Installed rear shocks on Mazdaspeed

We had a rare free day this weekend, usually they’re filled up with softball, baseball and/or soccer games. I took the free day to do some car maintenance. I’m in desperate need of new shocks and struts, already ate through one set of tires. Saturday I replaced the rear shocks. It took me 4 hours, taking pictures and reading instructions that came with the parts.

It’s pretty difficult finding parts for the Mazdaspeed version of the Mazda 3, it’s either OEM parts from the Mazda dealer which is clearly $$$, or it’s some performance parts. I was trying to balance price with performance, so I ended up with the Corksport adjustable shocks and struts. They are the cheapest yet still offer some level of performance. I really wanted to get the spring combo but that was another $200.


Why not take it to a shop? Well the last 2 quotes I got were about $250+ in labor for the rear shocks. That’s too rich for my blood especially for removing 4 bolts. Here’s a high level description of what I had to do, see the Corksport site for detailed instructions and be sure to checkout the Mazdaspeed forums for advice as well.

  1. Raise vehicle onto jack stands, since you’ll need the jack for a later step IMG_0691
  2. Use the floor jack on the lower control arm to compress the rear spring, and to alleviate pressure on the shocks.IMG_0701
  3. Use a 17mm socket to remove the lower bolt of shock  IMG_0693
  4. Use a 12mm deep socket to remove the two nuts holding the top mount in place.IMG_0697
  5. Now you need to manually compress the shock to allow it to clear the lower bracket in order to be removed from the vehicle.
  6. Once removed, used a 13mm socket to remove the nut holding the aluminum mount to the shock. I had to use a pair of vise grips to hold the shock bolt from moving while removing the nut. The stock bump stops were shot.IMG_0704

That is the standard removal steps. Now the rest are Corksport specific. For the Corksport shocks you only need to keep the aluminum mount.

  1. Retain the stock aluminum mounts, remove the stock bump stops (they’re probably trash anyway), and the stock dust cover.
  2. Place the aluminum mount onto the Corksport shock. You will notice there isn’t much bolt that comes through the mount. This took me a while to figure out. Press the mount down onto the shock, you might have to compress the shock, then put the nut on the bolt and start turning until it latches. This took a bit of pressure and patience. Tighten the nut to 18 lb-ft of torque.
  3. The bump stops pre-installed on the Corksport shocks will compress to allow you to properly torque down the nut and install the mount.

At this point the old shocks will have been removed, the new ones have the mounts installed, and you are ready to install the new ones on the vechicle.

  1. Manually compress the shocks so you can get the shocks into the wheel well.
  2. Insert the top mount onto the 2 mounting bolts.
  3. Align the bottom to the lower bracket. You have 2 options here.
    1. Let the bottom go through the bracket to be compressed by hand later
    2. Keep the shock compressed while you insert the 17mm bolt to hold the bottom of the shock in place.IMG_0702
  4. Install the 12mm nuts on the top mounting bolts. Torque them down to 18 lb-ft.
  5. Now install the 17mm bolt on the bottom and torque it down to 50 lb-ft.
  6. Lower the floor jack to relieve the pressure on the spring.
  7. Re-install the tire and you’re DONE! IMG_0699 IMG_0698
  8. Repeat for the other side.

Now I need to replace the front struts. Those are not as trivial since they involve compressing the springs on the strut, and lot’s of penetrating oil. We’ll see if $250+ is worth it for the front or if I feel inspired to do this myself.

Soccer player

Marco’s been super busy playing soccer with both his middle school team and his club soccer team. He’s not getting a lot of playing time on middle school during the conference games which he expected being one of the few 7th graders on a team full of 8th grade veterans. But his club soccer team hasn’t been playing him as often as he wanted despite working equally hard.

So to hopefully cheer him up and keep up his spirits I write him a poem, I guess you can call it a poem. At 5:40am I came up with this (I revised it a bit to add more).

Soccer Player by Jesus Rodriguez

When I’m on the bench, I do not feel fine.
I’m not a bench warmer, I’m putting in time.

When I play defense, I will be agile and fast.
When I play defense, nothing will get past.

When I play offense, I will not bore.
As the offense, I will shoot and score.

As the goalie, I will block all.
Because as the goalie, I am a brick wall.

Nothing will cause dismay.
Because soccer is what I play.

Fun with cli file transformation

I used the Wake County property tax page to get a list of all of the homes in our neighborhood. I pasted that into a spreadsheet. The Proper and Proper last columns are actually cells using the =PROPER() function. It takes the given cell and converts it from all upper case to proper case. The resulting list looks like this:

Address Street Last name Owners Proper Proper last E-mail

I probably could’ve done this whole thing without using the spreadsheet or the =PROPER() function but it was easier considering the original data came from a table. I then exported that as a CSV file.

