Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Now get back to work!

You have tens of MILLIONS of welfare scammers, disability scammers, Social Security scammers, and ALL of Washington D.C. to support!

Video Project In The Home Stretch....

And yow...I learned more than I really wanted to, but what I needed.

After fighting for a day with trying to get the project exported to Adobe Encore, I just gave up, and figured I'd just burn the compled file, already in MPEG-2 (DVD) format to a disk.

That worked, and it's playable, BUT.....

It didn't have any menus, and required me to do some things with my Oppo BDP-83 Blu-Ray/DVD player that *might* not be possible to do with other players in order to get the disk to play.

Since I'm not sure how many copies of these my brother-in-law will make, I figured I'd better do my best to make these a "universal" disk that will play in any player.

Off to the Adobe Encore forums!

Adobe has some very nicely done on-line tutorials, so for most of today I've been reading, experimenting, and most importantly, LEARNING how to use all the software I have.

It's NOT real intuitive, and the Dynamic Linkage between the two programs has to be done correctly, or *nothing* happens.

Well, I finally figured that part out, and how to make those nice menus with "Play", "Set Up", "Chapters", "Extras", and all that stuff you see when you pop in a store-bought DVD and play it.

Fortunately, Encore has a "Check Build" function you can invoke that checks all the various things required to get a functional DVD built, and boy, did it come in handy.

After reading all the warnings I got the first time I ran it, and spending several mores hours reading the forums, I was able to understand and fix all the warnings and errors it generated when it checked my project.

The first disk id rendering now, and I should be able to burn it and test before the end of the year......!

After that, assuming it plays OK, I "just" have to assemble the various sequences for each disk I want to author, export them from Premiere Pro to Encore, and build them.

And I'll probably forget all this stuff in two weeks, and go through the hair-pulling routine again the next time I use the software.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

CWII Waiting In The Wings?

The Silicon Graybeard had some links to some very interesting reading.

The first is a great piece over at Free North Carolina, and the other a piece over at Angry White Dude's place.

Go over to Graybeard's place and RTWT, as he's much better at writing about this stuff than I *ever* will be.

MY take on things?

I don't really know what will happen, but if Big Brother starts pushing too hard, I think we'll see a lot of Matt Bracken and Vince Flynn "Term Limits" stuff start to go down.

One thing to keep in mind, is that even if you back off a rattler after you've annoyed him, he still might strike.

And since the dunderheads in power are too stupid or too ideologically driven to back off......

Friday, December 28, 2012

Video Project Progress

Well, I *finally* have all twelve tapes on hard-disk, a process called "Ingest" in the biz.

I had some real hair pulling moments doing this, as somewhere along the line, the audio settings in Windoze got changed, and seven of the twelve tapes recorded without sound.


After I re-recorded them and stopped the capture, Premiere Pro would hang up with a "Conforming XXXX.AVI" message, and the progress bar indicating it was saving to disk never budged. After a few minutes of this, the program would stop responding, and die.

Took me most of a day, a lot of head scratching and book reading (Yes, I *do* RTFM), and prowling the Adobe Premiere Pro forums, but I figured it out. The bit rate between what Windoze had the sound card set to, and what Premiere Pro was using, didn't match, causing a huge problem that Premier Pro tried to correct, by transcoding the audio (part of the "Conforming" process) to the bit rate used for DVD.

WELL.......if the bit rates are different enough, it can take forever to resample the original audio stream, and convert it to the new rate.

And in some cases, it simply can't be done without causing big "holes" in the data stream, which the program won't accept, and so you spiral down in flames, waiting for the job to finish.

SO, now that I have all the tapes *properly* recorded to disk, I assigned the "In Points" and "Out Points" to each of the 18 "clips" I made from the twelve tapes. The "Ins" and "Outs" are simply the points at which the video starts to play, and are used to eliminate the first few crummy/bad/distorted frames of video that the camcorder produces when it first starts to record. They're used for other things, like selecting where you want to do other stuff, but for now that's how I'm using them.

Now "all" I have to do is to assemble the clips in a sequence, add the transitions ("Fade To Black" stuff) between the clips, make sure the completed sequence will fit on a DVD, and save each sequence as a "Project".

That will complete the editing portion of the project, and I can go on to "author" the DVD using Adobe Encore, and then burn the DVDs for my brother-in-law. He says his kids, now fully grown with their own children, have never seen the tapes.

The reason I built a studio-grade PC hardware and software suite, was that I wanted to be able to capture HD video from the Component Video jacks on the back of my DirecTV box, back when I had DirecTV.

