pumpkin ale update

We kegged the pumpkin ale yesterday. I am pretty sure we over spiced it, since it tastes a bit like chewing on cinnamon bark. My keg is chilling in the kegerator. Hopefully after chilling and carbonating it will be drinkable, but I am not getting my hopes up. Needless to say we were rather disappointed when we tried it, especially since it tasted great on the last transfer. On a brighter note, the rye tastes great!

window woes

Since we moved into our house, Danika and I had planned to have some of our windows replaced. When we bought the house a number of the windows were aluminum, some of which were quite old and only single pane. We finally got new windows put in last August which was followed by a very long period of problems. A few of which were:

  • the wrong door was sent with our windows and the correct one never showed up
  • handles for the double hungs that we were promised took months and several visits from the installers before they were finally installed
  • two of the windows came with broken hardware
  • once it started raining several of the windows leaked
... and that was just some of the issues.

Finally in April (nine months after they were installed) we believed all the issues had been resolved. Well, unfortunately we discovered yesterday that was not the case. The picture window in our living room is leaking. So it begins again. I am going to send the installers a message to let them know. Hopefully we will be able to resolve the issue in less time than it took previously.

Update (11.24.2009)
Someone from the company that installed the windows was out today to take a look. He believes he knows how to solve the problem. He said they will call today to schedule a time when they can come out, fix the issue and then do some testing.

happy 0.5 birthday!

Graham is six months old today. Happy half birthday!

email issues

About a month ago I finally got fed up with all the spam I was receiving. I had an account set up at litke.info to where all my email would forward (that I would then download to my home desktop system) and my email was going through a spam filter there, but it was proving to be inadequate. My email was also being forwarded to a Gmail account and since Gmail's spam filter was doing a much better job of sorting the spam out, I decided to reconfigure my litke.info account to only forward email to a new Gmail account.

The reconfiguration consisted mostly of creating a new Gmail account, making a forwarder and then deleting my litke.info account. A few months ago Gmail added a feater that would allow users to send email out through an SMTP server other than theirs. I had set up my account to send my email through my litke.info account. Well, after I deleted my litke.info account (back on Oct 15th) which was the account Gmail was sending my email through, none of the email I sent through my Gmail account was actually being sent.

Gmail did give me any indication that the emails were no longer going out. I finally figured out what was happening tonight. Danika mentioned something about an email we both received from my sister that I had responded to and she did not get the response. We did a bit more checking and discovered that she had not been receiving any of the messages I had sent to her from my Gmail account in the last month. I went to check the outgoing email settings and noticed it was set up to send outgoing messages through the litke.info account I had deleted. I sent up a new account at litke.info, reconfigured Gmail to send email through that account and now everything appears to be working again. I have say I am fairly surprised that there is no mechanism in Gmail to alert you when it can no longer send email out.


Here is Graham dressed up like a pumpkin/jack-o-latern for Halloween this year. Perhaps we'll use him as a mascot for our pumpkin ale ;)


ready for mn

Danika found a hat and some mittens for Graham to wear this winter when we visit his Grandpa in MN. He seems to like them. I wonder how we will keep them from freezing since I have a feeling he will be chewing and drooling on them non-stop?

New hat and mittens

autumn in seattle

Autumns in Seattle are often rainy and the leaves tend to change fairly quickly compared to the east coast or the midwest. This year's Seattle autumn has been great so far. We have had quite a bit of sun and pretty mild weather. The vine maple in front of our house has turned a brillant red, it looks neon red when the sun hits it right.

Red Maple

Red Maple

frost on the pumpkin v2.0

Marc and I brewed again on Saturday. We brewed a rye PA and a pumpkin ale. We brewed a pumpkin one other time back in 2005. We put a lot of pumpkin in it, 15 pounds, and it ended up tasting a bit vegetable-ly. After a aging a while (2-3 weeks) in the keg the vegetable flavor subsided and the spices become more prominent. It was an okay beer, but not quite what we had hoped.

latitude c400 x3

I have been watching Latitude C400 auctions on eBay to get an idea of what they sell for. There have been a few decent ones that have sold for less than $40. Most have one or two things wrong with them, but nothing that can not be fixed with a $10 part. I figured if I got the C400 from Danika's mom up and running and liked it enough I might try to get another one to have a spare and/or use for replacement parts. After playing around with it for a while I decided it was a fairly nice laptop--small, light with enough horsepower to run most of the applications I use. I saw an auction come up for two C400s that the seller said he had gotten at a garage sale. He included the Dell tag numbers, so I could look them up on Dell's support site and see how they were configured when they originally left Dell. The price stayed pretty low, so I ended up bidding on them and winning them for $70 ($35 each).

bonita justice

Danika went back to work today. We managed to work it out so she could go back part time. Her office allows people to work part time, but you need to find someone to share the week with. One person works three days and the other two. They more or less consider it one position and the person working three days gets all the benefits a full time employee would, but the person working two days gets none. As you might expect finding someone to work the three day portion is not too difficult but finding someone to work the two day portion is another story. All three of us are on Danika's medical plan and losing that benefit was not something we wanted to happen. It seemed unlikely that she would be able to find someone willing to work a two day week so she could work a three day week.

