Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man


Finding My Way

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

2012-04-06 09.23.36

I've been thinking a lot lately about dissatisfaction in life, and wishing I could do more than I already am. But I'm 42, have 4 kids, and I work 45+ hours a week at a (mostly) desk job. I don't have a lot of time for adventure or excitement.

I'm always looking for something exciting to do, whether it be tinkering with electronics, or bike commuting, or writing a novel, or producing podcasts... whatever sounds exciting, I want to do it.

But I can't do everything I want to. I just don't have the time and energy. (This is kind of a recurring theme on my blog...)

As a dreamer, I'm always trying to balance the reality of modern life with my heart's desire to be an adventurer. Really, I love a good adventure. In fact, you could say I live for those moments, when I'm going down a road I've never seen before, or learning something new. There's a cloud of mystery, a rush of endorphins that comes from doing something exciting and new.

Eventually, I stumbled across an article on Vocations from Art Of Manliness (which seems to be a recurring theme for me). And there were questions there, about how to discover your passions.

For me, passions were something that I've had stamped out of my life repeatedly. I'm passionate about a lot of things... but only things that are monetarily useful are allowed in today's society. As you might imagine, this isn't a great environment in which to find your Passion.


Untangle Router Thoughts Redux

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Sometimes, when you say something and you eventually turn out to be proven wrong (even if it takes 3 years), you have to eat some humble pie.

For the record, the team at Untangle have created an awesome product. I originally didn't use it/like it because there were no affordable home-based versions, and the free version was lacking in features.

However, I'm pleased to say that with Home version pricing for their full product, Untangle is now a serious contender for DIY budget-minded home techies. Here's the rundown on mine, which I built for a grand total of about $150, including the computer, NIC, and a 1-year subscription to Untangle NG (Home license).

The basis for this machine is a tired, refurbished Dell Optiplex I picked up on Amazon for $75. It's not anything spectacular, but for just running a software firewall, it's perfect. It had 2 PCI slots and 1 PCI-express slot, which means you shouldn't have any trouble finding network cards to put in it. I opted for a Rosewill dual-port network card, and since I had a couple extra PCI Intel Pro/1000's sitting around, I threw them in there, too. Plus the onboard LAN port gave me five total network ports I could play with.


Untangle Firewall: Round 2

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Some of you may remember me writing about Untangle Firewall a few years ago. At the time, it was (and still is) an amazing piece of software, but had no affordable option for home networks. So I put it to the wayside, and moved on to other solutions.

When I say Untangle is a solid piece of work, I'm not exaggerating. It has tools that let you control, filter, log, and lock down everything passing through your router. It was just out of my price range for what I needed it to do. I'll even admit, I might have been a bit harsh on them- it really is good- but their business pricing is pretty steep for a home user.

And then recently, I discovered that Untangle released a Home pricing option for the full package. We're talking a $540 value for $50!

Naturally, I was intrigued. So I'm going to pull out my unused firewall mini-PC again, slap a dual-port NIC in it, and give Untangle another (well-deserved) shot.

I'm honestly looking forward to trying it out again, and if it works well for my needs, I will definitely make some how-to's and give them some well-deserved positive publicity. I'm pretty excited.

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Rest, Work, and Sabbath

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Forging Iron - Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

For the last few weeks, I've been busy. It would be safe to say I'm busier now than I ever have been before. And yet, every day I struggle to not feel guilty over the things I didn't get done.

How many things am I involved with that I've put off? Sheesh. Let's see:

  • This blog (thanks for reading! Last updated 2 weeks ago)
  • Weekly posts for The Badass Forge (skipped last week)
  • Occasional posts for the Bike Commuter Cabal blog (last posted there in August)
  • The ADD Masterminds podcast recording/editing (skipped 2 weeks)
  • Not Entirely Unlike Chiptune (last touched this 6 months ago)
  • Restoring a classic car (currently not running, haven't touched it in weeks)
  • WIP non-fiction book on ADD life hacks (haven't seen it in a month)
  • WIP fiction novel(s) (months... maybe years for parts of them)

And these are just the things I do that aren't part of my normal family life, like cooking, Boy Scouts, house renovations, church music, and so on. Those things are getting put on back burners, too. I just can't keep up with everything, so I'm dropping stuff left and right.

Clearly I needed a Sabbath, but what does that look like for a supervillain like me? How can I "rest" when there's so much to do, and being creative restores my soul?

It's a problem indeed.

I will have to make some hard decisions as to what will stay, and what will have to go. But I know my life will be better for it.



Homemade MIDI Filter

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


One of the goals I wanted to do with my guitar stage setup was to be able to control everything the Adrenalinn3 pedal does with two different MIDI foot controllers. This is interesting at least, challenging at best. You can't just combine the output of two pedals, because the Linn doesn't know which pedal the commands came from, and even if it did, it doesn't know what to do with them.

I looked into off-the-shelf pieces to do this, and there were a few that were close, but none of them could do what I needed without custom ROM hacking. I wasn't really interested in that (for time constraints) so I looked into something simpler, easier, and definitely cheaper.

Enter the humble Arduino. This amazing little piece of technology takes a cheap microprocessor and packages it into a board the size of a credit card, with a voltage regulator, and input/output pins. The tools to program them are free and (mostly) easy to use, and they even make DIY add-on kits that let you expand what the board is capable of.


What’s Your “Why?”

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


A lot of what we do nowadays is a waste of time.

There, I said it. If we look at ourselves, we know this is true. Deep down, we know we waste a lot of time.

Now, I'm okay with wasting time every now and then. I love a good video game, or just goofing around. But really, there's a lot of things I do that I could use to evaluate. I mean, I know why I do some things, but that usually means "I just felt like it." That's not really a reason, per se.

