Automatic Faux/Fake Fireplace

Automatic Faux/Fake Fireplace

A few weeks ago, much to the Wife Units™ glee, Costco had a deal on their entertainment centers with a built-in faux fireplace (it also has an electric heater that is of less consequence). While it’s a nice entertainment center, and the faux fireplace is convincing enough for our enjoyment, after having the unit for a couple of days, I did find a problem.

Continue reading

Refrigerator Controller-Thermostat

A bit back I opened my office mini fridge and found that it was warm. I checked all the obvious things: it was plugged in and getting power, and the thermostat was set correctly. Deeper diagnostics revealed that the thermostat was faulty. No matter the thermostat setting, it was not engaging to cool the fridge. If I bypassed the thermostat and manually (i.e. shorted the compressor leads) started the compressor the fridge cooled as it should.

I was unable to find an OEM replacement thermostat but figured I could make a replacement for less than a new fridge would cost.

Refrigerator Controller - Thermostat

Continue reading

Automatic Server Room Exhaust

The Problem

I have a home “server room” that houses a couple of servers and other network hardware. In fact this site is being served to you from a VM running on a server sitting in that room.

If you’ve spent any time around servers (or any electronics for that matter) you know that they generate heat. I’ve recently consolidated a couple of physical servers by virtualizing them but the remaining physical servers, switch, cable modem, and UPS still generate about 2000 BTUs of heat. That’s about the same heat output as a small space heater.

The “server room” is a repurposed 30sq foot bathroom that is off of a main room (think of the typical master bedroom/bathroom setup). Managing the heat produced by the equipment has been an issue mostly solved by keeping the server room door open (to keep heat from building up) and running the existing bathroom exhaust fan.

My main issue with the current setup is having to keep the server room door open. This is especially an issue in the summer because the heat produced from the equipment is enough to overwhelm any cool air being pushed into the main room from the central AC. This makes both the server room and the main room perpetually hot. Also annoying is the noise from the equipment, and having to keep the door open prevents me from being able to doing anything to reduce dust incursion into the server room.

Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Drone Package Delivery

By now most people have seen or at least heard about Amazon’s Prime Air service. Supposedly, still in the R&D phase Amazon unveiled its drone delivery plans on 60 Minutes back in December. I heard many people dismiss Prime Air as a publicity stunt with no real chance of ever… ahem, getting off the ground. While I do think announcing it at this point is almost certainly a way to garner publicity, I don’t think that there is any reason it can’t be done.

Continue reading

Mailbox Notifier

Note: since the original posting, I’ve added some updates (bottom of page).

A couple of years ago I came across some vintage light bulbs while perusing the aisles of Home Depot. Since then, I’ve been looking for a project to use them in. I thought that it would be cool to use one as an indicator light and started to form this picture in my head of what it would look like. I wasn’t sure what the bulb would be indicating, but the idea was now in my head and once I figured out what to use it for, I’d have to make it.

All that to say that this project was motivated by the need to make an indicator light using one of those vintage bulbs.

Continue reading

Encrypt the Web

This somewhat goes against my self-imposed rule to keep things here non-political and non-controversial but this is something that really matters to me. It should matter to anyone interested in living in a free society.

The back-end of this site (and its many iterations over the years) has generally used a secure connection (HTTPS) for the administrative login and such. But the front-end, or public facing side — the side you’re on now — has always been plain old, unencrypted, HTTP. On the surface this is not a big deal since I do not ask for, process or collect personal information (ex phone numbers, credit cards, SSN, etc.) from site visitors.

However, with the revelations about the NSA’s unchecked, unconstitutional, and illegal spying program, I can no longer bury my head in the sand. In 2009 the EFF started their Encrypting the Web mission. The goal is to get the entire web under HTTPS. It’s a lofty goal — to convince every website owner/operator in the world to change their setup — especially when you have to deal with misconceptions (ex using HTTPS increases burden on the infrastructure) and yahoos like me who as why?

Indeed Why? What does the NSA care about me or the dozen or so people who visit this site every year? Answer, they probably don’t but that’s not the point. The point is that we should not be subject to the spying of our government. Make no mistake that this problem requires solutions from multiple fronts but one of the ways we can combat this illegal spying, and make the web a safer place in general, is to make it impossible (or at least more difficult) for the spies to spy. While it’s not perfect, HTTPS is a vetted method for securing the communications between a website and the end-user. The upshot is that the spy will see the digital equivalent of static.

Make no mistake. The government’s spying program is tyranny, it is not the most in-your-face overt kind of tyranny but it is tyranny. We need to stand against it, we need to take the Internet back. From major sites to the little ones like mine, we need to encrypt the web.

So, from this point forward, if for no other reason than to show the government my fully extended middle finger, will be served via a secure connection. You, the end-user do not need to do anything. Any bookmarks or links to will automatically be directed to

Finally, Edward Snowden is a true patriot and a hero. The people people who perpetuate the NSA’s unchecked, unconstitutional, and illegal spying are criminals and traitors of the highest order and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Cheap Incandescent Headlamp Conversion

Harbor Freight sells these cheap incandescent headlamps for like $3.00. For what they cost they are not half bad. Still, I’d prefer an LED over the incandescent bulb.

The incandescent bulb the HFHL uses.

I had one of these Harbor Freight headlamps (HFHL) and a broken1 LED flashlight. The flashlight used a 1 watt LED mounted to an aluminium PCB. The flashlight’s driver still worked too so I used it and the LED to convert the HFHL.

Continue reading

Lighted Address Numbers

Lighted Address Numbers

A while ago the Wife Unit™ found some decorative metal numbers in a sale bin at the store. We both thought that they’d make great address numbers for the house and since they were dirt cheap we, bought them.

It didn’t take long for me to decided that I wanted to do something more than just hang them on the house. The numbers are raised, sort of reverse embossed, so the edges are exposed. My thought was to back-light the numbers for a cool nighttime effect.

Continue reading