About a week ago she got a call from the office asking if she was interested in going back part time. Someone had heard that she may be interested, so when an opportunity came up, they called her about it. It was a three day position, so she could get to keep all her benefits. She and I discussed it, and she discussed with her mom and her sister (since they would have to rework the child care plans) and the next day she called her office to accept the part time position. We had planned for her mom to watch Graham when she went back full time, so watching him three days a week worked for her as well. Danika talked to her boss, and if she had gone back full time, she would have been on a trial rotation with lots of long hours, so I am really glad we were able to make this work.

kudos to dell

Dell does not have great Linux support, but they do at least have some. The other day I needed to update the BIOS on a Dell laptop, so I went to Dell's support site to get the BIOS files. I was not surprised to find the only options were to use Windows and DOS to updated the BIOS. I eventually came up with a solution where I copied (using dd) an image of a DOS install onto the empty laptop hard drive, mounted it, copied over the Dell BIOS DOS executable, put the hard drive in the target laptop and then booted to DOS and ran the executable. It was a bit of a pain, and if I did have an extra laptop hard drive laying around I would not have been able to do it.

Since then, I have discovered that Dell actually makes a tool to install BIOS for Linux users called biosdisk. It essentially automates the process of creating a DOS floppy image with the BIOS executable, coping the image and syslinux's memtest into the /boot directory and adding an entry into the grub boot loader menu to boot the image. I have not tried it out, but it was nice to see that Dell acknowledges the fact that not everyone runs Windows and they have alternate solutions.

Dell's biosdisk page: linux.dell.com/projects.shtml#biosdisk

new spouts for the ventmatics

My kegerator is equipped with Ventmatic forward seal faucets. These are great faucets for taps that are "infrequently" used. Regular beer faucets seal in the back and not all of the beer in front of the seal drains out. After a couple of days of non-use the beer in front of the seal gets sticky and faucet locks up. A stuck faucet was a fairly common occurrence with my kegerator until I got the Ventmatic faucets. They are really nice faucets with a high quality of workmanship. Unfortunately the company went out of business, so getting any sort of parts for them has been a bit problematic. Recently I discovered a small CNC machine shop that makes spouts for the Ventmatic faucets.

grub on a usb drive

I typically use PXE to boot PCs when I am not booting them from the hard drive, but I really like the convenience of USB flash drives. They are extremely portable, cheap and most systems can boot from them. I have been playing around a lot with GRUB lately, so I thought I would spend some time setting up a USB flash drive with GRUB. The setup is pretty similar to setting GRUB up on a hard drive (which I have outlined in other post). This post outlines how to setup a USB flash drive to use GRUB to boot memtest86+, FreeDOS, a Fedora Install kernel, an Arch Linux Install kernel and Parted Magic Live.

booting the c400

The Dell Latitude C400 has a number of boot menu options, but few that do not require a docking port. Without a docking port the boot options are limited to the hard drive and NICs. I have done network (PXE) boots before and they are pretty easy to set up. After having done a few, I actually prefer to do PXE installs since they typically go faster if the install does not need to read from a DVD/CD (I usually have a copy of the DVD/CD image on the hard drive). For two of the C400s I was able to setup PXE and boot from their on board NICs to install a Linux distro.

powershot s400

Our 4-5 year old Canon PowerShot S400 (Digital Elph) started acting strangely. In capture mode the LCD is all black or looks like it is on acid. Taking a photo captures the weirdness (see the image below), usually very distored and purple-ish. The LCD works fine, so you can still review photos and use the menus. I did a bit of searching and found that the problem is most likely a known issue. I called Canon and they are sending a prepaid label so I can ship the camera to them to evaluate it. If it is the known issue, they will fix the camera and send it back to me free. I would expect this if the camera was 90 days to 1 year old, but I am very pleasantly surprised since it is 4-5 years old. Here is a link to Canon's Service Notice.

Update (09.30.2009)
I got the UPS label from Canon and sent them our S400. I received an email from them today stating:

Based on our initial examination, we will start the necessary repairs at no charge to you. You can expect the repair to be completed and returned back to you within approximately 7 business days.

Update (10.05.2009)
I got email from Canon on Saturday with a FedEx tracking number. They have fixed and shipped the S400. FedEx tracking says it should arrive tomorrow.

Update (10.07.2009)
FedEx tried to deliver the camera yesterday, but it required a signature, so they did not leave it. I signed the slip they left and they delivered it today. It appears to working great, and not only did Canon fix the issue with the CCD, they replaced the two housing parts that had dents in them. Thanks Canon!

Captured weirdness
Weirdness captured

Distorted Dax
This is a photo of Dax