Frustration fuels growth, but also more frustration

After all my years in the “biz”, I struggled intensely to add a Windows CA to an ubuntu box today. Just goes to show you, no matter how long you’ve been doing this, or how good you are, you know nothing and its frustration all the way down!

I’ve said, repeatedly, in fact, so repeatedly that it may be etched on my tombstone, that “no one jumps out of bed in the morning to fix desktop computers.” I’ll maintain this until proven otherwise. The most passionate technicians and leaders in this industry have a demonstrable need to solve problems; the harder the better. Indeed, the most complicated solutions in hardware, software, and networking boil down to the same basic methodology: “Get it working, then we’ll go from there, eh?”

The technical level that I have achieved for myself is not a testament to the things I’ve learned. My knowledge base is informed by articles, trainings, classes, etc. My technical level is a tribute to the stress and trauma of bad solutions, wrong answers, and every question I wasn’t able to answer in a snap. I’ve wrangled my way into leading my team “my way”, which, unfortunately means, for them, that problem solving is on the menu.

If you ask me a question, and I tell you the answer, you solve it that time. If you bang your head against it, the knowledge becomes a part of who you are, and informs your decision making, your troubleshooting, your problem solving. Spending the time to get that extra value seems pretty worth it to me.

Productivity and Loathing in Las Vegas (but really its Baltimore)

Probably as long as I’ve been aware of it, I’ve struggled with productivity. It is my natural workflow to be spread-too-thin-across-too-many-projects, and while I can certainly identity that there is a problem (and they tell me the first step is admitting it), I’ve engaged in a life-long battle to defeat it.

Of course, if you work in IT, you have to deal with other people’s mandatory to-do lists, be they IT Service Delivery systems like Service Now or JIRA, or email. None of these are serviceable for your personal stuff, let alone managing projects, or recurring events. Frustrating! Not to mention that the task-collecting asset is firmly and distinctly separate from the task-provisioning process, and neither one pay any mind to the time-provisioning process! So many pieces, too manual, too many opportunities for failure. I’ve taken a lot of long-hard looks at this process in my life, and sometimes I had the bulk of it in hand, but never all of it. I am sure someone out there has sorted it out, but I’m not that guy!

No one part of this process outweighs the others, so its not even like you can hyper-focus collection or task provision or time provision and overpower the others.

Task Collection

Most productivity “systems” hinge on one missing piece: ease of use and accessibility. Apps on your phone or PC are pretty easy to use, and are a winner, by a mile, for task collection. I have used simple solutions like Microsoft ToDos nee Wunderlist (RIP), which work famously for shared lists (I still use this for the grocery list that my wife and I shared). I am famously anti-shared-account, and Todos does this wonderfully. Completed tasks are gathered up, making shopping lists cumbersome if you accidentally “complete” a task, and need to undo it (at this point the shared grocery list todo list has hundreds of “Milk”, “Yogurt Pouches”, etc). OmniOutliner, OneNote, Evernote, and countless other apps do this piece seamlessly. Its really nice to always have these at your fingertips, and they are backed up online, as well as portable across devices.

The downfall of this hyper-connected productivity method is purely attention span. When I get an idea in my head, I need to pounce on it or record it, or its gone a fleeting moment later. How many times have you opened your phone to do something and you wound up looking at your notifications, or facebook, or insta, or anything else? I can’t believe that I’m alone in this.

More analog devices, like a notebook (bullet journal), or even an offline handheld like a PDA (does anyone still use these?) struggle with this task in particular. Aside from needing to have the thing with you at all times (a challenge with anything larger than a pocket notebook), its just more arduous in general. Emails have to be written. Tasks have to be broken down and sub-tasked by hand. Major headache.

Task Provision and Tracking

Setting aside major time at the start of the day to examine productivity is a consistent “good idea” that I have never found a better substitute for. I can’t say I’m perfect at reliability accomplishing this task. I can’t even say i’m fair to moderate at it, merely that when I am able to do this (this being 15 minutes at the start of a day to gather yourself up), my perception of my productivity is much more positive than if I don’t. Obviously, some days this doesn’t happen. Life comes at you fast, as the saying goes.

