Building a little deck for a little house

In this post I will describe some of the work we did while building a 10′ x 10′ deck for the little house on the hill.

Because the house is on a rather steep hill, even getting to the front door was a challenge.  Having a nice deck to sit on goes a long way to making it a wonderful little spot to spend time.

It all started with digging post holes.  Rocky soil, on a hill, with hand tools makes for a lot of work.  Once dug down to 2-3′, we fixed them in place with Fast Set cement.  Poured it in dry and dumped some water on it.  Super convenient.

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Once the posts were in place, we leveled and screwed on a frame made of 2×10 and 2×8 treated lumber.

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Keeping the workplace neat.

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Working into the evening on the framing.  Having 3 surefire flashlights handy makes this possible, even convenient.

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Because much of the deck load will rest on the front member, and even more so because groups of people tend to converge at a railing, we made this from doubled 2×10 lumber.

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Here we are installing the decking.  Rather than going with standard decking lumber (5/4″), we opted to go with 2×8 lumber.  It was only a few percent more expensive, and far stiffer.

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Good workers hard at work.

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We used a hand-saw to cut notches out of the end of the 2×8 flooring lumber where it (would have) contacted the 4×4 upright posts.  We live in a culture that thinks “power tools” for most things, but sometimes the hand-tools are the best for the job.

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A close up of the hand-saw approaching the end of the line.

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Notice that Eli (center) has hearing and eye protection?  This is because he was running the impact driver installing all of the screws in the decking.  There were hundreds and hundreds of screws to install.

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Here is a view up the hill.

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A very clear but warm day.

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We made the railing with 2×6 lumber.  The top part of the railing had a 2×6 on the face of the upright supports as well as a 2×6 cap on top.  This resulted in a very strong (up/down and forward/back) railing that is convenient for setting drinks, etc… on.

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For this project we elected to use Torx head exterior screws.  Coupled with a Dewalt 20v max impact driver, the 3″ screws made their way through treated lumber like a hot knife through soft butter.

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Wrapping up.  Just need to finish screwing the decking down and add the top-plate to the railing.

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The view out the front door.  Nice.

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How to install a Trusted Certificate Authority on Windows 7

At my company AppCove, we have our own certificate authority that we use with development servers and sites.  This allows us to (at no additional cost) use HTTPS and SSL for all of these alternate domains and subdomains.

The downside is that our certificate is not trusted by any stock browser or operating system.

Therefore, to prevent getting an ugly and scary SSL warning, anyone who needs to visit these (private audience) sites must first “trust” our certificate authority.

A note on security.  If you are telling your computer to trust a certificate authority, then you must really actually “trust” that authority.  If the signing key fell into the wrong hands, then they could create fake certificates for other sites you visit, like http://www.google.com, and intercept your data.  At AppCove, we use aggressive security measures to protect the certificate authority key (as we do for customer data and applications).

In this example, I am causing my Windows 7 workstation to trust appcove-ca-cert.pem.crt

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— Start of slight detour — 

If you want to verify it was installed, do this.  Otherwise, skip the next 2 screens.

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— End of slight detour —

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At this point, you should be able to visit any HTTPS site that was signed with this certificate authority and your browser will indicate that it is a secure connection.

Spiders and bees and really small toads?

This photograph is of what appears to be a very small toad.  The item beside it is a 1/2″ diameter section of rebar, making this little critter about 1/16″ long.  I barely saw him.

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This bee appeared to be out it the cold a bit too long and was pretty sluggish.  This is taken on the back of by glove.

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Here is a daddy long leg in the garden, running as fast as he could.

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nginx: how to specify a default server

Several years ago when I started using nginx, I was under the mistaken assumption that

server_name _;

was a wildcard server name and would be used if no other server names matched.

Nope.

I made a change on a production system, adding a new site on an existing IP address.  What harm could that cause, right?

After several clients quickly and graciously notified us that the wrong site was coming up when you visited their domain, I quickly tracked the problem down.

First you need to realize that server_name _ is actually not special.  It is just a non-match.

Second you need to realize that in the event of no matches, nginx will select the first server{} block and use that.

This means that the ORDER of your server blocks is critical if you are using `server_name _;`. 

In our case, the order was incorrect, and my new domain was picking up all requests for that IP address.  I tell this because I believe a number of system administrators have this incorrectly configured and waiting to bite them.

There is a better way.

The nginx `listen` directive includes a `default_server` option that looks like this:

server{
   listen 1.2.3.4:80 default_server;
   ...
}

From http://wiki.nginx.org/HttpCoreModule#listen

If the directive has the default_server parameter, then the enclosing server {…} block will be the default server for the address:port pair. This is useful for name-based virtual hosting where you wish to specify the default server block for hostnames that do not match any server_name directives. If there are no directives with the default_server parameter, then the default server will be the first server block in which the address:port pair appears.

The moral of the story

It is better to use the correct mechanism (above) than relying on a single non-matching server_name.

I hope someone finds this useful!

Reference: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9454764/nginx-server-name-wildcard-or-catch-all

 

 

 

Building Plywood Shelves

“A place for everything and everything in its place”

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/14400.html

It is an ongoing chalenge to find a proper place to keep everything.  But in that lies the key to being organized.  It is fairly easy to put everything away when everything has an “away” to be put into.

In an effort to implement that, we decided to use an otherwise useless corner of the dining room to make shelves for bins and books.  Rubbermaid makes some really nice bus boxes which are sold at Sams Club.  They look like this:

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This is one of the few actually nice storage-related items you can purchase nowadays.  The quality is second to none.  It is an impressive (proper) use of plastic.

Because I lack a dust collection system, all of the routing and cutting was making the shop too dusty to be in comfortably.  So we went outside.

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All of the sanding was done by hand (Thank you ELI and EZRA):

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The shelves were constructed of 23/32″ SandedPly plywood from Home Depot (about $45/sheet).  I ran out of that and used an alternate USA made maple-faced hardwood plywood for one of the shelves.  You can really see the difference.  We routed a groove for each shelf using an aluminum guide, palm router, and 3/4″ bit.

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They were stained with MinWax Espresso stain.

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Predrilling really helps smooth the assembly process.  Notice the metric ruler?  More on that later.

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Because the shelves are not designed to disassemble, they were screwed together and then slid into place and screwed to the wall.

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And the result was great.  As you can see, a secondary bookshelf is integrated to help keep the growing collection of schoolbooks.

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And as per the usual tradition at our home, a bit of “alternate” use before we start with the real use:

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