Update Just Because

on Saturday 07 January 2012 - 23:11:15 | by Tripper
Realizing that I haven't updated any news items in well over a year, I figured I should probably drop something on the site. Seeing the kayaking article makes me slightly sad because this past summer didn't offer much river time due to the large amount of precipitation received. Hopefully that will be rectified this coming season.
Last week, a few friends and I managed to use my new smoker to create some kielbasa which came out great. I have some work to do on the smoker however for the most part, all went well. I'd post some pictures however my iPhone and my gallery are at war and I'm the loser in the battle.
Other than that, a mild winter so far so my wood supply is doing quite well. I should finish splitting and stage the bulk of it closer to the house but you know, that is much more fun when it's freezing and there is at least 8 inches of snow to contend with.
That's it for the moment!

DIY Central Vac

on Wednesday 20 June 2007 - 08:33:44 | by Tripper
One of the items we wanted in our new house was a central vac system. If you have ever priced these bad boys out, you will see they can be very expensive for just a base system. Fortunately, I found a system that can be built for a fraction of a purchased system and so far, works as well or better. Unfortunately, the article isn't published on the web however the magazine is BackWoods Home and the issue is #97, January/February 2006. Visit their site at www.backwoodshome.com. I used David Lee's information to get a basic idea of how to design my system however made some changes which of course added cost but gave us the full central vac effect. I won't compare every change I made but the basic differences in our system vs. the article are hose and attachments as well as vacuum placement. Dave suggested a pool cleaning hose and placement of the vac outside in a weather-proof cabinet. As you will read, I took a different path on both.

[ Read the rest ... ]

Homebuilding 101

on Friday 01 June 2007 - 07:16:11 | by Tripper
After a long process and of course multiple obstacles, our house is finally ready for occupancy. I suppose the inspector will verify that today however I'm confident that we have our ducks in a row. The project is the reason I have neglected to update anything on my site, with the exception of pictures.

Lets see, we started November 25th by removing the roof from an existing garage located on 24.54 acres. This was by far the most productive day as we had 14 friends and family members show up. We managed to peel the entire roof structure including sheathing and trusses, set the new floor trusses, and nail and glue the subfloor in one day.

The following week we were blessed with 60+ degree weather which is highly odd for NEPa in November. I decided to take the week off and work with my contractor/father-in-law to get the exterior walls up.

Around the 10th of December, the weather was still playing friendly so we continued enlisting friends and family to help place the roof trusses on top of our newly constructed walls.

Knowing we had all the break Mother Nature was willing to give, we wrapped up the roofing and house wrap in short order. This was a great feeling as the structre was basically weather-proof. We were now able to focus on the interior details.

Of course there was a ton of work to follow the exterior walls. There weren't very many pictures taken because visually, it was fairly boring.

So, about 6 months of work and the house is very near completion. There are a ton of "little things" to be finished however more in line with weekend projects. Probably the most difficult and satifying process was the heating system installation. That is reserved for a whole other entry however.


on Saturday 18 November 2006 - 22:01:49 | by Tripper
For those interested in a fun linux distro, check out BackTrack. It is basically an overhauled slackware with a beautiful selection of security tools. About 3 years ago, I played with knoppix STD which was also fun however many of the tools wouldn't function correctly and development has all but stopped (there was supposed to be a new release at the end of Q1 2005). This is certainly not the case for BackTrack. The developers have put forth a great product which is very easy to use/install/configure.

So far, I have used and/or installed it on the following successfully:

Live CD
1G USB drive (using MySlax)
4G USB Mini-Drive
HDD Install on a Dell Inspiron c640

Like I said, its an easy install and runs great on all of the devices I have tested. I plan on removing Fedora from my laptop and installing BackTrack in its place within a few weeks.

At first, I thought I would just load it and see what was available. After I found out how nice it ran on the live CD, I decided to remove some of the latency and customize it by doing a hdd install. You can find any of the installation methods documented on the BackTrack site should you be so inclined.

I manage the wireless network at my current workplace. I try and stay aware of various methods of hacking into that portion of the LAN and I have to say, this OS is by far the best tool out there. Within a few days of playing, I was able to authenticate to our RADIUS server using a spoofed MAC address. Granted, I have first-hand knowledge of how our security works, nonetheless, I found this to be quite interesting.

I am working on getting kismet up and running with my test laptop at the moment. This has been a challenge mainly because I'm not all that versed in linux but also I happen to have a WaveLAN mini-pci card which is manufactured by Orinoco. This requires you use some patched or hacked up drivers to get the monitoring module to work. So, after I add the drivers or patch the drivers, I may have to recompile the kernel and I'm just not at that level. Perhaps I will be by the end of the weekend.

