Moved to Amazon AWS and Gallery3

If the site appears to load a little faster and pictures download a bit snappier that’s because I recently migrated from the web server under my desk to an Amazon AWS Micro Instance.

I’m still running Ubuntu, but it’s in “The Cloud”. It’s really awesome to have the loud webserver under my desk shut off. What’s even better is the static IP I’m getting for free.

The transition to AWS was mostly painless. I just had to remember all of my Apache Virtual Host config that I haven’t looked at in a few years, upload a bunch of data onto the new server into an EBS drive for my data partition, then update some entries in DNS.

Overall I’m happy with the AWS performance and so far it’s been free. Based on my calculations it’ll be a really low monthly fee for the amount of drive space I’m taking up with my pictures.

(EDIT: When I resize images I really notice the limited processor and RAM of the micro instance. Seems like my physical server (despite being 10 years old) resized images faster.)

I’m less happy with Gallery3. I converted from Gallery2 to Gallery3 and overall it shows some promise, but I’m just not impressed. Shockwave plugin freaks out when I try to upload through the web interface.

(EDIT: After switching to a wider and darker theme I’m feeling a bit better about Gallery3)

Maybe hosting your own images is anachronistic. I just haven’t found another way to do it that’s been immediately appealing. Anyone have thoughts on hosting images? (Don’t say Facebook).

Winter Jeeping

As usual it’s been forever since I’ve updated my site.

I went to see all of those shows in the previous post and they were awesome. Especially Menomena and The Thermals. Say Anything was pretty sweet too.

I finished a simple Android app that can be used at work. I don’t use it. I’m trying to find time to get some more training.

Lately there has been some serious downtown condo / house hunting. There are a few places down by Moore’s Sq I’m seriously considering, but this requires further concentrated thought. It’s apparently a lot of money to spend all in one place for something you CAN’T EVEN DRIVE!

I have a camera full of pictures of things I’ve done that I haven’t posted. Like my motorcycle trip to Florida for Thanksgiving. 1200 miles of motorcycling awesomeness.

Last weekend I went snowboarding in Snowshoe, WV. My skills are developing there. It’s always amazing to first suck at something, and then get better with practice. I’m not used to being good at anything besides computers. At the end of Jan we’re heading out to Tahoe to get some more boarding in at Squaw. Should be an excellent time. I hope I don’t get injured too badly.

This weekend I’m taking DC Heather (I don’t know what I’ll call her if she ever moves) out to the Mountains. We’re going to drive through some snowy trails in the Jeep and try not to die, or get stuck. I’ll finally have an excuse to go visit the Biltmore Mansion too, since Heather will be coming along 😉

Anyway – more updates once the weekend is finished and I empty my camera’s contents. For now – time to drive out through the crappy weather to Mountain City, TN.

First Android App – Almost Finished

Tonight I started and almost finished the framework for my first Android app.

1. Edit my manifest to give me permissions to receive and read SMS.
2. Edit my manifest to point to a receiver class for SMS events.
3. Create a main class to stop and start the background Reader service.
4. I create a TextReceiver BroadcastListener that listens for system SMS messages from the OS.
5. I start a Reader service that listens in the background for notifications (an Intent stuffed with Extras from my TextReceiver using startService(Intent))

When a new inbound message arrives in my TextReceiver class, I pass an intent to my TextReader class. (Android MAKES you do it this way. They say you can’t do any asynchronous stuff in your system event listener classes)

Right now all this does in the TextReader class is just pop up a Toast every time a txt message comes in (until you stop the service manually). This is great because it works no matter what other app you might be in.

It’s just a simple matter of checking “Are your headphones plugged in” and then instead of a toast message, invoking Android’s TTS function inside of TextReader. Other steps after that will be to pull the calling party name from inbound calls, as well as sender name and message content for XMPP messages.

I should have this app completed in a few more nights of hacking. Awesome.

I was able to piece this together with chunks from, as well as some Google searching. It’s just a matter of stringing together a bunch of other people’s samples to do what you want.

Home PC – diagnosed at least

Thanks to a very helpful Devon Kerr I now know what parts of my PC were causing my prior trouble.

I was running a Core 2 Duo 3.0GHz LGA 775 in an Asus Striker Extreme mobo with 4GB of DDR2 800 RAM.

I played around with every possible video card and ram combination (since I had multiple’s of each) and had pretty much ruled those out.

