Category Archives: Fun Projects - Page 2

I have my CCENT!

I received my CCENT certificate in the mail today!  I was so thankful to pass the test, I’m looking forward to studying for the CCNA after New Year’s.


I’m taking my time on getting everything posted, but I recently took a trip to North Carolina where I got to tour Microsoft!  I have a few neat pictures from there =D  And I completed the laser I mentioned in this post as well, I’ll post pictures of that as well.

Lockup when using Nawcom’s Mod CD / Empire EFI / iBoot

I’m in the process of making my machine dual boot Windows 7 and OSX.  I was having some trouble getting the Nawcom Mod CD to do anything other than freeze.  Pressing F5 crashes the installer, as does selecting a device to boot from.   This is an issue stemming from the Empire EFI swap CD they’re working from, as several variations were showing the same behavior.

The disc started working normally once I disabled two extra JMicron SATA controllers integrated into my motherboard, as well as my unused IDE controller.  I’m guessing that there is a driver missing from the boot CD that makes it unable to handle those JMicron controllers.  I haven’t had the chance to cycle through each one to see if a specifc one is causing it, or if it’s just the IDE or just the JMicrons.

In any case, if someone else has this issue hopefully they will stumble across this post.  Now to figure out why I’m getting a Kernel Panic before I even see the install screen…

Projects for the Co-Lab

Although I haven’t signed up for a membership yet, I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the Quad Cities Co Lab ( and I’m really starting to get the itch to start a project.  Tonight I’ll be attending a Microcontroller programming class there, and I have two more ideas I wanted to document.  One of them is going to happen, the other may take a bit longer, and may not entirely be my project.

First, the simple one.  I have a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q that gets very hot during use.  I opened it up, and found the chip responsible for all the heat:

TV Tuner - Case Removed

TV Tuner - Case Removed

There isn’t anything too lofty here.  I found some heatsinks on Newegg, and they even come with thermal tape to attach to the chip.  What I’m really hoping to do is drill holes in the outer casing that the fins / poles on the heatsink will fit through.  If I do it right it should look really nice.

The next project has two parts.  The first would be to build a laser.  There are kits available to make 150mw blue / violet lasers.  Here is a video showing how they perform.  This is not the kit I would be building.  The kit is a lot more bare-bones.


So it’ll be a nice, bright laser and will probably work great for the parlor tricks shown in the video.

Now, I was inspired when I saw this Instructables article on making a wood-etching laser pen. I thought transmitting a laser through fiber optic would be too “lossy” to still etch or cut.  But if it can be done through fiber, the process of building a low-power laser cutter becomes a lot more practical.  I need a plotter / CNC platform to control it though.  And, well… I had this crazy idea, considering the fiber optics are so light…

Etch-A-Sketch Laser Cutter

Yes, I actually propose using an Etch-A-Sketch as the plotter.  There are plans available to build a computerized Etch-A-Sketch, I just want to change out the etching head with a laser.

Realistically, we probably won’t use an Etch-A-Sketch.  I bought one and (with a friend’s help) took it apart, the insides are a little tight to fit components in.  And also, those things are filled with aluminum powder.  But the main stopping point is that I’m worried about the parts slipping, making the cutter unreliable.  They’re toys, not exactly designed for precision.

My friend Mark has taken some interest in this project.  He wants to see a laser cutter built, and is already familiar with programming the Arduino microcontrollers we’d be using.  Hopefully we’ll be able to work together and build this thing.  I already have some printers I’m going to give him, we’re hoping there are usable stepper motors inside.

Several other people at the Lab have mentioned building a laser cutter, honestly I’d just like to see this thing built. If I’m not involved it’s unfortunate, but I’ll be just as happy to see someone else complete one of these things.

My last project is to learn how to program the Arduino, which will start with tonight’s class.  I don’t have any ideas for it yet, but I also don’t really understand what the Arduino can do.  I’m thinking once I have a grasp of that, I’ll get some ideas.

Norton Ghost, Virtual Machines, and weird MBRs.