I have issues similar to the collection stage with electronic methods of provision. If I start up Todoist (a fine product, if over-complicated), I’m sucked into ServiceNow and email, and suddenly my day is gone and I’m no more organized than I was before. Again… Frustrating! I personally find the analog methods remarkably (and innately) more focus-able. No flashing lights, just moving tasks from one page to another. This time is great, but, with no email access, its tough to ingest more stuff.

Time Provision

Time is the more difficult to quantify. We know that we have to make time. Focus methods like pomodoro only work if you are already organized enough (and your workflow will allow) to handle tasks in chunks. Some of us bounce around necessarily. Estimating time to complete a task is best done in wide-generalization to leave yourself ample time to complete a task, but if its over-general, it may be useless to waste time to estimate. Calendar use is a given, but I have had mixed (skew towards bad) results blocking off hours to “focus”. What a mess.

Conclusion

Its important to identify each one of these pieces to your productivity puzzle. Sometimes you find a silver bullet and everything falls into line, I guess. That doesn’t exist for me, so far, and I’m not sure it ever will, but I will keep trying! I am most happy using outlook flags, setting aside 15 minutes in the morning to move and arrange to-dos in my bullet journal, and tracking long term projects on a physical kanban board. Until I find something else, I know that my biggest single productivity increase lies in execution!

WordPress.com Integration

Sometime between the last time I regularly updated this blog and now, Red Sweater upgraded MarsEdit to a new version, and WordPress.com got their act together with JetPack and made their desktop client work.

The worst sentence on the internet, but here it goes: “I hope to blog more”. This site was super updated for a bit, and now nothing. Sad. Talk to you soon!

Fostering Quincy

6-30-2019 Update: I originally wrote this post with the idea that Quincy would be adopted quickly. He was not. This post might read weird, I’m trying to clean it up, but, basically, this post has been 3 years in the making. I am brain dumping here, to have a historical record of everything I can related to this sweetheart.

Quincy might just be my heart dog. We received him on leap day, 2/29/2016, and to say he was weak is an understatement that doesn’t do him justice. The backstory on this guy is a little weird, since he had a brother, and they lived together, but apparently things turned hostile at the foster. I can’t say what really happened, there were apparently several fosters along the way, one of which adopted the brother, but let Quincy get turned back into the shelter, where he lived (and was rehabilitated) from November 2015 until we got him.

You can see how thin he was at intake. Notice the pits behind his eyes. Still looks like SUCH a happy boy, though!

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Truth be told, I saw his picture a bunch of times. Now, you all know my predilection towards black dogs. I have a major thing for old, black dogs. If the dog is injured or needs me, that is TWICE as true, not an exaggeration. I feel like fostering or hospice fostering (hospicetering? When you have them and they stay until they pass) senior or injured dogs is an incredibly noble calling, one that involves a strength that is not common, and I’m not sure I have. I saw the foster coordinator saying “MUST GET OUT OF THE KENNEL!”. Mind you, we’ve had Midnight and Bella in the time he’s been in the shelter.

The foster coordinator likes to give me special cases, I guess. Bella was very near and dear to her heart, and she felt confident that we’d take good care of her; I like to think that we did. She asked if we could take Quincy, and his description says “cannot do stairs”, so I tell her… I guess we’ll just carry him up the steps.

Quincy shows up and he’s weak. During his introductory bath, he can’t stand well. His medical records indicate that he’s basically been doing physical therapy every single day. He absolutely cannot figure out the stairs. Thankfully, he sort-of bambi-legged his way to the yard where I was certain he was going to sit in his own poop. These legs were WEAK. When it comes time for bed, Laura and I basically carry him up the steps. Should be noted, of course, that Quincy is a complete and total velcro dog, and stuck to me like GLUE. He’s also a giant crybaby. Worse than Midnight. He doesn’t sleep well that first night, crying and obviously being very upset. I think Bella and Midnight spoiled us by actually sleeping. I went downstairs and laid on the couch so Quincy could, you know, touch me, or whatever. It didn’t work. Sleepless night!

