Smoking Adventures

Since I’ve now purchased a smoker, I think it’s time to chronicle all the adventures with said smoker. I’ve been taking notes and pictures throughout the process and would like to document it here. I’ll be using the “smoking” category, and I put a link on the top of the main page for quick access.


The smoker in action.
The smoker in action.

The smoker I purchased is a Masterbuilt Pro Dual Fuel Smoker, available at Home Depot. I think this may be an “exclusive” HD product, but Masterbuilt makes some very reputable hardware.

This model has 4 racks, each about 20″ x 20″. It supports both propane (how I use it) and charcoal. It has dual doors, so I can replace chips and water without disrupting the main cooking area.

I haven’t discovered how many hours I get on the propane tank yet. I’m taking notes, including times when I start and stop it to get the best idea of how long a 15lb Blue Rhino tank lasts. I should get a second tank the next time they go on sale, since the smoker is using the grill’s tank. The grill has been rather neglected since the smoking began.


The "operation". Chips soaking, nice aluminum table for prep/holding while opening the door. Metal trashcan for ashes.
The “operation”. Chips soaking, nice aluminum table for prep/holding while opening the door. Metal trashcan for ashes.

The basic setup is simply the smoker, fuel, and a table. I’ve added a couple nice thermometers (Taylor white one and Taylor BBQ), both of which use the same probe. I’m going to get a wireless one soon, but for now these work very well. The white Taylor has a timer and temp alarm that are nice and big. The red one is a little more difficult, but it works very well for simply showing the temp.

When I’m done with smoking, I needed a safe place to put the ashes. I chose a metal bucket I found at Wal-Mart for about $15 that does the job nicely. NO PLASTIC. Plastic will burn and start a fire. Seen too many deck fires as a result of smoking (cigarettes) materials improperly disposed in a plastic coffee can.

Why the pink princess cup you ask? It’s a nice large cup that I use for replenishing the water tray. Don’t judge me.


bacon_slicedSo far, so good. Everything I’ve put in has turned out fantastic. I’m learning a lot along the way. Smoking is not a “hey, I’ll do this today” affair; it requires a lot of prep work and attention to detail. And patience. For instance, the pork shoulder I put in today will need to smoke for 8 hours. No peeking, no speeding up the process. 8 hours (or more). The bacon I made required 7 days to cure, and needed to chill after smoking. Torture, but worth it.

Bored on a Saturday

It’s been a while since I posted, so I thought I would post something. I supposed I could create a bulleted list of the projects that I have been working on. That’d be cool, right?

  • VoIP – I’ve become a phone nerd. I have no less than 8 phones in my office at work at any given time. I’ve been using Avaya, Asterisk, and even Cisco UC learning all the ins and outs of VoIP. Did you know that there is standard Power over Ethernet (PoE) and not-standard PoE? Didn’t know that before a week ago. Now I do.
  • VPS-es – I now have 4 VPS accounts that I use for various things. I host a Teamspeak server, a bunch of websites and even a VPN endpoint. It’s an excellent way to learn how to do these things, completely and utterly hands on.
  • XMPP/Mail hosting – One of the VPSes is dedicated to mail and XMPP. I have my own system that I can use in the event that Google Talk goes down. But they’re going to shut off XMPP support soon. Bummer.

There, as promised, a bulleted list of stuff. Now, to look at new themes and other update-y type stuff on here.

My Switch to a VPS

About two months ago, I moved this site, along with a bunch of other sites I run over to a self-run VPS hosted by For the past 4 years or so I had been with Dreamhost, after a very nice 2-year deal for $10.74. In the past couple of years I have had to renew for about $219/2yr to keep a couple of client’s sites running. Back in September, I  found, a site that aggregates “Low End Box” VPS deals. I was able to snag one for about $60/year, with way more resources and flexibility than Dreamhost. The downside was that I bear the brunt of all server management. I need to worry about backups, DDoS, hacks, etc now. Luckily there is a very strong community of people doing just this.

Dreamhost as of late had gotten really slow. I primarily host WordPress sites, which are not very memory-friendly. They require a decent amount of CPU time as well. I started to notice that it would take around 15-20 seconds to load one of my sites, whereas other sites would load WAY faster (or even simple static pages). I decided to make the switch and try running WordPress on this VPS. WAY faster. I can also do SSL now and manage configurations for every piece of software.

Although the VPS’s are still shared, it is a way better amount of resources than sharing web space only. I would HIGHLY suggest checking out LEB, LET (LowEndTalk) and the wealth of knowledge there for hosting your own sites.

