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Daynotes Journal

Week of 26 January 2009

Latest Update: Sunday, 1 February 2009 08:57 -0500

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Monday, 26 January 2009
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08:28 - I signed up yesterday for Phone Power VoIP service. The cutover is scheduled for midnight on the 30th. They're sending me a terminal adapter/router, which I'll install between the cable modem and my current border router so that the TA can grab sufficient upstream and downstream bandwidth for VoIP calls regardless of what's happening on the network at any given moment.

The cable modem is in my office, which means the voice demarc moves from the current BellSouth can mounted on the wall outside the garage door to the TA in my office. Rather than do a lot of rewiring, I'm just going to run a UTP cable from my office down to the demarc and splice it into the subscriber side of the demarc can. The TA supports two lines, although on the month-to-month plan I signed up for we have only one line. I'll punch down both the blue and orange pairs on the UTP cable in case I sign up later for the annual contract, which provides a second line.

Thanks to everyone who's made suggestions about cheap, readily-available DC power sources. I hadn't thought about hobby transformers, like those used with model train and slotcar setups. I should have, because when I was a teenager I used to have a model train transformer on my bench. It provided, if I remember correctly, 0VDC to 45VDC. Most current models I found seem to top out around 30VDC, probably for safety. Norman Yarvin also provided a link to a site that sells numerous power supplies, including a $99 0-50VDC bench model that would be excellent for gel electrophoresis.


Tuesday, 27 January 2009
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07:47 - Here's some great news about global warming. Change is now irreversible, says this study, which means nothing we do can change what happens. Since nothing we do matters, it makes no sense whatsoever to spend any more time, effort, or money trying to prevent global warming. It doesn't make sense even to spend more money studying the problem, which means a lot of climate scientists should be scrambling for jobs soon.

I for one am relieved. Historically, warm periods have been good news for humanity. It's the cold periods, with their associated ice ages, that are the real bummers.

Yesterday, I posted the final chapter of the forensics book, forensic biology, to the subscriber page. Starting today, I'll be shooting the remaining images, adding thumbnails of them to the chapters, and incorporating tech review comments. It's all downhill from here.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009
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08:09 - My favorite quote from that global warming story on NPR that I linked to yesterday. After stating that warming has already passed the tipping point and is now irreversible, she says:

"I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it," she says.

I'll leave it to readers to analyze the logic of that statement.

I spent all day yesterday shooting and processing images for the forensics book. Same today, and until I finish all of them, including some that I plan to reshoot.

11:37 - Most people think I'm kidding about preserving my DNA and having myself cloned. I'm not. Ideally, I'd like dozens of mes running around. Hundreds. Thousands. Actually, I'm thinking about open-sourcing my genome under the GPL. Or perhaps public domain would be better. Of course, most people think just one of me is more than enough, and are horrified at the thought of multiple mes. Screw 'em.

Here's yet another step forward. This family cloned their deceased pet. As the technology improves and becomes more widespread, the cost will no doubt fall precipitously and the success rate will rise dramatically. Of course, for humans there'll be issues like availability of host mothers and so on, at least until uterine replicators become available, but the major roadblock is likely to be interfering government busybodies and religious fundamentalists, none of whom should be eligible for cloning. Still, all of those problems can be overcome.


Thursday, 29 January 2009
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08:24 - Phone Power shipped my terminal adapter Monday, with a delivery date of today. Yesterday morning when I checked the UPS tracking site, it said the package was on the truck and out for delivery. Yesterday afternoon, I heard the UPS truck drive by, but it didn't stop. So I checked the tracking site again, and found an exception flag, saying they were trying to determine the correct street address. I called UPS, who told me that the delivery address was listed with the street number as 4321 rather than 4231. I corrected that, and the guy told me the package would be delivered today.

I went to the Phone Power site, and found that they indeed had my street number listed as 4321. That was very strange, since I'd typed in my address on their site while I was completing the order, and they insisted I verify it since it'd be the address used for E911. I tried to fix the address on the phone power site, but it wouldn't let me edit it because there was an "order in progress". So I called Phone Power tech support to point out the problem. I'm sure the guy thought I'd typed my address in incorrectly originally, until I pointed out that Phone Power had run a test charge against my AmEx card and then run the actual charge, and in neither case would AmEx have approved the charge if the address didn't match their records. So it's a puzzle. The guy tried to fix my address as we were talking, but their system wouldn't let him edit it, either. So I'll have to fix it once the order status changes to complete.

Then, about 4:30, the dogs started barking and I found the box waiting on the front porch. Apparently, the UPS truck must have still been in the area and the driver decided to redeliver yesterday instead of waiting until today. So I unboxed the TA, which is tiny--about the size of a deck of cards--and crawled under my desk to connect it between my cable modem and my D-Link router/AP.

To make a long story short, nothing worked. I got dial tone, but that's generated internally by the TA. I tried to connect to the Phone Power site to check the support documents, and found that I had no Internet access. I figured I'd screwed up the Internet connection by connecting the TA, so I disconnected it and reconnected it behind my router/AP directly to the cable modem. I still had no Internet access. Uh-oh. So I pulled the TA out of the circuit and reconnected everything the way it had been originally. Still no Internet access. Double uh-oh.