I literally bought EVERY "consumer grade" video capture device on the market, and tried them all. Some of them has S-Video inputs, and a couple had "component video" inputs, and they ALL used USB to connect to the PC.

They ALL sucked, producing at best, video that looked like a VHS tape.

So, I bit the bullet, and bought a Matrox RT.X2 video capture card, which came bundled with a full version of Adobe Premiere Pro.

While this is still a top-notch video capture and editing system, times have changed, and now there are little stand-alone boxes that will actually do HD video, and they cost a whole lot less than what I paid for my hardware.

But then again, we're paying about the same for 40MB fiber-to-the-home as I was for my dual ISDN lines that gave me 128kB back in 1997, and those dollars were a whole bunch bigger.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Everybody

One of my "other" favorite Christmas songs is Gregg Lake's "I Belive In Father Christmas".

When he first released this song he caught a lot of flack for being anti-religious, anti-Christmas, and a whole lot of other things.

I caught him by surprise, as he intended the song to be about how Christmas has changed, and had become too commercialized.

The lyricist, Peter Sinfield, said that he considered it to be about the loss of innocence, and childhood beliefs.

Lake said later in an interview:

"I find it appalling when people say it's politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you've got to talk about 'The Holiday Season.'
Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance.
And I do believe in Father Christmas."

Doesn't sound "anti-anything" to me.

May you and yours have a very joyous Christmas, and a very Happy New Year!


They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell

And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'd be snow at Christmas
They said there'd be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Project

For my brother-in-law.

He and his wife have a stack of VHS tapes that they've wanted to get archived to DVD for quite some time now. I loaned them one of my "spare" VCR's so they could sort through their tapes after the VCR they had died, and I couldn't fix it.

They went through ALL of the tapes they had, and found the ones with their kids growing up, and brought them over before I went out on the last launch.

Since I have professional ("Studio Quality" as of 2005) video capture equipment, and a couple of studio-type editing decks with S-VHS outputs, I got started on the project Thursday afternoon.

I hadn't fired up the PC that runs my audio and video capturing software since last January when I digitized a whole stack of LP's I have, so I spent most of Friday just updating all the software. The PC is running Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit, and after I hooked everything up and powered up the PC, Windows informed me I did NOT have a "Genuine" copy.


Then I realized I had no network connection, having plugged the cable into an "Uplink" port on the router.


Once I got an Internet connection, it called home to the mothership, and the "NOT GENUINE WINDOW$" warning was replaced by a "Validation Period Has Expired. Would You Like To Validate This Copy Of Windows?", which is a whole lot better than "contact us to buy a new serial number"!

Turns out the PC hadn't been online in so long, and was missing so many OS updates, that Micro$oft didn't know what to do with it.

SO.....after spending most of yesterday updating the OS and most of my utilities, I had things running smoothly again.

Then I realized I *really* need two monitors to do video capture and editing with, so off to Best Buy. I lucked out on the monitor, and was able to get a 27" LG that they had just put on the shelf for $100 off! It had been a return from somebody who bought it, didn't have the right hardware to use it with, and dragged it back to the store for an exchange.

It "only" does 1920 x 1080 (they made the pixels bigger), but it's beautiful, and has an LED backlight, so it's very light, thin, and puts out practically no heat.

And while I was there I picked up a newer video card, an ATI Radeon HD7700.

I usually get NVidia-based cards, but ATI/AMD has a very slight edge in displaying video, as opposed to NVidia, who rocks the gaming world, and has FAR better Linux support.

So I've now captured about half the tapes, and have a rough idea how I'm going to organize them on the DVD's I'll author using all the Adobe software I have.

I might even get creative, and add some period-correct music for the opening titles, as each tape has the date on it.

I won't be done by Christmas, but I should have a nice stack of DVD's for them for the new year.

And yes, they both realize that just because it's on a DVD doesn't mean it will be "DVD Quality", although I'll clean up the color balance and fix as much as I can.

I've done video capture and conversion for people before, and some of them simply didn't understand that you're strictly limited by the quality of the source material. Somehow they thought that putting their old tapes on a DVD would magically make them "DVD Quality".

The old adage of "Garbage IN => Garbage OUT" definitely applies!

Back to work......

Saturday, December 22, 2012

New Shoes for the Jeep

I knew I needed tires, as the Goodyear Wrangler SR-A 245/65R17's that it came with were just about down to the tread wear indicators.

Then last Sunday, during the Great Battery Expedition, I was rounding a familiar turn in the rain, and the front end washed out and started to slide.

