The “Water Survival Pill”

Someone should make a “Water Survival Pill”.  It is a pill that helps you float by giving you really bad gas…  According to this page: The stomach can hold up to 4 liters when it stretches, but my guess is that that is terribly painful.  Wikipedia’s article on the Gallon Challange (aka Milk Chug)  says the stomach holds about 2 liters.  2 liters of water weighs 4.4 lbs.  So filling your stomach with 2 liters of gas would be the equivalent of dropping 4.4 lbs of weight.  It’s not much, but when treading water for days at a time, 4.4 lbs could make a big difference.

Could you just swallow enough air to make it work?

Paul’s Ace Hardware

Recently I started racing RC cars as a hobby.  Right next to the Local Hobby Shop where the races take place is an Ace Hardware.  Paul’s Ace Hardware is a hardware store that has survived the birth of big chain home improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc…).  Paul’s Ace Hardware is a really cool store.  Lots of people to help you, yet they don’t come up and ask you every 10 seconds if you need help (which is nice).  They also provide free popcorn, and have enough of the important stuff that 99% of the time, they have exactly what I need.  And, because of their awesome location between Cafe Rio and Hobby Town (two of my favorite places) makes them a convenient place for me to shop.  Now if only I could get their free wifi to work from the race track in the parking lot…

Science Based Leadership

I remember back to my childhood in SC and thinking how stupid people were.  As I grew, I realized not all adults are stupid, however there are adults who lack balance, and quickly latch on to an idea just because the presenter made a good case (this is one way in which Hitler came to power, he was one of the most talented public speakers our world has ever seen).  I am the leader of Novak Solutions, LLC.  We have 5 team members currently, with 2 other owners, for a total of 7 people.  To me the MOST important role I have is to establish a culture that will take us where we want to go.   I believe a lot of  traditional “Corporate Culture” is not the best.

Tonight, I heard JFK’s Moon Speech (  At a rousing moment he says “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.  It is inspiring, and gets you excited, it is tempting to share this with the company, and make it a quote to put on the wall.  But, the companies goals don’t align with that.  We don’t want to do things just because they are hard.  That is stupid. (Yes, it does have benefits, and sometimes doing something just because it is hard is great, for example, when you need to learn, or want experience, or are trying to build muscle)  However, when given two paths that end at the same direction, and one is hard, and one is easy.  Save your energy for times when the only path is hard, and take the easy one now.



Wow! Multiple Profiles in Chrome (i.e. log into multiple accounts for the same site simultaneously)!

I run two small businesses and my own personal life.  I have 3 gmail accounts, 3 accounts, 3 google calendars, 3 google drive accounts etc…  Google handles multiple accounts ok (but not Google drive), but Amazon doesn’t handle multiple accounts at all.  I need to log into all 3 Amazon accounts daily, finaly I looked for a solution and found this and ran across this little known feature of Google Chrome…  Now, not only can I be logged into all 3 amazon accounts in seperate windows, I also get a ninja in the upper left corner of the window!!

MS Sql Server via PHP On Linux

MSSQL Server on Linux can be a pain.  I’ve spent the last few days trying to come up with a good, reliable, stable, upgrade able stack to deploy on our Novak Solutions servers, and then presented it to our team this morning as a training.  Here is the graphic I used.  If you have any questions, post them in the comments.  Essentially, there are about a half dozen ways to connect php to MSSQL, but only 1 of them really works well.  That is using unixODBC or iODBC (just use unixODBC, it is the more mature of the two) (Linux people, don’t leave me here, as much as I hate ODBC, it is pretty much the only way (without installing MS stuff on your Linux Server (and that only works if you use RedHat or Suse)) to connect to MSSQL from a Linux server) via FreeTDS.

RC Car: Vaterra Kemora


Saturday I bought a Vaterra Kemora (It’s an RC Car, not a real one…)  and I had to do a lot of searching to find the info on it I wanted, so here is a summary of what I’ve found…

First, it is a bad little car…  Practically indestructible, crazy fast out of the box for $150, and tons of fun.

I took it bashing at a Skate Park close by and had a blast.  It survived 12 foot jumps landing on the roof, sliding all over the place, rolls, tumbles, it was awesome.  Finally, a shock end gave out just like this guys: But we were REALLY abusing it, so I’ve got to give it 5 stars for durability (and a little cleaning and some super-glue and it’s back in use).  The NiMH that came with it was bad (getting it replaced), but I’d just bought a few Black & Decker 20v Max drill drivers on black friday for cheap, and build 2 li-ion packs for it with the cells from one of the drills.  I converted the battery connectors over to Deans connectors on the advice of my new friend and recently hired employee at Hobby Town in Gilbert, AZ – George

Ok, on to the good stuff.

3s LiPo – This thing already screams but you can make it scream lots more if you get the optional 3s LiPo, you can buy it here from Vaterra:  Or just google DYN1477 (It is made by Dynamite and the part number is “DYN1477″)

Maintenance – Keep the dust out, check the pinion mesh occasionaly, and put a dab of oil on the bearings (Regular Synthetic motor oil, or marvel mystery oil will do).  If you get it wet, dry it, blow out any left behinds with compressed air, and then use a water displacement lube (like wd-40) to get the water out of the bearings, I recommend you re-lube with something else other then wd40, as wd-40 tends to not really lube stuff all that well or very long.  And, use a can of electronics cleaner to blow out the motor.






An American inspiration – Glen James

Glen James is a homeless man in Boston who found a backpack with $42,000 in cash and travelers checks inside.  Instead of keeping the money, he flagged down a police car and turned it in, saying it was “the right thing” to do.  A marketing expert named “Ethan Whittington” found out about Glen and wanted to help him out, so he setup a website where people could donate money to him.  So far, the site has collected over $140,000 and donations are still coming in.


