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Comments on Android on HP Touchpad

2012-07-14 , , , Comments

It’s been months since I modded my HP Touchpad with Cyanogenmod. I’m not going to get into how to do it because there are fairly adequate guides. I’m now running a mid-June official CM9 nightly build. The touchpad is a nice Android tablet (read that “games”) and a great e-reader (kindle & nook apps) after setting the DPI to the native 132 with DPI Changer. The wireless behaves itself, battery life is acceptable, and other than the camera and app store it mostly works. The camera is only supported by a binary blob in an old kernel unless HP makes a code drop, so may never work. The Google app store, a.k.a. Google Play, is annoying in that it checks the DPI and make and model of the unit when it is first run but never again after that and disables updates on many existing apps. Setting a few values (youtube example on CM7) in the build.prop then clearing the app cache in system settings, clearing the /cache partition, and rebooting with the default DPI fixes it. I used


which gives better results than the usual recommendation of faking a SGH-T989. After updates, I switch the DPI back to 132.


Writing a good screed, U.S. edition

2012-07-04 , , , Comment

In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to offer some suggestions for writing a good political screed:

  • Reference one or more of the founding fathers
  • Describe a false dilemma, register everything in black or white.
  • Invoke the Constitution without being specific
  • Refer to the Articles of Confederation, Federalist Papers, or the private writings of the founders.
  • Misrepresent 18th & 19th C. thinking. Opportunities exist in misunderstanding Natural Rights, Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, the Enlightenment, Objective Idealism, Romanticism. Get creative here.
  • Make a inappropriate reference to the Separation of Powers.
  • Make an appeal to Anti-Federalism, ex. States Rights
  • Claim an immediate threat to a politically powerful but diffuse group: small business, seniors, the wealthy, etc.
  • Warn of an existential threat to the nation:
    • external threats might include Europeans, China, brown-skinned people, trade imbalances, or Communism
    • popular internal threats are debt, minorities, Socialism, Liberalism, and moral hazard
  • Engage in one or both of Naturalistic and Moralistic fallacies.
  • Include numbers without scale, history, or comparison taken from unnamed sources.
  • Reach a false conclusion (or none at all).

Following these hints will all but guarantee that your posts to your favorite social media sites will grab attention. Have a good time!


Odd scam email from

2012-06-27 , , , Comment

Received an odd email reads like some kind of link scam. That it came through the forwarder my domain registrar provides me for my DNS contacts is suspicious:

Hi Ross,

We recently contacted you regarding advertising for one of our clients.

We pay an annual fee to you as soon as the advert is live. It is a straightforward process and we work with you to make sure we fit naturally with your site. Please let me know if you are interested and I’ll send you more details.

Would you be interested in selling us a simple text based advertisement on your website

Best regards,
xxxxxx xxxxx

This e-mail message is strictly confidential. It is intended solely for the person or organisation to whom it is addressed and contains confidential or privileged information. If you have received it in error, please notify immediately and destroy this e-mail and any attachments. You must not disclose, copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on this e-mail or any attachments. Views or opinions presented in this e-mail are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of More Digital.

More Digital does not accept liability for any data corruption, interception, unauthorised amendment, viruses and delays or the consequences thereof relating to this or any other email. Any e-mail or attachment is opened at your own risk.

To help protect you, this email (ID-##########) was scanned for viruses by Norton AntiVirus.

Weird. Do a google search, it’s not a great reputation. Do they really get anyone to bite on these things?


Forge-welding flux recipes

2012-06-24 , , , Comment

I’m keeping track of flux recipes used by blacksmiths for forge-welding as I run across them. The flux reduces oxidation and lowers the melting point of any slag or scale and helps to carry it away. There are two schools of thought: borax and no borax. Fortunately, the MSDS for commercial fluxes is available.

  • Borax-based
    • Borax, Sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Na2[B4O5(OH)4]·8H2O), sold as Dial Corp 20-Mule Team Borax. Some report better results after baking it to remove the water, producing Anhydrous Borax.
    • Iron Mountain Forge Welding Flux. Reportedly anhydrous borax and iron powder. No MSDS, no proportions. The third party videos of its use are convincing.
    • Folk recipe #1: 3 parts Borax, 1 parts Sal Ammoniac (NH4Cl) available from hardware stores and ground.
    • Folk recipe #2: 2 parts Borax, 1/4 to 1 part Boric Acid. Some include 1 part Black Iron Oxide (Fe3O4) or chips from a bandsaw or lathe. This sounds like a homemade version of the Iron Mountain product.
    • Folk recipe #3: 3 parts Borax, 1 part Sal Ammoniac, 1 part metallurgical grade calcium fluoride powder (CaF2, aka Fluorite or Fluorspar). Used for Damascus steel. (Looks like reagent quality in small quantities sells for $2.00/g so I’m not going to try this one soon…)
    • James Hrisoulas uses: 5 parts anhydrous borax, 2 parts powdered boric acid, 1 part powdered iron oxide, 1/2 part fluorspar, 1/4 part sal ammoniac.
  • Boric Acid-based
    • Boric acid, sold as Copper Brite Roach Prufe (98%), Pic Boric Acid Roach Killer (99%)
    • Superior Flux & Mfg. products, aka Anti-Borax, Cherry Weld, EZ-Weld, etc. Composition varies but the MSDS reads:
      • Boric Acid 8-13%
      • Iron Oxides (FeO, Fe2O3, Fe3O4) 45-55%
      • Steel Chips 35-45%
  • Neither

    Interestingly, there are remarks on forums about using clean, white sand and ordinary table salt in lieu of flux. This makes me think they rely on a mechanical action instead of a chemical one.


