Compact fluorescent life expectancy

I noticed this week that a compact fluorescent bulb in the kitchen had burned out, so this week I bought an LED bulb to replace it. I started writing the dates on bulbs back in 2008 so I could track how long they last. This particular bulb was dated 1-2011. So the bulb lasted 3 years, 8 months. That’s a lot better than a standard incandescent light bulb. I suspect I may have had CFL bulbs last less time than that, but I know I’ve had bulbs last longer, too. The most recent bulb I replaced prior to this one was from 2008.

I have about 16 CFL bulbs left in the house now, and I’m inclined to continue using those until they die. I have around 28 LED bulbs. All in all I prefer LED; they give more lumens per watt, tend to reach full brightness faster, and generally give off a better quality of light, but the biggest advantage–an advantage they have over incandescent bulbs as well–is the complete lack of ultraviolet light so they don’t attract bugs, fade the paint on your walls, or the stuff hanging on your walls.

How to repair a Marx electrical pickup shoe

Unlike most of its competitors, Marx trains don’t use rollers to engage the center rail for electrical pickup. Instead, Marx utilized a copper shoe that slides along the center rail. It was cheap and effective, but the increased friction means the shoes wear out much more quickly than rollers do. Indeed, the shoe usually is the first part of the train to wear out.

The fix is easy, if non-obvious.

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Revisiting Microsoft/Sysinternals Du, as a batch file

My tips for using Sysinternals’ Du.exe were well received last week, and my former coworker Charlie mentioned a GUI tool called Windirstat that I had completely forgotten about. For the command-line averse, it’s an incredibly useful tool.

But there’s one thing that Du.exe does that makes the CLI worthwhile. It will output to CSV files for further analysis. Here’s the trick.

DU -L 1 -Q -C \\SERVERNAME\C$\ >> servers.csv

Sub in the name of your server for servername. You have to have admin rights on the server to run this, of course.

For even more power, run this in a batch file containing multiple commands to query multiple servers, say, in your runup to Patch Tuesday. Open the file in your favorite spreadsheet, sort on Directory Size, and you can find candidates for cleanup.

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Windows 9 rumors

I picked up some various Windows 9 rumors from across the Web yesterday.

In no particular order: Read the full post »

Home Depot: A security pro’s dilemma

I was listening to podcasts about the Home Depot breach, and something occurred to me.

Home Depot isn’t talking much about the breach. And it’s driving security pros nuts.

But the general public takes silence as a sign that everything’s going great. So their silence is winning the PR battle in the court that matters, which is public opinion at large. Read the full post »

The curious case of the Commodore TED machines

Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines.

What went wrong with that machine? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read the full post »

Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Read the full post »

A security professional fights back against tech support scammers

I guess Matt Weeks is as sick as I am of tech support scammers, because he developed a way to fight back, in the form of a Metasploit module that exploits a software defect in the AMMYY remote access tool that these scammers sometimes use. Metasploit is a tool that penetration testers use to demonstrate–with permission–how hackable a computer network is. In this case, the would-be victim is penetration testing someone without permission. Run the module when the scammer connects to the would-be victim, and he or she gets a command prompt on the criminal’s PC. At that point, the would-be victim can break their computer, perhaps by deleting critical files, corrupting the Windows registry, or something else. Anything you can do from a command prompt would be possible at that point.

I’m anything but heartbroken that this threat exists, although I’m not going to do this myself. Let me explain. Read the full post »

Scratchbuilding, Marx-style: Finishing the roof

This is a continuation of something I wrote well over a year ago detailing how I build Marx-style boxcars out of simple materials. Train season is starting up again soon, so it’s about time I finished this story.

Once the box that will become your Marx-style boxcar is dry, it’s time to tend to the roof.

This method won’t produce a contest-quality roof by any stretch, but it will produce something that will blend in well with Marx cars. The idea here is to produce something that most hobbyists can accomplish in an evening and that won’t overwhelm the other cars in the train. Read the full post »

How to clean up a Windows server

From time to time, Windows patches will fail to install because a server doesn’t have enough space to install them. Finding the ginormous files are that are hogging all the space on the C drive is really tedious if you do it by clicking around in Windows Explorer, but there’s a better way.

Download the free Sysinternals Du.exe utility and you can find the behemoths in minutes, if not seconds. Read the full post »