Akom's Tech Ruminations

Various tech outbursts - code and solutions to practical problems

Low Tech Hacks Getting your refrigerator to run without a start relay while you wait for the part

Posted by Admin • Monday, January 19. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
It took me 24 hours to notice that my Maytag top-freezer refrigerator (PTB2454GR) stopped cooling. (OK the puddle on the floor helped me notice). When it started (Saturday morning, I think), there was a click, 10 seconds of buzzing, then silence. This would repeat every 2-3 minutes. I didn't think much of it, thinking it's the ice maker acting weird. What I should have noticed was the complete absence of compressor noise - just the fan. Actually, there wasn't even that noise - it was silent.

I eventually figured out that the start relay (if you can even call it that) needs replacement, but that was not the initial problem - the problem, as it turned out, was one packing peanut. Yeah, one peanut - it got stuck in the Condenser Fan, literally preventing it from running. This in turn probably caused ice buildup, or in some other way increased the compressor load, which in turn finished off the start relay. Frankly, I'm not sure how long the peanut was in there - may have been months, or maybe just a day.

So if you're seeing similar behaviour (see first paragraph), these are the steps to troubleshoot and temporarily remedy the situation (Disclaimer: there is a very good chance of electrocuting yourself in the process, as with any high voltage appliance). I have a little wiring diagram that explains what and why in here as well.

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Asterisk Teaching your Asterisk phone system to control your music

Posted by Admin • Saturday, January 17. 2009 • Category: Asterisk
Ever since I built my Asterisk-based VOIP phone system I've been finding more and more interesting ways to put it to work. I mean, it's a business phone server, but it's got plenty of resources as it sits around waiting for a phone call. So I figured... why not be able to pick up the nearest phone, dial an extension, and be able to stop/start/skip my whole-house music? How about doing this from anywhere? OK this may seem odd to you, but you'd be surprised how often it saves you from having to get up and go find the remote or having to wake up a computer :-). OK you're not convinced that this is very useful. How about pausing music for a phone call? Automatically?

For those who don't know, Asterisk is a open source (and free) software PBX system. You know, the thing that IP phones connect to (you know, that little box you got from Vonage - it connects to something - well in my house, it connects to my server). It provides call routing and management, voicemail, IVR (menus), etc. In short, it's awesome. I mean, yeah, it's a little unintuitive at first, but it's not that complicated once you loosen up your old fixed programmatic thinking a little :-)

So, here is the setup.

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Reviews Aliph Jawbone 2 overheats and nearly burns fingers, melts internally

Posted by Admin • Wednesday, January 14. 2009 • Category: Reviews
Got a shiny new Jawbone 2 from Buy.com the other day, and this is my experience with it over 2 weeks, ending in its eventual return. This also details my experience with Aliph Customer Service.

Initial pairing: I missed the "I am in pairing mode the first time I'm turned on" window, apparently - and getting it to go into pairing mode by holding the two buttons down took at least 20 tries. (seriously) In retrospect, I'm glad that it isn't so easy to put into pairing mode - I might do that inadvertently... But it worked, and boy did it work well. We tested it with a Shark cordless vacuum in hand, and the other person could only vaguely tell that there may be something making noise in the background. With NoiseAssasin disabled, you could hear the vacuum cleaner clearly instead of the person.

All was well, until...

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Low Tech Hacks Making a Folding Meditation Kneeling Bench

Posted by Admin • Tuesday, January 13. 2009 • Category: Low Tech Hacks
The bench
OK so this is pretty low-tech, but hey - why not? Kneeling benches are really unbeatable for meditation and prayer, but they are also great to just sit on - not only does it keep your back straight and prevents slouching, but it also places your feet right under you, so your weight distribution is optimal (and you don't fall). Sure, sitting like that can be tough at first, but it comes with practice. Plus, if you're intent on deep meditation, it is definitely worth getting used to.

I've made a non-folding bench before, and figured I'd try to make a portable one this time. I took what I learned from the last one and made some adjustments - I decided on a 10° angle this time. I also wanted it to fold and I didn't want the feet to protrude when folded. Here are the details.

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Code and Hacks Nagios check_ntp quits working in 2009 with Offset unknown

Posted by Admin • Friday, January 2. 2009 • Category: Code and Hacks
I've been happily using nagios to monitor all my servers for quite some time, yet two days ago, suddenly, I started getting "Offset unknown" from my check_ntp check. Same from check_ntp_time. Then it was intermittent, service was flapping (going in and out of Unknown state). I messed around with ntp.conf and changed servers, restarted ntpd and then it stopped working across the board...

asterisk asterisk # /usr/nagios/libexec/check_ntp_time -H srv
NTP CRITICAL: Offset unknown|


The problem?

Apparently a leap year second is inserted periodically, and that's what was done on Dec 31 2008! Just one second, but enough to expose a bug in nagios-plugins-1.4.11

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