Anachostic

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Category Archives: Ideas

(Poop) Time And Tide Wait For No Man

Inspired by AK’s post, I thought it would be interesting to provide a perspective from the stall on the other side of the wall.  It’s not all fun and games in our world either.  While we may be outnumbered by the females, there’s enough of us to cause problems for each other.  The problems are exacerbated by the infrastructure at hand.

So here’s the general problem.  We have two stalls, one of which is the handicapped suite.  You can tell by the visible shoes/feet that the “lowrider” stall is occupied, but there is no way to know if the suite is in use unless you test the door.  This is because the door is always closed regardless of being latched or not.  Now I consider myself a courteous gentleman.  If I must test the door, I stand at a distance and lightly test the handle with a single finger.  Today, I had two goddamn hulks trying to rip the door off the hinges to get to me.  And I am considerate when I’m inside the suite, too.  I bob my leg to jingle my belt buckle.  Sometimes I clear my throat.  Surely hearing something from inside would indicate occupancy?  No!  Hulk shit now!  RATTLE RATTLE.

As is my nature, the problem-solver, I set my brain to work on how this can be remedied.  There is no existing way to indicate occupancy, but there is an existing way to indicate vacancy.  I employ this method religiously for everyone else’s benefit.  The other knuckledraggers here are slow to adopt it, because I think they don’t understand.

The method I employ is to slide the locking latch shut as I leave.  The closed latch is stopped by the door frame when the door is closed, leaving the door slightly propped open.  You can visually see that the door is open and the stall is available.  It’s easy and costs nothing.  All it requires is adoption.  And so I began planning a campaign to promote this concept to my less-considerate cohorts.  I would post some PSA-type flyers in the stall to remind others to prop the door when they leave.  I needed some clever ideas, clever slogans.  On my first brainstorming, I came up with the following:

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With such a marketing campaign, how could I fail?  Well, you only fail if you try.  I did not go through with the propping campaign.  Instead, I started thinking of even more clever ideas.

What if there was a plexiglass “flag” that you could slide onto the latch mechanism from inside?  The flag would extend outside the stall.  That would indicate occupancy, which is more valuable than indicating vacancy.  Because, despite the compelling arguments posted within the stall, you still have to kind of assume that someone may not comply and you have to test the door anyway.  And if that’s the case, then door propping is not 100% reliable and might as well not even be attempted.  (You have to love black and white viewpoints.)

Another early consideration I had was putting a spring lever inside the latch, which would hold the door slightly ajar when unlatched but wouldn’t interfere with closing and latching the door.  I even did the research into what type of metal would be needed and how to form it into a spring lever that wouldn’t simply wear out.  A torch was required to heat treat the metal, so I reluctantly back-burnered that idea. (ha!)

Now, the obvious solution to this is to update the infrastructure.  It would be as simple as buying a latch that has an open/closed indicator on the outside.  You know, like on airplanes.  But even though we seem to get new toilet paper and paper towel dispensers on a bi-annual basis, we can’t upgrade the door latches.

Time will tell if any of these things actually happens.  Until then, I’ll be jingling in the suite.  Keep your ears open.

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The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

The Social Security GUID

With the recent Equifax debacle, I froze my credit file at all the places I was able to.  But the news still keeps on coming.  Whenever I read about these events, I think, “Why can’t we just request a new Social Security Number, like we can request a new bank account number?”

Well, for one, there’s not a lot of SSNs available. 1.2 billion at the max, and I’m certain that you can’t have SSNs like 000-00-0000, and there’s probably a few other notable blocks that couldn’t be used, so it’s less than that.  And with people constantly dying and being born, those numbers are always getting used up.  If we were to allow people to request new SSNs easily, we would exhaust the available supply very quickly.

So, if we were to reimagine how our country’s income tracking system could be implemented, we should make sure it’s not going to need an update for a very long time.  And when you think of things that are going to last a long time, I think of 128-bit values – GUIDs.

I understand that the retrofit of a new field in databases around the world to accommodate this new ID value would be nigh impossible, so this is just a thought exercise in what we could want from a national identifier.

