zsh-dwim: Simple chmod and chattr Transforms Are Too Simple

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Late last year, my friends and I were playing quite a bit of Borderlands 2. If you only have a finite amount of time, multiplayer Borderlands 2 involves a bit of cheating. Instead of farming the same items over and over again for all your friends every time you level up, it is much easier to just duplicate the items.

Duplicating items is very easy, and it involves switching your profile.bin file back and forth between read-write and read-only. That involves a lot of alternating chmod -w and chmod +w` commands. I must have done this hundreds of times before realizing that this would be an excellent fit for zsh-dwim!

What should zsh-dwim do with chmod?

This is a much harder question to answer than I had anticipated. I ended up choosing the most simple option—just flipping the state of the plus and minus signs. I had some other ideas, but I couldn’t decide what was actually appropriate.

I thought about making zsh-dwim check the current permissions of the files on the command line. Then it might just be a simple matter of setting the permission options on the command line to match the inverse of the actual permissions of the file. This seemed like an excellent idea at first, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated things became.

What if there are multiple files on the command line? What if the permissions on all of those files don’t match? What is the correct assumption to make in this case? Should zsh-dwim just check the first file? I don’t know if there is a good choice to make here.

There are other interesting options besides checking out the current permissions of the files on the command line. It might be interesting to have zsh-dwim toggle one +/- sign each time you press the key. If zsh-dwim could maintain a bit more state information, they could flip in a nice, predictable order.

This would probably work out alright if there were only two + or - signs on the command line. Any more than that, and the number of key presses required to reach the state you’re looking for could get pretty high.

Should zsh-dwim be stateful?

I am tempted to add some state information to zsh-dwim. It would be neat to even be able to better cycle through a sequence of related transforms. I want to be able to just hit a single key and have zsh-dwim just “do what I mean.” I don’t really want to be banging on the key over and over again, and I most definitely don’t want to be stuck cycling through any extra useless transforms while looking for the right one.

These new transforms may be a little too simple, but they are handy enough as they are, and I think they’re good enough for now.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m interested in hearing you opinion!

3D Printed Monitor Bracket

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I’ve been working on my biggest, most complicated OpenSCAD part since November. It is a cover to hide the cables coming out of the back of my monitor stand. It feels like a long time to be working on the same print, but I did print out a very successful version of this part back in November. The teeth that were meant to hold it in place worked better than I had anticipated, but my measurements were off by about 4 mm.

A Cable Cover For My Monitor Stand

It fit well enough, and I left it on there for about a month. Unfortunately, I knew that it was wrong, so I had to correct the model and print another copy. I was printing the updated part over the weekend, but I had a slipping Y-axis during the first half of the print.

Keep an eye on your belts

I actually noticed the Y-axis belt vibrating around during the print. This belt was one of my biggest problems in the first weeks of owning my Prusa i3 printer. It is just a little too long, and I can’t really get in there to shorten the belt properly without taking the build plate completely apart.

A Failed 3D Print

My quick solution was to use the spring from a clothespin as a belt tensioner. It worked very well, but I suspect that the spring has been constantly loosening. I tried to find a way to put tension on the belt while the printer was running, but that wasn’t an easy task. It is hard to make out in the pictures, but I can see how much smoother it is during the section where I was able to add some temporary tension.

After the failed print, I was able to tighten that spring back up. There were two other problems. It was getting too late in the day to start another eight-hour print, and my spool of ABS filament is running low. I don’t know if there is enough material left for such a large object.

A Successful Print

Not wanting to end the day on a failed print, I decided to design something simple.

From zero to printing in less than 45 minutes

I decided to print a pair of brackets to hold my monitors in place. The monitor stand does an excellent job, but the frames of the monitors are made of thin sheet metal. They flex quite a bit if you push on them.

The Final Bracket Design

I used my handy angle finder to figure out precisely what angle my monitors are sitting at in relation to each other, and I went to work designing a simple bracket in OpenSCAD. I don’t mean to brag, but I am really impressed with how quickly this process moved along. I was able to clear off the printer, correct the tension on the belt, design the new brackets, and start printing them in less than 45 minutes.

The first set of brackets

The first set of brackets did the job, but they weren’t perfect. The top bracket was a few mm too wide, and it was hitting a bulge in the back of the monitors. I also didn’t know that the power connector for the backlight is in the bottom corner of the monitor, so the bottom bracket wasn’t going to fit over that.

A Huge Gap With The First Set Of Brackets

Thankfully, ABS is very east to cut. I just clipped everything down so the brackets would fit, and they did a most excellent job. If I wiggle one monitor around now, they both wiggle in unison. And best of all, they don’t squeak if they rub up against each other!

There was another small issue. The little wedge on the inside of the bracket was keeping the monitors from touching. Clipping some of that wedge out improved things a bit, but the monitors could still only get so close together. At this point, they were roughly 0.1mm apart. That is quite close, but I wanted to improve on that.

The updated set of brackets

Updating the bracket model was easy. I lowered the value of my length variable by a few mm. I also made the length of channel that’s carved out of the bracket a few tenths of a mm longer. This made that troublesome wedge a bit smaller and got it out of the way.

There's No Gap With The Final Set Of Brackets

The first set of brackets were identical, but now I needed to leave room for the power connector on one of the brackets. Duplicating the brackets was simple enough. I just moved the bracket into a module—OpenSCAD calls their functions “modules.”

That made it very easy to create a pair of brackets, and to carve a section out of one to make room for the power connector.

They work great—I just wish I didn’t have to look at them

My monitors have never been this close together, and they have never been this stable. I have wished for a setup this solid since I bought my first pair of LCD monitors back in 2001.

I just don’t like the way they look. I like the bare, clean look of the metal frames of my debezeled monitors. I don’t like ruining that with a pair of black plastic bricks. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can have my cake and eat it too.

