Smoker Controller Hack

Smoker Controller Hack is a project to rescue a malfunctioning electric smoker from the trash heap. In a nutshell, the smoker’s display unit was dead. Other parts appeared to work. The smoker’s manufacturer has moved on to new things and the replacement part to fix this smoker is no longer available. In the depths of Covid-19 isolation, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to rescue a device from obsolescence and learn a lot about electronics, Arduinos, and working with plexiglass.

: Smoker Controller Hack Continue reading “Smoker Controller Hack”

mermaid: Markdown Tool for Graphs

I needed to represent a Finite State Machine (FSM) for my Smoker Controller project. I could have gone with the pencil and paper route but what I learned in dot: command line utility for drawing graphs was that there are better tools. Since this project was documented in markdown from the start I looked for a way to do it all in markdown. It turns out there is a plugin called mermaid that does everything dot does without the compile step. But with a different syntax. 🙁 Many markdown processors have this plugin pre-installed. 🙂 I am using Joplin and it works just fine.

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dot: Command Line Drawing Tool

I wanted to represent a Finite State Machine (FSM) for my sump pump monitor. Grabbing my coding stick, I create the FSM on paper in my project journal. Then I take a photo of this and I’m done.

But not really done because the photo is  3.3 MB. I download it from Google Photos and open it in my Macbook using Preview. I select the portion of the page with the selection tool and copy this part of the image to the clipboard and then I use Preview’s “New from Clipboard” command to create a PNG image file. This file is still 1.7MB.

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Dealing with Google Takeout in Mac OS


After July 2019, Google Photos will no longer sync with Google Drive. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on specific use cases. Regardless, it is happening and this impacts the way that I use Photos. Generally when I take photos on my Pixel 3 phone, I just let the system handle things. The phone syncs with Google Photos in the cloud. Google Photos syncs with Google Drive and Apple’s Time Machine backs up my Google Drive onto a local disk drive. I have been comfortable with this. I am not a heavy curator of my photos. I have some albums in Google Photos but generally I want my photos organized by creation date. This is important because the files that Google syncs to my Google Drive do not include the album folders or meta data. I’m ok with this.

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Downgrading the Nexus 7

After upgrading my Nexus 7 to Loliipop (5.0) I find that it is unusable due to lagging response times. I tried deleting the cache and other remedies I found online but nothing helped. It’s just too slow. I want to go back to KitKat (4.4.4). I found a few tutorials about downgrading that differ in a few details. Some are geared to Windows users, some are for Macs. For a number of reasons I want to do this on my Mac Mini.  Continue reading “Downgrading the Nexus 7”

Android File Transfer – Magic Begone!

I had installed the Android File Transfer app in order to make it easy to load music onto my Android phone. I didn’t realize that this app doesn’t behave like a typical Mac app. It includes an agent helper app, a daemon really, that gets started at login and monitors for Android USB connected devices. I was unaware of this for some time and generally it does not cause problems. However when I wanted to reflash my Nexus 7 tablet I ran into problems with the File Transfer Agent competing with the Android Platform Tools ADB program for control of the device.

My preference for utilities on my Mac is for them to not run until I activate them explicitly. Yes it looks swell to have a program pop up when I plug in the USB device, but I would prefer to manually launch it. I don’t like magic… Continue reading “Android File Transfer – Magic Begone!”

Gems from the error logs…

Periodically I check out the Apache error and access logs in order to find things that I can fix or improve with a little work. Today I noticed a few errors for bad URLs coming from unfamiliar IP addresses. The error I got is:

(36)File name too long: [client xx.xx.xx.xx:xxxxx] AH00036: access to ….

Looking at the filename, it is way too long but it is also very peculiar. It starts off with a valid WordPress folder name but appends a long string of folder names where the folder names are prefixed with an underscore and suffixed with a comma. I checked this against the actual folders and it matches existing paths in my WordPress instance. The garbled path ends in an actual file name. To make it even weirder, this garbled path name has a plus sign followed by another garbled path name, multiple times. All together it’s about 800 characters long. WTF?… Continue reading “Gems from the error logs…”

Double Dongle Saga

Got a new MBP. You know, the one with USB-C only. Also, bought the USB-C to USB-A dongle (added charge) just to be safe.

Then I got a Samsung T3 SSD which included a USB-C to USB-A connector. It turns out that the T3 is a USB 2.0 device that uses a USB-C connector, probably because it’s smaller and also because it means you’re hip.

But there is no way to directly connect the new SSD to the new MBP with either of the cables I have… Continue reading “Double Dongle Saga”