Car shot in Memphis, but police don’t have time to hear it…

A friend sent me this note, about a car being shot in Memphis Tn. Apparently the police don’t have time for petty crimes such as this.
Here’s the note from her, along with a picture.

Car with bullet hole

Subject: Shot on North Parkway yesterday
See the attached photo. I was driving home from work on North Parkway yesterday evening around 5:20-5:25 and my car was shot. It happened between Ayers and Bellevue. As soon as I heard it hit the car, I looked back and saw several young men standing in the front yard of a house. I thought they were throwing rocks. When I got home, I looked and saw that it was a bullet hole. I called the Memphis police and he said that they would probably not investigate and it would be listed as “vandalism”, but he did go ahead and write up a police report in case I wanted my insurance company to help pay for the repair. I¹m fine, just a little shaken and surprised that the Memphis police force is stretched so thin that people shooting cars is considered vandalism. Be careful out there!

Torque Tube tail on mini helicopter modification

I ran across this a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the effort and quality of workmanship.


Moving the motor in to the frame got the cg where it needed to be. Now the machine piro flips w/out stutter at the tail. SO, by moving the mass of the tail motor to the CG, the angular momentum is greatly reduced because of the reduced mass at the extremity. And, consequently the system uses less energy to overcome inertia to change acceleration dA/dt (jerk) and d^2A/(dt)^t (snap). Also, uses less energy and processor power to eliminate harmonics to return to stable flight after performing a high angular velocity movement.

These guys are now talking about making the tail variable pitch, adding a tail servo and getting rid of the big regulator you see stuck on the front of the board.

Here’s the thread for those that want to read about it.

I picked up this tiny 15 liter ckickity China knock off, for $22 bucks.

Main compartment is 16.5″ x 10″ x 4″
secondary is 15″ x 8.5″ x 2.25″
plus the 2 smaller external pouches on the front.
all the existing compartments have internal pouches to compartmentalize smaller stuff.
and not alot, but more than a few of the straps to attach any standard alice pack accessories

Bug Out pack

I has several cinch straps, for horizontal and vert compression.
has the waist strap, had the chest strap until I took it off.
The back straps can be detached at the bottom and tucked into a velcro sealed pouch on the back and the item can be carried like a vert briefcase.

I am using it primarily as my summer laptop bag, its minimilist size keeps it riding higher on my back and prevents it from resting on my rear seat on days when I ride the SV.

A while, we had also covered the 5.11 brand of packs. While pricier than the afore mentioned model, the value may be there for you. I just purchased a 5.11 brand as well, model is Rush 24. It was not cheap but is bad ass. It is very well appointed.

Night Blooming Cereus – A flower for a day

The Night Blooming Cereus, also spelled Cyrus is an interesting plant. Once a year, the plant develops blooms in early September. The blooms take about one month to mature, usually showing 5-10 blooms per plant. The blooms themselves are around 8″ across on this particular plant, but there are larger varieties.  See more on this plant in bloom, and the entire process here Documenting a Night Blooming Cyrus

cyrus in bloom

Two blooms on "Night Blooming Cyrus"

This plant was first discovered in the early 1700′s in Central and South America. Though originating in the deep jungles, these plants can in fact be grown in a wide variety of locations provided the plant has adequate water and drainage. Cuttings of the plant grow quickly and it’s not unreasonable to look for bud and bloom in the 2nd year of the plant given proper feeding.

Here is a time lapse video of the plant in bloom. The camera was set to record for two seconds every minute. Quiet interesting to see how quickly the bloom opens. Stands to reason as the bloom falls off less than 12 hours later. A short presentation for 12 months of growth isn’t it.

To see the full article on this plant check this site out. How to feed water and bloom a Night Blooming Cereus

Secret iPhone codes for AT&T and apple

Just thought I’d take a second to list out some cool codes you can use on  your Apple iPhone to get an inside look at what’s going on with the phone.

