Just so folks know…

I’ve created an easy-to-remember URL for our YouTube Channel: http://playhouse.packay.com/.  It’s a lot easier to give out to people than “youtube dot com slash channels slash… um, capital U capital C lower-case r capital B lower-case r dash… um…”

I’m also linking here so Google will pick up on the link and increase the pagerank of the channel. Not that my little blog will do much, but every little bit counts.

Starting on my second puppet build!

Well, that’s not entirely true: I’ve helped Kay out with puppets for Shrek and Little Shop, so I’ve been building puppets since Kay and I made Rudy, but this is the second puppet I’m building for me.

It started back in May when we were shopping for material for the puppets for Shrek. Alfred’s Fabric Center in Albany, NY, was going out of business, and they were selling a lot of fabric at half-off.  I saw a bolt of bright green fur that didn’t have much left on it, so I brought it up front and told them I’d take all that was left of it.  If I recall correctly, it ran $16 and change.

For a few days I thought about what I wanted to make with the green fur, and I decided it was going to be another monster, a little girl this time. Kay and Jen both have little kid characters, and I’m stuck (geez, I’m stuck with a puppet!) playing the adult to everyone else’s little kid, so I wanted to make a younger character to get in on all the fun they’re having.

I decided that I’d name her Violet, because when she was born she had violet fur, but soon afterward the violet fur started falling out and coming in green. She goes by “Vi” now (“call me Violet and you die!”), and she’s just eight years old.

Anyway, over the weekend, Kay cut up some foam using the patterns she used to make Ket, adding some spacers to make the head a little wider.  Then she cut up the fur using the same patterns, reminded me how to do the Henson Stitch, and set me to work stitching fur while she crafted arms and a torso.

A partially stitched head, arms and a torso.

A partially stitched head, arms and a torso.

It will take at least another week or two for me to stitch up all the fur, especially because I can only do it at home in the evenings, but I’ve told Kay that I really want to do the stitching on Vi myself, mostly because she did so much work on Rudy(she finished up Rudy’s long seams on the sewing machine before she built the foam structure of his head and finished him off) and I want to feel like I did more work on Vi.

So, stay tuned. It may be a little while before I have another update on Vi, but it’ll be worth the wait.

Why you should never allow ssh into your root account…

Every so often, I walk into my office at home and glance at the console for my file server (the machine on my network that has port 22 forwarded to it) and I see new messages like this:

Minorly massaged so you’re not looking at a wall of text

Sep 13 05:56:34 gogo kernel: Sep 13 05:56:34 gogo sshd[49408]: error: PAM: authentication error for root from 188.190.98.6
Sep 13 05:56:34 gogo kernel: Sep 13 05:56:34 gogo sshd[49409]: error: PAM: authentication error for root from 188.190.98.6
Sep 13 05:**:** gogo kernel: Sep 13 05:**:** gogo last message repeated 147 times
Sep 13 05:59:41 gogo kernel: Sep 13 05:59:41 gogo sshd[49611]: error: PAM: authentication error for root from 188.190.98.6

This is the big reason why you should never allow people to ssh into the root account of a machine directly accessible via the internet: people will try to break in.

I also amuse myself by adding the IP address to my firewall’s block list, but then, I’m easily amused. I know getting a new IP address is trivial, but I want people who are trying to ssh into root on my file server to have to take that trivial step.

I’m not a hardware guy…

Ok, so as some of you already know, PacKay Productions is building puppets for the Glove Theater’s production of Shrek: The Musical (and my lovely wife will be performing the part of Dragon).  Part of Kay’s design for Dragon included eyes that light up, and Kay figured that she could accomplish this by putting a battery-operated LED closet light in each eye:

LED-LIGHT

The problem, of course is that to turn those things on, you have to physically press the front on each of them.  That’s going to be awkward if you want to light up the eyes while you’re performing with the puppet.  ”Hey,” I told Kay, “I can move the switch outside the case… heck, I can probably put it at the end of a long wire, so you can have the switches for both eyes next to each other.  And I could move the batteries to the end of a long wire, too, so you don’t have to have all that weight up in the eyes.”  Kay was skeptical, however, because she didn’t want me ruining the one pair of these lights that she had.  So I found another pair for $5 on sale at a hardware store and I took them apart.

The build seemed simple enough: there was a switch soldered to a circuit board that had the LEDs soldered on, and there were two leads from the circuit board to the battery housing, one of which had a resistor.  I could de-solder the switch and put it at the end of long wire, and I could do the same for the battery.  Easy-peasy.

