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Corn Cob Blasting on a Budget

June 20th, 2009 36 comments

Log Siding corncob blasting2003 146We purchased a log sided home in 2003, not really knowing much about log care or treatment in general. I was less concerned about log siding than a log home, because the worse case is to remove the siding and replace it with new, if needed. I now have a better appreciation for the work that went into putting the siding in place. Log Siding corncob blasting2003 197

Our house was built in 1996. From what we can tell has had little to no care of the wood, since it was constructed. This has left the wood in a rough shape, having blackened and showing signs of wear and cracking after exposure to the elements. When approaching re-staining the house, we had the first challenge of removing the existing stain, and prepping the wood for new stain. You can’t really expect to hand sand an entire house of curved wood, so the typical approach is to use some chemicals combined with power washing to remove the stain. There are a few pieces that drove us away from that direction. We didn’t want to deal with chemicals, and masking off the ground and surrounding plant life around the house. We also learned that, depending on what chemicals you intend to use, you may need more chemicals to get the pH of the wood back to a level where it will accept the stain again.

The alternative out there was this process of blasting the stain off of the wood, using ground up corncob. Appreciate that nobody in the area of Rochester had a clue as to what we were talking about, and that perhaps 1 in every 10 people we talked to in the wood industry didn’t look at us cross eyed. Luckily there was enough information on the Internet to get us closer to understanding how to approach the process. Eventually we got in contact with Dick Alger at I Wood Care, who seemed to have the best grasp on the industry and approaching this project. I took a look at renting the equipment from I Wood Care and quickly discovered that this was not for the average home owner. Requiring nothing less than a compressor of biblical proportions, the nozzle system resembled something closer to the size of a fire hose. So I did what I always do, and decided I could build my own system for less money.

Poor Man’s Corncob Blasting

I decided to build my own system, using standard sand blasting equipment, because of the low investment it posed overall, figuring it was small Log Siding corncob blastingDSC07920risk to take in the investment to get the wood repaired. I bought a sand blaster from the mecca of cheap tools, Harbor Freight, and replaced the blast hose with a 30 foot extension. Then ordered what I considered to be a high CFM air compressor from Northern Tool, using points I had earned from my credit card and had a bag of corn shipped up from i Wood Care to give it a trial.

Log Siding corncob blastingDSC08027The system worked, but needed some refinement. Although the compressor was rated at 11.8 CFM At 90 PSI, it didn’t last for longer than a 15-20 seconds before dropping too low in pressure. I also neglected to account for this new thing Log Siding corncob blastingDSC07919called gravity. The further you get up that ladder the more pressure is required to move the blasting media, a progressively painful drop in usable air the higher you went up. I was very fortunate to have a friend at work who had a compressor that put mine to shame, and when I mentioned what I was trying to do, he let me borrow the setup for the months I would need to do the work. The project wouldn’t have happened if that did not fall into place.

The quotes we got from buying the actual bags of corncob were ridiculous. My wife ended up taking a day trip in the truck to go buy it from I Wood Care, because they were the only ones not looking to charge extortion rates for the media. We ended up ordering our stain and bug treatment from them as well.

You can re-use corncob a few times, if you are clever. We were not that ambitious, because we would usually be doing this project after work and did not have time to mess around with collection tarps, etc. Corn Cob Blasting Example

Choosing Stain and Bug Protection

Log Siding corncob blastingDSC08053Many different manufacturers of stain, and many different processes regarding bug treatment. For stain, we went with a stain that did not finish off with a polyurethane coat. Some log processes will take that direction, leaving that outer shell of protection in place. Every few years, you presumably give the polyurethane a re-coat and all is well. The negative is that if you miss the re-application and the stain below takes a toll, you need to figure out how to get stain back onto that wood. There were a lot of non-clear answers on this, all of which sounded like work. We opted to go with a stain that did not use a final protective coat, but could be re-applied as the years go on. Essentially every couple years we apply stain again. It sounds like work, but really we do one side every year, rotating around the house from year to year. The process takes less than an hour for us to re-coat one side, and it has worked out well so far.