Address,Street,Last name,Owners,Proper,Proper last,E-mail,

What I’m trying to do is get a list with the following format:

"First Lastname" <>, "First Lastname" <>

I did it with the following command line. The trickiest was getting awk to print out the double quotes uses “\42”

cat neighbors.csv | grep -v ^Address | awk -F , '{print "\42"$5" "$6"\42 <"$7">,"}' | grep -v "<>" | tr '\n' ' ' > full-list.txt

I then copy and pasted the resulting file contents into the “Direct add members” feature. The one tidbit that I had to do was only copy and paste 10 addresses at once. I probably could’ve updated the above script to do that for me. But by this point I got 90% of what I needed so I just split the rest by hand.

Remote connection to Windows from Nexus 4

I setup Windows 7 running in a VirtualBox guest on my CentOS 7 Linux server (mostly for doing taxes and having a Windows test machine). I’ve configured it to start headless, that is without a monitor on the server. My main means of connection is using rdesktop from my Fedora Linux desktops.

Tonight, I decided to see how smart my smartphone really is. Could I connect remotely to a Windows 7 box using a 4.7″ Nexus 4 Android phone? The answer? YES! Using RD Client I connected to the Windows machine and was able to interact with it. Is this a usable solution on such a small screen? No way. But if you need to access something you might be able to get around well enough to get what you want.

Connecting to Windows 7 using RD client on a Nexus 4 phone

If this was going to be something you did regularly, I’d suggest at least a 7″ tablet, probably a good 10″ one would be best.

Any way, why did I do this? Because I can. Isn’t technology fun?

aliases for VirtualBox’ VBoxManage commands

VBoxManage allows you to interact with VirtualBox using the CLI. You can do just about anything with the command, from starting/stopping VMs. Getting detailed information, modifying or even handling the disks and other storage media. To see all you can do with it checkout this document:

I typically deal with 3 commands, starting/stopping vms and seeing the list of vms.

VBoxManage list vms|runningvms|...
VBoxManage startvm vmname --type headless
VBoxManage controlvm vmname savestate|poweroff

To make it easier I created some aliases for the above commands in my .bashrc as bash functions:

  • showvms
  • startvm
  • stopvm

Here are the functions:

startvm ()
    # start a VM as headless, no need for a GUI
    __davms "startvm" "--type headless"

stopvm ()
    # allow stopping a VM by saving its state or simply turning it off
    if [ "$1" == "--poweroff" ]; then
    __davms "controlvm" $action

showvms ()
    # show all of the VMs including those that are running
    echo "All VMs:"
    VBoxManage list vms
    echo ""
    echo "Runnings VMs:"
    VBoxManage list runningvms

All of the bash functions use a common helper function __davms. I’m sure there are much nicer ways to alter the list but I stuck with sed and gawk.

__davms ()
    cmd="VBoxManage $1"
    # some commands require parameters AFTER the vmname is specified
    case "$1" in
            davms=$(VBoxManage list runningvms | sed 's/\"\ {/\"-{/' | grep ^\" | sed 's/\"//g')
            matches=$(echo $davms | gawk -F '}' '{print NF}')
            davms=$(VBoxManage list vms | sed 's/\"\ {/\"-{/' | grep ^\" | sed 's/\"//g')
            matches=$(echo $davms | gawk -F '}' '{print NF}')

    case "$matches" in
           echo "No vms found"
           echo "Multiple matches found..."
           for option in $davms
              echo "$i: $option" | sed 's/-{/\ {/'
              i=`expr $i + 1`
           echo "q: Quit"
           read -p "? " ans
           if [ "q" == "$ans" ]; then
              show=$(echo $davms | gawk '{print $'$ans'}' | sed 's/-{/\ /' | gawk '{print $1}')

    if [ "" != "$show" ]; then
       #$cmd $show $cmd_suffix
       echo $cmd $show $cmd_suffix


Here’s what you see when you run these commands:

$ showvms
All VMs:
"os2" {036ff7c1-81b1-47ee-8c63-af4eff9f8998}
"fedora21" {e43a72c8-ce14-40a4-872a-bc863c186569}
"centos7" {f05e6d7f-b054-4b81-88a0-87f58a9bba53}
"windows7" {d7abca3c-3052-4003-8832-76815fc4d69c}

Runnings VMs:
"windows7" {d7abca3c-3052-4003-8832-76815fc4d69c}
$ startvm

Multiple matches found...
1: os2 {036ff7c1-81b1-47ee-8c63-af4eff9f8998}
2: fedora21 {e43a72c8-ce14-40a4-872a-bc863c186569}
3: centos7 {f05e6d7f-b054-4b81-88a0-87f58a9bba53}
4: windows7 {d7abca3c-3052-4003-8832-76815fc4d69c}
q: Quit

$ stopvm

Multiple matches found...
1: windows7 {d7abca3c-3052-4003-8832-76815fc4d69c}
q: Quit