A Different Approach

Most of the time when I work on computers they are “Windows” PCs and the software is mostly made by Microsoft but from working with different companies I have gain some knowledge on other programs made by various vendors and in-house programmers. Although I have had exposure to Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD I have never really done anything significant with them. Part of this because there are not many home users that understand or operate anything outside of Windows and also because I have not found a good reason to even use a Unix flavor for anything I need at home.

Lately I have been toying with the idea of building a system that would be a central server for just my house to handle various environmental issues and maybe act as a media server as well. If not to do something that grand I would like to have a machine that could run my copy of Subnautica …

I have tried to use Linux in the past but had problems with the interfaces being so vastly different than what I am used to. Ubuntu uses a GNOME interface by default and I absolutely cannot stand it. Ubuntu Server is all text-based and I was completely lost because none of the UNIX commands I new would work and of course DOS commands are of no help either. Eventually I found Linux Mint and that opened up a greater understanding of what was going on and from there I was able to formulate a plan.

Then I go into “thinking and planning mode” which can last years if left unchecked. Pretty much any hardware available nowadays can run Ubuntu Server, the flavor I settled on using, and the download is free so really the only thing holding me back was, me.

The other day I pulled out a system I obtained though an upgrade of one of my clients and figured that with a couple upgrades it would work nicely for what I was trying to accomplish. I like to max out systems to get the most out of them and when you get something for free, the upgrade costs are less of a concern but to put the biggest CPU into this system meant spending around $300 and that didn’t include new RAM. That idea was then put on hold.

Then I pulled out a system that the school had been using for their previous security system. The case had a lot of moisture damage since their server room is also their janitor closet so I wasn’t even sure if it would power up. Soon I had the monster running but the motherboard had a problem in that two of the six SATA ports were dead and from the looks of it, whoever built this system for the school knew that when they sold it to them.

When I couldn’t get it to configure the way I wanted, I saw something in the specifications that made me really happy. The CPU sockets were the same on both systems and the processor upgrade that I wanted was actually in this second system. So with a bit more handy work I was able to upgrade the first system and get it running with Ubuntu Server. Although purists will scoff, I put KDE on it so I could see what I was doing and now it sits in my living room waiting for my next move.

Since I like to do strange things, I really would like to make this system so that it isn’t connected to the Internet and instead connect it to my unused landline. Then if I need anything from it remotely, I could just call it and if it needed to alert me about anything, it could call me. Somehow there must be a way to dial out a text message …

Until then I need to figure out how to get the sensors I want to use and get the computer to not only recognize them but also log that information. It will be my own Jarvis but I’ll give it some other name and instead of talking back to me I will set it to just mumble and randomly swear.

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Idea: The Data Shuffle

About fifteen years ago I came up with an idea on how to encode data in such a way that it made it easy to not only compress but infinitely so. After much time and a little more research the core design was found not to be a viable solution and that idea ended as so many do and landed into a notebook never to be touched again.

From that one idea came another that was related in the general design but time and money was holding me back from doing anything with it. Plus, later I would find out that my mind was deficient in certain hormones and it made thinking clearly doubly difficult when it came to developing things. After going back and forth with what I should do, I’m just going to attempt to describe this thing and let someone see if there is 1) a way to actually create it and 2) figure out if there would be any real need for it or the methods by which it works.

As for owning this idea, I can go back through my records and show when I came up with this if need be and of course having written it here is just further documentation. I don’t expect this to make any great waves though because there is technology out now that I’m sure defeats this idea anyway. This is just my way to get it out of my head and let someone else pick at it.

This is a method for encrypting data that doesn’t necessarily work by using algorithms and keys like current methods do. Much of the math and seeds system that encryption uses doesn’t work well in my mind because I have a hard time with processing math. However, I do very well with spatial thinking and visualization so what I have done is taken data and rearranged it into a virtual three dimensional space and then scrambled it with a specific manner so that it can also be unscrambled.

Granted, I’m going to “try” to explain this. Its hard to convert what I see in my mind into words.

Imagine a large set of data in the format of a computer file and in that file the machine code is a specific jumble of hexadecimal numbers that make up the various parts of the data or program. If you were to print out that file you would get pages and pages of ASCII symbols that represent the hexadecimal code in it. Lets say that instead of printing out the information onto separate pages, you could print it out on one large square sheet of paper and see all of the code laid out before you.

Now take this square and adjust it so that the data fit upon most of the page with very little white space at the end. Then cut the page up into multiple smaller squares and form them into a stack much like a deck of playing cards making sure that all of the smaller sheets remain in order so that the top card is the start of the data and the bottom card is the end of the data. Also, each card will be labeled with a unique sequential identifier.