Yes, my Jeep has full-time AWD, but when the tires are turning, and applying power, and worn, they'll skid in the rain.

So, since I'd been researching tires for a few weeks, I decide on what brand and size to buy.

The OEM tires were 9.8" in section width, 65 in aspect ratio, and 29.5" tall. The rolling radius gave them 702 revolutions per mile.

I wanted a wider tire, with close to the same revs/mile, so I started looking at the tire manufacturer's websites to get the specs I needed.

A 275/60R17 would give me a tire about 10.8" wide, with close to the same revs/mile (697, a few less), and I settled on Bridgestone Dueller H/L Alenza tires.

The local tire place didn't have them, but they were in the warehouse, and they had them the next day bynoon.

I went in at 1pm, and was out by 1:45 with 4 new tires, mounted, spun balanced, with free rotation and balancing for the life of the tire.

I also spent an extra $23 per tire for a "certificate" that will replace the tire, for free, if it gets damaged in the shoulder or sidewall where it can't be repaired.

So far they seem to be pretty good tires. The ride is better, and they're a bit quieter than the Goodyears.
And they look great on the Jeep! Just enough extra width to make it look a bit more "serious", and with the 60 aspect ratio they're just as tall, filling up the wheel well nicely.

I do NOT cotton to those running around in SUV's with the 22" rims and the super low profile "rubber band" tires! The first curb they clobber will chew up the rim, and probably wipe out the sidewall.

And I always take it easy the first few hundred miles on new tires, checking the pressure, and retorquing the rims after a 100 miles or so.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Go Read This. NOW

H/T to Old_NFO.

An excellent response as to WHY we should have armed people in schools.

They don't have to be the teachers, but somebody on-site MUST be armed to prevent further mass killings like the recent one in Snady Hook.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jew Without A Gun

Tip of the hat to wirecutter, who got it from his friend Sammy.

I am republishing my three-part series about the LA Riots of 1992 in which Karen and I and the children were trapped for several frightening hours. We were unarmed, helpless save for our wits. The police were conspicuously absent and the bad guys, frequently armed with heavy weapons, owned the streets. It was a defining moment in my life.
I’m reposting this series as a cautionary tale because the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre has sharpened the claws of the statist utopians, whose ultimate aim is to disarm law-abiding American citizens.
Just as Obamacare has nothing to do with health, and cap and trade has nothing to do with so-called global warming, anti-gun laws have nothing to do with saving children’s lives.
It’s just another opportunity for the left to centralize power.

Go here to read the rest.

 It's excellent!

I remember the 1992 LA riots. I was living in Redondo Beach at the time, and we could see the smoke rising in LA quite clearly. Since we were under a sunset-to-sunup curfew, we made sure we went to the store during the day and laid in a decent supply of water and other food.
My roommate, my best buddy from college, had his Remington 1100 that he used to shoot skeet with, and we spent part of the day cleaning it, and swapping out the choke tube for the "Improved Cylinder" one he had.

And we went to Turner's and grabbed several boxes of 00 Buck, and a couple of boxes of slugs........


Doomsday? We're Still Here!

I got an email from one of my Ham Radio buddies in New Zeland a few hours ago.

He said "We're Still here. What did you expect?".

One of the radio clubs in Arizona ran a special event station with the callsign N0D, for "Now Zero Days".

I tried to contact them, but they had such a pile up I gave up!

Here's their QSL card:

Anyway....assuming we *are* still here on Friday, I get to have the pleasure of getting 4 new tires for my Jeep!

Hope it goes better than the battery escapade did.....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Assault Magazines"?? WTF Is Nazi Pelosi Smoking?

Or maybe all the Botox has (finally) destroyed what was left of her pitiful little brain.

She was doing an interview on MSLSD MSNBC and she said "Assault Magazines should be outlawed".

Go read the whole thing over at Freedom Outpost.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

New Little SHTF Radio! The Kaito KA600 Voyager Pro

Kaito makes some decent radios for the money, as does Tecsun. I have a Tecsun PL-660, and I really like it. I think it's a bit more sensitive than my little Grundig G3, but I forgot to take it with me the last time I went out to sea. I *will* take it out on the next launch, though.

So the other day I received an email from KaitoUSA with a special offer to buy one of their new radios at an introductory price, with free shipping.

Even though I have plenty of receivers (just ask my wife!), I figured for $60 and free shipping, what did I have to lose?

The newest addition here is the Kaito KA600 "Voyager Pro", and man, does this thing have features!