Hard Cider Pt. II

on Saturday 18 November 2006 - 21:32:11 | by Tripper
I took the plunge today and mixed up a few batches of cider. It is getting late in the apple season and I figured that if I didn't do it by this weekend, I would have to wait another year. Friday, I was able to drop by a local orchard and pick up 9 gallons of unpasteurized cider. I had the carboys on loan from a friend and the only other major component needed was a sugar. This is how it went down.

First off, realize that pasteurized cider has no active yeast. The process which removes harmful bacteria also kills the much needed yeast for making hard cider. You can add yeast (champagne, brewers, and even bread if you so desire) to filtered cider but I really wanted the au natural version for my undertaking.

I had pretty much decided on my recipes. The basic cider is 1 cup of sugar per gallon of cider. You can use brown or white or corn syrup for that matter. Additionally, you can use 1 lb of honey per gallon which was my sugar of choice, well, for the bulk of it. The idea is to have enough sugar to allow the yeast to work and move the sugars to alcohol. Your yeast ultimately determines the alcohol content. Different yeasts die at different levels of alcohol so once the alcohol level gets to a certain point, the yeast can no longer survive and the alcohol content is at its max.

I have 3 carboys for my project. One 6 gallon, one 3 gallon, and one 1 gallon. This works out for my use because I'm just starting and want to experiment without wasting the entire batch. The 6 gallon unit was just the basic 6 lbs of honey and 6 gallons of cider. I'll bring up a point here which applies to all of my mixtures. I've read and have been told that you can just dump your sugar into the carboy without mixing it. While I'm sure this will work, I feel that the product will work more completely by thoroughly mixing my sugar into the cider. Again, I'm certainly not an expert but this is my opinion and the technique I decided on. I placed the appropriate amount of honey into a stock pot and added about a half gallon of cider. I set the temperature to low and stirred constantly. This took only a few minutes and made me feel like I was doing something productive. Additionally, it made adding the honey much easier than if I had tried to pour it into the carboy.

So, 6 gallons of honey cider blended together and set ready to go. For the 3 gallon, I figured I could get a little daring so I added a can of Welch's white grape peach concentrate and honey as the sugar. Nothing too crazy but I wanted to see if it added a nice flavor. Of course there is also sugar in the concnetrate so it should be a little bit sweeter than the basic version.

The 1 gallon was open game. I figured wasting a gallon and still having 9 wouldn't be to bad, so, I got a little crazy. I had just harvested and dried some peppers my grandmother grew. These aren't habaneros but they are about the same size and about the same heat. I think they were some type of genetically altered jalapeno's. I had pulled the plant about a month ago and let them dry on the branch in our utility room. I placed three of them into the cider to see what kind of bite they would bring. Additionally, I used 1 cup of brown sugar in this batch. I really feel it was important to premix the sugar with cider in this case. I used the same process as I did with the honey and then funneled it into the carboy.

I topped all three primary fermentors with a rubber cork and airlock. I placed them in a spare bedroom on the second floor of our house. We don't use the upstairs so it gets very little heat during the winter months. The temperature remains fairly constant at about 55. Using this space will keep my two-year old from playing with the carboys and also keep a somewhat stable environment. I do have plans for a reserved area in our basement/garage at the new place for performing this type of activity in the future. I'll post some info when I am able to taste it. Should be a few months.

Hard Cider

on Saturday 04 November 2006 - 19:34:14 | by Tripper
Lets see... where do I begin. I have a problem, perhaps a disease. Maybe its the engineer in me or just the curious George. If I find a topic that interests me, I need to find out everything about it. Sure, there are some things that I just find out the basics and move on but 9 times out of 10, I need the whole 9 yards.

Enter cider fermentation. I spent some time last year pressing apples and getting the cider ready to ferment in an oak barrel. I enjoyed the time but moreso, the process and variables that can change flavors and taste. So like most topics that peak my brain, I began to search the internet and read books available. I found several different methods and additional subtle changes.

The problem with our product ended up being, well, everything. It tasted great when it was finished however shortly thereafter, it turned to vinegar. Once it starts going, there is no end to the flavor.

So I borrowed some carboys for my own experimentation this year. I plan on 10 gallons total. I have a 6 gallon, a 3 gallon, and a 1 gallon fermentation tank. This will give me the ability to really test out some of the recipes I have found.

Fortunately, I have a individual at work whom I can tap for knowledge. He has been brewing cider for several years and has an outstanding final product. This will be the 6 gallon unit, safe and somewhat guaranteed.

For the 3 gallon, I plan on changing it up slightly and introducing some outside influence like cranberries. I'll use honey as the sugar and rely on the natural yeast. (The main batch will be just honey)

For the 1 gallon, I plan on really switching it up and adding some hot peppers. At first, you might cringe but if you have ever had hot pepper jelly or relish, you might see the light. Only 1 gallon so if it fails, no big deal.

