Butt Fire!

As I rolled into the Stewart’s Shop on a milk-and-eggs run, a plume of smoke spiraled out of the cigarette butt station near the door, way off on the left side:

Smoldering Cigarette Dump
Smoldering Cigarette Dump

A closer look:

Smoldering Cigarette Dump - Detail
Smoldering Cigarette Dump – Detail

By the time I unhitched myself from the bike and reached the door, two smoke jets squirted from the top and a pall of breathtakingly foul smoke filled the parking lot. I mooched a big cup of water from the folks behind the counter and pulled off the container’s lid, which let in enough oxygen to ignite a full-up fire in the heap of cigarette packs, plastic wrappers, butts, lottery tickets, receipts, and other combustible junk atop the sand bucket in the base of the butt dump. Sprinkling the water over the blaze knocked it back; I replaced the lid and declared victory.

I always take a shower after returning home from a ride, but, this time, we also ran all my bike clothing through the washer right away.


Verily, it is written: Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.

Cycliq Fly6: Rain-shedding Performance

Cycliq says “Using the latest nanotechnology, Fly6 is safeguarded against any wet weather nature can throw at you.” That’s not quite the same as saying it’s waterproof, but the plastic lens cover sheds water surprisingly well.

We were caught in a brief downpour on a recent ride and, not unexpectedly, water covered the rear-facing lens:

Fly6 - Rain 1
Fly6 – Rain 1

A larger drop ran down the left side, merged with the previous drop, and blurred two thirds of the image:

Fly6 - Rain 2
Fly6 – Rain 2

Three seconds and a few major jolts later, the lens was mostly clear:

Fly6 - Rain 3
Fly6 – Rain 3

Half a minute later, it’s looking even better:

Fly6 - Rain 4
Fly6 – Rain 4

The jolts come from the deteriorated paving and poor patches along Rt 376, but at least they shake the water off the lens:

Fly6 - Rain 5
Fly6 – Rain 5

Ten minutes after the first image, both the lens and the sky were almost completely clear:

Fly6 - Rain 6
Fly6 – Rain 6

A pleasant surprise!

That transverse crack just behind me? Charlie Brown’s First Principle of Puddles applies: you cannot tell how deep a puddle is from the top. That sucker goes down through at least three layers of paving:

Crack - Red Oaks Mill
Crack – Red Oaks Mill

I forgot to put the Sony HDR-AS30V helmet camera in its waterproof housing before we left, so I put it in the (not exactly waterproof, either) underseat pack when the first drops fell. Sony makes no pretense that the bare camera can survive a rainstorm, but the packs are good for our simple needs.

Ed’s First Principle of Rain Riding: After the first five minutes, you don’t get any wetter.

Always Sign Your Work

Quite some years ago, I added a wire shelf to the bottom of the “pantry” closet to hold odds-and-ends. The most recent deep-cleaning cycle required removing the shelf, which required removing the mounting brackets to get the fool thing out of the closet.

The backside of one bracket shows I had a bit of trouble matching the mounting holes to the wall anchors:

Pantry wire shelf brackets - overview
Pantry wire shelf brackets – overview

The lower bracket bears some advice from my Shop Assistant:

Pantry wire shelf brackets - detail
Pantry wire shelf brackets – detail

Check thrice
Measure twice
Cut once

From what little we hear these days, she’s learned the value of always checking her work…

And she signs it, too.

Halloween Horror: Line Voltage on the Loose!

I hauled the Kenmore 158 sewing machine and controller to a Squidwrench meeting for some current measurements (and, admittedly, showing it off) while schmoozing. After hauling it home and setting it up on my bench again, it didn’t work: the motor didn’t run at all.

While doing the usual poking around under the cover, I spotted this horrifying sight:

Loose AC line hot wire
Loose AC line hot wire

The brown insulation tells you that’s a hot wire from the AC line and, in fact, it’s coming directly from the line fuse; it’s live whenever the plug is in.

It’s a stranded wire to allow flexing without breaking, but that same flexibility allows it to squeeze its way out of a tightly fastened screw terminal. In principle, one should crimp a pin on the wire, but the only pins in my heap don’t quite fit along the screw terminal block.

This sort of thing is why I’m being rather relentless about building a grounded, steel-lined box with all the pieces firmly mounted on plastic sheets and all the loose ends tucked in. If that wire had gone much further to the side or top, it would have blown the fuse when it tapped the steel frame. The non-isolated components on that board are facing you, with those connections as far from the terminal block as they can be.

Engineers tend to be difficult to live with, because we have certain fixed ways of doing things that are not amenable to debate. There’s probably a genetic trait involved, but we also realize that being sloppy can kill you rather quickly; the universe is not all about pink unicorns and rainbows.

In fact, the universe wants you dead.

Now, go play with those goblins and zombies tonight…

Memo to Self: Tighten those terminals every now and again. A wire will come loose shortly after you forget to do that, of course.

