"A safe propane torch for applications around the home"

I get a feed from “Cool Tools” and this caught my eye.  I’m thinking of using it to remove snow or scare the shit out of my neighbors.  Looking for a backpack to hold the propane tank next.

Harbor Freight – Greenwood propane torch

Note from Cool Tools:

“I was a small part of a Battle Bots team behind the robot Complete Control that was on Battle Bots recently on ABC. This $20 propane torch was on a robot. It was heralded as — I’m gonna sort of humble brag here — it was heralded as the most effective flame thrower in Battle Bots history because it recorded the first robot kill ever, which was really exciting for us. There’s a Youtube video of it. A minute and a half into the match, we get the robot in the gripper. We grab under the robot, lift them up, and then turn on the flame thrower. It’s a 3,000 degree torch, it’s coming from just a regular propane tank. The brilliance of this Harbor Freight tool is someone engineered it and figured out how to have it properly aspirated … It turns out just with a few little tweaks, including this spark gap generator, it became a robot killer. That was pretty awesome to see.”

HP notes – update BIOS from F10

I got a friends-and-family return-from-lease HP 8100 workstation.  No RAM, no disk, just the basic workstation.  I am trying to install Windows 10, but I’m having issues with the OS install failing.  HP notes point to an out-of-date BIOS.  The challenge is how to update the BIOS when you have no OS installed.

      1. 1. Download the BIOS update (EXE file) from the HP site.
      2. 2. Extract the ISO file from the EXE using 7-Zip.
      3. 3. Burn the ISO to a CD (and put CD in the CD/DVD drive)
      4. 4. Boot the system, press F10, select Update BIOS, point to the CD.
    1. This wasn’t obvious, nor was it documented *anywhere* on the HP site.  Lots of references to pre-2002 HP tools and the like.  I hope someone finds this useful.

Netgear security update

Check your router for a vulnerability by entering the string below into your browser (change [router-address] to the IP address of your router (example:


If that page shows anything but an error or an empty page, your router is affected and you need to apply the patch just published by Netgear (link below).

Netgear models impacted by this vulnerability:














I’ll start to post more about hobbies as well as technology.  

On our Yosemite trip this month, I focused on packing light. I weighed and documented everything I took. This resulted in a much more successful and enjoyable trip. 

New equipment included a new, lightweight sleeping bag, a 10L compression sack,and some lightweight packing sacks. 

Raspberry Pi 3 start kit recommendation

Several people have asked about Raspberry Pi  kits recently.  I’m lazy, so I’ll maintain this list so I can just point people to this link.  Any questions or suggestions, let me know.


1.       Raspberry Pi 3 – get
the latest one, best value for money, WiFi and Bluetooth included

2.       Case for Raspberry

3.       HDMI to VGA adapter –
lets you connect to older (and cheaper) monitors

4.       USB to PS/2 adapters
– lets you connect to older mice and keyboards

5.       MicroSD card – to
install OS, get an

a.       8GB to 16GB card

b.       Get multiple cards so
you can have multiple system configurations without reformatting the card each

6.       Power

a.       1A with MicroUSB

b.       Get multiple power
supplies – spares always good, may require power for HDMI to VGA



Raspberry Pi 3 motherboard

Newark Element14 – sells kits as well as components,
shipping is reasonable, prices comparable to Amazon



Amazon – $35 retail, but $40 with Prime



Raspberry Pi case – $9



HDMI to VGA adapter – $



USB to PS/2 adapter – $2



32GB MicroSD card (Samsung) – $13




Obihai Update

We have used an Obi 110 as our home phone service through Google Voice since June 2011.  This month, we started having a problem dialing outbound and received a male voice referencing a password issue with the Google Voice account.  The password was fine, and I found the screen shots below


Clicked link on support page, $10 for one year of Obihai Premium Support, and after the purchase, the software update was available.  I have no problem with the support contract, and I’m very satisfied with the performance and features of the Obi110.


