Entertainment While Traveling To/From Bulgaria

When you fly to Eastern Europe, it’s important to have entertainment to pass the time. I split time between a couple of books and a few movies.

The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware

the-hardware-hacker-book-coverEarly this year, I enjoyed watching Ask an Engineer with Andrew “bunnie” Huang. I’ve been meaning to read his book The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware. Especially with all of the hardware experimenting I’ve been doing. I haven’t been making time to read any books lately, but I figured this trip would be a great time to get back on the train. I bought the book and added it to my Kindle.

The title is misleading; The book’s main focus is on the manufacturing of hardware. Even though I’ll probably never manufacture a hardware product, I did learn a lot and enjoyed the read. Many of my favorites parts of the book centered around China. More to come in an upcoming blog post, once I do some research and learn more about a few topics.

I should check out bunnie’s other book, Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering.

Hidden Figures

I’ve been wanting to see this movies, so I jumped all over it when I saw it in the Delta options. Really enjoyed it. We take computers for granted so much and it’s pretty amazing to think that we made it into space with so much of the math being done by hand. The movie was a good reminder of how far we’ve come with gender and racial equality in the last 50 years. We still have so far to go.

Steve Jobs

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_Isaacson Pretty sure I’ve had this on my Kindle for at least 5 years, maybe even since it was released in October of 2011. After reading the Hardware Hacker and learning so much about electronics lately I felt it was a good time to dive in.

Amazon says the book has 657 pages, so it’s no wonder I didn’t finish it. I think I’m just over 1/3 done.

I’m actually glad I waited so long to read the book; getting a better understanding of how electronics work and tinkering with them is allowing me to appreciate Jobs’ early years more than I would have before.

Collateral Beauty

An enjoyable feel-good story. Doesn’t hurt that Will Smith, Keira Knightley, and Edward Norton all starred in it; they are some of my favorites.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Does Tom Cruise ever age? I liked the first one better. Most of the fight scenes were pretty poor in this.

Strengthsfinder

We tried Strengthsfinder as a team exercise last week our meetup in Bulgaria. It’s a tool for measuring and identifying your strengths, with the goal of understanding and developing them further.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of talents in 34 general areas referred to as “themes.” Talents are ways in which we naturally think, feel, and behave as unique individuals, and they serve as the foundation of strengths development.

After taking the test, it identified my top 5 strengths as:

  1. Deliberative

    People with strong Deliberative talents are careful and vigilant. Everything may seem in order, but beneath the surface they sense many risks. Rather than avoiding these hazards, they draw each one out into the open. Then each risk can be identified, assessed, and ultimately reduced. Thus, those with strong Deliberative talents bring a thorough and conscientious approach to making decisions. They take care to consider options, thinking through the pros and cons of each alternative. To them, making the correct choice is more important than the time it takes to do so. They see life as something of a minefield. Others can run through it recklessly if they so choose, but they take a different approach. They identify the dangers, weigh their relative effect, and then place their feet deliberately. They walk with care

  2. Analytical

    People with strong Analytical talents challenge others to “Prove it.” They take a critical approach to what others might quickly accept as truth. They search for the reasons why things are the way they are. They want to understand how certain patterns affect one another. How do they combine? What is the outcome? Does this outcome fit with the theory offered or the situation at hand? These are their questions. Others see them as logical and rigorous. Some may feel that they are negative or unnecessarily critical when they are simply trying to understand something. They bring an objective and dispassionate examination that enables them to find the root causes and effects, and then develop clear thoughts based on facts.

  3. Relator

    Relator talents describe a person’s attitude toward their relationships. In simple terms, people with strong Relator talents are drawn to others they already know. They do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people — in fact, they may have other themes that cause them to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends — but they do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around their close friends. In short, a person with strong Relator talents forms close relationships with people. They may know many people, and they can relate to all kinds of people. But they also have a very small group of friends with whom they have incredibly deep relationships

  4. Learner

    People with strong Learner talents constantly strive to learn and improve. The process of learning is as important to them as the knowledge they gain. Learners are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. They are excited by the thrill of learning new facts, beginning a new subject, and mastering an important skill. Learning builds their confidence. Having Learner as a dominant theme does not necessarily motivate someone to become a subject matter expert or strive for the respect that accompanies earning a professional or academic credential. The outcome of learning is less significant than “getting there.”

  5. Command

    People with strong Command talents naturally take charge. They see what needs to be done, and they are willing to speak up. They are not frightened by confrontation; rather, they understand that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. They need things to be clear among people and will challenge others to be realistic and honest. Their talent pushes them to take risks. At times, those with strong Command talents may intimidate others. And while some may resent this talent, others often willingly hand them the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stand and are willing to lead.

