Archive for the 'Tips' Category

[SOLVED] logrotate: error creating state file /var/lib/logrotate.status: permission denied

Friday, June 14th, 2019

TipWhile there are many possible reasons for this error message, here’s why I was getting it. The logrotate utility writes status data to a state file. By default it writes to /var/lib/logrotate.status. My account was on a shared web host, and I didn’t have permission to modify that file. The solution was to specify a local state file via the ‘-s’ parameter. Problem solved.

[SOLVED] logrorate error: lines must begin with a keyword or a filename (possibly in double quotes)

Friday, June 14th, 2019

TipUsing logrotate for the first time, I was baffled as to why I was receiving this error. Looking at the config file, it was clear that the filenames were there. After trying a bunch of things, I finally figured out the problem—I’d created the file under Windows and my FTP program hadn’t converted the newlines to the Unix format. A quick ‘dos2unix’ call later, and the problem was fixed.

So You’re Going to Compete on Forged in Fire?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

[Note: This list was originally compiled by me then posted on /r/forgedinfireshow, where I made significant changes based on comments from other members of the subreddit.]

Regular Forged in Fire viewers are all too familiar with statements like these:

“I’ve never used a welder before.”

“This is the longest blade I’ve ever forged. I’m going to have to make a bigger quench tank.”

“I’ve never used a coal forge in my life.”

The Forged in Fire producers enjoy throwing unusual situations and obscure techniques at their smiths. And learning new techniques during the competition is a sure path to failure. The following list is based on actual mistakes made by contestants:

Practice the following techniques beforehand:

  • Canister Damascus welding
  • Using a coal forge with a manual air pump
  • Forge welding, especially with (1) different metals and (2) a thick piece of cable

Mistakes that have actually happened:

  • Give the Liquid Paper time to dry before adding anything else to the canister
  • You need -both- the red and the blue epoxy containers
  • They supply 5-minute epoxy and 24-hour epoxy—choose wisely
  • Some extremely well-made blades have been eliminated because they didn’t meet parameters
  • If the judges tell you something should be fixed, don’t convince yourself there’s not enough time to fix it

General weaponsmithing:

  • Never quench in water unless you have a very specific reason for doing so
  • For larger blades, the judges take balance and weight very seriously
  • When forge welding, first clean the surfaces that will be welded together
  • Be extremely careful bending hardened/quenched steel, and never hammer it
  • Pro tip: it’s much easier to drill/drift holes before you quench
  • Pro tip: quench a test piece of steel and then break it to see what the metal looks like after quenching.


  • A great blade with a bad handle will almost always lose
  • Functionality and quality of construction are far, far more important for a handle than how good it looks
  • The judges put significant emphasis on how comfortable a handle is and how well it fits their hands
  • Do not get fancy with your handle in an effort to impress the judges—this almost always does more harm than good
  • Knife handle shapes that don’t prevent the user’s hand from sliding onto the blade -must- include a guard—failing to do so is an automatic disqualification
  • Nothing in the handle should have -any- possibility of digging into or cutting the judge’s hand—a bleeding judge significantly increases your chances of being eliminated
  • Round or heavily rounded knife/sword handles look nice but fail to perform
  • The burn-through method of creating knife handle holes is risky and should be avoided unless you’re hard-pressed for time and have no other option
  • The tests apply significant stress to the handle—epoxy alone will not hold a handle together.
  • Pro tip: note the judges’ hand size when you shake hands with them at the beginning of the competition, and craft your handle accordingly

Know the following skills:

  • How to use a magnet to check for proper heat treat temperature (also, bring a magnet with you)
  • How to use a MIG welder
  • How to use a spark test to identify an unknown metal
  • How to use a belt grinder like the ones on the show, and especially how to change the belt
  • How to use a gas forge like the ones on the show, and especially how to adjust the temperature
  • How to correct a post-quench warp without breaking the blade (hint: hammering or bending in a vise rarely works)
  • How to construct a friction folder knife

Regarding your home forge:

  • Before you leave, triple-check your equipment to ensure it’s in perfect working order
  • Equipment failures happen—be prepared
  • Some of the weapons you have to make are unusually long or wide—you may need a bigger forge and/or quenching tank, so obtain the materials for that beforehand

General philosophy:

  • Stick to the basics; don’t try to be fancy and impress the judges
  • Stick to what you know; this is not the time to be experimenting
  • Stay calm—getting rushed affects your decision-making and is the best way to be eliminated
  • Many, many contestants have been eliminated because of poor time management
  • When things are going badly, it’s often better to just abandon what you’ve done and start over
  • No matter how bad you’re doing, there’s always the chance that someone else is doing worse

[SOLVED] Why is my Uploaded YouTube Video Such Poor Quality?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Video CameraI’ve recently been uploading videos to YouTube. Usually I’m waiting to send the link, so I upload the video then immediately view it on YouTube to ensure it’s good. Often I find that the video quality has been significantly downgraded, sometimes to the point where it’s unwatchable.

