Emergency Garage Release

We had a power outage a while ago, in the middle of which someone needed to get out of the garage and… couldn’t. The door that needed to be opened was, naturally, the one that wedges itself in slightly when it shuts, so it jams the electric opener’s emergency release.

Further investigation revealed that a good hard judo-yank will release it (with a bang), but not everyone can do that. So I made a release helper – because almost anyone can step on a lever. The pictures pretty much say it all – just hook the custom specially calibrated clothesline to the release pull and step on the board.

This is it.

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Consumer Fake Out: Your Nightlights Are Lying To You

This past week I picked up a couple of cheap LED nightlights at Marden’s ($1.99 for a two-pack) and had to take them apart, of course, as I am a self-respecting geek, and because I was at one time mildy obsessed with running LEDs off line power. I guess that hasn’t quite worn off.

This all has led me to two conclusions:

  1. American consumers are suckers
  2. Chinese are either idiotic electrical engineers or brilliant social engineers, or both

Actually, both of those are not entirely deserved, nor totally fair, but read on for the full tear-down. Continue reading

The Finer Points of Podcasts with RSSOwl

Since I’ve been using Google Reader for my feed-reading needs the last few months, I have been spoiled by Reader’s nonchalant handling of just about any feed I throw into it. It’s also available anywhere the internet is, which is very convenient for keeping breaks at work useful and non-boring. (The breaks that don’t involve food, anyway.) I also like the fact that “just about any feed” includes podcasts, so I have a convenient way to keep track of those at work as well.

Unfortunately, podcasts with Reader rely on frequent browser use – something I’m trying to limit – and a 6′ headphone tether to the computer. There is also no good way for Reader to sync with a portable device so podcasts can be heard sans computer with direct net connection.

My solution is to use RSSOwl with a couple custom filters and a custom batch script to sync to a removable USB device (my phone). Here’s how to do the magic and make your life easier.

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On Vacuum-Pumping Water Out Of Large Things Filled With Water

If you, like I, have a boat full of water (and sticks, and leaves, and dirt, and other crud I was scrubbing out of it), then you also may not want to just tip it up and let all that trickle through the hull drain at a slow an increasingly clogging rate. Never mind the residue left inside the hull.

My trusty garden-hose siphon was not going to cut it this time, either. I could have used a bailer… but that’s just not as much fun. And no, thank you, I didn’t want to use my trusty Rainbow vacuum cleaner to pump a gallon at a time again (an often dicey and tedious prospect). And more splashy-messy. So I used good ol’ R2VAC2 as a suction pump/super-siphon starter.

Continue reading