You want to add some bug treatment to the wood, to discourage all of our bug loving friends from making a home in your house. Some of the treatments mix with the stain itself. The system we went with, which was Penetrete did not. It was was applied before the stain. The negative out of this, and perhaps something I would change given the choice to do it again, is needing to allow the bug treatment to setup over 12-24 hours. In upstate NY where ever other day is rain, this proved to be challenging. The best thing about corncob blasting is that the wood is cleaned, dry and ready for stain, which we lost with this process. Many a nights we scrambled to wrap the house in tarps, as we waited for the treatment to set in and crystallize over night.

Lessons

What I learned and what I would offer for anybody approaching this from the same “do it yourself” perspective.

  • Find the largest air compressor you can find. Ideally you will want a construction grade trailer compressor that you would find on construction sites. I will not need to do our house again, but I still watch the classifieds to see if one comes around for a reasonable cost.
  • Get a sand blaster that has a large capacity, or is easy to fill. I wasted a lot of time refilling the corn into the blaster, because I had to go through a funnel. Stretch the budget $100 and get the large easy loading model. If not, consider getting two blasters, and have somebody loading the one, while you are blasting.
  • Keep the bags of corn dry. Consider keeping them someplace with a dehumidifier running. A little moisture made for more challenges getting the spray tweaked just right, than I care to admit.
  • The corn will get everywhere. Keep a set of clothes that you only where for this project and isolate then from the rest of the house, inside. That is about the best you can do.

I recently blasted the final logs, after some reconstruction work on our back wall. I took one HD video of the process itself, to show how nice the stain comes off.

It is amazing to see how the same stain applied to weathered and blackened wood appears, versus new cuts of wood. The house looks like a very dark color, but when applied to new wood, it appears very bright and light colored. If you need to replace one or two boards on a wall, you may be approaching replacing the entire wall, depending on how it affects the look of the house.

Categories: Projects Tags:

IPhone 3GS Camera Improvements

June 20th, 2009 No comments

Focal Selection from the iPhone 3GS

Nikon D200

There is no huge advantage when jumping from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS. The fact that you can get a subsidized 3G iPhone for $99 is very attractive for most people and I would have no hesitation recommending people explore that direction when considering an iPhone.  While the advantages may be slight to the average user, they still mark a healthy improvement in areas that needed attention.

The camera is something I use every day, for a multitude of reasons. For myself has become one of the most important features of this device. Given the choice I would carry the SLR around everywhere, as there is no replacement for it’s quality. I can’t have the SLR all of the time so I fall back onto the iPhone to at least capture the moment.

Being able to take close up pictures,  under 12 inches away, was a huge disadvantage until this new phone. I found myself trying to take pictures of device serial numbers, peoples business cards and anything else I just wanted to remember. The pictures were out of focus and typically illegible.
The new iPhone 3GS addresses this challenge and then some.
nutrition photo testHaving the ability to choose the focal region in the shot and have it not only focus, but also adjust white balance and light settings, makes a world of difference. When the entire area is in the same focal length the camera automatically focuses. Perfect for capture business cards and documents and I

plan on using it to record my receipts. When the area covers a larger focal region, choosing that focal area ensures the picture is focused on what you intend.

Not only does the focus changes to the selected region, but it also adjusts white balance and aperture.  Previously taking pictures at dusk, I would have to point the phone down to adjust for the darkness in

White Balance at Dusk

White Balance at Dusk

the yard, then pull up abruptly to take the picture of the sky.  Otherwise the entire silhouette of the yard would be black as the brightness of the sky took over.  With the iPhone 3GS, selecting the area of the yard as the focal area, it handles this automatically, without having to trick the lens into what is happening.

The camera upgrades for myself were worth the expense, but I average 10-15 pictures on the phone a day.  If you are a casual user, this expense may not be worth the extra cost of the 3GS.

Golisano Building at Rochester Institute of Technology

Categories: IT Perspectives Tags:

iPhone 3GS decisions

June 19th, 2009 No comments

My decision to buy the iPhone 3GS was weighed out heavily over the last week. It wasn’t until this morning, that my mind made the commitment to make it happen. Typically I am a late adopter of new technology, but this is not really new. After all I knew it would do everything the iPhone 3G did, with an expectation that it would only improve that experience.