Both Iterations Of Monitor Bracket

The only other reasonable solutions that I can come up with involve hiding some sort of brackets behind the monitors and attaching them with some sort of adhesive. That would be less than ideal. I like being able to easily move my monitors around. It makes them easier to clean, and it makes it easier to access the connectors and wiring.

I think that I am going to keep using them. This final set of brackets is keeping my monitors ridiculously close together. I can’t even fit my 0.04mm feeler gauge between them. For reference, a dollar bill is around 0.1mm thick.

They’ve been in place for almost a week, and my QX2710 monitors haven’t budged. The brackets are doing a great job of making up for the flimsiness of the monitors’ sheet metal.

Craft Coffee - Perc Coffee and Vigilante Coffee

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My Craft Coffee experience is changing a bit this year. Last April, my friend Brian bought me a six-month subscription to Craft Coffee. He knows I enjoy coffee, and he knows that I set a blogging goal for myself. He thought that having some coffee show up once a month would get me something extra to write about each month.

That has worked out quite well. I have enjoyed recieving coffee each month, and it has been a lot of fun writing about all the coffee that shows up. I decided to include my little referral code in each blog post. I didn’t really think anyone would use it, but people are using it. At first they were using it often enough that my subscription was slowly being extended, but now it is being used quite a few times each month. It is now being used at a rate beyond which I can drink enough free coffee.

Three Bags of Coffee from Craft Coffee

The wonderful people at Craft Coffee have helped me increase my order from one 12-oz bag every month up to three 12-oz bags each month. This is probably more coffee than I can manage to drink in four weeks, but it should make my writing a bit more interesting.

Being transparent about all of this free coffee

I’m trying to rewrite the “referral code” blurb at the end of these blog posts. I’m not doing a very good job. This is probably because I am a terrible salesman, and I don’t even want to be a salesman.

Even if no one was using my referral code, I would have paid to extend my Craft Coffee subscription. I still believe that Craft Coffee is a very good value, and the coffee that they send me is much better than anything I have managed to find locally.

Perc Coffee, Savannah, GA
Producer Finca Bella Vista
Origin Santa Ana, El Salvadore
Variety Various Varietals
Elevation 1,450-1,750 Meters
Process Washed
Only a perfect combination of favorable soil, high altitude and sub-tropical climate can produce this creamy cup with notes of orange and brown sugar. Enjoy.

There were three bags of coffee waiting for me when I returned home, and the first thing I did was read Craft Coffee’s notes on each bag. Making a choice as to which bag of coffee to open first was an easy choice. Just read that description. How can I not immediately try the one with the words “only a perfect combination” in the notes. They’re even telling me to “enjoy!”

A Bag of Perc Coffee from Craft Coffee

My first Perc Coffee latte was a little disappointing. This happens to me quite a bit, though, and my recent travels have made me a bit rusty. I’ve been adjusting the grind, and I ended up with an amazingly delicious latte by the third or fourth try.

These beans are roasted slightly darker than I’m used to, but they’re still lighter than what most people probably use in their espresso machines. It doesn’t have huge, easily identified flavors like the amazing strawberry taste of the Yirgacheffe beans from Slate Coffee Roasters. It doesn’t have that amazing peanut buttery smell of the coffee from modcup.

It doesn’t need to have these things. It is just a delicious cup of coffee. I’ve been doing my best to tune in the perfect espresso shot of Perc Coffee for my lattes, and no matter where I land, they’re all delicious. I’ve had a few very short pulls that were close to 1-oz, and I thought for sure they’d be terrible—I was wrong. They were different, but they were still delicious.

With most beans, I usually settle in at pulling a shot that is probably on the ristretto side—about ¼-oz short of a full double shot in about 22 seconds. Usually if I go any farther or longer than that, my latte ends up a little bitter. I purposely pulled a more proper shot near the end of the bag of Perc Coffee. It very nearly filled my 2-oz demitasse cup in about 27 seconds, and it made for another delicious latte.

Vigilante Coffee, Washington, DC
Producer Cabrera Farm
Origin Huila, Colombia
Variety Caturra
Elevation 1,500-1,750 Meters
Process Washed
Clean, sweet and juicy with notes of chocolate and hazelnut, this cup has a velvety mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

Nutella. These lattes that I’m making with the beans from Vigilante Coffee definitely make me think of Nutella. It isn’t as sweet as Nutella, even though I use quite a bit of sugar—it definitely makes me imagine what a coffee-flavored Nutella might taste like.

I’ve had some trouble tuning in the Vigilante Coffee. I am following my usual process for a new bag of coffee. I take a partially wild guess as to the initial grinder setting, and I pull a double shot. I’m usually pretty close, and I am able to move the microadjustment lever to the correct position in about two or three tries.

Vigilante Coffee from Craft Coffee

The Vigilante Coffee has been mocking me the entire time. I’ve pulled about a half-dozen nearly identical ristrettos. I’ve moved the microadjustment lever up three clicks before each new shot, and the volume just doesn’t increase for me. I’m used to the difference between an OK shot and a good shot being only two clicks, so this has been very surprising.

I finally managed to get a longer shot, but it pulled way too fast. The last three clicks took me from a ristretto to a waterfall! It took longer than I would have liked to get here, but I’m now tuned in right around where I want to be.

I’m definitely not complaining, though. Those very ristretto shots all made delicious lattes, and the more dialed in the shots get, the more balanced the coffee from Vigilante Coffee tastes! Delicious coffee often makes up for my rookie mistakes!

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Craft Coffee - Revel Coffee Roasters - Part 2

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Things are a little different this time. I was up in Scranton visiting and helping out my parents for about two weeks. The timing of the trip wasn’t very well planned, and I didn’t have any delicious coffee to take with me. I stopped at our local Central Market here in Plano, and I picked up a bag of Java Pura’s Ethiopia Sidamo beans to take with me.

