Turning Over A New Leaf

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that I’ve mentioned a few times about working out and running. Well I have been doing just that. My wife Corina and I have decided to shape up and get fit.

I think I had a few moments of clarity on this whole process. I had gained weight, maybe 8 pounds over my regular weight in the last year. For about the last 8 years I’ve weighed the same. I gained most of my weight in college and never really lost it. I always stayed roughly 235 until this last year. At about this time I was at work and overheard a co-worker talking about how he had lost 40lbs and had altered his diet, started biking and just generally got healthier. It was that day the light went on for me. I decided that tomorrow was the day I would start and began working towards my goal.

My goal is to get to 200lbs. I know I’m going to have to work hard to get there, but I finally feel like something inside me has changed. I feel driven towards my goal. My wife had been trying to lose weight for awhile now and had some success, but now we’d be going on the path together. I had kinda been horrible in that regard, she was trying to make healthier choices, but I wasn’t necessarily interested in doing the same at the time. So now we’re working towards the same goal and it seems to be working so far.

On the 16th of October, I started tracking my calories with MyPlate, an app that I had used before to lose some weight with some success. I’ve found it even easier to use than it had been before. Now I could easily track on my iPhone, iPad and computer. I created a pinned tab in Firefox that is always there so I can track my caloric intake. In the first week and a half I lost 6 lbs.

I started using RunKeeper to track my comings and goings. While I may not have been running, something like a trip to IKEA certainly is worth tracking given how many kilometers you end up walking there. I track bike rides, when I go roller blading and now when I use the treadmill at the gym.

I went out and bought a Kinect for my Xbox along with a few games. Corina had mentioned the idea of wanting to try Zumba, so I picked up a game for that. I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012. I personally really like this game. While originally I had kinda thought the Kinect was a gimmicky concept to compete with the Wii, I’ve definitely found it is so much more than say WiiFit. It’s basically interactive workout. It can see what you’re doing and suggest how to correct it. It really is the next evolution past workout videos as far as I’m concerned.

I started going to the gym on the weekend. There is a gym at work that I had used maybe twice since I started there, so I figured I’d finally start getting some use from it. I’ve mainly stuck to the treadmill, as I have a goal to do the Jingle Bell Run 5k in Cambridge in 2 weeks. I’m actually amazed how well I’ve been doing. The first week I ran 1.6k, second week 2.7k, third week 4.7k. This week I wanted to do a 5k without including warmup and cool down in the distance. I was able to run 5.1k in 31:38, which I’m pretty proud of. I had to stop for 30 seconds, but aside from that was able to do the whole thing. My soccer conditioning definitely helps. I find I can recover quite quickly and keep going, even after today’s run I still had more to give in my legs.

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I also picked up something called a FitBit. It’s basically a fancy pedometer then you clip to your belt. It can track calories burned, how many flights of stairs you’ve tackled and miles walked. I bought one for myself and Corina as an early birthday present and I love it. I have barely taken the thing off since I got it, as it also allows you to track your sleep too. To me this thing was the missing link to calorie tracking. On MyPlate they have settings for sedentary and light activity for calculating calories. I chose sedentary, as I pretty much sit at a computer all day. What I discovered with the FitBit was that I was burning a lot more calories in a day than I thought. I already took the stairs every day, but now that was being tracked. I broke 10000 steps this week after playing soccer. The FitBit gives you badges for progression, so I definitely have goals to shoot for that are attainable within the framework of my everyday life.

Now have I cut out all bad food? No, but I am now accountable for it. I know that if I have a bad day food wise that I have to offset it. If I know I’m going out to somewhere at night, I know to save calories during the day so I can indulge a bit at night. I’ve found one of the biggest things for me has been kicking drinking pop. This is all tied to my change earlier this year to quit caffeine. I had cut down drinking pop already, but now I don’t really have anything luring me back to the dark side.

So far I’m down 11 pounds since I started and have been quite encouraged by the results. There have been good and bad days, but I’ve been keeping positive and moving forward. Corina is doing great as well. I just want to keep moving along on this healthy path as it feels great doing it. I’m challenging myself in ways that maybe I’ve never done before and my body is meeting the challenge and then some. I’m looking forward to being stronger and faster on the soccer field and shocking some people next summer, that’s for sure.

