Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Not Much Happening Here.....

Which is a good thing!

Borrowed this from Rev Paul:

This is also a pretty good approximation of a Chicago winter, so I chuckled pretty heartily when I saw it.

State-wide totals for the snowpack this year are around 120% of "Normal", so it should ease the drought some. Just hope we don't have any bad flooding this spring.....

The Little Guy's #2 birthday is this weekend, and we'll be hosting the party, which means kids everywhere. We've been cleaning the house the last few days, and I made some changes to the little radio station and workspace I have set up in the sunroom. I pulled out my BIG, HEAVY Astron VS-35 linear power supply:

 And replaced it with a much smaller, lighter Alinco DM-330MV switching power supply.

While I didn't used to be a proponent of switching power supplies for this service back in Ye Dayse of Olde, ones designed for this service have gotten quite good. I also added some ferrite cores on the DC leads coming out"just because". Since I originally bought this supply to use with the Elecraft K2 that I have set up, I figured it's about time I made it earn it's keep. Besides, it's easier to move a 5 lb power supply around than it is a 30 lb power supply.
Oh, and I installed "Baby Smash" on the wife's PC, and gave The Little Guy his own log-in and keyboard.

Thanks to zuk for the tip on Baby Smash. It looks like it'll keep him entertained, and the wife has already agreed giving him his own account was a Good Thing!

Friday, February 22, 2019

GROAN.....Down The Windoze Rabbit Hole.....

Arrrrrgh.......spent the last couple of days working on the wife's PC and all that entails.

It all started out when.......

She came to me the other night and said her PC no longer recognized her password and she couldn't log in to the machine. No problem, I'll just get my software tools out and reset her password to blank characters. Since she'd been allowing the grandson to pound away on the keys while logged in to her account, I figured maybe The Little Guy had randomly slapped some combination of control-alt-Windows key-delete or something and hosed her account.


First, I couldn't locate my discs. I used to keep a ton of stuff in my laptop bag so I could  fix/repair/read out/etc the various systems I used to work on. I had several special discs with various software tools on them, a portable USB CD/DVD burner, a USB floppy drive, cables, adapters, and other "misc junque". After I hung up my spurs, I unloaded that 10 pounds of stuff, which lightened the bag, and slimmed it down, too.

BUT......where'd I put the damn discs?

After spending an hour or so, I gave up and went online to find the tools again. Spent several hours doing that, and trying out "Trial Demo" programs that wouldn't do what I needed, I broke down and paid the $20 for the "Full Version".

I reset her password, rebooted the machine, and called her over to enter a new (or the old one) password, and when she tried it kicked back an error message about "Could Not Load The User Profile". She turned and said "See? It still doesn't recognize my password!".

Oh, boy..........that's a COMPLETELY different error message than "Password Incorrect. Try Again".

So having wasted (not "spent", but wasted) several hours, I had to research what the real error message meant, and fix that problem.

Hours later, after having implemented every single "answer" that Micro$oft had to fix this problem and getting nowhere, I decided to replace the hard drive with a new one, reinstall/update everything, and then go about collecting her data off the 'old' drive.

And as long as I'm at it, I'll replace the DVD drive that won't eject.

And upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB, the maximum this motherboard (Gigabyte GA-P35-DS4) can handle.

Wound up replacing both DVD drives with two NOS ASUS drives I had, and replaced the 300GB hard disc with a 2TB drive I had as a spare from some time back.

The DVD drives I had in there were IDE, with the big, flat ribbon cable, and the ASUS drives are SATA, with one small cable, and power. That meant I had to swap out the data cables and power cables to swap out the drives. So, another trip down to the basement to dig out the right cables, and BTW...where's my big tub of PC memory?

Finally got the cables and memory modules after 45 minutes of rooting around (it would have been several hours, but I've been sorting and binning stuff for the last several months), went back upstairs, and finished the hardware upgrade.

PC booted up just fine, and I started the Installation-Go-Round, with Windows 7 Professional, Office 2008, and all the drivers and stuff for the motherboard.

And then I started the Windoze Update go-round.

And round...

And round.

It's just finishing up the latest round of updates, 184 in all, and I'm sure once it's been rebooted it'll still want more.

And then I can reconnect the old drive and start moving files. If I can't get them using Windoze, I'll pull the drive and connect it to one of my Linux machines, and move them over the network.

And The Little Guy will no longer be allowed to pound on the keys while the computer is on.........

Monday, February 18, 2019

Speakers and Things.....