This is the first time that I’ve been without my Rancilio Silvia since it arrived, and going back to the old Mr. Coffee espresso machine at my parents’ house was quite a learning experience!

Craft Coffee - Revel Coffee Roasters

The Java Pura beans were almost completely unusable to me with the Mr. Coffee ECMP50 espresso machine. I tried tuning things in as best as I could, but every latte I made was bitter. I had to do something, so I ordered an extra bag of coffee from Craft Coffee. I chose a bag of Yirgacheffe from Revel Coffee Roasters.

I received a bag from Revel Coffee Roasters in October, and I enjoyed it, so I figured that I should give their Yirgacheffe a shot. I almost always enjoy Yirgacheffe.

Revel Coffee Roasters, Billings, MT
Producer Smallholder Farms
Origin Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Variety Heirloom
Elevation 1,800-2,000 Meters
Process Washed
A soothing bouquet of lavender prepares the palette for a coffee boasting the sweetness of honey with a light citrus acidity and flavors of stone fruit.

The tasting notes are problematic for me with this bag of coffee because I have no idea what a stone fruit tastes like. In fact, I had to look it up on Wikipedia!

With the old Mr. Coffee Machine

The Yirgacheffe beans from Revel Coffee were a much-welcomed improvement. After a slew of half-finished lattes, it was nice to finally make one that I wanted to finish!

I won’t say that they were GOOD lattes, though. Not compared to what I’ve been making with my Rancilio Silvia. There were no offensive bitter or sour flavors, but the Mr. Coffee espresso machine made a very bland latte. On the plus side, though, it was very easy to consistently reproduce that same mediocre latte.

With the Rancilio Silvia

I only managed to go through more than half of my 12-oz bag of Revel Coffee Roaster beans before I flew home to Plano. This is exciting for me, because it is the first time that I get to compare my old Mr. Coffee espresso machine experience directly to my new Rancilio Silvia.

My skills with Rancilio Silvia have been slowly improving over the last six months. I didn’t have a clear memory of what the Mr. Coffee lattes tasted like. I didn’t know if Miss Silvia was really worth her price tag—she costs almost ten times as much as my old Mr. Coffee machine!

I can say that Miss Silvia is worth every penny. There is absolutely no comparison between two machines. It was a very welcomed improvement coming home to my Rancilio Silvia.

I didn’t have enough Revel Coffee beans to tune in the perfect latte, but I think I came pretty close.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Craft Coffee - December 2014

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There was a slight problem with my shipment from Craft Coffee this month. I’m pretty certain that I was the cause of the problem. I ended up receiving three 4-oz sampler packs this month. This made pulling shots for lattes more complicated this month, but also much more interesting!

Coava Coffee Roasters, Portland, OR
Producer The Pacas Family
Origin Lomas de San Marcelino, El Salvador
Variety Bourbon, Pacas
Elevation 1,400-1,600 Meters
Process Washed
Pleasant red grape acidity reveals notes of buckwheat and toasted oats before ending with tannic blood orange stweetness.

I had a lot of trouble with the beans for Coava Coffee. I could pick up hints of all sorts of nice flavors, but nearly every shot I pulled had a bitter aftertaste. Nearly every shot, but not the last one.

I’m usually happiest when I pull a ristretto. My favorite shots almost always end up being about 1.5 ounce double shots pulled in about 22 seconds. I was still aiming for this with the Coava Coffee beans, and this was a mistake. The best shot I pulled was a full 2-oz shot.

If I had more than 4 ounces of this coffee, I am certain that I would have made quite a few more delicious lattes.

Onyx Coffee Lab, Fayettevill, AR
Producer New Kiriti Farmers Coop
Origin Murang’a, Kenya
Variety SL-28
Elevation 2,000 Meters
Process Washed
A soft maraschino cherry acidity complements flavors of dried mango and smooth brazil nut before culminating in a fragrant finish of lemon oil and peppercorn.

This was the second coffee I tried this month, and I did a much better job with this one. I choked up my Rancilio Silvia pretty good on my first attempt, but my second try was pretty much spot on. I don’t believe I pulled a bad shot after that first one.

There’s definitely a fruity component to the taste. I don’t know that I would have identified it as dried mango. I won’t dispute it, but it may just be the power of suggestion making me believe it

This is a very nutty coffee. I don’t think I could compare the flavor to brazil nuts, but that might only be because I don’t care for brazil nuts, so I haven’t had any in years.

I am quite pleased with the coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab, and I would be happy to drink it again, and I would love to see what it could be with a little more tuning.

Magpie Coffee Roasters, Reno, NV
Producer Gondo Cooperative
Origin Murang’a, Kenya
Variety SL-28, SL-34
Elevation 1,650 Meters
Process Washed
A juicy tangerine acidity pairs perfectly with rich kumquat and sour cherry notes balanced by hints of lilac.

I had a bit more luck with the beans from Magpie Coffee. The grinder setting that I was using for the Onyx Coffee Lab beans was a great starting point, so my first latte was delicious.

This Kenyan coffee from Magpie Coffee seems much smoother than Kenyan coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab, but the fruity flavors are much less pronounced. It is a delicious coffee, and I could certainly drink it every day. It just isn’t very exciting.

I don’t think I can choose a clear “winner” between these two Kenyan coffees.

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Overclocking My QNIX QX2710 Monitors to 120 Hz With X.Org and Linux

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I don’t enjoy writing step-by-step guides. This will definitely not be that sort of guide, but this post should contain everything you need to get your QNIX QX2710 monitor running at 96 or 120 Hz under Linux with any relatively recent Nvidia card.

Running at 96 Hz was easy. The VESA mode generated by cvt for 2560x1440 at 96 Hz worked just fine. I had a lot more trouble finding a modeline that would work at 120 Hz. I ended up finding a screenshot of someone’s working 120 Hz settings on Windows, and I did my best to convert those numbers into something X.Org could use.

