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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

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ASCII Diagram Tools

by Ben

Infinite ASCII diagrams, save to Google Drive, resize, freeform draw, and export straight to text/html.

Source: ASCIIFlow Infinity

Powerful ASCII art editor designed for the Mac.

Source: Monodraw for macOS ($20)

Realtime Text-To-Diagram

Source: Graphviz REPL (similar in spirit, but not ASCII)

Right to Repair: Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

by Ben

On its face, pirating such software would seem to be illegal. But in 2015, the Librarian of Congress approved an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for land vehicles, which includes tractors. The exemption allows modification of “computer programs that are contained in and control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle such as a personal automobile, commercial motor vehicle or mechanized agricultural vehicle … when circumvention is a necessary step undertaken by the authorized owner of the vehicle to allow the diagnosis, repair, or lawful modification of a vehicle function.”

Source: Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware – Motherboard


by Ben

User Monitoring for Prometheus

Prometheus, a Cloud Native Computing Foundation project, is a systems and service monitoring system. This project provides the infrastructure you need to do end-user monitoring in Prometheus as well.

Source: peardeck/prometheus-user-metrics

linkerd: Resilient service mesh for cloud native apps

by Ben

Resilient service mesh for cloud native apps

linker-d is a transparent proxy that adds service discovery, routing, failure handling, and visibility to modern software applications

Source: linkerd

Replace Battery in the 1st Edition Barnes and Noble Nook

by Ben

If necessary, the battery can be replaced. A replacement battery must be of the following type:

Barnes & Noble Lithium Polymer battery
Model Number BNRB1530
Rating: 3.7V, 1530mAh, 5.66Wh

You will need a small Phillips head screw driver (size 0 or 00).

Source: NOOK 1st Edition – Replace Battery – Barnes and Noble

I recently picked up a 1st generation Nook for $20. I was a little weary of the age of the battery (6 or so years old?), but it turns out that this Nook is one of the few consumer electronics released in recent memory that was built to be repairable. (The battery was meant to be replaced! There are even official instructions.) This is in stark contrast to my 2nd generation Amazon Kindle which had hardware problems and became unusable right after the warranty period ended. That experience soured me on the Kindle, understandably.

At any rate, the only Nook that has a user-replaceable battery is the 1st generation model. Also, it seems that Barnes and Noble doesn’t seem to sell the replacement anymore. (I could only find one outdated listing). Fortunately, the batteries are easily found online for about $10. The steps are pretty obvious to replace it: pop off the back with your fingers, unscrew a screw, put the new battery in, and then reverse the process.

Between the replaceable battery and the free 3G internet included with the device, hopefully these devices stay in use for quite a long time!

Where do laptops go when they die?

by Ben

The rest of the e-waste entering Wistron’s recycling plant has a different fate. Cables go one way to have their copper recovered. Steel frames go another. Lithium-ion batteries go to dedicated lithium operations. Case fans might even be saved and reused. Any components that can be yanked off circuit boards are, and then it’s on to precious metals.


“In some ways, it’s gotta start on the front end, in terms of consumers wanting products that are more recyclable,” Huang said.

That’s a particularly tough sell since consumers get almost no information about how recyclable any given product is. A company may improve its image by advertising “green” programs, but there is little financial incentive beyond that to put the work into solving these problems and designing for recyclability. It’s hard enough to match competitors’ progress on all the characteristics consumers know they do want.

The closest thing to an Energy Star label for recyclability is the EPEAT registry, where companies can verify that their products meet an IEEE standard.

Source: Where do laptops go when they die? | Ars Technica

Remember: a working computer can almost always be used by someone.  While recycling is important, re-use is also an important part of the solution.

California issues more self-driving permits, Iowa creates testing corridor

by Ben

On Monday, HERE (the mapping company now owned by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz) and the Iowa Department of Transportation announced their own project to develop an autonomous vehicle and freight movement corridor on I-380 between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Source: California issues more self-driving permits, Iowa creates testing corridor

Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

by Ben

Broadband access is declining, data caps are becoming commonplace, surveillance is increasing, and encryption is under attack.

Source: Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

How to mute the news room on a Cisco WebEx call

by Ben

WebEx has a feature that plays the news while you wait for the meeting organizer to arrive. It’s a nice idea in theory, but it can make it difficult to, say, write an email while you wait.

To mute the news feed, this is all you need to do:

The news feed will mute and you will then hear silence.

Cable TV box rental fees cost average household $232 a year

by Ben

99 percent of customers rent set-top boxes from TV providers, survey found.

Source: Cable TV box rental fees cost average household $232 a year