Buying the new phone was easy. Not getting any help from AT&T on the price was another stab in the back. I convert as many people as I can into iPhone users. I have a corporate contract with AT&T at work, putting 30k a month into their pockets and I can’t get an ounce of thanks from AT&T for the effort. Yes, I will jump to any other carrier when the time comes. However despite how terrible the customer experience is with AT&T, the iPhone trumps the desire need to have this setup.
I still contend that having an iPhone is no comparison to the Blackberry market, the windows mobile market, or any other mobile platform…yet. I find it difficult to hear people happy that they have their new BlackBerry because they wanted to stay on Verizon. This is so much more than your email and web browser, that I can no longer sit through the conversation. Your arguments on monthly costs and calling in the same network are dissolved within seconds and the only bastian of validity in your argument will still hold is that AT&T customer service sucks.

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Google Local Business Center Glimpse

June 15th, 2009 No comments

I received an email last week from the Google Local Business Center, letting me know about the updates they had to their interface listings. I put the email aside until today, as I was on the road and really didn’t have a chance to sit down and soak in what it was telling me.

Google released some tools on June 2nd, which created a dashboard for local businesses. The tools allow business owners to dig into the traffic patterns that people follow when locating businesses using Google Search and Google Maps. The report doesn’t get as granular as to provide the interface people were using to perform these searches, but expect the expansive growth of the iPhone and other mobile platforms has created a new demographic for businesses to focus upon.  I know open up my Maps applications to search nearby whenever I look to find something.

This glimpse into the profiles of localized searches would have gone un-noticed, except for the fact that I have two local businesses registered under my account. It is interesting to see how a business with local customers and clients matches up against a global company with a local footprint.

I mentioned I had two listings in the system, which are The Country Party House and Rotork Controls, the company I actually work for.  The owners of The Country Party House have been friends of the family for years, so I have always tried to help with some of their web presence needs.  It is a small family run business which is a local resource for hosting parties and large events like weddings.  Rotork on the other hand is a global manufacturer of valve actuation systems.  They don’t sell anything locally and in fact target most of their business out of state and country.  I have worked at Rotork for 11 year, and while their marketing department might not know this local listing exists, I still put it in there, knowing it was the right thing to do at the time.

ComparisonStats

The more interesting of the two, is by far the Country Party House generating 1641 impressions or visits, with 276 actions off of the site over a 30 day span.

The actions are broken down into categories, showing that not only did somebody find your listing, but took initiative to get more information or directions from that listing. In the case of the party house…

49 Clicks for more info on MapsCountryPartyHouseListing2
141 Clicks for driving directions
86 Clicks to your website

While the second search query identifies that people already knew the business and were searching for directions, the rest of the input almost forms a trend.  People searching for wedding receptions or banquet halls and following Country Party House as the local resource is a direct score for the marketing campaign, capturing the core demographic of what they want.  A look at the regions of the area, we can see a saturation of interest around Webster, perhaps from a different marketing campaign, and the need to advertise more in some of the thinning areas.

While the Rotork information wasn’t completely useless, it shows that people are really just either looking for directions, or something completely unrelated to the business itself.  With search results for generic terms like “businesses” topping the list, you have to imagine the local demographic is non-existent.

Rotork Local GoogThere are some more enhancements that this new service brings to your listings, enabling you to define store hours, link to media about the store, etc. For local businesses, looking for free exposure, this is a huge resource to tap into.  Once you identify the revenue stream being generated by these local listings, you will find some resources like Google AdWords, Google Checkout and Google Base available to enhance these listings even further.

I was glad that I actually had some businesses listed to visit, as I would have never appreciated how much traffic was actually going through this service.  For the local business today, this is a key resource to take advantage of.  For those large international companies, at least get your address right, so we can still get directions.

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Inspiration of John O’Neill

June 9th, 2009 4 comments

hidden-pass-tournament-waterski-49291I remember the first time I met John at a waterski tournament in 2007. I had brought my list of excuses of why I wasn’t in the tournament, most of which dissolved after I saw John ski. Watching John ski, and ski very well with one arm, placed my insignificant complaints into a different category. I have learned never turned down a chance to ski and I am the first one in the water without hesitation.