If you’re like me, you’re in search of that modeline. Here it is.

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Modeline       "2560x1440_120"      459.86 2560 2608 2640 2652  1440 1441 1444 1445 +hsync +vsync 

Now that he is gone, we’ll talk some more why you might want to overclock your monitor and figure out just what that modeline is for.

Why is 120 Hz better than 60 Hz?

More is better, right? Maybe. Overclocking your monitor isn’t going to make any significant difference if you aren’t playing games. I’m staring at my Emacs window while writing this post, and there is no way that I can tell you if this monitor is overclocked. The difference is strikingly obvious as soon as you move the mouse in a first-person shooter.

I didn’t expect the difference to be so drastic. There is definitely a lot of opinion and personal preference involved here, and I have a lot of opinions about this. Too many to fit in a couple of paragraphs. I plan on writing more about this, but I will summarize my feelings.

I don’t ever want to play games at 60 Hz ever again. I have been playing a lot of Borderlands 2 lately, and the Linux port seems to be pretty poorly optimized. I’m often dropping well under 60 frames per second, but there are rare occasions when Borderlands 2 pushes more than 120 frames per second. Those occasions are very obvious, and the game feels so much better.

My machine usually runs closer to 200 frames per second when playing Team Fortress 2, and I have to say that the difference between 60 to 70 frames per second in Borderlands 2 and the full 120 frames per second in Team Fortress 2 is simply amazing. Team Fortress 2 feels so buttery smooth.

Do you have to reach 120 Hz?

Definitely not. It sounds like the vast majority of QNIX QX2710 monitors are able to reach at last 96 Hz. That is a huge upgrade, both mathematically and subjectively. A 40% increase in frame rate is definitely a significant improvement.

Forget about the math, though. From a completely subjective standpoint, I can see a huge difference between 60 Hz and 96 Hz when playing a first-person shooter. I’m certain that I could tell the difference between the two in a blind test. I’m not so sure that I could tell the difference between 96 Hz and 120 Hz.

If your monitor makes it to 120 Hz, I say go for it! If it only makes it to 96 Hz, don’t be disappointed. It is still a huge upgrade, and you’re probably not missing out on much.

Hardware requirements – the monitor

This will only work with the dual-link DVI model QNIX QX2710. The newer “TRUE10” version of the QX2710 with HDMI and DisplayPort connections will not work. The “TRUE10” is known to only be capable of running at about 60 Hz.

These settings may very well work with other inexpensive 1440p Korean LCD monitors, like the Yamakasi Catleap. I only have access to some QNIX QX2710 monitors and a single QX2700, so I can’t verify whether these settings work on other monitors. If these settings do work for you on another monitor, I would definitely be interested in hearing about it.

Hardware requirements – the video card and drivers

I wish I had more data for this section. The only video cards that I have available with dual-link DVI ports are Nvidia cards. These timings may or may not work with AMD or Intel video cards.

I do know that my old Nvidia GTX 460 card was too old and didn’t have the bandwidth to support much more than 60 Hz at 2560x1440. The pixel clock needs to run at nearly 460 MHz to push enough pixels to update every pixel 120 times per second at 2560x1440, and the older Nvidia cards can only run at 330 MHz.

My new Nvidia GTX 970 doesn’t have this limitation. In fact, any Nvidia card with a dual-link DVI port in the 500 series family or newer should have no problem reaching 120 Hz. There are some Nvidia cards since the introduction of the 500 series that are limited to a 400 MHz pixel clock by the driver.

This limitation can be removed from Nvidia’s proprietary driver using the nvlinpatch tool. In fact, if I am understanding the situation correctly, only the 500 series cards require this patch. I don’t have enough Nvidia cards at my disposal to verify this.

I should also mention that I am using the proprietary driver from Nvidia, and I have not tested any of this with the Nouveau driver.

DVI cables

The Internet often recommends that you use high-quality, heavy-gauge DVI cables. I am doing the opposite. I had no trouble reaching 120 Hz using the cables that came with the QX2710 monitors, and I am now using inexpensive 10-foot dual-link DVI cables.

You mileage may vary. If you have trouble, you can try better cables. It is also probably best to use the shortest possible cables. It is much easier to move a clean signal 3 inches than 3 feet. I thought that the 10-foot cables would be long enough for my setup, and they are, but only just barely!

I’m using up about three feet of cable just to traverse the length of the monitor stand. Cable management would be more comfortable if I had ordered longer cables, but I have no idea if longer cables would manage to support 120 Hz.

Tripp Lite 10’ Dual-Link DVI Cable at Amazon

What are the chances of success?

The general consensus around the Internet is that nearly every QNIX QX2710 monitor will overclock to at least 96 Hz, and that the vast majority will have no problem running at 120 Hz. My verifiable sample size is much smaller, but it seems to agree closely enough with what the Internet believes.

I have a pair of QX2710 monitors, and both of them have been running at 120 Hz for several months without any issues. My friend Brian also owns a pair of QX2710 monitors. One of his QX2710 monitors runs well at 120 Hz. The second monitor will not run at 120 Hz, so he is running it at 96 Hz. I do not believe he has tried any frequencies in between.

In our limited quantity of monitors, that is a success rate of at least 75%. I feel that 96 Hz is a huge upgrade over 60 Hz, so I don’t consider that a failure. That is, of course, only my opinion!

Are there any risks?

There are always risks when running hardware beyond its published limits. In this case, though, the risks seems very minimal. I have no good way to quantify the risk to the monitors, but the risk to the video card is quite minimal.

If you are using an older video card with a pixel clock limited to 400 Mhz, you will have to push it out of spec by about 15%. However, any video card that claims to support 4K resolutions will already have a pixel clock running at significantly higher speeds.