Most notable is the “Field Test Mode” *3001#12345#*.  Just type this in your phone screen and press call.  You will be taken to the field test mode of the iPhone where you can see specifics like signal strength, associated tower, dBm and other antenna signal specific technical stuff.  To exit this mode, simply press the home button.  As a note, this code won’t work with IOS 4.0.  You need the Apple IOS 4.1 or greater.  For some reason, Apple deprecated the “field test” code in version 4.0.

Another interesting is *#21# which gives you instant access to call handling settings for inbound calls.  This mode displays settings for inbound calls, inbound faxes (yep), and multiple other varians of inbound call handling.

This barely interesting code, *#06# allows you to view your IMEI, essentially your phones network serial number given by Apple.  This is useful if you enjoy viewing useless information.

In general, the *# prefix on command codes will “interrogate” the phone, ** prefix is used to “setup” the phone and ## is used to delete or terminate instructions.

I have about 30 more codes currently being verified.  I’ll post them when we’re sure they are accurate.  Most of the codes mentioned here are ATT codes, but I’m working on a handful of apple specific codes that look promising.  More to come.

Continued approximation instances – Sabrett hot dog 50 pack

Toshiba’s challenges with “approximation” are not theirs alone.  Recently I procured a 50 pack of Sabrett beef hot dogs.  A 50 pack to be specific.  However, looking at the “Servings” language on the package, they have curiously added the word “about”.  “Serving size 1 frank 46G.  Servings about 50″.

Sabrett beef hot dog

Apparently packaging exact quantities of Sabrett all beef hot dogs is not as easy as it seems.  Additionally, the exactness of quantity seems questionable for a variety of items including food products, dry goods and previously mentioned Toshiba LCD TV post.

Toshiba TV dimensions are only “approximate”

Just left a buddies house that got a new 48″ Toshiba flat panel TV.   Many potential buyers would be concerned about the outside dimensions of a TV like this if they planned to place it in furniture or other constrained areas.   If you fall into that category, you’ll just have to take your chances with Toshiba, because all their dimensions are only “Approximate”.

toshiba-lcd-approximateclose up of approximate dimensions

The logic behind Toshiba’s inability to accurately state dimensions of  LCD TV’s they make escapes me.   I suspect there are attorney’s involved.  At any rate, they in no way produced a product worthy of the Gigawidget badge in this case.  Try again Toshiba, dimensions should have been the easy part after you made the TV.

Solved Direct TV error code 0704 iPhone application – technical difficulties

We thought we’d found a real Gigawidget here.  The DirectTV iphone app looked promising and easy to use.  So I downloaded the DirectTV iphone application and get the common 0704 error when the application runs.   The error states technical difficulties.   Great!  It goes on to say “No local zip code was found for this account.”  I jumped onto the DirectTV forums and was surprised to see their Tech Administrator posting the following solution for this same error.  Basically saying he has no idea and would appreciate help solving the problem.


Note the comment where the Direct TV tech specifically says “You’re right, I have no clue.”  and this part “posted that message at the behest of technical support who tells me they are anxious to get you all going. They asked me again this morning to urge those of you with difficulty to do the email reporting thing.”.  Really?  I can’t believe someone inside the organization hasn’t seen this post and “corrected” it!  Wow!

I’m going to do a little research and see what I can find out about this problem.  Maybe this app isn’t a gigawidget after all…

Addition 2-14-10

The solution to the dreaded error code 0704 on the direct tv iphone application is, just wait.  No, I’m serious!  Today, I launched the application, it started up, and didn’t crash with the error.  I believe this is due to the iPhone app  requiring the guide to be fully downloaded to the receiver before the receiver is “prepared” to take DVR signals.  I suppose this is some sort of data control mechanism for process purposes.  True or not, waiting 4 days solved the problem.

As a note, I prefer using the iPhone app for programming the DVR or sitting in front of the tv.  It’s much quicker and intuitive.

3 Reasons Gigawidget Inc. fired Comcast today

First I’ll say that this decision was based entirely on customer service.  What made the decision to fire Comcast a little more difficult is that I had little complaint on the actual service.