John and I met in passing over the next year or two, mostly revolving around water skiing and the occasional brush by through work connections somehow. After a few conversations, I truly became inspired by John as a water skiier, but not for the obvious reasons. I became inspired not because I was talking to a person who could kick my ass on the ski course, literally with one arm, but because I was talking with a guy who did not see any obstacles in doing what he loved to do. Whatever facilities he had available to him, he was going to be water skiing and that was all there was to it. John was inspiring because his love for this sport poured out of everything he did. Everybody who met John quickly accepted John on the ski course because of the spirit he brought to the sport.

While his death this week was a tragic one, it would be hard to imagine him wanting to do anything but ski. Saying that he died doing what he loved would be an understatement and I am sure John is smiling at us all today, still putting in an extra set. Thanks for eliminating all of my excuses in one encounter John, and thanks for reminding me why I go skiing every chance I can.

JohnONeill

 

Nationally Ranked Water Skiier dies while skiing

Water Skiing Death ruled accidental – Democrat and Chronicle

Categories: Water Tags:

Corporate adoption just went up with iPhone 3.0

June 9th, 2009 3 comments

featuresannouncement We may not be the best example of measuring smartphone adoption rates, because our company has a head start with the iPhone.  We in the IT department manipulate our knowledge of change management to make our own lives easier, one iPhone at a time.  When the only requirement for a smart phone was defined by management as needing “access to email”, we moved to the iPhone as soon the Exchange integration became available.   The corporate community is no different than any other populous.  Just as they spread the word when something fails, they strut their glory when something works.  It didn’t take long before the viral effect of a very successful platform took hold, and we started receiving the requests for iPhones over the other platforms.  The advantage for us, is that people are quiet, happy and working, apposed to calling and complaining about their Windows Mobile platform locking up.

That is not the case for most corporations.  Most corporations are invested heavily in Blackberry or Windows Mobile because their list of requirements extend already beyond the need to access email, because they have already changed their own applications to accommodate their new platform.  Being slow to the smart phone race has had its advantages for us.  Regardless, with the announcement of iPhone 3.0 software and the features it brings, the corporate community will not be far behind us.

Capital Expense Reduction

As most corporations in the economy today, we are watching the extra money we spend.  While the iPhone has never been the cheapest, it certainly gets attractive now that they offer a $99 model for the iPhone 3G. Our guys on the road also have a GPS, so removing that from the list of purchases, now that TomTom has released an iPhone Turn by Turn application is a huge advantage.  Slide a little further and invest in a iPhone 3GS and you eliminate the need for a separate digital camera with closeup capabilities and video clips.  I think the only thing left on my wish list is for iPhone to completely emulate windows mobile for the purpose of running those old apps that we wrote years ago and seem to ignore. Certainly eliminating 4 or 5 devices in the list of items an employee will need to carry, is a huge advantage, and worth a serious look moving forward.

Cut Copy and Paste

There is no argument that this functionality should have made it into the iPhone long before the 3rd release of software.  It was a complaint of most everybody since day one.  Now that it is here however it is also no longer a point to argue against the platform.  Providing functionality that is one step closer to conducting business on the iPhone, this is a key feature, which we all knew was coming.  I am not ready to give Apple a big pat on the back for finally getting around to it, but this rather un-glorious feature is not without celebration.

Tethering

The ability to tether just took 30% of our populous and moved them to the iPhone side of the argument.  Once AT&T figures out how much they want to squeeze people for this service, it will be a HUGE step for anybody with a laptop to connect.  As it stands now, we have many employees going to a broadband card, and being able to eliminate that extra piece will be worth the offset cost.

LandScape Keyboard

Check this off in another one of the, “should have done that a long time ago” boxes.  For people trying to overcome the move from tactile keyboards however, this will significantly increase the adoption rate.

Voice Memo

Believe it or not, we still have a few executives carrying around dictation recorders.  Now, I know that there are already iPhone applications for recording notes, but having one built in may yield some better support for the playback of these files down the road.  After all it is the transcription software that really is needed.  If there is no software down the road, I may have just identified my ticket to retirement.

Honorable Mention

There are many items up on the list of things to come, which we really can’t put our finger on, but know are really good to have for our developers.  While the rest of the manufacturers try to scratch at market share the iPhone already has, these features pave a powerful foundation for infiltrating the corporate environment.