So in light of my wife's wonderful thoughts on "Why" I've decided to put together a list of the major time sinks in my life, and then think about why I do them. Here they are, in no particular order:


Information Diet, Week 9

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


A while back, I wrote about how I was going to use Evernote to collect all my social media feeds, so I wouldn't be tempted to check them constantly.

So here I am, about 2 months into my "experiment." Has it worked so far? Well, yes and no.

In one sense, I've narrowed down my information input. I've unfollowed blogs and unfollowed people on facebook and Twitter, just to pare down the stream of junk coming into my "Pending" notebook. So in that sense, it's been an improvement. On the other hand, I'm still easily distracted. I still find myself compulsively checking Twitter every now and then. It is getting better, though.

Some of my tools to channel my feeds into Evernote threw me a monkey wrench this week. Feedly suddenly (with no announcement) changed the ability to export feeds to a paid for feature. Which is fine, I guess, except I don't like it when apps suddenly make features unavailable to non-paying users, or even worse, nullify a paid-for feature and ask you to buy it again. (There's a few apps that are on my blacklist for this reason... Tapatalk is one, Endomondo is another.)

So that means instead of importing a couple of RSS feeds into Evernote, I'd have to set up a feed for every single blog I want to follow. Okay- fair game. I just narrowed down the list to a few I actually care about. That's a win, right?

I took a break from using StayFocusd, because I was always stressing about how much time I had left to use a particular site. I never hit the limit, but it was the constant nagging in my mind that was driving me nuts. I may go back to it later. Just needed a break.

I think overall, the program is working. I'm still not 100% used to it, and when I'm bored I still scroll through Twitter and such for interesting things to fill my brain. But overall, it's improved my focus noticeably.



Get Used To Disappointment

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


Yesterday, I was disappointed, and in turn, I disappointed someone else.

It wasn't intentional. I didn't start off my day by saying "I feel like letting someone down today."

And the sad part is, it wasn't even my fault. My old car- admittedly, it's old and unreliable- broke down. Big shocker? Not really. Did it disappoint me? Yeah. I was hoping it wouldn't break.

But, the bigger truth here is that we're always placing expectations on things, and we get mad when they don't happen. I expect my car to not break down. I expect my children to learn responsibility when I don't drill it into them at a young age. I expect my wife to be able to read my mind (admittedly, not that hard... I only think about a few things). I expect that my boss will always give me the easiest jobs.

And when none of those things happen, I'm disappointed.

And every time I screw up, I know I'm disappointing someone else. Every time, I think "that's the last straw, they're going to leave/fire/kick me now." But you know what? Life is a balance of success and failures. Anybody who hasn't tasted failure and disappointment hasn't really lived. And I've done a lot of living, so I've failed a lot.

Why are we so afraid of failure? Sometimes it's just out of our control. Maybe we should have known better, maybe we couldn't have. Maybe we just feel bad because things didn't turn out the way our optimistic selves thought they would.

So, the reality is, the more stuff I do, the more chances I have of failing. I guess I'm okay with that. I don't like living in the safe zone all the time. If I wanted to play it safe, I wouldn't have started biking to work, or bought a 50-year-old car to drive around. I wouldn't have written a book, or started a band, or started a podcast, or any number of other things I've done.

I understand playing it safe keeps you from disappointing people. But sometimes, you just have to give it a shot anyway.


Wanted: Swiss Army MIDI Workstation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


One of the goals of my guitar setup is to be able to use it in 3 different configurations:

  1. Hardware only
  2. Hardware/software
  3. Software only

Ideally I'd like to be able to exactly the same things with each, but hardware costs money! A lot of money. For instance: a hardware looper that syncs with MIDI clock starts around $400. That's more than what I paid for my whole laptop! It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that dollar for dollar, software is the way to go.

But I'll never completely eliminate hardware, and I don't think I should. It's not that I don't think software is reliable: my laptop runs effects for hours without a hiccup. But you still need hardware for interfacing things together. Controllers, pedals, mixers, etc.

So I guess the question is, what's an acceptable mix of hardware and software? If I say hardware only, I know exactly what I'd need to buy, and it wouldn't be cheap.

For effects, i.e. amplifier models, delays, etc. I've got it covered in hardware. That's easy, and I can control everything without a laptop. Everything syncs to the MIDI clock (delays, drum machine, etc.) and everything works. I'd still like to be able to use the Master Control to select drumbeats and the ART pedal to control effect presets... but because of the way the Linn handles that, it will require another piece of hardware to insert Bank Change signals so the MC will only switch drumbeats. Not ideal, but doable.

In order to control the Adrenalinn's drum and effect presets with two separate MIDI controllers, it requires injecting "bank change" messages into one of them to change the A3's preset mode. This isn't very complicated, except that there's currently no piece of hardware that will do that. However, for about $30, I can build a hardware MIDI filter out of an Arduino Uno board, and it looks something like this: (This is the actual MIDI board I will be using with my Arduino)


Proof Of Concept: Live Looping

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


As I wrote about last week, I'm usually inclined to flit from one project to another. The problem with that is that I rarely get to finish anything. I spent more than an hour working on arranging and testing my music gear last night. Was it productive? Well, yeah, I think so. But was it critical? No, not really. Why did I do it, then? How does that fit into my vision of getting things done?

Honestly, I don't know. There's a reason for it, of course, and it's one of those things that I will have to do eventually. Why did I work on it instead of other things? I don't know. It was forefront in my mind, and I had to get those ideas out, so I just ran with it.

Where am I going with this?

Basically, with all the things I write about coping with ADD, you'd think I'd have a better grip on that stuff. And then I get an idea, and I go all Doc Brown and stay up working on some mad scientist thing that may or may not ever actually get used.