Interesting Reads and Watches for April 8th, 2021

Here’s a short collection of interesting things that have crossed my radar:

That’s it for now!

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Interesting Reads and Watches for March 22nd, 2021

Stuff I’ve found and read or watched recently:

That’s it for now!

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Dishy (Starlink) Custom Mount on Standing Seam Metal Roof

The new house we’re nearly done building has a shallow pitch standing steam metal roof upon which I needed to mount Dishy for my Starlink backup Internet service.

TLDR: I ended up with something like this one.

To get started, I found a video How To Install A Satellite Dish On A Metal Roof on YouTube. That provided the inspiration for our mount.

After that I needed to figure out which style clamps best matched our roof. Since we recently had solar panels installed, I asked our solar installer what they used for it and the told me they were S-5-N Mini Clamps, so I ordered up a dozen of those and some 36″ 1/8″ aluminum angle stock off Amazon.

Then I measured the distance between roof seams and found it to be exactly 16″ (just like wall studs) so that meant I could span 3 seams with each angle to provide some extra strength and durability. It also meant there’d be extra room for “other stuff” on the mount.

When I ordered our Starlink dish, I also ordered the Volcano Roof Mount to the base that I could secure to the aluminum angle. I then took all that to a friend who has nearly every tool in the world and is very good at metal working, showed him what I needed, and let him do some measuring and drilling. He also provided two more aluminum plates with a footprint similar to that of the volcano mount.

It turns out that the holes in the base of the Volcano mount accommodate M8 bolts, so we used stainless bolts with self-locking washers to attach it.

Once the raw materials were cut and drilled, I used the Starlink dish box as the backdrop so I could paint them with a matte black spay paint.

After that all dried, installation time was upon us.

Installation in progress…

Everything had been loosely assembled on the ground so that up on the roof we could first attach and secure the S-5-N Mini clamps. The torque wench you see in the picture above is the GEARDRIVE 1/4 Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench that I bought on Amazon and worked great for this task.

Before long everything was attached!

Dishy, mounted securely but not yet powered up…

The other dish you see is an airMAX PowerBeamM 2.4 GHz, 400 mm Bridge that I’m using for an experimental project. It is mounted to the farthest plate.

The entry to the house isn’t pictured, but due to the large ferrite chokes on both ends of the supplied outdoor rated ethernet cable, I needed to put a good size hole in the side of the house (in the attic) to connect it to the rest of my network gear.

A 3/4″ hole probably would have worked, but I oped for a full 1″ so that I’d have some wiggle room and space for an outdoor rated Cat-7 cable to use on that PowerBeam.

Once inside, I connected the PoE injector, their wifi/router box, and plugged it into a port on my managed switch that I’d already configured with a Starlink VLAN. Then I connected with my my phone, configured the WiFi network credentials, and accepted its invitation to run an initial speed test.

Here were the results:

First speed test on Starlink

All in all, not bad at all. I was particularly impressed with the low latency. 26ms is very, very good. Also, at nearly 30 Mbit/sec, the upload speed is fantastic!

To put the installation in context, here’s what it looks like from the street.

Dishy up above Pine Mountain Lake in Groveland, California

For a bit more context, since people often report latitude with the installation write-ups, the house is located at 37°51’27.3″N 120°11’55.4″W which you can see on Google Maps here.

A more recent speed test showed that download performance is improving…

A more recent speed test.

So far I haven’t seen any of the firmware updates that I’ve read about, nor have I seen the hundreds of megabits of download speed either–but it’s early. I’ll give it a week or two and post again if there are significant changes.

Meantime, it’s already more bandwidth and lower latency than one of the popular local WISPs offers at a much lower price too.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Interesting Reads and Watches — I should blog more (again).

It’s been a long time since I used by blog. It’s time to stop being lazy and get back on the wagon.

To start, here’s a recurring I might do–post a list of Interesting Things that I’ve read recently. I may or may not agree with what they say, but I found them to be compelling or thought provoking in some way. So here goes.