When researching this I found a large number of potential causes and solutions, but the actual answer is quite simple:

  • Just wait for 30-60 minutes.

When YouTube first publishes a video it does everything it can to quickly make the video viewable and, as such, does the least amount of processing possible and starts with the format that can be watched on any device. So the initial format is the lowest resolution and bitrate. After publication, however, YouTube continues to perform processing in the background and subsequently adds higher-quality versions of the video. If you wait for a bit and then refresh the page, you’ll get a much better version of the video as the default.

How to Fix Windows 7 Unable to Create or Find a System Partition on an SSD

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Windows LogoMy primary hard drive died, and I decided to replace it with an SSD to help speed up my system. When I tried to install Windows 7 on the new drive, however, I kept getting this error message: “Setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition. See the Setup log files for more information.” (<RANT>And just WHERE would these log files BE?!?</RANT>) Most of the “solutions” on the web dealt with correctly configuring the disk partition. I had used the Windows installer to set up the partition, but just to make sure, I booted into Linux and set the boot flag for the partition. Didn’t work. So I used DiskPart from the Windows recovery console. Didn’t work either.

Finally I came across an article that mentioned BIOS settings, and that did the trick. The SATA Mode (that’s what it’s called in my setup program but it varies) was set to IDE and needed to be AHCI. After making that change the install went smoothly. The article also said that you should not use Intel® Smart Response Technology, which is another BIOS option.

When to Purchase the Cheapest Airline Tickets

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

ShopperDid you know that when you purchase an airline ticket can have an impact on the price? Buying tickets on Tuesdays or over the weekend can get you a better deal. Also, purchasing them seven weeks before the trip will usually get you the best fare.


Tips For Optimizing an SSD

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Tip JarSolid-state hard drives (SSDs) are quite different from regular, platter-based hard drives. And many of the techniques that optimize normal drives, such as defragmentation, are either unnecessary on SSDs or can actually decrease performance or reduce the drive’s lifespan. The linked article has several tips on optimizing the performance of your SSD under Windows.

Thanks to John from Boulder for this link.


How to Fix the “This page can’t be displayed” Error in Internet Explorer 10

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Windows LogoHaving just set up a new install of Windows 7 two days earlier, I learned that Internet Explorer 10 was now available for that OS. So I downloaded and installed it, only to find that it didn’t work. Every URL gave the same error message: “This page can’t be displayed.” My other browsers worked, so it wasn’t the network or the connection. After searching for a while, I found the answer from the linked article. To summarize:

  1. Click the cog wheel towards the upper right part of the IE10 window. This will open a menu.
  2. Select “Internet Options” from the menu. This will open the options window.
  3. Select the “Advanced” tab.
  4. Scroll down to the “Security” section.
  5. Check the “Enhanced Protection Mode” option.
  6. Save the options and restart the computer. Problem fixed!


UPDATE (10/30/2015): For a technical explanation of why this works, please refer to this article from Microsoft. For a less technical explanation of what “Enhanced Protection Mode” does, I recommend this article.

How to Circumvent PDF Editing Restrictions

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Tip JarAdobe PDF documents have security settings which can, among other things, prevent anyone from modifying the document. This is helpful, for example, when sending electronic copies of contracts for review. But it can also be a pain when the document needs to be changed but the password has been forgotten or the person who knows the password is no longer working for the company. The linked article has a solution that works in Windows systems: print the PDF to an XPS file (the XPS “printer” is automatically supplied by Microsoft), then open the XPS file and print it to a PDF file. This will give you an identical copy of the original document, but without any security restrictions.


Windows Files That Contain Icons

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Tip JarIf you’ve ever tried to change an icon under Windows (for a folder or shortcut, for example), the icon selection dialog defaults to the shell32.dll file. Admittedly, shell32.dll contains a lot of good icons, but sometimes you just need a better selection. Here’s a list of 17 Windows 7 files that contain an additional 1200+ icons (note: I imagine many of these are valid for other versions of Windows):

  • C:\Windows\explorer.exe
  • C:\Windows\System32\accessibilitycpl.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\ddores.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\gameux.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\imageres.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\moricons.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\mmcndmgr.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\mmres.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\netcenter.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\netshell.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\networkexplorer.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\pifmgr.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\pnidui.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\sensorscpl.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\setupapi.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\wmploc.dll
  • C:\Windows\System32\wpdshext.dll


Erase Personal Data From a Computer, Without Removing Windows

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Tip JarThe linked article explains how to erase personal data from a computer while still keeping the Windows operating system intact. This is useful, for example, when you’re giving an older computer to a friend or family member.


What Format Should You Use For Your Electronic Resume?

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Tip JarI guess we’ve reached the twilight of the paper resume, seeing that so many are now submitted electronically. Which brings up the question of which format to use: MS Word or PDF. The linked article addresses the pros and cons of each and says the answer is neither. Instead, the author recommends using Rich Text Format (RTF). Note that all versions of MS Word have the ability to read and write RTF files.