The inside of a MacBook charger

This is one of the older MacBook chargers with the T-shaped MagSafe plug. The collar on the plug is too short, and it frayed and stopped working.

I smashed it open with a hammer.

2013-05-26 11.14.59 2013-05-26 11.15.24 2013-05-26 11.15.41 I didn’t realize it has this whole complex circuit board. I thought power regulation was done mechanically through resistors, then the calculations done by the device receiving power. Makes sense now that I see it, though.2013-05-26 11.16.20 2013-05-26 11.16.49Everything is really firmly attached to the board. Aside from the T-plug, the build quality is pretty impressive. Took a lot of prying to get it apart.
2013-05-26 11.20.02 I guess that’s the reason why it’s so expensive. A million dollars worth of copper. That’s the going rate for copper, right? Millions of dollars per gram? I don’t know.2013-05-26 11.21.20 2013-05-26 11.22.41 Anyone know what that thing is in the picture above? Resistor, sure, but it looks different from the resistors in the picture below. Those ones are familiar from science class.

Update: It’s a capacitor. Also potentially dangerous, as they store electricity long after they are unplugged. Enough to kill you, maybe.

2013-05-26 11.23.26

 

Fix My Bug

After wrestling with a stupid syntax error for several days, I got sick of staring at the same code for ages and started working on this.

Fix my bug!

Sometimes it’s more fun to help someone else with their code than work on your own. That’s what fixmybug is for. Put your syntax error up, and while you wait for someone to figure it out, knock one out  for someone else.

I’m amazed at how quickly and easily this thing came together. It’s pretty bare bones, but it still required a couple of years to learn the css, html, javascript, php, and mysql that went into it. 2 years ago I wrote my first Hello World in Python, and it took months of half-hearted stabbing at the command line to even get that far. Now I’ve got 98% of a diploma in Computer Systems Technology, I can build stuff like this, I think I’m ready to start working for a living. I look forward to reviewing my source code a year from now and being ashamed of it. But right now, I’m pretty proud.

Go to http://www.rocketships.ca/fixmybug and start squishing.

dasboot

 

How To Sell A Car

cherry blossoms toyota corona

Here’s how you sell a car. Pictures, pictures, pictures. But first, wash it. A clean car is magically worth $200 more than a dirty one, and you have a chance to sell it to people walking past your yard while you’re at it. As soon as the car is clean, you can start hustling to everyone you meet.

Then go somewhere picturesque on a sunny day. Take 10,000 photographs from every angle, distance, and vantage point you can think of. Get three of each shot. Sit in the driver’s seat and think about how much you love it. Shoot like you’re doing nudes of your lover who’s moving to the mainland without you.

apollo prestige road bike mount tolmie
Apollo Prestige at Mt Tolmie.

Favourite places of mine include:

  • The top of Mt Tolmie or Mt Doug
  • The oceanfront in Esquimalt
  • The Navy base also in Esquimalt
  • The lookout at the top of the Malahat
  • The middle of View St when the cherry blossoms are blooming
  • The middle of Blenkinsop road in late summer
  • The top of the mountain behind Interurban Campus
  • Saxe Point, Cattle Point, Beacon Hill Park

If the sun won’t cooperate, try an underground parking garage. Saturate the colours of the car and make the grey background greyer. Note: this only seems to work with Japanese and German vehicles. American cars must be photographed outside.

lexus sc400 interior shot
Lexus SC400 – An example of an informational, rather than a glamour shot.

If you’re lucky there’ll be curious passers-by, and if you’re more outgoing than I am, it’s another chance to hustle, hustle, hustle. But if that doesn’t work out, still make sure you get tons of pictures. The only difference between a photographer and an ordinary jackass with a point-and-shoot is thousands of discarded shots. Get the sexy glamour shots, and also get high-definition informational shots of the engine, interior and any damaged body work. Always shoot with the light behind you when you do informational shots, and make sure your shadow doesn’t fall across the thing you’re shooting.

Then open all your shots in Photoshop (Gimp if you’re poor and honest) and brutally discard the lousy ones. Leave your ego in your other jacket. This isn’t moderne arte, you’re just selling a car. Play with the levels, make the colours pop. Crop everything but the vehicle out of the shot. Narrow it down to 4 shots. More than that and you look like a tryhard.

red toyota corolla ae86 mount tolmie
Toyota Corolla at Mt Tolmie.

Finally, post it. If it’s a motorcycle, bicycle, or convertible, wait until a sunny day. If it’s 4wd and winter, consider waiting for a snowy day, but don’t wait forever.

In the ad, don’t tell your life story. No one likes reading. If the car has a good story behind it, tell it in one sentence or less in the first line of the ad, then get on with business. List the things that are new and good on the car. List the things that are broken. Don’t say why you’re selling – if you’re asked, “I need the money.” That’s the only good reason. Put the price you want, don’t play games like overpricing to leave room for negotiating.

honda silverwing gorge park
Honda Silverwing in Gorge Park.

A note about Craigslist – depending on your area, it’s not always the best option. In Victoria, everyone uses UsedVictoria.com. Ontario uses Kijiji, Australia has Gumtree.

 Look at the other ads in the same category. If someone is selling the exact same car as you at the exact same price, maybe knock 5 bucks off. Then sit back and wait for the emails.

kawasaki KZ305 esquimalt
KZ305 LTD in Esquimalt.

