the Macbook Air is, you can’t spare the board space for an extra chip.

Apple has a cozy relationship with Intel
Apple has stuck with Intel chips ever since the x86 switch. In theory AMD does bring a lot to the table. However, AMD’s chips really don’t offer awesome performance to heat ratios. AMD’s Fusion is perhaps not horrible, however the CPU performance is actually much less than the Core 2 Duo packed in the Macbook Air. And above most other things Apple sticks with the form factor dictating the technology more so than the other way around.  Evidence of this cozy relationship can been seen with the latest Thunderbolt (Light Peak) technology.  While Intel has had the technology sitting on the shelf for a while, Apple was really the first implementation.  As well as Intel was kind enough to hold off telling everyone until Apple made their announcement.

Why we will be waiting a long time for a Macbook Air refresh
Apple will hold on to the current generation Macbook Air for some time to come.  Apple has a much longer refresh cycle on the Macbook Air than nearly any other machine they sell. And also because of the whole Nvidia/Core 2 Duo issue noted earlier. It would take a rather large amount of engineering to refresh with newer technologies. So you can pretty much guarantee there won’t be a refresh for at least a year.

Why does the Macbook Air still have 2GB of RAM?

It is very true that the 2008 Macbook Air also came with 2GB of RAM.  For Apple the Macbook Air is their middle ground device.  Apple has been widely successful with the iPhone/iPad/iPod devices for several years now.  And the Macbook Air’s roots are in their PC side of the business.  However, this really is the middle ground device.  This is the device that Apple hopes to gain the everyday consumer into their historically premium priced notebooks.  First of all it starts at $999, but the thin sleek form factor makes the device more friendly to consumers whom were wanting the iPad, but instead chose the Mac.  Mac OS X runs perfectly fine on 2GB of RAM, and bundled with the SSD it it’s pure experience is faster than most high end PC’s.

Benchmarks don’t sell PC’s, the experience does, or at least that’s how Apple sees it.

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