30
Mar 14

Dell OptiPlex motherboard repair

My office was liquidating a bunch of old computer equipment.  In the heap, my eye was caught by a Dell box.  “Hmm, what’s wrong with that computer?” And so began my next big obsession.

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01
Mar 14

Frozen vs. Watchmen

It seemed obvious to me that the character of Queen Elsa from Disney’s excellent Frozen had glimpses of similarity to Dr. Manhattan from Snyder’s excellent The Watchmen. Both had nearly infinite power, which detached them from their humanity and fellow humans. Each secluded themselves far away in a self-made palace as a way of both escaping and saving the people close to them. Both had trouble containing their power.

That said, I don’t think I remember Dr. Manhattan ever breaking out into song.

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08
Feb 14

Sparked interests and water analogs

Today, on the way to visit friends, my daughter asked me probing questions about one of my favorite little obsessions: traffic signals.
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27
Jan 14

Before there was Netflix…

“… the world was without form.  And it was not good.”

For the past 6 months, I’m not entirely sure how we could have survived without Netflix.  I’m aware that I tend to overstate many things and this is no exception.  But humor me.

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29
Nov 13

The STEM gap

There’s a great info-graphic and article on Adecco, concerning the widening gap between available Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) candidates and those job vacancies waiting to be filled.

I have much to be thankful for this year.  In particular, I have Adecco to thank for placing me at a great, international science-based company — Thermo Fisher Scientific.  Our relatively small local branch is a great group of people to be working with.  It’s challenging, new, exciting, and growing.

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24
Nov 13

Failure analysis on the HoMedics Lullaby Soundspa

We have one of these little do-dads for our kid: HoMedics SS-3000 Soundspa Lullaby.  It’s a nifty little product, makes different simulated white noise sounds and projects these images from a spinning disk apparatus.  Like I said, nifty.

But also fragile, and prone to breakage.  The company, HoMedics, replaced our first one because its little motor that turns the disk just quite one day.  Well, the replacement now has the same symptom.

So enough was enough!  Time to tear this thing apart.

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21
Nov 13

DIY mamma

When my washing machine breaks down, do I call a plumber? No! I text my wife.
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17
Nov 13

cell phone plan switcheroo, part 2

Here’s a triumphant update to the last post on switching cell phone carriers.  It’s been a long road, but we finally got there.  As of now, we are now truly paying $80 per month for two cell phones (with about $10 tacked on for taxes).

If you too want to try to make the switch, here are a few things I learned that might help you too.

Getting approval for unlocking from AT&T can be tricky.  I got approval right away for the main phone line.  For the second phone (mine), it was considerably harder.  After about a half dozen phone calls to support, we finally got it.  Make certain that if you have multiple lines, that all IMEI numbers are “attached to the account” (whatever that actually means is anyone’s guess). This bit is for iPhones owners.  To properly unlock the phone from AT&T, follow their instructions to the letter; don’t cheat like I did and restore a backup of the phone.  The iPhone will still be locked!  Instead, you must restore first.  Then restore your recent backup.  You can’t just skip the blank restore directly to backup. After you pay your last remaining balance, don’t forget to request approval for refunding your deposit (if you had to prepay one month).  For us, this was about 7 years ago; but hey, it’s worth getting back every penny you’ve loaned to a multi-billion dollar company!

The only remaining uncertainty is coverage area comparison.  It’s still too soon to tell, but so far the data coverage quality is much better in my experience.  At my office, I have far better 3G data connection. We also have excellent voice coverage in our house.

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24
Oct 13

The hunt for the perfect cell phone plan

I am nothing, if not occasionally obsessive.  I get fixated with certain projects, plans, or life goals  Well lately (as in the last 6-9 months), I’ve been rather preoccupied with finding the perfect, affordable cell phone plan.

The last time I was this worked up about hacking my status as a cell phone user, it was all about the iPhone.  This time, it isn’t the hardware, it’s the carrier.

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26
Aug 13

Function pointers

Here’s a great quote by John Bass on an EDN article about function pointers as an implementation of state machine design:

Failure complexity is a metric of a design.

http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/embedded-basics/4406821/Function-pointers—Part-3–State-machines