The information I have about the monitors is much less concrete. I do know that overclocking the QX2710 is pretty common, and I have yet to find any horror stories about monitors failing due to overclocking.

Also, my monitors are debezeled, so I can actually touch the metal casing on the back. They are barely warm to the touch. In fact, the box containing the controller board is significantly cooler than the area contain the backlight. I am not worried about my monitors in the least.

Enough already! How do I overlock my QX2710?!

All you need to do is add the correct modelines to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and tell Xorg to use them. It is quite simple.

My xorg.conf file
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# nvidia-xconfig: X configuration file generated by nvidia-xconfig
# nvidia-xconfig:  version 1.0  (buildmeister@builder58)  Fri Mar 12 02:12:40 PST 2010

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "Layout0"
    Screen      0  "Screen0"
EndSection

Section "Files"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "QNIX"
    ModelName      "QX2710"

    Modeline       "2560x1440"          312.25 2560 2752 3024 3488  1440 1443 1448 1493 -hsync +vsync
    Modeline       "2560x1440_60"       312.25 2560 2752 3024 3488  1440 1443 1448 1493 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_75"       397.25 2560 2760 3040 3520  1440 1443 1448 1506 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_85"       454.75 2560 2768 3048 3536  1440 1443 1448 1514 -hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_96"       400.00 2560 2608 2640 2744  1440 1443 1448 1512 +hsync +vsync
    ModeLine       "2560x1440_99"       400.00 2560 2608 2640 2720  1440 1443 1448 1481 +hsync +vsync
#   Modeline       "2560x1440_110"      453.89 2560 2608 2640 2720  1440 1443 1448 1445 +hsync +vsync 
    Modeline       "2560x1440_120"      459.86 2560 2608 2640 2652  1440 1441 1444 1445 +hsync +vsync

    Option         "DPMS"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device0"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
    Option         "NoLogo"              # How is this not the default?! 
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen0"
    Device         "Device0"
    Monitor        "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth    24
    SubSection     "Display"
        Depth       24
        Modes "2560x1440_120"
    EndSubSection

    Option "NoBandWidthTest" "true"
    Option "IgnoreEDIDChecksum" "DFP"
    Option "UseEDID" "False"
    Option "UseEDIDDPI" "False"
    Option "UseEDIDFreqs" "False"
    Option "ExactModeTimingsDVI" "True"
    Option "ModeValidation" "NoVertRefreshCheck, NoHorizSyncCheck, NoDFPNativeResolutionCheck, NoMaxSizeCheck, NoMaxPClkCheck, NoEDIDModes"

## Single monitor metamodes
#
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_60 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_96 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_99 +0 +0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_120 +0 +0"

## Dual monitor metamodes
#
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_60 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_60 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
#    Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_99 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_96 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
     Option "metamodes" "DFP-0: 2560x1440_120 @2560x1440 +0+0, DFP-4: 2560x1440_120 @2560x1440 +2560+0"
EndSection

You can probably use my configuration file after making some very minor edits. I’ve included modelines for several difference refresh rates between 60 and 120 Hz. All of them work with my hardware. I was unable to find a working 110 Hz modeline, but I didn’t try very hard. If you have a 110 Hz modeline that works, I would love to test it out and include it in the list.

I have quite a few “metamodes” commented out at the bottom of my xorg.conf file. This is how you tell the Nvidia driver how to configure your displays. I have a set of “metamodes” in there for both single and dual monitor setups. You may be able to uncomment the one you want to use, and it may just work.

There is a very good chance that my “metamodes” aren’t configured to use the correct video port for your setup. On my GTX 970 card, “DFP-0” is the first DVI port and “DFP-4” is the second DVI port. This varies from one card to the next, and you can easily identify the ports using the Nvidia control panel.

It doesn’t look right! Everything is dim!

When you run a monitor at a higher frequency, the output tends to be quite a bit dimmer. Smarter and more expensive monitors are probably correcting for this on their own. Since we are more frugal, we have to adjust for this on our own. It is a very simple matter. All you have to do is change your color profile.

There are dozens of color profiles available on the big QNIX forum thread. I spent a lot of time trying out various profiles. More time than was really necessary. I am a bit of a dope, and I had forgotten that I can also use the buttons on the monitor to turn the brightness up!

I’m sure that you’re aware that the QX2710 is a very bright monitor, and I’ve had the brightness set to one of the lowest settings ever since they arrived. Most of the color profiles have notes that say something like, “calibrated with the brightness set 8 clicks up from the lowest setting,” or something very similar. Bumping up the brightness made most of the color profiles look much better.

I didn’t do a good job keeping track of which profile I pilfered from the forum. I have several color profiles sitting in my home directory, but I have given them my own names. I have no idea what their original names were. I will make them all available for download.

Applying one of the color profiles is as simple as passing the file to the xcalib utility:

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wonko@zaphod:~$ xcalib /home/wonko/.xcalib-qnix-120-6500k                     1
wonko@zaphod:~$

Verifying that everything works

The first thing that will make your success apparent is that your display will be dimmer, but that doesn’t really tell you just how successful you were. Our QNIX QX2710 monitors have no on-screen display to tell us what mode they are running in, either. Thankfully, the Nvidia control panel will tell exactly how it is driving your monitor.

I didn’t even need to play any games to visually verify that 120 Hz is smoother than 60 Hz. All I had to do was drag a small window around the screen at a brisk pace. The difference is very obvious.

How can you really verify that everything is working

I have read that our QX2710 monitors may skip frames if you overclock them too far. There are websites and utilities that can help you verify this. The website does not support vsync Linux, and the only program I could find to run locally was for Windows. I had no trouble running the Windows executable under Wine, and it seemed to be working just fine.

All you have to do is run the test program and photograph the screen with a good camera with a nice, fast shutter speed. I don’t have one of those cameras. My best camera just captures a blur of consecutive bars blurring together.