The next day, Quincy was on the ground level, and I went upstairs to shower. I am getting undressed, and who do I hear “figuring out” the steps? Well, I’ll be darned… Quincy figured it out. His velcro nature pushed him to it! So now, the nosiest, most velcro dog has a command of the stairs.

He certainly figured out how soft beds are, right away.

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I’m being fairly selective about who gets him. In my world, if you have a dog that can’t do steps, you lift him up the steps. It’s a no-brainer. This dog is too into his people to not sleep near you, he’d cry, a lot. Heartbroken dogs are not OK in my book! His life would be demonstrably better in a rancher home too, but carrying him everywhere is an option. I want this guy to have a good life, at least as good as he has here, and if I say so myself, he’s got it pretty good.

Loads more pics after the jump, as usual.

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I took him to the store in Hanover, and he just hangs out. He loves everyone.

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I even meme’d him.

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We took him to an adoption event on 4/10/2016. He loved everyone there, but everyone kept calling him old 🙁

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He stood for 2+ hours, which was a bit amazing, but dogs can’t calm down in those situations. He was super exhausted that night, but followed me around anyhow. We were in the kitchen, and he came and sat behind me, and his poor muscles were spasming like crazy. I got him on the ottoman and Laura gave him medication.

I started corresponding with an adoption coordinator on April 12th about a couple who was interested in Quincy. It was tough to find anyone that could get past the initial tough stuff. Doesn’t like other dogs, doesn’t like other people, bad legs, old! We had a couple come in with their two kids, and Quincy started biting, which was weird. Now, anyone with a mind towards legal definition of biting will tell you that any bite is a bite, but in my head, there are varying degrees of bite. The “charge and jump and bite and not let go” is clearly problematic, and so is “nip because I don’t trust you and I’m scared.” That second one is what Quincy started to do. We took him to another adoption event, and it became clear that this is a behavior that was going to stick with Quincy.

We took him to the vet to see if something was medically wrong, we took him to the dog psychologist to see what she thought (don’t laugh!) on March 12, 2017. The dog psych said that his legs are bad, and that dogs can’t understand that their own bodies can cause them pain. So, he attributes pain to any new person in the scenario, because he is pretty sure its not us. That really hindered the efforts to find an adoptive family.

A couple contacted us through the rescue, and they were interested in Quincy, as they’d just lost their dog. We dropped him off on 11/19/2016. We warned them that he took some time to adjust, and panted all the time. I also told them that he would do much better with someone home more often than not, since his legs were terrible and he would just lay around all day. I got a text the next day that it wasn’t going to work out, for basically all the reasons I warned them about. I went to go pick him up, and I’m not sure if he was happier to see me, or I was happier to see him.

We didn’t hear from any potential adopters for a long time. I continued to post online, and people would comment that he was a pretty boy (obviously very true). We were slightly concerned, since Laura was pregnant, and due with our son in May of 2017, and Quincy’s seemingly protective nature gave us reason to worry. During Laura’s labor, I went home every 8 hours, and he was a trooper the whole time. Turns out he was totally fine with Bryan, but we also had a very slow intro, and taught bryan to behave around dogs. No climbing on them, pulling tails, ears, etc.

Things were kind of business-as-usual for the next 2 years, honestly. I continued to work from home until late June 2018, when I got a job at a casino, and I wasn’t home all day. We decided to adopt him for real at this point, on July 10, 2018.

Quincy transitioned through every life event that we threw at him seamlessly. We dealt with his quirks, and he returned the favor by being incredibly patient and exceptionally adaptable. As long as he was with me, he didn’t mind whatever was going on.

I was too used to fostering, and forgot the individual vaccinations and stuff like that were needed, so in January 2019, I switched from LRCP vets to Eastern Animal Hospital. The initial consult resulted in the Vet really torquing his legs around to figure out what was going on, and he was in REALLY bad shape after that exam. We gave him a Deramaxx but he never really recovered fully. Quincy’s front nails were in bad shape, so I started a regimen of nail maintenance every three weeks. His legs had gotten noticeably worse, but he turned 10 years old in November of 2018, so we attributed it to old age plus that terrible exam.

