Avian Waves is Back Up!

Apparently the hardware that my web server's VPS lives on completely died.  I mean died so bad that VPSLand didn't have any way to restore it!  Luckily I take nightly backups of everything important, so the website is back with no loss of content.  Unfortunately, SQL Server 2008 Express's installer has a serious amount of bugs that took me about 6 hours of debugging to figure out.  The entire site is driven off SQL 2008, so I had no way to get the site back without it.  It seems something that was in VPSLand's standard deployment image made SQL 2008's installer unhappy.  It took a lot of registry deletions to get it to work.  More about that later (if I remember).

Anyway.  The site is finally back up!  Hooray!


The Greatest Paragraph I Have Read This Year

And possibly a lot longer than that.  Glenn Greenwald does his usual thrashing of the Washington DC political media (aka The Villagers / Beltway Media), but provides possibly the greatest single paragraph summary of the way of thinking that is so dominant in the beltway

As HTML Mencken insightfully noted in what is one of the best blog posts ever written, our political mores demand vehement repudiation of petty acts of incivility (not all, but most) while tolerating and even approving of extremely consequential acts of indecency as long as they're advocated with superficial civility.  Those who use curse words to oppose torture, wars and lawbreaking are evil and unSerious (The Angry Left); those who politely and soberly advocate morally repugnant, indecent policies are respected and Serious.  As long as one adheres to Beltway decorum, one can advocate the most amoral and even murderous policies without any repercussions whatsoever; it is only disruptive and impolite behavior that generates intense upset.  Beltway culture hates "incivility" (public use of bad words) but embraces full-scale substantive indecency (torture, lawbreaking, unjustified wars, ownership of government by corporations, etc.).

I missed the original Sadly, No post, as it was posted well before I discovered that blog, and I appreciate the way Glenn takes what was ostensibly just a satirical look at the beltway media of the time and finds the deeper truth, exposing in a way that, I hope, everybody can learn from. 

Thanks, Glenn.



I'm trying to understand the "rationing" argument for health care reform.  This is the argument that there simply is not enough doctors/nurses/hospitals/etc. such that if we let any more people get health care, that all care will have to be rationed.  There's absolutely no evidence for this, of course, but that's never stopped the tinfoil hat crowd before.

So here's my question.  Isn't not giving health care to the 40 some odd million uninsured in and of itself a form of rationing?  Basically, if you are against health care reform because of this fear, you are saying that you are good enough for health care, but the currently uninsured are not and care is being rationed in your favor

Why is America so damn selfish?



Am I the only one that thinks the Chia Obama is, at the very least, unclassy and, at the very worst, blatantly racist?



Palm Pre Commercial

Palm Pre Commercial: "A revolutionary OS that can run multiple live applications at once!"

Really?  That's the best WebOS/Palm Pre has to offer?  Of course not.  I think it's actually pretty nice and I'm a diehard Windows Mobile guy.  But apparently the iPhone has set the bar so low for multitasking (as in, it doesn't) that actual multitasking is considered "revolutionary" on a mobile device.  This despite the fact that Windows CE has done it forever, BlackBerry OS has done it forever, and even the old PalmOS did it in later versions.

Ahh, but well, that's because everybody is (mistakenly) competing against iPhone, even business phones.  I blogged about this before.  At first, I thought it was just the tech reporters, but now even Palm is gearing their advertising that way.  I don't get it.  RIM owns the business world, market against them, not Apple!

But what do I know?  I'm just a tech guy.  I'm sure the marketing pros know what they are doing.

Or maybe not.


Get Well, MCA

In case you haven't heard, MCA of the Beastie Boys has cancer.  I'm wishing him well.


Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 2

Yesterday I posted about swapping out the factory head unit in my Smart Car with an aftermarket unit.  Today I am going to cover changing out the door speakers.

The Smart Car is really unlike any other car on the road in its design.  To my surprise, to get to the door speaker you have to take off the outside of the door, not the inside.  Evilution has great documentation on how to do it.  The "premium" sound system also has tweeters in the dash, but I'm leaving those disconnected.  It's not worth the effort to replace them.  Interestingly, the Smart uses the standard head unit rear channel to power the dash tweeters and the front channel to power the door speakers.  If you leave all the wires connected, you can use the fader on your head unit to change the balance between the door and dashboard -- pretty neat.

The factory speakers are terribly cheap looking (no great surprise there).  When choosing a new speaker to put in my Smart, I had to make sure the mounting depth was very shallow since there isn't a lot of room.  I've always been a huge fan of Orion, so I went to their website first.  Orion's XTR 652 coaxial door speakers are surprisingly shallow.  In fact, the Orion speaker is actually a few millimeters shorter than the factory speaker! 

The inside of the Smart door is basically a single molded piece of plastic.  This makes mounting new speakers very difficult unless it has the same screw pattern as the original.  Since the original's screw pattern is unique to the Smart, this makes it incredibly unlikely.  Orion's door speakers have what they call a universal mount, but sadly there is no screw pattern to match the Smart.  Thankfully, the Smart's 6.5 inch speakers are actually 6.5 inches.  This isn't always the case on some factory systems!  The diameter of the Orion was exactly the same as the factory speaker.  This is great because the Smart's plastic speaker mount has an edge that protrudes and presses on the edge of the speaker, just past the surround,  but just before the metal case.  If the Orion speaker was any bigger, this edge would press on the surround and affect the sound quality and life of the speaker.

