• I Love Fall

    Autumn is my favorite time of year. My birthday is in October. The weather is usually nicely cool. The leaves on the trees turn giving beautiful colors to both the city and rural landscapes. I also usually start cooking again in earnest as the weather cools. In summer, when it’s hot, I don’t like to use my stove or oven. This limits meals to uncooked food, like salads. As I get older, I am getting better at eating salads regularly. But I have to admit, a salad is, in general, not a meal I’m going to love.

  • Ruby Iconv to Strings#encode

    I wrote a script in Perl, years ago, that lets users update their unix and samba passwords at the same time. This keeps them in sync so that people will have the same password whether they’re logging in via linux or at a windows computer. I thought it would be a good idea to rewrite it in ruby, since that’s the language I’m most comfortable with these days. Along with Google, the book that was most helpful was Programming Ruby 1.9 & 2.0 from the Pragmatic Programmers, which fortunately, I had.

  • Multiple Authentication Methods with Authlogic

    I have a website where users need to login to be able to comment on pictures. For the most part, users will use their university credentials to login. However, I’ve found a few recently retired people who would be able to help us identify people in the pictures. But since they are retired, their university credentials are no longer valid. So for these people, I’d like to be able to make a local account for them to login. My rails app uses authlogic to check credentials. And I’ve been authenticating against the university ldap server for a while without any problems, but mixing in local accounts is going to require a few changes.

  • Alternative DNS

    My internet connection went down today for a few hours. Technically, I guess it didn’t go down, but DNS wasn’t working. So I could ping 216.58.216.68, but I couldn’t ping www.google.com. I had been using the DNS servers from comcast that I got from DNS. I believe they’re 75.75.75.75 and 75.75.76.76. But since these weren’t working for me, I changed to the following:

  • Car Repair Basics – Charging System

    I’ve now had three classes is my Car Repair Basics class. We’ve just been covering the charging system, mainly batteries. I’ve learned a lot. Here are my notes.

  • Crazy Error

    I just updated some rails webpages to 4.2.4. On one system, I didn’t have any trouble. But on the other one, things worked fine on my laptop, but gave all sorts of random errors on my production system. I started keeping a list to see if I could figure out what was going on. Here are some of the errors that I was seeing.

  • Fun with Google Calendars

    We’ve started using Google Calendars at work to keep track of different seminars, colloquia, etc. However, we also like to keep our regular html calendars because they’re just easier to read and to get a quick view of all talks for a quarter. So what we want to do is have the + Google Calendar button appear on webpages, but not show the actual calendar. We’ll have all the information in our own html calendar. Yes, this requires us to update two calendars, but it makes it easier to read.

  • George’s Challenge

    My 10 (about to be 11) year old nephew George told me that he has to read 40 books this school year. Each book needs to be at least 200 pages long. He was not looking forward to this and thought that nothing could possibly be worse. Since we are a very competitive family, I told him that it was easy and I could do it no problem. Not only that I could read 40 books twice as long as the ones he was reading. Result of my boast is that I now have to read 40 books by the end of the school year. Each of my books has to be at least 400 pages long. Stupidly, I didn’t get the details of his assignment before I agreed to this. After we shook on it, I found out that I don’t necessarily get to choose all the books, but that they have to be in some specific genres. So, here’s what I have to read this year:

  • Links vs Buttons

    Now that I’m writing more websites, I’m trying to make them better. A lot of it has to do with making them look better so that people have a better (UX) user experience. I’ve been using bootstrap more, which is nice. But now I need to get into more nuts and bolts stuff.

  • I Prefer Fixes

    I bought parts for some new computers for our engineers at work. Everything arrived yesterday, so I started assembling them. When I opened up the video card that I bought (PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200), I noticed that the bracket was shorter than the standard bracket. I’ve purchased many video cards over the years and normally, the box will include another bracket so that it can be used in a regular sized case. However, I quickly found that there was not another bracket in the box. I looked a bit online and found that this particular card was designed for a small form factor case. My first issue is that that information should have been much more visible on the webpages where I bought it. Anyway, since I bought the cards from our campus vendor with a purchase order, I really didn’t want to try to return them because it’s a big hassle. So my first solution was to simply take the brackets off. I could put the card in and use it without a bracket without a problem. The next step was to see if I could make a new bracket, which quickly sounded like a bit more work than I wanted to do. I returned to Google and found someone who said that they had an older NVIDIA NVS 510 card. He said the bracket from that card fit the K1200 perfectly. I didn’t have any NVS 510 cards around, but more googling led me to a local place that sold that bracket for $20. I ordered them and got them in two days. They fit perfectly.

