A blog post from Fargo – a new gizmo

Dave Winer has a cool new gizmo (Fargo) that I’ve been messing around with for the last week or so (don’t get me all wrapped up in a time warp here).

Why I loves Fargo

  • I loves this gizmo because I’m addicted to outlining and I’m always on the hunt for simpler, more approachable ways to do it (and recruit other addicts). For the most part, I’ve gotten pretty solidly into the “mind mapping” groove, but that’s just a habit. When you boil my use of mind-mapping software down you find that all I’m really doing is outlining. Enough about why Fargo attracts me.

Problems this WordPress connector solve

  • The problem I was running into with Fargo was “well gee, in many cases I will eventually want to slurp it out of Fargo and push it into a traditional word processor and turn it into a report of some kind — how I do dat?”
  • Another problem I was running into was “how can I keep non-addicts up to date on the outline without forcing them into something that makes them uneasy?”

This connector between Fargo and WordPress may just be the ticket. So here’s a first-try blog post that I’ll then come back and edit a bit to test out how this gizmo works.


  • I coulda sworn I saw one of these outlines posted to a WP site in a way that the expanding/shrinking triangles came along too.
  • That would be good to know how to do — ’cause some of my outlines get
  • really big and it would be nice to allow people to open/close parts of
  • it rather than seeing the whole thing. I wonder if that’s done in CSS,
  • or if it’s a theme thing, or a plugin? Ah… maybe can do that with a public link to the post? Eeeauuu… That’s pretty homely. What about a link to view this post in Reader?
  • oops – lost all the links in that ‘graph. tried to pull them back in by copy/pasting from the WP version but the links didn’t come with.
  • i’m making hash out of this. where did all those extra Returns come from when i pasted the text back in (tried copy/paste of a portion of the paragraph)
  • hm… dragging does something. but not sure what. dragged a big chunk to the bottom of the page and it disappeared. where’s “undo” when i need it? 😉
  • How do I chop over-long paragraphs (like this one is getting to be) into chunks so I can reorganize them? Hitting Return in the middle of my long ‘graph gets me a new one at the bottom. Shift-Return? cmd-Return? alt-Return? ctr-Return? Enter? nope. Hmm. I’m constantly taking notes and tidying up afterward. Gotta be a way… Maybe it’s just a drafting habit I need to learn
    • But I think it would be nice to have a “split this headline” command. place cursor at split point, issue “split” command and wind up with the headline divided in two.
  • Ahhh. Firefox and Safari. That’s the source of my troubles. Safari is a lot nicer experience. I can cut/paste sections of headlines without getting a whole series of headlines.
  • Repainting the SC430

    OK, I admit it.  I’m kindof a lame car guy.  I love cars, but I am old and tired and hate being uncomfortable.  So about 5 years ago I bought a year-1 (2002) Lexus SC430 that had been rode hard and put away wet for the princely sum of $17000.  I’ve been bringing it back from an early grave ever since.  The first few years were devoted to repairing the driving stuff — replacing bent wheels, struts, etc.

    I also did some exterior work on my own, because the black paint (pity me, I own a black car) had gotten a really bad case of the swirlys from many years of bad car washes.  Plus the headlights had gotten really fogged, so I cleaned them up.

    But this year is the year to do what I’ve been dreaming of ever since I bought the car — a complete repainting job.  Mostly to cure all the battered-paint troubles, but also to slightly change the color to an extremely dark blue.  I’m hoping to get that effect where it looks black unless you really look at it in direct sun, at which point the blue metallic will show up.

    This is a post to chronicle the project.

    The folks who did it

    Will and Robert Latuff — of Latuff Brothers Autobody.  They look displeased, no?


    Rick, Dan, Brandon, Don and Tim — the guys that did the heavy lifting.  They look unhappy too.  Maybe they’re feeling crummy about the terrible job they did?  Or maybe they just don’t get along with each other very well.


    Huge hole in this post, waiting for a picture of Kim and Steve from Dick and Rick’s Auto Interiors in Bloomington — the folks who redid the upholstery.


    Ridiculous wallpaper photos (click on them — these thumbnails don’t do them justice)

    Being a big believer in eating my dessert first, here are some “ridiculous wallpaper photos” of the completed project, taken here at the farm.

    sc430 wallpaper 1

    sc430 wallpaper 2

    sc430 wallpaper 3


    sc430 wallpaper 5

    “Before” pictures of the body

    Click on the photos to get the full huge versions so you can see the nasties that I’m trying to fix. Dings, chips, swirlies.  The complete catastrophe.





    Not unexpectedly, this 12 year old car had some extra projects hidden inside it.  Like this crimped thingy.  I’ll have to ask Robert what it is.  My guess is that it’s one of the hoses for the headlight washers.


