DIY Bicycle Pannier – for $12 or less

So as it turns out, if you have an existing bag, converting it in to a pannier is a cost-effective solution. Otherwise it’s probably better to just go buy a new one.

Of note, I am using a special bike rack, it uses the skewer instead of rack mount holes, which is important if you have a road bike that is missing these holes. In particular I am using the Axiom Streamliner Road DLX Rack which has worked out very well for me over the past 200 miles or so.
Total cost:
Bag: $22.00 - a Rothco model, I’ve been very impressed with the quality
Mounting hardware: $11.67 – Home Depot
inverted “drunken octopus wants to fight you” robe hooks, ~$3.25 ea

Top mount view, my rack appears to have been bent in shipment, works fine though

vertical view from top of bicycle rack

Pannier view from top

Side mount, the bag’s side pockets are extra floppy

First test fit of bicycle pannier

Attempting to solve the floppy side pocket problem with some cardboard, first functional cargo test from the corner store

Resolved the floppy side pocket problem by tying the ends together with a crude draw string system, solved the heel strike issue I was running in to.

Inside mounting system. Found some “mending brackets” with roughly the same bolt pattern as the hooks, you can’t see it but there’s a second one sandwiched on the other side between the flap and the main bag, it may do a good job of spreading the load, or else it will fail catastrophically on a major road, get tangled in my spokes and kill me, only time will tell.

Not pictured is a piece of wood bracing the bottom corners of the bag apart on the inside, seems to improve stability and keep the corners from rolling in to the spokes of the rear wheels.

Posted in bicycles, Mechanical | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TP-Link TL-WR1043ND DD-WRT No WAN fix

For whatever reason TP-Link introduced a new feature that turns off the WAN port when you do a firmware upgrade. This is to help with MAC address migration or some other obscure thing. It doesn’t help us, however. Generally if your S/N serial number on the bottom of the unit says “S/N 1xxxxxxxxx” then you should be able to flash to DD-WRT directly. Newer models, introduced in April 2012 and commonly found on Newegg and Amazon by August 2012 have a serial number that says “S/N 12xxxxxxx”. These devices with the 12xxxxx serial need to follow these instructions:

>Download the necessary files

What we’re going to do

A: Get a good version of TP-Link Firmware installed on your router
1: Install a goofy German TP-Link firmware with a loophole in it
2: Install DD-WRT (or OpenWRT)
3: Finished!

Full details below the break

Continue reading

Posted in computing, linux | Tagged , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Spinning down USB drives in linux

Some of the commercial solutions like the “Passport” and “MyBook” USB drives have spin down logic built in to avoid excessive wear and tear. I recently came across a steal on newegg for a bare bones Intel D2500 (atom) based nettop, and decided to get one and plug some external drives in to it, and finally make use of them as part of an oddly configured file server.

The downside, it turns out, is that Ubuntu 12 Server (precision) only comes with the absolute bare bones software to be a functional system. You’re expected to install anything you might need, like say, SSH or Apache2. Servers don’t have much use for USB drive utilities that spin down drives. Actually, it does come with hdparm, which is actually designed to spin down local drives, but is incapable of spinning down external drives, which is what I needed.

Now, to be fair, the official Ubuntu help Wiki does have this page, but it’s rather obtuse and perhaps overly complex. It has a complicated looking script in the middle, but really the only two piece of information you need are

  • The ‘sg3-utils’ package (sudo apt-get install sg3-utils)
  • sg_start –pc=3 /dev/sda (or in my case, sdc)

I was able to then add a single line to my crontab file after testing,

0 0,4,8,12,16,20 * * * sg_start –pc=3 /dev/sdc #sleeps external sdc (250gb) drive every 4 hrs

And now I don’t have to worry about burning up my already old drives in their unventilated enclosures!

Posted in computing, linux | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Handbrake Copyright Protected DVD PC Fix

Handbrake, the easy one step DVD ripping program for PC/Mac/Linux, is giving you crap about a “this DVD may be copyright protected”? And the VLC fix obviously didn’t work, because you have a windows PC, not a mac. Well you have the legal right to make your own backups for DVDs you own. People dance around this issue, but the simple fix is to download the DLL and put it in your C:\Program Files\Handbrake folder. And then it will work. Even on 64 bit systems. Boom. Done.

In case you missed it, here’s the file you need.

Posted in computing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Porn? In my lunar program?

