Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Make Plastic Lego Train Tracks Work with 9V or 12V Trains

I’ve posted another project for those of you stuck with 9V or 12V Lego trains force to pay very steep prices on eBay for additional track (especially the straight track!). Head on over to the projects page to check it out. Ultimately it’s a pretty simple solution, you just need the aluminum flashing tape used commercially during building construction and cut into strips or stain-glass-makers copper or aluminum foil tape, stick it down on the tracks, smooth it out and it works out perfect.

Laptop Reviews

I’ve been shopping for a laptop for a while, I’ve found a couple of worthwhile sites to share:
Notebook Check is absolutely awesome, they have reviews/data on all of the integrated/dedicated notebook graphics cards.

Next good resource is Deal News, they’re basically continually price comparing and pulling the best prices from all over the big box stores and on the web.

When it comes to computer stuff Newegg can’t be beat for honest reviews, decent prices and wide product availability. Their extra few $$$’s for shipping each additional item gets old fast, but the shipping speed is usually worth it.

I don’t recommend buying from eCOST, I’ve got a post on their scammer tactics with rebates amongst the older posts.  I also don’t like much, they heavily censor the “customer” reviews only allowing people posting great or excellent posts through, they occasionally allow marginal reviews but never anything honest when a product that sucks.

FIRST Lego League

I was given the opportunity to judge the Madison area FIRST Lego League competition.  The kids, other judges, and I had a lot of fun looking at the robots and the challenges they had to solve.  If you don’t know anything about FIRST have a look here.



The challenge was focused on transportation, which resulted in the teams competing to pick up rings on the layout board, knock down or keep standing walls and poles next to the “road” and to navigate a harrowing ramp and ultimately deliver a cargo of 4 Lego people to the target area.  Many teams chose to dead-reckon the course, with few utilizing line-following and fewer using the ultrasonic and touch sensors to verify contact with objectives or to avoid walls.  As judges we were most impressed when the young (primarily 4th-6th grade) competitors used the sensors and coupled them with an effective strategy to deal with the course obstacles.  We also liked to see teams that had clear collaboration amongst the members with all of the competitors equally aware of the goals and strategies of the robot.

Ultimately everyone had a great day and we all had a lot of fun watching the robots compete for points and prestige.

Awesome Competition Arena

Awesome Competition Arena

The gym set up was 5 projectors, 4 competition tables, 4 party lights and rocking music – it’s as much a party as it is a competition 🙂

Dear MSN Messenger. . .

Does anyone MSN message links with http://look***.com/ legitimately?  I feel like this shouldn’t be that hard to filter out or perhaps that you’re afraid of filtering too much. . .

Yes, I know I can set my preferences to only accept chat messages from people on my contacts list, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a instant messaging client.

Pandora 40 Hour Limit Reached!

The world has ended, I’ve hit my 40 hour allotment of Pandora for the month. So what happens when you run out of 40 hours of Pandora. . .

This is where it gets interesting. I was joking about this with my co-workers this afternoon, since generally my Pandora is signed in and playing whenever I’m at work, which means I should hit my 40 hours in just a shade under a week every month. So expectedly I’ve hit the limit, so we figured just sign up for another account and sign in again and run through another 40 hours (which probably violates the TOS, but nevertheless. . .)

Nope, no chance, in fact the whole Pandora site changes over when you hit 40 hours. Gone is the registration link. No matter, I’ll remote desktop to another computer and register a new address and use it here since I can’t register locally. Nope! Logging in with a completely new registered e-mail address still says that I’ve listened to my 40 hours and am entitled to no more.

Alright, last try, let’s clear all of the browser caches/cookies/etc, and try again. Well, given that the site still has no register a new account link means it will make no difference. They’re clearly tracking usage by IP address, perhaps machine reported statistics, and obviously your username plays a role on some level (though obviously not entirely).

I wonder what happens on a shared IP address? Anybody out there know? Anybody else run into the 40 hour limit? I don’t mind paying the cheap cost of good quality music, but I’d like to know how their tracking these things.


After paying $0.99 on about the 20th of the last several months I finally bit the bullet and gave Pandora my hard earned $36 for the year (it’s nice that I don’t have to dig around for the “don’t auto-renew button”, it’s just presented when you pay).  I have to admit that the desktop app alone is worth the money, not having a bogged down browser is immediately apparent on an older computer, even when running with Chrome or with Pandora in a separate browser.

After some “careful” research, I’ve concluded that Pandora is storing player information in both a flash object, and tracking the time played by user account AND IP address, so if you want to continue to get more than 40 hours/month you need to have a separate account, a separate data/internet connection (you don’t have to clear flash cache or anything else) and then wait until you run one account out and switch over to the other for the rest of the month.  I could pay ~$12/year by waiting until I run out each month but again the higher quality, no advertisements, 5 hour timeout and the dedicated player are all well worth it!  YMMV