    This was a good one.  When the one of the prior repairs was made, the people at the body shop GLUED the front bumper on to the car.  No wonder it didn’t line up right.


    “In progress” pictures of the body

    Robert Latuff shared a whole boatload of documentation shots that he took along the way.  Thanks Robert!

    There was all kinds of detail work to do.


    And repairs to badly-done prior repairs.  This car has been through a lot, mostly at the hands of the prior 3 owners.


    There was some pretty rough hail damage, especially on the roof…


    The rear bumper needed to be reworked…


    Even the doors needed to be returned to something more closely approximating their original shape.


    Poor car, so many dents and troubles to be smoothed out.



    Here’s a series of pictures showing the car in various stages of being taken apart, repaired, primed, etc.  Again, these pictures are mostly courtesy of Robert Latuff, although there are a few of mine sprinkled in from the day Robert let me look in on the car while it was in progress.

    Ever wondered what your car looks like with all the soft cushy bits removed?


    It seems silly, but that’s where the “back seat” of an sc430 goes…



    I embarrassed Robert and forced him to stand in one of my pictures.








    Bits and pieces are coming off to get painted


    I don’t think this is street legal, but it looks like it might be fun to drive — if it had seats.


    Redoing the seats

    Speaking of seats. another part of this project was to redo those.  It started to feel like a good time to do it about half way into the repainting, since the seats had already been yanked out of the car.  So they went off to Dick and Rick’s Auto Interiors in Bloomington for a re-do.  Here are some pictures of the way they looked when we started…

    One of the prior owners must have been a cowboy that drove this car with his spurs on.  Really hard on the lower edge of the seat.



    One of the “rear seat” belts had been taped down to keep it from flapping in the wind…  Nice, huh?


    Driver’s seat didn’t look too bad from this angle, but the leather was pretty much on its last legs



    This is a weird sc430 problem that lots of owners have.  The “headrests” in the “rear seat” get clobbered by the sun, shrink, and pull away from their underlying frames.  Homely.


    Here’s the back of the “rear seat” after it’s been removed from the car — in all of it’s duct tape glory.


    And here are the front seats.


    Here’s a shot that Steve took over at the upholstery shop showing another surprise.  I wonder what took that bite out of the upper-left corner of the seat foam.  A bear?

    VINYL 006

    “After” pictures

    These are some more utilitarian pictures — not quite as snazzy as the ridiculous wallpaper pictures at the top of the post, but more documentation of this great project.  Nah, I don’t like it.  Ick.  What a misguided effort this was.

    This is one of the “before” pictures from up above, with a similar “after” picture right behind it.  Oh, one other change this year — I replaced the tires that had worn out with smaller wheels (went from 18″ to 17″) and higher-profile tires to bring the total diameter back up to roughly what it had been before.  If you’re thinking about this, I can tell you I couldn’t be happier.  It’s easy to see the comparison in these two shots.  Old = skinny tires.  New = slightly fatter tires.  It’s also pretty easy to see the slight change in color — from black to dark blue.



    Here’s another “before/after” comparison, again showing the difference in color and tires.  If you click on these thumbnails, you’ll be able to really see the difference in the paint.  Also note the lovely job that the lads did on fixing up the beat up mirror shrouds.




    I forgot to take a “before” picture of all the road rash on the front of the car.  But it’s all gone now.


    Another thing the folks at Latuff fixed was a funky gas cap cover.  It used to stick out in a weird crooked way.  Fixed.


    Hail damage to the trunk?  Fixed.


    Marcie liked the view of the clouds and the trees reflected in the hood.  I do too.


    And here are the seats!

    Here’s a “before” shot, just as a reminder…


    Are these nifty or what?  Steve and Kim over at Dick and Rick’s steered me straight on this one.  I told them that I was going for the color of an old Mercedes SL convertible and this is where we wound up.


    Note the way that the rear “head rests” look now that Steve’s been at it.


    Everybody was a little edgy about whether the remaining old black interior and seat frames were going to work with the new, different-color, upholstery.  I think they work great — I like the way they set each other off.


    The end

    So there you have it.  The Great 2013 Redo of a 2002 Lexus SC430.  I couldn’t be happier — thanks to all who helped!

    One last Ridiculous Wallpaper Picture to send you on your way.  Happy trails!

    sc430 wallpaper 4

    ICANN Intersessional meeting — LA — March, 2013

    A few photos from a “between meetings” ICANN meeting of the non-contracted parties house of the GNSO.  Click on the pictures for full-sized versions.










    You’ll definitely want to click on this panorama and take a look at the full-sized version.  This was an informal session with members of the Board who were arriving for meetings the following day.