All the vehicles featured in this post are ones I’ve owned, loved, and sold. The better pictures were taken by more skilled photographers than myself. In the case of the Silverwing I actually hired a photographer to shoot the bike for me, since I didn’t have adequate equipment at the time.

dodge dakota victoria bc
My big brother’s Dodge Dakota in downtown Victoria.

I’m secretly a race car driver

The morning I turned 16 I waited by the front door for my dad to take me to the license office.

He was surprised, because I hadn’t told him we were going. It never occurred to me that there could be anything in the world more important than me getting my driving licence on the morning of my 16th birthday.

Anxious years followed as I tried to hide the heat of my desire to take the wheel of every car I encountered. If they knew how badly I wanted it they would look at me oddly, and they already looked at me oddly. No one trusts a teenager who tends to stare into space and leave her wallet in the refrigerator.

I volunteered to haul wood one afternoon for a chance to drive the tractor. A trip to the next town to thrift shop, for a chance to drive on the highway. I can’t express my hatred of thrift shopping without obscenity, so I won’t.

There was a conversation with a coworker – a young man who had ridden his motorcycle from California. He’s an MMA fighter now, then he was a clerk at Safeway. 2 weeks later we took a 90 dollar cab ride to some obscure suburb to pick up my new motorcycle so he could drive it home for me.

   ninja

That first night, he showed me how to work the clutch and shifter, then I drove it straight into the nearest brick wall. Sometimes love hurts. It hurt again a few months later when I laid the bike down at Cattle Point, parked the wreck in my parking spot and didn’t look at it for three more days, when I noticed I had left my gloves on the gas tank.

The thought of not riding didn’t occur to me. I bought a Silverwing. The seller proudly showed off his wife’s baby bump as he handed me the keys. I had no interest in babies. The Silverwing had a stereo. It played Johnny Cash loud enough to make people roll up their windows.

silverwing

I dated a young man long enough to borrow his mother’s car and take the final road test for my license, then took a job at a German auto dealership, where all I had to do was move beautiful cars around the lot all day.

On such a day, I took one car to the glass shop and met another young man, who followed me back to work, then home. He took me on a date to a racetrack, where I rode in his friends car as it moved at high speed, sideways, all around the course. I had to leave early, so he gave me his car keys. No funny looks, just trust. Bring it back tomorrow, he said. I can catch a ride home.

ae86

We drove to Vancouver, Mill Bay, Shawnigan, North Saanich, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Seattle, Hope, Abbotsford, buying horrible cheap wrecks of cars to drive them into the ground. Sometimes none of the cheap wrecks worked, so we took my third motorcycle, an unreliable 300cc Kawasaki. I remember driving two-up over the Malahat in January with snow on the ground, passed by large trucks as my carburetor struggled with the low air pressure, but I don’t remember being cold.

KZ305 CSR
Some weekends we rose at 5:30am to get the race car started and go to the racetrack. He drove; I sometimes drove and rode in every car that would take me.

The young man left the country, but somehow I still get invited to the racetrack. I’m not sure if the racers accept me on my own, or only as the plus-one of their absent friend. But as long as it lasts, I go, and ride in every car I can. Mind the cash box, or volunteer to wrench for a chance to drive a beater in a hill climb.

These boys spend all their money and time on cars. I question my dedication sometimes – I don’t own a car, have not gone into debt for the sake of racing, I’m not even sure what a coilover is. But racing seems to be the focus of my life.

I still have to hide it. If the universe figured out how badly I want to drive in the hill climb, it would find a way to cheat me out of it. Don’t tell anyone.

van

Don Draper doesn’t carry anything

Don Draper carries a wad of cash in his pocket, and that’s it. No wallet, no phone, certainly no laptop case with forty dongles in it.

My shoulders are ruined. Carrying a backpack with my laptop and lunch in it for a few minutes causes me real pain. I specifically buy backpacks with waist straps, even though I prefer messenger bags, so that I can distribute the weight to both shoulders and my hips. I have to carry my laptop every day for school, so there’s not really any way around it.

The total stuff I carry pretty much every time I leave the house is this:

  • Backpack
  • MacBook pro
  • Charger for Mac
  • Book or Kindle
  • Lunch
  • A bunch of pens
  • VGA adapter
  • USB key
  • Spare batteries for my hearing aid
  • Wallet
  • Whatever junk I forgot to take out of my backpack last time
  • A sweater or jacket
  • Headphones
  • Keys

It weighs like 10 lb. and I resent all of it.

Even when I specifically try to travel light, I end up with my phone, wallet, and a book. I dont think I’m a packrat – every single item in my kit is in frequent use throughout the day (except the extra junk I forgot to take out), and I would miss any item I forgot at home.

Don Draper gets by just fine, though. He can do it because he always eats out, isn’t required to carry ID, has people call the restaurant he’s at (or just deal with not being able to find him) and computers don’t exist yet.

How can I do it?

I want to type in the air on a virtual keyboard that’s only visible to me, pay for things and get into my house/car with my private RSA key for authentication, broadcast the images on my device to a larger screen with a gesture, and have my library available by saying “Library”. I want the computer that handles all this stuff to be as small as Don Draper’s wad of cash, and its inputs and output visible only to me unless I specify otherwise.

I am very impatient. Get on with it, please.