It covers the AM radio band, the FM radio band (stereo with the included ear buds), all of the NOAA Weather Radio channels, with a "Severe Weather Alert" function, and it covers the shortwave bands from 2.3MHz to 23.0MHz, all nicely divided up, and available as "Meter Bands" for those that don't speak frequency.

It has both a hand-crank dynamo for charging it's own NiMH battery pack (included), and a solar cell that will run the radio without any batteries at all. takes 3 "AA" batteries to run the radio with, something that an awful lot of these "Solar/Hand Crank" radios won't.

It has a very bright 3-LED flashlight in one side, and the back of the fold-out solar panel has a reading light.

And it has a standard clock/alarm/calendar function with multiple timers, a snooze button, and a temperature/humidity display.

The neat thing about this one is that it has  USB jack on the back panel that you can use to charge your cellphone using the built-in hand-crank, -OR- you can charge the radio the radio's internal battery by plugging it into your PC.

So far I've just checked out the AM, FM, and NOAA Weather Radio functions, and it seems to do the job very well, even with the telescopic antenna all the way down.

The only downside to this little guy, at least to me, is that it doesn't have a BFO, so you can't listen to Amateur Radio operators, or any other group that uses Single Sideband.

Considering all the other things it does, and the fact that you can get it for $80 on Amazon, I think it's money well spent, and if you've had an "Emergency Radio" on your list, then get this one.

I highly recommend it!


The wife and I went out to my Jeep last night on our way out to dinner.

I put in the key, turned it on, and BRAAAAAAAAP!

The lovely sound of a solenoid *trying* to engage, and the battery not having enough juice to pul it in, and crank the engine.

I didn't leave any of the lights on, so, rather mystified, we took her car to dinner.

I put my charger on it when we got back home, and it proceeded to max out the charger at 10 Amps. I left it sit for a couple of hours, and when I checked it again, it was still pumping 10 Amps into the battery, so I let it charge all night long.

This morning it had dropped down to around 2 Amps, so I pulled the charger off, and checked the resting voltage.

Uh-oh....11.48 Volts!

It was enough to start the car with (barely!), and after it started I put the voltmeter back on the battery, and it showed 14.6 Volts, indicating the alternator was doing it's best to pump some charge back into the battery.

I let it run for about 30 minutes, and checked the engine off voltage, and it was back to ~11.5 Volts.....NOT a good sign.

Came back in the house, and started battery shopping on line.

Since this car has the 5.7 L Hemi, AND the Class-IV trailer towing package, it came with the heavy-duty cooling system, an oil cooler, a 160 Amp alternator, and the biggest battery I've ever seen outside of a Cat Diesel.

Since I always use a Deep Cycle battery due to the radio gear I carry, and Optima does NOT make a Group 72 size battery I was pretty limited in where I could buy a battery.

I wound up going to (UGH!) AutoZone.

BUT.....since I also needed a better charger, wiper blades for our 4 cars (it's rainy season out here), some washer fluid, and a bunch of other miscellaneous auto stuff, I went down the street to O'Reilly's to buy all the other stuff.

When I took the defunct battery out of the car, I noticed the end of the case by the positive post was HOT, much hotter than the other end of the case, and it was bulged out, so it looks like that cell developed a short, or very high leakage. This is probably a result of my leaving my Kenwood TM-D710 radio and GPS connected while I was gone for 3 weeks last year on a launch, and had a completely dead battery when I got back.

Standard automotive ("SLI", for Starting, Lighting, and Ignition) batteries do NOT take kindly to
1) Having a slow, constant drain on them
2) Being discharged and LEFT discharged for any length of time.

They're designed to put out a huge blast of current to start the engine, and then get recharged immediately.

Now here's where it gets interesting. When I took the dead battery back for my $12 core credit, there was an AutoZoner pushing a cart back in the store that he had previously used to help a young lady carry her stuff out to her car. I asked the guy if He could lug the battery inside for me, and he said he was "too busy".


So, I lug all 55 pounds of DEAD battery into the store by myself.
I'm in line at the "Parts" counter, where I had picked up the battery earlier, balancing it on a display rack. Then this guy behind the parts counter says "All of you people, the line starts over there", pointing to where the normal checkout line for people that get their own stuff go.

And there's about 25 people in line!

So I start to come forward so I can put the battery on the counter, and the guy goes "Go to the END OF THE LINE!". I say I just want to put the battery on the counter because its heavy, and he says again "Go to the END OF THE LINE!", and he seems to be getting testy.

I say again that I just want to put the battery on the counter because it's really heavy, and he spouts off "I don't care. GO TO THE END OF THE LINE. NOW!".

By this time some of the other people are saying to just "Let the old guy put the battery down, fer Pete's sake", and the guy starts yelling.


About this time (a good 15 minutes) I decided I'd had enough. I dump the battery down on the floor and state "KEEP the damn core charge. I will NEVER set foot in an AutoZone again!", and start walking out.

A couple of people applauded, and one of them held the door for me.

From now on O'Reilly's gets ALL my auto parts business.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New "Earth At Night" Pix And Videos from NASA

NASA-NOAA has just published the newest "Earth at Night" pictures and videos from the Suomi NPP satellite.

The website with the video is here.

It's pretty neat to watch the Earth revolve under the satellite, and watch the cities go by!

I had to scale this down to 25% so Blogger would accept it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook, CT School Shooting

My wife just called from the school she works at requesting verification of the above.

Yep, some nut case went and killed 27 people, 18 of them being children.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Back Home

And I slept until 0700, got up to move my Jeep for street sweeping day, and promptly went back to bed. least I'm all unpacked, the bags are back in the garage, and I'm off until Monday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

*MY* Favorite Christmas Song

Blame Borepatch....he started it!



"Bah, humbug!" No, that's too strong
'Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year's been a busy blur
Don't think I have the energy
To add to my already mad rush
Just 'cause it's 'tis the season.
The perfect gift for me would be
Completions and connections left from
Last year, ski shop,
Encounter, most interesting.
Had his number but never the time
Most of '81 passed along those lines.
So deck those halls, trim those trees
Raise up cups of Christmas cheer,
I just need to catch my breath,
Christmas by myself this year.
Calendar picture, frozen landscape,
Chilled this room for twenty-four days,
Evergreens, sparkling snow
Get this winter over with!
Flashback to springtime, saw him again,
Would've been good to go for lunch,
Couldn't agree when we were both free,
We tried, we said we'd keep in touch.
Didn't, of course, 'til summertime,
Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?
No, this time it was me,
Sunburn in the third degree.
Now the calendar's just one page
And, of course, I am excited
Tonight's the night, but I've set my mind
Not to do too much about it.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
But I think I'll miss this one this year.
Hardly dashing through the snow
Cause I bundled up too tight
Last minute have-to-do's
A few cards a few calls
'Cause it's r-s-v-p
No thanks, no party lights
It's Christmas Eve, gonna relax
Turned down all of my invites. Last fall I had a night to myself,
Same guy called, halloween party,
Waited all night for him to show,
This time his car wouldn't go,
Forget it, it's cold, it's getting late,
Trudge on home to celebrate
In a quiet way, unwind
Doing Christmas right this time.
A&P has provided me
With the world's smallest turkey
Already in the oven, nice and hot
Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?
So on with the boots, back out in the snow
To the only all-night grocery,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
In the line is that guy I've been chasing all year!
"I'm spending this one alone," he said.
"Need a break; this year's been crazy."
I said, "Me too, but why are you?
You mean you forgot cranberries too?"
Then suddenly we laughed and laughed
Caught on to what was happening
That Christmas magic's brought this tale
To a very happy ending! "
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn't miss this one this year!
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Couldn't miss this one this year!


Guess The Island!

It's off the coast of Southern California, it's NOT Catalina, and a lot of things go BOOM! there.

I have a funny feeling Old_NFO knows which one it is.......

Sunday, December 9, 2012

SHTF Electronics Part 1 - Basic Tools (continued)

SHTF Electronics Basic Tools

PART ONE: Small Hand Tools (continued)

Now that I’ve covered pliers, I’ll go on to ‘screwdrivery’ things.
BTW, if you think I’ve missed any tools, or have a favorite in the categories I’m covering, please let me know, and I’ll include it in an update to this.
A good set of screwdrivers is essential for living our day-to-day lives. Just witness how many are stored in the “junk drawer” in your kitchen! If you’re at all serious about working on cars or guns, you already have a good set of screwdrivers, both flat-blade and cross-point. While most electronics items can be taken apart and reassembled with the smaller versions from your existing tool box, there are times when you’ll need what’s commonly called a Precision Screwdriver.  These tend to be more slender in comparison with the smallest ones you’ll find in your tool box, and the better ones have a handle with a rotating knob on top so that you can hold the top, while spinning the body.

Wiha makes excellent small screwdrivers, and I’ve been using them for years. They’re not cheap, but if you don’t lose or abuse them, you’ll have them for life.

Besides flat-blade and cross-point, you can also get them with hex, Torx, PoziDriv, and “ball driver” ends in standard and metric sizes.

Wiha has all their offerings here:

They make VERY nice tools.



A while back I had an article about the different types of screw heads. Everybody is familiar with the type that takes a flat-blade screwdriver to turn (“Slotted”), and everybody has used cross-point (“Phillips head”) screws,  along with hex (“ALLEN head”), and Torx (“star”).

And for all the different types of Screw Head shapes, here’s the entry for that.


Nutdrivers are one of those great inventions that you won’t realize how handy they are until you’ve used them a few times. Then, when you don’t have a set handy, and have to dig out your ¼” drive socket set, and fumble around for some loose bits, you’ll wonder how you got along without them. This is especially true if you do a lot of radio work like I do.

I like the complete sets from Xcelite, as shown below.

I’ve been using a set like this since high-school, and if you buy a new set today, they look, feel, and even smell like the ones I’ve been using for 40+ years now. There’s something about the plastic handles that has a very “distinct” odor. When I bought a new set a few years ago and opened them up, I was right back in Mr. Shaw’s Electricity Shop class!
Get both the standard size, and the metric size, and you’ll be set for years.



I’m convinced that ball drivers are one of the better inventions in the tool world. If you’ve never used one, and then somebody loans you a set, you’ll be running out to buy them as soon as you return the loaned set.
Basically, they’re a hex driver with the end ground into a “ball” shape so that you don’t have to insert the tool straight into the screw you’re trying to turn, as shown in the picture below.

They work amazingly well for getting at socket head cap screws in odd positions where you don’t have a ‘straight shot’ at the top of the screw.
A few years ago I saw the regular L-shaped “Allen keys” with the ball end on both the long and short legs of the wrench, and it was one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

As usual, get both a standard set and metric set, and buy good ones. Cheap ball drivers will have the “ball” break off, leading to a stupefying amount of labor to get the busted ball out of the screw!

Bondhus makes nice sets, and you can get their catalog here:

Tuning/Alignment Tools a.k.a “Tweakers” or “Diddle Sticks”

IF you do a lot of radio work, you’re going to need a set of “tuning tools”. These are plastic shafts with hex or screwdriver type ends. Some of them will have a small metal blade so that the plastic doesn’t get chewed up when you run across a stuck slug in a coil or a stuck variable capacitor. The reason they’re made out of plastic, is that if you sick a metal hex tool down into a coil slug, it will alter the inductance of the coil, making it impossible to tune.
The same goes for trying to adjust small “trimmer” capacitors. A metal tool held by your hand will add enough capacitance-to-ground to throw off the circuit, making it very difficult, or impossible, to tune properly.
GC Electronics makes good kits of these, and you can get them direct, through Amazon, and probably eBay. I’ve had mine for so long that I haven’t had to replace them, so I’m not up on where to buy them, other than my favorite little Hole-In-The-Wall electronics store. Radio Shack *used* to sell them, but I can’t find them on their website.


Xcelite also makes a nifty set of hex drivers, and spline and Bristol  drivers (VERY handy for Hallicrafters and Collins Radio work!) that look like these:

The spline and Bristol driver sets looks identical, except the shaft of the bit is spline-shaped or Bristol-shaped, rather than hex.
Yes, you can use the hex drivers (“Allen Keys”) that look like the letter “L”, but these are far better for getting into tight spots, and have a much longer reach.
Again, get both the standard and metric sizes. Bristol is a world of it’s own!

Other Miscellaneous Tools

One tool which I came across is a specialty tool used to remove the circular knurled nuts that hold things like switches or phone jacks to panels.  You can get them in different sizes, so be sure you know what size you’ll need, or you’ll wind up with multiples of the same size, like I have.

Here’s what they look like, and this one is from Stewart-MacDonald Company, a place that sells tools for stringed instrument repair.

Screw and Nut Starters

The most common screw starters are the ones that have a “split blade” which wedges the blade into the slot on the screw, like below:

This one will do both slotted and cross-point screws. One tip I’ve used in the past has been to put a piece of double-sided tape on the end of my finger, and stick the nut/screw to it.

Heathkit and Knight-Kit used to include a nice little plastic tube that would hold small hex nuts while you inserted the screw from the other side. I had a pair of these, but lost them quite some time ago. In a pinch, you can use a length of heat shrinkable tubing that fits the nut, although that starts to get expensive if you have a lot of small hex nuts to install.

That’s it for this installment. Next time I’ll cover soldering and desoldering.

Friday, December 7, 2012

SHTF Electronics Part 1 - Basic Tools

SHTF Electronics Basic Tools

PART ONE: Small Hand Tools

After I wrote up the little “SHTF Radio” article for wirecutter, I started to think a little bit further, and started to think about how I could support other people who might have electronics problems after the SHTF. I started to think about what’s in my toolbox, and on my bench, sort of like the “What’s In YOUR Range Bag” articles that my fellow bloggers have posted.

Now, I’m sure most of you reading this already have quite an assortment of tools. People like us, whether we work on old cars, guns, airplanes, or just tinker around the house, have tools. Lots of tools. My wife used to say TOO MANY tools until she saw me pull some weird looking stuff out of one of my toll boxes, and fixed a problem on her car in 15 minutes that the dealer wanted all day and $450 to fix.
After that episode, whenever I say I’m buying another special tool for something, she just smiles.

A lot of the common tools most of you have are “kinda sorta” suitable for electronics use, but buying some specialized items will make your electronics hobby far more pleasurable, and will surprisingly come in handy for a lot of other things, too.

I’ll start with small hand tools first, and move on up to the more expensive, specialized stuff later.

As a general rule, I stay FAR away from “pre-packaged electronics technician’s tool kits” sold by companies like Jensen Tools and others. Over the years I’ve found their assortments to be lacking in variety, they include tools you’ll rarely (if ever) use, the quality questionable, and the prices outrageously high.

Build your own tool kit, one piece at a time, and buy only the highest quality tools you can afford.

When I mention a specific tool company, keep in mind that I get NO kickbacks, free tools, or other inducements. I’m just recommending tool companies that I’ve used, and own, tools from, and I’ve been doing this stuff for 50 years now. I know what works, what breaks, and what you can get away with!

Gee, where have we heard things like that before?

And BTW....sorry for the crappy formatting of the pictures, and their placement. This damn blogger interface won't let me size and place things where I want to!

Looks like I'll have to crack out the HTML books again, and start doing it that way.

I have a very nice Micro$oft Word document, but when I imported it, it dropped ALL the pictures.

Oh, well........


You need some GOOD QUALITY long nose, or ‘needle nose’ pliers, about 4-1/2 to 6” long. There are many different kinds (smooth jaw, chain nose, serrated jaw, end nipper, flat jaw, curved jaw, etc), and the Xcelite catalog has SEVEN PAGES of long nose pliers!

The same applies to side cutters. You NEED a good, sharp pair of them. If you do a lot of circuit board work, get a pair of flush cut pliers. They clip the leads off right at the solder joint, and don’t leave a sharp point of the cut off lead sticking up, just waiting to snag your hands as you maneuver the board around on the bench. The Xcelite catalog also has seven pages of side cutters.

For long nose pliers, I prefer the Xcelite ELN54 thin long nose model, and for more delicate work, I like their LN542 plier


              ELN54                                                                                   LN542

Get the “Cushion Grip” handles if you can. Your hands will thank you!

For side cutters, I use the MS549J flush cut with a small head for restricted spaces, and the MS54J for general use. For cutting larger leads, I use the S54NS, which have a coil spring to force them back open.

 MS549J                                                               MS54J

Keep in mind that these small pliers are NOT to be used for cutting, bending, or forming anything other than soft copper wire! I loaned a pair to a guy at a job site once who brought them back with a series of round dents in the jaws, complaining that they wouldn’t cut anything. After I calmed down a bit that he’d ruined my $20 pliers, I asked him what he was cutting, and he said “Wire, why?”. He showed me the “wire” he was trying to cut, and it was copper-plated STEEL wire for his MiG welder. The pliers looked like he’d tried to cut small screws with them, and they were completely useless for their intended purpose. If you want to install Cotter keys (“Split Pins”) in your car, use your big old honkin’ Craftsman pliers, NOT your rather delicate Xcelite electronics pliers!

You can download the entire Xcelite catalog at:


Please, don’t use your teeth to strip wire on a regular basis! When I was 10 years old or so, I was having my teeth cleaned, and the Dentist dug out a small piece of red plastic, and wondered out loud what I’d been “eating”. I looked at the piece, and told him it was from some small wire I had to strip, and his jaw about hit the floor.
Besides running the risk of a self-extraction of your incisors, remember what Mom always said…”You don’t know where that’s been!”, and keep your teeth for eating things.

While you can strip wire with your side cutters, it takes skill and experience to do so, and you’ll wind up cutting the end off a LOT of wire before you get the hang of it!

I have two different strippers, for different sizes of wire. They’re not with me now, but one pair will handle up to #10 wire, while the other pair goes down to #24. They overlap a few sizes, but nobody makes a single pair that covers all the wire sizes I work with, so I have two pair.