    Front row seats




    Loading a Comodo free email cert into the Mac OSX Mail.app and iOS

    The previous post was all about self-signed certs on my Mac.  Worked fine until I tried to export the cert to my iPhone.  Then I ran into the dreaded “no valid certificates” problem when trying to authorize the profile to sign and encrypt outbound mail.  My homebrew cert worked fine for enabling s/MIME on the device, but it was crippled.  So I ran off and got me a Comodo free email cert and pounded that in.

    Get the cert — using your Mac

    Go HERE — but don’t use Firefox, use Safari on your Mac.  If your default browser is Firefox, copy and paste this link into Safari.  You’ll thank me later.  It works fine in Firefox, but it doesn’t install the cert in a way that actually talks to email.  Their download is highly automated and there’s breakage along the way.

    Follow the steps on the Comodo site and keep your fingers crossed, by the end of the normal process the cert will be correctly installed.  Go look in Downloads for the Collectccc.p7s file if the Comodo site stalls on the “attempting to collect and install your free certificate” step.  Double-click that file and the Keychain Access app will pop up and start prompting for the password you created when you configured the cert at Comodo.

    Click HERE for more detail on managing email certs in the Keychain app.  I deleted the old cert once I had the new cert installed and the Mail.app included in the cert-key access-control tab

    Put a reminder on your calendar to renew the cert before it expires in a year.

    Configuring Mail to use the cert, on the Mac

    If the cert has been properly loaded, restart Mail and the signing and encrypting buttons should show up when launching a new email message.  Note that they’re toggles — pay attention to what state they’re in.  Otherwise you’ll be signing or encrypting all your mail which may make your recipients a little crazy.

    Configuring iOS to use the cert

    I sure hope this post never goes away.  That’s what I used to learn how to load the cert on my iPhone.  I’m going to put a shorthand version here, just to preserve it (since I’m going to need to repeat this every year when I renew the cert).

    Find the Comodo cert in the Keychain Access app.  UPDATE: Open the Keychain Access app, Click the “My Certificates” choice in Category, select the cert with your email address.  This will solve the “.p12 option greyed out” problem that PY Schobbens noted in the comments.

    Export it in Personal Information Exchange (.p12) format.  Pay attention to the password you put on the export file, you’ll need it on the other end.

    Email the exported cert (drag it into a Mail message to yourself) to the iOS device that’s using the same email address as your Mac.

    Open the attached cert on the iOS device and blast through the “Unsigned Profile” warning.  This is where that password will come in handy.

    Enable s/MIME on the phone (Settings/Mail, Contacts, Calendars/<your email account>/Advanced).  Check to make sure that the signing and encrypting options actually find your cert.  Then take care to back up a layer and tap “Done” to actually write the change to the account.   Note:  this bold highlighting is mostly a message to myself — surely you won’t skip that last step.  But if you send yourself a test message from your phone and it isn’t signed, that’s probably the cause.

    Note: with the arrival of iOS 8, the toggles for encrypting have changed.  So now the “encrypt” option is available at email-sending-time even when “Encrypt by default” is toggled off for the account — much better arrangement for those of us who only encrypt to a few people.

    Notes: adding and using a self-signed s/MIME email certificate to OSX Mail in Mountain Lion

    This is just a scratchpad post to remind myself what I did to get a self-signed cert into Mail under OSX Mountain Lion.

    This first post is all about using a self-generated cert — which will work fine unless you ALSO want to use it on an iOS device.  In which case, skip to the NEXT post, where I cracked the code of getting a Comodo cert installed on my Mac and my iPhone.  Sheesh, this is harder than it needs to be.

    Generating a self-signed certificate

    Click HERE to read the post that laid out the step by step process I followed to create that self-signed cert.  That post goes through the openssl commands to do the deed.  The instructions are written for a Windows user so I’ve rewritten them for a Mountain Lion user

    • Note: openssl is already installed on Mountain Lion, so you shouldn’t need to do any installation
    • make sure to create the cert with the email address you are using in Mail.  In addition, I used that email address as the answer to the “common name” request during the prompting that happens in the Certificate Request part of the process (Steps 2 and 3 below).  I’m not sure that’s required, but it’s part of the formula that worked for me.

