Saturday, September 08, 2007

The End of the Projects Blog

Since I've been having trouble consistently posting to this blog, I've decided to stop altogether. Actually, I'll still post updates on my projects on our Life Blog. I'll use the (relatively) new labels feature with Blogger so if you are only interested in blog entries about my projects, you will be able to find the new ones at Also, I've updated the project's feed so if you are following the blog with a feed reader, you'll also see the new posts. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cool Web Stuff

In an attempt to better tell the story of my most recent work trips, I used a couple of new (to me) web tools. First, I used the My Maps feature on Google Maps to create a storyboard of my journey (with my coworker and friend, Andrew) around Cape Canaveral Air Force Base looking for the Apollo I launch pad. Next, I used Zooomr to create a couple of picture boards that allow you to see a more detailed image by hovering over or clicking on 'portals' in the image. These things are described in more detail in the Life Blog (first entry & second entry) or you can look directly at the Google My Map and the Zooomr pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building and Mercury Monument. Sorry if they don't work for IE users, I'm not sure why I had trouble.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Headboard Progress

I haven't made any progress on the headboard in close to a month. The combination of rain and other activities has really slowed me down. I hoped to work on it today but I'm not sure I will because of the rain again. It's not that I can't work in the rain, but it isn't particularly pleasant. Anyway, I thought I'd put out a brief update on what I've got so far. I updated the design slightly to avoid the baseboards and to allow us to add crown molding later if we want. I also made my plans more detailed as you can see in the picture.

headboard sketch

The previous picture didn't even show the tables which I have completed building. They are 14 inch squares made from four pieces of oak. Just for these little pieces, I used a planer, miter saw, jointer, biscuit joiner, and sander. They turned out looking great; I just have to figure out how to attach them now.

bedside tables

And last but not least, I've already put up most of the boards. Compared to the two that are left, these were fairly easy but it did take some time to get them up there straight and evenly spaced. I used keyholes in the backs of the boards placed so that I just needed to get two level rows of screws in the wall with the correct spacing. It took some time and diligence but worked perfectly.

most of headboard

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Little Projects

I haven't done a real projects update in a couple of months. The main reason is that I haven't made a lot of progress on anything big and with all the rain we've been having it really feels like I haven't done anything. However, when I think about it, there are many one day projects I've done that are still fairly significant. So this post is going to be a quick catchup and then I'm going to try to be better about posting even the little things as they happen. In addition to the things below, I've done some work on the headboard but I'm going to save that post for another day because E just got home from work .

repaired sidewalk

Sidewalk - I mentioned some work I needed to do on the sidewalks in front. I got some quick setting concrete designed for patching that came in its own little bucket so all I had to do was add some water. It was actually pretty easy and despite the bicycle marks turned out pretty well I think.

Garage - Another rainy day project was organizing the garage. Since I started woodworking, I've been amassing more and more tools and wood so every now and then I have to take a step back and reorganize. This time, I mainly focused on wood storage. I reorganized my small scraps into various nooks like between studs and I used the legs from an old table to make a rack for long boards. I just moved the existing bolts from the leg corners to the sides and ran them through the studs.

wood rackold tools

I also took the opportunity to find a display shelf for some old tools I got from my grandfather. They were his dad's or maybe even his grandfather's. I just wanted to put them out because they are pretty cool. The picture shows the display with an old toolbox, miter jig, hand drill, and hand plane.

Yard Work - A couple weekends ago, we had a dry day that I spent cleaning up the trees around the house. Our oak tree got its yearly trim and I spent a significant amount of time cleaning out the trees that overhang our fence behind the garage from my neighbors' yard. I mainly did this because it just looked bad but there were also some limbs toughing the roof of the garage and there were vines that had taken over and were not only growing in the trees but also the roots are invading my yard. I'm hoping that pulling up some of the roots and providing more sunlight will help the grass grow back there. The pictures below give you a taste of how much I cut out. It was not my favorite task and I actually took a couple more days cutting it up to take down to the street.

tree trash1tree trash2

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Google Analytics

Some of you probably know that I am a bit obsessed with all of the tools, toys, and services that Google has to offer. Well, I've just made a basic update to the web page to take advantage of yet another. It is Google Analytics which lets you view statistics about traffic on your site. I've been using Stat Counter from the beginning and I haven't gotten rid of it. The little number at the bottom right of every page is my unique visitor count from Stat Counter. My only complaint is that I only get to see the last 100 page loads with the free subscription, but I just thought I'd add Google's free tool as well to see if I like it.