Foremost, we would want our ID to be replaceable at will, but we would also need to be able to keep a history of former IDs.  For example, if your ID was stolen or leaked, you would simply request a new one, and the old one would be archived.  The old ID would continue to be valid for existing credit lines and other previously established links, but would no longer be valid as a lookup for new lines of credit or other interests.  Ideally, you would update your old accounts with your new number.  Maybe it would be mandatory to keep your ID up to date within a year of changing it.

Second, your ID should not be able to be guessed or calculated.  There are guidelines for the structure of SSNs that indicate approximate year of issue and state issued in.  With a random GUID, there is no such pattern (although it could be somewhat implemented with the resultant loss of security).  The vastness of a 128-bit space would nearly eliminate guessing.  The length of a GUID also means it would be difficult for people to memorize upon overhearing someone else reciting it.

So, if we were going to do this, do it right, do it big. Go from 10 bits to 128 bits and never think about it again.

Jokebook Notebook

I often have a lot of random ideas and I typically forget the details of them later.  I should be carrying a small notebook to jot these things down.  Like this morning, I saw a billboard and a commercial idea started forming in my head.  The great thing about writing commercials is there doesn’t need to be a lot of dialog (unless that’s the joke) and it’s over in as little as 15 seconds.

So, I came up with a brief sketch for a iced tea brand.  It involves the talent of Ice-T (of rap and CSI fame), Mr. T (of 70’s A-Team fame), and Master Shake (of Aqua Teen Hunger Force semi-fame).

(At the scene of a fancy outdoor party, mingling guests on a wide lawn, white party tents and small white bistro tables set up through the area.  Ice-T is standing alone and somewhat bored at one of the tables and someone approaches.  He looks up and sees Mr. T)

Ice-T: Hey. (extending hand) I’m Ice-T.

Mr. T: (shaking hand) Hey, I’m Mr. T.

Ice-T: Huh. Nice to meet you.

Master Shake: (interrupting, not in scene) Hey, I’m also a beverage!

(Ice-T and Mr. T turn to look at Master Shake, annoyed at his interruption.)

Master Shake: I said… I’m also a beverage.  You know, like a drink.  Speaking of drinks, I could use a drink.  Nothing but teas at this place.  Iced teas, Mr. T’s  – HA!  You see what I did there?  Seriously though, I could drink like a couple dozen Fuzzy Nizzles, you know what I’m saying, dawgs?

(Master Shake continues rambling on while Ice-T and Mr. T awkwardly stare at the table, trying to ignore him.  A waiter walks by with the promoted iced tea brand on his tray and the camera follows him away from the scene Master Shake is making.)

“Promoted Tea Brand – not always inappropriate”

That idea led me to a sequel. 

(In a music studio, Ice-T and Mr. T are sitting at the mixing console listening to some of Ice-T’s new music.)

Mr. T: I can’t imagine doing this for a living.  This is awesome.

Ice-T: It’s a great creative outlet.  You can really connect with people through music.

Master Shake: I connect with people all the time.  Because I have the connections.  You guys wouldn’t know about that. You got no connections.

(Master Shake is standing in the back of the studio mixing room, not really talking to anyone.  Ice-T and Mr. T stare blankly at Master Shake)

(Master Shake reaches for something on a shelf and knocks everything off onto the floor, including awards and memorabilia.)

Master Shake: Yeah, that’s what I think of you, tchotchke’s! You can stay down on the floor, because you’re nothing.  Nothing! (Realizes Ice-T and Mr. T are staring at him angrily.)  Hey, I got this idea for a song.  A rap, if you will.  (Master Shake starts making beatbox sounds and moving in jerking motions like he’s dancing.)

Ice-T: Talking cup, you are so white.

(Shot of Master Shake freezing in place with mouth agape.)

“Promoted Tea Brand – not always inappropriate”

I have an idea for another sequel involving Carl fanboy-nagging Mr. T about his A-Team exploits, too. But since these would never see the light of day, no need to develop it.

A Nose For News

Update: Now with even more noses!

Before I updated my phone to Windows 10, I used the Microsoft Money app for news.  It had a glitch where if a photo was a certain size, it would zoom in on a smaller portion of the photo.  This resulted in an article thumbnail image that really had little to do with the story.