Got the speaker cabinets all glued together, foamed inside, and "finish sanded" to the point where I can now apply the first coat of the Dura Tex product.

Sanding the MDF they're made from is pretty easy with my $15 Horror Freight orbital sander and a 1/4 sheet of 100 grit paper. It evened out all the corners and edges quite nicely.

There's a few small gaps where the glue didn't completely come out to the exterior surfaces, but the first coat of the Dura Tex should act as a gap-filler. I know they're sealed up pretty tight, as I made sure there was enough glue to completely cover the mating surfaces, and I could see a good bead of glue coming through on the inside. I wiped the inside corners with a damp paper towel, making a nice fillet between the parts.

And we've been cleaning up and straightening out the house for The Little Guy's upcoming 2nd birthday party in about two weeks. *I* may think the house is clean and ship-shape, but wives have other ideas of what "clean" is!

Other than that, not much going on. Been cold and "wintry" the last few days, and we got about 1" of snow last night. Single-digit temps at night until the end of the week, and light snow expected.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sleep Well, Little Rover, Your Mission Has Ended

Well, with some sadness today, NASA announced that the Opportunity rover has not responded to numerous wake-up calls since August last year, and the mission has officially been ended.

The "Little Rover That Could" lasted far beyond it's "90 Day Warranty", and wound up being in service for 5,352 "Sols", or Earth-days of operation.

And she covered a tad over 28 miles from the landing site to her final position.

In June of 2018 she got covered with dust from a Mars-wide dust storm, and the output of the solar panels dropped, and dropped, and dropped until NASA decided it was best to put her in "Hibernation Mode".

Since she'd survived dust storms before, there was hope that after the dust subsided, that the normal Martian winds would blow the panels clean, and she'd wake up on command.

Alas, Opportunity has not responded to wake-up commands, so today NASA pulled the plug.

I haven't heard if they'll occasionally swing a dish that way and call "Hello? Anybody Home?", or if they'll just write her off.

Anyway you look at it, they got a pretty big bang-for-the-buck with this little explorer!

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Marine and the Sailor.....

From a good buddy.....

                                   The Marine and the Sailor

An old Sailor and an old Marine were sitting at the VFW arguing about who'd had the tougher career. 

"I did 30 years in the Corps," the Marine declared proudly, "and fought in three of my country's wars. Fresh out of boot camp, I hit the beach at Tarawa, then at Iwo Jima where clawed my way up the blood-soaked sand, and eventually took out an entire enemy machine gun nest with a single grenade. As a sergeant, I fought in Korea and walked back from the Chosen Reservoir. We pushed back the enemy inch by bloody inch, always under a barrage of artillery and small arms fire. Finally, as a Gunny Sergeant, I did three consecutive combat tours in Vietnam. We humped through the mud and razor grass for 14 hours a day, plagued by rain and mosquitoes, ducking under sniper fire all day, and mortar fire all night. In a firefight, we'd fire until our arms ached and our guns were empty, then we'd charge the enemy with bayonets!" 

"Ah," said the Sailor with a dismissive wave of his hand, "Lucky bastard; all shore duty."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Snowblower Stiil A Worthless P.O.S.

It's going on Craigslist or TONIGHT.....

The scraper blade is set a little above the minimum, and it still hits things.

It's better, but still not very usable.

And then the wife wants to know "Why didn't it cut the snow shorter?"........Because with an 1/8" gap, it leaves an 1/8" layer of snow!


On a "Bang-For-The-Buck" basis, this thing is absolutely the worst purchase I've ever made.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Snow Blower Adjustments and Garage Radio Improvements

Since we're expected to get ~2" of snow tonight, I put the snow blower batteries in the charger, and started looking at it seriously.

One of the major P's in the A with this thing has been the fact that it trips on every single joint, crack, or imperfection in the driveway and sidewalk, making me push down on the handlebars to lift the front and get it to go over that little pebble it snagged on. Very frustrating to say the least.

Now those of you who know snow blowers, or even full-sized plows, will tell me instinctively to check the height of the "Skid Shoes". And the manual shows how to adjust them, the scraper blade, and mentions that these adjustments "Have been preset at the factory for shipping. You may want to adjust them before use", and gives some suggested dimensions.

Their second sentence should have read "You should adjust them before use", as they had this thing sitting "Down In The Weeds" in Hot Rod speak!

So I plopped down on the garage floor with a 13mm socket and combo wrench, and loosened everything up to see how it fit together, and what range of adjustability it had.

