who needs a rackmount fridge?

So I’m putzing around with web logs, and one of the search terms that brings up my site is “rackmount fridge”. Nonplussed, I do the search; apparently these things do exist.

picture of rackmount fridge
Image from & copyright Canford Audio PLC

Not sure exactly what purpose these serve; I suppose we could order one and send our facilities folks into tizzies (no food or drink in the server room, don’t you know). But I thought the extent of weird was rack mounting a playstation 2– I suppose there’s always something weirder…

godwin’s law for politicians

I may have posted about this before. Every now and then, I hear something that reaffirms my belief that there should be a Godwin’s Law for politicians. Godwin’s law states that eventually, as a debate runs out of steam and real arguments, someone will compare the other side to Hitler, or the Nazis. This usually means that the side making the comparison has run out of actual arguments and has resorted to personal attacks.

Today on the radio (on the morning edition of The California Report, I think) I heard about the debate for California’s SB1437 in the state Assembly. In arguing against the bill, one Republican stated something to the effect that “If this bill were in effect and Adolf Hitler was gay, you could not say anything bad about him!”

The truly sad thing is that this person said it with such vitriol and apparent passion that it seems like he actually believed it was a valid argument against a bill that basically says “you cannot base treatment or judgement of a person on whether they are gay, straight, or otherwise.”

Please can’t we just make it a rule that, like in Usenet, if a politician or activist brings up Hitler, it means they’ve run out of valid arguments and automatically lose?

why must pretty be big?

So I’m trying to free up space on one of my computers (all data expands to fill available storage space, don’t you know), and start looking at what takes up space. I’m using a nifty program called Disk Inventory X. It lets you visualize how much space is being used by certain files, and is very useful for figuring out how much space is being used by what.

One of the things I find is that iDVD, the DVD maker application that comes with the system, is using 1.5GB of space. 1.5GB! Even Photoshop only uses 153MB.

I do some investigating; as it turns out, the space is all used by the themes for the DVD menus. I suppose whoever crammed that much in there had the best interests of the user in mind; but on a system with only a 30GB hard drive, 1.5GB is a sizeable amount.

So now I just have to figure out if I’m ever going to use iDVD; I may just toss it, along with the MS Office Test Drive. But my mind still boggles; 1.5GB in a single application…

moisture meters for irrigation

A while ago, after putting in sprinklers around the house, instead of getting a standard sprinkler timer at Home Depot, I bought an RS-485 digital output module, some relays, and an RS232-RS485 converter. I wrote a *really* basic perl program to control the thing, and basically set it up so that the sprinklers come on now and again via cron; the only real ‘computerized’ thing I did was to have it check weather.com to see if it said “rain” and not water if it was supposed to rain.

Due to changing landscaping (some of our plants survive, but others died) and the fact that the drip system on one of the circuits has some persistent (and annoying) leaks, and the fact that when we got the Electro-Gun termite treatment we had to disconnect it, along with everything else electronic that connected to in-wall or in-attic wires (yeah, that kind of sucked at lot) we kind of stopped using it.

We’ve been doing more potted plants lately; we have a lovely dwarf orange tree, some mint and chives, and a couple of plumerias that refuse to die no matter how much we neglect them. Lately it’s been getting a little much to remember to water everything with the hose though, so I figured it was time to fix up the sprinklers and such again.

The sprinklers are back and hooked up (had to repair a pipe break from a dog that pulled too hard on a leash wrapped around the valves), and the drip systems go to all the potted plants now. The drip system still leaks in a couple of places, but I may try some X-Treme Tape on those spots.

One thing that I’ve started wondering about, though, has been how hard it would be to set up moisture meters to figure out when to turn on the sprinklers. The same place that sells the digital output interface also sells an RS-485 analog input module (and since RS-485 can be a ‘network’, I can use the same serial port on the same computer to monitor it too). I just have to figure out how to measure the moisture in the dirt around various plants.

Turns out the wine industry (and probably other parts of the agriculture industry) have been doing this for a while. There are a couple of places that sell moisture monitors; it’s basically electrical probes stuck in some kind of gypsum compound that’s connected to a probe to measure moisture content.

Upon further research, it looks like I may have to refigure this a bit. The standard “insert two nails in the ground and measure the resistance” won’t work because the salinity (and hence the resistance) of the soil may vary with the fertilizer content. “Insert two nails in gypsum (plaster of paris) and bury in the ground and measure the resistance” appears to work a bit better, but a) if you use DC instead of AC to measure you’ll get a galvanic effect and one of the probes will degrade, and b) it’s longer lasting than two nails in the ground, but still degrades after 3-5 years.

So I’ll have to use some kind of AC current to measure (maybe use the 24VAC sprinkler transformer for this plus a bunch of rectifiers), figure out how to quickly make a bunch of probes that are similar enough that I don’t have to spend a lot of time calibrating them, and then see if it’ll work at all for being a useful measure of “when to turn on the sprinklers”.

But on the plus side, it’s easier to water our plants again. Now to remember to fertilize…


So I’m not exactly sure what triggered it, but Cricket Moods (that plugin that shows the lovely mood icons at the top of each post) pooped out and no pages could be viewed.

On the plus side, that also means no comment spam for however long this was going on.

Not much to report; plodding along like usual. Got mailman working on a new system, had to upgrade kernels on some boxes at work due to some process suddenly triggering a kernel bug, and not really too much else exciting. Trying to clear out the weeds from the yard so we can start putting in sprinkler piping and planter boxes, finally.

Also my new favorite youtube videos: the “Look Around You” series. A marvelous send-up of mid-70s “educational” films in a straight-laced, Python-esque sort of way.