The Cranky Sysadmin A world of technology, fun, and ignorant rants.

July 26, 2014

I Bought an Old Metal Lathe. Woohoo!

Filed under: machinist — Cranky Sysadmin @ 3:29 pm

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked mechanical things as well as electronics. My dream was to go into college for some kind of Robotics Engineering course, but that didn’t happen. Going into adulthood, I chose to focus on electronics and then computers. Now that I’m older I’d like to finally acquire the skill of hobbyist machinist. The problem with this is that I have no tools for a machinist career. Well, now I do. I bought an “Old Iron” South Bend 9″ Model C lathe. If you’re interested in the story and pictures, read on.
A Lathe!

June 20, 2014

Typing Faster

Filed under: Life,Programming — Cranky Sysadmin @ 7:13 pm

One of my side goals is to increase my typing speed. I do touch type, but I have some bad habits, and I was only typing at about 25 to 30 words a minute. I’ve tried many typing programs both online and installed locally. I’ve narrowed down to my two favorites; GNU Typist (gtypist) and Amphetype. Both of these are command line programs which work well on linux. They also run on windows according to the descriptions. gtypist includes full lessons all the way from home row beginner to speed drills with a fair amount of mixed text. Amphetype (which is becoming my favorite) is all speed drills using text you import. I imported the text to The Hobbit and I’ve been having a blast. Gtypist is very polished, but once you’ve been through the speed drills a couple of times, it starts getting repetitive. Because I can import a whole novel into Amphetype, it doesn’t get boring for me. I’m now up to about 45 words per minute, which was my goal, but I think I can push that goal up to 55 WPM now.

update 2014-07-12: I’ve managed to average 55 wpm, but I struggle to get consistently faster than that. It might be time to move on to other minor obsessions.

June 10, 2014

Learning Algorithms

Filed under: Programming — Cranky Sysadmin @ 6:35 pm

Some day, I would like to be a real programmer. One of the steps that seems necessary is to get a deeper understanding of algorithms. I’ve settled on two books that I’d like to get through on the way to that goal.

  • The first is The Algorithm Design Manual by Steve S. Skiena. It uses pseudo-code and C (or C++) to describe the algorithms. Some higher math is needed, or at least the ability to decipher summations in Sigma notation. I’ve read up to chapter 3, and I like the book a lot even though it makes my head hurt.
  • The second book is Python Algorithms by Magnus Lie Hetland. As the title suggests, the algorithms are described in Python. I’ve gotten through chapter 2. This book is dense too.

If I don’t understand something in one book, I try to find a similar example in the other book. The explanations are different enough that I can usually (so far) understand one or the other.

May 2, 2014

When XFCE and emacs colide

Filed under: Programming,System Administration — Cranky Sysadmin @ 7:49 pm

Xubuntu 14.04 has decided to abscond with a couple of keys that I use for emacs, and I want them back! The first key is C-space, which emacs uses for setting a mark. I use this all the time and I’m not willing to do without it. It turns out that there is this feature called IBus which steals the key and uses it to switch input methods (for entering foreign characters I’ve read). To change this behavior, right-click on the ibus panel applet, and select preferences. You’ll see “Next input method” and it’s bound to C-space by default. you can use the intuitive “…” button to change this. I changed it to FN-space (called “Launc6” on my keyboard). Next up is the capslock key, which I rarely use except in shell scripts. I’d like to bind it to the ctl key. Since I haven’t decided whether I want to do this permanently, I wrote a script to give me some options.


case "$1" in
	CMDNAME=`basename $0`
	echo "Usage:"
	echo "$CMDNAME [caps|nocaps|swapcaps]"
	echo "----------------------"
	echo "$CMDNAME will adjust the mapping of your left ctl and capslock keys."
	echo "an argument 'swapcaps' swaps the two keys"
	echo "'nocaps' changes the capslock to a ctl and leaves the left ctl as-is"
	echo "'caps' returns the keys to the original settings"
	exit 1

/usr/bin/setxkbmap -option '' -option "ctrl:$1"

Run it with no arguments to get some help. I currently prefer nocaps.

April 26, 2014

my .emacs for rails development

Filed under: Programming — Cranky Sysadmin @ 8:12 pm

My .emacs is below the fold. I use emacs a lot, but I’ve not done much customization until I needed to work with rails.

(update 2014-05-02)
dotemacs linked now since I update it frequently.

(update 2014-05-20)
I’ve finally gotten on the github train. Find my emacs init file there.

April 25, 2014

rails development with emacs

Filed under: Programming — Cranky Sysadmin @ 7:07 pm

Just some quick links. I want to use emacs for my rails development and these sites are helping:

I’ve settled on a projectile-rails, flymake-ruby, robe based setup. TheĀ  second link at is closest to my current setup.

April 3, 2014

Blink an LED with a 555 timer.

Filed under: simple_projects — Cranky Sysadmin @ 8:46 pm

I’ve added a new category, simple_projects for things like this. I may break this out into its own web page if the blog gets crowded. Find the latest simple project below the fold.
astable 555 timer

March 23, 2014

Edimax wifi with BeagleBoneBlack Angstrom 6.20 image

Filed under: Electronics,System Administration — Cranky Sysadmin @ 8:52 pm

This process was relatively straightforward for me, but it required looking at several sources. I don’t compile any kernels. I just found the appropriate firmware and loaded it on the bbb. I then did some hand waving and sacrificed a chicken and it all worked. Check below the fold for details.
edimax on bbb

February 26, 2014

My Struggle with Math(s)

Filed under: Life — Cranky Sysadmin @ 1:56 pm

I wish that I had paid more attention to math when I was in high school. So many things that I like to do depend on a math background and playing catchup now is a little frustrating. Catch up I must if I wish to pursue my dreams, so I am always on the lookout for good math sites. The best related site that I’ve found so far is Khan Academy. Many of the newer “learn to program” sites share a lot of structure in common with Khan Academy. Right now, I’m studying limits and am about to jump into derivatives. I need to brush up on trigonometry as well, and there is a new article over at better explained that really nails home the commonly used points. Maybe some day soon, I’ll be able to crack those books on Digital Signal Processing and not get a headache when I see the equations.

October 26, 2013

Why are Rich People Rich and I’m Not?

Filed under: filthy_lucre — Cranky Sysadmin @ 10:22 am

Below the fold, I explore the differences between rich people and poor people (like myself). It is helpful to me to analyze the differences instead of just being jealous of rich people. I hope it’s helpful to you as well.
Rich People

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