Interesting reads (stories) and watches (videos) for the week of March 15th, 2021:

Alright, that’s it for now. I’ll try to post more of these as I accumulate enough to make it seem like something worthy of posting.

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Home Depot is a lost cause…

A couple weeks ago I decided to order some new tools for current and upcoming yard work. I decided that a set of devices that all use the same 40V rechargeable batteries was the way to go and, for reasons that escape me now, decided that I’d order them online from Home Depot. (I’ve not purchased anything from them in a very long time, but they had what I wanted.)

To make a long story a bit shorter, I really regret having done that. They’ve managed to screw up the order in multiple ways, waste hours of my time on the phone, and outright lied to me more than once.

You see, a day after placing my order, I went back online to have a look at it–I don’t even remember why. But it was then I discovered that over half the items were being sent to the wrong address. It made little sense to me how that happened. You see, during the checkout process, it defaulted to my old address–one I haven’t lived at for about 10 years now. I corrected it and didn’t think twice.

But none of the items had shipped, so I called them up (on a Sunday morning) and waited on hold for a very long time. Eventually I explained the situation and the person on the other end was a bit confused. The only address she could see for me was the correct address. I mean she confirmed that a good chunk of my order was destined for the wrong address, but couldn’t see any evidence of that address associated with my account.

At one point I was rather exasperated and asked why we couldn’t just change the address on the order and she explained that you only get “one hour” after placing an order to do that. Even though, a day later, it had not shipped. That sounded weird to me, but OK. What are my options?

She said she’d bump it to the “resolutions” department where they could correct it before it shipped. That sounded good to me.

Three and a half days after that, I checked back on the order. Nothing had shipped yet and the address was STILL wrong. And I’d heard nothing from the resolutions department. So I called back up, waited on hold forever, and spoke to a different person–I re-explained everything.

The new person asked if I’d been contacted by the “resolutions department” (I hadn’t) and then started talking about me talking to UPS to get the delivery address changed. I first had to explain how that wasn’t possible (since I’m not present at that old address and am not the shipper) and then had to explain the obvious: this isn’t a UPS problem! It’s a Home Depot problem that they’ve had days to fix!

Sensing that I wasn’t going to give up ground, she offered to contact UPS and adjust the address. After a while, she came back claiming that she’d been successful and that all three packages had been re-routed. (They hadn’t–I later checked.)

She lied.

Then we moved to the matter of the one part of the order that said should have been delivered on Monday, yet it was already Thursday and I’d seen no sign of it. She explained that it was coming from our local store and a 3rd party carrier was delivering it. She offered to get in touch with the local store and find out what happened.

After a bit of time on hold, she said she spoke with someone the local store and that there was a delivery attempt on Monday but nobody was home. I was suspicious, since we’ve been home A LOT lately (shocking, I know) but she said they’d re-attempt delivery, so I took her at her word.

Later that day I reviewed our security camera recordings and confirmed what I expected–no delivery attempt was made at all.

She lied (or was lied to and passed it on to me).

Here we are a full week from the first supposed delivery attempt and I have not a single piece of my order (two weeks after ordering). And UPS still showed the bulk of it as being destined for an address that’s 3 hours from here and I’ve not lived at for over 10 years.

Best of all, I cannot cancel my order either they say. We’ll see about that.

My next move is with my credit card company.

I am not giving another penny to Home Depot again. I’ve already spent the dollar value of my time trying to uncover the ways in which they’ve screwed up and have broken systems.

It’s been over a week since my first contact and I’ve still not hear from the resolutions department–if such a thing even exists.

Posted in misc, wtf | Leave a comment

Left Handed Flying (finally)

A weird thing happened recently in my flying: I got comfortable flying left-handed.

I started flying gliders as a teenager back in Michigan and have always had the stick in my right hand and used my left hand for things like spoilers (which seem to always be on the left side of the cockpit). Years later when I transitioned to powered aircraft in the Citabria, it was the same way: right hand on the stick and left hand to control throttle and trim. And it always felt natural to me. If someone had asked, I probably couldn’t have imagined flying with my left hand on the stick (or yoke, not that I fly much with a yoke).