Building A Hackintosh 2.0 – Part 2

Believe it or not I’ve finally got around to writing a follow up post about my Hackintosh project that I started in February. Through lots of trials and tribulations I am finally using my new machine. This was an absolute bear of a project to do. It was probably an intermediate to expert type mod and I am someone who had built one computer with a pre-fab case before, so I definitely did a lot of learning, mucking around, made lots of mistakes and various rethinks of how to tackle this project. With that said it was pretty fun to do. I found it really pushed me to be creative and think outside the box to find solutions to some of the unconventional problems this project posed.

Components

From the start of this project I made the decision that I was going to do an internal case modification instead of modifying the outside of the case. Typically when other people have done mods with a Macintosh G5 case they will cut out a chunk of the back of the case to accommodate a regular ATX motherboard. I decided to go the other route and instead set my motherboard back into the case away from the back and run cables to the back. This decision is what probably cost me the most grief when it came to how to lay out this project inside the case, and also added a fair bit of additional cost in cabling as well.

The Motherboard

Getting the motherboard seated properly in the case was something that caused me quite a bit of issue. I think I ended up having it in 3 different positions in the case, while having all sorts of trouble getting it to actually stay put once inside. Using a regular ATX board required me to re-seat all the board screw mounts inside the case, as they didn’t come anywhere close to lining up with the previous Mac board that had been inside.

I used epoxy and crazy glue and could not get all 7 mounts to maintain contact with the case.  In the end I used an epoxy putty on the mounts and that finally held them nice and firm.

Power Supply

When I started this project I intended on putting the standard power supply in towards the front of the case, then running an extension cable to the back of the case. Many of the other mods I had seen for this case had modified the back and actually putting the power supply at the top of the case using the built in shelf. Unfortunately I didn’t have the shelf for the case, so that wasn’t an option. As I got further along into the project I realized that the placement of the PS was an issue when I had to move the placement of the motherboard within the case. As I didn’t have the original PS that would have fit nicely at the bottom of the case, I decided to see if I could track one down. After posting a message on Kijiji about it, amusingly the person who sold me the case originally replied and said that he was willing to give it to me for free. That definitely made my life a lot easier.

Upon getting the power supply I realized it was going to need some work. The original PS was absolutely gigantic, as it filled the bottom of the case, running the full length of the case with fans at the front. I decided I would need to get a little crafty on this task. I ended up taking apart the G5 PS case, gutting the inside and roughly halving the size of the box.  I cut the box in half using a pair of tin snips, it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it did work. I then glued the board from the new PS into the old and kept the existing fans. You can see a rough version of it to the right, I cleaned it up a fair bit after this picture. I ended up using the extra space inside the case to hold the surplus cables from my PS. This really helped tidy up the case, as I didn’t have to find a home for 3 extra cables after the fact.

Rear Panel

This part of the project was a headache all onto itself. As I didn’t have the motherboard aligned to the back of the case it meant I had to run extensions for each cable that I wanted to run to the back of the case. Also it left me with an alignment problem. Since the holes in the back were set in a bit from the edge, I needed to figure out a creative way to mount the wires so they would line up. What I ended up doing was taking a look at Home Depot and finding something usable in the ducts and home heating section. I don’t quite know what the piece was, but it was a short piece of aluminum that I was able to cut using tin snips and bend into a small L shaped shelf. I then drilled holes into it so I could mount it to the existing screw mounts I had left towards the back of the case. When installing the wires I tried a few different methods, first trying to use epoxy, then using the epoxy putty again. That stuff solved so many of my problems with this project. It’s basically a putty that would harden into a solid plastic, very handy stuff.

The wires themselves I had to order many of them custom. I found one of the annoying things about this project was that I didn’t always know what the name of a certain cable was, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was actually searching for. Here were a couple of the more difficult ones it took me to track down.

