Convert table to scissor-lift desk

I’m a big fan of sit/stand desks. The problem with most options is they scream office desk. A while back my wife bought a good looking table that is the size of a desk (though a bit tall in my opinion). Looking at the underside, I can see how it is put together. Simply a flat top fixed to some boards underneath. Those boards are wedged between cross-braces and the table legs; basic table design. I have an idea on how to covert that design into a somewhat-covert sit/stand desk.

The short of it is to remove the top board from the frame and to build an inner frame on which to affix the top. The two frames would then be joined by way of a scissor lift. I would want to take the functionality of the Woodworking Junky scissor lift combined with the elegance of the DIY Perks motorized monitor lift.

Ideally, it would look like a table until you push the button to raise it. I don’t plan to be converting my wife’s desk an time soon, but perhaps sometime I could work to convert a junk table. I’m sure it will take lots of testing and iterations. If I can make it work, I think it could look good and be functional.

On plugging into the correct receptical

I acquired a computer from my former employer. We had an issue with it where the fan would spin up so it sounded like it would take off (and eventually shut itself down). We never figured out the issue and it was eventually sold along with other computers and equipment. I wiped the drive before we sold  it and a coworker bought it, but couldn’t get it working. I meant to help him figure it out, but somehow that never happened (sorry Derryl). He eventually gave it to me.

It sat around collecting dust until recently when I was inspired to try and get it running again. Back when it was new, it was maxed out and top of the line. Dual Xeon processors and more. I figured out the issue with it booting and installing Windows was the drive controller was set to a RAID configuration. I set it to JBOD and was able to boot.

But I still had to deal with the fan issue. I had already figured out that fan for only one of the processors was running hard and figured there was a heat issue with that processor. The other day I felt the heatsinks after the fan started taking off. The heatsink with the strange fan issue was cool and the other was warm.

I figured this meant the thermal paste wasn’t doing its job of transferring the heat from the CPU to the heatsink. I found some cheap paste I had left from an old build (it came in a multipack) and applied that (after cleaning the old paste off, of course). But the problem remained. It was late at night and I had to get up for work the next morning, so I just ordered some good quality stuff from Newegg.com and went to bed.

As I was going to sleep, I wondered if the fans were perhaps plugged in wrong. In the morning, I swapped them and checked the labels on the motherboard and saw that they were indeed plugged in to the wrong plugin. I powered it up and it ran without “taking off”. I heard one of the fans spin up every once in a while, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Now to order new memory to replace the puny 512 MB it currently has (the other 512 MB stick failed) to 8 GB. Maybe later I’ll put another 8 GB in, but first I want to figure out if the rest of the hardware is worth it.

If you were wanting an explanation on why the swapped fan cables caused the issue, read on. Basically one of the processors was running a little hot so the computer spun up its fan to cool it down. But the fan that was receiving the spin-up signal was actually on the other processor. That processor was cool enough, so it left its fan at the minimum speed. Meanwhile the fan running at the minimum speed was on the processor that was running hot and thus was not helping the situation. So the computer told that processor’s fan to spin up even more. And the cycle continued until the computer was shut down by a person or by the protection settings.

Now I have a solid computer for mostly free. The memory and the memory cooler (necessary for more than 4 GB) are going to cost a pretty penny, but it will work nicely for programming or as a server. I don’t know how well it will work for gaming, though it has PCIe which leaves me room to upgrade the graphics card.

Web layout and design for any device/screen size

I have been thinking  some about how to design and program my website to make it look and work great on both desktop monitors and mobile devices. I’ve tried making a layout that would stretch and shrink, but at a certain point it started doing strange things.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m wanting to try using JavaScript to detect the viewable area and dynamically link different stylesheets accordingly. Or I could use the JavaScript to change a core ID or Class according to the screen size and the CSS would have different layouts, font sizes, etc. targeted to each. Of course there would be some common style elements to all sizes.

I need to make sure the site would still work and scale even if JavaScript were not available. I’ll have to see if I can use any kind of info from the browser agent. Failing all else, I’ll have to have a mobile and a desktop style sheet (perhaps the default container ID would be targeted in those default style sheets).

I was doing a search on layouts and such and a site I saw had multiple background images for different browser sizes. I think that is a great idea. I’ll probably have a default size (or default to no background image) and then use the JavaScript and/or CSS to pull in the correct sized background. Then mobile users will not have to download a big file for their little screen.

I ran across this site, called Responsive Layouts, Responsively Wireframed, that is giving me some ideas that I might use for my site’s layout. I’m thinking of putting the side navigation on the right instead of the traditional left. Then I can just float it right and float all the content blocks left. I’ll probably have to figure out how to make the content blocks a reasonable width, yet scale based on the screen size.

These are just some ideas. We’ll see what actually happens. The coding and basic layout should be fairly easy… …Making it pretty? We’ll see.

“Free” Money!!!?

There is a saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” There is [almost] always a catch. Sometimes the catch is just listening to something. Sometimes a contract may be involved. Sometimes you might have to pay later or get something, for which you weren’t planning. Sometimes you may be compromising your values. Sometimes you may even be enabling others’ bad behavior. Sometimes there may be missed opportunities. Sometimes you may be paying for something “free” that you may never get.