  • Full Circle

    Lathe are strips of wood that are nailed to studs when building a wall. Before drywall was invented, plaster and lathe were how walls were put up in houses. My house had all plaster and lathe walls on the first floor. Here is a picture of the back of a plaster and lathe wall, as I was gutting the room that is currently my bedroom.

  • My Ting Test

    Last month, I switched cellphone providers from T-Mobile to Ting. In looking at past reports, I had been paying T-Mobile around $63 per month (including taxes). This didn’t seem bad to me, but I thought I could do better. A couple of days ago, I got my first bill from Ting. The total is $39.81 (including taxes). I’m happy with this. The image below shows the breakdown of all the fees.

  • Not Casa Loma

    My friend Ellen came to town for a vacation. Before coming, she had mentioned that she had a friend in Toronto that she wanted to see and I proposed a road trip to Toronto. I also suggested (strongly) that we take bikes and ride around while there, since this was my favorite activity when I was in New York.

  • Financial Independence

    The past couple of weeks, I have been obsessing about becoming financially independent. When I was a kid, I would have thought of this as being rich. But now, all I want to do is be able to do what I want, without having to think about money. I’d like to have the option to do things for people or not, based on whether I think it’s interesting or not, taking money out of the equation entirely.

  • Poppyseed Dressing

    There are few salads that I like. However, the poppyseed fruit and chicken salad at Portillo’s is one I love. I’ve tried poppyseed dressing at other places and have bought different brands. They just aren’t as good. I found a couple of recipes online that I’ve tried. The first one I tried used a grated shallot. I grated a pretty small one, but the result tasted way too much like onions, so that one didn’t work at all. This one though sounded better. Though since I had just had the failure with the shallot, I left the onion powder out of it. I also left out the lemon juice because I didn’t have any. The result though was great! So, since this is my repository of all things I want to save, here is the recipe I followed:

  • Capistrano 3 Issues

    I decided to give capistrano 3 a try with one of my projects. For the most part, I prefer version 2 to version 3. Mainly this is because I never have a staging server. I only have my development stuff and then I deploy to production. So having to specify the deployment server is just additional work that I always forget.

  • Counting Comma-Separated Values in Excel

    We have a bunch of spreadsheets where which have cells with values like this, R1, R2, R3, R4 or C45, C87, C22. It would be very helpful to have another column that could tell us how many values on in these cells (4 and 3 in my example). The way to do it is to use this function, which would tell us how many values are in cell H8.

  • Openssl Update Breaks Pine

    There was an openssl update recently that caused people who were using alpine to not be able to send mail. When they tried to send, they got this message:

  • Vacation!

    It’s rare, but every so often I take a real vacation. By this I mean, I take off at least a week from work, go someplace and just relax. In my case, that means riding my bike around and reading. This time, I spent just over a week in New York City. I went for the Five Boro Bike Tour and stayed to go to a friend’s reading of his play. During my trip, I ended up biking over 130 miles and read six books. I could have done more of both. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.

  • incompatible character encodings: UTF-8 and ASCII-8BIT) in Rails App

    I got this error after I updated a website from rails3 to rails4. I spent a few days going over character sets and collations in MariaDB. It turns out that all I needed to do was to use the mysql2 gem instead of the mysql gem. I am writing this so I hopefully will remember when I do this again.

  • Ruby Lambdas

    I’ve used ruby lambdas a few times, but I have to admit that I never really understood them. However, I’ve now come across a case where I have to figure them out. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Authlogic Error

    I put up a new website that wouldn’t allow me to login and kept giving me an error that said something like undefined method `save_without_session_maintenance’. I double-checked all my controllers and models against another site that was working fine and they all matched up. I didn’t find any bug reports for the version of Authlogic that I was using. The solution was to just deploy the app again. After that, I was able to login successfully. Weird.

  • Remote Desktop Services with a Samba PDC

    We’ve been using a linux computer running samba and openldap as our primary domain controller for a windows domain for years. I absolutely love the fact that I don’t have to deal with windows and their crazy licensing. More importantly, this setup makes it easy for me to create accounts to give people access to everything in our shop. This includes windows accounts, linux accounts and website accounts.

  • Serving SVG Files

    I updated a website and changed to using svg files for our header. On our test setup, we were running RHEL7, which had a newer version of httpd than what’ on our production server, which is running RHEL5. I had to add the following to our httpd.conf file to tell it to specifically serve svg files.

  • Sendmail on Centos 7.1

    I’m running a server that I recently upgraded to Centos 7. For a few months, it wouldn’t send mail and today I finally decided to do something about it. I was getting an error AUTH warning: no mechanisms. After messing around for a while, I saw this in /etc/mail/access: