Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Knife squeegee

When chopping stuff for cooking, a particular nag is when stuff clings to your knife, esp. stuff like herbs. Most of us just wipe it with our fingers, but that’s not only dirty, but also dangerous (passing your fingers so close to the blade). Here’s a method for creating a knife-squeegee that can help.


1. Start with a piece of plastic. Polycarbonate looks best, but others are fine too. A small piece that’s about 8”x6” costs just a few dollars at Lowe’s or home depot, and would suffice for dozens of these.

2. Get a plastic cutting knife. These would also be available at Home depot, closely to where the plastic sheets are, and should be a few dollars. The plastic knives are weird, but don’t try this with a regular snap-knife. That’s hard and risky.

3. You’re going to need to cut the plastic into a strip that’s about ½” wide, and about 3-4” long. To know the exact length, measure the width of the blade at the widest point (typically, close to the hilt), double it, and add 1/2”. A typical 6” chef’s knife would be about 1.5” wide, so you’ll need a plastic strip that’s about 0.5 x 3.5”.

4. To cut the plastic, hold it flat on the table, and using a metal ruler, cut it by pulling the knife towards you. You’d need to repeat the cut about 10-15 times to score the plastic deep enough to allow it to break smoothly.


5. Once scored, place the plastic on the edge of a table, and apply pressure to break it along the score line.


6. Heat the plastic in the middle, so you can bend it. You can do this easily with a soldering iron (hold the iron close to the plastic, but don’t touch it, as it would stick to the iron). Another way is to place two ceramic tiles on a heat source like a stove, with a small gap between them. Then, place the plastic across. The heat will go between the ceramics and heat the plastic in the middle. Depending on how strong the heat source, the plastic should be bendy enough within less than a minute of heating. Don’t heat for too long, as it could cause it to “boil” (ugly bubbles appearing around the heated area).


7. Bend the plastic around the blade, but not too tightly. Ideally, you should have a bit of space at the top.


8. Remove the plastic quickly, and “close” it with your fingers, so that when it solidifies, it will be closed. That will allow it to cling to the blade.


9. Slide the new plastic on to the blade, and keep it there during chopping. When you need to clean the blade, simple slide the squeegee forward, and back.

Monday, October 7, 2013


While most software is available for download these days, some stuff still requires media. Most notably in that category is Clip art. For example, the 500,000 clip art explosion collection by Nova takes up no less than 20 GB of data, and that’s not feasible for downloading.

Even with physical media, we are still talking about 3 hefty DVDs, which means that every time you want to open a file from the collection, you have to insert the appropriate DVD. This is a hassle, to say the least, and if you don’t have a physical drive (my laptop doesn’t), that’s darn right impossible. If Nova’s software was decent, you could simply copy the content of the discs to your local hard drive and point the catalog tool to it, but that’s no possible either.

However, there IS a way around this, thanks to Windows’s ability to mount ISO images as virtual drives. The idea is to take the content of the DVDs, and convert it into an ISO file, and then mount it as a DVD. An ISO file is a special file structure that packs the content of a CD, DVD or Blue-ray disk into a single file, and as I said, Windows can natively “mount” such a file to behave and look just like you had a physical drive with the original disk in it.

To convert the DVDs into ISO files, you need a special tool, and unfortunately, this doesn’t come with Windows. My favorite tool is CDIMAGE, which is free and doesn’t come with any crapware or heavy installers. However, it does require some above-average understanding of files, folder and the CMD command prompt, so less technical users might prefer a tool like WINISO or WINIMAGE, which can do this with a visual interface. Once you have converted the content of the 4 DVDs into ISO files, you can just mount them as drives (one at a time, or all at once, up to you) and start using the software. Here are some more important things to know, though:

1. Disk 1 is just the catalog, and once you install it, you can discard the ISO to free up 3 GB of space.

2. You can’t install the software over the network, so make sure you use the DVD (no.1) or an ISO for that

3. The image catalog browser looks for the disks based on volume label, so when creating the ISOs, make sure you specify them as part of the process. The labels are “AE DVD 1”, “AE DVD 2” etc.

4. The DVDs have file names with special characters, so make sure you configure the imaging software to take this into account. For example, if you’re using CDIMAGE that I mentioned above, use the following format:

CDIMAGE –n –d –m –o –c -l”AE DVD1” D:\ c:\ClipArt1.iso


Occasionally, this might fail as well, for some really weird Unicode chars. An alternative that might help is:

CDIMAGE -m –o –j1 -l”AE DVD1” D:\ c:\ClipArt1.iso