    Here are the command-line commands (mostly lifted from the blog post)

    1.    Generate a RSA Private Key in PEM format

    Type: (one time, just to drop into the openssl environment):



    genrsa -out my_key.key 2048


    my_key.key  is the desired filename for the private key file
    2048  is the desired key length of either 1024, 2048, or 4096

    2.    Generate a Certificate Signing Request:


    req -new -key my_key.key -out my_request.csr


    my_key.key is the input filename of the previously generated private key
    my_request.csr  is the output filename of the certificate signing request

    3.    Follow the on-screen prompts for the required certificate request information.

    4.    Generate a self-signed public certificate based on the request.


    x509 -req -days 3650 -in my_request.csr -signkey my_key.key -out my_cert.crt


    my_request.csr  is the input filename of the certificate signing request
    my_key.key is the input filename of the previously generated private key
    my_cert.crt  is the output filename of the public certificate
    3650 are the duration of validity of the certificate. In this case, it is 10 years (10 x 365 days)
    x509 is the X.509 Certificate Standard that we normally use in S/MIME communication

    This essentially signs your own public certificate with your own private key. In this process, you are now acting as the CA yourself!

    5.    Generate a PKCS#12 file:


    pkcs12 -keypbe PBE-SHA1-3DES -certpbe PBE-SHA1-3DES -export -in my_cert.crt -inkey my_key.key -out my_pkcs12.pfx -name “my-name”


    my_cert.crt  is the input filename of the public certificate, in PEM format
    my_key.key  is the input filename of the private key
    my_pkcs12.pfx  is the output filename of the pkcs#12 format file
    my-name  is the desired name that will sometimes be displayed in user interfaces.

    6.    (Optional) You can delete the certificate signing request (.csr) file and the private key (.key) file.

    7.    Now you can import your PKCS#12 file to your favorite email client, such as Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird. You can now sign an email you send out using your own generated private key. For the public certificate (.crt) file, you can send this to others when requesting them to send an encrypted message to you.

    Importing a self-signed certificate into the OSX Keychain Access application

    I double-clicked the .pfx (PKCS) file that I’d just created.  That fired up the Keychain Access app and loaded it into the keychain.   I told it to trust the cert when it asked about that.

    Getting OSX Mountain Lion Mail to recognize the self-signed certificate

    Part of what derailed me in this process was that the transition from Lion to Mountain Lion eliminated the account-setup option to select a cert.  It’s automatic now.  So if the email address that’s in the cert matches the email address of the account, the s/MIME capability simply appears when composing a new message.  But in order for this to work, there’s one step needed in order to pull the cert in:

    • restart the Mail app



    Test shots from my new camera (Sony HX30V)


    Hi all.  This is partly a test of the new photo-uploader in WordPress 3.5 — along with a chance to show off pictures from the new camera.  Click through the photos if you want to pixel-peep the ginormous originals.

    This first one is a test of the panorama feature…  This shot is looking from the point behind the house down Pat’s Prairie towards Highway 88 (south).  The nice thing is how it’s picking up the two valleys that form the point I’m standing on.

    Indian Grass Panorama
    Indian Grass Panorama

    This next one is an HDR shot, just using the HDR in the camera instead of shooting 3 bracketed shots and then post-processing them in Photomatix Pro

    Marcie's workstation
    Marcie’s workstation

    This one is a macro shot, taken in really low light, of a gizmo sitting on my desk last night.  I did nothing — this is Superior Auto (super-idiot) mode.

    Stupid macro
    Stupid macro

    This next one is completely silly macro.  Push camera up against the screen of the computer and pull the trigger.  I don’t think there really is a “minimum distance” for macro focus.

    Silly macro
    Silly macro

    The rest of this series is just “stuff that sits behind my desk” in town.  All these shots were taken at night with available light, in Superior Idiot (er, Auto) mode.

    This is one of Dad’s sewing-thread weaving.  It’s double-weave, which means both pieces of cloth are woven at the same time.  REALLY small threads, peepul.

    Paul O'Connor bead double weave
    Paul O’Connor bead double weave

    A cute little turtle that Mom found somewhere in her travels.

    Granny Pat's turtle
    Granny Pat’s turtle

    And an elephant…

    Granny Pat's elephant
    Granny Pat’s elephant

    And two little folks.  This shot was taken from across the room — they’re about half an inch tall.  This is a good example of 20x zoom at work.

    Granny Pat's couple
    Granny Pat’s couple

    Same deal here — shot from across the room.  The bell is a couple inches high.

    Granny Pat's bell
    Granny Pat’s bell

    Another across the room shot…

    Granny Pat's paper Xmas tree
    Granny Pat’s paper Xmas tree

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster, who has unfortunately lost an eye…

    Flying Spaghetti Monster
    Flying Spaghetti Monster

    Ah HA!  Houston, we have the “unexpected rotation” problem.  This picture of folding paper art is rotated 90 degrees to the left.

