Bathroom Norman Door

At work one of the bathroom stalls' latch broke, so they put on a new latch. They naturally put it on backwards, so now the door opens outward instead of inward:

Bathroom Norman Door Outside

There's no way to pull the door open, so you have to reach up and grab the top of the door. It's quite the Norman Door now, because the handle's still on the inside, where you have to push to get it open:

Bathroom Norman Door Inside

Worst of all, it's the handicap stall:

Handicap Norman Door

For some reason people were giving me funny looks when I was taking these pictures inside the bathroom.

Posted on July 30, 2008
Filed under: General, Humor, Random Comments

Million-dollar thought experiment

I was talking with some friends recently and the topic of housing came up. Even with the recent declines, housing in the Seattle area is still ridiculously expensive. According to the bubble blogs, prices are back down to where they were in May 2006, but things were overpriced back then too, so it doesn't help as much as it might.

During the conversation the idea of group-purchasing and sharing costs came up. It piqued my interest, so I decided to run the numbers and do a thought experiment.

Imagine a group of three friends who want to buy a house together. Let's say they are looking for something in the range of $1 million. How well would it work?

If each person can put down $100,000 as a down payment, the total mortgage on the house would be $700,000, or $233,333 per person. As far as I can tell from reading Wikipedia's "co-tenancy" page, it looks like each person would have a separate mortgage on their portion of the house. So each person would get a $233K mortgage, which at current 30-year fixed rates, would come out to about $1350 per month.

This $1350 number surprised me. It's a bit more than I currently pay in rent, but it's nearly the same.  Since it's fixed, it wouldn't go up either, unlike apartment rent. I am sure that in a couple of years my rent will easily be more than $1350 and continue to increase.

Of course, there are additional costs associated with owning instead of renting, such as property taxes. But by my quick calculations, it looks like those would be roughly compensated for by the income tax deductions for mortgage interest (yay for the "ownership society").

So if I could pay what I'm already paying and use it to build up equity rather than throwing it down the drain, it certainly seems like a good idea.

What kind of house could you get for a million dollars? This is where it gets interesting. I did a search for houses nearby where I live with at least 3 beds/baths in the approximate range of $1 million. Here are a couple representative houses:

House #1:


house 1

This is a pretty decent house, with 4,000 square feet, 3-car garage, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and a half-acre of woodlands.

House #2:


House 2

This house is a bit older and smaller, but a bit less expensive as well. It also has the requisite 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3-car garage, as well as a rather large back yard for the horses to run around in.

Both houses are vastly better than my current apartment, but I could still live in one of them and pay about what I'm paying now. Something seems impossible here - what's the catch?

As best I have been able to figure out, the catch is probably the fact that you would have to live with two roommates, and it would be significantly more complicated than a regular apartment since you would all own the same house. As soon as one person wants to move out, get married, or make improvements it becomes a huge hassle for everyone. In the worst case scenario the house might suddenly need to be sold out from under you because your roommate went bankrupt or got deported.

Still, having to have 2 roommates does not seem that bad, compared to the greatly increased quality of living and the financial benefits of ownership. Am I missing something obvious?

Posted on July 15, 2008
Filed under: General, Housing Comments

Another Killer App

While writing the previous post, I thought that Remote Desktop would be the killer iPhone app, but now I've changed my mind. The new killer app is SSHD. Why would an SSH server on a phone be a killer app? Who cares about remotely logging in to their phone's command line?

The answer is that SSHD can apparently run a full SOCKS proxy server with the -D command. Using that, it's possible to use the phone's cellular internet connection on your computer. The setup looks like this:

Tethering an iPhone's data connection

Yesterday my Comcast connection went down (stupid Comcast), so I had to try it out in order to get back online and get my Dancing Matt fix. It worked surprisingly well - it wasn't really obvious that I was using a phone connection, except that the speeds were pretty slow.

I ran a speed test on the bandwidth, and these were the results:

iPhone Download Bandwidth Speed Test

208 kbps is not that bad by modern standards, and it definitely works if your main ISP connection goes down, or if you're stuck at a wedding with no WiFi.

If coverage is good, a 3G iPhone would probably be significantly better. If you need to save cash it might even be fast enough to use as your main home ISP. Hmm..

Posted on July 10, 2008
Filed under: General, iPhone Comments

Expired Warranty

So this week all of the iPhone 2G warranties expired, at least for the people who bought them during the first week. To commemorate the occasion I decided to jailbreak my phone in order to see what all the fuss is about.

Previously, I had decided not to jailbreak since I was afraid that Apple would refuse to replace my phone if the touchscreen or other features broke (as happened to about 50% of the people I know with iPhones). Now that the warranty has expired, that's not much of a concern any more. I also figured that if my phone got screwed up, I could always upgrade to a 3G model next week anyway.

Now that I have jailbroken it, I must say that I can't believe I didn't do this a long time ago. It doesn't seem to mess up the phone at all, at least if you aren't running any custom apps. But the custom apps are completely awesome. These are what a phone with these hardware capabilities was meant to run. It's too bad that Apple's official SDK is so limited and constrained - most of the cool apps will never be allowed by Apple.

I've just gotten started trying out all the apps, but I've already found several cool ones:

iPhone Mobile Terminal Application

Rockin' the Terminal. I booted up vi but quickly realized that that was a stupid idea when you don't have a real keyboard or Ctrl and Esc keys.

iPhone Remote Desktop Application

Remote Desktop is probably the killer app so far. Now I can log into my home computer and use it no matter where I am in the world (with cellular or WiFi access, of course). You'd think it would be impossible to use on the small phone screen, but with multitouch zooming and panning it actually isn't too bad.

I haven't even gotten to the 'Games' section yet, but I have definitely heard good things about the NES emulator. This should be sweet..

Posted on July 3, 2008



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