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

September 19, 2014

What I Learned Drilling 38 5/16″ Holes in Mild Steel

Filed under: machinist — Cranky Sysadmin @ 2:06 pm

I’m working on a milling table for my lathe based on drawings and plans from this forum post (Scroll to the bottom of the post). This required drilling a lot of holes and it’s my first experience drilling that much steel. Experts will have more technical observations, but I have some practical advice if you’ve never done any work in metal.

  • Don’t wear shorts and sandals. Those metal chips are hot and sharp. I got several slivers in my feet from wearing sandals.
  • Chips and oil go everywhere in a 5 foot radius from the drill press. No advice, just a warning.
  • Clear your work piece and table occasionally. The chips on the table can impact the drilling accuracy.
  • The wood pecker method really does keep the chips manageable. Drill a little and back out.
  • Start with a smaller diameter drill and work up. Use a center drill to start. This seems to work well.
  • My cheap drill press doesn’t have a lot of rigidity and it tends to vibrate a lot with bigger diameter holes. I wish I had bought a better one.

Now I have to tap all of those holes. I think that will probably take a lot longer than drilling them.

September 6, 2014

Projects for the Metal Lathe

Filed under: machinist — Cranky Sysadmin @ 9:21 pm

I got my lathe up and running and on a bench. It’s not an ideal setup, but it will do for now. The bench is one of the hardwood benches from Harbor Freight. It’s amazingly sturdy considering how cheap it was. My flat belt is just a serpentine that I cut to length and used homemade staples to stitch together. Many people use glue, but I couldn’t get a glue to adhere sufficiently.

Now that the lathe is running, it’s time for projects. The biggest project in my queue is a design from 1921 Popular Mechanics, A Small Bench Miller. It uses concrete for the structure. Before I build that, I have three other smaller tooling projects; a small boring / milling table for the lathe, a steady rest, and a couple of the stud gears that I’m currently missing (16 tooth and 24 tooth). I’ll post details on my projects as I complete them.

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. The  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

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