I’ve had some experiences recently with “free” things. And I have some thoughts on “free” things that I haven’t experienced, but I’ve heard about. I don’t mean to be preachy or to tell you what to do, but I want to share my thoughts. Hopefully you will consider them. There are different kinds of “free” that you may encounter out there in the world. I may not cover everything, but here are a few thoughts.

One kind of “free” is where you get something free for something else (time, buying something else, signing a contract, etc.). Sometimes you can come out ahead by listening to the sales pitch and sticking to your “no” answer (though that seems to be taking advantage of them), but hey, they tried (and failed). Other times you may find yourself getting burned.

Dave Ramsey talks about college students getting free pizza and getting sucked into signing up for credit cards. I’ll bet the interest they are paying could have bought many pizzas. Talk about getting burned just because of hunger. It reminds me of a Bible story, in which Esau sold his birthright (the rights he has by being the oldest) to his younger brother for some soup because he was famished.

Recently I was sucked into earning “free” bitcoins. Being a nerd (curious about bitcoins a they were new to me) and a financial nerd (and I probably had some greediness going on too), I wanted to get some free bitcoins and see if they would increase in value. I found a site that had links to various other sites which gave out free bitcoins. I watched several videos, entered tons of Captchas, and earned under a quarter of a dollar. Yay?!? My wife and I figured out (about the same time) that I was putting in a bunch of time for very little payback. Who wants a job earning $0.10/hour entering Captchas? All the while part of me wondered if some of the sites might have been “mining” Captcha results to build bots or something (hopefully not, but you have to wonder). Oh well, we’ll see what happens to my $0.25.

A similar, but different, kind of free is coupons and sales. Like “BOGO” (buy-one-get-one[-free]) sales. It can be easy to get sucked into those and then buy more that you were planning. On the other hand, when you were already planning on buying 2, it is a great deal. Use the deal, don’t let the deal use you (that sounds like a Dave-Ramsey-ism).

Another kind of free that I find interesting is scratch/lottery tickets. I think it may be possible to win big, but most don’t and you can sink a lot of money in the quest to win big. You may win little payments and even some biggish payments, but you will likely put more in that you get out. Sometimes I toy with it and want to buy the occasional ticket or two, but I haven’t yet. Dave Ramsey told about how people spend hundreds a month on lottery tickets and get nothing (or if they win big, it ruins their life). College educated people spend about half of that (on average) – that should tell you something. I just found some statistics and you are more likely to die by electric chair than win. However if you even just put the money in a savings account, you will for sure win there (just not as much).

I think gambling (such as at casinos) results in a similar situation. I’m not going to say you are evil for gambling or buying tickets, but I advise against it. It doesn’t make financial sense to me. I think it would be better to get your thrills in other ways.

One last bit along the lines of gambling. I’ve been hearing about micro auctions (I’m not sure the exact term), where basically you can get an iPad for $25 and the auctions start out at a penny. I did some research into one such site because I wanted to “get the cheap things” (I just made that up). Yes, sometimes you can win expensive things for very cheap, but most people don’t (or don’t understand how). Basically, the advice I read -and would follow if I ever try- is be prepared to pay full price. You may win big, but don’t quit too early. Be willing to go all the way.

The core thought here in all these situations is to consider carefully what you may be giving up in return for “free” and know how valuable the “free” is. It may cost you more that the “free” is worth. I’m a big fan of working hard. Sometimes you can get things for free or easy, but there are great risks involved. I probably swing too far on the minimize risk side of things (and am a bit of a control freak). You may be more adventurous than me and that’s fine. So take your risks, but know the possible consequences in addition to the possible rewards.

Hacking up a Linux Server

A few months ago I installed Linux Mint on my old computer. I’ve always been a Windows guy, but interested in Linux. I also like Apple, but that is another story. I’ve played around with Linux before, but never really got very deep into it.

I suppose it has mostly been fear. Fear of not knowing how to do something. Fear of messing something up royally (the dangers of being a power user without much knowledge of the system). This fear has been expanded by the lack of hardware. Now that I have a good laptop and that is my primary computer, I felt able to use my old, home-made net-top (a kind of small and underpowered desktop) as a server.

I was able to successfully get file sharing set up so now I can share files between my laptop, my wife’s computer, and my work laptop (I currently work from home). I also installed and set up Apache, MySQL server, and ColdFusion 10. In fact, I started Nerdy Noahz Notions on my server before posting it on a shared host.

I still have some kinks to work out, but it feels good. Unfortunately I tried various things to get it set up so I could remote desktop into it using Windows’ Remote Desktop. I tried a script someone had and it messed up my window manager. I switched to another from those installed and available. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to fix it.

I want to get a NAS device and use that for the file server so that if I do mess something up and need to start from scratch, I don’t have to take it offline. That and a dedicated NAS device will hopefully use less power than even my net-top. The one I’m looking at (Synology DiskStation DS213j) has some kind of plugin system to add additional functionality. I want to set it up as a DLNA streaming server so I can watch saved content on the Blu-ray player (or one of the gaming consoles). It also can act as a Time Machine destination, so I can use it whenever my wife or I get a Mac.

Fun times as a nerd.

Disclaimer: no servers were hacked (in the “hacking into your system” kind of way) in the making of this article or in the events reviewed herein. I just hacked my way around trying to get things installed and running like I wanted (with at least some success). Hacked as in not really knowing enough to get it done in an efficient and precise manner. …in case anyone was wondering…