They look like this:

The pictured ones are made by Klein Tools, whose catalog you can download from here:

You can also use one of the “Automatic” wire strippers if you have the room to do so, and these are really nice if you’re stripping a lot of wires, like to make a wire harness. You’ve probably seen them, and they look like this:

These are made by Ideal Industries, and go by the name of “Stripmaster”. I’ve been using these since my high-school days in the 60’s, and if they’ve been around that long, they must have something going for them!

Ideal is another fine tool maker, and you can download their catalog here:

Snap Ring Pliers

You won’t need these very often when working with electronics, but when you do, you’ll need them. Get a small pair, with changeable tips, and you should be good to go. Most consumer electronics uses “E-rings” or “C- clips”, but occasionally you’ll find small snap rings used, especially in military equipment.

The dreaded “E-Ring” or “C-Clip”

I’ve never seen the two-piece clip in the center, but I’ll bet it’s fun to remove/install. Most of the ones you’ll find are similar to the two in the upper right of the picture. You can pop them off using a small flat blade screw driver, and snap them back on with some long nose pliers.

Be care, or they’ll go flying across the room, leading to their other name, a “Jesus clip”!

That’s it for this chapter. I’ll cover things like nut drivers, precision screwdrivers, hex keys, spline keys, ball drivers, and other “drivers” in the next chapter.

The Truth About AK-47 Firepower

I know this is an old video, but it shows The Gunny's favorite target being turned into fruit salad by a 7.62x39 "AK" round, as well as common hunting rounds.

Pretty interesting stuff.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The First Open Source 3D printed Gun

Pretty interesting.

It survived six shots, and with improved materials , I'm sure it will get better.

Full story located here on Extreme Tech. 

The Weapons Shops of Isher comes to mind......

Rather than  "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free", we'll have "The right to produce weapons is the right to be free".


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stick Family Decal on Window

I forget who posted the stick family on a rear window being chased by a hockey mask wearing, chainsaw wielding stick person, but when I received this in an email, I thought I'd share it.

And here's the original one, courtesy of my friend The Wandering Minstrel.

Thanks, Bob!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Headed Home......

Price of satellite: $60,000,000

Price of Launch Vehicle: $20,000,000

Cost to operate two ships at sea: $1,000,000/day

Price of launch: $95,000,000

Empty hangar on Launch Platform and scorched deck from liftoff: PRICELESS

Should be home on the 11th, and I'll be taking a few days off to clean all the guns, and then hit the pistol range and rifle range with my son. We'll definitely go to Angeles Shooting Range *before* the Christmas break, as the place is just NUTSO crowded between Christmas and New Year's.

They "deferred" our Thanksgiving holiday, and we get two "bonus days" for going on the launch.

I'll be "working" on the Saturday Sunday before we get back so I can "flex" my schedule to take those two days off during the week, and with taking a couple of more days out of my vacation account, I'll be off until the Christmas break, so I won't have to be back until AFTER the New Year.

And I've already started making up my "List Of Things I'll Miss About Working Here" that I'll post about after I retire.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sucessful Spaceraft Separation, and Ground Station Acquisition

And our job as a "You Buy 'Em, We Fly 'Em!" spacecraft trucking company is over for now.

next launch is set for the middle of January. The spacecraft and Payload Accommodation are already in Home Port, waiting for our return.

Since I have five days coming to me, I'll take the rest of next week off after we get back on Tuesday, and use the other two "owed" days the following week.

If I get real ornery, I'll pop for a couple of days of vacation, and won't have to be back until after the 1st of the year.

At this point, I'm "One And I'm Done"!

Since we have no launches sold for 2013 other than the January one, I think I'll just let my career here peter out, and retire/go back to working for myself, like I was doing before they called me back.......

I'm pooped....been running for 12 hours straight. Think I'll take a shower, finish reading "Unintended Consequences", and hit the hay early.


L-3 Hours, and Counting

They just brought the last of the crew from the Launch Platform over, and they're chilling down the fuel.

Fuel and LOX loading will begin in 30 minutes.

L-5 Hours, 30 minutes, And Counting

Looks like it will be a nice day for a launch.

Today's payload is EutelSat 70B, a 5000 kg communications satellite that will serve Europe, Africa, and Central/South East Asia.

I've been up since 0230 to support the weather balloon releases, and trying to cat nap between releasing balloons, setting up antennas, and putting out other little "fires" that pop up.

More info here at this link, including a link to my employer's website where the launch will be carried live.

Back to work.......

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