I don’t have this app anymore, so I present to you: My archive of noses:

wp_ss_20160412_0002wp_ss_20160413_0001wp_ss_20160414_0001wp_ss_20160429_0001wp_ss_20160503_0001wp_ss_20160525_0001wp_ss_20160227_0001wp_ss_20160323_0001wp_ss_20160324_0001wp_ss_20160329_0001wp_ss_20160330_0001wp_ss_20160330_0002wp_ss_20160403_0001wp_ss_20160407_0001wp_ss_20160412_0001wp_ss_20160720_0001wp_ss_20160527_0001wp_ss_20160527_0002wp_ss_20160606_0001wp_ss_20160609_0001wp_ss_20160613_0001wp_ss_20160628_0001wp_ss_20160630_0001wp_ss_20160706_0001wp_ss_20160714_0001wp_ss_20161107_0001wp_ss_20160811_0001wp_ss_20160816_0001wp_ss_20160819_0001wp_ss_20160823_0001wp_ss_20160823_0002wp_ss_20160826_0001wp_ss_20160829_0001wp_ss_20160905_0001wp_ss_20160913_0001wp_ss_20160914_0001wp_ss_20160914_0002wp_ss_20160916_0001wp_ss_20160922_0001wp_ss_20160922_0002wp_ss_20160928_0001wp_ss_20160928_0002wp_ss_20160929_0001wp_ss_20161004_0001wp_ss_20161006_0001wp_ss_20161006_0002wp_ss_20161010_0001wp_ss_20161012_0001wp_ss_20161020_0001wp_ss_20161028_0001

DIY…NAH

Tonight I had a thought.  I need a new CD tower.  The one I have is totally maxed out.  I pulled up an old picture I took during the assembly of my tower and realized, this is nothing.  I can build this.  All it is is a bunch L shapes joined together into a swastika shape.

DSC_1490

I got thinking further, if I’m going to build my own, I can make it HUGE.  The measurement of my current tower is about 18” per shelf and about 5’ high.  I figure maybe 24” shelves and 6’ high would be amazing.

So I spec’d out what I would need.  First, I’d need some tools:

  • Pocket hole jig: $40
  • 2 Clamps: $40
  • Shelf pin jig: $35

I have all the power tools I’d need to cut down the wood, so now for the actual parts:

  • 2 sheets of 4’x8’x.75” MDF: $60
  • 1 sheet of 4’x8’x.5” MDF: $24
  • Swivel base: $15
  • 200 shelf pins: $20
  • Paint: $20

This comes to a grand total of $254.  That’s not bad.  But it’s the same price as some reasonably priced shelves.  Jeez, I can’t even build this thing myself for less.  And, I know me.  It won’t be perfect.  It’ll probably be passable as far as quality goes.

A Good Idea Made Better

Driving to work today, I saw a dumpster truck for the disposal/moving company, College Hunks Hauling Junk.  It made me wonder how that name came to be.  Maybe the original founders were considered hunks and were in college and decided to haul junk to make money.  It makes me wonder if the founders approached other college kids and offered them a job on the premise that they would get paid for essentially working out.  You get paid and you maintain your “hunk” status.  Sounds like a win-win.

Well times have changed, so I’m going to create the next iteration of this business model.  I call it: Middle-aged Shitheads Being Crossfit-heads.  And I already have the commercial planned out.  But the pitch to the potential employees is still the same.  They can get paid while doing their ridiculous exercises.

We open the commercial with old, large, grouchy moving men slowly moving pieces of furniture from a house to a truck.  “When you’re moving, you understand that time is a crucial factor.  Why be held up when your moving company moves like a glacier?”

Switch the scene to a few thin, ripped people (men and women!) in crazy-tight spandex dashing back and forth between the truck and house with household items.  The difference is, in the true crossfit standard, the items are just chucked into the back of the truck.  You see, the focus is on speed, not quality.

The subsequent scenes reinforce the absurdity of applying crossfit to moving.  Boxes and completely unpacked articles piled up in the back of the truck; someone pitching clothes from a pile like a dog burrowing in the ground; someone struggling with a heavy item and two or three others crowded around him shouting at him to “finish it” instead of helping out; a couch being flipped end over end through the house out to the truck; gratuitous celebrations after moving a box.  You get the point.  The commercial could get lengthy.