I’m not worried about passing the test. Games look significantly smoother at 96 Hz, and they sure seem smoother yet at 120 Hz. In this case, I am much more interested in the results of the so-called “butt dyno” than the results of a test. If it looks better to you, that’s all that counts!

Conclusion

It was most definitely worth the small amount of effort getting these QNIX QX2710 monitors running at 120 Hz. I didn’t buy these monitors to overclock them, but I already have them, so I may as well get the most out of them. Now that I have overclocked, I don’t ever want to play a game at 60 Hz ever again.

Have you overclocked your monitor, or do you have a fast 144 Hz monitor? Leave a comment and let everyone know what you think!

Craft Coffee - November 2014 - modcup

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Craft Coffee has really done it this month. They’ve sent me another bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and it is just fantastic! It is definitely one of my favorite coffees so far—probably in the top three.

Craft Coffee introduced me to Yirgacheffe in my first box of coffee with an absolutely amazing Yirgacheffe from Slate Coffee Roasters. They have sent me more Yirgacheffe beans from other roasters since then, and I have been seeking them out locally.

I’ve settled in on a pretty nice Yirgacheffe from Java Pura that I can buy locally, but it isn’t in quite the same league as the beans that Craft Coffee sends me. The coffee from Java Pura doesn’t taste nearly as fruity, and it is definitely less smooth.

modcup coffee co., Jersey City, New Jersey
Producer Konga Washing Station
Origin Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
Variety Heirloom
Elevation 1,900-2,100 Meters
Process Pulped Natural
An intriguing mix of bright kiwi and blueberry aromatics culminate in a rich finish of peanut butter and cashew.

I have had the coffee from modcup in my possession for just over a week now, and it is almost gone. I usually try to pace myself. I usually manage to make 12 ounces of coffee last at least two weeks. This won’t make it that far. This coffee is much too delicious.

The notes on the bag seem pretty accurate to me. You can smell the delicious fruit flavors as soon as you open the bag, and it that peanut butter finish reminds me of the coffee from Irving Farms back in June.

I am certain that I have made some of my best tasting lattes ever this month. As usual, Craft Coffee has delivered another winner.

The new packaging

The packaging for Craft Coffee’s 12-oz coffees used to be pretty basic. It came in presealed bags, and they weren’t resealable. They just had the usual wire ties to keep the top of the bag rolled up. You can see what I mean in the picture of last month’s coffee.

The new packaging is fantastic. It is almost like a larger version of the sampler packs. They are resealable, have a base that lets them stand up on their own, and they can be cleanly opened without a pair of scissors. I am most pleased with this upgrade!

Use my referral code “pat1245” and you’ll get 15% off

If you use my referral code (pat1245) when checking out at Craft Coffee, you will get a 15% discount. Not only will you save money, but they tell me I’ll get a free month of coffee with every order. That sounds like a good deal for both of us!

Gift Ideas For Geeks - 2014 Edition

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It is the gift-giving season again, and finding the right gift can be very hard work. I wrote up a little “gift ideas” blog post like this one last year, and I was extremely surprised with how popular it was. I must not be the only one that has trouble picking out gifts, so I thought I’d put together another list of gift ideas for 2014.

I am cheating a little. Many of these items were on the list last year, because I feel like they are still good ideas for gifts. There are a couple new items, though!

Everything on this list is something that I currently own, use, and enjoy. I do list some alternative sizes and brands, though, and I don’t own all of these. The USB battery packs are an example of this. I prefer the small, low-capacity models, but I also listed some larger models as well, even though I don’t own them.

I tried to cover a wide range of prices to help you find a gift for almost anyone on your Christmas shopping list. I also tried to pick out gifts that just about anyone can use. I didn’t want you to have to worry about whether someone has a PlayStation or Xbox, or a PC or Mac.

USB Battery Pack / Chargers ($9 to $50)

External USB battery packs should come in handy for any geek who needs to keep their gadgets powered up while on the go. I ordered my first external battery pack last year, and I decided to get one of the smallest and most inexpensive models I could find.

It is the Swift Gear Mini 2600 mAh battery pack. It is a small, light, four-inch tube that is small enough that I won’t even notice it in my jacket pocket. It is about the size of a small flashlight. In fact, it is a small flashlight, and a surprisingly bright one at that.

Swift Gear 2600mAh battery pack charging my Nexus 7

I was a bit worried that a 2600 mAh battery pack might not have enough capacity, but I’m happy with the choice I made. It is able to bring my Nexus 4 from 14% charge all the way up to 84% in less than two hours. That is enough to buy me a few extra hours of tethering, which will definitely be helpful next time I’m stuck waiting in an airport. It also manages to bring my Nexus 7 tablet up to 43% from the low battery warning at 14%.

I’ve had my Swift Gear battery pack for more than a year now, and I’ve used it quite a few times. It still works just fine, and the flashlight is very bright and comes in handy more often than I would have guessed. I have noticed a small flaw, though. If I leave it in my bag for several weeks or months, it doesn’t retain anywhere near a full charge.

I also included two larger battery packs in my list. I haven’t used these specific models myself, but they were other models I was considering before I decided which size I wanted. Both of the larger battery packs are capable of charging two devices at a time, and their larger capacity would be handy if you were trying to charge a more power-hungry device like a tablet.

My favorite multitool ($80)

I have had my Swiss Army CyberTool for at least 12 years now, and I would be lost without it. I actually received mine as a Christmas present, and it is the perfect multi-tool for a geek like me that is always building computers and taking apart servers.

The thing that sets the CyberTool 34 apart from most other multitools is its bit driver. It comes with Torx bits, which come in very handy if you run into any HP servers. The bit driver itself is also the correct size to fit brass motherboard standoffs.