So, here is something to show you, a physical laptop backup restored into a VirtualBox machine:

Laptop Running in VM

Laptop running in VM

I’m doing this for work, and while it was a fun “just to do it” project, it also served the purpose of testing the backup, and giving us a place to test fixes and (as shown) attempting upgrades.

Ultimately, the backup was done with Norton Ghost 15.0.  I was really hoping to be able to do it with CloneZilla, saving some cash and using Open Source software.  However, no matter what options I entered in that software, it could not restore into the VM. At first I thought it was just the difficulties of moving an OS to another machine. But trying fixes from MergeIDE to UBCD4Win’s Fix IDE / Fix HDC to no avail, it was something else.  I was seeing that there was something detected on the drive – no “Operating System Not Found” error – but it clearly wasn’t loading the OS. 

The fact that this laptop was registering as having 5 partitions, one of which was without a file system, and the other labeled as “DOS” told me that there may be an abnormal MBR structure or partition table in there 😉

When we moved to Ghost, I was seeing the same errors.  Fortunately, Ghost has some extra utilities on their live CD, allowing me to save the MBR and Partition Table separately:

Extra Options in Norton Ghost

Ghost Options

After saving and restoring the MBR and Partition Tables manually, the image booted without issue in the Virtual Machine.  What strikes me as strange is that CloneZilla will back up the MBR and partition table automatically.  This issue shouldn’t have come up with CloneZilla if it’s working as it is supposed to.  I may have to look into that later if I get the time.

If I was looking to do a straight physical to virtual conversion, there are much better options to use.  Disk2Vhd would be one of them, as @CC_DKP pointed out on Twitter.  But the purpose here was just to test a backup, so I was working from a regular backup, not a VHD file.

One last note about Ghost:  While I like 15.0, I can’t recommend it for legacy hardware.  The only reason I got it to work with this laptop is because we installed more RAM.  Worth it?  Completely.  But if the laptop couldn’t take the upgrade we would’ve been dead in the water.

Netgear WNR2000 – A Common Favorite

A few weeks ago I was asked to set up a Wireless link for my Dad’s business in Sabula, IA.  DD-WRT on a pair of consumer grade routers seemed like a good fit, as the link only crossed a street, and the business really isn’t big enough to warrant more expensive hardware.

So the morning of I got online to find out what was available, and what would work with DD-WRT.  And while it isn’t perfect, I really liked the Netgear WNR2000(V2).  It was available at my local Best Buy for $70, and with the Broadcom chipset and 32mb (!) of RAM it really was a no brainer.  The single downside is that it doesn’t have enough flash to support a standard DD-WRT installation.  It has 4MB which should be enough, but forum posts say otherwise.  The closest you can get is the standard image minus the Kaid software.  Also, there is a firmware package available for this router, so the upgrade can be performed from the stock web interface.

I was able to use it to set up the wireless link without issue, and without optimal router placement either.  The two routers have several walls between them, on top of going out one building and into the other.  Through all that, the connection was rock solid.  Bandwidth tests on the far end were giving me the full speed of the Internet connection.

So the WNR2000 is a nice router, but the important part is that it’s a common router.  Given the choice, I’d rather buy a Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH or WHR-HP-G300N.  But they’re not available locally and I didn’t have the time to order them.  But from now on if I’m in a scenario where I need a router quickly, I can turn to the WNR2000.

Quick Subnets now in Palm’s App Catalog!

Quick Subnets has been accepted by Palm!  My page for it is available in the link or in the above menu.  Otherwise you can view Palm’s page for it, where it gives you options to send it to your phone or post it to Twitter / Facebook.

Also, there have been over 700 downloads since it was accepted on 7/28/10.  I hope everyone is finding it useful!  Please send any comments / issues to

Flash running on my iPad!

I followed the instructions on Engadget, and installed Frash on to my iPad.

I’m really impressed, for an alpha release it runs very well and plays almost all content.  And more interesting is the fact that this is a port of the Android flash player.  Who would’ve thought?