The problem I had was obscure, and I didn’t find any support references via Google or Bing searches.  I hope someone finds this useful.


Raspberry Pi-Hole

I was trying to optimize my home network and determined using a local DNS server significantly  improved our internet experience.  I did the testing with my home server, but it’s a beast (six cores, 32GB RAM, and 4-6TB storage).  Since I have a spare Raspberry Pi B+, I figured I would use it.

Researching further, I found the Pi-Hole Project (http://pi-hole.net/).  Not only does it provide a local DNS server, but it integrates ad filtering!  It works quite well, and didn’t take any technical skills to provision.

  1. Install Raspbian build on Raspberry Pi – reference link below
  2. Run this command from the shell (command line): curl -L install.pi-hole.net | bash
  3. Configure your computers/devices to use the Pi as their DNS server – I configured my wireless gateway to point to the Raspberry Pi so all my systems automatically use it. 

    NOTE – setup your gateway to use an external DNS as a secondary to avoid issues

Reference Links

Raspbian image downloads

Pi-Hole Project

Edit Word Normal.dot template

How to open the Normal template in any version of Word

  1. To edit the normal template in any version of Word on any Windows operating system do the following:
  2. Open Word.
  3. Open the vba Editor by Pressing Alt+F11 together.
  4. At the bottom of the vba Editor window is something called the Immediate window. (Press Ctrl+G to activate this window if you don’t see it.) Click in that Immediate window.
  5. Type the following (or copy it from here and paste it):
  6. application.NormalTemplate.OpenAsDocument
  7. Press Enter
  8. Close the vba editor
  9. You are now editing the normal.dot or normal.dotm template.
  10. Make the appropriate changes and save.

The next time you open a new document, it will have the defaults you saved in the template.

Raspberry Pi 3

I just ordered one from Newark Electronics.  At a meeting today, we had a discussion about Raspberry Pi 3, so I thought I would post my notes for reference.

I did some quick checking, and I would recommend only buying the Raspberry Pi 3 because it has better specs (faster CPU, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth included), it’s the same price ($35), and it’s compatible with just about everything you would want to do (including Windows 10 IoT).

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Note – Raspberry Pi 2 case works with 3, and I just buy the cheapest one I can find. I use extra micro-USB phone chargers to power mine, and I’ve been buying Samsung SD cards for my phone and projects. You can buy kits, too, but with my basement of spare parts, this hasn’t been an issue for me ;).

Raspberry Pi (Pi-Hole project)

Notes – I have seen some side effects, for example links on CNN seem to go through an ad service, so they are blocked. Overall, it hasn’t had any impact on any work I’ve done at home, or on any devices we have in my house. There are tons of articles about customization of Pi-Hole via Google Search.

Windows 10 IoT Core support for Raspberry Pi 3

2600 Magazine article – New Yorker

Joybubbles – guy with perfect pitch, discovery of 2600 Hz vulnerability attributed to him.

Wikipedia 2600 entry – also notes H.O.P.E. originally organized by 2600

Samsung Note 4–contact sync issue

After updating my Note 4 to Android 5.1.1, I noticed that a few of my contacts weren’t synchronizing correctly from Google.  After looking into it further, I realized there were MANY contacts that were missing.  No real pattern, but I’ve never seen this before.

I tried to resolve the problem by stopping the sync for Google Contacts, but that didn’t work.  I also read several articles (many, many articles) that were inaccurate or incomplete, then I started from scratch and documented my process.

    • Removed all the accounts that synchronized contacts (Google, Samsung, Company e-mail, etc).
    • Cleared cache for all applications
    • Cleared System Cache


Process to clear system cache

  1. Press Home, Volume Up and Power buttons together.
  2. Let the Power and Home buttons go off when the Note 4 starts vibrating.
  3. Now recovery screen will be shown to you. Select Wipe Cache partition using the Volume Down key.
  4. Confirm the step by pressing the Power button.
  5. Reboot System Now option needs to be selected and confirm it by pressing the Power button.