Quincy had a routine nail-trim on May 24, 2019, and while Quincy always panted his way around, I noticed that his throat sounded rougher. Labs are pre-disposed to Laryngeal Paralysis (where the cartilage in the throat doesn’t open the whole way) so I was worried, and wanted to see if there was anything we could do, so we opted to see the Vet during his nail trim. She thought that he was not a great candidate for the remediation surgery, so we opted to try some medication. A low dosage of Gabapentin and Deramaxx were ordered, and we tried those, but Quincy’s mobility hinged on his ability to lock-out his back legs. Gabapentin relaxed his muscles enough that he was in really bad shape, mobility wise, and Deramaxx ruined his digestive tract. We backed off, and tried to keep him cool and calm, which worked… For a while.

Laura is home for the summer, so she was already there when I arrived home from work on June 27, 2019. Quincy was breathing heavily, which wasn’t odd, necessarily, but I noticed that his waist looked exceptionally small. Upon further inspection, it wasn’t that his waist was small… It was that his chest was big, because he was taking huge breaths. He couldn’t catch his breath. In this situation, I’m not sure how everyone else handles it, but I asked Laura, myself, and the universe “Is this it? Is this the time?” as if someone would provide me a definitive yes or no. I called up Peaceful Passage, at the recommendation of my Vet, which is a mobile vet service that does the euthanasia procedure in-home. They told me they didn’t have an appointment until the following day, which I thought was an interesting thing (as generally speaking, I think, there is no such thing as a planned-for-the-future euthanasia), but booked it. Laura and I sat for a few minutes, and she became the voice of reason in a moment of clarity and said “He can’t breathe.” So I called our vet, and asked if we could come in. I carried him to the truck, carried him to the waiting room, and carried him to the back room of the vet, where they had a couch and blankets for him to lay on.

I sat on the floor with him, and Laura had Bryan on the couch. Bryan was screaming the whole time, I’m sure a mixture of “I don’t want to be here” and “Why are mom and dad falling apart”. We held him, and they gave him the shot, and I felt his head become heavy in my hand hands. Laura took Bryan out to let me have a moment, then I went out and got her, took Bryan, and paid for the services. I wanted to give him one last kiss before I left, and I wanted to run out of there as fast as I could.

I went back, and he laid there, still, peaceful. I held his head, and stroked his ears. The vet tech came in, and asked if I needed more time, and I told her “No. If I don’t leave now, I’m staying all night.”

Good night, Quincy. I can never repay you for what you’ve done for me. You taught me about dogs, how scared and broken dogs can learn to trust again. How disabilities don’t mean a dog is ready to go (not that I ever thought that). You taught me how to love a dog more deeply than I ever had before. You taught me how to approach a dog in such a way that it doesn’t scare them. I will be forever grateful to you for that.

You taught me how to be a better, more patient person. You got me ready for fatherhood, and stuck around just long enough to make sure I had it well in hand without you. I love you deeply, son. May the road rise up to meet you, until I see you again.

Sega Triforce Dip Switch Settings

Since it took some digging for me to find these, may you will find this useful

Triforce:

Dip 1: Not Used

Dip 2: Not Used

Dip 3: Not Used

Dip 4: On = Vertical, Off = Horizontal

Dip 5: On = C-Sync, Off = H,V Sync

Dip 6: On = 31KHz, Off = 15KHz

Triforce: Dip 1: Not Used Dip 2: Not Used Dip 3: Not Used Dip 4: On = Vertical, Off = Horizontal Dip 5: On = C-Sync, Off = H,V Sync Dip 6: On = 31KHz, Off = 15KHz

Peter Chou IMP-44-1040 or USP-11-150x Power Supply Rebuild

I picked up a Neo Geo 4 slot at the request of a friend (lets call it a commission work, I guess?). It had a power supply in it that was rusty and dirty and loud as can be. It was this model:

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Now, you can just go get a replacement for this, and thats what I did. Twisted Quarter still has them for $50 which is a spicy meatball if you’re trying to make a profit (especially since those dudes are seemingly incapable of shipping something for less than $15). So that sucks, but it is an option.

