Thursday, October 31, 2013

As the Sparks Fly Upward

Today I have a special guest co-writing my blog. None other than
Leah, my wonderful wife.

Yesterday I downloaded my favorite local artist, Tiny Rain's new album "As the Sparks Fly Upward". An introspective departure from their early works, this instrumental album has a much darker tone. Some music is just made for listening to by yourself, with headphones, at night. The recurring theme of despair and emptiness is illuminated with haunting ghosts skirting the periphery. Despite this different sound, there is a string of familiarity throughout, that makes it more like an old friend than a strange journey into the unknown.

I would highly recommend downloading it (for free, no less!) here:

or if you have time to listen to it all in one sitting:

Don't forget if you can to "Leave a tip" and share on Facebook, Twitter,
G+, MySpace, with strangers next to you in traffic...

If you liked that album and want to try something a little different
from the same artists you should try their early works:

By Carl & his lovely wife Leah.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Start of a Geocache

One of my favorite sites "Hack a Day" was running a contest to slap their logo on something and possibly win a Trinket by AdaFruit. Since I didn't have an ion beam to win the small category and didn't have access to any giant building light arrays I thought of a creative way to spray paint something.

A while back I had picked up two surplus ammo boxes which are perfect size for a traditional geocache. I took their logo image and made an outline of it so I could print just what I needed to cut it. After printing the outline I sliced it up and left a small strip to keep the eyes in the appropriate places. A few sprays and the logo was on. Here is a link to the article: 

Future Geocache

Now I need to find a place to stash it. I'll probably need a nice label on the top and side and maybe a QR code to scan when it is found, or a log book for the traditional people. It would be neat to have a few electronic projects to put inside. I'm open to ideas.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Battery on Xmobar

The battery plugin didn't seem to work:

pacman -S bc

gives me a calculator that I can use to divide the full energy from current energy.

echo "scale=2;$(cat /sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/energy_now)/$(cat /sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/energy_full)"| bc -q

a simple cat of /sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/status
gives me charging or discharging

Heres what I've got so far:


Config {bgColor = "black"
       , fgColor = "yellow"
       , position = Top
       , commands = [   
            Run Com "cat" ["/sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/status"] "battstat" 1000,
            Run Com "battpercentage" [] "battcharge" 1000,
                Run StdinReader
       , sepChar = "%"
       , alignSep = "}{"
       , template = "%StdinReader%}{%battcharge% %battstat% %date%"


Sound might work in gnome without additional setup, but in a bare bones enviroment some additional steps might be needed:

pacman -S alsa-utils

probably it will be muted so:

amixer sset Master unmute



and change it

cmus will try and use pulse if you let it

switch it in the ~/.cmus/rc

set output_plugin=alsa
set dsp.alsa.device=default
set mixer.alsa.device=default

What key is that?

showkey --scancodes
showkey --keycodes

xev > somelogfile

Might have to install xorg-xev


Laptops and Xmonad

The Asus laptop is gone. A friend at work wanted a touchscreen laptop so we worked out a deal. He bought an SSD and it seems to work for him. As for me I am back on the E430. It might have a few problems with the case, but it seems to work for now. I switched back to playing with Xmonad. I plan on posting a few smaller posts as I discover bits that I need to document for my reference.

Why Carl can't paste:

If you look at the config from ArchWiki you might use "urxvt" as your terminal. I haven't delved into why they picked that terminal, but I (re)discovered that copy/paste traditional "gnome/windows" ctrl-c ctrl-v doesn't work in urxvt. I've hit this issue before and thought I would document for posterity.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Asus Q200

I bought an ASUS Q200 in July and it served me well until yesterday. S.M.A.R.T. errors warned me the drive was about to die and sure enough it died yesterday afternoon.

After I pulled the back case off, I noticed that a screw was missing. I hadn't touched the insides until yesterday. It was the store display model and seemed fine when I checked it out in the store. "Best Buy" wouldn't let it leave without removing their A.R.C.H.I.E. software or whatever they use these days.

Either ASUS didn't assemble it with all the screws or BB didn't put it back together correctly after pulling the drive to wipe it.  I wonder if they put the same drive back in and didn't grab a malfunctioning drive.

It wouldn't have been a big deal if it hadn't been a thin hard-drive, I have a few 2.5" drives but they don't fit because of the thickness. BB stopped carrying the smaller drives locally because of shoplifters. They wouldn't let me trade it in for a working machine and I haven't had good experiences with sending devices off. So it is out of order until I can get a replacement drive. SSD would be nice, but to get a decent size is a bit too much.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ham Block

As my last post indicated I passed my test. My radio arrived this week and I was checking daily for my license and guess what? The government shutdown. Doesn't look like I'll be transmitting for a while.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ham Radio

After studying I finally got ready to take my test. I went to the Cabot Chapter of S.T.A.R.S. (Small Town Amateur Radio Service) meeting and afterwards I took my test for Technician. I look forward to making my first communication. Before the "interwebs" were popular I used to connect to the local BBSes and after a bit of searching online I found that people run BBSes over the radio.  I think I'm going to see if there is one in my area and if not I might start one.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ham Radio

