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September 7,2008 (WeekendEdition)

We meant to install an anchor for our Vespa this weekend.  Saturday was eaten up wandering the aisles of Walmart on behalf of our former intern.  Sunday was spent with us inside, rewiring the Mac mini media center, courtesy of the rain from tropical storm Hanna. 

With the large-screen TV disassembled and mostly removed ("partially removed," says our Copy Editor) from the office, it was time to reorganize the gear.  The most time-consuming part was deciding where we should put the audio/video gear

Should we put them closer to the Mac mini media center, or hide them somewhere out of sight?  After a bit of pondering, we decided it was best to put it close to the media center and hide it out of sight.  The space underneath one of the desks facing the front was the most logical choice. 

The biggest tip we have for readers wanting to tidy up the tangle of wires behind the scene is to use some kind of cord wrap.  The least expensive way to do it is to get black flexible plastic drainage hoses from Home Depot. 

By the time we got the two piles of gear rewired, the surround speakers moved to match the new locations, and tested everything, the sun had came back out.  We like the new setup.  With the AV gear near the computer, it will be easier to record from all of the video and audio sources without having to run a lot of cable.  [Permalink] - Rewiring


September 6,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The HR folks never told us when we hired an intern that our responsibilities to them extended to... actually, we are not really sure when it ends.  OK, so she did come up with our tagline "We Entertain When It Rains."  She might even have done some weeding in the RainyDayGarden.  However, we didn't know we had signed up for looking after her whenever she was in town :-)

On Thursday, we got a call asking if we could pick her up at the airport at 6:30AM and drive her down to Providence?  Being the softies that we are, we said sure... and promptly passed the task off to the managing editor.  We figured he hired her, he should drive her.

Since it was a few days before the "official" FirstDay at RISD, the place was pretty empty.  Getting a parking space to unload her gear was easy!  Finding her dorm room was another matter.  However, she did finally managed to find it after a bit of wandering around.

Our intern was pretty excited when she learned that she was assigned a single room.  No roommates meant that she can decorate her space any way she wanted.  Her first order of business was to set up internet access, followed by the unpacking of some strange stuffed animals, and finally to put up the poster she brought back from her trip to Japan this Summer.  We are SO not 18 years old.

We agreed that we would go back today to help her pick up some stuff at Walmart.  After that, we are going to change our cell number and move the office to an undisclosed location.  This is because she casually informed us that all of her West Coast friends who are now on the East Coast attending college would love to come to Boston for Thanksgiving dinner this year :-) [Permalink] - First Day at RISD


September 5,2008 (FahgettabouditFriday)

Just about everybody had a Kryptonite lock at one time or another for their bicycle.  We still have a few of them around the office somewhere.  When we started looking at locks for scooters, we knew we had to check out what Kryptonite had to offer.

Kryptonite has two chains/lock combo which we thought were worthy of mention: the New York Chain w/Evolution series 4 Disc Lock, and the New York Fahgettaboudit.  Since we live and work in a relatively safe area of Boston, we opted for the slightly lighter chain of the Evolution.  By the sight of it, we don't think we'll be compromising the security of our scooter one bit.  In fact, we are pretty sure we can give up our gym memberships, as just lifting the chain is enough of a workout.

The Evolution Series 4 lock is a made of two parts: a steel U-shape shackle, and a double-deadbolt lock.  The cylinder of the lock uses the new, higher-security disc-style design.  It comes with three keys.  The keys have over a million possible variations.  There is even a nice integrated dustcover.

Each link in the New York Chain is almost 2.5" long and 1/4" thick, but are shaped so as to be less vulnerable to "leverage" type attacks.  The links are made of heat-treated micro-alloyed steel (boron manganese) and are VERY strong.  The heavy nylon cover protects both the chain and the paint of the motorcycle or scooter.  The thief will have to REALLY make an effort to find a weak link in these chains.

A strong chain and lock still need something secure to lock things to.  This is where the Kryptonite Stronghold Anchor steps up to the plate, as it were.  The Stronghold is an indoor/outdoor anchor.  It has a low curved profile so it can be mounted on the garage floor or in a driveway.  We'll be installing this anchor right outside the front walkway to the office.  If the weather holds up, we may even attempt the installation project this weekend!  [Permalink] - Kryptonite


September 4,2008 (AlarmTechThursday)

Yesterday we took a general look at the Xena Alarm Disc-lock.  Today, we'll take a closer look at the alarm component of this compact security device.

