Since the clerks at work do me a lot of favors I wanted to something nice for them. Build a desktop flower, controlled either by the computer or sensors in the flower or flower pot. For this I looked into the Teensy 2.0, costing less than $15, it is with our companies restriction on gift prices ($25).

Basically  the Teensy, is a tiny Arduino. Easy to program and wire into projects. Allowing for smart projects.


iPhone and Infrared (IR)


I’m not an engineer or anything but WTF!

A few years ago I purchased a IRTrans from IRTrans (http://www.irtrans.com/en/index.php). Back when I was using an Apple Cube (tells you how long ago that was). Well I got out the IRTrans module the other day to start working on a new project, that I hadn’t started on yet. Every time I put my phone on my desk, the LED would blink. Didn’t think anything about it.

Then I noticed it only blinked when one of the cameras were facing the IRTrans. Odd. Of course I had to purchase and upgrade to the software, iRed2. Once I got it started I monitored IR activity and Dang it starting getting signals, repeatable signals from the iPhone.

Received one type of signal when the screen was locked, another unlocked, then another when I opened a app.. OMG!!!

Please someone else say they see that! Can Apple make their iPhone (iOS devices) into full fledge IR controllers!..

Note, You heard it here first!


Thoughts to Ponder – CompuCarve

Purchased a Craftsman CompuCarve a few years back. Made a few signs and awards for staff members. Nice Machine, however it is LOUD. Wife didn’t like me using it. So put it away until last month. Learned I could use it as a object scanner, plus I had a few sign requests.

Was able to make 6 signs and the machine stopped working. Took the machine apart to clean, and found the problem. Seems there is a shaft that goes along the bottom of the machine to make sure both sides raise and lower at the same rate. Makes sense. However the shaft is held in place by two screws with washers held in place by plastic… The plastic broke on one screw making the machine unusable… Where did American workmanship go? I can not recommend this machine to anyone, and it was expensive. Wrote the company two emails asking if I could buy a replace part (the base).. No reply to either email. Another reason I can’t recommend this machine.

This has sadden me, I had great plans for this machine in building cases from Raspberry Pi’s, and desk stands for the office.


After two weeks and two emails I finally got a reply on repairing the CompuCarve. Their solution is to put a bigger/longer screw in the hole. I laughed at the lady on the phone, are you kidding. “No this is how we just fixed one on the floor in for repair”.

Needless to say I will not be following their directions and come up with my own repair.


Highly recommend sponsoring projects on http://www.Kickstarter.com.

A Wonderful Donation and Expansion

One of my sites received a donation from another school. 2 Xserve G5s, a Xserve G4 and a 5tb RAID.. I donated a fiber switch and two replacement power supplies (Both G5’s had blown power supplies, common problem).

Wonderful system, now what.

The question I had in regards to the RAID: Is is possible to have its two drives appear on all the other Server’s desktops?

Fiber switch $70.
Fiber cables, systems came with 4.
Presently only 2 fiber cards.

Plugged the two cables from the RAID, one cable for each “Drive”, into the fiber switch. Then one (1) cable from each of the Xserves. Bingo, it worked. Both servers can access all the data on both RAID drives.

I can see possibilities for databases, podcasts….




WGM & DeployStudio Client Issues

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent at least 4 days at a school, helping with their Mac Lab. It had unexpected binding issues rejecting user log-ins, computers that refused to pick up security settings and a server that was acting ‘funny’.

Things I figured out that I’d like to pass on.

1) Setup Deploy Studio using the Computers/Server’s IP number rather than it’s name.
Since we were unsure if the ‘core’ group had setup full reverse lookup, this proved to be much more reliable.

2) If a computer refuses to pick up security setting from Work Group Manager (WGM), there is no need to re-image (which we tried).
The problem ended up being the systems binding. We unbound the computer from both AD and OD, then removed the computer from the AD OU and totally removed from WGM.. Then re-added, and rebounded. IT WORKED. Can’t tell you how frustrating this was.

The first day was spent working on getting a binding script to work. One of the two computers that gave us such a fit, was the computer I de-bugged the script on. So I am pretty sure that was on of the causes of the WGM issue later on (even after re-imaging).

One of the things I like to point out to techs new to Macs is, AD and OD are just directories, lists of computers and policies. How each directory manages the policies is a little different, but basically they do the same things. Binding allows for a connection, either secure or not. In our case AD provides the user authentication and OD is security settings, AD is secure OD is not. AD is from client to server, OD is from server to client.