By the way, I've got some other projects to update you on. E just dumped a month or so worth of pictures off her camera so hopefully I'll be able to give you some updates soon.

Edit (4 Aug 08): fixed broken links.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Garage Lighting and Upcoming Projects

E and I have decided that our next big project will be the "headboard" for our bed. I put that in quotes because it isn't exactly a headboard but I can't think of a better description either. It's actually more like wall art over and around the bed. Confused yet? The picture below is a rough sketchup of the design.

Bedroom headboard design

There are actually a few details missing. There will be small tables on each side of the bed cantilevered out from the boards there and some pendant lights that hang down above the tables. Again, hard to explain but we hope to have it done soon so I should be able to put up some pictures. I've already got the middle boards ready to be stained. I cut keyholes in them for hidden mounting to the wall.

The reference to more garage lighting is that I installed two more lights in the garage like the others. I wired them to the existing switch so I can get some pretty good light in there. The motivation was that we are in a pretty rainy season but there wasn't enough light to stain wood with the garage door closed. There is plenty of light now!

The other "upcoming project" I'm actually just about to go do. Because of tree roots, there are some steps in our sidewalk and the community association has been complaining. There is a whole frustrating story there because the steps in our sidewalk are nothing like some of the others around the neighborhood. We figure that someone on the board must live on our street. Anyway, I bought some concrete and I'm going to try to build "ramps" like the association requested. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Customizing Outlook Today

This post talks about how to customize the Outlook Today page. This is something I worked on a while back when I was trying to increase productivity at work. I wanted to have everything that I look at in one place: calendar, tasks, unread mail, and mail marked for follow-up. Here's a screen shot of what my Outlook Today page looks like.

Custom OT Screen Shot

So, it's not beautiful but it is functional. It just uses basic HTML along with a bunch of special Outlook stuff. At various times, I've had the weather, a Google search bar, and other basic things on the page. The other warning before I give you the file to download is that I just patched this together from the default Outlook Today page and various custom pages I found on the web so the HTML is very ugly. Please, no complaints about how poorly it is written. It works and that's all I was going for. I'd be happy to see improvements, however, if anyone wants to send them to me. Anyway, here is a my custom Outlook Today page and associated files.

To install, you just unzip the files anywhere on your computer, open Outlook, right click on your mailbox, select properties, go to the home page tab, and browse for the Custom_OT.htm file. When you apply the setting, you might get an error message that you can ignore. The first thing you might notice is that because of the embedded email windows, the page doesn't work particularly well if the embedded email folders have the Reading Pane active.. You can turn it off by selecting the email folders (by default, Unread Mail and For Follow Up) and then View->Reading Pane->Off. Next, I'll talk a little about customizing this page and give you refer you to some more information.

To customize the folders that show up in the Messages section, how the calendar looks, and how your tasks are organized, you need to edit the registry (Start->Run->Regedit). Outlook Tips defines the registry keys that affect the appearance of Outlook Today. Defining the folders isn't as hard as the site makes it seem though. For instance, one of my entries is just "Search Folders\Unread Mail". Let me know if you have any trouble setting things up. The other thing you might want to customize is the mail folders that show up at the bottom of the page. For that, open Custom_OT.htm in notepad (or your favorite HTML editor) and search for "Search Folders". You'll find it twice. I have "Search Folders\Unread Mail" and "Search Folders\For Follow Up" and you can replace them with whatever you wish.