If you look at the sides of the stack, you will see the edges of the data on each card. You will want to find a side where no two cards match so every card has a unique line on it. Think of a book where the pages have been cut right next to the words on the page and you would see that each page has a different pattern because of the placement of those words.

From here you make a copy of that one side and this becomes the key. The cards that you “stacked” with their unique identifiers can now be scrambled with new random identifiers and now the data file is pretty much useless without the key to know which cards go in what order on the stack.

I don’t see a typical computer program being able to find the method of putting the code back into the correct order because the typical method of finding patterns wouldn’t work. The lines of data can only be seen in a pattern by aligning the cards in a very specific way.

To make matters worse, once you have the key that shows the order of the cards of data, you can then create false cards that don’t match any of the cards on the key. A randomized card with completely useless data on it can be made with a random identifier and without the key to show that it isn’t part of the stack, there would be no way to exclude it as a real card.

Provided the size of the cards you create are of different sizes, you could shuffle multiple data files together and without the keys it would be difficult if not impossible to figure out how it all could be sorted out and reassembled.

Because this involves thinking in a three dimensional space, I just don’t know exactly how you would create a computer program to generate this virtual encryption. I would be interested to see if anyone can create this and see how it would function in the real world.

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Anxiously Forward

I really didn’t do anything today and I’m kind of alright with that. It was relatively a nice day out and I stayed inside most of the time to just take a break from everything. There were some plans to get some work done on the house and the Sentra but after looking over my feelings, my anxiety steered me away from being productive.

With the Sentra I just need to change the oil but since it is late fall and there is no snow on the ground it didn’t feel right to be under a warm engine in the mud. I want to have that ice and snow under me with the warmth of the engine above me and the hot dirty oil on my hands. It just holds in the memory of previous winter oil changes and with the forecasts it appears that I will have that day come along soon enough.

As for the house I have a couple new windows to install and today would have been the best day to install them. However my anxiety talked me out of taking on this project as I have never done one before and if I didn’t get it in just right then I would be left something I couldn’t really adjust until it got warmer again. I could not risk the change in the short time period I had to work on this and so the windows will remain the same and the new ones will wait in their plastic wraps.

The next couple days are going to be long ones and so I won’t have much time between them to do much more around the house but I want to get things cleaned up fore the holidays come around again. The usual chores of paying bills and filing paperwork will no doubt take a little of my time but once I consciously make the decision to do some major cleaning, I know my anxiety will start screaming at me to stop what I am doing and try to bribe me with relaxing in bed with a video game. It will just be a matter of willpower and hopefully I will have enough to succeed.

Then again, I could just sulk. That always makes time stand still and then I would have more time to get what I need to do later … ;P

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Fire Show

Last night I was trying to find some paperwork regarding my past computer and printer certifications so I could get them added to my various portfolios. Paperwork that should be in one finite location is actually stored in several boxes located in different rooms under varying categories in an organized chaos of sorts.

My home has some older lighting fixtures in it and when I was trying to turn off one of the room lights I accidentally knocked into it causing it to flicker, zap, and then explode with sparks and at least one glowing red chunks sailed through the air. The house went dark and you could smell what I can only describe as the aftermath of using a cap gun a lot.

After a shrug I navigated through the house to find my phone so I could at least get some light to find my way to the basement. The house does have an advantage in that only the upstairs lights go out when that breaker is tripped so the basement lights worked just fine. Sure enough, the breaker was tripped and I initially just reset it but did not turn it on because I did not know the state of that fixture.

I grabbed my tools and a new fixture I had on hand to go replace the toasted one but I ran into another problem. The wire coming from the ceiling was so old that the wire inside of it was just terrible. How the wire never caught fire previously is just a miracle of chance. What I did next though surprised me to no end.

The light fixtures that hang from the ceiling have little porcelain bases to them and on those bases are little groves that you would find on a handle grip. Just out of frustration I gave one a twist and the assembly came apart allowing me to make the repairs without have to hang upside down from a ladder. I had no idea they did that or that they made such a thing. When I finished putting new wire in the bottom piece and added a new fixture, I merely twisted the fixture back onto the ceiling and flipped on the breaker.

I do see one major flaw in their design that now gives me the chills. There are two screws on the underside that you can touch but those screws hold the contacts on the inside of the mount which means that they are always electrified. Most of my ceilings in the house are too high to reach those contacts but the one in the kitchen is within reach. I think its time I work on getting them replaced with something newer.

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The Aria of Design

As part of my weight loss regimen, I have been keeping a close eye on my day to day weight. I know full well that its going to fluctuate each day based on how much water I have drank and how much food I recently ate and with that knowledge I use it as a guide and some entertainment.