At the end of the commercial, there would be a teaser for a sister company, Shithead Servant Services, which specializes in personal household services, like handyman (cue scene of hanging a picture with truck tire and sledgehammer), gardening (scene of “battle-roping” with hoses – or fire hoses), and carrying groceries inside (Guys looking at grocery bags in truck. “It’s at least two sets of Gurpals!”  “AUUGH!  I HATE GURPALS!!” “Oh wait, these are going to be Durkels.”  “YEAAHH!  I LOVE DURKELS!!!” Guys then hauling in all bags at once, then obviously celebrating on completion.)

I’ll be rich.

The In Thing Is Crap

The place that I work at recently hired a new marketing person.  We didn’t have one before, but I guess we needed one now.  This feels a bit like my rant about the Mozilla Foundation hiring a marketing person who had to bring in enough new money to pay for himself and make the company more profitable.  But anyway, that’s not the point.

This new person has some fresh new ideas for how to market our company: videos.  You kind of have to understand the industry of our company is pretty tight.  Everyone knows who all the other players are here.  We’re not trying to break into new fields, certainly.  Yet somehow, we’re supposed to be gaining new clients.  That’s not really the point of this either.

To get more to the point, we had a day where a production team came to the offices and shot video of executives and some random videos of people pretending to work.  You know, it’s all staged, it’s not candid.  As part of the team’s visit, we were supposed to participate in a company-wide group photo.  It’s going to be so cool.  It’s going to be shot by a “drone”!!

So we’re bussed to our biggest company office and over about 20 minutes in the noontime heat (the worst time and the worst lighting to take a picture), a drone whizzed back and forth, forward and back, while we just stared at it, or talked to each other, or waved, or cheered, or whatever else the video team wanted.  It was a dull experience.  Not cool, not exciting.

It’s been about six weeks since that photoshoot and we’ve just been given a sneak peek of one of the pictures from the session.  I opened it with a lot of curiosity and immediately was underwhelmed.  There’s not a single crisp pixel in the photo.  And I’m not sure what I expected.  I mean, a drone video camera is probably 1080p (surely not 4k) which is uh, 2 megapixels?  And we know that the megapixel count is less meaningful than sensor size, so how big could a drone video camera’s sensor be?

Now a much less exciting photoshoot would have involved a rented cherry picker and a photographer shooting a quality DSLR on a tripod with a low-aperture, wide-angle lens.  That would give something a bit larger to work with.  The photo we got was 3840×2160.  Basically a 1080p video still doubled in size.  Also, the photographer could have taken a series of high-framerate shots and used software to do face swaps and prevent some of the worse headshots of some of the employees.

So, drones are big now, I get it.  It’s cool to have drone videos, sure, I agree.  Maybe having a video of one buzzing through the halls of the office could be neat, too.  But drones are not cameras.  They are not created for photo quality.  The plan to use a drone for such an important and expensive photo was poorly-conceived as best.  The result was crap, no matter how cool it was.

More Phones!

A while ago, I had the idea to take a cheap Windows phone and turn it into a dedicated portable media player.  The prime motivator of that idea was cost.  $30 for an electronic device, especially one with a good touchscreen, is pretty unbeatable.  That experience has been pretty much ok.  There’s a few issues that will hopefully be worked out in the future.  But another opportunity came up and I moved on it.  More phones!

The media player phone is a Lumia 435.  The new deal is a Lumia 640, again for $30.  I bought two.  And I still would be getting back the $60 Lumia 640 from the GF when she gets her Sony fixed.  So that’s three phones of the same make and model.  What could I do with them?

The first thing I thought of was home security cameras, but the first idea I could take action on was a car dashcam.  I looked in the app store and found a few free candidates and a few paid candidates.  So I got the free ones and set out to see what it would do.

I purchased a windshield mount and put the phone up under my mirror.  With that and my GPS on the windshield, it looks a little ridiculous.  But it’s not too distracting (at least not doing the day because the polarized screen just looks black with my sunglasses on.  At night, it’s a little more glance-worthy).  The way the dashcam app works is, the camera is constantly recording and discarding video.  It keeps a certain time period in memory at all times.  When you touch the screen to indicate an incident has occurred, the app saves that piece of video to the phone.

In two days of use, I already captured my first incident.  It was a rabbit.  Now I can replay the horrible thumping sounds as many times as I want!  Viva technology!

