Quick and dirty phone charger

I wanted to make a quick battery charger just for giggles, the basic requirements were “allows me to plug in a USB cable to charge my phone” – which is fairly easy to accomplish going by all the crazy devices you can buy on the market currently.

I found an eight-pack of C cell batteries at the local Kmart for $5 and I had a few other parts lying around, so I had a go in ten minutes or less.

Rather than bother with tight fitting casings and springs or complex battery wiring, I piled the batteries up in an old poster tube and made a contact for each end. A section out of an egg cup friction fit into the tube, and I jammed a server rack cage nut into it with some wire. The cage nut is roughly in the shape of a small letter ‘e’ and the bottom of the character is pushed through the cardboard with an interference fit. :)

Battery contact

I split some dual-core wire and ran a length to each end, giving me a positive and negative terminal. The other ends of the wires I spliced into a cigarette lighter extension/multiplier that I had lying around.

After I wired it up, I realised that it has a little LED in the extender which would eventually drain the batteries given time. Going with the ghetto theme, I embraced the beauty of my creation by turning the loose fit of one of the egg cups into a switch! Now, no more flat batteries.


Before plugging in my ridiculously expensive iPhone I used a multimeter to test the output voltage, which came up as a healthy 12.6 volts, well within spec for the phone charger I had on hand. All good.

A little more tape, to hold the wires in place and the “negative terminal” from falling out, and it was all done. Easy peasy.

Final(ish) design, for now :) I’m fairly sure the battery life is going to be terrible, but it’s not designed to be good – just simple and serviceable.


SSL a little more S now

I work in computer security lately, so I figure I should probably ensure that my site is vaguely secure :) The Qualys SSL test for yaleman.org was showing a ‘B’ grade because of a few things.
Firstly it wasn’t presenting the full SSL CA chain, so I fixed that. Previously I was only presenting the certificate, with the client having to have the root CA.
  1. Downloaded the ca bundle files from the details Comodo provided me.
  2. Made the bundle file (their support page helped)
  3. Uploaded the file to the server
  4. Reconfigured Apache as per the config from Comodo by adding this line to  the virtualhost SSL configuration (replace $filename with the file location)
    SSLCertificateChainFile $filename
  5. Confirmed the config by running apachectl -t, then restarted apache
  6. Reran the Qualys test and that showed up OK.
The next step was to remove the SSL methods vulnerable to POODLE and FREAK
  1. Edited /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/ssl.conf
  2. Comment out the existing SSLCiperSuite line and add a new one:
  3. Ensure the SSLProtocol is limited to sensible ones:
  4. Again, apachectl -t and restart.
This brought me up to an ‘A’ rating, which is good enough for a cheap SSL cert and ten minutes work. :)

The thin green line

It’s taken a lot of changes, along with a hell of a lot of growing up to finally stabilize that line, and I’m feeling a lot more relaxed for having done it.

Before the graph started, I had a car crash that left me with permanent whiplash damage, changed jobs, moved houses a bunch of times and spent a lot of money on distracting myself from all of it. I ate terribly, exercised only sparingly and didn’t have a plan other than buy all the things!


The old method was live payday-to-payday, always know exactly how much money I had so I didn’t get in trouble and hope nothing went wrong. I’d always be wanting to buy something to distract myself from the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was always a fine balancing act, and I spent a lot of money on not much. Happiness wasn’t bought, just a lot junk food and stuff.

Eventually I found a plan – get into the housing market – I was going to do it this time. The line needed to stabilise, then start to point upwards.

I was helped (a little) by winning a court case against the insurer of the person who crashed into us that day. It gave me a kick start of funds to push into a deposit, that I could easily say “I won’t spend this” and I didn’t, except on my goal. 10th October 2013 I moved into my first place in Tingalpa, and it’s only been up from there.

I’ve said no a lot, and I’ve changed a lot – getting myself ahead on my home loan, organising my finances so I don’t have to keep balancing pennies. I was able to comfortably go on a cruise this past Christmas, and I have other (sensible) travel plans in the short and medium term – something very different for someone who’d never take holidays before.