Baofeng UV-5RA Review

20130203_162150After leaping into the world of inexpensive Chinese handheld radios, I have found that given the right circumstances and some lowered expectations, you can actually find a pretty decent radio for everyday use. I recently picked up a Baofeng UV-5RA off for around $50 shipped (with Prime). Here is my review.

Build Quality

This radio is pretty solid. While light, it doesn’t feel hollow or flimsy. There are very few “moving parts”, primarily the knob for the volume/power. It has decent resistance and hasn’t been fuzzy so far. The front actually has a metallic panel over the speaker, making it seem a little more rugged than the Wouxuns I’ve used in the past. There is a tab to attach the included hand strap, which is kind of a quirky addon for a radio, but nice if you’re prone to dropping these.


As with most Chinese radios, front panel programming is a nightmare. Save yourself the headache, get a programming cable. There is plenty of free software to program these (see CHIRP) and you’ll be able to get the best experience with labels and extra switches with programming software.

There is a VFO-ish mode, but it requires a bunch of menus to get tones and modes set properly. It is a bit better than a Wouxun, in that you can easily go to VFO mode with a button press (Wouxun required menu options). However, this radio is better if you have a fixed set of channels that you use all the time. That being said, one thing the Wouxun has is a rotary encoder knob for quick flipping through channels. On this one, no knob, so be ready to memorize the channel numbers or pressing up/down a whole lot.


Receive-wise it works pretty well. Seems to be as good as any other handheld.

I haven’t actually done enough TX on this yet to make a determination. I just got it, so the review is more on first impressions than full functions.


20130203_162226Get one. They’re around $50, which is way less than some of the other ones. It does dual-band, it’s Part 90 certified (so it’s good for non-ham channels), and the battery life seems to be pretty good. I would suggest it for a kick-around radio or as a compliment to a cross-banded vehicle setup.

New Server

If you can read this, then it means you’re on the new server! I migrated everything over tonight to a new server, and probably will be abandoning Dreamhost soon.

Of Yubikeys and Routers

So my last post I was starting back at work. Now I can safely say that I am back in the groove again. I’ve already had three travel occasions (two of which were impromptu) in the past 7 weeks, which is pretty aggressive. My sleep patterns are back to what they used to be. I no longer need a sleep aid to fall asleep, which is a big thing for me. Though I still am banned from napping…

A black yubikeyThis week I’ve gotten a couple new toys to further my computing knowledge. The first one, which I already have, is a Yubikey. These are little USB dongles (you may giggle at that word if you wish) that generate one time passwords, or OTPs. These OTPs can be used to authenticate with all sorts of services. If you’re interested (and I totally know you are), read up on Yubikeys here. I ended up getting two, one white and one black. They each have 2 identity slots, so I can mess around with long static passwords or different OATH-HOTP methods. Terribly nerdy.


The second item, which I’m eagerly waiting for from UPS, is a new router. I have long been an advocate of DD-WRT on WRT-54G’s or other compatible Linksys hardware. But now I’m going to consolidate an old Catalyst 2950 and an E2000 into a RouterBOARD product. The Catalyst is a power-hungry heat-generating beast that is starting to show its age, and the E2000 doesn’t have enough ports to do what I want. I also want to do some advanced networking, such as VPNs and multiple SSIDs, which DD-WRT can do, but not very cleanly. A lot of DD-WRT is hacked together (which I am not saying is a bad thing) and can take a lot of tinkering to get it to work. This RouterBOARD should do everything I want and more out of the box, with no special scripts or software.

I chose the RB2011UAS-2HnD-IN which is one of the top RB2011xxxx models available. It has 10 ports, built-in Wifi, and a L5 RouterOS license. Probably overkill for what I need, but it’s going to be a good learning tool for advanced networking. I’ve been given a very good primer on these RouterBOARD systems, and hopefully don’t run in to too many pitfalls. I’ll of course still have my E2000 to fall back on if everything royally breaks.

Well, this post will also serve as a test to see if Facebook posting is still working. I never did get it working 100%. Here goes nothing…(clicks post)

The next chapter

After 269 days, nearly 9 months, I will work my first full day tomorrow. I decided to count up some things that have happened in this relatively short period of time.

  • 4 rounds of chemotherapy
  • 100+ days of hospitalization
  • 1 visit to the ICU
  • 3 seasons viewed for the 7th floor (winter, spring, summer)
  • 50mg of Benedryl around the clock
  • ~30 red blood cell transfusions
  • Countless platelet transfusions

Here’s what Wolfram|Alpha has of note about December 12th, 2011 (my diagnosis date)

To me it has been a long road, and this is just another big milestone along it. It’s like the first day at a new school all over again. Even went out and bought new clothes and new shoes for the occasion.