Glen, thanks for setting an example we should all follow.


Saving Money – 4 InkJets

Printer ink is insanely over-priced.  I think most printer manufacturers aren’t really printer manufacturers, rather “Ink Consuming Device Manufacturers”.  They make their $$$ on ink, not on printers.

But!  There is a site (several actually, but one in particular that I’ve ordered from a number of times with nothing but happiness as the result)

They rock, and that’s about all there is to it.  I just bought a 9 pack of cartridges for my Epson for $58 (less then the cost of 2 OEM extra large black cartridges) it includes 3 black cartridges, and 2 compete sets of color cartridges.

So, before the next time your printer runs out of ink, go order some from (P.S. They also sell toner).

What’s Inside – Projection TV

As a kid I used to take stuff apart all the time.  I frequently got in trouble for taking working things apart.  Jacki, sorry about that camcorder to VHS converter….

Recently I re-discovered how much fun this is.  I’m going to start a series on What’s Inside.  First, a projection TV.

2013-10-04 17.43.30

I opened this thing up for the fresnel lens (pronounced “frenel”, the s is silent).  Dan and Denise Rojas over at have done some awesome things with their giant Fresnel lenses.  When I found out I could get a Fresnel lens practically for free out of a projection tv, I started looking and found one for $1 in just a few days.  After taking the back off the TV, and taking out a bunch of screws I could remove the fresnel lens.   I haven’t yet removed all the gray screen from in front of the Fresnel lens, I’ll do that soon though.


2013-10-04 18.35.56

Another bonus in the TV were these 3 lens sets.  These things are great because if you set them down on top of something, the object is in focus.  So it makes it easy to magnify things on a flat surface.  Here’s an example:


I’m looking forward to playing with the Fresnel lens tomorrow when it’s light outside again.  Look out Ants!  Here I Come!

Scientific (Almost) Data Of Before And After a Tune Up

I recently bought an OBDII to Bluetooth adapter so I could do some troubleshooting on my car, which I recently fixed by rebuilding the head and replacing all the belts, hoses, and gaskets I had to take off to rebuild the head.  It’s been getting really bad gas mileage, and I had a few theories about why.  I bought this device: BAFX Products Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool because it was recommended on a few car forums, and it has over 1000 reviews on amazon with an average of 4.5 stars.  I was amazed at the amount of data this combined with the Android Torque application I could get from the computer and display as a graph, dial, or number, and log…

I had three thoeries about why the car’s MPG was sucky.

  1. The temperature sensor was bad, this is because even after replacing the thermostat the temp guage was about 20 degrees below middle.
  2. The oxygen sensor needed to be replaced (always a possibility).
  3. Old ignition components were reducing efficiency (spark plugs, wires, cap, and rotor).

So, I plugged in the OBDII scanner, and looked at coolant temperature, it was right on the money at 185.0, that ruled out the temp sensor.  Then, I pulled up the Air/Fuel mixture status widget, it showed me that the O2 sensor was working fine, and the ECU was operating in Closed Loop mode. So, while it could still be the O2 sensor it wasn’t likely.  Just in case, I ordered a new O2 Sensor, Plugs, Wires, Cap, and Rotor from Rock Auto (best prices anywhere) and (it was cheaper after shipping to order the wires from here)

I wanted to see if I could get some good data showing I had solved the problem, so I first did some data logging during a trip around the block after the car had warmed up but before I did anything.  Then, I did another similar run after changing the ignition components, and then a final run after changing the O2 sensor.

After gathering the logs on my computer, I used the Throttle Position sensor data to split each set of data into Idle, and Not Idle.

Then I computed the mean average, and average deviation of both Fuel Trim Percentage (this is the percent of fuel the cpu is adding or taking away from it’s (fuel map + long term trim value) to get the O2 sensor to be right, and O2 sensor voltage.

The results I got were

O2 Voltage at Idle Before Changes:  0.46 / 0.22
O2 Voltage at Idle With New Ign  :  0.45 / 0.24
O2 Voltage at Idle New O2 Sensor :  0.44 / 0.31

Temp Fuel Trim at Idle Before Changes: 2.04 / 2.198
Temp Fuel Trim at Idle Before Changes: 0.2  / 1.35
Temp Fuel Trim at Idle New O2 Sensor : -0.3 / 1.78

The only noticable difference is that the average Temp Fuel Trim went down after the new ignition components.

O2 Voltage While Operating Before Changes:  0.62 / 0.24
O2 Voltage While Operating With New Ign  :  0.73 / 0.15
O2 Voltage While Operating New O2 Sensor :  0.69 / 0.18
Temp Fuel Trim While Operating Before Changes: -0.65 / 2.47
Temp Fuel Trim While Operating Before Changes: -0.75  / 2.56
Temp Fuel Trim While Operating New O2 Sensor : -0.7 / 2.66

So what does this tell me? Not a whole lot. Other then that the mixture seems to have gotten more accurate while driving after the new ignition components, and a little better still after the new sensor.  And, I don’t know what the long term fuel trim was, it’s possible my car adjusted somewhere in there.  Also, the test wasn’t that great, all 3 logs were done a little differently.  Which may account for the differences.

So, the ultimate question…  Did this fix my gas mileage?  I don’t know yet, we’ll see after a few tanks of gas, that is the litmus test.

One other component that may be the problem is a clogged catalytic converter, so that’s next, and if it’s not clogged, then I’ll do a smoke test and see if I have any vacuum leaks, and if that doesn’t fix it, then I’ll put in a cold air intake, instead of the current setup I have where the average air intake temp is 150 degrees f