I don’t know who R. Brock Olson is, but his recent blog post, “We are not #Boston­Strong,” is pretty well aligned with my feel­ings on the marathon situation.

His point about the ease of treat­ing vio­lence with an “us vs. them” men­tal­ity is pretty salient. He doesn’t get into it, but the fact that the attack was bombs, rather than for exam­ple gun vio­lence, means it was far too easy to label the per­pe­tra­tors as “ter­ror­ists” rather than just “crim­i­nals” or even “men­tally unstable”–and for most peo­ple that changes the whole story.

Have you read an account of the 2013 marathon in which the bomb­ings were just the work of deranged local ass­hole kids with bags of New Hamp­shire fire­works and nails? Of course not. The offi­cial nar­ra­tive says that it was a highly orga­nized attack against our com­mu­nity. It was a sophis­ti­cated enemy. That’s why we deployed hun­dreds of para­mil­i­tary defense forces to guard us in the after­math. That’s why we installed the cam­eras. That’s why we can’t enjoy our Esplanade on July 4 any­more. That’s why we will turn the 2014 marathon into a show­case of point­less secu­rity and a giant made-for-TV pity party.

(But, you ask, how do I really feel?)

April 17, 2014 April 17, 2014 rants by Scott No Comments

There goes the last place in Boston to buy pro film.

March 13, 2014 March 13, 2014 photography by Scott No Comments

Inside the basement wall

Behind the old base­ment wall. If there were a con­struc­tion ana­log to the old sail­ing adage, “If you can’t tie knots, tie lots,” this must be it.

February 24, 2014 February 24, 2014 home by Scott No Comments

I doubt I made it into the final cut, but these are my people.

February 22, 2014 February 22, 2014 movies by Scott No Comments

Uploaded pho­tos from breath and Resa’s wed­ding last sum­mer. Hooray!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

February 22, 2014 February 22, 2014 friends by Scott 1 Comment

I laughed when Face­book bought Insta­gram for $77 mil­lion per employee. Now I see they are buy­ing What­sApp for roughly $320 mil­lion per employee (or $500 mil­lion per engineer).

When I see these num­bers I think two things: one, why did I pick hard­ware over soft­ware? And two, the next ten years will bring us more of the breath­less opti­mism, teenage mil­lion­aires, and world­wide finan­cial cat­a­stro­phe that defined the last tech bubble.

February 19, 2014 February 19, 2014 tech by Scott 1 Comment

If you are an engi­neer and you’re really bad at what you do, read on! Choose your indus­try and I will pre­dict your fortune:

Home routers and cable modems

You have a fas­ci­na­tion with blind­ingly bright, nar­row viewing-angle blue LEDs flash­ing inces­santly in dark rooms.

Auto­mated teller machines

You like need­lessly loud fan noise, anti­quated dis­plays with bad view­ing angles, par­al­lax error between but­tons and UI ele­ments, obso­lete oper­at­ing sys­tems, and input lag while per­form­ing sim­ple tasks.

Print­ing (err… 2D printing)

You enjoy unpre­dictabil­ity. While your col­leagues made pre­cise, error-free image depo­si­tion pos­si­ble, you worked tire­lessly to ensure that only some­times can the printer be detected on the net­work. To make sure the dri­ver is cum­ber­some to install. To obfus­cate the front-panel UI. And to guar­an­tee that the printer drops off the wire­less net­work peri­od­i­cally. You like to keep the users guessing.

Home secu­rity systems

The 1980s called. They want their beige plas­tic and 2-line alphanu­meric LCDs back.

Heat-sealed clamshell packaging

You are a bad person.

February 18, 2014 February 18, 2014 engineering by Scott 1 Comment

You don’t want one of these in your house. It’s sup­pos­edly the best, most mod­ern, most effi­cient oil-fired boiler you can get and, in defi­ance of all sound rea­son­ing, the pre­vi­ous own­ers of our house opted to invest in it just a cou­ple of years ago.

Energy Kinetics boiler

The heat hasn’t worked reli­ably since we moved in. Over more than six ser­vice vis­its in the last two months, the root cause has been var­i­ously diag­nosed as: out of fuel, bad fuel, fuel line improp­erly run, clogged fuel fil­ters, dirty com­bus­tion cham­ber, unsta­ble chim­ney draft due to block­age, improp­erly sized burner noz­zle, bad CdS pho­to­cell, bad pres­sure switch, and improper fuel/air mixture.

They changed or adjusted every­thing. It’s pos­si­ble that every­thing was indeed bro­ken. Doing my own diag­no­sis, I even found stripped gears in the motor­ized zone valve con­trol­ling the flow of hot water into the radi­a­tors, which was caus­ing all kinds of addi­tional prob­lems (like the house heat­ing to 90 degrees when you take a shower on a warm day, and the boiler con­troller “tim­ing out” on startup on cold days).

Interim solu­tion: a Rasp­berry Pi (pur­chased 30 min­utes before clos­ing at the local Micro Cen­ter) that I wired to the boiler con­troller. Now, when the boiler shuts down pre­ma­turely, my phone receives a noti­fi­ca­tion within sec­onds. And I have a detailed, time­stamped log of odd behav­ior for the ser­vice guy.

Raspberry Pi boiler monitor

Finally, a break­through last night: a buildup of “scale” inside the com­bus­tion cham­ber was block­ing the pres­sure switch port, caus­ing unsta­ble pres­sure read­ings. You should see the amount of solid pol­lu­tants that accu­mu­late inside this thing. Why does any­one in the city still heat with oil?

January 19, 2014 January 19, 2014 engineering by Scott 1 Comment