I swear it’s been physically painful at times to say no to that shiny LEGO set, or the new computer or the parts for that project I’ll never complete, but it’s actually let me spend a lot more time exercising, reading, rediscovering cooking and even working in the yard. Taking pride in my house and mowing the lawn with my push mower is fun and is great exercise – no petrol-guzzling noise-beast here, thanks!

Losing six kilograms in as many months was surprisingly easy once I decided that junk food is a sometimes-food; also that running’s possible even for the broken-kneed when I started on the C25k program (W7D3 with ease tonight!).  My next goal is 10km run, do the 100km ride again and reliably do some push-ups.

That’s all I have to say for now, but I guess my point is that with hard work and conscious choices (not tough, that’s a bitch term) it’s possible to do anything.

Even make the thin green line point in an ever-upwards direction!

Net Worth
Net Worth


I don’t care about your falsehoods.

So, I posted this on Facebook a while back (I started writing this in June 2013):

I wonder if the increase in childhood obesity has a weak correlation with the programs to reduce bullying?

Originally it was based on a stupid line on an episode of  8 out of 10 cats, a crazy comedy show with Jimmy Carr and a bunch of other comedians. It got me thinking about how there’s strange correlations between so many things and it’s surprising where the data shows how things are linked.

I’ll admit that I commonly joke about many different topics, but this time I was actually being serious and just asking the question. I was accused of fat shaming, which is a new one for me…

Throughout my life I’ve been bullied for being:

  • taller
  • smarter
  • a loner
  • related to the school principal

Amongst many other things.

All these things are things that had nothing to do with my own activities – maybe being a loner was a lack of effort – but for the most part it was genetics or luck. It certainly wasn’t my choice to be taller, or who my dad was. I certainly didn’t study to be naturally smarter, if anything it led me in the opposite direction.

A couple of weeks ago I read a fantastic article by Doctor Karen Hitchcock – Fat City : What can stop obesity? It’s just one of many articles written by a professional in the field, explaining some real home truths about overweight people in general.

Barring a statistically insignificant number of cases, being overweight is nothing more than caloric imbalance in the subject’s diet. Eat more than the body requires, it’s going to stay.

I’ll agree wholeheartedly that it’s not easy to be at a healthy weight. I’m at least 20kg overweight, even more if you use the BMI scale. I eat out of habit, because I feel bad, then make terrible choices and I don’t do any real exercise. But I don’t blame anything but myself and my choices.

Fat is beautiful

I believe that a person can be beautiful in spite of being morbidly obese, sure. Beauty’s subjective, but I don’t think anyone should promote being overweight as some kind of acceptable goal.

 Fat people can be healthy

No they can’t.

Just like the facts are in on global warming, overpopulation, the shape of the planet and whether you’ll attract more flies with honey or vinegar, science has come to a conclusion; If you’re morbidly obese, you’re going to have a shorter life, more medical complications and a variety of other problems.

The only way to avoid these complications is to not be obese. A very very simple concept that can be terribly difficult to achieve.

I’ve got it easier than some, it’s true. I’m a rich(ish) white guy so I can afford to buy raw ingredients and spend time cooking them after spending more time exercising. I have a tall person’s metabolism – even if it has slowed markedly since I was 30. I haven’t any major medical conditions – other than that whole whiplash thing.

But y’know what? I’ve had to work my ass off to lose weight, I’ve changed my diet markedly, I’ve taken up running and doing push ups and just generally getting out and doing more. The running nearly crippled me, injuring my feet and throwing out my hip joint more than once. Push ups aggravate my whiplash and are incredibly hard for someone with no upper body strength. I’ve taken time off work due to both.

It’s not easy, no one says it is. But it’s a choice, and it might be the best one you make. As I said in the title, I don’t care what you think you know; accept reality and stop finding people who agree with your falsehoods.


It’s a strange word, and like many fascinating words it’s German. Zettlekasten basically means “index card” and refers to a system of organising your thoughts onto cards.

The modern equivalent for us techie folk would be something like a wiki, which would allow for more efficient searching and linking between concepts. It’s a fascinating idea and something I’m going to play with.

The article has a lot more explanation than I can add, and it’s well worth a read.