Brandy: 2005 - 2022

2022-08-17 23:23 - General

In early 2006 I adopted my second cat, Brandy. She was described to me as about six months old, so I picked October 25, 2005 to be her birthday. She was a wonderful cat: playful and friendly, very talkative, and beautiful. Though historically quite heavy, in late 2019 she was starting to visibly thin out. She weighed 13.69 pounds in mid 2011 but by then was down to 11.0. Since then she gradually continued to lose weight (down to 5.26 pounds). Over the COVID pandemic, she lost first one and then the other of her upper canine teeth, and developed a limp in one of her front legs. She showed some other minor changes, which I attributed mostly to age: she's almost seventeen years old.

This past week however, starting Friday (as far as I know), she stopped eating. One of the things she's done for a while now is have a "bad day" every once in a while, where she'll vomit a few times and not eat for 24 hours. She'd always improve and resume eating the following day (and not considering it serious at first means I don't truly know when it started), but this time she didn't resume eating. She grew weaker, and soon she could hardly even drink for herself, so she got water put into her mouth by dropper for a while. She got to the point that she could hardly walk and hadn't eaten for almost a week with no sign of changing, so today we made the hard call that at nearly seventeen years old it was time to take her to the vet, to be put down gracefully.

Like I did for her older (separately adopted) sister, what follows is a photo album, spanning from "2004" (date attribution on my pre-smartphone photos is imperfect!) up to today. They're presented without further detail or comment. Goodbye, sweetheart.

Cronus Zen + Logitech Driving Force GT + PS5 + Gran Turismo 7 = FUN

2022-07-30 17:40 - Gaming

I'm trying to use a Cronus Zen device, to enable my existing wheel controller (Logitech Driving Force GT, originally for a PS3 — stinks that it only works with the PS3) to work with my freshly acquired PS5. I've seen at least one Reddit post that says "Logitech G27 fully operational on PS5 thanks to a Cronus Zen". But not specifically how. There's documentation for using a PS5, and using a wheel (on a PS4), but not one official document for both. Here I'm recording the steps I used to get my wheel working on the PS5, to play Gran Turismo 7.

  1. Start by updating the firmware (archive) of the Zen.
  2. Plug in the rear Micro USB port to PC (minimum Windows 10).
  3. Run cmupdatetool (archive) (11.2.0), to latest firmware (2.1.0-beta35). (This appears to be an online process which will break once their servers go down?)
  4. Disconnect USB.
  5. Now I think we need to combine PS4 Wheel Mode (archive) and (for PS5:) PS4 Specialty (archive) mode.
  6. Connect side Mini USB port to PC. (My Mini port seemed flaky. Took more force to fully insert than expected, then it worked well.)
  7. Open Zen Studio (archive) (1.2.1-beta.105).

I'm using the recommended Hori Mini Pad so I'm using those instructions (archive).

  1. Set the PS5 console settings as per that documentation.
  2. Continue with connect by USB (archive).
  3. I still have Zen Studio open; Click Tools > Zen Operational Mode. In the dialog select "Wheel Mode".
  4. In the device tab check "Enable PS4 Specialty" and ensure "Emulator Output Protocol" is "AUTO".
  5. Still in device tab click the "Reset Device" (not "Factory Reset" on the left!)> button.
  6. Disconnect all USB.
  7. Connect the Hori Mini Pad to the A1 port on the left (when looking at the screen) of the Zen.
  8. Connect the wheel to the A3 port, the left of the two on the front of the Zen.
  9. Connect the PS5 to the (rear) Micro USB port on the Zen. (I used a rear USB port on the PS5, because it was convenient.)

At least one place said there should be no PS5 controllers paired, but I kept mine paired and it works great!

The Real Estate Scam

2022-07-23 09:59 - General

On Thursday I closed the sale of my Manhattan Co-Op apartment. Going in, I had been estimating losing ten percent to all the fees and taxes. I thought that was a high estimate, but I set that expectation to keep myself comfortable. What actually ended up happening?

Seller's agent fee3%
Buyer's agent fee3%
Co-Op "flip tax"2%
State and city real estate taxes1.8%
Attorney's fees0.5%
(Building's) Managing agent fee0.1%

Ouch. I'm especially upset by the huge broker/agent fees. It's a total racket. There are "once percent" seller agents, which with hindsight I wish I had selected. I only made 37.5% over twelve years on the "investment" (but your home is not an investment!). Losing over 10% of the higher number (14.4% of the lower) stinks.

Yes, there's an extra 0.1% that rounded down out of the line items, the total was calculated independently.

New York Temperature Archive

2022-07-20 16:01 - General

Years ago, in my second apartment in Brooklyn, I set up some temperature sensors with my home server in order to enable thermostat-like functionality. I logged the data and eventually expanded the window for how long the data is stored. I've moved out of New York, and it doesn't make sense to continue collecting the same data set.

Graph of environmental data

So I've saved the data and made a static archive of it. At first I had only temperature. Later I added humidity and barometric pressure. Click on the headers to remove the lines, somewhat necessary to make reading a graph over a large time window practical.

Turns out I "only" saved ten years of data. Automatically rotated out by RRDTool. The "temp_out" graph is probably the most generally interesting. Based on the time window, that's always just outside my apartment in Chelsea. The summer peaks are pretty consistent, but the winter troughs are clearly higher (~never below 20 F) than before that (usually below 15 or 10 F). Hmm.