Originally I was using an average digital scale that could handle 360 pounds but after talking with my sister about my FitBit tracker, she said I could have her old FitBit Aria. It’s a sleek looking WiFi enabled smart scale that does two major things: it measures your weight, and it measures your body fat percentage.

From the day I brought it home I could not get the Body Fat Percentage function to work and I went online to find out answers. It turns out that there is very little information on a real solid fix other than calling FitBit to see if they will send you a replacement and then you can just toss the old one. However, I wasn’t going to take that road.

I found an article online that shows how to open the scale at the following link:

http://pooloferrors.com/project/2015/01/10/fitbit-teardown.html

Before I decided to open up the scale, I checked with my sister and she said that the Body Fat function worked just fine when she had it. Also, I took another step that isn’t mentioned anywhere else and that was to remove the cover that is over the display. From there I could see how the surface connects to the computer and that in turn is the reason for this issue.

The FitBit Aria Smart Scale looks really modern and with the digital display, WiFi, and glass top it appears to be very well designed. But with any product there are flaws to trump that assumption and in this scale it has to do with the glass surface.

I reasoned that the metal surface on the glass had to connect to something and that something should kick back a resistance value if I could measure it. So I got out my multi-meter and checked the Ohms of the glass surface and found that not all of them would give me a reading. Without knowing more about what I was dealing with inside the scale, I plunged into the guide and opened it up.

Why there are screws in the battery compartment is a mystery to me because even with them removed it was a real chore trying to separate the two halves of plastic. There are little tubes in the top that little posts fit into from the bottom and at least one of them was glued together. FitBit doesn’t want you to try and repair this thing. After opening it, the inside looked exactly as it does in the instructions but what isn’t covered is the pathways for the Body Fat sensors.

On the computer, there are four wires going to contacts on the upper right that lead to four points near the display. Each wire connects to a clip that touches the glass on the other side, underneath the display cover. The contacts themselves are labeled as RT, LT, RH, LH or (Right Toe, Left Toe, Right Heel, Left Heel). Connect the multi-meter to RT and LT and you should get a positive value and then do the same with RH and LH. When I tested the connections under the lid, they all show resistance so I knew then that it had to be something with those clips.

Here is where the design of this scale is its downfall.

Most other devices that measure body fat use metal plates that you touch but this scale uses a metal coated glass and you can’t solder a wire to it. What they did is press a metal contact against the glass with the hope that it would remain there with enough surface area to allow current to pass into the coating and through you and the computer. But the clip on mine came so ever so slightly loose from the surface and then the Body Fat function quit.

The fix was rather simple after finding this by just pressing down on the little contacts on the glass surface to make sure they touch the coating. You can’t really glue the contacts down though because if you get anything between them and the coating, you lose the signal.

By just pushing down on those contacts, my scale works perfectly and now I can get a better picture of how fat I really am. 😛

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Eating Myself Thin

This year is the first time that I have been able to lose a significant amount of weight, about 40 pounds so far. The reason for this loss if a many headed beast that turns out to be fairly tame to deal with. The underlying reasons though are pretty straight forward.

  1. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror.
  2. I don’t want to become diabetic or get some other condition I have to maintain the rest of my life.

I haven’t really “struggled” per se with my weight but it has been a concern of mine since I left college and started working in desk jobs. I slowly got fatter over the years and my activity slowly became less and less. When I saw what was happening to me I really tried to get out more and eat less but it wasn’t working.

The science behind healthy weight loss is pretty simple. Eat only the calories you need for the day and expend more calories than you take in. Over time you will “burn” off the fat and your body will readjust to compensate for the change.

Too many times I have seen people try the fad diets that completely exclude certain foods and they take it to such an extreme level that they cannot maintain it forever and eventually fail. It’s too easy for people to cheat on their plan and then get carried away and forget what they were trying to accomplish. Also, it doesn’t help that life can also sabotage your plans with depression to where you suddenly find  yourself eating to comfort a never ending need.

One thing that really helps me is not to take my diet to an extreme level. However, there are certain foods that I have to completely avoid not because they would compromise my weight loss but because I have become allergic to their ingredients and eating them leads to excruciating pain. The major items on this list include various nuts and seeds plus anything with raw dairy in it. Because most everything comes with cheese nowadays, it really cuts down on my food selection process.

Another thing that has helped is making sure my hormone levels are in check. Because of my genetic condition and tumor, my testosterone has to be supplemented and now that it has risen to an almost-normal level it will help with losing fat. Slight variations in any hormone level can rob you of the energy you need to be active and lose weight that is gathering in your system.

They key for me was having someone else I know start on a plan that I was sensible and didn’t include any hokey “detox” or “purge” routines that I know are not only dumb but also harmful to your body. The local Sanford Profile by one of the local hospitals provided them with the key foods to eat and not eat and still remain healthy. I looked at the lists that they were provided with and saw that if I could cut out most of the consumed sugars, I would lose a bunch of weight rather quickly. I took notes but I did get on the plan.