Made contact with the Faulkner County Amateur Radio Club at Ecofest. I spoke with one of their members who pointed out several websites to get started. I order a small portable and while I am waiting for it to be shipped I've been studying for the exam. Hopefully before it arrives I will have my technician license. I've thought a lot about getting into Amateur radio, and finally decided to take the plunge. I'm really excited. I've been boring my wife with bands, frequencies, and technical schematics while I am trying to get ready for the test.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


After spending 24 hours waiting to be one of the 50 first customers at Topper's Pizza in Conway, AR the count down clock finished. We all lined up and placed our orders. One of the "rules of the contest" was the first customers had to make at least a $10 purchase. I went with the half pound of BBQ boneless wings. The free food came in a simple nondescript white box. 52 business card sized date stamped coupons for free food. Roughly half of them were for their free cheesesticks. Their version of a personal pizza and specialty cheesesticks made up the remaining coupons. Since I was first in line beating my friend by a few minutes I had the "honor" of becoming the "king of the line". The Log Cabin Democrat wrote an article about the  store grand opening and featured my kingly attire.

So what did I do for twenty four hours in line?  The best way to pass time is with your friends. I had two  of my friends close in line and that made the time fly. Waiting with others you begin to make new connections you normally wouldn't. I met a few of the CompSci grad students at UCA. I even ran into a few people CosPlaying. Power Ranger, The Crow, and others provided amusement. A few games passed the time as we waited. A Pictionary-esque  game allowed me to team up with the "White Ranger" and we  began to guess. We didn't win, but a  good time was had. Coca-cola sunglasses were the consolation prize. Music for the event was provided by a local DJ firm. They were great, playing requests from the crowd. Eventually we played a song guessing game and I won another drink tumbler.

In the slow periods I kept alert by reading. I stopped off at the Faulkner County Library before I went and picked up two books. One was a large tome from the author of "Snow Crash" and the other was a small paperback copy of one of John Steinbeck's lesser read stories. The larger of the two books was unwieldy and did not fit in my backpack. I also brought a deck of playing cards and we played a few games. Several of the people in line brought games as well. A Bat Cave Card and Comics regular brought a stack of games including one of my favorites "RoboRally" . Others played Lord of the Rings Risk, and others played non traditional "camp style" games. One of these games the player would name a movie title and the next player had to name another movie that started with the last letter of the previously named movie. After thirty seconds you were out.

Regular line checks kept people from sleeping for too long. Wristbands with the line position kept order. As we waited the line grew and shrank with some people leaving after mere hours. The marketing team from Toppers were great keeping the crowd alert and in high spirits. A group of the crowd played Frisbee, Hacky sack and simple catch. Others merely danced with the music. One of the crowd had a bicycle and road up and down the line. A few brought skateboards. One of the crowd nearby performed card tricks.

It was a blast!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Waiting in line at Toppers Pizza

One of my good friends from college and I are waiting in line at Topper's Pizza. The first 50 customers get "free food" for one year. They actually were already open but are trying to create a buzz. The pizza was decent we split a Tuscan Chicken pizza. It was quite tasty. Only down side I found,  no fountain drink dispensers it was bottled drinks only. Probably going to post more later.

Topper's Pizza

First in line prize!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Touch screen gaming

I recently had a small computer mishap which took away my trusty ThinkPad. I replaced it with a nice ASUS touchscreen Netbook. After figuring out how to navigate the "secure boot" fiasco I was able to get Arch installed. I opted to dual boot this time, which allowed me to run some of my Steam games which haven't made a Linux port. The touch screen gimick works great for things like PopCap style games which are relatively simple and mouse resting position doesn't serve to drive the game. The break down occurs for games that rely on alternative clicks (right or left depending on your accessibility setup). The press and hold tactic works in some cases and doesn't in others. Some games in full screen simply don't register the clicks. Then I tried an older favorite of mine "Oblivion". The screen began to spin after loading. After the Steam sale this week I picked up Fallout New Vegas. It seemed to work until I tried shooting with V.A.T.S. and the selected areas began to wildly cycle. Dialog options also were a problem. I disabled the touch screen and tried again and it was much better. Eventually the game crashed between indoor outdoor transitions. Overall the touchscreen provided a marginal enhancement to my gaming experience. Disabling for some games was a necessity.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I have been avoiding social networks for a bit lately. Facebook didn't provide any meaningful content, and Google+ didn't have my friends or family actively posting. A friend of mine invited me to Diaspora. I have invited a few friends and family members as I did with G+. Facebook has an established presence and as such it is hard to contend with.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Relic

Guess who will be getting a Nerd Life T-Shirt? After visiting the and seeing the  anti-programming contest I had to sign up with New Relic. Not just for the opportunity to possibly win the contest, but also for the awesome looking t-shirt.

Wait you want one too? Well it probably isn't too late (unless it is). Head on down to New Relic and sign up. The account was free. After installing a VM through VirtualBox I fired up instance of Fedora. Support for Node.js is comming soon, but until then you can monitor mobile iOS and Android apps. You can monitor Ruby, .NET, Java, PHP, and Python apps. They also have support for monitoring servers. I slammed together a quick Python app so I could see what kind of reports I would get. I followed the simple install instructions and soon I was view all kinds of valuable information from my app. Error rates, server response times, throughput, and many more metrics that could provide key insights into application use. They also have server monitoring tools. A big win for anyone needing to monitor an application from the ground up.

Here is a link to their pricing page: