The pandemic has meant for me a sudden halt in my clinical rotations at the hospital and confinement at home. It was rather frustrating to see the crisis unfold in our healthcare system and especially in our senior’s residences and stand here by the sidelines. However, I soon found a way to partake in this vast effort to fight off Covid-19 by volunteering along with dozens of my peers for the project:

Our website is dedicated to helping healthcare professionals find accurate and up-to-date information about the best ways to manage and treat patients affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

How I Treat Covid-19 banner

Most other volunteers dedicated themselves to sifting through the vast amounts of scientific publications coming out each day. As for myself, I renewed with my previous job as a web developer and got busy building the platform and some of it’s editorial processes.

Every little bit (of code) truly helps in this fight.

Access control list (ACL) extension on MediaWiki

MediaWiki is meant to be an open platform and was not conceived with fine-grained access control in mind (like ACL). For most cases, that’s ok, but on a project I’m working on I’ve felt the need for keeping some parts of my wiki private and secure from indirect access using transclusions or searches.

In order to achieve that, I’ve entirely revamped the Semantic ACL extension, which had been left unmaintained for some years, but had great potential.

Here’s the list of features (more will be added when needed):

  • Works through transclusions: If a page is transcluding a page or a subset of the page that has a protection in place, users not allowed to view that content will see a placeholder message instead.
  • Works with files: If a file is protected, users not allowed to see the file will be denied access to the file page and will see placeholder content where the file is used in other pages. If a file is uncategorized or part of category that an anonymous user is not allowed to see, placeholder content will be displayed instead.
  • Works with search results: Search results including a page that a user is not allowed to see won’t display the content of the page, only its title.
  • Works with Structured Discussions and talk pages: A talk page or a structured discussion will get the same protection as its associated content page.
  • Works within the wiki: No need to edit LocalSettings.php to modify restrictions, everything is done from inside your wiki.
  • Works with many use cases: Restrictions can be enabled for anonymous/registered users, user groups or individual users.

All the docs are on the extension’s page.

Applewood bench

Applewood bench (closeup)Latest in the applewood series, a bench I had started making a couple years ago and that I just got to finishing last fall. It’s made almost entirely from the wood of an old apple tree we had to fell due to disease and that I turned into timber. With enough room to sit two people, I used the straightest  cuts but still had to do a lot of planing and jointing to get something I could actually do proper woodworking with. The bench top itself is a full slice of the tree cut and glued to alternate the grain’s direction and then screwed to a backing of plywood for stability.

Applewood bench

The whole project is assembled using screws hidden behind walnut plugs. The finish is Danish oil for a smooth shine that really enhances the natural beauty and the weathering of this imperfect wood. I’ll admit the end result is most satisfying and sturdy. It found an obvious home in the entrance of our apartment, providing a sitting area where shoes can put on or off and be stored.

Applewood bench

Applewood table lamp

Applewood table lamp closeup
Base details

Latest in my applewood series, a small table lamp put together using reclaimed parts from another derelict lamp that had been sitting around in the basement for ages. It features a bit of detailing in brass rod and an SPST switch to control it.  For the finish, I used danish oil as I feel it does the best job at bringing out the beauty of the intertwined patterns of sapwood and hardwood.

Applewood table lamp

Laminated plywood desk

For a long time I had dreamed of the perfect desk and finally last summer I got around to actually building it. Having come across pieces of furniture made from laminated birch plywood grain-side up, I opted to use that technique for the desk rather than making it from solid planks. Using leftovers, I also built a liquor cabinet in much the same fashion.

Laminated plywood desk oblique view

Laminated plywood desk surface closeup

The surface features inserts of walnut, apple and padauk and the beams are held together by compression using threaded rods. Adjoining the desk is a side table also built using plywood but this time held together using glue. The side table has been made hollow to accommodate some computer parts in a fashion similar to that coffee table I built some years ago. To manage all the cabling, I simply reused a system I had put together for my first desk.

Now for the actual experience of making that projet into reality, it was much much more difficult that originally expected and ended up taking a lot more time. The surface of the desk is actually assembled using beams composed of three planks of plywood screwed together and then planed. Thinking that the beam would sit square once assembled by alternating the saw cuts to offset any errors, I omitted to joint the beams before planing them. In the end they didn’t and I ended up with many crooked beams and a wavy desk surface.

Plywood is not very rigid, that I was aware of, but it’s also quite compressible. In the end, my desk was not thick enough to account for that so once assembled and taught by the threaded rods, it would start bowing after a while. I managed to make the surface sort of straight using shims, but it’s still far from perfect. I’m also not exactly satisfied with the look of the legs, so I plan to revisit this project in the future to build metal legs and a frame to straighten it out.

In spite of all the challenges of building this desk, I’m still very happy with the way it came together. I don’t think I’ll be reusing plywood again for woodworking projets, but I certainly gained a lot from the experience.