Home Owner Task: replace the iron filter

Today (well really yesterday) I learned that I really should have replaced our house iron filter some time ago.  It was on my list of things to do over the last 6 months, and I finally got around to it on Saturday.  It was one of those tasks that I’d never done before, so kept procrastinating on it, even though it only took 15 minutes.  The filter element, the part you replace, looked like a paint roller that was drenched with some of the russet sunset we had used in the kitchen. (sorry no pics, it was disposed of before I could think of it).

As soon as it was replaced we had at least twice the water pressure in the house.  I regenerated our water softener, and now our dishes are getting clean again, the shower up stairs has much more sane water pressure, and the tub faucet no longer has orange water come out of it when you first start it.  Yay for that.

Unlearn Something Wrong Today

Glass is not a high-viscosity liquid at room temperature: it is an amorphous solid, although it does have some chemical properties normally associated with liquids. Panes of stained glass windows often have thicker glass at the bottom than at the top, and this has been cited as an example of the slow flow of glass over centuries. However, this unevenness is due to the window manufacturing processes used in earlier eras, which produced glass panes that were unevenly thick at the time of their installation. It is common to find old windows which are thicker at the sides or the top.[114][115]

Wikipedia has a pretty good list of Common Misconceptions, with references explaining why they aren’t true, and what the real story is.  Unlearning a wrong fact is one of the hardest things to do as a human being, so do yourself a favor and unlearn something wrong today.

At the edge of software

Two years ago I got into amateur Astronomy.  I bought an 8″ dobsonian telescope (which is the perfect first scope), and joined the local astronomy club.  I’ve come to realize that my biggest weakness is coming up with appropriate target lists, given location, time, and the equipment I’ve got.  It turns out there is actually a piece of software specifically written to address that: Sky Tools 3, which is windows only.

More interestingly, it turns out that this is the only piece of software, pay / free, regardless of platform, that does this.  There is nothing else close.  There are plenty of planetarium software, free, open, and pay, on every platform that you can imagine.  That’s a crowded space.  But to solve this very specific problem of generating good visual observing lists there exists only one software solution.

It got me thinking.  When we talk about cross platform software, and getting people to consider open source alternatives, people always focus on the crowded center.  Debates over word processors and browsers, email and graphics tools.  These all have pluses and minuses, but in the crowded center there are plenty of options.

Out at the edge of software there aren’t options or alternatives.  The market is too small to support more than one, and you are lucky if even one tool exists to do what you like.  These pieces of software are the tent stakes that keep Microsoft as the 90% platform for personal computers.  At least with virtualization it means that I won’t have to run windows on real hardware to run Sky Tools, but it does mean that I’m going to be running windows in a VM a lot more often than I was before.