I think the first 4 are dead on. Parts of the Command description don’t seem to match up, but I guess that’s why it’s ranked at the bottom. If you pay for the full test you get over 30 strengths.

We agreed that the whole thing was a bit like reading your horoscope.

Fing on a Plane

Fing is an iOS app that detects devices connected to a network. I ran it about 5 hours in to my DTW->AMS flight last week. Of the 47 devices found, only 12 were reporting as something other than an Apple product.

Phone Keypad Hacking: Part 4

So when part 3 of this series turned out to be a bit uneventful, I wasn’t expecting a grand finale with fireworks. I was right about it being more difficult though.

Through numerous failed attempts I was running into trouble isolating the signals between the rows and columns. Everything was getting connected in one big circuit. Then I realized it was a perfect place to use diodes! Each button needed 2 though; one for its connection to the row and one to the column. I have a bunch of 1N4148 signal diodes so I wired everything up.


Although the Fritzing is using a different board than in the implementation pictured above, it’s much easier to follow the wiring…

2x3-custom-keypad-wiring.png

This obviously is a lot more complicated circuit than the examples in part 3 of this series. It was a success at what I set out to do though and it works great with my custom keypad code. I’ve also added the actual Fritzing file for this circuit to the repo.

I’m glad I continued down this path with keypad experimentation. I learned a lot. In the beginning I was wondering why the keypads you can buy these days work the way they do and not how I had wired up the old phone keypad to function. Turns out what ended up being a simple solution for me was due to how the old phone keypad made its connections mechanically inside the device. The keypad solutions I showed in part 3 are much easier to create as I’ve now proven by recreating the circuit above.

I’m still curious if I could wire up the old phone keypad to work with the Arduino Keypad library. I guess if I ever get my hands on another old phone, I’ll have to continue with a part 5 of this series.

Disable Chrome Notifications

Since switching to Chrome, I’ve been annoyed when sites ask to send me notifications. I never want them. Turns out you can disable them completely.

  1. Visit chrome://settings in the address bar.
  2. Click Show advanced settings at the bottom.
  3. Under Privacy click the Content Settings button.
  4. Scroll down to Notifications and select Do not allow any site to show notifications.
  5. Profit.

chrome-do-not-allow-notifications.png

Fidget Spinners

I made a couple of fidget spinners out of wood, screws, and a couple of 2 cent coins from Spain. The bearings came out of old Rollerblade wheels. Even after cleaning up the bearings, neither one spins very well, so I think I need to get some ones before making more spinners.


This was a good excuse to buy a Dremel, which I’ve been wanting for a long time. Awesome tool to have. I didn’t buy it until I’d already cut out the basic shapes and done some basic sanding though. The next batch of spinners will be much easier with the Dremel available for the entire process.

Bloodline’s Final Season

When I checked out Bloodline in season 1, I wasn’t expecting much. Season 1 and 2 were great though. Season 3 is right around the corner…

I wonder how many people missed where it says “The Final Season” at the end. I wish more TV shows would call it quits after a few seasons. Far too many drag on and on.

Knowing this will be the end has me even more excited to see what happens. Unfortunately it might be awhile before I get to watch it because I need to watch season 2 of Sense8 and House of Cards is released at the end of the month as well. I’ll only be home for about 2 days over the next 2 weeks, so there won’t be much time in front of the TV.

HackerBox #0018 – Circuit Circus

It’s not often an online ad catches my eye, but when I saw one for HackerBoxes, I clicked through. I’ve enjoyed Adafruit’s quarterly subscription service AdaBox and wondered if this was similar.

The HackerBoxes look lower quality, but are cheaper ($44 compared to $60, both with free shipping) and ship monthly instead of quarterly. The previous boxes listed on the site looked neat and sell for $59 before shipping so it seemed like a pretty good deal. I really like the idea of having something new to tinker with each month instead of only 4 times a year. I signed up and was surprised to get a shipment notification for the most recent box.

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This box is based around a little Transistor Tester kit you build. It also comes with a variety of extra electronic components that help go through a series of tutorials and aid in experimenting with circuits and the tester. If this box is any indication, I’m going to enjoy these each month.

It took me a couple of hours to assemble and solder the tester kit. I recorded it (had to stop twice to recharge the GoPro battery) and ended up with over 100 minutes of video! Nobody wants to watch all of that, so I cut out some empty space and sped it up to 20x.

Now I have a cool test device built by hand…

Bone Marrow

I’ve been wanting to try marrow for a long time and finally found it on a menu at Chef’s Live inside the Sense Hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was not disappointed!