Don’t build a drill press out of PVC pipe

This past weekend, Lifehacker posted instructions for building a makeshift drill press out of PVC pipe. Although the finished contraption looks kind of cool, it’s not something you want to build yourself.

My drill press cost me $40. It’s far better and far safer, even though it’s still possible to injure yourself with it. But structurally it’s as sound as it gets, and acquiring it didn’t take me all weekend, either. Read more

Something that shouldn’t be there

I was standing in line to get a number for an estate sale this weekend–they’re what I do–and found myself standing a couple of people behind someone who talks too much.

I think some people talk because they want affirmation, and telling tales of what they’ve found is the way they get it. I’m very careful what I talk about, because I frequently see new people who look for exactly the same thing I look for, and if I just give away the knowledge I’ve spent years learning, it literally costs me money. But that’s not how a lot of people think, so if you keep your ears open, you can hear some good information.

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Notes on the Compaq Presario SR2011WM

I’ve been working on a Compaq Presario SR2011WM. It’s a basic, low-end, single-core Celeron D system from 2006 or so. It can take up to 2 GB of RAM, runs Windows XP adequately, and has SATA ports, so you can put an SSD in it if you want. But don’t be fooled by the name–the Celeron in this machine is single core, and has a Prescott-era Pentium 4 core in it at that, not a low-TDP, Pentium D-style core.

In case you’re wondering, the easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug in a USB drive, hit ESC as the system runs POST, then select your USB drive from the menu.

Now let’s talk about options for upgrades. Read more

It’s time to strike down the red-light cameras

I saw some abuses of the red-light cameras on the news at noon. In one case, the car next to the one that ran the light got the ticket. In another, the owner wasn’t driving the car. The reporter asked the mayor of Florissant, Thomas Schneider, if that was fair.

“It’s safe,” he said. And he said the same thing to every other question the reporter asked.

That’s debatable. But guess what? Josef Stalin’s regime was very safe. Do what Stalin said, and you were safe. That doesn’t make Stalin fair, right, or ethical. It doesn’t make Schneider fair, right, or ethical either.

It’s not safe, either.

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Value Village and Affton could be very good for one another

There’s a Value Village thrift store in Shrewsbury that’s being displaced because the plaza it’s in–the same place I used to go to buy Commodore gear–is going to be demolished to make way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Whether Shrewsbury needs a Wal-Mart Supercenter when there’s one six miles away is another question for another day.

Value Village needs someplace to go, and Affton has an available retail space that’s been empty since the hardware store previously occupying it went out of business more than a year ago. County councilman Steve Stenger (D-Affton) wants to block the move, essentially saying that Affton is too good for a place like Value Village. Read more

The AMI BIOS breach of 2013

A security professional’s nightmare happened to AMI this week. Tons of confidential data, including the source code for the UEFI BIOS for Intel Ivy Bridge-based systems and an AMI-owned private key for digital signatures, turned up on a wide-open FTP server for all comers to download anonymously. This AMI BIOS breach has numerous implications.

The implications are nearly limitless. To a malware author, this is like finding a hollowed-out book at a garage sale stuffed with $100 bills with a 25-cent price sticker on the front. If you’re a budding security professional, count on being asked in job interviews why you need to protect confidential information. The next time you get that question, here’s a story you can cite.

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R.I.P.: Netbooks

The last two netbook vendors standing, Acer and Asus, have both announced they’ve produced their last netbook. So they’re joining the Playstation 2 in the land of the digital dinosaurs, though I suspect more people will miss the 12-year-old game console than the netbook. The Guardian has an analysis, but basically they blame the emergence of tablets, and the increased cost of producing netbooks with Windows.

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The phone in the fridge, from generation to generation

We took our kids to a good friend’s birthday party this weekend. Unlike the last birthday party they attended, we only had one meltdown, and it was relatively minor. When I heard the unmistakable sound of two mini-Daves screaming at each other, I excused myself to investigate.

My boys were playing with my friend’s daughters’ kitchen set, and arguing about what you could and couldn’t put in the fridge.

“It’s ironic that my two sons would be arguing about what you can put in a fridge,” I said upon my return. Read more

E-books have taken over

This year, in terms of revenue, e-books are now the best-selling book format. E-books now outsell trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, and hardcovers. Hardcover sales haven’t declined in the past year, but trade paperback sales (think how-to nonfiction titles) are down 10.5% and mass market paperbacks (think popular fiction) are down an astounding 20.8%.

I don’t think this is a big surprise to anyone. We like our instant gratification, and e-books certainly are that. And besides instant gratification, e-readers allow one to carry an entire library of books in a device small enough to fit in a pocket. And publishers like them because it destroys the secondhand market. Read more