It’s more likely than you might think. I was digging around for some info on the Apollo era “snoopy cap” that they always reference, and are sort of an icon of 60′s spaceflight. Random clicking from there led to this. Definitely the first time I’ve ever heard of this. I’m really curious how prevalent this was. Probably pretty common. From NASA direct:

108:28:35 Aldrin: Lean forward. (Red Apple and pull-pin?) Locked. (Pause) Position mikes. (Long Pause) Sure wished I’d shaved last night. (Pause) Okay; we need the helmets. Got your mikes where you want them? (Long Pause)

[They each have a pair of mikes as part of the "Snoopy cap" or, more formally, the "Communications Carrier". "Snoopy" is Charlie Brown's beagle in the comic strip "Peanuts" drawn by Charles Schulz. Journal Contributor Ulli Lotzmann had discussions with Ernie Reyes in mid-2000 about Snoopy's association with Apollo. Reyes was Chief of the Pre-Flight Operations Branch at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston during Apollo; and Lotzmann reports that Reyes, Wayne Stallard and others drew little cartoons on the daily schedules to make them more interesting. The Reyes Snoopy, who looks a little bit different to the Schultz-Snoopy as can be seen from examples in the Apollo 12cuff checklists, became popular with the Astronaut Corps. Because the cartoons were never intended for commercial publication, Reyes never asked Schultz for permission to use the character. After the Apollo 1 fire, Snoopy became the symbol of the revitalized NASA safety program.]

[Getting back to the subject of the "Snoopy cap", in the Schulz comic strip, Snoopy often fantasized that he was a World War I flying ace and, while in that fantasy, wore a leather flying helmet. This and the fact that the Apollo Snoopy caps were dark-brown & white may explain why they were named "Snoopy" caps. Post-EVA photo A11-37-5528 is an excellent picture of a very pleased Neil Armstrong in full Snoopy regalia after the EVA. Journal Contributor Markus Mehring notes that the names "Snoopy" and "Charlie Brown" where also used for the Apollo 10 Command Module and Lunar Module, respectively. The Apollo 17 crew named a large crater in Snoopy's honor.]

[Note that, in the following, they get Buzz into his helmet first, as per checklist.]

So they actually included photographs of the EVA checklists. It’s a miracle that photographs of this stuff exist at all anymore, but hey, take a look. As you can imagine, things as redundant and boring as the checklist for putting on your space suit might need some humanization to keep it interesting. NASA being almost entirely male, it’s not surprising that they would find a way to put some boobs in their checklists (along with snoopy cartoons). Probably not NASA’s finest moment, but when you’re on track to put a man on the moon in less than a decade, you’ve got to give the organization some slack.

Without further adieu, Boobs in Space:

Pages 7 and 11:

Pages 6 and 11:

You can’t make this stuff up. More original tales from NASA.


Posted in Space | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bucket List

This list may be added to and adjusted over time

  • Skydiving, hanging from a helicopter landing skid
  • climb mt guadalupe
  • climb mt rainer
  • climb mt everest
  • visit the opera house in manus, brazil
  • sail around the world
  • complete the hotter’n’ hell hundred race
  • complete an ironman race
  • go back to france
  • go to Italy
  • see the pyramids
  • go to Prague
  • go to moscow
  • go to moldova
  • go to gothesburg, sweden
Posted in travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Real Clif Bar Recipe

Note: This article has recently (10.22.12) become very popular with you Pintrest users.  Welcome! However, this is a CLIFF bar, not a Granola bar! They’re supposed to be gooey and chewy. When you modify the recipe to include 95% granola, you’ve simply reinvented the granola bar. The big draw of a Cliff Bar is that it’s not a crumbly mess when you try and eat it (along with tasting something unlike a bland, crunchy breakfast cereal). The desired consistency should be closer to a Samoa-style Girl Scout cookie or a (very healthy) Snickers bar. Please keep this in mind before you overload it with crunchy granola or oats and make this in to something it’s not. Alton Brown has some great recipes for that sort of thing. Slightly chewy, and full-of-flavor-without-tasting-like-oats is what made Cliff bars popular and the brand that it is today. Moving right along…

Googling “Clif Bar Recipe” is a frustrating experience. You end up with pages upon pages of recipes for granola bars, which, if you talk to anyone who’s had a real Clif Bar, is the opposite of what you’re trying to make. Clif Bars have a taffy like, caramelized flavor. They usually sell for about $2 a piece, but can often be found on sale for $1 each. I suspect this is due to their relatively short shelf life, owing to their lack of preservatives.

If you’re new to Clif Bars, they’re famous for being an energy bar that doesn’t taste awful (they’re quite good, actually) and have identifiable ingredients. They’re also gluten free, if you’re in to that sort of thing. Rice and Oats don’t have gluten in them (being the primary carbohydrate ingredients in the bars).

Anyways, after years of searching on and off, I finally found a recipe that makes something that resembles a real Clif Bar, without the overabundance of oats held together with a minimum amount of binders. It even looks like an honest to god Clif Bar:


• 1 and 1/4 cups of Rice Krispies
• 1 cup of uncooked quick-cooking oats
• 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal
• 1/4 cup of finely chopped dried cherries
• 1/4 cup of finely chopped roasted almonds
• 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup
• 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
• 1/3 cup of almond butter
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Rice Krispies, quick-cooking oats, flaxseed meal, dried tart cherries, and chopped almonds.
  2. Combine the rice syrup and dark brown sugar in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. You will want to stir the mixture the entire time, it will only take around a minute to boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the almond butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract until your mixture is blended.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture, and stir until evenly coated.  As the liquid cools, the mixture will become stiff.  I used my hands to combine the mixture, like kneading bread.
  4. Spray an 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray and press the mixture into the pan.  Use wax paper to help press the mixture flat and even across the pan.
  5. Allow the pan to cool for about an hour and cut into 6 hearty-sized energy bars.

