CFLs and outdoor timers

For the longest time I used incandescent light bulbs on my outdoor light fixtures, primarily because I had a rather ugly looking timer that only supported incandescent bulbs. I'm totally dumbfounded why retailers and manufacturers seem to focus on electrical products that don't support fluorescent lighting, but that's another story.

So I have looked high and low for a timer that met my "simple" requirements:
  • wall-mountable, programmable timer
  • decent looking (or at least not butt-ugly)
  • compatible with CFLs
  • not insanely expensive
I went to Home Depot, Lowes, and the little neighborhood hardware store without finding anything that met my simple requirements.

Happily, I can announce that I found a decent programmable timer that met all my requirements: It's the Swylite LST100. They don't seem to be available in many traditional retail stores.

It works great, and it looks awesome. It was easy to install, and I've had no issues with it. Now I can save some major energy bucks by using CFLs in my outdoor sconces and lamppost.

The best part of all: its clock remembers the time after a power failure! No more clock resetting! Woohoo! In your face, my old Intermic timer!

My Swylite LT100 timer, as installed by LanceJ.


Ripping CDs Quickly

My cheap-but-effective CD-ROM Unit

I decided to re-rip my CD collection in a lossless format. Happily, my new ripping experience was fast and reliable.

During my last ripping exercise, I used Linux as my OS of choice, and I ripped to MP3. The experience was mostly excellent. But due to a hard disk failure, I decided to re-rip one more time - this time, to a lossless format.

I chose the Apple Lossless format - a well-supported and efficient format. One beauty of a lossless format is that the data can be converted into another lossless format without any loss of quality - just in case audio file formats change in the future. I also considered using FLAC lossless, which I believe would have been another excellent choice.

My hardware: I used my Mac Mini, along with four inexpensive CD-ROM drives attached via IDE-to-USB adapters. This allowed me to rip four discs in parallel, greatly increasing my ripping performance. I suppose I could have hooked up more drives, but I only had four adapters readily available. USB to IDE adapters are very inexpensive, and can be easily found on services like eBay for under $10.

For software, I used "Max", an excellent, well-integrated audio conversion tool. Unlike iTunes, Max can rip several discs in parallel. In contrast, iTunes rips serially - only one disc at a time.

Now, my CDs are going back into the storage room, hopefully to never see the light of day.


Who is at phone number 10000123456?

Today, while walking my dog, my telephone started to ring - but I hesitated answering, because I didn't recognize the weird phone number:

Do you want to know who is at the strange phone number of 10000123456?

Well, it turns out that this is a generic phone number that is used when people are calling you via Skype?  But how can you find out exactly who is on the other end?

All I know is that Skype is pretty awesome when using a great Smartphone.   Check it out: Using a Smartphone to make Skype calls can feel like you're using a real phone, but is actually using Skype.  

So remember, if you see the number 1-000-012-3456 or "1 000 012 3456" or similar, you might want to answer - it could be very important, and not a random sales pitch!

Getting your dishwasher to last longer

I love my dishwasher and I want it to last forever.    Here is my non-obvious advice for getting a dishwasher to live a long life: Leave...