    Folding paper art
    Folding paper art

    This next one is a really memory-laden picture by an old friend of my parents

    Ried Hastie painting
    Ried Hastie painting

    Mom made baskets for us kids — with pithy phrases worked in the bottoms of them.  This is one of my favorites — “Reach into life”

    Granny Pat basket - Reach Into Life
    Granny Pat basket – Reach Into Life













    Logic Pro runs lots better on my new MacBook Pro

    This is mostly a post that only Logic Pro music-software users will like.  But hey.

    I just went through an agonized decision-making process to upgrade my MBP.  I knew that the cool new CPUs were coming this summer, but then Apple threw the “Retina” curve-ball at me.  I chewed and chewed on that and finally went with the old-style machine because:

    • It’s cheaper (I saved enough to buy a Thunderbolt display)
    • It’s just as fast (how fast?  see below)
    • It’s got lotsa ports (btw, my Axiom Pro keyboard works fine on the USB 3.0 port)
    • My aging eyes don’t benefit from the Retina display
    • It’s easier to upgrade and repair

    So I finally got it home and just ran a “run Logic Pro” comparison between the 2012 MBP and the 2010 MBP and the results are exactly what I had hoped for.  Logic nicely spreads the load across all the cores in the new CPU.  The result is a MUCH cooler-running machine, whereas the 2010 MBP kicks its fans on and starts heating up right away.

    Here’s the picture that tells the tale.  Same song, at the same place, running on the two machines — these are screen-grabs of the CPU displays.  Sure, your mileage may vary.  But I’m really pleased with the first impression.  This is seeming like a machine I can really truly rely on in a live setting.


    I did make one choice that I’d avoid if I were doing it over — I’d skip the hi-resolution screen upgrade.  Yep, even on the old-style MBP you can opt for a slightly denser 1680 x 1050 display rather than the normal 1440 x 900 one.  It turns out my 60+ year old eyes struggle with the now-smaller font size.  Probably means it’s time to upgrade the trifocals.  🙂


    Frac sand mining

    Pore old Haven2.  ‘lil old blog’s being neglected.  I was going to blog about frac sand mining here but the issue kinda exploded into such a big deal that it needed a URL all its own and I forgot to cross-post a link to the new site back here at the ranch.

    So here’s a link for those of you that follow me on this blog.  Sorry about that.  Things got a little crazy there for a while and I’m just now circling back to do the housekeeping.


    this is a teaser from the front page over there…

    Here’s an overview of the concerns that have been raised about frac sand mining.  We’ll glue this to the front page, update it as we go and write more-detailed posts on specific topics.  But here’s a list to summarize things;

    • Community — The old quote “if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately” comes to mind.  Will trusted leaders emerge to get us through this?
    • Economic development — Who is thinking through the tradeoff between new jobs versus old, short-term jobs versus long-term ones, money that stays in the region versus fortunes made elsewhere at our expense?
    • Environmental — Is anybody keeping an eye on air emissions and pollution, impact on groundwater, loss of natural and agricultural land, impact on forest projects, nuisance noise and dust, etc.?
    • Health — Who’s minding the impacts of silica dust in the air and processing-plant chemicals in water supplies?
    • Infrastructure — Who will pay for road repairs and will those commitments be honored?
    • Leadership — Town and County officials are used to deciding issues like where to site a farmer’s barn.  Are they ready to handle the onslaught of a sophisticated billion-dollar industry?
    • Prices — Are local sand-producers getting a fair prices for their sand, or are they getting ripped off too — by slick mining-company representatives?  Do you know what that sand is worth?
    • Property values — Who’s keeping an eye out for the innocent bystanders who can’t escape the blight because their savings are tied up in nearby land?
    • Regional development — This isn’t a one-county conversation or even a one-state conversation.  Who’s reaching out to make sure that one unprepared county doesn’t become the easy “target of opportunity”?
    • Restoration – How does the land get repaired once the sand is gone and designed-to-disappear local mining-companies have vanished?
    • Road Safety — What’s the impact of 100′s or even 1000′s of heavy trucks (on a tight schedule) running across our sub-par roads?  Who’s going to be accountable when a schoolbus full of kids gets in an accident with a runaway sand truck on one of our dugway roads?
    • Transparency — Who is publishing good, fair, accurate, non-confrontational information about what’s going on?  Is “good information” going to be available only for the insiders at the expense of all others?  Rumors breed in the dark.


    Taking out a beaver dam


    Uh oh…  That swirl in the water?  That’s a beaver.  That grass at my feet?  That’s our culvert.  Beavers like to build dams just on the upstream side of our culvert, which leads to trouble like The Big Flood.  So this beaver-project must be removed…

    Here’s one of the culprits…  Making a getaway…

    Here’s their handiwork.  This got built in one night (I know this ’cause Marcie and I took a dam out yesterday in exactly the same spot — the beavers like it so much they rebuilt it overnight).  So this one turned out to be really small and really easy to take out (unlike the one before which was a lot more challenging).