Devon was kind enough to provide a Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz CPU, some XMMS RAM, and an ASUS P5B deluxe.

I swapped out my RAM for his RAM, no go.
I swapped out my CPU for his CPU, no go.

I swapped out my motherboard for his motherboard, CPU, and RAM – system fires up.

I put my CPU into his motherboard and RAM – no go.

Put back in his CPU with my RAM – system still works.

Problem identified: 1 x Bad Mobo, 1 x Bad CPU. Really unexpected, but that’s what it looks to be. My mobo won’t work with a known good CPU, and his mobo won’t work with my CPU, even though all compatibility checks out.

Now what to do? I have enough components now for a slower (but working) desktop solution. Maybe instead of buying replacement / upgrade parts I’ll just leave things like they are until something else dies. Either that or go all out with new CPU, Mobo, and RAM.


Busy lately – Camping, Jeeping, Motorcycling, Partying

I haven’t posted in quite a while. That time has been filled with all sorts stuff. I’ve been riding my motorcycle around, going camping and Jeeping, Ward’s wedding, more motorcycling, and just hanging out with people around Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

I guess I’ll start with links to albums in chronological order, just to document things. I have such a backlog of stuff that I can’t really write it all out in detail. Instead, we’ll skip straight to the pics, and brief blurbs.

Pete and I took our motorcycles down to the beach one random day for lunch. We ate, walked around looking at girls in bikini’s then we turned around for Easter Dinner.

I went to Ward’s wedding and met up with a whole bunch of RIT and Cisco folks. It was incredible to have everyone together again. There was a lot of bittersweet talk about how this was the first and maybe last large reunion of so many RIT grads in one place.
Ward's wedding

There was camping and Jeeping after that.

Brendan and I took a random Thursday after that and went up to Richmond, VA to see Flogging Molly and Big D and the Kid’s table. They added ridiculously hot dancers. I was immediately in love. We also met up with Esther and her friend that night. It made for a long night. I eventually wound up riding my motorcycle at home from the Cisco parking lot at 3AM. Heated grips are AMAZING!

The next night we went out for Sasha’s birthday party. Raleigh was in full blown skirt season. It was excellent.

The first week of May is a Blur. Brendan’s friend Daniel had a grad party

I saw Steve’s band Idiom play at The Berkely. We met a cute Brunette that worked at an Animal Hospital

Aric had a house warming party where it was decided that everyone loved this girl

We also ran into another short Brunette who had opinions on whether or not Earth should be keeping a backup planet in the works for disaster recovery. Awesome.

Shapess, Andy and I had a random day out at Uwharrie. I had time to dial in the scope on my 22, AND spent some time shooting Shapess’ AK-47. Too much fun there.

On May 12th Kenneth, Pete, and I drove down to Charlotte to see Say Anything and Angels and Airwaves. Say Anything put on a good show but the set was too short unfortunately. It was nice to know that the girls belt out the lyrics to “Every Man Has a Molly” even louder than the guys.

You god damned kids had best be gracious with the Merch money you spend.
Cause for you I won’t ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again.

I met a beautiful girl with so many awesome traits it’s hard to believe she actually exists.
1. Bartender
2. Graduated Culinary School
3. Loves the music scene
4. Gorgeous
5. Incredibly friendly / nice
6. Brunette
7. Tiny
8. Likes jeeps and motorcycles, knows how to replace a radiator.

Doubtful that said girl will actually get in touch with me – but it was a good night regardless. Another weeknight of getting home around 3AM. Energy drinks are my savior.

Just last night I went to a Skinny Tie Party at Justin Tiexera’s place.

I proceeded to introduce myself to a girl so forcefully that she immediately notified me she was someone elses wife. I need to do a better job looking for rings.
I also met another beautiful brunette who can bust out the quadratic equation at the drop of a ‘hat’. Math teachers for the win. There was Rock Band. People rocked out to Coheed and Cambria, and I sang my heart out to NIN – The Hand That Feeds. I don’t even need the scrolling words to sing this one:

And finally – today I went on an awesome motorcycle ride out to Wilson NC with my motorcycle gang. We hit up Parker’s BBQ and it was delicious. There was some really beautiful back country and great roads between here and Wilson if you avoid the highway.

After riding around NC I went over to Andy’s house and helped him tinker on his new front axle. We removed the diff cover and took out the locker, getting it ready for the new axle. We also greased up his lower control arms, and I drilled some holes for his new bump stops.

I am now VERY tired just thinking about all of that.