Then, finally, I noticed that the "cable" light on the cable modem was dark. I walked out to the den and turned on the TV. Nothing but snow on the screen. Yep. In an incredible ironic coincidence, our cable TV and Roadrunner had both gone down literally just as I was connecting the TA. I called TW and spent 15 minutes on hold listening to their obnoxious sales pitches for HD TV and sports packages. When I finally got connected to a human, she told me that there had been a problem reported in our area and they were working on it. When I asked if she had any idea how long I might be down, she just repeated verbatim, "there has been a problem reported in your area and our crews are working to restore service." Now there's a human employee who could be replaced by a machine.

Barbara got home from the gym around 6:15 and said that there was a TW Cable truck along with several other vehicles, including a fire truck, parked near the entrance to our neighborhood. From her description, it sounded like someone must've run his car into a phone pole or something. In retrospect, I should have realized something was going on, because as I was sitting under my desk to connect the TA, the UPS started beeping just as I unplugged the cable modem. So, it was literally at the moment I started working on connecting the TA that our cable failed.

As we were eating dinner, the cable came back on. After dinner, I reconnected the TA, this time behind the D-Link router/AP. I reconfigured the D-Link to put the TA in the DMZ, picked up the handset of the phone, and was able to dial out. I still can't get inbound calls, and won't until the cutover of our phone number from AT&T to Phone Power is complete, but it looks like everything is working as it should be for now.


Friday, 30 January 2009
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08:32 - I spent the day yesterday shooting images, with a break in the afternoon to visit Kim. When TW repaired the cable break a few days ago, her TV signal returned but her Internet access stayed down. They'd been having VoIP problems for months, as it turns out. When Jasmine is working on the computer, their phone service has terrible voice quality. She'd been going back and forth with Vonage tech support and TW tech support, and eventually ended up on a conference call with both of them.

Bizarrely, they both told her she needed to upgrade her broadband service to make her phones work properly. Understand, she's currently on the same cable-modem service that we have, which is 7 Mb/s down and 384 Kb/s up. The more expensive plans offer faster download speeds, but not much increase in the upload speed. I explained to Kim that voice wasn't bandwidth intensive, with a standard digital voice channel being only 64 Kb/s. I didn't look at her setup, but I'm guessing that she has the Vonage TA behind her router and that simply reconnecting it to be Internet-facing would solve the problem.

But, as it turned out, Kim's mother had just that day signed up with TW for their VoIP service on a one-year contract at what Kim described as a pretty good price. For Kim and her mom, having local people available to come out and fix problems is a major consideration. They'll come out and set it up and make sure it works properly and keeps working properly. That's a big deal for Kim, who doesn't want to be crawling around on the floor trying to figure out which wires go where.

I, on the other hand, am used to crawling around on the floor figuring out which wires go where. I'll be doing that this weekend, after Phone Power cuts over our phone number to their service. Right now, the only phone connected to the Internet is the one in my office. The cutover is supposed to happen at midnight tonight, so tomorrow I'll be running cable and punching down wires to get the Phone Power TA connected to the phone wiring in our house.

12:55 - This has not been my best day. I learned by experience that the suction produced by my little hand vacuum pump is sufficient to blow out fairly thick filter paper in a Büchner funnel.

I was filtering precipitated magnesium carbonate, and cranked up the suction to about halfway on the dial. The liquid was coming through very slowly, so I pumped it three or four more times, up to about 3/4 on the dial. Big mistake. The liquid didn't come through any faster, but about 15 seconds later the filter paper blew.

In case you're wondering why I was filtering precipitated magnesium carbonate, it's because I desperately needed some magnesium chloride for one of the forensics lab sessions, and the only magnesium salt I had handy was magnesium sulfate. So, I was precipitating magnesium as the carbonate, intending to react it with hydrochloric acid.

After the filter paper blew, I stupidly transferred the mess, solid and liquid, from the filter paper and flask into a large beaker, forgot I hadn't washed the carbonate, and just started adding HCl. It reacted nicely, and I added just enough HCl to leave some carbonate in the bottom of the flask, intending to decant off the liquid and evaporate it. Then I realized that I had a mix of magnesium chloride and sodium sulfate in the beaker. Crap.

So I dumped that, weighed out another 50 g of magnesium sulfate and the equivalent mass of sodium carbonate, dissolved them, combined the solutions, and set the flask on the kitchen counter, where I can keep an eye on it. Once it settles, I'll decant off the liquid, add water, rinse and repeat until the magnesium carbonate is well washed. Then I'll dissolve it in HCl, again leaving just a bit of the carbonate in excess. Then I'll evaporate off the water and, finally, have the magnesium chloride I need. Jeez.

Tonight is supposed to be the cutover of our phone number from BellSouth/AT&T to Phone Power. We'll see if that actually happens.


Saturday, 31 January 2009
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00:00 - 


Sunday, 1 February 2009
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08:57 - Here's a duh. FBI Cuts Ties with CAIR.

I spent yesterday morning getting our home phone wiring system connected to the VoIP adapter. To make a long story short, I finally did what I should have done in the first place: fished a new UTP cable from my office to the subscriber side of the old phone company demarc and connected it into the home wiring at that point. All of the phones now work normally. Voice quality is at least as good as normal phone service.

Barbara is cutting my hair this morning and then we'll be shooting more images for the forensics book, mixed among laundry and other usual Sunday tasks. She's also giving the dogs a bath.


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.