Yes I know it is much more technical than that, but in simple terms.

One of my simple tests to see of OD is working is to add a user account to WGM, name address, phone number, etc. Then after binding, use AddressBook to search for that user. In my case, if I search for ‘dingley’ if it find’s my name in AD and OD, displaying two contacts, showing that the OD binding is working. (All employess are listed in AD. Credentials)

This post is more a historic record of projects I’ve worked on. Hopefully they will help if I run into these problems again.

What happened to Caller ID?

Over the years of working with automation, one of the tasks I’ve always enjoyed was Caller ID. Knowing who was calling before you picked up, a joy of modern living. Having a computer broadcast Caller Id over the network using Growl, logging the call to display on a web page. Having it run a script depending on who is calling, truly geeky?

One of the fun things I did with Caller ID was deciding what do when someone entered or exited our community through our gates. The association has two phone lines, one for incoming visitor and one for exiting. What the computer said and did was determined by the number calling in.

Doing this task was a Mac Mini G4 and a OVOLab Usb Adapter running the PHLINK software and a bit of Applescript. Not difficult at all pretty much plug and play.

Twice over the span of 10 years, either the phone company or the power company has blown at least two adapters. The last time was about a month ago, not a cloud in the sky, and the power goes out. When it comes back on, my lovely adapter is once again blown.

Now the fun part, trying to find a replacement. There were two companies that made similar devices, OVOLabs and Parliant’s Phone Valet. Both are now off the market. … WHAT!?

OK.. So here are my problems.I have a few Mac Mini G4’s for automation and a couple of Intel Mac Minis which I use as servers. The servers are taxed to the max. The Mac Mini G4 has a built in modem which does NOT support Caller ID. After a bit of research I found out that the Apple’s USB Modem Adapter does support Caller ID. (Oh and I found out these do not work on the Intel iMacs! ).. Quick trip to eBay and $22!

Next problem, how to enable and use the Caller ID feature? First what program to use. The program that came up most on web searches was CIDTrackerX, which to my surprise I had purchased a license for back in 2003. And the second was MacCallerID. MacCallerID is a dead end, the web site is down, a very old mac.com web site. With no way to contact the author. However, CIDTracker (or CIDTrackerX), I emailed the author asking if his software had any unpublished updates and he replied. (He’d contact me in a few days). – While waiting I continued my quest.

So I continued to test CIDTrackerX. One of the things you need is the command to enable Caller ID on your modem. Back in the 80’s I lived Hayes AT commands, Hayes was king. I was surprised that the command set was still being developed and used, with what seemed like hundreds of new commands. With hundreds of new variations. Finding the one to enable CID on the Apple USB Modem took a little searching.

AT+VCID=1 to enable
AT+VCID=0 to disable

With those command in hand I returned to CDTrackerX and entered those into the proper boxes. Nothing! ARG. Hope Mr. Dean Davis of AfterTen Software gets back to me soon!

In the mean time I tested the modem a bit more using CoolTerm by Roger Meier at http://freeware.the-meiers.org . A wonderful free program I have used for years. Connect to modem, issue the enable command and call the phone line connected to modem. JOY, Caller ID info.

As it stands now I have two choices, wait for Mr. Davis to email back, or start working on my own software to deal with CID…

Know what I am doing this weekend!

Solidoodle 3, first and second impressions.

Building and creating my own creations has always been a fault of mine. Most of the creations were built from wood or scrapes of whatever was laying around. But then came 3D printers, the ability to print almost anything you could draw. A dream come true!?

A couple of years ago I purchased one of the first 3D printers (MakerBot) for myself and my stepson for Christmas. It took a couple of weeks to put together and align. Then came printing. Nothing ever printed as well as photos online. We spend MONTHS playing with alignments and settings, never quite right. So after two years, I gave up. Decided to try a new less expensive printer the Solidoodle.

When I ordered, a note said 4-8 weeks. Little did I know that it was really 6 months or more. Ordered September 2012, received February 2013. But in all honesty, while waiting for my Solidoodle 2, the Solidoodle 3 came out. An impressive 8 x 8 print area and only $100 additional, I was in.

Figured with all the talk of ease of printing and the nice metal case, it would be a plug and play operation. It would be aligned at the factory and shipped ready to use to your home.

Boy was I wrong. Plus the more play with it the more I see it is by no means a better printer. The print head break easily. If you run out of filament mid print, you have to take apart the print head, risking breaking it (Keep a few on hand!!!)