The new forge

2012-06-20 , , , Comment

I built a forge out of a scavenged refrigerant canister. It works! Here’s my first effort, a 1/2” steel bar drawn, scrolled, and twisted.

The construction of the shell was simple. First, I holed the empty canister with a large punch and filled it with water (the MSDS read that the old contents were non-flammable, but better safe than sorry), then cut the opening with an angle grinder fitted with a cutting wheel and trimmed the cut with aviation shears and snips. Next, I brazed on two pieces of bed frame angle iron and two flat sections to make legs. The burner support is a hand drilled and tapped 4” x 2 1/2” threaded pipe nipple held to the forge body with a pair of thin collar nuts. If I do this again, I’ll need a better method as the grinder is sloppy on curves and the shears barely make it through the steel. A drill press would also have made for easier going on the burner support, I improvised a U-shaped wooden jig and clamped the whole thing in the vise.

The lining was applied in layers. I lined the shell with 1” 8# Inswool 2400dF refractory blanket. I wanted it to fill in so I used the exterior circumference (c=Π*d, see how that middle school geometry is useful?) plus a half inch over and the full, untapered length of the cylinder for my measurements. The ceramic blanket was easy to cut and I misted it with water to keep the dust down but I misjudged how hard it was to work with it in a tight space. I had planned to roll it up, slip it in, and let it unroll and expand but I had to cut it into three pieces to get it to fit without crushing. I cut a tapered hole for the burner flare and later I stuffed some scrap into the collar around the mounted burner to seal it. The second layer is roughly 1 1/2” of Kast-o-lite 3000dF castable refractory applied in two layers. I mixed up six pounds of it a little thinner than indicated and applied it by hand to the wetted ceramic blanket, let it dry a few days, fired the forge for a few minutes then followed the next day with another six pounds. I paid attention to making a cone for the burner. After letting the refractory cure for a few days, I fired the forge to full heat and let it cool overnight. The last layer is a thin coat of Plistix 900F, a refractory service coating that is good to 3400dF and supposedly improves the efficiency of the forge due to reflecting IR. I mixed roughly a pound of it to a thin consistency and dabbed it on with an old paint brush. It went on like a chalky, slightly gritty, thin white paint.

The insulation works fairly well. After forty-five minutes the exterior of the forge is uncomfortably warm but not painfully hot. The burner holder gets just less than searing hot where it enters the shell and the pipe collar does not show discoloring yet.

Forge in operation and tuned. Nice blue flame.

The dragon’s breath and a look into the hot forge


KBC Poker keyboard

2012-06-18 , , ,

I bought an open box, all but unused KBC Poker keyboard with Cherry Blue MX keys as my “travel” keyboard back in September 2011. It’s the size of a standard keyboard with the number pad, function keys, and arrows lopped off. It has clicky, full-travel keys with a normal pitch. Great for fixed mobile typing.

The problem with this little keyboard is the <ESC> key. There isn’t one, or more precisely, there is but it’s accessed by holding down a function-key to the right of the spacebar and hitting the tilde at the top left corner of the keyboard. I’m an Emacs user. The time at work I don’t spend in meetings is spent in Emacs. I have years of configuration and muscle memory invested in using it. You might be asking yourself by now, “What does he think is wrong with the Apple keyboard?” Nothing really, but I strongly prefer the feel of a mechanical key switch. If you spend eight to ten hours a day typing, preferences matter.

The solution is KeyRemap4MacBook, a free System Preferences extension that lets you remap your keyboard and change key behavior. It can do all kinds of things with pointers and key mappings (most of which I’ve never explored) and found the following settings work just fine with the KBC Poker:

  Don't remap an internal keyboard
  Don't remap any pointing devices
  Don't remap Apple's keyboards
  Don't remap Apple's pointing devices
Change Backquote(`) to Escape if no modifiers pressed

After seven months of use a couple of days each week, I’m fairly satisfied with the keyboard and the work-around (certainly for the price). I like the mapping of the Mac volume keys and the function keys but prefer not to have to switch key layouts when I’m at my main desk and I find distracting the small amount of flex in the plastic case and key mounting. I’ll continue saving up for a Happy Hacking 2 Pro keyboard (and probably will be saving for quite a long time).


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