Colour-coded manifold

October 29, 2012

 

I realise that for many this will be stating the bleeding obvious, but I have to admit that it took me a month or two to get around to making this 1 minute enhancement!

The problem arises from the fact that beer and gas lines don’t like going around sharp corners, and John Guest style fittings don’t like being stressed laterally (slow leaks result).  The upshot is that lines tend to be a little longer to make slow curves and mine plunge down into the deep recesses of the keezer.  Combine this with the reality of numerous identical gas lines (which unlike beer don’t get coloured by the presence of the beer style inside them) and that often kegs are swapped in and out while others are still in use, and you easily end up with a bit of a braided bird’s nest of anonymous tubes running here and there.

The simple solution is to put a ring of electrical tape at the gas disconnect end and a corresponding tab on the manifold.  Beer lines don’t need any treatment as they sit on top and are really obvious where they go.

Now when a keg is exhausted it’s really easy to look at the keg and think “turn off red”.  Or slot a new keg in, grab any old gas line, hook it up and flip the appropriate valve on the manifold.  I honestly don’t know why this wasn’t done earlier – I’m astounded by my own apparent laziness!

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RaspBMC dual card risk mitigation strategy

October 8, 2012

Recently the RC5 update came out for RaspBMC.  Unfortunately for me (and others) this update completely boned what was a perfectly functioning RC4.   It all started during the update process when my system got stuck in an endless loop of RaspBMC logo, XBMC time-out screen and install progress bar.  Even after a fresh install (ie loosing all my library database, custom keymaps, etc) it’s still horribly flakey – a scan to sync files with tvdb, etc causes the system to hang, the network drops out and the GUI freezes and gets covered in terminal text with clockwork regularity.

It must be said that this project is well and truly up the hobbyist end of the open-source community spectrum and quality control is not exactly robust.  It is after all basically one guy’s hobby putting it together (and what a great guy for doing it!).  But this doesn’t reduce the frustration when you go to use your media centre only to find it’s auto-updated itself into a flaming heap.  Yes, that’s right: auto-updates are turned on by default.

I can’t help but think that the responsible course of action would be for them to distribute the system with auto-update turned off by default and for the RaspBMC website to list prominently on the necessary hardware page a recommendation to run two SD cards – a primary and a test card.  Having just visited the local supermarket this is exactly the operating model that I plan to adopt.  This way the current system can be duplicated onto the test card, the update applied to it, it can be run in for a day or two and then if it all works okay it can be kept.  Should it all grind to an awkward halt then it’s super easy to simply swap the cards back like nothing ever happened.

I fully acknowledge that this project is still very much in the embryonic development stage, but users should be encouraged to treat it as such – and that involves treating updates with a high degree of skepticism until shaken down, to maintain a robust backup strategy and not to rely on the irreversible inbuilt auto-updaters.  Yet this isn’t the how it comes across in their documentation – if anything the opposite: the auto-updater has its praises sung and the files needed to install previous versions are not officially provided (I got my image file from a bloke on the forums!).

By officially encouraging the use of two cards (which let’s face it costs loose change) all the potential bad-blood from a premature code release is completely negated.  For me, if I manage to get one other user onto the dual-card system without having to find out the hard way then this post has been worth it.


Souvlaki

October 5, 2012

My recipe for super simple souvlaki – which may or may not be super authentic, but is easy and massively tasty.

Ingredients for the marinade

  • 500g diced lamb/beef
  • 1 tsp all-spice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, chopped

Directions

  1. Combine and marinate for a few hours.
  2. Barbecue on skewers.
  3. Serve meat on flatbread with hummus and tabouleh.