The future holds a trip to DC to see the air and space museum, and hopefully a trip out to the mountains with my Mom to check out the roads there.

In other non fun related matters, I’ve REALLY got to recertify my CCIE 🙁

Jeeping with Wes: Catastrophe

Just got back from Jeeping with Wes in Uwharrie. Wes decided to break in his BRAND NEW Jeep on the trail. He seriously got it no more than 10 days ago. It’s a 2004, but it was in pristine condition at the beginning of the day.

I fixed that. Got the new off.

Dumbass that I am, decided to back down a bit to get another go at an obstacle. I was pretty close to Wes, but thought not much of it.

I took a good look at the hill, mentally pictured going up it, and hit the gas. I needed to get a bit of speed because not all tires would be on the ground, and I don’t have lockers. I needed to roll over the obstacle a bit until all 4 wheels touched again for traction uphill.

Note to self: Before hitting the gas enthusiastically, check to see what gear you are in. If you want to go forward, perhaps the big R is not the right choice.

Wes received 5700 lbs, 290 ft-lbs of torque, in 4 wheel low straight to the Grill / Hood / Radiator. This required us to actually replace the radiator shortly after the incident as the life blood of the cooling system drained away. Poor environment.

On the plus side, I now know how to replace a radiator, and how much they cost.

Witness the carnage:

Luckily we were able to restore it to “just like factory” specifications:

Yep. Classic.

That will be an experience I’ll not likely live down. I normally wouldn’t post something this embarrassing so soon after it happened, but listen closely to 1:58 in the second video. I’m pretty much awesome.

WordPress on a new server!

So I’ve switched to WordPress on a newfangled server (ok just a newer old server, my old 2.4GHz P4 “Quagmire”).

Migrating all of my Serendipity posts out was sort of a bitch. I lost all my comments, and am thinking of adding them back.

Here’s what I had to do to get my Serendipity info into WordPress:

insert into burns_wp.wp_posts (


from serendipity.serendipity_entries order by serendipity.serendipity_entries.timestamp

Jeep – 4″ Superlift – DONE!

I just picked my 05 WK up from the shop last night. As promised here are the pictures of before and after, and some info for you.

Jeep: 05 WK 4.7L Laredo

Lift: 4″ Superlift w/ SSR Shocks

Install Difficulty & Time: Professional Installation at 4WheelParts, 3 Days. Requires welding and cutting.

Tires: 285/70-17 BFG A/T KOs

Spacers or New Wheels: ProComp Extreme – 17″ by 8″ with 4.5″ of Backspacing

Rubbing: Front Driver and Front Passenger fender at full lock. Driver side at full left lock. Passenger side at full right lock. Pics to follow.


1. Shop forgot to hook the E brake back up. Whoops. No big deal there.
2. Very light rubbing on front fenders at the pinch weld area.
3. Drive shaft contacts exhaust pipe during some driving situations. Reproducible by driving up onto a curb with both front tires and letting the Jeep roll back a bit in Park.

Handling: Tires are a bit louder and you can feel the extra tread. I like this.

Takes a bit longer to slow down those 33″ tires.
Takes a bit longer to get those 33″ tires up to highway speed.
Must downshift to accelerate on some hills where I remember just powering through with torque before. Not a huge problem though as you can still get where you’re going quickly.

Before Pic:

After Pics:

Here is the Front Driver side Fender rubbing at the rear of the wheel well. You can see where it touches slightly at full lock to the left.

Here is the passenger side rubbing at full lock to the right:

Here’s the drive shaft hitting the bend in the exhaust pipe:

Full pictures available here.

The tires stick out a bit with the 4.5″ backspacing, but I think it’s a pretty good look.

I like the Matte Black rims with the white Jeep. Way better than chrome to me.

I picked it up at the shop last night. We knew about most of the issues when they handed me the keys and we’ve got some time setup for them to get it taken care of.

It’s muddy already because my coworkers wanted to see if it would climb some of the trails behind the office. It has been raining for the past few days here in Raleigh. The answer to their question was… yes it can.

One minor drawback, or a point of entertainment… depending on how you look at it. My short friends have a hell of a time getting in. Very funny to watch.

Jeep WK 05 Front Tow Hooks

I think I’m going to start taking pictures of projects and posting instructions.

I always find the instructions to all sorts of things lacking. The only way I figure stuff out is to sit down and actually look at it. Hopefully this will help some random internet user, or will at least be interesting to someone.

