Archive for Technology

This Is How I Work (2016)

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A while back I was discussing with friends the different software and hardware solutions I use to do my job. One of them suggested I write-up something that they could just read through, because explaining and discussing all of the pieces in person was taking a lot of time, I was going into a lot of detail, and they would just forget. Well, here you go.

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My [Work] Battlestation – 2014 Mac Pro

A few months ago I wrote a grant to attain funds to purchase a mid-range Mac-Pro. The primary purpose of this machine was to provide a powerful development and testing platform for custom dashboard software, as well as a machine that could be dedicated to developing and renovating existing disaster recovery processes, including system backups. Read more

Sous Vide Parts List

A friend asked if I wouldn’t mind posting the parts list for my Sous Vide setup. If you missed my post regarding Sous Vide, check it out here!

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My Sous Vide setup consists of 3 main parts; The Controller, The Heating Element, and The Environment.

The primary controller block is what controls whether or not the heating elements are on or off. It consists of the temperature controller, the temperature probe, a relay for powering the heating element, and an outlet to provide power to the heating element. I enclosed the components in a project box.

I engineered the controller in such a way that allows several different heating elements to be used. The only constraint is that it cannot exceed the amperage of the heating element outlet, the relay, or the wire used to connect them. For instance, I used a 15A power outlet with a 25A relay. In this case the heating element cannot use more than 15A. Just take the lowest number and stay below that. I used 2 immersion heaters connected to a power multi strip. Each heater is loosely mounted to a piece of wood panelling. This is not an ideal fix, but I haven’t had the time to fabricate a more permanent mounting solution. I’m considering using buret clamps.

For the environment, I contain the water in an Ikea plastic container, which then sits in an Omaha Steaks styrofoam ice-chest. The plastic container is easy to clean, but not very insulated, whereas the ice-chest is very insulated. To circulate the water I’m using an aquarium pump. Because the heating elements are variable (you can use large more powerful heating elements) this also means that the environment is variable. If you use a larger container, you should consider using larger heating elements, and a better pump. Placement of the pump is important, but not extremely detrimental. I advise putting the pump in the center of your heating elements, directly below the water’s surface. The pump pulls cooler water from the bottom portion of the container and pushes it past the heating elements.

Sous Vide requires food to be cooked to be sealed in a bag. Commercial sous vide products typically bundle or at least recommend using a vacuum sealer. I don’t… I use ZipLoc bags with success.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

Tech Demo #2 (Flappy Bird Clone Plus Other Things)

I forced myself to sit down and learn a few things. I followed a few tutorials, built on the knowledge I had from the previous tech demo, and here we go. Tech Demo #2

Tech Demo #1

So, I sorta made a tech demo for a game I’m beginning ground work on.

It isn’t designed to tell a story, just show off some of the pieces of the engine.

Sous-Vide Success

Let’s get one thing straight; I have a lot of ideas. Some ideas are talked about enough to become a project, but unfortunately just get added to the long list of in-progress projects. I’m bad at finishing projects sometimes, sure. However, I am always thinking about the projects. It’s a problem, I can’t shut the thoughts out. I’ve been constantly redesigning an arcade cabinet in my head for the past 3 years. I’ve slowly acquired parts, and could build one over the weekend if I ‘had’ to, but I don’t think it’s time yet. I’ll finish these projects someday, and when I eventually get to them I will have designed, prototyped, and simulated as much as I can without ever building a thing. It’s something that I’m really good at. That being said; Sous-Vide.

Sous-Vide is a method of cooking food using a temperature controlled water bath. Super-duper fancy restaurants cook using some sous-vide methods. I’ve been researching and designing a sous-vide system for the better part of a year now. I finished my prototype model in May, and began experimenting with it.

The Temperature Controller with Enclosure and Probe

The Temperature Controller with Enclosure and Probe

The Temperature Controller with Enclosure and Probe

Testing the Heating Elements and Tuning the System

So what’s the big deal?

Thanks to Wikipedia, a steak is Medium-Rare when the internal (middle) temperature is 130F-140F. BBQ Pits are built in such a way that adversely affect preparing the perfect steak because they typically only heat from one direction, and are cavernous. A BBQ pit requires fire and, unless you’re asking for trouble, a nice day to grill. Safety dictates that you should always grill outside… When something is cooked on a stove or BBQ pit, the source of the heat is typically coming from one direction (The Fire! or the heating element). Food must be flipped to prevent overcooking on one side. Even after the food is flipped, the ‘cooling’ side (the side that is now facing away from the fire) is still partially cooking. Residual heat remains in the outer layers of the food, and is transferred inwards and outwards. The inner layers of food are being cooked from both sides, albeit slower from the cooling side.

This continued cooking results in a broader heat gradient in the meat. The outer layers of the steak are charred, while the adjacent layers are well-done, hopefully leaving the center layer medium-rare. For example, resulting in something like this:

This is not a bad looking steak, but, it can be engineered to be better!