Victorinox Swiss Army CyberTool 34

Some people prefer the Leatherman-style tools, and I own a similar Gerber multitool. These are also very handy tools, and I’ve used mine quite a bit, but they’re all centered around that giant set of pliers. I just don’t need pliers very often. If your geek is anything like me, he’ll get a lot more mileage out of the Victorinox CyberTool 34.

Arduino Starter Kits ($55 to $130)

The Arduino is a nifty little hardware prototyping platform, and it is a great way to dip your toe into the world of hardware development. An Arduino board all by itself isn’t very useful. When my first Arduino board arrived, the first thing I did was program it to blink an SOS on its built-in LED.

This isn’t very exciting at all. You need other electronic components if you want to do something interesting. You need parts like LEDs, resistors, buttons, motors, and buzzers. The easiest way to get going is to buy an Arduino starter kit.

I pieced together my own starter kit, but that wouldn’t make a very good gift. The Official Arduino Starter Kit and the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit are both good choices, and they both come with a similar array of parts. The official kit seems to come with a larger printed guide, while the kit from Sparkfun comes with a nice storage case.

Of the two, I think Sparkfun’s Inventor’s Kit is a better gift and a better value. Sparkfun’s carrying case is a nice touch, and their holder for the Arduino and breadboard looks pretty convenient.

If you’d like to save money, you can go with a more generic kit. This Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit is about half the price of the other two kits. It may have fewer components than the other two kits, but it definitely provides a better “bang for the buck.”

I haven’t had time to work on any interesting projects with my Arduino boards. I’ve been too busy using my 3D printer. The most amazing thing is that my 3D printer is controlled by an Arduino board exactly like the board that I originally bought. It is amazing what an Arduino can be used for!

Amazon Fire TV ($99) or Fire TV Stick ($39), and Amazon Prime

I’ve used a lot of different set top boxes over the years to both play content on my local network and stream TV shows and movies from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, but I have to say that the Amazon Fire TV has been a significant upgrade. It wakes up quickly, and I can be watching the next episode of my favorite TV shows in seconds.

The speed is my favorite feature of the Fire TV. Moving around in the user interface is lightning fast in comparison to my PlayStation 3 and Roku boxes. It is also a very hacker-friendly device, and I had no trouble installing XBMC (now called Kodi) on our Fire TV. XBMC runs almost as well on the Fire TV as it does on my desktop computer. Having XBMC available is a nice bonus, but is in no way necessary for the Fire TV to be a great set top box.

The Fire TV can stream Netflix and Hulu Plus flawlessly, but the user interface definitely emphasizes Amazon’s own TV and movie content. We have been happy Amazon Prime subscribers for many years, and Amazon’s addition of the majority of HBO’s TV series has really made Amazon Prime free video streaming into a very nice streaming service.

Amazon’s streaming catalog may not be as big as Netflix, and it may not have currently airing TV shows like Hulu Plus, but it is a very solid contender. The recently added HBO shows are also a big plus. It is the other benefits of an Amazon Prime subscription that make it a much better value than Hulu Plus or Netflix. Amazon Prime also gives you free 2-day shipping, a free music streaming service, access to free ebooks, and unlimited photo storage.

My Fire TV Stick didn’t arrive until after I originally wrote this post, but it is here now! For my purposes, the Fire TV Stick is every bit as good as its big brother at a fraction of the price. It has about half the RAM and CPU horsepower, but doubt I could tell you which device is which in a blind test based on their performance.

As long as you’re don’t intend to use your Fire TV for playing games, and your home has a stable Wi-Fi signal, it would be hard for me to recommended the more expensive Fire TV over the Fire TV Stick.

Amazon Fire TV at Amazon Amazon Fire TV Stick at Amazon Amazon Prime Gift Subscription at Amazon

Bodum double wall mugs ($27)

I use my double wall cups from Bodum every single day. They not only look great, but they’re also extremely functional. I use my espresso machine to make an awful lot of lattes, and espresso is a pretty fragile thing. If you pour your tiny shot of espresso into a cold ceramic mug, you will almost immediately bring it down to room temperature and ruin the flavor.

That means I have to warm up my mug first. The double wall cups from Bodum are not only insulated, but the inner layer of glass has very little thermal mass. That means I don’t have to warm up my mugs, and I can start drinking sooner.

My laboratory beaker mug made the list last year, and it is probably made out of the same sort of glass as the Bodum cups. The biggest difference would be the lack of a second layer of glass.

The beaker is definitely the geekier of the two options, but I still prefer the Bodum cups. They’re just more practical. I prefer the 12-oz size Bodum glasses without handles, but they come in an assortment of different sizes and shapes. They even have them in the right size and shape to keep your beer cold and your hand warm!

A Craft Coffee subscription (15% off with code “pat1245”)

Craft Coffee is the perfect gift for a coffee geek. I was given a subscription to Craft Coffee early this year, and I was hooked as soon as the very first shipment arrived. They send three 4-oz sample-size packs of coffee from roasters all around the country every month.

My first shipment from Craft Coffee included an Ethiopian Yirgachiffe from Slate Coffee Roasters. The notes on the bag read, “Light, pillowy and clean, with flavors of dried strawberries, confectioner’s sugar, and breakfast cereal.” I thought this sounded like a bunch of hogwash, but boy was I wrong! It really did smell and taste like breakfast cereal—like Frankenberry cereal.

I felt like this was absolutely amazing. This isn’t flavored coffee. This is just delicious coffee that is picking up flavors out of the soil that it was grown in.

If you do place an order with Craft Coffee, you can use my referral code “pat1245” when you place your order. You’ll receive a 15% discount, and they’ll give me a free month of coffee. People have been using my referral code more often than I would expect, and no one has come back here to complain. I’m assuming that means they also feel that Craft Coffee is an excellent value.