Fans

The fans inside the case were something that drove me pretty crazy. Once I got everything in place within the case and fired it up it definitely was too loud for my liking. As someone who has been a Mac user for years, I have a certain expectation for how quiet the case must be. At first I tried using the fans from the G5 power supply, only to find they were the loudest thing in the case. So I bought another pair of 60mm fans only discover they were also quite loud. I eventually splurged on the SilenX fans which as virtually silent. The rear fans I thought I bought some good fans with the Nexus 92mm 750-2500RPM Real Silent fans, but as it turned out I couldn’t properly control the fan speed on them. I ended up opting for another pair of Silenx fans, which ran at a set RPM instead of variable and that fixed my issue.  All told I have 7 fans in my case, which I think might be able to get away with less when the summer temperatures cool down. My computer is upstairs in our house, which is the hottest part during the summer.

This is what the innards look like now. Could use some tidying up of the cords inside, but overall I’m pretty happy with how this all came together. I still have a couple things I need to address with the case, but overall it’s been working pretty well the last couple of weeks. The only snafu I’ve been having is with regards to waking from sleep sometimes. I’ve been trying to work through a solution for that, so hopefully I will be able to sort something out for that. I also need to wire up the front panel with a headphone jack and USB port, but those are pretty minor issues.

If you have any questions about this build, feel free to ask me in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Building a Hackintosh 2.0

A couple years ago I blogged about my experiences about building a Hackintosh HTPC, which kinda got my feet wet as far PC building as a whole.  When building that PC I can’t say I was shooting for the moon when it came to specs, just something that at minimum could handle streaming video and play movies back at 1080p. I’ve had that computer running, with somewhat light use for a couple years without too much issue. It works great for what it was built for.  I never bothered upgrading or updating that computer because it worked and I really didn’t want to much anything up with it, using the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mantra.

So now here we are in 2012 and I’ve rolled up my sleeves again and dive into a Hackintosh project. This time around I’m looking to replace my workhorse machine, my mid 2007 24″ iMac. It still works as a viable day to day machine for the most part, but in putting together the last edition of The Read Book I definitely stretched some of it’s limits with that project as far as processing power, so I’ve decided it’s time to build a new workhorse.

Being a Mac user for over 20 years at this point I definitely felt some guilt about plotting a course away from using actual Apple hardware, I decided I would try and build my Hackintosh in an old Mac case. I put an ad on Kijiji and got a few bites back managed to secure an aluminum PowerMac G5 case for $25. It was entirely stripped on the inside so there isn’t too much to work with, so it’s pretty much a blank canvas at this point.

PowerMac G5 case

Specs

I bought all those components last week and set about building. The only problem was that the case wasn’t nearly ready to do anything with, but I will cover all the logistics of that in a future blog post.  So I decided to gut my existing HPTC and install my new components as it is the only other case I own. I couldn’t take the chance that I had dud hardware and didn’t actually test it before the return period.

I was able to install and get the hardware working in pretty short order. It was the software stuff that turned out to be the long process, and I will admit to making some ill advised decisions along the way with that. Since I had a working system running Leopard I decided that would be a good starting point to work off of. I cloned my drive and then tried to upgrade to Snow Leopard, then subsequently Lion. I’ll just tell you this was entirely unnecessary and wasted a lot of my time.

The easiest way to go about things is to do a fresh install of Lion. I followed the instructions on Lifehackers’ Always Up To Date Hackintosh Guide and it definitely pointed me in the right direction. If I were to make a suggestion for improving on these instructions it would be to burn an rBoot disk at the very start of the process, as that is what helped me with a lot of the crashes and issues I ran into along the way.

The real bug I ran into was trying to get my video cards to work properly. I started the process with the old card from my HTPC and later bought a new one. For some reason I was never able to get the card running with the GraphicsEnabler set to yes, but my card seems to run fine and have Quartz Extreme and Core Image without it enabled.  I think I spent a lot of time trying to get this working thinking that I needed to have the graphics enabler on, when it just seemed to work out of the box in Lion without it.

Hackintosh Screenshot

I was able to get audio, ethernet and the USB 3.0 ports in the back working as well without issue. I don’t actually have any USB 3.0 devices to test it out with, but the ports do work.

Overall I’d say it wasn’t that painful of a process, I just made some errors reading either old data or trying to freelance on things when the solutions after were staring me right in the face.  The process isn’t that hard, you just have to follow the instructions I linked to above.  Using the Hackintosh is pretty slick. Everything feels really snappy and fast, as is usually the case with a fresh install. So far it’s held up to any testing I’ve done with it. I was able to watch a streaming HD movie from my iMac without so much as a hiccup, which was pretty awesome. I was able to download and install Twitter from the App Store, as well as have my iPhone sync with it.