End of an Era (In Manhattan)

2022-07-10 13:40 - General

I bought my current home in 2010. I know it was June 24th, because it's written on the certificate I got as part of the closing. That makes just over twelve years ago. In those twelve years I've been lucky enough to work "in tech" making good money. And I've maintained a rather low cost of living. So I've saved up a healthy nest egg.

Last Friday, the 8th, was my last day at Google. I've retired. Wednesday, the 13th, is my last day in this apartment: I'm moving out. The sale of my apartment is closing on the 21st.

I've lived in Manhattan for twelve years. Worked for Google a bit more than that. Both of these are over. Life is changing for me. I stuck with a day job for a long time because the certainty was comfortable, but I'm all options and certainty for a while.

Super short term, I'm moving in with Mom again. Just until the summer is over, then I'm heading to Maryland: Mom's childhood home. It needs a bit of taking care of, and just right in time for me needing somewhere to live, too. So I expect to live there for a while, take care of and improve the place for whenever it gets sold. Then who knows?

Weekend Repair: USB Power Strip

2022-02-13 12:48 - Making

I had to do laundry, and I was out of funds so I had to trek to the basement to recharge my laundry card. While there, I passed the electronics recycling bin. I spotted a nifty looking two-outlet four-USB power strip. Sometimes people toss things that are perfectly working. This one was not.

The USB power strip while still open, just after replacing the fuse.

But it looked pretty nice, so I took the time to look into it. First I tried the USB ports, nothing. A little dot on the front looked like a status light, not lit. Then I tried the AC outlets: those also didn't work. At this point, it was time to open it up. There were two visible screws on the bottom, but that wasn't enough. There were two more screws, under two of the four rubber feet. Then some plastic clips holding the base on, and I was in. I found a much larger and more complicated circuit board to run the USB ports than I'd expect, and one smaller one.

The smaller board was directly connected to the AC input, one leg via the switch. Once I flipped it out, I found what not only looked clearly like a fuse but also was labeled "F1" on the board. And it was blown. I couldn't see what its original ratings were — this was a little glass fuse, the ratings are normally stamped on the metal ends. I ended up putting an 8 amp fuse in to replace it, from what I already had on hand. Which was a bare fuse, no leads like the original had. So I took some short wires, soldered it in, and covered everything in shrink wrap (like the original) to be safe. You'll have to look close at the picture to see it: it's at the bottom/right of the picture. A large black blob is the original shrink wrapped board. The smaller and closer black blob is the new shrink wrapped fuse, with little green wires leading back to the board.

Once I put the fuse in and closed it up: everything works fine! And of course, the status light is an awful bright blue thing. The hole for it is small enough, but tons of light leaks around the USB ports.

Repair by Damage

2021-10-12 15:57 - General

My "repaired" mouse.

I really like my Logitech MX Master mouse. It's just got one weird feature, a "gesture" button accessible by your thumb. It's wrapped in soft/flexible rubbery plastic. This tends, over time, to get stuck. This holds the gesture button down, and while the gesture button is held, the mouse behaves differently. It stops moving the cursor, so moving the mouse can do a different thing.

I've never wanted these other things (a replacement for Alt-Tab on Windows, at least). I have gotten the button stuck before. Then, I managed to pry a bit and get the plastic un-stuck, and the mouse worked again. More recently it happened again, and I couldn't. I took a look at a disassembly guide online, and I thought I might be able to pry this flexible plastic out of the way. Nope! I ended up breaking it. But this had the side effect of making the stuck-down plastic no longer exist, where it used to bump into the button. So technically, I repaired this mouse by damaging it. It's working again, so good enough for now!

Webcam Tripod Extension Mount

2021-09-09 18:08 - Making

My hastily-made extension arm to mount a webcam on a tripod, at a distance.

As mentioned earlier, I've been streaming my video game play online. To improve the stream, I've added a webcam to show my face. I've got a (probably?) unusual setup, in that I'm just sitting on my couch, looking at my TV, as I always have while video gaming. No good spot to put the camera. My first try just twist-tied the camera onto the tripod, then aggressively cropped that, to keep just the part that's my face. This moves the camera much closer to me while keeping the legs further away, because they need to be given the furniture layout!

It's a tiny piece of wood, drilled and tapped for quarter-twenty, to attach to the tripod. A matching hole is drilled in a bit of "angle iron" (aluminum, actually) I already had lying around. At the front is a 3D print I quickly threw together which (thankfully on the first try!) friction-fits around the angle and the camera's own mounting knob.

My streaming setup is pretty cobbled together, like this. Which is absolutely fine for now!

2021 Family Vacation

2021-08-23 20:33 - General

The whole family, end of vacation.

Last week I was on vacation. Four generations of my family: my nephews (3 and 9), my sister and I, our Mom, and her Mom. We went to Virginia Beach. I didn't take any pictures until this one at the end, because I know how to use the timer on my phone's camera.

We spent lots of time on the beach, and I got quite sunburned (then paid even more attention to sunscreen and time-in-sun). We went to an aquarium and spent some time on jetskis and ziplines, and tried to relax.