Conclusion

I hope this list of gift ideas has helped you in your search for the perfect gift. If you feel that I missed anything important on this list, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d like to hear your opinion!

The Other Eight by Joseph Lallo

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I’ve been doing a terrible job reading books this year. I read a dozen books last year, but I’ve only managed to complete five so far this year. I was doing alright up through March, but then I didn’t complete another book until June. I’ve done even worse since then. I’ve been doing such a terrible job that I received an embarrassing email from Goodreads reminding me that I’d been reading the same book for four months.

It isn’t the fault of the book. I place the blame on some combination of Team Fortress 2, Game of Thrones, and Borderlands 2. When the choices are reading a few chapters or playing one more round of Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress 2 usually wins. I also managed to accidentally watch every episode of Red Dwarf for the fourth or fifth time.

Why I chose to read The Other Eight

I have a long list of books written by well-known authors that I would like to read, but I try to sneak in books from authors I’ve never heard of as well. I usually pick those books from the StoryBundle.com bundles.

I have already heard of Joseph Lallo, though. I’ve already read of his science fiction novels, and I enjoyed them both. Those books are very important to me and to this blog, because they are the reason that I follow Joseph Lallo on Twitter.

If I didn’t follow him on Twitter, I would have never found my most excellent editor, Claudette Cruz. She makes sure that I don’t leave out any commas, and fixes all sorts of embarrassing mistakes that I have made. This blog wouldn’t be the same without Claudette’s proofreading!

The Other Eight

The Other Eight by Joseph Lallo

The good news is, superheroes exist. The bad news is, most powers are worthless and most heroes are insane. The Other Eight is the story of the US Army’s latest attempt to find a team of worthwhile heroes and the farcical reality show of a recruitment drive that results from a security leak that makes the secret project public knowledge.

The Other Eight was definitely a fun read, and it is exactly the sort of story you’d expect to find after reading the synopsis. There are plenty of fun characters. My mind was alternating between hearing the voice of Phosphor as either Zeke from the videogame Infamous, or as the engineer from Team Fortress 2. They are similar enough voices, and both felt very appropriate.

Phosphor has a unique super power. He can reach into the bag that he carries and he can pull out a fluorescent bulb, and there will always be another one in there no matter how many he pulls out.

What’s next on the list?

I’ve decided to reread the Red Dwarf novels. I read both while I was in high school, and I was completely unaware that the books were based on a television series. The books incorporate story lines from the television show, while also providing a much deeper backstory.

I haven’t reread any books in years, so this should be interesting!

The Other Eight at Amazon The Other Eight at Smashwords

My Upgrade to Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn

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I don’t tend to get excited when new versions of Linux distributions are released, but I do try to pay some attention to the distributions that I run. This time, though, I managed to completely miss the release of Ubuntu 14.10.

I had some free time over the weekend, so I decided to upgrade my desktop. It was exactly the kind of upgrade I like: the kind of upgrade where nothing went seriously wrong, and I almost can’t tell the difference.

I was lazy this time, and I didn’t bother to remove the xorg-edgers PPA before the upgrade. If you’re using the xorg-edgers PPA, you still might want to roll back those packages before you upgrade from 14.04. I knew what might break, and I know how to manually fix things when they do, so it was worth the roll of the dice to me.

I didn’t notice any changes, but your mileage may vary

I don’t run any of the usual desktop environments. I use the Sawfish window manager along with some components from XFCE. Everything tends to look and function exactly the same between upgrades for me. Just about the worst thing I ever have to deal with is recompiling Sawfish, but that only happens every couple of years.

I’m sure there’s all sorts of changes if you’re running the default Unity desktop.

Waiting for network configuration

This message was the only oddity I’ve experienced since upgrading to Ubuntu 14.10. During boot, a message that reads “Waiting for network configuration…” appears, and the system sits there waiting for quite some time. Then another message appears that reads “Waiting up to 60 more seconds for network configuration…” appears.

I found some solutions on askubuntu.com. The best answer there is almost certainly to make sure that your /etc/network/interfaces file is configured correctly. Unfortunately for me, mine is set up exactly the way I want it. My computer is set up to request a DHCP address on a bridge device instead of the eth0 device, and this seems to confuse the new boot process in Utopic Unicorn.

I ended up using the more heavy-handed fix. I commented out all the sleep commands in the /etc/init/failsafe.conf file.

/etc/init/failsafe.conf
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# failsafe

description "Failsafe Boot Delay"
author "Clint Byrum <clint@ubuntu.com>"

start on filesystem and net-device-up IFACE=lo
stop on static-network-up or starting rc-sysinit

emits failsafe-boot

console output

script
        # Determine if plymouth is available
        if [ -x /bin/plymouth ] && /bin/plymouth --ping ; then
                PLYMOUTH=/bin/plymouth
        else
                PLYMOUTH=":"
        fi

    # The point here is to wait for 2 minutes before forcibly booting 
    # the system. Anything that is in an "or" condition with 'started 
    # failsafe' in rc-sysinit deserves consideration for mentioning in
    # these messages. currently only static-network-up counts for that.

#       sleep 20

    # Plymouth errors should not stop the script because we *must* reach
    # the end of this script to avoid letting the system spin forever
    # waiting on it to start.
        $PLYMOUTH message --text="Waiting for network configuration..." || :
#       sleep 40

        $PLYMOUTH message --text="Waiting up to 60 more seconds for network configuration..." || :
#       sleep 59
        $PLYMOUTH message --text="Booting system without full network configuration..." || :

    # give user 1 second to see this message since plymouth will go
    # away as soon as failsafe starts.
        sleep 1
    exec initctl emit --no-wait failsafe-boot
end script

post-start exec logger -t 'failsafe' -p daemon.warning "Failsafe of 120 seconds reached."

This is not the optimal solution, but it is much better than waiting an extra two minutes for my computer to reboot.