Half duplex nerd

Welcome to Fnord, Statiked version

Posted on 30 Jul 2014.

The blog platform and server are now both changed - I've been using Octopress and self-hosting, but the Rake-based workflow was painful and slow, and while I don't regret funding the Ghost project they still haven't had time to add file import, so here's Plan B for now:

  • Switch to Statiked as an editor
  • Switch to GitHub Pages for hosting. Why? Because it's supported by Statiked. ;)

Just had a nice debug call with the author of Statiked... gotta love indie developers! We did a screenshare and debugged the problem I was having. Turns out that the GitHub API he uses can't handle the two-factor authentication I had enabled. Disable it and voila.

So here we go. Pages now hosted on github, and I'll see if I can import the old writing from Octopress.

Notes so far:

  • Statiked doesn't parse the timestamps unless you have the '-0700' timezone offset. Odd.

  • Statiked, Octopress, News

Paul tries pocketwatches

Posted on 23 Dec 2005.

Yesterday, after an epic shipping adventure involving ebay, paypal, UPS and several phone calls, my new toy arrived:

Helbros pocketwatch

(Link to is the ebay seller who sold it to me.)

Bad news first - it's not really a moonphase. And it doesn't have a seconds hand. That's a hairspring window, not a tourbillon.

Then again, it was $40USD. So I'm inclined to cut it some slack. I had wanted to check out pocket watches, but since I am pretty sure that it'll be a passing fad, I didn't want to spend much money on one. You can easily find vintage Elgin and Hamiltons on ebay, but I decided to get one new so that it wouldn't require immediate maintenance. (Finding someone to work on a mechanical clock is not easy!) As with my skeletonized watch, cheap and Chinese is the answer.

Pros and cons

The hairspring and balance wheel are visible, and you can see most of the pallet fork oscillating as well. It's quite fun to watch, pun intended. The two subdials are both 24hr indicators, of different sorts. The one on the left just has all 24 hours printed on it, with a simple hand pointer. The one on the right rotates at the same speed, but is printed with a day/night sort of thing. It looks like a moonphase until you look closely; this is the sort of corner-cutting you expect from cheep-and-cheerful gear. A moonphase (28-day cycle) is more complicated; if you have that the watch usually has day/date as well.

As with the skeletonized wristwatch, the display is busy and not instantly readable. Not bad, just not the instant read of a dive-style watch.

It comes with a pocket chain, pocketknife and integrate desk stand. It's kinda cool to stand it up on your desk and watch the works of the balance.

The works are pretty quiet; you have to hold it up to your ear to hear the tick-tock. It looks like 5 or 6 beats per second. 17 jewels, no printing on the back, side winder stem, not waterproof.

Accuracy is hard to measure without a second hand; I've had it a couple of days and the error is not yet visible.

Helbros is an old brand; I'm guessing that (along with others) it was bought by a Chinese company to give them instant credibility.


A perfectly reasonable, and very affordable, pocketwatch. Pocketwatches are, of course, an absurd affectation in this day and age. If you get one, it's probably just for enjoyment and odd occasions. I kind of like how it changes your sense of time - when you have to remove the watch from your pocket to look, it's a bit different than just glancing at your wrist.


  • Reviews, Watches

The Value of Time

Posted on 16 Dec 2005.

The origins of watch collecting are rooted in the utilitarian. When the social time coordination instrument was the village clock, social units tended to cluster around the village square. With the rise of portable, reliable watches, the individual was freed to roam independently from the center of town, and yet remain in sync with the rest of humanity. Today, with the ready availability of completely automated, mass-produced electronic watches, the raison d’etre of a fine mechanical timepiece no longer lies primarily in its timekeeping function. Today, the keystones to value in high mechanical timepieces are set in the perceived values of craft, the reconciliation of tradition and innovation, and their much more fascinating roles as a form of kinetic art and signatures of personal style.

An interesting editorial on Worth.com about watches. More oriented towards collectors and such, but has some interesting bits.

  • Watches

Client mode on Linksys WRT54GS

Posted on 11 Dec 2005.

I have a Squeezebox v1


for some months now, setup to play music streamed from my Mac mini. It (the squeezebox) has been flaky ever since I got it, where it'd simply lose the connection after a while and have to be power-cycled to recover.

Somewhere between annoying and unusable, actually.

So today, based on an idea, I took a WRT54GS, set it as a client to my main wireless router, and plugged the squeezebox into the linksys.

End result: Using the wired connection on the squeezebox seems more reliable than the wireless side. Odd, that.

Still messing with other variables, such as whether or not I leave itunes running. Now that I have podcasts to fetch, that's more of a necessity. However, it seems like the re-scans of the itunes library may cause playback glitches.

UPDATE Dec 16/05 - yep, using the bridge seems to fix the flakiness. Looks like the wireless part is just flaky.