So I set to work.  I grabbed about three feet from my spool of cat5 cable and split it open to reveal the four pairs of twisted wires.  I de-soldered the connection to the battery and wired it back in with one of the wire pairs from the cable.  I now was able to put the battery three feet away from the LEDs.  I then de-soldered the switch from the circuit board and soldered in one end of another pair of wires.  I then tried touching the bare ends of that wire together to close the circuit and make sure everything was working.

Nothing happened.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “I’m not going to be able to do this by the seat of my pants.”

See, I’m a geek, but I don’t really grok electricity the way most geeks do.  There are equations for things, and I mostly ignore them and just do things by the seat of my pants because, for the most part, I can get things to work that way.  I don’t bother sitting down and crunching numbers because… well, that’s work.  And I hate work.  That’s why I mostly write computer code–coding isn’t work, it’s fun.

So, I started asking around for help. As luck would have it, one of my former coworkers Don came by the office this past week for a visit, and I chatted him up about it.  He did some quick addition on my whiteboard, and he gave me one crucial piece of advice: buy a multimeter.

So, on Friday, I grabbed a $35 multimeter from RadioShack. On Saturday, I took apart the other LED light and started testing voltages.  I tested at the two terminals on the battery pack. The multimeter read 4.77V. I tested where the two leads connected to the circuit board with the LEDs and switch. 4.75V.  Ok, good, I’ve got numbers to compare with.  I then tested the circuit I had soldered together at the battery pack. 4.75V.  Ok, that’s good. Then I tested at the circuit board? -4.75V. … … wait. NEGATIVE 4.75V?

A little voice in my head said, “They don’t call them Light Emitting Diodes for nothing, Pack.”

So I de-soldered where I’d connected the wires to the circuit board and re-connected them with the proper polarity.  VOILA!  It worked!

Emboldened by my success (and spurred by the fact that my ham-handed soldering had damaged one of the switches so it was no longer a push-on, push-off switch but appeared to now only function as a momentary (push on, release off) switch), I trotted off to RadioShack and grabbed two larger switches and a little plastic project case to house them in.

Another hour in my in-laws basement, and I was done!

2013-06-15 21.30.16 2013-06-15 21.30.23
2013-06-15 21.30.29 2013-06-15 21.30.34

The switches are close enough together you can turn both lights on at the same time, but you can also choose to light up either light individually.  Now all we have to do is mount these in Dragon’s eyes and figure out where the best place to place the switches.

A teaser…

Back in mid-April, Kay, Jen and I headed into the city for a photo-shoot with one of Jen’s friends who was a photographer.  It was the most fun we’d had with the puppets yet.  We’re waiting to link to the full set of photos until Jen’s character makes her video debut, but I figured I could upload one of the shots of me and Rudy to tease folks…

Packy and Rudy!

I need help… at work!

I need help.  There’s a lot of work to do at my day job, and we need another developer.  We’ve got a job posting up on our jobs site, and we’re posting to the appropriate job sites, but I really want to fill this position.  Mostly because I’m lonely.

I used to be a beta geek in an office filled with alpha geeks.  I loved this, because there were always people who understood the ideas I had and had ideas about how to make my ideas better.  I hate being the sole alpha geek in an office because then nobody understands the ideas I have.  But I also hate only having one other alpha geek to bounce ideas off of, because then if we can’t agree, there’s nobody to break the tie.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the job.  It’s a coding job, and it uses either Perl or Java (or both, if you’re so inclined).  If you’re reading this, you know me, and you’ll know that I’m still working for the current incarnation of what I’ve called “the best job I’ve ever had.”  If you’ve got a decade of experience, know either Perl or Java, don’t mind working in jeans and a t-shirt, don’t mind working in New York City and don’t think working with me would be a sign of insanity, let me know and I’ll get you in for an interview.

Workin’ on the company website…

I’m working on the PacKay Productions website today, and it occurred to me that since I’m using git on my desktop to track changes to our WordPress theme, I could also use it to sync changes to my server.  Thinking about it, I knew the webserver would be a remote repository, and I could publish my changes by typing “git push web”, but I figured there had to be things I was overlooking, so I hit Google to see what other people had come up with.

That’s when I found “Using Git to manage a web site.” It not only pointed out what I was overlooking–that if I made the website itself a git repository, I’d also be syncing all the .git files into the webroot and possibly exposing them to the public–it also had a solution: using the post-receive hook to deploy changes from a git repository sitting outside the webroot into a directory inside the webroot.

It’s a quick little read.  I like it.

The Red Monster sings!

After a few months of planning and almost two months of off-and-on shooting (during which my voice was shot because I had a sinus infection), we finally finished the music video we’ve been working on. Here it is!