Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

A New Netbook With An SSD

I haven’t added much to this blog lately because I’ve spent an enormous amount of my spare time in the last two weeks researching, buying, setting up and tweaking a new netbook to replace my two-year old 11.6-inch Acer Aspire, which was really starting to annoy me with its slowness. If I’d known what I’m about to tell you I could have probably extended its life for another year or two by replacing its hard drive with an SSD.

Update 04/16. I spent some time on the phone with HP this morning. My new netbook won’t turn on and they think it has a defective motherboard. Stuff like that happens and electronic devices are most likely to fail when they’re new. So I’m not going to criticize them about it.

They wanted me to send it to them for repair but I told them no. I specifically bought it from because I’d heard they make it very easy to return defective laptops or even ones you don’t like. That appears to be very true. It only took a few minutes to print out a UPS shipping label for free return shipping. I then went to order a replacement but found that in the last two weeks the price had gone up $35 to $410.

So I called Amazon. Actually, they called me in 5 minutes just like their web site said they would. They’re going to do an even exchange instead and they paid for overnight delivery so I get my replacement tomorrow. The call only took about 3 minutes and I obviously talked to someone located in the U.S. instead of India. Guess who made a very loyal friend today 🙂

I’m not as knowledgeable as I used to be, but I’m still a genuine computer geek and very picky when I buy a new laptop or build a new desk top computer.

My old Acer Aspire netbook was small and light so it was easy to keep it with me most of the time. And I didn’t feel embarrassed to pull it out in a diner and do some writing if inspiration came to me while I was having lunch. So I wanted to continue to own a small and light netbook.

I also wanted a very long battery life. I’d had a very bad experience with my first laptop, which I’d really struggled to buy when I was was young and poor. It was nearly useless because its battery lasted only 40 minutes even though it was advertised to last for 2 hours.

I’ve also been very bored while waiting in airports and on airplanes because I had a laptop with a dead or dying battery because I couldn’t an find an electrical outlet or they already had laptops plugged into them.

And lithium-ion batteries start losing their storage capacity from the very moment they’re manufactured. The amount varies but a good rule of thumb is they’ll lose at least 10% of their remaining capacity each year and it can be as much as 40%. The higher the temperature they’re used or stored at the faster they’ll lose it.

The battery in my old Acer was good for a solid 10 hours when it was new and after 2 years it will still last for at least 6. So I’ve never had to worry about finding an electrical outlet to plug it in to. Continue reading A New Netbook With An SSD

We were down for about 16 hours because of Dreamhost

Update: Dreamhost is still having problems, although not as bad as yesterday.  So I just signed up for CloudFlare.  Once the nameserver changes get propagated it will help keep us online by displaying cached pages if Dreamhost goes down again.  It should also make our web pages load quicker and provide some additional protection against hackers.  

MachinistBlog is hosted on Dreamhost and they had problems, which they still haven’t explained, which caused us to be unreachable for about 16 hours today (Sunday).  I’ve been buying web hosting services since 1995 and they’ve been by far the most unreliable one I’ve ever done business with.  On the other hand, their support’s been good and they provide unlimited bandwidth and disk space for about $9 per month.  However, we get so much traffic that I’ve had to upgrade to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) to get more memory and computing power.  The VPS is currently costs an additional $35-$40 per month and that amount will continue to increase along with our readership.

I’ve already been looking at alternatives but I’m not close to making any changes.  If I had the time to be my own system administrator I’d switch to Linode as my host.  I’ve also been looking at CloudFlare and wondering if I can use Amazon’s “cloud” to carry some of the load.  If you have any suggestions I’d like to hear them.

We got hacked (and I could use a little advice)

We got hacked Sunday morning.  Malicious code was added to our index files, Javascripts were replaced and file permissions were changed.  I noticed it almost right away and was able to fix it quickly.  But I had to delete all my WordPress plug-ins and I still haven’t finished reinstalling or reconfiguring some of them.  So some things may look different for awhile.

I think they got in via FTP and I’ve taken steps to block off that route.  But I would also like to do a complete reinstall of WordPress in case I have a security hole.  It looks like it’s an easy process but I’ve never done it before and I’m very afraid of somehow losing all my content.  I have backups but I also don’t have any spare time right now for fixing mistakes, especially big ones.

I’d really appreciate any advice you can give me about doing a reinstall or making MachinistBlog more secure.  You can leave a comment or email me at rr(at)machinistblog(dot)com.

One good thing did come from this.  I learned that I have a couple of plug-ins that are slowing down the web site significantly.  I’m going to look at whether they’re worth keeping or if there are better substitutes. is 2 years old

No, traffic didn't suddenly drop off. That last point only shows our hits for the first week of January.

January 6th was the second anniversary of  I’m not usually one to brag but I am proud of this achievement.  Almost everyone who starts a blog quits within a few months, or even a few days, after they find out how much work it is to keep creating content for one.  When I started out I thought it would be easy to write at least one article each day.  I was very wrong and quickly decided that one article per week, on the average, would be a more reasonable goal for someone with a family, a full-time job and some other interests.  I’m not going to claim that what I write is well-written or very interesting, but for two years now I’ve been regularly adding new content to the web site.  But I have had a lot of help and I owe a lot of thanks to these people:

  • My wife, for putting up with me and my hobbies.
  • Nate, who has been my copy editor from almost the beginning.  He has greatly improved my writing by patiently and gently pointing out my errors.  He’s also written some of our most popular and interesting articles even though he’s not a machinist.
  • Mikey, who really should be the one with a blog.  He’s a much more experienced machinist with excellent writing and teaching skills.  Mikey has contributed articles, he’s been very supportive and he’s given me some excellent advice.
  • Earl, Bick, Bogs, Pat, Ralph and Steve (coming soon), who have contributed articles and other material.  I owe a lot, and I think we all do, to them and others like them who are willing to share their knowledge and help others learn.
  • All of you who have visited this web site.  I don’t earn any money from  Most of the reward I get is from watching its popularity grow and learning we’ve helped someone or taught them something.

Future Plans and Challenges

It’s been getting harder to meet my goal of writing one new article each week because the things I want to write about lately require more time and preparation.

I hope to create my first YouTube video soon.  It’s going to require learning some new skills and overcoming my natural desire to achieve perfection, which often gets in the way of getting things finished.

I’d like to do more photo essays and tutorials.  But first I’ve got to buy some lighting equipment because my camera’s flash is too harsh and directional.  I think I need an umbrella light but I’ve never used one and I don’t know what to buy.  If you can offer me any advice I’d appreciate it.

I’d also like to get the forum going more.  I’m not trying to compete with the more established ones but I would like it to have enough users so we can get some discussions going.  I chose the forum software we’re using because it’s the only one that integrates completely with WordPress, but I’m a concerned that it might be a little difficult to read and use.  Again, I’d appreciate any suggestions or feedback you have.

Random Quote

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

— Groucho Marx