Car Repair Fixing Things

Installing A New Ignition Switch On A 1997 VW Jetta


In the summer of 2008, I documented the process of replacing the ignition switch on my 1997 Volkswagen Jetta. The tutorial is on Flickr.


A New Blog About HTML/CSS

I’m writing a book about HTML (and some CSS) titled Essential HTML, and I recently started its blog.



Add a Dockspacer to Your Mac OS X Dock

[Screen capture showing spacers added Mac OS X’s Dock.]
Screen capture showing spacers added Mac OS X’s Dock.
Last year, I wrote a little Terminal-based program that adds spacers to the Mac OS X Dock. This helps to keep items in the Dock more organized.

Download here, and feel free to fork on GitHub.

Publications Reviewing

Technical Review of a Book on Max/MSP

[The cover of Patrik Lechner’s Multimedia Programming Using Max/MSP and TouchDesigner]
The cover of Patrik Lechner’s Multimedia Programming Using Max/MSP and TouchDesigner.
In the summer of 2014, I was approached by Packt Publishing to review a book about Max/MSP. Since I was in the planning stages of writing my own book, I thought it would be a good learning experience.

Four months later, in November 2014, Packt released the book, Multimedia Programming Using Max/MSP and TouchDesigner. Overall, it was a good—and fast—experience in understanding the back-and-forth of technical reviewing and editing.


Notepad++ — The Je suis Charlie edition

On 10 January 2015, the Notepad++ team released the “Notepad++ Je suis Charlie edition”.

Notepad++ — Je suis Charlie edition
Notepad++ — Je suis Charlie edition
Design UI

Poor UI Design in a Database Admin Page

Another poor UI design. Adding a database using this layout is quite easy: click the icon with the plus (“+”) character over it.

The current interface for adding a new database at iPage.

Dropping a database, however, isn’t immediately obvious. The icon to do so appears to the right of the “add user” icon, in the right section of the page. It’s likely there because the UI designer(s) didn’t want users to mistakenly delete databases.

OK. Understood. But, why not place the icon along the same row as the add database feature, but along the right margin?

A suggestion about where the “drop database” feature might better appear.


Fixing Things

Fix Your Hercules Guitar Stand for About $1

A Hercules Guitar Stand

After years of use, the grip on my Hercules guitar stand broke. (A link—with a picture—to a forum post on the matter by other owners is here.)

The Grip of a Hercules Guitar StandI contacted Hercules about a replacement, and they said they don’t sell parts. They advised me to buy a new stand, of course.

Instead of spending upwards of $30 on a new stand and placing yet one more thing (that’s only 0.001% broken) in a landfill, I did some research.

Using a pitch gauge, I found that an M5—0.8 × 20 mm screw will keep the neck of the stand in place. Home Depot carries the screw for $1.05. The SKU is 887480028287 and the screw may be found here.

A M5—0.8 × 20 mm screw

The trade-off for using this screw is the forfeited ability to use the stand’s one-handed adjustable feature. (To adjust the height, I will need to unscrew, re-position, and re-screw the stand’s neck.) No matter, I never used the adjustable height feature.

Design UI

Terrible Farecard User Interface

Farecard Station In DC/Virginia
A Farecard Station In DC/Virginia

Here’s an example of an incredibly terrible — and dizzying — user interface, or UI. This is a farecard station in Virginia or Washington DC (I can’t quite remember).

My friend Dan and I are from New York, where the MetroCard stations are incredibly simple to use. We reacted exactly the same way as we came upon this farecard station: “What the hell is this?”

We spent about five minutes trying to figure the process out. (That’s four minutes too long.) We then requested the assistance of a very nice ticket booth clerk, and it took her another twenty-five minutes to explain it all to us.

Let’s look at a few examples of why the UI fails.

Note the “CASH • CREDIT • DEBIT” heading in the upper right hand corner. Beneath it you’ll note that you can get up to $10 in change during your transaction. But then, in the blue section marked “1” in which you can select a purchase, the maximum change is $5. Which is it?

Under the “FARECARDS AND PASSES” section you’ll note “1 FARE PERIODS,” “2 FIND ONE-WAY SmarTrip Card FARE,” and “3 PURCHASE FARE.” The horizontal space below items “1” and “3” are shared, but item “2” has its own horizontal space. Also, items “1” and “3” share the same heading space; that is, both are on the same baseline and share the same brown background color.

The next section takes a numerical, top-down approach (“1” on the top to start the purchase and “3” on the bottom to retrieve the farecard), but fuses elements of left-to-right navigation (in step “2” you can pay with cash on the left using the bill drawer or with a credit card on the right using a card swiper).

Note the coin return all the way at the bottom. Why not put that directly beneath the coin slot above item “2 INSERT PAYMENT”?