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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things

The Internet is sort of like a wish-granting genie...

Back in grad school, my class was treated to the unenviable task of writing grant proposals for projects we did not intend to pursue -- instead of for our proposed thesis projects like everyone else before or since. Oh, and we couldn't consult with anyone, either. (We were guinea pigs.) I chose to write mine on prions, then a still-emerging area of research. This turned out to be interesting and fun, but I reached an impasse: I knew what I wanted to accomplish experimentally, but had no clue how to do it.

"Wouldn't it be neat if I could..." was my line of thought, but I had no idea where to look, this not at all being my area. So, as if I were writing a message to cast to sea in a bottle, I crafted a search expression. And then I fished the pre-Google internet. To my great surprise and relief, I learned that, not only had someone come up with this, it had been commercialized. Problem solved.

Ever since, when I have had a problem to solve, but been unsure of how to proceed, I have used this tactic, often successfully. Here are just four more neat things I discovered by doing this.

1. Back in Boston, I wanted to save money when my wife had a winter accident and broke the tail light of her father's Mercedes. "Wouldn't it be cool if there were a way to ask multiple junk yards for the part all at once?" I thought. That's when I learned that I could specify a car part and whatever junkyards had it would offer it for sale. My phone briefly rang off the hook and between that and Pep Boys, I probably got the repair done for an order of magnitude less than had I gone to a Mercedes dealer.

2. I recently needed to de-silo some data trapped in a legacy Windows app. I could run it under an emulation layer in Linux, but nothing I could come up with could rescue the data. A few days after I resigned myself to keeping the old app running on Linux, it dawned on me that, if I could print the data to a PDF, I'd get what I needed. But that's an alien concept to Windows XP: Only my ink printer showed up on the print menu. "Wouldn't it be neat if I there were a virtual printer that would "look like" a printer to this old app, but create a PDF? There is and I successfully extracted the data.

3. Years after iPads and Chromebooks killed netbooks, which had been a favorite writing platform, it dawned on me that someone had probably figured out how to install Linux on a Chromebook. I am writing this post on a Samsung Chromebook running a version known as Gallium OS.

4. Our subdivision is still under development. Consequently, I run over nails and get slow leaks every month or so. After finding two gas stations in a row with broken air pumps, I wished there were such a thing as a portable air pump that could run from a 12V DC adapter. Remembering this the next day, I looked. There is, and it costs only twenty bucks. And it's tiny, so I can just leave it in my car. It's so fun to use I almost look forward to my next slow leak.

I picked mine up at Walmart: See embedded video above for details. I didn't watch this, but it shows the package it came in, and I found it easy to use, quick, and effective. It has a light for night operation and stops at the pressure you set for it. It will pay for itself, dollar-wise after one or two slow leaks, and it will easily spare me an hour or so every time, not to mentions the frustration of encountering poorly-maintained gas station air pumps.

-- CAV

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