Initially I had a hard time cutting out everything I should have. The more I told myself to stop eating something the more I continued to eat those special treats that I was going to lose. Then, I had a couple things that shocked me out of my bad habits. Chocolate covered gem donut habit ended when I found out I was eating a moldy one. Drinking liquids with Sucralose instead of sugar ended after getting sick and finding that water tasted strangely sweet for a month.

Another process that keeps me going is not eating at home. I know this sounds completely backwards but I have a good reason for it. If you present me with a large plate of food, I will eat it all and probably seek out the remainders in the bowls. My self-control around meals is zero and for me to make a dish at home usually means that I will eat it all in one setting as I have no ability to save leftovers for later. So although buying groceries and eating at home may be cheaper, it just gives me a reason to over eat.

Being on the go all of the time gives me access to a few gas stations which carry food items I enjoy. Every day I get a bottle of water, a high protein sandwich, and some fruit on the way to work and I might have a snack during the workday and then I grab a sandwich from BK or Arby’s on the way home. If I’m eating 1,000 calories a day I’m not eating much more.

On the weekends I eat a little more because I still allow myself some treats but always keeping in mind that I not eat a whole lot of carbs and stay heavy on protein and veggie/fruit options. 90% of the time I drink just water but every once in awhile I have a root beer or a Sucralose drink.

Other things that have helped along the way include having a job where I move around a lot. My work has me sitting, standing, walking, crawling, and climbing stairs randomly throughout the day depending on my ticketing needs. I also keep an eye on my progress with a FitBit step counter and a hand-me-down FitBit Aria smart scale. Everything together gives me a way to see myself making progress and letting me see when maybe I’ve been snacking on Apple-O’s too much.

One last factor that helps me is that I am not competing with anyone but myself. It is depressing to compete with someone and find that you are losing less than the other person and it can throw you off course. But if you do compare, the key is not to look at the weight itself. This is because everyone is built a little different with different muscle mass, bone density, water retention, et cetera. Instead look at the percentage lost (or gained) to make it fair.

For me, the real numbers are that I went from 353 to 307 as of this morning. That means I have lost 13% in about 10 months, or 1.3% a month. This percentage is the item you need to compare against because for someone else 1.3% a month might be completely doable because it translates into a lower amount of weight for their size. But it could also mean a larger amount but at least it is better than looking at the weight itself.

So that’s a basic look at what I have been doing to lose this much weight so far. My current goal is to get down to 300 pounds and maybe a little further … 250 ish.

I know I’ll never be high-school thin though … I love Chocolate Chip Cookies too much.

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Banners

I’m a little bit of a creative sort and I like to express myself in subtle yet fun ways. One of the ways I can show my creative talent to my friends is through my Facebook page by creating my own banners. I borrow from found images and compile them into a picture that represents my mood until I have another burst of inspiration.

I thought I would share some of the banners that I have made so far. Nothing that I think is too fancy but just a little fun for the masses.

bender

The Bender image is taken from a file on the Internet and cropped.

barn

A picture of the barn on the farm I grew up on.

b-banner

Candles burning in a blue filter. Image from the Internet manipulated for my birthday.

war-banner

One of my best friends was facing a stressful issue and I made this as my way of supporting her. It is a collage of found images from the Internet.

truckbanner

This is a 50’s GMC pickup I saw in a small town and I washed out the image with a variety of filters in PhotoShop.

stampbanner

I have my own logo / mark that I created to represent not only my name but my favorite number. I had a rubber stamper made of this and use it on a lot of my letters to people.

moirefunbanner

This is a collage that I made to trip people out. I was going for a look that was difficult to keep your eyes on and interestingly it forces you to look through the window.

idols

We have lost so may great entertainers in the last few years and this is my commemoration to the three I find so important to my development.

This retable of the high altar is by George Frederick Bodley, 1881, with figures carved by William Brindley.

I’m not a big time Christian and a lot of my friends know this. So, for April Fools Day this was my banner that morning.

fnafb

Just putting a bright and happy feeling for those that have lived through Five Nights at Freddy’s on Easter.

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This is one of my favorite images that I have found on the Internet.

fbanner

These flowers were in front of the local Cracker Barrel and I have found the setting to be the best for this application.

fall2015banner

This a picture of some mushrooms growing on a piece of wood at one of my Aunt and Uncle’s farm. It has been enhanced and made into a print for one of my sisters.

darkness

When you get bummed out, you start going Goth.

dark-banner

Another take on my feelings of conformity.

blufurbanner

You can send me chocolate cookies anytime. Any-Time.

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