Chris Martin's Blog

I am building a new blog

This site is old. I'm making a new blog at Please check there going forward. I might migrate content over from this one someday....

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Mobile Hotspot Data Limits and How To "Avoid" Them

(If you don't wish to learn then just skip to the Recipe section below.)


With the pandemic and its shelter-in-place orders upon us, many people are suddenly reliant on internet access at home to meet their basic needs like earning income, staying in school, and interacting with other humans. Unfortunately, terrestrial internet service is unavailable for tens of millions of rural or low-income people in the USA...

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Hazard Fraught Travel Trailer


I built a travel/camping/cargo trailer sized for a subcompact car. It took about a month of evenings and weekends. Go here for a photo album! Or, read on for background, photo tour, and FAQ....

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I Built a Workbench



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Yaesu FT-70D Preliminary Review and Photos

My amateur radio career began with a Baofeng UV-5R walkie talkie (HT), bought for a song at the OVARC hamfest in beautiful Marana, AZ.

OVARC hamfest photo courtesy WD7F

(Photo from WD7F)


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Qubes OS Evaluation Notes

Last weekend I tried out Qubes OS (4.0 RC3).

I was drawn to it by the promise of having both work and personal activities on the same hardware (yet still compartmentalized), i.e. not carrying two laptops around anymore; also by the security benefit of separating activities into "high-trust" and "low-trust" execution environments with different access to network and hardware, while still hopefully having an integrated, usable system....

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Shell into Travis CI Build Environment

yellow hard hat as turtle shell

Your CI builds are failing and you're not sure why. Troubleshooting a broken Travis CI build has a fairly long tweak-test cycle time: you add some debugging statements, commit and push, wait for the build to start, maybe get a few more clues, then rinse and repeat until you've found the problem and fixed the build. If only you could get a shell in the build environment, and troubleshoot interactively!

This feature isn't built into Travis CI, but it can be obtained with the following recipe...

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Breaking Up With Your Phone

dark cell phone tower

Let's decouple our ability to call and text from the need to carry a mobile phone. You can port your phone number to a VoIP + SMS provider, then access its services using platform-agnostic protocols and client software that you can run on any computer or network connection in the world, including a mobile phone when you choose. The goal is to maintain your access to the PSTN + SMS networks, and your existing identity (phone number) on those networks, regardless of which device you're using, without having to run proprietary software...

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Hacking an LCD Monitor with MicroPython

Last week at PyCon, I had a lot of fun with the MicroPython on BBC micro:bit team. I wrote a few simple games to learn the MicroPython API, including a multiplayer game that uses the new radio module.

BBC micro:bit

This weekend, I built a hardware integration project to demonstrate some other capabilities...

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Introducing Don't Moderate Me

TL;DR: check out Don't Moderate Me and sign up at

People often consider social media, news sites, and online forums as public places for free exchange of ideas, but they are not. Behind every web site is a party, be it a megacorp or an individual, who exercises complete control over which content is served to users. You won't notice this if you avoid controversial topics, but ask anyone who has engaged in online potitical speech, or posted a critical product review to a shopping site, only to have their words redacted without explanation.

cathedral and bazaar...

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Grand Canyon Rim-River-Rim Day/Night Hike

Public transit opens up many trip options that otherwise require shuttling two cars, hitching, or a long road walk. Night hiking opens up trips that are otherwise too hot or crowded, which is especially useful in a place like Grand Canyon.

Andrew staring at the river just before we leave it

This strenuous but very rewarding walk is a spectacular descent to the Colorado River, a nice respite at the bottom with two suspension bridge crossings, and a sustained-yet-cool evening climb along verdant creeks. I recommend it if you want to hike a BIG slice of the Grand Canyon without the bureaucratic permit acquisition hassle associated with backpacking, provided that you're an experienced hiker at a good fitness level and you aren't scared of the dark...

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Introducing smog: Simple Markdown blOG

I should write a blog - no - I should write software for blogs

smog is intended to be a lightweight yet feature-complete blog platform for individuals and organizations. I wrote smog in about 60 hours to learn web development using Python and the Flask microframework, after trying other blog platforms and deciding they weren't for me...

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Sit/Stand Desk: IKEA SKARSTA Review

(Scroll to bottom of post for long-term update)

For most of my life as a knowledge worker, I've used some sort of sitting/standing desk.

An early standing desk

This started with cardboard boxes on an existing desk ($0). Eventually, I raised the entire desk on 8" bed risers (~$20). These arrangements worked okay for years, but you cannot easily tune the standing height, and if you want to sit at a desk on bed risers, you need either a drafting chair or tall bar stool.

Having just moved across the country, I started from scratch and needed to solve this problem again. (Remote work doesn't come with employer-provided furniture.)

An adjustable sit/stand desk would be the perfect solution, but at $500-3000+, these have long been niche items for companies with an ergonomics budget. The world needs a cheap-but-good-enough sit/stand desk for the masses...

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