I love my Kreg Jig

I love my Kreg Jig

A few years ago my parents got me the Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System. I thought it was neat but didn’t really have a use for it at the time, so sadly it has been sitting in a tub of random tools in my basement.

Now that I’m retired and have too much time on my hands I decided I wanted to try building some furniture. For my first venture I am working on a nightstand for my wife. The Kreg Jig has made it so much easier.

Yesterday I built the top (see photo) using three pieces of 1×6. It took about 15 minutes to cut the wood, drill the pocket holes, and screw the whole thing together. When Becca came home I of course wanted to show it off to her. It was so tightly and evenly put together that she thought it was a single solid piece of wood!

Thanks to my Kreg Jig, I should be able to finish the nightstand in the next few days during my baby’s nap times, and I won’t have to try to cover any nail holes (or errant hammer strikes).

I still have a bit to do.. I need to make a drawer, add a shelf, sand/stain/finish the whole thing, and attach the top to the base.

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We’re making a video game

I’m the assistant scoutmaster in my ward’s Boy Scout troop. I’m not very good at it. I don’t particularly enjoy camping without my family, and I’m not very good at tying any kind of knot other than a square knot or a one-handed bowline. It has been a real struggle to find ways to be useful to my troop and the boys that are in it.

While I was driving some of them home after a troop meeting a few days ago, one of them asked the others what they wanted to be when they grew up. One of them said they wanted to make video games. Being a programmer, I know that is easier said than done.

I started thinking about it though. Is it really that hard? What is required to make a video game? Well, nowadays you generally pick a platform, work within a framework, come up with a story line and some graphics, then code the game. I’m no good with graphics and story lines, but I can do the other bits. I browsed DreamSpark and found some free development tools and decided I wanted to offer to teach the boys in my troop how to make a video game.

Tonight we were having a movie night but a few people were running late so most of us were just hanging out, so I took the opportunity to bring up my idea to create a video game. They loved it! We spent 30-45 minutes coming up with a plot, weapon ideas, how the player should move through the game, power ups, customization options (like character clothes), and assigned a few people to draw some artwork.

We are going to try meeting once a week with whoever is interested so we can work on the game. The initial goal is to get a basic single level finished. We are going to use Microsoft XNA Game Studio with the hopes of having our game available for both Windows and Xbox 360.

I feel this is a bit ambitious, but I’m really excited about it! XNA uses C#, which I’m somewhat familiar with, and has a bunch of good books available for it. One of the boys has had a basic programming class before, so that should help some. And all of them play way more video games than they should, so they should know what makes a game fun or boring.

I’ll do another post once we get some artwork and a title, hopefully in just a few days.

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Undeleting images from an SD card

Last weekend my family went on a short vacation. We took some fun photos, and when we got home I moved them from my SD card to our external HD. And then I accidentally deleted a few of the photos from the HD. Yikes!

Luckily, there are tools to undelete files from an SD card. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t free or just plain suck.

After much searching and several failed attempts at recovering the images, I finally found TestDisk. It has an old fashioned interface (DOS) and took a few hours to run on my 32GB SD card, but it recovered all my images that I accidentally deleted, and many more that I intentionally deleted over the past year or so.

And best of all, it was free!

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Zend Server is awesome

As a Zend Certified Engineer, I get a free Zend Server license. This is a $1,695 value, so definitely worth the effort of getting certified.

It has been a few years since I last tried Zend Server, and it didn’t go well. It was buggy, awkward to use, and difficult to install. Since I just ordered a new server, I decided to give it another try. It is awesome.

Installation was incredibly easy. I use CentOS. Zend Server has its own yum repositories so I just had to set them up on my new server and type “yum install zend-server”. Bam. PHP was installed.

Fake Name Generator has lots of special requirements. I normally spend an entire day getting PHP configured and dependencies installed whenever I get a new server. With Zend Server, it took maybe 5 minutes to figure out which pear packages I needed and then I was good to go. Zend Server’s PHP already had almost everything I needed installed.

Updating is also easy. This is normally a frustrating 30-60 minute process that often results in down time when things go wrong. A day after I installed Zend Server a notice was sent out about a critical security update. I ran “yum update” and I was up-to-date in just a few seconds.

Zend Server logs potential issues. I can easily see PHP errors, scripts that are taking too much memory or too long to run, and a pile of other issues.  I can also customize my php.ini from within the web GUI. Not amazing, but a nice little perk.

Finally, Zend Server integrates with Zend Studio (also free for Zend Certified Engineers). When Zend Server logs an issue, I can click a debug button in the web GUI and it sends the issue to my IDE for debugging. It is a bit finicky, but still very awesome. It also lets me easily profile my sites.

So basically Zend Server is pretty awesome. I wish I had started using it earlier. I’m pretty comfortable setting things up on my own, so I don’t think it is worth $1,695 to me, but it is definitely worth using since it is free for me.

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My latest server rebuild

Every year or two I like to order a new dedicated server and migrate all my stuff to it. This gets me newer hardware and software, lets me customize the hardware to my current needs, and gives me a chance to fix any mistakes I made with the configuration of the previous server. Plus I often save some money.

I just placed my order with SoftLayer for my latest server and am so super excited to start working on it. I remembered to check for any specials, and was lucky to grab an awesome one that has saved me some cash while letting me get a way beefier server than I had intended.

The configuration I settled on ended up being $550/month cheaper with the promo code and some luck (sometimes you get better than ordered, because they don’t have what you ordered available). That is a savings of $6,600 for the first year! Even better, it ended up being $10/month cheaper than my existing server, so I’m getting a much more powerful machine for $120/year less.

Specs of the new server:

  • OS: CentOS 6.0 (64-bit)
  • CPU: 2 x Intel Xeon-Westmere 5620-Quadcore [2.4GHz]
  • RAM: 12GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 2 x 100GB SSD in RAID 1

I better get configuring. I’m only saving money if I quickly migrate to the new server.

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