If you are interest in more information, slipstick has some. The links on that page might be of particular interest. I also collected various parts of my custom page from other sites that I can't seem to find again so sorry to the people I ripped off without crediting. Good luck!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lighting Projects

outdoor light fixture

Over the last couple of weeks, I've done three lighting projects. First, we had these really ugly outdoor lights on the back patio that we wanted to replace but hadn't gotten around to yet. One of the bulbs burned out so that was our motivation to take care of it. Sorry I don't have any before pictures but I've included an after picture. Not that it is particularly exciting, but there is also a picture of the other one in the album.

old chandelier

The second project was a little more involved. E got a new dining room chandelier for Christmas to replace the beautiful thing you see on the left (in mid-removal). Of course, it wasn't as simple as just replacing the existing one; it had to be moved as well so I started by patching the existing hole. This is the first time I've done this before so I'm pretty happy with the results. If you look closely, you can tell where it was but it certainly doesn't stand out. Anyway, I used this real popcorn ceiling stuff that came in a tube and just had to carefully apply it to get a similar texture to the rest of the ceiling. Next, I moved the ceiling box and cut a new hole for the new chandelier. Here are a couple pictures of the finished job.

new chandeliernew chandelier in room

The last project was simply replacing the light over my workbench in the garage with a couple of new lights. The old one was broken and only occasionally worked. It's nice to actually be able to see out there now. Here are the before and after pictures.

old garage lightnew garage light

I'm actually planning to do a little more lighting work coming up. I am probably going to put another one of the outside lights under the patio and I've got a couple more lights for the garage. Both of those projects require running wire though so I might not get to them right away.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Computer Desk: Part VI - Finally!

The computer desk is done! Actually, it has been for a couple weeks but they have been a very hectic couple of weeks for E and I. I went to Washington, DC last week for work and E joined me for the weekend. We've also been really busy at work. Anyway, that's why it has taken a while to get this entry published. We've completely moved into the desk now including computer, accessories and files. There's not really much to say about it except that we decided to go with glass for the durability. See the pictures below. Notice that all of the components can pull out. This is great for access but made cord running a real pain.

desk w/doors closeddesk w/doors open

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I've been wanting to setup our desktop computer to act kind of like a server for the laptop. Basically, we'll store all important data on the desktop and the laptop will access it through the network and use Windows' offline folders capability to make sure the laptop also has a local copy. I figured that before switching to this approach, I would change my current setup of 2 independent serial ATA (SATA) hard drives into a mirrored set (RAID 1) which provides automatic backup of data in case of a hard drive failure.

Sounds simple enough...I found a cheap PCI card (from Rosewill) that supports SATA RAID and tried to install it. As Windows is booting, I got a blue screen and then an automatic restart. It didn't even give me time to read the data on the blue screen. I tried everything I could think of to get it working without success and the best part is that when I returned everything to the original configuration, Windows still wouldn't boot properly. It took several attempts and the painstaking process of reloading Windows including all patches before I could successfully restore my backup. So a week later, I'm back where I started!

It appears that all of the reasonably priced cards use the same RAID chip so I'm not confident that just trying a different card will help me and I can't upgrade my motherboard without replacing a bunch of other, I'm still trying to figure out my next step. I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Computer Desk: Part V - Finished?

desk with top

Well...not quite but it is starting to look like it. The top, doors, keyboard drawer, and baseboard have all been installed since the last time I posted a picture. The top hasn't actually been secured yet because we are going to take it and have glass or acrylic cut to fit to protect the top. I'm leaning toward acrylic because it will be easier to work with, can be really thin, and is cheap but it will depend on what the edge finishes look like. We are also going to be cutting at least one hole in the top for monitor cables. We have discussed cutting several holes to make it a design feature. The baseboard needs to be touched up where the nail holes are and I've still got a few more drawers to do but it is coming along.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Computer Desk: Part IV - The Teaser

I worked on the desk a lot last weekend and E did some painting. We got the doors finished and the top is currently being painted. Sorry, I'm too lazy to go take pictures right now but I just wanted to let you know that progress is being made. I expect it to look finished by the end of the coming weekend. It still won't have some of the innards though.