My first project is installing front tow hooks on a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee WK.

I bought the Mopar parts off of

Included was two tow hooks, two nut strips, two nut studs, and six nuts.

The tow hooks mount to the frame, but there are no bolts in the frame, so that’s where the nut strips come into play.

Here you can see the nut strip with two bolts on it inserted in the frame rail.

There is also a nut stud for the third bolt that goes through the frame cross member.

Getting this nut stud through the cross member is simple. There is an open hole that you can get to without any effort at all to put it through the top.

Getting into the frame rail however is a completely different matter.

To do that you need to remove the front fascia, and to remove that you need to take off the grill.

The grill is just held on by a handful of plastic rivets right on the top black plastic section. The plastic lip right under where the hood closes is part of the grill, and all that holds it on.

Here is an example of one of the rivets for that piece

These rivets are reusable. The pin will pop right out. First use a flat head screwdriver or something flat to pry out the pin from the body of the rivet. After that the pressure on the rivet will be removed and you can just pull that out with your fingers, or pry out with a screwdriver.

Once all the rivets are out the top of the grill will come forward, releasing the tabs on the bottom of the grill and then you can just lift up and off.

The front fascia needs to come off next.

This has 2 single use plastic rivets on each side holding the wheel well backing to the fascia. These are usually broken before you even start the project anyway. Just snap them off with whatever you can get a grip on them with.

Next there are two 7mm head screws holding each side of the front fascia to the quarter panel / fender (one on each wheel well). Look right above the rivets you just removed.

Next crawl under the car. In my case there were 3 – 10 mm screws holding the very bottom of the fascia to the metal rail under the radiator. The instructions showed 3 plastic rivets that were supposed to be there. My guess is they didn’t cut it and whoever had the jeep before me replaced them, but I could be wrong.

Once these 3 screws are out you’re almost home free.

The next step is removing the 4 reusable rivets holding the top lip of the fascia (right under the bottom lip of the grill you just removed)

Here’s what that rivet looks like. The pin doesn’t come out, all the way. Just pull it out until it stops, then the whole rivet should come out.

Now you are almost there. With those four rivets out the fascia will slide forward, and drop down off the little hanger at the bottom of each fender

If you have the fog lights though, don’t forget to unplug them!

You should now have the front fascia in hand.

At this point there are only two small access caps in front of the frame rail stopping you from sliding in the nut strip, and that’s why we took this whole damn thing off anyway.

Unscrew the single 10mm screw from the cover, it’ll pop off – then install the nut strips.

The bolting on of the parts is pretty straight forward. The nut strips and everything only fit one way.

Instructions say torque to 50 ft lbs.

This is really important. They don’t mean 100ft lbs. They don’t mean 75. Use a calibrated torque wrench.

Here’s what happens when your asshole friend hands you an uncalibrated torque wrench set for 50 lbs, but that is actually putting out closer to 100.

Popped that bolt right in half on the nuts strip. Pow!

I figure using some grade 8 bolts with big washers would most likely serve the same purpose as the nut strips, so here’s what that looks like:

I’ll let you know how it holds up when pulling another car.

So that’s it. Torque all your bolts to 50 ft lbs and then reassemble.

1. Frame rail end caps back on
2. Front Fascia lined up
3. Plug on fog lights (optional)
4. Hook top of fascia through hangers
5. Make sure fascia goes outside, then behind (closer to rear of vehicle) the wheel well backing
6. Put the top screw in the fascia next to the hanger
7. Put the screws on under the car into the radiator rail
8. Put the 4 reusable plastic rivets back into the front fascia
9. Scrounge around for 4 more crappy disposable rivets to hold wheel well backing (or just leave them out like I did :-P)
10. Set grill in place
11. Push in all the rivets for the grill

That should be everything!

Organizing people and things

I’ve been thinking about a way to organize people and things.

One idea I’ve been thinking about is a mailing list.

I have two thoughts on this:

1. A mailing list like {} that we make everyone in our group of friends a member of. If you have stuff to email everyone in the group.. then send it to this one email address.

2. A mailing list like {} that we make everyone’s cell phone (like for verizon numbers) a member of. That way when I want to tell everyone we’re meeting at the bar in 45 minutes I can just send one email and make sure it gets to everyone’s phone.

I’ve already configured my mailserver to do both of these things.

All I would need from you is an opt in by sending me your email address and your txt email address.

Does this sound like something useful to anyone?