UPDATE 5/07: Changing base stations to an Apple Airport Express also fixed the problem. I had to return the Linksys anyway, as it was a loaner. Stable now for several months.

  • Audio, Music, Networking

Watches for flying

Posted on 03 Dec 2005.

I'm close to finishing my quest for a private pilot's license, and am still looking for a good watch to wear.

From personal preference, I want to have

  1. GMT/UTC time for weather and such

  2. Timers, preferably two or more

  3. Countdown timers, for things like fuel changes

  4. Readability, under widely varying light and also with polarized sunglasses

As noted in my dive watch review, the Seiko fulfills #3, but that's about it. The Orient and Omega both do the job, or close to it. There's also the approach of a dive watch with a GMT hand, which provides 1,3 and part of 2.

However, you have to keep in mind that a fancy watch is really unnecesary. As with dive watches, the need for an elaborate flight watch with E6B slide rule and many dials is long gone. Flight watches now serve as affectations, wish fulfillment, jewelry or (rarely) functionality.

From Salon's "Ask the Pilot":

What is the purpose of the complicated watches I always see pilots wearing?

Their purpose is this: to tell them what time it is. Many pilots feel these gaudy little devices are an essential part of their uniform, perhaps a tribute to the days when goggled aviators used their watches to … I don't know. For a number of years I owned a Mickey Mouse watch as a kind of quietly irreverent protest to this practice (it also was the only kind I could afford). My red-bezeled Swiss Army watch also does the job wonderfully. Watches are required as backups to the ship's clocks, but nothing more elaborate than a sweep hand is needed.

(Of course, he's flying an airliner with more compute power and instruments than I'll ever have. My last Archer had the 'classic six' plus GPS and a stick-on stopwatch.)

Or, as Philip Greenspun puts it:

Q: What do you get when you cross an ape with a pilot? A: An ape with a big watch.

He goes on to advocate simple and readable, which I agree with. Taken to an extreme, you can get watches from Bell & Ross which are styled to look like flight instruments:


Nice. A pity they cost thousands of dollars, though. And don't have GMT. Or timers. Or alarms. Just the looks, ma'am.

I also flew with a Timex for a while:


(This one) You can also get different WW2 plane logos instead of the B17 - see this page of listings.

This is actually an OEM Timex Expedition, for $65. It's readable as heck, has a backlight for both analog and digital, and can keep track of two timezones. (E.g., GMT). The curve of the digital impairs legibility a bit, but it's pretty damn good.

These days, the only need for a complicated watch is if you lose instruments, have an ancient plane (e.g. Piper Cub) or demand to Look Like a Pilot. Once again, watches are jewelry. Pick one that's readable, functional and cheap. If you're flying, you need the money for airtime anyway.

  • Aviation, Watches, Essays

Breitling and analog-digital

Posted on 03 Dec 2005.

For a long time I've lusted after a Breitling B-1 watch:


A TimeZone review is here. It's a nice analog-digital combo, but vastly overpriced at 3,000USD or so. Hard to justify unless 'readable with night vision goggles' is a must-have for you.So that's right out. That's just waaaay too much money for an (admittedly nice) quartz watch. Here are some of the alternatives I've found so far:


This is a Timex, which I've seen in person - reasonably nice, super cheap ($70 list!) and you can turn off the digital for a cleaner appearance. Timex has never had the austere simplicity of a Seiko, but it ain't bad and the price is right. Then there's the Orient CVZ00002J:


Much better. More readable face, good luminosity, better hands, very readable. 100 to 150USD. (Roachman has it for sale.; you can also find it for about 100 on ebay) Does not have a backlight for the digital portion, alas. (See the comments for Hari's nice take on this as well!) Note that, on ebay, one seller lists this as model 'CVZ00002J0'. I'm unsure which is correct. The image above is a link to this review.

On that review thread, someone mentions that Citizen now has something similar, the Citizen Wingman VI. Now, I have a Citizen flight watch, the Navihawk Blue Angels:


It's nice, and was the apple of my eye for a couple of years, but it has some annoying limitations - there's no backlight and no lume, you can't read it at night! However, the new Eco-drive version does. After searching for a while, I found two models of it:

(Images are links to the reseller I found, about 300USD each) Not bad. It has a backlight now, though the hands are a bit thin and the face is still harder to read than I'd like. Still and all, getting better. (See Hari's comment - he likes his quite a lot) Then there's the Omega X-33:


(TimeZone review here.) Solves all the problems, has multiple timers (very nice for things like flight time, time per tank, leg time, etc) and an alarm loud enough to be heard while flying. Even has a backlight!Too bad it costs, erp, 2600 USD. Well, so much for that idea.


If you've got the cash, get the Omega. The Citizen is well priced, usable and just not quite right. I'd probably lean towards the Orient for close-enough and cheapness.

And I really like the Orient in blue. Very nice aesthetics.

Page update log

  • Reviews, Watches, Aviation