Since I wasn't able to use the factory screw holes, I needed to make new ones.  The problem is that there is nothing to screw into with the Smart.  If I used a long screw and went into the door plastic, it would punch through the other side and you'd see the screw inside the car.  That's no good.  :-)

My solution was to epoxy little wooden blocks at points where the Orion universal mount had screw points.  Where the arm rest is located just above the speaker, I lined the universal mount with the existing screw hole and rethreaded it with a wider screw.  So I ended up using one factory screw hole, and three new screw points into the wood blocks that are epoxied on the inside.  This worked great, but be careful about one thing: you really need to score the plastic really well before applying the epoxy to it.  At first I just used some low grit sandpaper, but that did not do the job.  The blocks fell off with only a little bit of force.  The second time I used the sharp end of a screw and went to town scoring some nice deep grooves.  The epoxy stuck really well after giving it something to grab onto.  After that, I just needed to drive some wood screws through the universal mount's screw hole and the job was done. 

Surprisingly, the Smart has some pretty good speaker wire connecting the door speakers.  Eyeballing, it looked to be around 14 AWG -- not bad!  Since I didn't want to fish new wire, I simply snipped the ends off the factory wire and soldered it to the Orion speakers.  When I install the amplifier, I'll snip and solder the speaker wire behind the radio and connect a longer cable to the amp.  It's not the ideal way to run speaker wire, but I've done this before as a shortcut and it works well.  Also, I don't care what anybody says, I cannot tell the difference between Monster Cable and cheap cable when it comes to speaker wire.  RCA cables, yes -- absolutely.  But speaker wire, no.

Anyway, I put the doors back on and fired up the stereo.  Still using the head unit's amp, it sounded amazing!  I can't wait to get the amp hooked up now.  These XTRs are really great speakers!

I love Orion!

Enjoy the pictures.  The next installment of this series will cover hooking up the sub and amplifier.

Smart door
This is what the door looks like when you take off the outside panel. 
You can also see that I have cut a "plus" pattern to gain access to the speaker behind the weather shield.  It's a shame there isn't a better way to gain access without taking the door apart, but duct tape will fix all!

Side of Smart 
This is a nice side view of the smart with the door panel removed.

Orion XTR 652 and factory Smart door speaker
The factory speaker is on the right, the XTR 652 on the left.  You can see that the XTR is not quite as deep as the factory, leaving plenty of room for the window to roll down.  Also take a note of the magnet size difference!

Door speaker mount
There are my new screw points!  The factory grill will conceal my secret weapons.  :-)

 Orion XTR 652 speakers
The Orion XTR 652s, side by side!  You can see the "universal mounting bracket" that lacks Smart screw holes (no great surprise).

New speaker mounted in door
The speaker, partially mounted (I forgot to take a picture after I tightened all the screws, so this is the last picture you get).


Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 1

This will be the first in a series of posts about modifications I make to my Smart Car.  The first big mod I'm making is installing a new car stereo.  The Passion Cabriolet comes with what Smart calls the "premium sound system," but let's be honest: factory installed car stereo systems always suck.

If you are a Smart owner and want to work on your car, you should get to know the website Evilution really well.  This site has information on how to do basically anything in your Smart with regards to assembly/disassembly.  This is good because Smart/Mercedes is very protective of the official service manual.

I replaced the head unit yesterday which was incredibly easy.  I must say that the Smart is, by a long shot, the easiest car I have ever worked on.  Nearly all the screws are the same type (torx 20 or 25) and none of them so far are torqued so tight that you can't unscrew them with a manual screwdriver.  Nice!

My head unit of choice is the Sony Xplod MEX-BT2700.  I bought it mainly for the price as it is by a long-shot the cheapest bluetooth car stereo solution out there right now.  It does have some glaringly stupid limitations, like not automatically reconnecting A2DP to existing partnerships when the radio turns on (it does, however, automatically reconnect the bluetooth hands-free phone profile).  So each time you start the car, you have to press a button to reconnect your bluetooth audio device to the radio..  Despite that, it's a great unit for the price and the built-in microphone works really well for hands-free bluetooth goodness.  Here's a couple pictures.

Sony Head Unit
You can see RCA cables coming dangling in the passenger foot area.  Those will eventually find their way to the amp!

Sony Head Unit
The car kit for the Smart looks really nice and creates a very professional "factory" look even when replacing the double din factory radio with a single din aftermarket like above.

My next post will cover replacing the factory door speakers with Orion XTR652 coaxial speakers.


I Got My Smart!

I got my Smart on Tuesday.  So far, I'm loving every second of driving it!  It's such a fun car.  This weekend, in goes the stereo.  I'll post pictures when it's done.

My Smart Car Look at her smile for the camera!


Private Health Insurance, Defined

Atrios defines private health insurance perfectly.

"Health insurers are middle men who make money by not providing payment for services they're supposed to pay for. They're skimmers who provide no useful service."

That is the best definition ever.

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