This is not a bad looking steak, but, it can be engineered to be better!

Now, sous-vide!

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

Now, contrary to what you think you know about cooking steaks, the second image (the one that looks awesome, and is prepared using sous-vide) is not that of a raw steak. It was cooked to a sustained internal temperature of 135 degrees fahrenheit, for one hour, then seared for a minute on each side.

The entire process consists of submerging what is to be cooked in a water bath where the temperature is precisely controlled. The water is circulated by an aquarium pump. The meat (or whatever) is in a bag (supposed to be vacuum sealed, but I didn’t and am still alive!) which allows the water to surround and cook the meat from all sides all at once. The water bath is kept at the desired internal temperature of the meat, 135F in the medium-rare steak case, for at least 45 minutes, but can be left alone for up to 9 hours. After 9 hours there is a possibility of bacteria regrowing…

Once cooked, the meat is removed, pat-dried, seasoned (if applicable), and seared for color and exterior flavor.

Benefits of sous-vide include:

  • Freedom of Time – Guest running late? No problem, just leave the meat cooking!
  • No Fire – Can be cooked inside and left alone without burning down the house!
  • Consistency – Meat will turn out exactly the same every time!
  • Precision – Using science, ensure you are always eating fully cooked meat!
  • Scalability – Replace the heating elements and basin, cook for more people!

For all it’s benefits, sous-vide is not perfect. Here are some down sides:

  • Time – It takes 10+ times longer to cook using sous-vide
  • Flavor – You won’t get the ‘grill’ taste unless you heat up the grill to sear the steaks
  • Singular Purpose – The sous-vide setup can cook one type of thing, one way, at one time. Cooking a steak? Want one Medium-Rare and one Well? You’ll need two separate sous-vide setups.
  • Safety? – There has been concern expressed that water + electricity = bad… However, I engineered this system with fuses that would trip if anything were to short or catch fire…
  • Setup – Some could argue that there is too much setup involved
  • Change – People don’t like to change how they are used to doing things

Conclusion? Well, sous-vide isn’t for everyone. My setup has produced quality steak and chicken every time, with little hassle, and little interaction. I was able to set it, forget it, drink a beer, watch The Walking Dead, and come back over an hour later… Though, I can’t expect everyone to just make a sous-vide cooker… Anova Culinary makes a great all-in-one package. Click the image below to go to their site! Thanks for reading, COOK ON!

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Old Consoles Don’t Die Easily!

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I’ve had my PS3 since release. I was a first adopter of the original 60 GB version, back when manufacturers believed in something called ‘backwards compatibility’. Tangent; I’m less sore about it now, but when Sony and Microsoft changed policy to remove backward compatibility (BC) from their console lines, I was pretty pissed! At purchase, my library of PS2 games was bigger and more near/dear to me than the paltry PS3 offerings. It was important that I could still play those older games that made up the core of my library. Read more

[TRG Review] : Nexus 7 (2013)

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My history with tablets has been rather short. Unfortunately, I jumped on the ill-fated netbook train and wasted my time there when the first practical and affordable commercial tablets began to appear on the market. Contrary to popular belief, the iPad was not the first tablet… The first iPad was released in 2010, a full seventeen years after Apple’s initial PDA project “Newton” was attempted, and twenty-two years after the actual first commercial tablet, the GRiDPad, was released. For graduate school and programming interest, I attained an iPad 2 in the fall of 2011. While I never really programmed for the device, it was quite useful during school. I used a Logitech keyboard case that allowed me to forgo notebooks/pens/pencils in favor of Evernote! Read more

[TRG Review] : Roku 3

When I was younger and still living with my parents, and even after I moved out and joined the Military, I typically used a computer to play all of my media. In the early days it was DVD media, then SD MPEG/AVIs, then BluRay, and now HD MKVs/etc. Until I moved into an apartment with friends during college I had never required a way to present media to a common area. Through some clever redirects of PlayOn and DLNA magic I was able to use my PS3 to act as a media center, but while this was satisfactory it was in no way ideal. The consideration to build a standalone Media PC was always there, but money was tight, so we made do!

Fast-forward a few years; I’ve purchased a house and now more than ever need to solve the same problem! I’ve owned several media set-top boxes. In order, the Apple TV 2 (Jailbroken), an Apple TV 3 (couldn’t Jailbreak), a Netgear NeoTV 550 (got it on a sale), a Raspberry Pi (running RasPlex), and an OUYA (video streaming is not its strong suit). Most recently, I’ve purchased a Roku 3. Here is the review!

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[TRG Review] : EVGA GeForce 760 SC with ACX Cooling

I’ve had a solid 3 weeks to review and pass judgment on the latest 700 series graphics card from Nvidia. The EVGA branded 760 is a respectable entry level card, with a paltry price tag.

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