  • VPN on demand is a huge, but only for organizations already developing applications. Being able to tell the the application to connect a VPN tunnel back to the services it needs, will be a huge advantage towards integrated CRM, ERP, MRP and a long line of other acronyms relating to business software.
  • LDAP was on the list of items, but didn’t yet make the describable list of features.  Obviously a huge statement when approaching any Active Directory or Microsoft Windows network.
  • One of the large hangups from a corporate perspective is the security aspect of the device.  While the new 3.0 software brings some powerful enhancements with remote wipe functionality, it appears to still require a MobileMe account.  This needs to be opened up into operating with the Exchange functionality before it is makes the “advantages” list.
  • Encrypted profile backups are always a good thing, but if a corporation has already adopted an encryption policy for their devices, it is just another feather in an already protected cap.

If you are in the corporate environment, you must at least prepare for the notion that there will be iPhone entering the corporation, and it may be time to start preparing for it.  The largest number one negative against the entire concept of the iPhone in a corporate environment is that you need iTunes on the clients. Apple will need to create a management application and thin client for corporate iPhone users if it hopes to really take over.

Gizmodo has an excellent writeup of the announcement covering the highlights if you missed it.

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Project Natal Overshooting the Target

June 3rd, 2009 No comments
image5056509g

Director Steven Spielberg on stage during the press briefing to praise Microsoft's approach to the mainstream audience with Project Natal. (Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Microsoft’s large announcement at E3 this year was the development into Project Natal, their full body movement and gesture detection system.  The allure of the system is that you don’t need a controller at all to enjoy motion sensitive games and architectures.   Obviously taking a stab at the under-estimated market segment that Nintendo tapped into with the Wii, the system certainly moves the bar higher than ever before.  The question is whether or not it will hit the market segment they were shooting for, and whether or not they have anything to offer the core gaming community.

There is a large distinction between the core gaming community and what the Wii has created as a community.  While the rest of the manufacturers were busy trying to develop a platform that would make gamers happier, Nintendo when and focused on all of those people who weren’t playing at all.

Here is where the concept of Microsoft jumping into the motion control segment starts to fall apart.  Unless Project Natal becomes part of an off shelf Xbox system, it will forever be seen as a peripheral to an existing game console.  It will be the PowerGlove of the modern day system and it will not compel people to purchase the system, not really understanding how they get the motion feature added on.

Knowing Microsoft has the eyes and ears of the gaming community, there is a longer list of challenges that Microsoft will have in order to attract the core gamers.

Exercise

There is misconception that gamers want to exercise.  If I wanted to play soccer, I would go outside and play soccer.  If I want to get together with my friends online and play soccer with my friends for a few hours, I do not want to have to exhaust my energy to do so.  Obviously there are some exceptions out there, but the attraction of gaming is mental exercise and not the physical one.

Accuracy

I realize we have only seen a few videos, and there is a lot left to the imagination before passing judgment.  However if I make the gesture and the console doesn’t record the action fast enough, we are going to have issues.  If I repeat the action yet some how miss objective, get shot, fall off a cliff, or anything else to cause failure in my game play, this system will be never be utilized again.

Reaction Time

Because the games are going to have somewhat of a visual buffer to to protect around problems anticipating the accuracy, they are going to be slower.  They have to accommodate  uncomfortable pauses right before key actions and gamers will find themselves adjusting their strategy to accommodate the speed.

Ergonomics

I am sure a certain amount of programming has to go on yet before they are comfortable tracking every gesture.  The problem is the shape and design of the people on the planet are different.  How will this system react to the 6 year old versus the 20 year old, not only in actions but in facial gestures, etc.

Environment

The technology driving the actions are surrounding a monochrome camera, acting as an infrared sensor to record depth and motion.  It even identifies the different actions being performed.  How does it react to more light in the room, or outside?  How does it react to a baggy set of clothing, where the system might not be able to differentiate the joints in the body?   I realize they probably put a lot of effort into making this work, but there are too many variables to not expect some major hiccups.

What I would want to see out of this system is a complete interactive environment, not for gaming, but for an interface to access the internet, and for home automation control.  They are reaching that futuristic interface design that we saw in Minority Report, which set a visual representation of how we will be able to interact with an interface.  I am just not ready for it to be a game, but want it to be more. Time will only tell if this redefines anything, or goes to the closet of innovative ideas that were too early.

Categories: Gaming, IT Perspectives Tags: