Cool Handy Technical

On simple solutions

A few years ago I re-purposed an old desktop PC from uni as a media and file server. A design goal was having the machine be as close to silent as possible. Noisy stuff is annoying anyway, but doubly so in a living room where silence really is paramount. To achieve that goal I used my steadfast Antec Sonata case with rubber-washer HD trays, an old fanless video card, and a new power supply with a 120mm fan (let me know when they make fanless ones for AT motherboards). The only noisy component left was the stock CPU fan which I replaced with a Thermaltake ‘quiet’ model. The result was a success if I say so myself, especially considering the total cost.

Last week that Thermaltake CPU fan hit the dust. The bearings just gave up. Luckily, that failure didn’t cause any other damage and since the motherboard is a few years old the replacement Zalman model fan was cheap. Unluckily, this Zalman was significantly noisier than what it replaced, despite claims of silent operation.

The solution was wonderfully simple: I attached a resistor to the red wire connecting the CPU fan to motherboard for slower RPM.

For a project that has lasted for so long and been so affordable I’m stoked how cheap and easy the simple solution was. EE FTW.


Shishion River


Mt. Murone

After participating for a few weeks in various efforts around northeastern Japan, it’s difficult to overstate how intense our daily work is. Cleaning up a huge fish plant, removing tsunami goop, sawing through ruined flooring, debris removal – it’s serious and demanding physical labor. I experienced the most malodorous day of my life at a local fish plant, only to be succeeded by a significantly worse one at the commercial plant the next town over (Ofunato).

But there are positives amidst the exposure and sore muscles. The team has been living at a beautiful campsite near Kesennuma. After a long day’s work, we get to enjoy daily trips to the onsen, a relaxing hot bath. I’ve noticed that Japanese people have a tendency to look far younger than they report their age to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover evidence supporting onsen being a way the Japanese stay young.

This photo is from the grounds of our onsen on Mt. Murone.


Arrived in Kessenuma

About one week ago I arrived in Kessenuma, Japan. I’m volunteering with the help of a non-profit organization to assist with recovery of the hardest hit areas of the country. So far that means urban areas on the eastern coast of the Tohoku region, including Kessenuma, Rikuzentakata, and Karakura.

The damage is unreal and the work ahead of us incredible.

At the moment the team has limited internet, but I will be making an effort to post content to For the latest information from the scene here please stay tuned. The site RSS feed is a good way to automatically stay on top of new posts.

Handy Interface Technical

Homebrew: 1. Mac App Store: 0.

CLI junkies, this one’s for you.

Mac OS X doesn’t ship with an official package manager in a Unix/Linux sense. And why should it? Apple has a proven track record targeting the casual technology user ready to trade a credit card number for convenience, and this approach earns buckets of money. Thus the recent introduction of the Mac App store should come as no surprise. (And personally as a fan of ‘Internet as change agent’ I love that it will, even marginally, help reduce carbon emissions – Apple already plans to remove boxed software from its retail stores.)

Unlike in the smartphone world, software distribution for both producers and consumers on PCs/Macs has been traditionally been ‘everybody is on their own.’ On Windows there are standard 3rd party conventions, such as NSIS, and Microsoft/Apple-sanctioned ways of packaging software for distribution (.MSI and .PKG respectively). But developers/ISVs are not required to use them, and many don’t. (I’m looking at you, Adobe – your Mac installers are seriously the worst I’ve ever seen! Sometimes devs have reasonable grounds (read: limited time/resources) to employ them, but VISE and other Java-based installers I’ve encountered are unabashedly gross.)

Let’s jump away from the commercial side of computing for a moment and talk open source. Command line junkies (read: me) are into simple, lightweight solutions. We probably won’t ever use the Mac App store, preferring traditional open source package managers. We’re the folks comfortable at the command line and with modifying config files. Debian’s apt, Gentoo’s portage, FreeBSD’s ports, Red Hat’s yum are our bread and butter. The philosophies between us and the App Store’s target audience couldn’t be more different.

Speaking from the command line junkie perspective, I recently made the move from Darwin ports to homebrew. The best experience so far was the first one:

brew install git

It pulled the source and ‘just worked’ with minimal messing with my existing system.

ports, we’ll chat again when

port install git

doesn’t start weirdly compiling perl 5.8 on top of the perl 5.10 already supplied, supported by Apple, and working fine, thank you very much.