    The compleat beaver-dam extraction module.  Note the smile on her face — taking out beaver dams is a boatload of fun.  I had a little too much fun on the one we took out yesterday and wiped out my finger.  So Marcie sidelined me and took over the job.

    This is the “before” picture — Marcie’s getting ready to attack.

    Here’s the “after” picture.  All gone.  Along with another little one that they’d started just downstream from the culvert (an equally big problem for flooding).

    Here’s Marcie holding a giant Angelica stem in the downstream-dam.  That’s not a little tree.  That’s a flower stalk!

    Here’s the dam — loaded on Trakdor for disposal.  We’ll see whether they try again tomorrow.


    Fold-out circular table


    This is a series of pictures of our dining-room table.  The cool thing about it is how it folds out — so most of the time it’s a modest little table that four people can sit around.  But folded out, we’ve crammed twelve people around it.  Also great for poker.  This series of pictures shows how it’s put together.

    Here’s the table, in it’s 4-person folded-up configuration.

    This is how it looks half way in between — the four extensions have been pulled out.

    Here’s the “large” configuration.  Eight people sit in style, a little squishing and you can get twelve around it.

    OK, so how does it work?  Here’s a picture of the halfway-out view, with the center surface removed so you can see all the wiring.

    A closer look at the inner workings, this time with the extensions pushed back into the “small” configuration.

    Even closer.  There’s some pretty amazing geometry in there.

    Here’s one extension pulled out — to show the relationship between pushed-in and pulled out inner workings.  As extensions come out, they also need to rise vertically so that they’re bringing that foldout piece of the table up into the same plane as the center part.

    Another view — showing how the “east west” extensions are different than the “north south” ones.

    Here’s one extension pulled all the way out of its little track — see the shape under there, that’s the trick to the “rise vertically” solution.

    Close in view of the complex shape of the extension-support — the geometry is different on all four of these in order for them to fit together when the table is closed.


    Here’s the trough that the extension rides in — more rise-vertically geometry.

    Trough II, the sequel.

    Now all the extensions are extended.

    Leg detail.  About the least complicated part, but look at those matching inner and outer curves.  Sheesh, it would take me years to get that right.

    Here’s a detail of the hinge on the extension.

    And here’s a shot of how the “flopping down” end of the extension mates with its neighbor.

    The bottom of the top — showing the two big pegs that align it properly.

    Detail of the pegs.


    Broadband connection improvements — avoiding DNS-interception and “buffer bloat”

    This whole saga started when I read an Ars-Technica article called “Small ISPs use “malicious” DNS servers to watch web searches, earn cash.”  Here’s the lede that got my attention:

    Nearly 2 percent of all US Internet users suffer from “malicious” domain name system (DNS) servers that don’t properly turn website names like google.com into the IP addresses computers need to communicate on the ‘Net. And, to make matters worse, the problem isn’t caused by hackers or malware, but by the local ISPs people pay for access to the Internet.

    As I read more about this issue, I came across the ICSI Netalyzr which is a nifty network-diagnostic tool that tests a bunch of dimensions of a broadband connection and will detect this DNS-interception if it’s happening.  The good news, is that none of my broadband connections have this problem.  BUT, the Netalyzr did discover another problem called “buffer bloat” on my connection at the farm, which explains some of the erratic network behavior here.  The rest of this post is the saga of a delightful geek project to get this fixed — and documentation to remind me what I did plus provide some goodies for anybody who’d like to follow along.

    Buffer-bloat mitigation — Background

    First up — what is “buffer bloat?”  I came across a post by Jim Getty called “Mitigations and Solutions of Bufferbloat in Home Routers and Operating Systems” which is mostly focused on a strategy to fix the problem (and is the basis for the stuff I’ve done here).  Fersure read this post — but if you’re a geek who’s interested in understanding what the problem is, also read the “surrounding” posts on his blog.  I’m left pretty completely in the dust by the technical discussion, but I follow it enough to share Jim’s concern that this could become a really interesting puzzle.

    The short version of what I’m doing with this project is to protect the Internet from my over-eager home computers by putting my own traffic meter (just like the one at a freeway on ramp) on my Internet connection.  I will tell you true — taking 10-20% off the top speed of my Internet connection makes it “feel” a WHOLE LOT faster.  Formerly-unuseable video streaming (Vimeo streams were the worst, but YouTube was pretty crummy too) is now just fine.  My VoIP phone service from Vonage is now rock solid even when we’re doing lots of other uploading/downloading, etc.  I like it a lot and based on this experience I’m going to do the same thing at my other connections as well.