I’m going to do another blog post once I get cracking on building my Hackintosh in the G5 case, but that is a whole other topic.  I figure that will be a couple weeks away as I’ve still got to track down some internal parts to make it work.

Red Lights and Friday Nights

I have a story to share about what happened to me on the way to CinqASept Guelph this evening. Now this is a story that I probably wouldn’t typically share, but the circumstance was a bit too crazy to let it pass without sharing.

I had talked with Corina about going to CinqASept Guelph, which is a local social meetup that takes place on Friday nights 5-7pm at Casey’s in Guelph. So we formulated a plan that involved taking 2 cars as Corina didn’t wish to partake in the post event karaoke that was planned.

So I meet her at her work and I start leading the wrong way, thinking Casey’s was in another part of town. We stopped, conferred on where it was and Corina took the lead driving. She took us through a crazy residential detour but we came out into a part of Guelph I knew well. Coming up to the Hanlon Parkway Corina proceeds to turn the wrong way, as I tried to honk at her to not turn.  So we ended up split up, but at this point we were both able to figure out how to get to Casey’s from there.

I make my way up to Stone Road and go up a few lights and am pretty close to my destination. I’m coming up to the light in front of Stone Road Mall when I had a momentary lapse in judgement and ended up running a red light. All I can really reconstruct was that I believe I was looking over towards Casey’s and since it was just off Stone Road on Edinburgh Rd, so I was wondering if Corina would find it as I told her it was on Stone. I turned my head, looked up and saw a yellow light and I was going too fast to stop in time so I went right through it.  As I sailed through the light I noticed there was a police cruiser sitting in the inside lane on the opposite direction. As I passed I immediately looked in the rear view to see the cruiser pull a U turn around the median and turn on his lights to come after me. I immediately signaled into the right lane and prepared for the inevitable.

The officer comes up and I immediately apologize for my error. He asks the usual, license and insurance, and asks me what happened. I told him straight out that I couldn’t recall just what happened at the very instant before, that I hadn’t been up in that area for awhile and I think I was just looking away from the road for a second when I looked back I saw the yellow light and couldn’t stop in time.

He goes back to his car to presumably write me a big fat ticket while I waited. He comes back to my car and tells me that it would be a $325 ticket and 3 demerit points, hands me back my license and insurance info, then asks me what team I had on my tuque, to which I replied Manchester City. He then said he wasn’t going to give me a ticket and goes back to his car.  At this point I wasn’t 100% sure whether I had heard him right given the road noise, about whether he was or wasn’t going to give me a ticket, so I decided to wait. I didn’t want to chance the fact he said he was writing the ticket and drive off. About a minute passes and he walks back to my car and tells me that he wasn’t giving me a ticket, at which point I thank him graciously.

Now I have no idea whether he was a Man City fan, a soccer fan, hater of Man United or what, but I was absolutely floored. I then went on my to Casey’s, which at this point couldn’t have been much more than 200 metres away from where I was pulled over.

Manchester City Tuque

Now I’ve been called a lucky SOB on more than a few occasions in my life, but this one even shocked me.  I showed up at Casey’s, at which point Corina was there waiting and had actually seen me pulled over, so I was definitely in the doghouse.

I feel like an idiot and it really makes me realize how easy distracted driving mistakes can happen.  I’m happy that I didn’t get in an accident or anything serious came out of the event first and foremost.  I don’t believe I’m a bad driver, sure I may speed a bit more often than I should. I’ve only ever gotten a couple tickets for speeding in 10 years of driving and never had any major infractions, so maybe the officer decided to be lenient having looked up my driving record.   All I can say is thank you to this nice Guelph Police officer, it was definitely appreciated, whatever the reason you decided to let me off with a warning for.