Fast forward a number of years to 2015 when I started instrument training in our Glastar. Early on my instructor chided me for not having a hand on the throttle during the takeoff and landing phases of flight. I explained that if felt very unnatural and I probably couldn’t fly well that way. He said “you’ll get used to it” and made it a requirement.

So for my 40+ hours of instrument training, I flew a decent amount of my time near the airport with the stick in my left hand. And I never liked it. It always felt weird. I’d even comment on it from time to time, but my comments were always met with “you’ll get used to it… eventually.”

Last year when we got the Bonanza, I had a similar experience with my checkout flights. I made a point of keeping my right hand on the throttle during takeoff and landing and having my left hand on the yoke, but it just felt weird.

Then earlier this year we got the SuperSTOL and it finally started to sort of feel OK. Maybe it’s because it was such a different airplane. Or maybe I’d finally just accumulated enough time flying that way. I’m not sure, really.

But about a week or two ago I noticed that in both the SuperSTOL and in the Glastar, I now feel completely comfortable flying the landing and takeoff with my left hand. And I’m still a little baffled about when and how that happened. But it did, and that’s what really matters.

Part of me wishes I’d started the practice long ago…

Posted in flying, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chrome and Firefox Ad Blocking and Privacy Addons

For a while I’ve been using AdBlock Plus and Ghostery in both Chrome and Firefox to reduce the amount of shitty ads I see and also reduce the number of “trackers” that I’m exposed to on various web sites. But it’s always seemed like that combination slowed down my browser a bit much and caused weird delays not and then… not to mention the fact that Ghostery is a company that gathers data on its users and sells it back… to advertisers!

So with that in mind I went looking around and came across a list of Web Browser Addons on Prism Break. After a bit of poking around and reading reviews, I settled on uBlock Origin, which is free, open source, and works in both Firefox and Chrome. The authors are also very concerned about performance.

ublock

While I don’t have scientific measurements, I can say that my browser seems to “stall” less often and I’m still not seeing most of the annoying ads that I otherwise would without a good ad blocker.

At some point I make take things another step or two farther. Some of my coworkers are big fans of NoScript for Firefox but I’m actually a bit more interested in Chrome extensions at this point. I “mostly” use Chrome for personal stuff and Firefox for work stuff (there are exceptions of course).

In particular, the EFF’s Privacy Badger is quite good. And I hear Disconnect is useful too.

One are I’m notably lacking in is mobile browser extensions. I mainly use Chrome for mobile (since it does an amazing job of syncing stuff across my devices when needed) but haven’t ventured into seeing what, if any, options are available there.

Which extensions are you particularly fond of for enhancing your browsing experience?

Posted in misc, other, tech | 10 Comments

GNU Parallel and Block Size(s)

I’ve been a fan of GNU Parallel for a while but until recently have only used it occasionally. That’s a shame, because it’s often the simplest solution for quickly solving embarrassingly parallel problems.

My recent usage of it has centered around database export/import operations where I have a file that contains a list of primary keys and need to fetch the matching rows from some number of tables and do something with the data. The database servers are sufficiently powerful that I can run N copies of my script to get the job done far faster (where N is value like 10 or 20).

A typical usage might look like this:

cat ids.txt | parallel -j24 --max-lines=1000 --pipe "bin/munge-data.pl  --db live >> {#}.out

However, I recently found myself scratching my head because parallel was only running 3 jobs rather than the 24 I had specified. After trying various experiments I finally went back and re-read the very complete manual page.

And, finally, I put the pieces together when I came across the notion of “blocks” and then saw this in the section about piping:

Spread input to jobs on stdin (standard input). Read a block of data from stdin (standard input) and give one block of data as input to one job. The block size is determined by –block.

The default block size is 1MB. How big was my input file? Event though it contained hundreds of thousands of primary keys, it was about 2.5MB in size.