    Ingredients — a new router and Gargoyle

    I have been interested in the idea of putting open-source software on a consumer router for a long time, but hadn’t had a good reason until I read Jim’s piece.  Unfortunately, the Apple AirPort Extreme sitting in the basement isn’t on the list of routers that can be treated that way (and, interestingly, also doesn’t provide any bandwidth-shaping capability).  So it was off to the Gargoyle site to do some shopping for a new router, one that would be a good target for an upgrade to Gargoyle.   I wound up getting a TP-Link TL-WR1043ND because it’s cool looking with its 3 antennae and has lots of CPU-horsepower and memory so performance was likely to be spiffy.

    Installation tips

    It’s always a little nerve-wracking to venture into a whole new realm of activity for me, so I took it pretty slow and easy on the actual set-up process.  I set the new router up with a completely “standard” configuration and ran it that way for a day or two before getting into the exciting Gargoyle stuff.  One thing that interested me was that the TP-Link router software had bandwidth-shaping capability already and I wanted to see if I could mitigate the buffer-bloat just using that.  That didn’t work — see “Tests” below — but it provided some good entertainment for a day or two, running the tests.  Here’s what I did after that:

    • Upgrade the router software.  I went out to TP-Link’s web site and pulled down the latest version of the WR1043ND firmware and updated the firmware in the router to the current release.  This had the added bonus of providing me with a “factory” copy of firmware if I needed to fall back from the Gargoyle software.
    • Install Gargoyle on the router.  I followed these instructions for loading Gargoyle on the WR1043ND that are published on the Gargoyle site.  There are two things to note.  The first is that those drop-down menus aren’t really drop-down menus, they’re just pictures of them.  To actually get the software, follow your nose through the download section until you get to the place that’s described by those graphics.  But here’s the other note — the graphics are a little old and point to the 1.3.14 version of Gargoyle — I jumped ahead to the 1.3.16 version and it’s been fine (for the big 24 hours that I’ve been running it).  The rest of the installation went without a hitch — I used the “firmware upgrade” function on the standard software, pointed at the Gargoyle file I’d just downloaded, had a couple sips of a beverage and the router rebooted itself into Gargoyle.
    • Test the “fallback to factory software” scenario.  Before messing around with Gargoyle, I tested rolling the router back to a standard configuration.  I used the slightly-modified “factory” software from the Gargoyle page, ran it through Gargoyle’s “Update Firmware” process and scared the heck out of myself when the upgrade didn’t complete.  I thought I’d turned the router into a brick — but it turns out that the web-interface just isn’t smart enough to know that the router has rebooted itself.  I logged back into the router and found factory screens rather than Gargoyle screens.  Whew.  Then I upgraded the software to the software I’d downloaded from TP-Link and got myself back to a completely-factory router again.  Once I’d gotten through all that I repeated the process of loading Gargoyle on the router and that’s where it sits today.
    • By the way, Gargoyle’s default password is “password”, not the typical “admin” — just a note to save time the next time I upgrade the firmware.

    Tests and observations.

    One nice thing about Netalyzr is that it leaves permanent copies of the results out on the net so’s you can refer anybody to them.  Here’s the series of tests I ran at the farm.  Unfortunately, I forgot to capture the permalink of the very couple tests (with the Apple router and the WR1043 in default configurations).  Dang.  So I’ll skip forward to a series of tests running the Gargoyle software on the new router.

    1st test — New router, Gargoyle software, default configuration, QoS turned off.  Note the Red-bordered part of the results — which show 5400ms of buffering on the uplink and 509ms on the downlink.  This is bad — this is what got me started on this project in the first place.

    2nd test — New router, Gargoyle software, default configuration, QoS turned on.   Buffer-bloat is dramatically lower — uplink is 220ms and downlink is 44oms.  BUT, there’s a cost.  The default settings in Gargoyle limit the speed of the connection to 300k upstream and 3000k downstream, which is almost cutting the bandwidth in half.  On the other hand, it proves that buffering can be mitigated.

    3rd test — New router, Gargoyle software, bandwidth QoS settings increased to 500k downstream x 5000k upstream, QoS turned on.  Uplink buffering remains around 220ms (same as before — this is good), downstream buffering is starting to creep up at 680ms.  This is where I’ve left it for now — more experimentation to follow, but this gives you a sense of the thing.  Upstream buffering is less than half what it was, downstream buffering is reduced almost ten-fold.

    IPHouse test — You want to see a perfect score on the Netalyzr test?  I ran the test from my little server over at IPHouse.  Perfection — no flags at all.  What else would you expect from IPHouse?  It proves that you CAN configure a network correctly and eliminate buffer-bloat.