Quitting Caffeine

It 3 weeks ago I was on Facebook and ran across a post by my friend Lucas Duguid(@octopusred on the Twitters) mentioning that he was on day 1 of quitting caffeine. I myself had been thinking for awhile that I wanted to lay off caffeine, but seeing Lucas had started on his own journey to conquer his addiction, I decided that I would try too. I know I’ve always heard the mantra when it comes to stuff like that, why not today? It seems very easy to want to begin a new week, or month, or year by turning over a new leaf, but that is just really delaying things. So I figured starting Thursday, November 10th I would no long ingest caffeine.

Now I don’t wish to position myself as a hardcore caffeine addict as some folks may be, but I definitely have my vices. Repeatedly in the past I had tried to cut out pop, carbonated beverages or soda as the American folk like to call it. I’ve been a longtime fan of cola beverages in particular. In my house growing up we typically had Diet Pepsi, and I subsequently became a big Pepsi drinker when I got older. My favourite was fountain pop Pepsi, I always loved the extra zip the drink usually had. But over the years it has been said over and over that sugary drinks like Pepsi are quite bad for you, of which I have no doubt.

So the few times I had tried to quit drinking pop I would suddenly gravitate to drinking more coffee. I found that I had grown to really like coffee, after taking years to acquire a taste for it. Over time I also discovered a cycle that would develop. I would start drinking coffee on a regular basis, then after a month would just start feeling terrible. I’d eat food and often have indigestion, regardless of what kind of food it might be. So I would make a concerted effort to ramp down my coffee consumption, and invariably go back to drinking pop.

Maybe I’m just slow, but it didn’t really dawn on me until earlier this year that I was a caffeine addict. The realization just never hit me because I was never one of those people drinking a pot of coffee a morning or downing 5 Cokes a day.  On average I’d say I’d have 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day, with a max of probably 3.  I didn’t frequently have a Pepsi as a pick me up, I usually just had it because I enjoyed it. On mornings I’d be dragging my ass I’d pick up a large McDonalds coffee and feel a little bit more alert for the morning.

What Are The Effects Of Caffeine?

Many people rely on the well known effects of raised alertness, a sense of increased concentration and an ability to alleviate tiredness, but aside from these potential benefits, many negative effects occur as a consequence of consuming caffeine.As a stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine interferes with responses and interpretations to and from the brain. It increases the production of the stress hormone, hence a feeling of being more alert, can increase acids to the degree of potentially causing a stomach ulcer, alters the anatomical function of the blood vessels and strips the body of vital calcium supply. As a result of these actions people are more susceptible to osteoporosis, irregular heart rhythms and serious illness and pain from the gastro-intestinal tract.

From BeatingAddictions.co.uk

Actually Quitting

I decided to quit pretty much cold turkey. As I mentioned I don’t believe I was heavily addicted drinking 1 or 2 beverages a day, so I didn’t find I suffered from any of the major symptoms, but it did make me realize I did actually suffer with them before.

Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal

Headaches, memory alterations, irritability, tiredness and nausea can all be caused during the period of withdrawal, to be expected when giving-up caffeine. Symptoms of withdrawal may last up to four days.

I have gotten headaches on a semi-regular basis since I was probably 8, but I would never have specifically pinned them on caffeine withdrawl, since I never actually realized I had a problem. Since stopping caffeine, I find I have had less headaches, and if I have had one, the severity is a lot less than before.

I’ve also found that my stress level has dropped dramatically. I simply don’t feel as tightly wound as I did only 3 weeks ago. I find I sleep better and feel more refreshed getting up in the morning.  The only drawback is those mornings where I might have been out late the night before and could use that morning pick me up and can’t do that. I’ve also felt I have more energy in general.

I’ve been firm on my insistence on not ingesting caffeine, but I haven’t given up pop. I’ll drink non caffeinated drinks like root beer, ginger ale, Sprite etc while avoiding cola. I realize if I want this to stick that quitting everything at the same time is just a recipe for failure. I’ve started drinking more hot chocolate, which is obviously sugary and has small amounts of caffeine, at least allows me to replace coffee.  I’ve also had one decaf coffee as well.

The more I’ve read about caffeine the more it really bothers me. I’ve found over the last couple of weeks it just makes me realize how many people are caffeine addicts as well. Places like McDonalds, Tim Hortons and other food chains have a vested interest in keeping you caffeinated. It’s what keeps you coming back. If you’re interested in learning more about caffeine addiction, I suggest checking out OverCaffeinated.org for info.