Strike 1 – Comcast billed for work not done

When the service was first installed the TV service, the Comcast technician decided hooking up the 2nd TV was going to be too much trouble, I assume.  He made the comment to our assistant that “someone” here seemed to know alot about wiring, and they should be able to make the final connections for that TV.  He scribbled some things on a ticket and had her sign it, stating “if I hook the 2nd TV up, I’ll have to charge you for it”.  Later that day, I made my way into the attic and discovered cables to the 2nd TV were cut.  After making a new run, terminating both ends and adding a tap, the 2nd TV was up and running.  No thanks to the Comcast TV technician!

We made 2 calls to Comcast attempting to resolve this issue.  On the first call, the Comcast customer service representative stated that since the “work order” had been signed by my assistant, it was a binding document and nothing could be done.  She went on to say that she could have a manager call me back, which I requested.  The call never came.  On the second call, the entire situation was reiterated, with the exact same outcome.

Strike 2 – Hours and hours spent watching untrained tech’s troubleshoot Comcast internet

Strike 3 – Investigating service level reduction options results in cancellation

As many companies, we looked to reduce service levels with Comcast in effort to lower monthly expenses.  The call started out with request for options on the Comcast internet service.  The representative spoke some form of English, I believe it was an Ebonics variant.  She repeatedly stated there was no lower package available, other than 60$/month.   Simply not the case, according to their site.

The conversation moved to discussing reduction of the TV package, when she then paused, and with no notification,  blind transferred me to some kind of menu system.  Having my fill of her barely legible ebonics and complete lack of customer service etiquette, I was done.

At the end of this relationship, it was very clear to me that at some level, in fact multiple levels, within the Comcast organization, they just don’t care about customer service.  While I could begin to speculate that this mentality exist predominantly in the Memphis market, I have personnel experience this is not the case.

As alternative service providers continue to solidify their offerings, no doubt Comcast will reap the benefits of their customer service tactics.   Even DOCIS 3 roll-out won’t be enough to keep customers that dial 901-259-2225.

As a note, our service providers now include Direct TV for television and AT&T DSL for internet.  Both organizations have already exemplified the type of customer service we’d expect when paying hard earned money in trade for commodity services.

Note these are my opinions and perceptions, which of course translate to reality for me.

Portable DVD Player converted to xbox preview monitor

Over the weekend, I decided to see what could be done with an old, non working portable DVD player made by Polaroid.  I’ve been needing a preview monitor for viewing content and playlist via my networked xbox.

The teardown went pretty smoothly.  Once disassembled, I removed the dvd drive, com board, power cables, audio system and charging apparatus.   When done, I had the monitor complete with composite video inputs, and the associated circuitry.

Next, a trip to Target for a suitable picture frame.  The model chosen, 2.99 on sale!  What made this frame interesting is the innards.  After a little work with the dremel, I was able to fit the entire board and power supply components into the frame!  Temped things up with a little hot glue and powered her up for the post assembly test!

Results.  I’ve got a mini monitor that handles composite video signal for playing things like xbox, ipod or plain ‘ole TV.  As you see in the pic, I’m playing video content off my ipod.


As there is still a bit of room in the frame, I’m going to mount a balun inside the frame as well.  This will convert composite video to twisted pair, and allow me to run both video and power to the unit via a single Cat5E cable for a really clean install.

Update 2-6-10

Here’s a shot of the frame opened up.  You can see in this photo where I took the inside of the frame and used the dremel to open up the inside of the backing, the flipped it over 180 deg. to provide the extra depth needed to house all the circuitry.

open view of picture frame dvd hack

Here’s another shot that includes the audio/video splitter I’ll use to provide input to the frame as well as my main TV.   The splitter, made by Niles Audio, takes a single left right audio and video connection and splits it into 4 outputs.  Also pictured is my xbox remote that I’ll use to navigate the content.

audio video splitter for picture frame dvd screen hack