Safety Third…

Ideas first

Tools second

Safety third

“But John,” you’ll exclaim, “safety always comes first!”

No, it doesn’t.

You would not have even considered safety at all if you didn’t have the idea to begin with.

Ideas come first — they’ll guide you to attempting and completing them. They give you direction. Purpose.

“Well, surely safety comes next!”


Next, come tools. It would be folly to prioritize acquiring the “best of” every conceivable tool for every issue. Ideas will determine which tools you’ll need to make achieving that idea more efficient.

Safety? Once you have ideas of what you want to do, and once you have tools [to help get started, not “perfect tools”], then you’ll have to be aware of the risks.

I think I’ll have a meaningful sign made up to call those out. It’ll serve as a realistic reminder to help maintain focus.

The Panacea-Tool Incident

A few years ago — 2014 maybe? — we were in the early days of distributed teams and were spread across three timezones. Timing was awkward. So, many of us would start our day from home to join calls and meetings. This was, for us the beginnings of regular telecommuting. To help ease the communications challenges, we also embraced the concepts of video conferencing, screen shares, and multimedia to communicate.

One morning, there was expert brought in to demonstrate and train the lot of us on the new Panacea that the company had invested in: an app that would help manage all of our systems. It was a unified, do-everything tool that would provide visibility of specific known-states and anomalies on any number of systems across our several geographic locations and datacenters. It would pin down the precise, exact origin of a problem, and eliminate the need to log into a server (via SSH, of course) ever again… in order to resolve the issue.

Anyway, while doing the demo, there was this one error that would occur, which would prevent moving any further with a demo or training.

It was something about a missing object, or log file, or permissions to it.

If only there was a tool that had the power and capacity to identify the problem and resolve it… we could use that. It would be a perfect opportunity!

Their sales engineer was stumped.

After he fought with it for half an hour or so, I suggested, that we take a quick look at the actual logs on the system. Odds are pretty good that they’d indicate where the problem was. There was no harm in checking.

“No!” he’d assert. “That’s the wrong way!” And we endured continuous rants of frustrations and borderline vulgarities from him. “This guy!” he had jokingly exclaimed, “What you want to do is impossible!

Oh, I’m sorry… I thought you had used the word, “IMPOSSIBLE.” just there.

Challenge accepted.

I quickly shared my screen and jumped over and skimmed the actual logs from the app on the server itself. Let’s see… at the end of the log file, it had logged that it had crashed. Why? Scroll up a few lines and… permission denied trying to write to one of its own files.

“Oh! I’ll just ‘chmod’ that file so its owner can write to it…”

He boisterously interrupted, “If that’s it, I’ll buy you a steak dinner!”

**tap,tap,tap** **Enter** “Okay, all set… let’s give it another try really quick…”

The problem went away. He was clearly offended that somebody could’ve done it “the wrong way” to find the problem and fix it so quickly.

Took about 20 seconds.

And the really amusing part is that all of this was perfect scenarios to demonstrate the power and capability of the app itself.

Dash Cams

Buy one. Seriously.

Install it so it turns on and begins recording whenever you start the car.

It needs to have as much view of the road as possible with just the front of your vehicle in the frame — nobody cares about video of the sky; there aren’t any cars up there.

Check it periodically to see that it’s working.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind.

And, a couple of things you’ll need to do to cover your own ass, legally:

  1. Turn off the ability to record audio. Seriously. If you’re using it to capture the actions of others, then disable the ability to also capture your own comments — remarks you make will always be self-incriminating. And in several places, audio recording falls under evesdropping or wiretapping laws.
  2. Don’t ever get into a verbal altercation with somebody else and “threaten” them with facts that they simply don’t need to know. For example, pointing to the dash cam and exclaiming, “This is on camera!” Don’t advertise that it even exists.
  3. If you intend sharing anything “as evidence”, you’ll need to ensure you save that particular clip, in its entirety, unchanged and unedited, until the statute of limitations for the alleged offense expires. How long is that? Well, it depends on the alleged crime. But for the rest of your life is a real possibility.
  4. If you at any time feel the need to delete potentially self-incriminating videos… don’t. Seriously. Look up “spoliation of evidence”. In several locales, it falls under “destruction of evidence”.
  5. A dash cam is as much a silent witness of somebody else’s actions as it is a witness of your own actions. It’ll see other people driving dangerously just as easily as it’ll see you doing the same. I suppose the takeaway would be: don’t drive like an imbecile.

Oh, and I’m not a lawyer — but ignorance of the law is no excuse.

This has been a public service announcement.

Getting a bit more challenging…

My soldering is improving.

This is a DSO 138 Oscilloscope that I assembled from a provided combination of discrete parts. The purveyors only ensured two required SMD* chips were factory-attached.

At the US$22 entry price, including the housing, it was a fun and affordable project.

If you take one of these on as a project, be sure to do its calibration before assembling into the housing.


I’m sure there are also 3-wire or 4-wire probe combinations that I can add on in the future.

Next: Maybe I’ll start on a QRP-Labs QCX transceiver and see about obtaining a CW paddle… or maybe just turn it into a WSPR beacon.

*SMD chips are so small that they are often beyond the ready ability of most kit-builders because; they’ll require specialized special equipment to make them visible and differing soldering techniques.