Ah ha! That explained why parallel only bothered to fire up 3 sub processes for me. So a bit of tweaking was in order and I ended up with this:

cat ids.txt | parallel -j24 --block-size=32K --max-lines=1000 --pipe "bin/munge-data.pl  --db live >> {#}.out

That, as we like to say at work, runs good. My 15 minute task now completes in a less than 2 minutes.

While parallel is a useful tool, it also has A LOT of options. This is about the 4th or 5th time I’ve had to read the manual page and I find that I’m still learning things each time I do. Hopefully this will save someone else a bit of head scratching when they can’t figure out why GNU Parallel isn’t running the number of jobs they asked for.

Posted in craigslist, mysql, programming, tech | 8 Comments

I’m blogging again…

All the post Trump election crap in my Facebook “news” feed finally motivated me to spend less time there (just long enough to post links to my blog and look in the 2-3 groups I care about) and start writing again. Trying to filter it all out is a lost cause and nobody has built a “facebook without politics”, so here we are.

Yeah, it never really dawned on me but facebook is really designed for reading and not writing. So I do what most people do there and spend most of my time reading and scrolling and watching cat videos.

But since I seem to see political crap everywhere I look (apparently people have forgotten how to be people), I’m just going to go back to blogging where I can write on my platform and not have to spend time reading past all the stuff I don’t care to see anyway.

Sounds almost like freedom, doesn’t it?

Now I just need to figure out what to write about… Flying? Space computers? Food? Technology? Cats? Who knows.

Posted in misc, other | 8 Comments

Today’s lame sales pitch…

I’m going to paste the full text of an email message that recently landed in my inbox and unfortunately wasn’t tagged as spam. But I won’t paste it in one blob, I’ll do it piece by piece so it is easier to dissect.

Subject: RE: Jeremy Z

That’s a weird subject line. There are no other messages in my entire mailbox that contain a subject like that, but I’m supposed to think this person is replying to a message about me? Surely it wasn’t crafted that way to trick me…

Hey Jeremy ,

Hm, a space after my name and before the comma. That feels like a mail merge bug. Two strikes so far.

I don’t want to waste any of your time.

OH THANK GOD. ANYONE WHO SAYS THAT COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE LYING!!!

(In other words, that’s almost a third strike.)

I’m keen on having a quick chat with you on how FooPlus can add value to Craigslist.org

Aw crap. Here we go. The phrase “add value” is one of the most meaningless in the English language. You’re clearly trying to get me interested while simultaneously telling me nothing about what you actually offer.

Does that EVER work? And do you really think I’m the kind of person it does work on?

And why a quick chat? Can’t you just put some bullet points in the email before I have to think about whether or not I want to cough up my Burner (err, I mean “phone number”) for you?

Foo is a web accelerator significantly enhancing web performance all whilst saving companies a bunch on server cost. I would like to introduce you to FooPlus, which has contributed to the following: ESPN, Amazon, BBC, CNN, Vimeo, Disney, The New York Times, Tumblr, Nikon, Home Depot and many more.

Well, you’ve just wasted an entire paragraph NOT telling me how it would “add value” (whatever that means) or even telling me what it does. Honestly “enhancing web performance” could mean dozens of different things.

At worst, you’ll gain some knowledge on how to keep your current suppliers on their toes. At best, you’ll get some ideas on how to save money on server cost.

Suppliers… of what? Are you referring to our hardware vendors? I’m confused now. I don’t even know why I’m still reading…

Jeremy as I said before, I don’t want to waste any of your time, just keen on having a quick chat.

It’s pretty evident that you DO want to waste my time. You’ve contacted me, out of the blue, with a misleading subject line, and pitched me on a vague promise of “adding value” without really telling me anything tangible at all. And now you want to get me on the phone?

Can’t you see how I might be just A LITTLE skeptical of that “quick chat” not also wasting my time?

Are you available to sometime this week ?

I am not.

And what’s with the space before the question mark, anyway?

Posted in craigslist, misc, Uncategorized, wtf | 1 Comment