To store the bars, wrap them and store them in the refrigerator.  For long term storage, you can freeze the bars. Challenged, or novice cooks may add up to an additional 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup to improve adhesion of dry ingredients.

Posted in food | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Building Bamboo Bicycles and Road Bikes

I recently stumbled upon Bamboo Bicycles. I’ve spent a couple of days investigating this on and off now. There seem to be two major vendors at the moment, both related to the same man. Calfee Design appears to make Bamboo bicycles in the US, and then there is a separate factory in Ghana that makes bicycle frames. Also there is one guy in Australia making Bamboo Bikes, but he’s only producing about one frame a year.

Bamboo bikes, like traditional bikes, seem to come in a wide variety of styles and frame designs. There are only a few rules that all of the bikes seem to follow:

  • Use natural fibers instead of carbon for joint wrapping (hemp, twine, etc)
  • Grossly overbuild the joints
  • Use metal dropouts
  • Use a metal seatpost
  • Use a metal fork

The biggest long term problem seems to stem from using carbon fiber wrappings, which apparently don’t expand/contract at the same rate as the wood and cause cracks after a period of several years. This is easily remedied by using hemp fiber or a similar fibrous binding material to match the expansion rates of the Bamboo, with the added benefit that when done right (and with dark fibers) the end result joint can look like burled walnut.

The other immediate problem is that the joining where the seat tube meets the seatpost clamp, cracks can occur. This joint is expected to carry the full weight of the rider at an angle that causes leverage on the joint. It appears that this is the only place where sizing your bamboo properly seems to really matter – you need to be able to epoxy a small piece of metal seat tube inside the bamboo that fits snugly enough

How to build Bamboo Bikes: Actual construction seems simple enough. Devise a jig of the appropriate dimensions, cut bamboo to length + 1″ on either side. Toast the bamboo using a butane torch, once to dry the bamboo, and after cooling completely, a second time to toast it. Removing the bamboo skin may improve the asthetics considerably.

Once the Bamboo is ready, roughly cut the ends of bamboo in a concave, semi-circular fashion to fit flush with the other pieces. While still in the jig, roughen the joint areas and glue together the entire frame using expanding glue (Gorilla Glue). This will fill many of the gaps left during the fitting process and provide the initial strong bond. Let sit overnight.

Once the glue has cured, the bike should be strong enough to release from the jig and place upright. Mix a batch of slow-set epoxy and mask off the bamboo not involved in the joint to improve finish. At this point you can start tightly wrapping the joints, literally painting on the epoxy overtop of the fibers. For the best “burled” pattern, wrapping motions should be somewhat random, as if you were lashing together the bamboo without the aid of epoxy. Judging from pictures it looks like they are using a Size 20 (1/2″ to 3/4″ art brush) to apply epoxy resin directly to the bamboo and fibers. Don’t be afraid to go overboard here, you want to overbuild your joints to prevent stress fractures in the future.

For final finishing, fill in gaps by cutting pieces of hemp cord to size and paint them in. Cover the entire joint with an extra layer of epoxy and then wrap with black electrical tape (sticky side out) to level the surface. Remove the electrical tape when the epoxy becomes tacky to firm (not completely cured).

Continue reading

Posted in Arts, bicycles, Mechanical | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Shopping for a cheap VPS

It’s still a bit of a Wild West in terms of VPS providers. There is Amazon’s EC2, Rackspace…. and then there is everybody else. Amazon seems to have a “micro” tier for $2.30/mo…. but you have to pay 3 years in advance for it ($83 or $28/yr). Rackspace, on the other hand will only do managed hosting, which means you’re paying almost 5x the price at $11/mo ($132/yr).

Now if you look at some of the…uh, independent VPS hosts, (most of them are probably resellers) prices typically range from around $5.00-$7.50 ($60-$90/yr). This is a volatile market and I won’t attempt to make any suggestions. Slicehost had a $5/mo deal going if you bought 5 years worth of service, but they were swallowed up whole by rackspace about six months ago, and Linode comes highly recommended by many people, but start around $20/mo ($240/yr). That is not “cheap” tier pricing.

There does seem to be a website that keeps (rough) track of the wild west, they are called and are able to point out some of the cheaper VPS providers. Sadly most of these places look like fly-by-night operations in comparison to the reasonably priced Amazon EC2 micro tier.

In my case, I need to be able to run a python script 6 times an hour, 18 hours a day. That’s it. Unfortunately my GoDaddy hosting account doesn’t really handle the kind of python functionality I need, and has nerfed quite a bit of the PHP5 functionality as well. So here I am, looking at a proper VPS to run some web apps of mine as a service.

Posted in computing, linux | 1 Comment