Interplak Water Jet: End of the Line

The brittle tubing on Mary’s Interplak water jet continued to disintegrate, so I replaced the entire tube with Tygon:

Interplak water jet - interior
Interplak water jet – interior

Nisley’s First Rule of Plumbing: Never, ever look inside the pipes delivering water to your faucet.

Interplak handle - interior view
Interplak handle – interior view

That’s not quite inside the pipes, but it’s pretty grotendous, isn’t it?

As expected, flexible tubing doesn’t transmit the pressure pulses nearly as well as the OEM rigid tubing, so we finally bought a new Waterpik. At least you can get replacement tubing for Waterpiks, but I’ll wait until it fails before stocking up.

Contrary to what you might expect, I cut the Interplak’s cord, harvested the motor windings, and dumped the carcass in the trash.

Firefox Accounts: Total FAIL

So I’m in the process of installing Xubuntu 14.04LTS on a box and get to the point where I’m ready to install various daemons and utilities, then tweak their settings, so it’s time to have the new Firefox inhale all my settings from the Firefox on my 13.10 desktop, which will let me find all my blog posts with that information. This used to be a simple matter of going into the new Firefox’s Preferences, getting a one-time pairing code, typing it into the other desktop, and away it went, synchronizing the two installations.

But, no.

While I wasn’t watching, Firefox crept up to Version 29 and, at some point, Mozilla introduced Firefox Accounts. Why would they do that? Here’s a hint:

Firefox Accounts is a consumer account system which provides access to services run by Mozilla, such as Firefox Marketplace and the next version of Firefox Sync.

Firefox Marketplace? Say no more: money changes everything!

Oh, and the “next version of Firefox Sync” is totally incompatible with the “old version” used by all existing Firefox installations.

But it gets worse (emphasis mine):

What if I don’t want to update to the new Sync?

  • While the old version of Sync will continue to work, the latest version of Firefox doesn’t support adding new devices to the old version of Sync. This means that you won’t be able to sync with a new device.
  • Mozilla will continue to host the old version of Sync for a limited time to allow for migration to Firefox Accounts.

In order to sync the 14.10 Firefox, I must upgrade the 13.10 Firefox, but after I do that, none of the other boxes will be able to sync with either of them. I haven’t checked whether Firefox Version 29 is offered for the 10.04LTS installation that’s running on the LinuxCNC boxes.

My 13.10 desktop has endured many, many, many automatic Firefox upgrades during their recent version incrementing mania and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t offer “New Sync” as an option, despite being at the same Version 29 as the 14.04 installation. This is likely a problem with some Firefox extension or another, but I disabled them to no avail.

When all else fails, you always create a new profile by starting the Firefox Profile Manager:

firefox -profilemanager

That works as expected; the new and completely bare profile let me create a new Firefox Account, which entails the usual to-ing and fro-ing with emailed one-time authorizations and suchlike. OK, now I can use the shiny new Firefox Marketplace, should I so desire. Be still, my heart!

So, we progress.

But my original intent was to get all the setup data into the 14.04 Firefox, so (on the 13.10 Firefox) I followed the directions about transferring the old settings into the new profile, which involves tediously hand-copying a bunch of files from one cryptic directory to another. This is a brutally user-hostile operation that only geeks should endure; there is absolutely no automation to be found.

Having a new profile, albeit without any of the old extensions, I attempt to sync my settings, only to discover that the new Firefox Sync will not synchronize my stored passwords, which was pretty much the whole point of this exercise.

Turns out that’s deliberate:

Firefox Sync will not synchronize your passwords if a master password is set. If you would like to continue synchronizing your passwords, try removing your master password before synchronizing.

Now, why would I have a master password? Because, long ago, the good folks at Mozilla highly recommended it (emphasis mine):

It takes only fifteen seconds for a prying user sitting at your computer to see the list of all the passwords you have told Firefox or Thunderbird to save. The list is shown plain as day. It can include webmail and forum passwords or email server passwords. Using a Master Password is highly recommended, to prevent such prying users from seeing the list. By setting a Master Password, anyone using your profile will be prompted to enter the master password when access to your stored passwords is needed.

So, the new Firefox Sync requires a Firefox Account that doesn’t do anything I need done and, in order to sync my 13.10 settings into the 14.04 box, I must have a new Firefox Account and make both Firefox installations less secure.

I think it’s possible to remove the master password, sync the stored passwords, then restore the master password. When you remove the password, you get a confirmation message:

You have deleted your Master Password. Your stored web and email passwords, form data, and private keys will not be protected.

Firefox allegedly uses the Gnome keyring to get a master password protecting the whole Firefox session, but displaying all the stored passwords is just a few clicks away after that; needless to say, Firefox on 13.10 doesn’t use the keyring. Given that Chromium on Xubuntu 13.10 does not use the Gnome keyring, it’s entirely unprotected. Maybe the 14.04 box will use the keyring for both browsers?

What the hell do those people smoke? I want some of that, right here, right now!

Verily, money changes everything…