    So there you have it.  The “real world” results are still coming in, but so far the connection here at the farm “feels” more solid.  I downloaded a few videos and they don’t stutter they way they used to.  The Vonage line is now getting top priority in QoS and should be less subject to disruption when we’re doing a lot of uploading (although that will have to wait for a teleconference for confirmation).  All good, an easy project and a neat new router/software combo in the basement.

    Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    WordPress gallery can’t save or link to external URLs

    UPDATE:  Several years have passed and this problem still exists.  However now there is a nice simple plugin that fixes it.  It’s called WP Gallery Custom Links.  It’s working for me.  Hopefully it will for you too.  I updated the first of the three images in my broken example gallery to an external URL as a test.

    Sorry about this lame-o post right in the middle of my blog, but this is a bug that’s best documented with a post so’s the WordPress folks can see what’s going on.

    I’m running the current version of WordPress here (3.1.3 as of this writing)

    I, and many, would like to be able to insert a gallery of pictures into our posts and specify external links for each picture in the little gallery-editor that comes with WordPress. The problem used to be that WordPress users could not make the Save function work, the Link URL wasn’t being saved in the editor. That problem is documented in the WordPress bug-tracking system as problem number 13429 .

    Sergey came up with a work-around plugin that people can add to their WordPress which solves part of the problem.  Downloading and enabling this temporary plug-in indeed fixes “I can’t save external URLs in the gallery editor” problem.  I’ve linked all of the images on this page to three of my domains (www.geezercast.com, www.kz0c.com and www.bar.com) to illustrate the problem as it stands right now.

    If I add all the images individually, they will all point at external URLs, like this;




    BUT that’s not what people want to do — they want to be able to post the whole gallery (in this case all three images) at the same time, and have the thumbnails in the gallery point to external links, not to the image file or an attachment page.  I’ll insert the gallery this time, using the “attachment page” option as an example.  What people want to happen is exactly what happened above — 3 pictures pointing, in this case, to geezercast.com, kz0c.com and bar.com.  What happens instead is this;


    Changing that “Attachment page” to “image file” option just makes the thumbnails link to the images.  So in neither case can a person use the WordPress gallery to link a series of pictures to external URLs.

    So this may be a combination of a bug and a feature.  The “can’t save Link URLs” problem is solved with Sergey’s little shim, and will hopefully be released into the production release soon.  But the real problem, “I can’t point gallery-thumbnails at external URLs,” still exists.

    Here’s a gallery that behaves “the right way” — using this great hack of the NextGen Gallery and NextGen Gallery Custom Fields plugins.

    [nggallery id=1]


    Any chance that we could get that ability in the normal gallery?  The hack wasn’t hard, but it’s pretty intimidating for “normal” users and seems like an easy add-on to the existing Gallery function.


    Carlos and Susana

    Our friends Carlo and Susana came to visit the farm over the weekend.  Carlos rode his bike 102 miles to get here.

    Here he comes, in for a landing

    Woohoo!  pretty happy about the effort

    A little tired, no?

    Susana joined us a little later and we sat down to have a Marcie home-cooked Indian-cuisine dinner

    Here’s another picture of the table.  Diwali lamp in the middle — a little early for “real” Diwali, but close enough…

    Carlos is still tired from his ride.

    We were hoping for great stars that night so Carlos could do a cool time-lapse photograph but the dang moon was too bright…

    Next morning we set out on a walks to see the farm.

    We wound up taking pictures on the bench above Big View Prairie.  Susana had better luck with her camera than Carlos did.

    But things worked out in the end.

    Then, it was time to play with the toys.  Here we’re checking Carlos and Susana out on the PowerTracDor.

    Carlos had first bash at the “mow down the trees” project.

    Looks like he had a pretty good time.

    Then I guess I decided to show Susana how to use the PowerTracDor as an airplane or something.  I still haven’t figured out what I was demonstrating with that hand motion.

    Susana had a pretty good time too!

    I think this photo could be used as a publicity photo for PowerTrac.

    Then we had a little lunch, booked on down to the Mississippi for a quick check-out ride to see if the motor was finally fixed (it was!) and then off to the Harbor View for dinner.

    A great time was had by all.

    Panorama shots of the farm

    Here’s a series of Morning Walk panorama shots — a nice perspective on the farm.  I have a new camera that has this cool setting where it takes 100 pictures as you swish it across a wide scene and then immediately stitches them together for you.   Not technically-better pictures.  But really neat pictures…  Click on the thumbnails so you can see the big versions.

    Looking north - entrance to 3-Finger Valley