Photo Posts

I’ve wanted to add photography to my site for a long time, but never had a good way to add photo posts. It was always a chore to copy the file, resize it into multiple sizes, find the filenames and copy them where they needed to go, then create the post and add the image tags, link it all up, and finally push the update.

So I finally wrote a script to do it all for me.

For the impatient you can download the script here.

Prerequisites:

  • Jekyll
  • Image Magic: brew install imagemagick

Install image magick, and if you’d like, create a folder action to automatically run the script every time a new file is dropped into it. This way you can just export photos to this “magic” folder, and you’ll instantly have a new photo post ready to go.

Install the script somewhere in your PATH. I put mine in /usr/local/bin.

Now, export a photo from Photos or Lightroom or wherever you’d like; just be sure you have a title and description set in your exif data.

The script runs and resizes the photo, copies the resized images into your _assets folder, and then creates a new post for the photo.

I’m using a this post template for my photo posts. Customize it to your liking, of course.

Updating your feed.xml and adding your own photography landing page are left as exercises for the reader.

Calderwood Butte

Early Morning Cholla

Sunset Behind The White Tanks

The Nightmare Scenario

Apple announced today via an open letter to their customers that they would not be complying with a court order to "assist in the enabling of the search of a cellular telephone". This particular phone was owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Part of Apple's letter states:

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

It would be reasonable at this point to ask the question, "What's the big deal, Apple?" Especially when Apple says in the previous paragraph, "We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good."

Here's why this is a Big Deal, and why Apple giving in and creating such a piece of software truly is a Nightmare Scenario:

1. Apple can't Just Decrypt This Phone

The FBI has already asked Apple to do this, and they said it's not possible. Since iOS 8 was released, all iOS devices encrypt their contents with a combination of data that's only on the device. Apple doesn't have this data, and they can't retrieve it, even if they wanted to. The only way to decrypt the phone is by entering the passcode.

2. The FBI can't Guess the Passcode

The phone only allows 10 wrong guesses before it will erase its contents, and entering the code requires physically tapping on the screen, a process which takes several seconds per attempt. Even if there was not a 10 try limit, it would take years for the FBI to try every combination.

3. What the FBI Wants from Apple

The court order demands apple do 3 things:

  1. Turn off the Auto-Erase function.
  2. Allow passcodes to be entered electronically.
  3. Ensure that passcodes can be entered as quickly as possible by the software (no added delay).

4. How Apple Could Comply

Because the security features are a built-in part of iOS, the only way they could be bypassed would be for Apple to build a custom version of iOS that removed these security measures. Then, this custom version would have to be installed on the phone in question, where it would then allow the FBI to run their own software to attempt to guess the passcode. It is not clear if the FBI would be successful in this endeavor even given the opportunity.

5. Why Compliance Would be a Nightmare Scenario

If Apple were to create a version of iOS that could remove these security features when installed, then you can rest assured that it would only be a matter of months before:

  1. Other law enforcement agencies would demand access to this software to attempt to unlock phones for all sorts of petty crimes.
  2. Those same law enforcement agencies would immediately lose possession of the software to malicious parties.
  3. Exploits would appear online, tricking users into "upgrading" their phones to use this insecure software, making it instantly accessible to malicious hackers the world over.

The bottom line is that this is pandora's box. If Apple creates a piece of software to turn off all these features, then the features might as well not exist for anyone, and that software will absolutely be used for evil in short time.


None of this addresses what is arguably a bigger issue: Whether or not government should be able to force companies to create new products with the purpose of rendering old products insecure and/or for the explicit purpose of acquiring their customers' private data.

Control A ZWay Server From The Command Line

Who doesn't want to automate their house via cron?

I have a Razberry module hooked up to a RaspberryPi, along with about a dozen or so Z-Wave devices (switches, sensors, etc.) throughout my house. The ZWay server still has an awful scheduling UI (you have to add an app for each schedule rule you want). Even X-10 had a scheduling UI, in the 90s. (Sadly, I couldn't find any good pictures of this old interface; perhaps I'm forgetting the proper name of the device.)

Well, cron has been executing the world's scheduled jobs since 1979. Whenever I can utilize a simple *nix tool to get a job done, I jump at the chance.

The only problem is that there isn't a basic command line interface to the ZWay server. So, I wrote one.

zway-cli is a simple Ruby gem that gives you basic command line access to your ZWay server. You can query device status, and turn things on and off. It's super basic, and super simple, which is exactly what I wanted for an application like this.

Things like this make me happy: $ zway kitchen_lights on

If you're running ZWay and want a simple way to control it via the command line you ought to give it a try.

How to 3D Print a Copy of your House Key

What You'll Need

Preparation

First, figure out if your house key is a Kwikset or Schlage. If it's made by another manufacturer then you'll need to find someone who's made parametric or similar files for your brand of lock.

Next, download the appropriate OpenSCAD file from the bottom of this article.