The cider will begin fermentation this week and I'll rack it in about 1and a half months. After that, I'll let it finish working and perhaps rack it a second time, bottle it, and let it mellow out.

Sun Ultra 10 Change 2000

on Friday 03 November 2006 - 08:00:04 | by Tripper
Solaris is just a pain in the ass. I have some experience in it but you know, it's sad when current distro's of linux are just that much easier to install/configure. So I had Solaris 10 up and running on my Sun Ultra 10. I wanted to install VNC. So I navigated to SunFreeware.com and found the appropriate link. Of course there were 5 or so dependencies needed. So I began to hit the links and they each had 3 or so dependencies.......

After I started looking at this process just to get VNC installed, I decided there has to be something better...and there is, Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is by far the most versatile OS I've ever seen. To date, I have installed it on an iMac, a G4, several PC's, and now, my Sun Ultra 10 which is a 64bit SPARC processor and as proprietary as it gets. The best part is the install took all of 15 minutes and within 3 minutes, I had the ssh server installed and running thanks to the apt-get command.

So, two things here to think about.
A: Ubuntu is not only easy to use, it works as planned and will install on anything you have laying around.
B: See A:


Ultimate Ghost CD

on Wednesday 01 November 2006 - 17:01:33 | by Tripper
I deal with approximately 2000 workstations daily. We keep a pretty good rolling inventory by replacing 160 per year. This means that each computer is updated every 5 years. Within the past 4 years, we have only purchased Dell's because of their service and their products are one of the best as far as mass produced units go.

Keeping track of images for each model of machine has been a bit of a challenge. Not only do we have standard desktops but we have desktops that need Adobe software installed for our graphics labs and various other specialty products as well. I had everything down to a science in that I had created a bootable USB drive and managed all of our images on one 80G drive. This worked great in most cases however a bit slow for USB 1.1 machines.

Recently, our computers, GX620's, have only USB support for KB and mouse. You wouldn't think this to be much of an issue however it played havoc with ghost and USB drives. After a few weeks of research and a few days of trial and error, I managed to create the ultimate Ghost CD.

This CD starts up in a menu and you select the appropriate desktop model which actually loads the correct network drivers. Additionally, there is a choice for USB images if needed. For hit and miss cases where I need to re-image a single pc, USB is fine. But if I am imaging several computers at once, netcast is the way to go.

So you select the appropriate setting and it loads everything needed for your session. It works out to be a great setup if you have the need to manage many pc's.

Sun Micro Ultra 10 and Solaris

on Tuesday 31 October 2006 - 20:16:45 | by Tripper
I've had a Sun workstation for a few years and get the itch to play with it once in a while. Recently, JRKy and I decided it would be a nice backup for our webserver. It has a 440Mhz SPARC CPU and 1G of ECC RAM. Additionally, I added a 120G hdd some time ago.

For those of you who haven't taken a moment or two to explore Unix-based OS's, I suggest you don't. They can be very tempramental to say the least and it isn't quite like riding a bike. If you don't use it, you lose it.

So, we were able to get SSH up and running. Well, actually it was running we just managed to access it. We created users and some other minor tasks as well. It is kind of fun exploring an area that is unknown.

One cool thing is that I found a backup of some info I thought I had lost quite a while ago. I'm moving it all to my windows box via smb at the moment.

I suppose thats all for now.

Home Theatre PC

on Sunday 29 October 2006 - 08:25:27 | by Tripper
I recently pieced together a home theatre pc. I thought XP Media Center was a cut down version of XP Home but after using it, I found it to be very interesting to say the least.

I was able to gather some components that I had around and the only purchase was for a PVR card. This takes your tv input and enables you to record live tv among other things. I have antenna reception and it still works great. Media Center uses the wireless card in the computer to receive station listings from the internet. It updates every few days and keeps two weeks of listings in the guide. You can record per instance or set it to record a series.

Additionally, you can watch DVD's, access music collections, and browse internet tv. I am in the process of backing up our DVD collection to another computer. This works out great because we don't have to load DVD's to watch our favorite movies. Our children have a habit of treating our DVDs like a set of legos so once our movies our backed up, we won't have to worry about scratches and missing discs.

The cost would be about $700.00 if you wanted to build your own. Media Center Edition runs about $109.00 currently and the PVR cards range from $50.00 to $300.00 dollars. Eventually I will add another card which will enable us to watch one show while recording another or record two shows simultaneously.

My current setup is more or less a beta test for what will go into the new house. I'm trying to lay it out so we can have one media server with all of our movies and music on it and access stations in the appropriate locations. IE kitchen, bedrooms, living room, garage...

Shoot me a note if you have questions on setup, design or configuration.


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