What would you do with a spare 8 cylinder car engine and a utility trailer? Here’s the best idea I’ve heard yet:

Margarita maker

So, when you’ve got a small-block 400, a trailer, assorted parts and the ability to custom fabricate a 6-inch tall replica of a blender blade out of stainless steel, what do you do with your spare time?

Make the world’s fastest margarita machine.

Add: 6 bags of ice, and 18 bottles of ready-to-drink margarita mix. Turn ignition, and rev engine for 10 to 20 seconds. Open valve and enjoy.



As far as I can tell there’s only one problem with this margarita maker: “ready-to-drink Margarita mix” but I guess I can’t blame a person for not wanting to squeeze all those limes.

via Carla and Make

food, drink, drinks, margarita, make, project

UNIX and Linux shells provide an abundance of useful built-in information that can be referenced in globally available variables. In order to see the information provided in a shell, the set command can be run as demonstrated below.

Here’s a partial output of the set command:

$ set
BASH=/bin/bash
BASH_VERSINFO=([0]="2" [1]="05b" [2]="0" [3]="1" [4]="release" [5]="i386-redhat-linux-gnu")
BASH_VERSION='2.05b.0(1)-release'
GROUPS=()
G_BROKEN_FILENAMES=1
HISTFILE=/home/tclark/.bash_history
HISTFILESIZE=1000
HISTSIZE=1000
HOME=/home/tclark
HOSTNAME=appsvr.mytec.com
OSTYPE=linux-gnu
PATH=/usr/kerberos/bin:/usr/local/bin:/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin:/home/tclark/bin
...
PS1='[\u@\h \W]\$ '
PS2='> '
PS4='+ '
PWD=/home/tclark
SHELL=/bin/bash
SHLVL=1
SSH_ASKPASS=/usr/libexec/openssh/gnome-ssh-askpass
SSH_CLIENT='206.107.231.178 1379 22'
SSH_CONNECTION='206.107.231.178 1379 192.168.15.105 22'
SSH_TTY=/dev/pts/0
SUPPORTED=en_US.UTF-8:en_US:en
TERM=vt100
UID=503
USER=tclark
_=clear

The contents of a shell variable can be displayed by using the echo command and prefacing the variable name with a dollar sign as demonstrated below. Shell variables are referenced using all capital letters.

$ echo $TERM
vt100
$ echo $USER
tclark
$ echo $HOSTNAME ... $LOGNAME
appsvr.mytec.com ... tclark

There are also some special built-in variables that can be useful when creating shell scripts. Some of them are listed in the table below.

Built-in Variable Description
$# The total number of arguments passed to a shell script on the command line.
$* All arguments passed to the shell script.
$0 The command (script) invoked on the command line.
$1 – $9 The first through ninth arguments passed to the shell script from the command line.

These variables are provided by the shell and the names should not be used for other variables.

Easy Linux CommandsFor more tips like this check out my book Easy Linux Commands, only $19.95 from Rampant TechPress.

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linux, unix, system administration, sysadmin

USB Warmer CoolerI’m a big fan of gadgets so when I saw that Vat19 had a USB device which would act as both a cup warmer and cooler I just had to try it!

Vat19 claims the device “Keep a beverage piping hot or cool as ice.” A bold claim for something which powers itself on the small amount of juice the USB bus can put out, but out of the box the device seemed well constructed, so I was optimistic.

First thoughts:

Unfortunately I noticed the first two flaws with the desktop appliance before I even plugged it in. First, there was no on/off switch anywhere on the unit which, while not tragic, would become a problem if your only free USB port is on the back of your system. Second, the switch to change from warming to cooling is on the back near where the cord exits. While neither of these flaws are tragic, both proved irritating.

In action:

Warmer Cooler TestI plugged the USB Beverage Warmer & Cooler into my free USB on my laptop and heard the fan on the unit spin up. Surprisingly the small fan made quite a bit of noise, considerably more than my Dell laptop, even more than most modern desktops.

Ignoring the noise I set the unit to warming mode and put my coffee on the unit. Now another problem… The heating/cooling element was too small for a normal sized coffee mug. A half hour later, with my mug straddling the heating element my coffee had cooled to its typical tepid.

For my next cup of the day I switched to a smaller mug which would fit on the heating plate and got somewhat better results. My coffee stayed warmer than usual, but still not warm enough to justify another device and the loss of desk space.

(Please ignore the small army of drinking birds in the background of the picture above. They are of no concern to you.)

Hoping for better results on the cooling side I unplugged the unit and let it cool to room temperature. After lunch I flipped the switch to cool and plugged it in. I was surprised at how quickly the plate cooled so I put my bar-style pint glass full of water on the plate. Half an hour later my water still seemed enjoyably cool, but was it cooler than without?

I decided to do a more scientific test of the cooling capabilities of the unit, so I got two cans of Coke out of my fridge and grabbed the trusty cooking thermometer. With one can on the cooler and the other on the desk (far enough away to not be heated by the exhaust from the cooler) I measured the temperature of each over a two hour interval.

With an ambient temp of 70 degrees F and a starting beverage temp of 39 here are my findings over the next two hours:

After 30 minutes, can on cooler = 50, can on desk = 50

After 1 hour, can on cooler = 57, can on desk = 57

After 1:30, can on cooler = 59, can on desk = 61

After 2:00, can on cooler = 60, can on desk = 63

After the full 2 hours I sipped from each Coke and could tell some difference, but again, not enough to justify another device on the desk.

Conclusions:

While I love the idea of a USB beverage warmer & cooler the current model from Vat19 falls short of both “piping hot” and “cool as ice”. While the price point of $24.95 is very reasonable the novelty quickly wore off and the many drawbacks doom this gadget to the junk drawer. Perhaps a future rendition will bring improved performance and flexibility, but for now there are better warmers to be had and the cooling effect is not enough to justify this unit.

gadget, review, usb, food, drink, cooler, warmer, office toy

Can’t say I’m a big fan of musical instruments that can kill you (I prefer guitar, where the worst thing that can happen is you snap a g-string), but this musical Tesla coil is cool!

If you’re interested in how this is done, this video from The Geek Group explains more than you ever wanted to know about it.

music, science, tesla, tesla coil, electricity, lightning

I follow a lot of podcasts. They make for great background while I work and by following podcasts like TWiT and Buzz Out Loud I can easily keep up with what’s going on in the world of tech.

To make listening to my podcasts even easier I made a Smart Playlist in iTunes to consolidate my unplayed podcasts. Here’s what I did:

  1. In iTunes, select “New Smart Playlist…” from the File menu
  2. In the Smart Playlist rules create a rule for “Podcast is true”
  3. Add a rule by clicking on the + next to the first rule
  4. Set the second rule to “Play Count is 0”
  5. You can add more rules if you like, or just click OK and name the playlist

Smart Playlist setup

This Smart Playlist has a couple advantages when playing podcasts. First, podcasts will play continuously, so when one podcast ends, the next one will begin. Second, podcasts will not drop off this list until you have played them to the end. This is better than the “is new” indicator in the Podcasts list which disappears as soon as you start playing a podcast.

Update: As an added advantage if you are sorting by item number you can drag and drop your podcasts to change their play order.

itunes, apple, ipod, music, podcast, mp3, netcast

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