The software seems nicer than the MakerBots, but since I am yet to be able to print anything it is difficult to say.

Over the next few months I will continue my efforts and report my findings to this blog.

Cheap Geek

Ok. It has been 6 years since we setup our remote site, although it is still a “In Works Project” we wanted more direct access. Meaning a URL rather than an IP number (dynamic). Problem is the only ISP in town uses Dynamic IP numbers and was clueless on providing Static IPs. So todays project, a work-a-round.

Heard good things around OpenDNS.com. Installed all their software, followed their direction, still no “IP report” from the mountains. Checked GoDaddy, where we purchased our domain names, and On-Rev.com who we do our hosting with. No good options for DNS reporting/lookup.

Tried dnsomatic.com, almost got there, was supposed to work with OpenDNS, but the connection was never made.

Then, at last, noip.com. Their site isn’t clear on charges and what features you get with what plan. But the free plan seems to work for our needs. HOWEVER it could expire in 30 days. At one point we saw $14.95 a month for their plan… HUM, a static IP generally costs that! It could have been per year, we need to look deeper.

But we can now get to our remote site using hostname.no-ip.org, perfect.

Now lets see how long, cheap lasts! Will report back on progress.

There is a time when a geek has to say ‘enough’.

After 7 years, we are simi-retiring a Apple Xserve G5. Not because it could no longer do the job, but the noise.

Couldn’t tell you how many computers and servers we have in this place, no really I can’t. We normally get at least two need pieces of hardware a year. And with the life expectancy of a Mac near that of platinum, we are always trying to find new ways to use old computers and servers.

Well the xserve was just getting too loud, and we happen to have 2 Mac Mini G4’s laying around (one has an SSD drive, the other the standard 40 gb hd). But we also have a large assortment of external hard drives, we found an external firewire with a 300 gb drive. We cloned the old Xserve onto the external drive, then just plugged the external into the Mac Mini, set the boot drive and there you have it. Moved…. It is SLOWER than the Dual G5, but you can’t hear a thing.

We off loaded most of the tasks to one of our Intel Mac Minis, leaving the G4 Mini to handle OpenFire Chat server, DHCP and a couple of small web sites.. Surprised how easy that was..

There has already been a few ‘wow it is quiet around here’ comments.

Points we’d like to make:
1) In the past we learned that G4 Mac Mini do pretty well as servers, but beware the drives do wear out. Backup often.
2) Adding RAM would really help, but 1 gb is about all you can add. Not much overhead.

Snow Leopard and Java (gag)

Don’t know who to blame for the state of affairs with Snow Leopard and its related plugins, Adobe, Oracle, Apple or the whole lot of them.

One of my school’s is pretty much all Mac, yes there are the token PCs’/Dells’ in the administration offices. But overall the classrooms and labs have Macs. Over 300 of them. My other two sites are Dells’ and HPs’ running Windows XP.

Yes I get flak from the other techs about really liking my Mac school, but there are way more pros than cons. One is Apple Remote Desktop (ARD). Techs provided their basic software tools so, I am unable to find anything for the Windows machines that can touch ARD. Able to monitor all my computers on one screen, see the screens of a lab’s full of computers, push out software and the list goes on. Only reason I don’t use ARD to manage the Windows machines, is that would require a VNC client which isn’t permitted. (Road Block #1)

For Windows most of the techs buy Damewares by Solarwinds. And the district provides Ghost and we are instructed on using Active Directory and GPO’s (Apple has Open Directory and Work Group Manager {WGM}). These tools work, and allow us to manage fairly large networks, but not with the grace of ARD.

That all being said, over the last few months. We’ve been forced to start upgrading all our Leopard (10.5) Intel iMacs to Snow Leopard (10.6), mostly because of lack of plug-in support.

The District has taken to purchasing pretty much all the software a school needs, most of it being web based. And since most of the school are using Windows we get to play MAKE IT WORK OR GET RID OF THE MACS. Ha. One we don’t have the budget or the electrical to support Windows Machines.

Long and short, to get Java working on a Mac again (10.6) upgrade/install the following while logged in as an Administrator:
Adobe Authorware 7 Complete
Java For Mac OSX 10.6
Safari 5.1.7
Shockwave Installer Full

After you install all these go to Applications >> Safari and do a Control+i
Enable 32 Bit mode
Enable Rosetta

While still logged in as an Administrator do plugin tests, we have a page we goto and just go down the list, you can find them on Google. Make sure to upgrade Acrobat Reader and Accept the license agreement.

All this can be done remotely using ARD.