Tools

Box Of Screws

When I was growing up, we had a neighbor who was quite mechanically inclined. If he didn’t have a lawnmower disassembled and strewn across his shop, then his car hood was up and the engine was in parts.

He had a most impressive coffee can — one of the really large ones — that was completely full of random screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and other random fasteners. And he used it often. At the time, I couldn’t understand how taking something apart and putting it back together with no modification beyond cleaning might require additional fasteners.

Box Of Screws 2

In the intervening 25 years, I have reassembled my share of computers, mowers, pinball machines, and other random bits of hardware. It always seems that some random screw is either lost, missing, or simply needs to be replaced.

Whereas my neighbor collected his fasteners over 50+ years of collecting parts wherever he might find them, I took a short cut. I bought 4 scoops ($2) of random fasteners from Weird Stuff. And I have already used a half dozen parts in the 4 hours of pinball maintenance I did today.

I think I’ll get more. Can’t have enough random fasteners.

And the photos make for some really nice desktop images.

I have already used a half dozen of these to replace various random stripped, destroyed, or lost screws from the Cyclone.

Canon Remote Complete

Tonight, Ben Holt and I hacked up a remote for the Canon Digital Rebel XT. Instead of paying $20+ for a fragile remote on a short cable that has less features, I picked up about $10 in parts from Fry’s.

The basic plan came from Hacking Digital Cameras book. If you follow this link, there is a link to download a free chapter that happens to include the discussion of building the remote trigger.

Canon Remote Wiring

After drilling a few holes and soldering a few connections, Ben and I whomped together a tough as nails remote on about a 9ft cord. The wiring is rather simple, as seen in the photo. The toggle switch locks the shutter open and is used for time lapse photos independent of camera settings. The push button closest to the toggle triggers the shutter program as selected on the camera. The other push button triggers the autofocus feature, if enabled on the lens.

Update: I added a couple of photos taken with the remote and some more commentary. Split the story because it was getting long…

My wife gave me a Taylor Wireless Thermometer & Timer as an impromptu gift. It is a probe based thermometer that includes a remote display such that I can easily monitor grilling temperature while cooking in the kitchen. The probe is made of stainless steel and is connected to the base unit via a long wire-braid covered metal cable.

Upon the first use, I grilled a couple of very yummy steaks and managed to produce steaks that were cooked exactly how we like them. Unfortunately, it appears that I also torched the probe!

I used TaylorUSA’s online customer support form to ask about the situation.

In less than 12 hours, I received a personal response from customer support representative at Taylor. The company is drop shipping me a replacement probe and I can buy additional probes for $5/each.

Now, that is some fine customer service and I will certainly be quite happy to purchase Taylor products in the future!

I just finished putting together a couple of Morrow Chairs to add to the four chairs like them already in the kitchen of our Eichler.

The chairs are exceptionally well designed and packaged. They require a single tool to assemble. Included is that tool, a an allen wrench.

An Allen Wrench is simply just an l-shaped, 6 sided, piece of hardened steel. In other words, it is about the cheapest tool you could possibly manufacture.

But, coincidentally, through that cheap simplicity comes an incredibly effective tool. Unlike a screwdriver (either flavor), allen wrenches grip the bolt being driven quite well with virtually no chance of slipping. As long as you use the right size, that is.


Update: It was torx, not allen in the titanium powerbook. Aluminum powerbooks seem to use philips for the screws on the side and allen for the screws on the top and screen. I’m sure there was a very long and intense discussion about that, at some point (as there should have been!). The Wikipedia entry on Screws is quite the good read, though it is missing a few screw types.


I have two entries on my Safari bookmarks bar that are not actually bookmarks.

The first is Highlighter. Once navigated to any random page, I can click on the Highlighter bar button, enter the word on the page I’m looking for, and Highlighter will highlight all instances of that word with a yellow background.

The second is TinyURL. It will take any really long/ugly URL and reduce it to a very short URL. Useful for email and other forums where the URL will be exposed.

Both links take you to the original source of each little hacque. Each page contains the appropriate link that you can drag-n-drop onto the Safari bookmark bar (or wherever).