Sell me this


A metal board, similar to a whiteboard. Strongly magnetized so that nuts and bolts stick to it. Grease pen to label nuts according to where they came from.


While doing an engine swap on a 1984 Corolla hatchback this weekend, I kept misplacing bolts. As much as I was careful to put them in a safe place or screw them back onto the motor, sometimes I would put bolts from one engine part in the same spot as nearly identical, but much higher grade, bolts from a different part. They would get mixed up. I want a better way to organize these things, so as to keep my work area orderly and keep track of pieces, for best results when putting the car back together.

Potential issues:

  • The board will be quite heavy, so it will need a sturdy backing, and will have to be mounted firmly.
  • The magnets must be quite strong, so that everything doesn’t fall off in a massive mess if it gets jostled (Think about slamming the refrigerator door).
  • Magnets are weird as all get out and often cause unforeseen problems.

Anything else? Let me know in the comments.

I would pay $50 for this item. A good size for me would be 100cm by 60cm.


Look, I made a thing!

Racing cars is a lot of fun. What’s less fun is doing arithmetic by hand for an hour to find out how well people did. Fortunately, we now have the technology to ease this pain.

This guy I go out with, Quinn, is into drift racing. When he doesn’t have a car handy, he judges events. I’ve spent a fair bit of time chatting with him and other judges about how tedious the process is due to all the arithmetic required to add up scores during qualification rounds.

I wrote a program to make it easier. This is a Java applet which you can download at Github. You start an event, add drivers, score them, then click the big button to get a list of who made it through to competition, and who’s out. Simple, clean.

A screencap from the Capital Drift program.

Possibly too simple – currently, if you make a mistake in entering scores, there is no easy way to correct yourself. You have to delete the driver in question and start again. I’ve been thinking carefully about the best way to correct this issue, but I haven’t decided yet.

Nevertheless, the thing does what it is supposed to do and is available for beta testing. It will be tested this Saturday the 15th at Western Speedway, during Capital City Drift. If they like it well enough perhaps they’ll keep using it.

If you are in charge of any similar event, please feel free to download, recode for your own purposes, and let me know how it went.

Getting Started With CakePHP

Here’s a couple of things I did wrong when trying to use CakePHP, for your benefit.

Several months ago I applied at a company called Radar Hill, which uses Cake as their main framework. Naturally I set about learning how to use it as soon as possible. I didn’t do very well. I it on Rocketships, but couldn’t figure out how to make it run – there were a variety of problems that I’m not quite experienced enough to recognize.

Then I tried it locally on my MacBook. I made progress, but the database part stumped me until I found out about MAMP, which got me a little further. But it still wasn’t what you’d call a success. Finally, the job interview at Radar Hill rolled around, and I was not hired, mainly because of my inexperience with PHP. Sigh. I tried!

However, the guys who interviewed me were very encouraging, and said to keep trying and stay in touch. One, Jamie, gave me some tips on how to run it on the Mac. His instructions worked perfectly.


First Mistake

.htaccess files sometimes don’t copy and paste in the Mac finder, because the . at the beginning of the file name renders them invisible (except when it doesn’t).

The solution was found here:

Probably the hardest to do but uses the least amount of work and has the most potential to go wrong, that is the Terminal Method. If you open up terminal (Applications > Utilities) and type the following:


defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder


This will show you all of the hidden files and folders on your operating system. If you want to reverse the command replace TRUE with FALSE.

Then check the Cake files to make sure that all 3 .htaccess files are present – as detailed by this very helpful post on Stack Overflow. There should be one at the top level of your cake directory, one in /app, and one in /app/webroot.

Second Mistake

I was putting files in all sort of random places, trying to find a way that worked. Jamie said to unzip the Cake download into /MAMP/htdocs, replacing anything else in that directory. This is probably a dumb newb mistake, but I’m sure at least one other person has made it.

What Jamie Said

#1: Download and install MAMP:

It’s an “out-of-the-box” LAMP environment for the Mac. It’s all I ever use.

#2: Start MAMP, and then go to the homepage, which by default is:

#3: Click on the “phpMyAdmin” tab at the top. You can also get there

Create a new database and call it whatever you want – something descriptive.

#4: Download the latest version of CakePHP 2.2, currently RC1, from here:

#5: Extract the archive and put its contents into
/Applications/MAMP/htdocs (replace whatever’s there).

Open the database config file for editing, which is at (relative to htdocs):


#6: In the DATABASE_CONFIG class in the file you’ll see this array,
which is the default DB config:

Change it to this:

#7: IMPORTANTLY: don’t forget to replace “your_database_name” above with
the actual name of the DB that you created.

#8: save that file as database.php, rather than database.php.default

#9: Browse to: http://localhost:8888/

If all went well you should see the ‘vanilla’ Cake installation.

– Jamie