The first thing to note about this Xena alarm is there is no "On/Off" switch.  The alarm self-arms when the lock is engaged.  This actually makes it a bit noisy when trying to separate the alarm from the frame when the battery still has some juice.  Normally one would not need to do that, but we wanted to show the inside of the shell and the alarm unit.

To free the alarm, a key is used to push a recessed pin inside the channel of the lock.  This pin is not accessible when the lock is in use because it is blocked by the disc.

Here is a good view of the solid block of stainless steel used for the shell. The round loop will catch the pin when the alarm is pressed into the cavity.  The alarm is powered by six watch batteries, which are held in place by a small tray which slides into a compartment in the alarm, and are removable only when the alarm is out of the shell. 

This Xena alarm is very sensitive to any tilt or motion.  We are guessing there are mercury switches oriented in different directions inside the alarm. 

Overall, this alarm is well protected by the stainless steel frame shell and will not be easily defeated.  We like the simple and no-maintenance design of this Xena Disc-lock alarm.  In our next installment of this series, we'll look at using this Xena to secure our newly-acquired Vespa.   [Permalink] - Xena Alarm


September 3,2008 (WowUsWednesday)

There are a few companies which make disc-locks for scooters and motorcycles.  When a disc-lock is attached to the disc of a vehicle's brakes, it makes it impossible for the wheel to rotate. The one we will be testing is from a company called Xena Security

Xena makes a lot of different locks for all kinds of security needs (motocycles, cars, home).  The one which seemed most appropriate for our application was the Alarmed Disc-Lock

The lock is made from a solid block of stainless steel, has an integrated alarm, and fits in the palm of your hand. The Xena DiscLock Alarm comes complete with batteries, three keys, and a storage pouch.

The Xena DiscLock works on a similar principle as the "boot" used by many traffic enforcement police to lock up cars.  The lock works by securing a pin throught a vent hole on the brake disc, preventing the wheel from rotating.  Once the lock has been engaged, any movement will trigger the alarm.  The 110db alarm is LOUD!  After a few seconds, the alarm will turn off and re-arm. 

Xena's design is a great idea.  It is small, which means it will be easy to carry.  It looks simple to use, which means it will actually BE used.  It appears extremely well made, which means it will hold up to attacks.  We can't wait to give it a try with our new Vespa.  [Permalink] - Xena DiscLock


September 2,2008 (ToughTechTuesday)

Boston is a great city, but like any city you have to be aware of your surroundings, watch your stuff, and lock things up when you are not around.  Scooters and motorcycles are pretty heavy, but a couple of strong guys can still pick it up and put it in the back of a truck.

When we knew we were going to get a scooter, we started looking around to see how we could secure it around town. Two ideas quickly bubbled to the top of the list: one was to get a big chain and a strong lock; the other was to look into something called a "disc-lock."  Over the next few weeks, we'll take a closer look at both of these options: how they work, when and where are each most useful, and how well they perform in the real world.  [Permalink] - Vespa Locks


September 1,2008 (MobileMonday)

At the beginning of Summer we started seeing more and more questions about scooters: what kind to get, how to secure them, which type of helmets would make sense, etc. We decided to look into all of these questions as we were curious about the answers ourselves.  A few of us had considered getting scooters because while we only have a short commute (7 miles), it usually takes about 40 minutes.

It did not take much research for us to realize that the cheap imports were no bargain (no power, no parts, no service), and to go with a real Vespa.  Our plan was to buy a used one on Craigslist.  However, that was also the time when gas prices went crazy, quickly followed by used Vespa prices.  Fortunately, the interns' perseverance paid off.  We managed to find one at an agreeable price, worked out a deal, and are now proud owners of a well-maintained silver Vespa ET2.

The ET2 is in great condition.  There are a few scuffs and nicks, but the vehicle was just serviced at Herb Chambers and given a clean bill of health.

For a small vehicle, the Vespa ET2 was designed to make carrying stuff easy.  There is a large storage bin underneath the seat.  Perfect for a helmet, the lock, and other large items. 

In the front is a flip down compartment for smaller items (cellphones, point&shoot cameras, etc...).  In the rear is a flat carrier with slots for tying down packages and such.  Built into the seat is a hook which slides out for hanging a grocery bag or a handbag.

The controls are well laid out and easily accessible.  On the left is the rear brake lever, the lights and turn signal switches, and the horn button.  In the center are all the readouts (speed, fuel, indicator lights).  On the right is the front brake lever, the throttle, and the electronic ignition switch.  This Vespa can carry two people and has a maximum speed of around 40 MPH.  We should have a FirstUse repot on this scooter in a few weeks.  In the mean time, we'll be taking a FirstLook at some of the accessories[Permalink] - Vespa


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