Sucks MORE!

IP legal eagle and Creative Commons architect Larry Lessig has a bit on his blog about vacuuming CAT5 network cable through kinky conduit (via bOINbOING):

But when we tried to run the Ethernet cable from the roof to the basement, we discovered that the conduit makes 3 90-degree turns and one 45-degree turn, and it was not at all clear how one pushes a cable through such a maze.

So of course we turned first to the internet. I typed in a totally natural language question into Google (which I find these days is increasingly the best method): something like “how do you thread a cable through a long conduit with 90 degree angles.” The first post that came up was a thread from some list titled Threading fiber through a long conduit. This thread reported no good luck, but it had the kernel of an idea: a vacuum cleaner.

So we took a bit of foam, tied it to the end of a roll of kite string, and connected a small Shop-Vac at the other end of the conduit (which is at least 50 feet long). Bingo. The key, it seems, is to have a big but light obstruction, and google at hand.

Starting from Scratch

I am installing a new laptop harddrive for the third time in three months. It’s a long boring story. Anyway, here is my list of essential freeware (all of it googleable) that I plan to reinstall.

explorer updates
winmedia updates
win2k updates
open office: I only need Word to open wordperfect files that I keep getting (Utah is the former home of WordPerfect)
palm desktop
cms disk cleaner
Gimp for windows
Matrix html editor
Notetab lite
handful of batch files.

This time around I’m burning a cd with all of these in one place, so that recovery will be a little quicker the next time.

What’s on your list of essential Windows freeware?

Poor Man’s Portable Video Feed


So my wife is driving the kids 800 miles to see her family in Oregon. I have to work, and will meet up with her in a couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep our kids, 6,3, and 2, respectively, from killing each other or going catatonic on the 13 hour trip. We’ve got the usual assortment of road games, coloring books, stickers, legos, snacks and music, but at the last minute it occured to me that maybe a portable dvd or a gameboy would make a big difference. If I can just neutralize the six year old, then he won’t torture his little brother when he gets bored. The problem is that I am cheap, and not totally excited about dropping almost $200 for the cheapest available W*lmart dvd player. So I’ve come up with a couple of other options and wanted to solicit your input:

1. get a $40/350 watt inverter, then take our existing small tv and vcr, duct tape them together, and make our own portable entertainment center

2. Get a Pixter (kiddy PDA) instead of a gameboy

3. Buy the $178 Initial dvd player from CrapMart, then sell it on Ebay when the trip is over. Or keep it and wire it into the car speakers and use it as a combo dvd/cd/mp3 player.

4. Travel back in time and install a $200 bookpc with a $100 overhead lcd. Figure out some way to justify the cost later. Put a wireless card in it, and get a wireless keyboard. Put a bunch of games on it too. While visiting the past, figure out a way to protect Sarah Connor from evil terminator.

5. Quit crying and remember that when you were a kid, you drove across the country with nothing more than colorforms and lived to tell about it.

Extreme X-box!

Tired of wimpy vibrations coming from your game console? Add the X-Shok to your controllers to give yourself a 20,000 volt jolt every time you get hit in Mortal Combat!

Lara Croft-y Case Mod

Does THAT look like a case mod to you? Well it is. Some Japanese fella, who’ll likely never get any closer to a real woman than crafting his PC case into one, made this life-size "action figure" with a PC embedded in it. Guess where the CPU is located? And the…ah…exhaust fan? What, no status lights for nipples? I guess that’d be too tacky.

Open Node in a Bag

Really nifty article on Flakey.Info about turning an Apple Airport Wi-Fi base station into a multi-antenna system using a pigtail antenna and connector. The N-type connector on the pigtail can be used to mount an external antenna cable, an omni-directional antenna (shown), a “cantenna,” or a bi-quad antenna.

(Check out the nifty bi-quad, waterproofed by building it inside of a Tupperware container. I wonder how much of a sales boost Pringels and Tupperware are enjoying as a result of the community wireless movement? They’ve become staples of many a node.)

New Barebones Multimedia System

MSI Computer, maker of computer components and barebones systems, has announced a new system specifically for the home entertainment server market – the MEGA (MSI Entertainment Gaming Appliance). The case sports an innovative built-in display that shows MP3 information or other features much like a home stereo, and has a button layout that appears to make using the system as a media server simpler. The internal componants support either AMD or Intel P4 chips, and include integrated AGP 8x display hardware, and USB 2.0, firewire ports, and S-video out. Accessories include TV tuner, FM radio, wireless remote and keyboard, etc. as well as your choice of DVD/CDRW drives and hard drives (all BYO). Price is not known at this point, but units are expected this summer.

motorized LCD

One currently popular casemod is to add a small color LCD display to the front of a PC case. Now, one casemodder has come up with a creative way to have an LCD display and still have the use of his floppy drive. He has motorized the display to move up and down like a motorized car window.