Measure Your Key

Now, get out your calipers and measure the depth of each of the "Valleys" of the cut, beginning with the valley closest to the shoulder of the key (the end you hold with your fingers when using the key).

The depth is the distance from the flat side of the blade to the bottom of the valley. Write down the values, as we'll use them in the next step.

Note: If you have an original key already, it may be printed with the 5-digit cut code right on the key already. In that case, skip ahead to the section on Setting up the OpenSCAD model.

Figure out the Cut Code

Keys are cut from the factory with "Codes". Each "Code" value corresponds to a cut depth. What we need to do is work back from the cut depth to the code.

To do this, go to this chart of key code cut depths and scroll down to the section with the values for your lock.

Now, match up the depths you measured with the closest Root Depth value. Write the code (0-9) next to the measurements from before, again working from the shoulder out.

Setting up the OpenSCAD Model

Now that you have the codes, open up the OpenSCAD model for your key type, and scroll to the bottom. Replace the codes with the code for your key, render, and export as an STL file.

Printing The Key

I printed my key on the highest quality setting my printer would allow. I recommend you do the same. Being such a small part the print was very quick.

Using The Key

The first time you go to use your key you may find it difficult to get into the lock. My print lacked the precision in the profile cuts that would allow it to move smoothly at first. With a little bit of scraping or chiseling, you should be able to get it into the lock without too much force, and it should turn freely.

Note: Do not force the key! You do not want to break the key (or any parts) off in your lock, as this could render it unusable!

What if it Doesn't Fit?

Recheck your pin depth measurements and print again, if necessary. Now that you have a printed copy it should be easier to see where things went wrong. Measure your key vs. the printed key to find any codes that are mismatched, then update them in the model and reprint.

Parting Thoughts

I would recommend that you not use this key on a daily basis. A 3D printed key, especially if you're printing with PLA (a very soft material), is going to lose material into the lock each time you use it. Over time you're likely to accidentally introduce plastic fragments that jam your lock or break your key off in the lock.

However, a printed key can make a great emergency key. Key it on hand in a drawer or at a friend's house in case you need an extra key in a hurry.

If you really need a permanent key, try Key.me, or your local hardware store.

3D Printing

I got my first 3D Printer on January 6, 2016. I ordered a Maker Architect 3D Printer from Monoprice for $299. It turns out that the Maker Architect 3D is basically a Flashforge Creator, with a single extruder and no heated bed. It came with 1kg of white PLA filament.

Unboxing

The unboxing experience of this printer was pretty poor. I had already read the reviews and knew that the instructions were limited at best, so it wasn't surprising. As poor as the experience was, it was pretty easy to get going. Just a matter of bolting the extruder to the rails, attaching the filament holder, then booting it up and running the startup script.

Leveling the Bed

As I was reading up on 3D printing before my printer arrived I kept reading over and over how important it is to have a perfectly level print bed to get good prints. So when it came time to walk through the bed leveling process I went very slowly, following the instructions as closely as possible.

One problem I've run into is that, during the leveling process, the printer moves the head to the back-center position and asks me to slide a piece of paper for measurment between the bed and the extrusion head. The problem is that the head is actually beyond the bed at this point, so there's no great way to measure. I haven't figured out how to fix this yet.

First Print

My 3D printer came with an SD card that included some test prints available for you right away. I started printing the 42mm test cube, but pretty quickly aborted the process. It was going to take forever to print this cube.

Instead, I downloaded a 22mm test cube from thingiverse to print. This is where I first ran into confusion in dealing with software, which at least at this time was very convoluted.

Software

In order to print on my printer, I need to give it files in x3g format. X3G is a kind of GCode format that's common among Makerbot and compatitble printers. However, the object files you download are in STL format. So, what do you do?

Go download and install Makerbot Desktop. Then, drag your STL file into Makerbot. From there, click Settings, and configure your print settings. For your first test print, try just going with the standard quality preset. The only things to look for would be bed temperature (set to 0° if you don't have a heated bed) and max movement speeds. In my case the manual listed those out, and all of the standard template values were within range, so I just stuck with the defaults. Then, it was time to export the X3G file, copy it to the SD card, take the SD card over to the printer, and try to print.

First Print, Actually Printing

This time, the print moved along at the speed I was expecting. It took about 15 minutes to print the 20mm cube on top of a raft.

Getting the Print off the Bed

My printer came with a sheet of 3M material that I stuck to the top of the acrylic bed before leveling. For me, getting the prints off has been pretty easy with my knife. Just stick the edge of the knife under the edge of the raft or part, and start prying gently. I haven't had a problem with a part sticking to the board (parts sticking to the raft is another story). For the cube, it popped right off, and the raft also peeled right off for me. First print success!

Next

I've printed about a dozen items since then. I'll cover the more interesting ones in other articles. For those looking for objects to print, there's a reason everyone goes to Thingiverse.