150 WATT POWER SUPPLY FOR KONAMI AND NEO GEO SNK GAMES  PS 44 1040 00  $49 99  TwistedQuarter com Arcade Parts Specialist 2018 02 26 10 47 27

Since apparently 2018 is the year of rebuilding power supplies, here’s the cap list:

Location uf v
C5 330uf 200v
C6 330uf 200v
C9 1uf 50v
C10 1uf 50v
C14 1uf 50v
C15 1uf 50v
C16 4.7uf 50v
C17 47uf 50v
C18 10uf 50v
C24 4700uf 16v
C25 2200uf 16v
C26 470uf 25v
C27 1uf 50v
C28 2200uf 16v
C29 22uf 25v

As always, Joe over at https://syracusesemiconductors.com/ was very accommodating when I emailed him to request a custom kit. I’m going to get him to try to add it to his site, but you know how that goes. How many people are actually going to recap these things?

The fan is an 80mm by 80mm by 25mm 12vdc fan, same as most of the other PSUs I rebuild (apparently). So I just used this dude from Amazon, since it sold as a 5 pack, and prime, and thats awesome.

 

Sun JVS Power Supply Rebuild

So we use these Sun power supplies to power our naomis and whatnot, because they’re nice, usually pinned correctly, and have an adjustable 3.3v rail. Thats all well and good, and if you want them to last forever, you can recap them, just like you would anything else. I looked around at the internet, and found lots of different mentions of this power supply, but the cap lists didn’t match my findings, and the board didn’t even look the same. As it goes, check your work, don’t trust me blindly, and make sure that you verify what you’re changing out. The C5 on twistedsymphony’s rebuilt (here) is the AC filter cap, and on my board, C5 is some little baby cap. That could end in tears. Anyhow, on with it.

First, get your power supply, your screwdriver set, your flush cutters, magnet parts cup, all the normal things. Take everything apart, so we can get a good look.

You can grab your calipers to check my work (or take my word for it) that the fan is a 12v 8cm brushless fan. Additionally, it is 2.5cm thick… You might see these fans listed as 3”x3”x1”, but mm is usually a bit closer so I go with that. I’m going with a nice silent case fan from Microcenter (This one, actually). You can probably get one way cheaper on ebay or aliexpress, but this is one of my bench power supplies, so we’re going for gold.

Next up, the cap list. 

Sun 400-5397 PSU Cap list  
location V Uf  
C5 35v 22uf  
C11 200v 820uf(m)  
C13 35v 22uf  
C16 35v 22uf  
C22 16v 1000uf  
C23 25v 470uf  
C24 25v 47uf  
C28 10v 2200uf  
C29 10v 2200uf  
C33 10V 2200uf  
C34 10v 2200uf  
C37 50v 2.2uf  
C41 50v 2.2uf  
C43 35v 22uf  
C44 25v 47uf  

Use flux, clean up after yourself, make nice field windings and heatshrink the cable if you need to re-use the fan connector. We want this to last a while!

Pump it Up CX Modifications: Part 1

Just got back from Ohio, where I picked up another Pump it Up machine, this time, for keeps! Its a Japanese CX model, which is the same as the international model, but about a foot shorter in the header. Its interesting to open these pads up, since I’ve never messed with this newer version, and there are some interesting and important changes that Andamiro implemented.

The first thing that I noticed was that, in spite of the fact that the pad lights are LEDs, they seemed a bit anemic. After opening them up, I noticed a few neat things. First, there is a 12v header to add more lights, and that the original spec is 3 5050 sized warm colored LEDs. This means that adding LEDs of my own would be very easy.

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So, I wired up the LED panels that I basically use for everything, and it really pops! Here’s the link to buy them: https://www.ebay.com/itm/10X-Cool-White-RV-1141-1156-BA15S-T10-921-194-48-SMD-Panel-Interior-LED-Lights/201161822452?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

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I also like the cooler color, it lets the arrow acrylic design really dictate the color, and looks more crisp. The photo makes it look like the new panels make it look washed out, and I think thats just a camera trick, because it definitely looks awesome in real life!

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The sensor triggers have foam on them, so next up is the gorilla tape, and replacing the screws with something shinier. More soon!