Exact Audio Copy Secure Ripping And Image Files

I made a brief comment on this technique in a previous post, but I’m going to expand on it a little more because I tried a practical test of the technique and the results initially seemed valid.

Ok, so you are using Exact Audio Copy to rip your CDs, and you want to make sure they are good rips, but sometimes, you get “Read Error” and even worse, “Sync Error”.  This means you have a problem reading your CDs.  But you look at your CD and it’s pristine.  What’s the problem?

I had this happen on a few CDs and I thought, what if I copied the CD to a binary file, mounted the binary file as a virtual drive, then ripped it from there?  Well, guess what?  That works!  But the skeptic in me wondered why the disc would read as data, but wouldn’t read as audio data.  It’s still reading the bits off the disc, why would one fail and the other didn’t?

So, I needed to prove to myself that a imaged CD was a bit-for-bit copy of the original.  To do this, I decided to rip some imaged CDs with AccurateRip enabled.  AccurateRip creates a checksum from the read data.  The checksum would then be compared against a large database of other known good rips and it would confirm that the results were the same.

So, I chose four CDs from AccurateRip’s Key Disc list and imaged them to files.  I used Daemon Tools Lite for the imaging.  (If you’re going to do this, go to oldversion.com and get an older version of Daemon Tools that doesn’t have the imaging feature removed.  I used v4.45.4 and disabled updates.)  I imaged the discs at 24x speed to lower the chance of read errors. The file format I used was MDX.  ISO would not cut it.  Then I mounted each disc using Daemon Tools to a virtual drive and used Exact Audio Copy to rip the images to WAV.  There is no need to rip to a compressed file because the checksum is calculated from the uncompressed data.

Part of the ripping process in Exact Audio Copy was configuring AccurateRip.  I had to provide three Key Discs for it to properly set the offset for my (virtual) CD drive.  I had four Key Discs, so I was well set.  Ripping from a virtual drive is pretty impressive.  It rips on my computer at 50x, faster than the theoretical 48x max my CD-ROM would do.

Disc 1 results: 8/10 tracks accurately ripped
Disc 2 results: 10/10 tracks accurately ripped
Disc 3 results: 3/9 tracks accurately ripped
Disc 4 results: 5/10 tracks accurately ripped

Not the results I expected.  However, it was curious that discs 1 and 2 were newer discs and 3 and 4 were older discs.  So I grabbed four more CDs, two new, two old, and tried again.

Disc 5 (old): 8/9 accurately ripped
Disc 6 (old): 0/10 accurately ripped
Disc 7 (new): 10/11 accurately ripped
Disc 8 (new): 1/12 accurately ripped

So, that doesn’t help anything, or at least doesn’t prove my hypothesis is correct.  So, let’s rip the physical media and compare it to the virtual rips.  We’ll do discs 5-8 since they’re in front of me.

Disc 5: Virtual 8/9, Physical 9/9.  The tracks that were accurately ripped between the two had the same checksums.

Disc 6: Virtual 0/10, Physical 0/10.  All tracks had matching checksums, just no matching AccurateRip entry.

Disc 7: Virtual 10/11, Physical 11/11.  Same checksums on all successful tracks.

Disc 8: Virtual 1/12, Physical 12/12.  The one successful track matched on checksum.

So what’s the takeaway from this?  It would appear that imaging a CD to a file is the equivalent of ripping a CD in “Burst mode” (as termed by Exact Audio Copy).  This means you may or may not get the exact bytes.  But, when ripping in Burst mode, AccurateRip is not available.  Doing the rip from an image file can get you AccurateRip results for some of the files and will flag others as not accurate.  This way you sort of get the best of both worlds.

But, what you lose is the re-reading attempts that Exact Audio Copy performs in “Secure mode”.  And in those cases, you may be able to salvage a track that might read poorly in Burst mode or through imaging.  Remember, in burst mode, you get one try at reading the data (with error correction).

The important takeaway for me is that imaging a CD makes no improvement.  It’s not going to make the CD any better.  My new plan will be to use Secure mode to rip all the possible tracks, skipping tracks with Read errors, then re-rip the skipped tracks with Burst mode.  That’s the same result as ripping an imaged CD with Secure mode.