The scraper blade was waaay off, actually out at the limit of it's travel, and the skid shoes were also set very low.

Wondering what to use for some kind of "gauge", I spied a box of "Bondo Spreaders", and grabbed them off the shelf. Two of them stacked together gave me a nice 1/4" spacer. I slide the scraper blade all the way back, positioned the plastic "shims" under the auger bucket, and set the shoes to give me that much clearance. Then I slide the scraper blade back out just a bit, and locked everything down solid. I now have a 3/16" gap at the ends, and about 1/8" gap in the center of the scraper. I should have done this before the first use, but the manual was vague, and I should have known better. Failed my pre-flight, I did!

 I'll spray the inside tomorrow with silicone spray, and we'll see if it plows any better.

And since working in the garage requires tunes, I've been listening to my old Onkyo R-510 "Home Theater" receiver, now repurposed to garage duty, a whole lot more. When I first got it installed, I was using the little 18" whip antenna that normally goes with my hand-held frequency counter. I went through the dial from 88 to 108, programmed in a bunch of stations, and then winnowed out the ones that really didn't play stuff I liked. the interests of trying to get a better signal, resulting in even more stations to listen to, I installed a "Halo", or "Loop" antenna, and ran a coax down to the receiver. I mounted it an inch or two below the ceiling for convenience, even though I knew it might compromise the antenna a bit, performance-wise.

Some of the stations that came in acceptably well on the little whip were noticeably weaker, a couple were unusable, and a couple of the others sounded a bit weak even though the receiver had a solid lock on them. I put it off to the antenna being mounted so close to the ceiling, and moved on. I didn't want to leave the little telescopic whip on the receiver as it's a bit fragile for a garage environment, so I just lived with it.

It was getting pretty tiresome trying to listen to a couple of stations, and I decided to try going back to a vertically polarized antenna.

So tonight I dug out a magnetic mount base and a VHF coil for a half-wave antenna, and the longest whip I had, a 49" long one. The whip is a bit short, being resonant around 115MHz, but it's what I had, and is plenty Good Enough for this application.

Plugged it all together, and the stations I lost in the noise on the loop are now back full-quieting, and a quick trip through the dial reveals a few new ones to look up.

I'm not sure if the loop would work better outside (they usually do), but the vertical gives me plenty of stations to chose from, so I'll stick with it.

It also used up some stuff that was just collecting dust, so win-win!

Monday, February 4, 2019

"Dinner and a Movie" Night

Since the weather was so nice on Sunday, we decided to head in to Old Town for dinner at a place we hadn't tried yet, the Sonny Lubick Steakhouse.

Sonny Lubick is a local sports legend guy, as he took the CSU Rams to multiple championships during his tenure as Head Coach. He took a very losing college football team, and turned it into a powerhouse, winning six conference championships, and taking the Rams to NINE college bowl games.

I'm not into football at all, but he did a hell of a job, and is a well respected guy.

Anywho......I had the 6oz filet, and my wife had the surf and turf.

The food was outstanding, and my steak was the best one I've had since we moved here. My baked potato was perfect, and the salad was made at the table from a cart where you could get various toppings and veggies added if you wanted.

The service was excellent, and hit that "Just Right" balance between hovering over you, rushing you, or ignoring you. The courses appeared at just the right time, the staff was very friendly and accommodating, and the manager even dropped by to say hello.

We'll definitely being going back, and we now have another 'favorite restaurant' added to our small but growing list.

One thing we noticed as we walked back to the Jeep was several restaurants had  "Closed For SuperBowl Sunday" signs in their windows, which probably explains why Lubick's was relatively empty.

And after we got back home, we fired up the home theater gear and watched "First Man", a movie about Neil Armstrong, but nothing along the lines of "The Right Stuff".

The movie starts with Armstrong's days at Edwards when he was a civilian NACA/NASA pilot flying the X-15, and progresses through the Gemini Program, and ends with him in quarantine after returning from the Moon.

It's about as "personal" a movie as I guess you could make about Armstrong, who was a quiet, private guy, and frankly, I'm not sure what to think about it.

It was an "OK" movie, but the characters just seemed 'wooden', like they weren't sure how to play their parts.

Overall, I'll give it 3-1/2 stars on the ratings chart. Good, but probably wouldn't watch it again.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Speaker Prgoress.....Kind Of.....

Good gravy, it's Friday again?

Been pretty busy with several projects running concurrently. I'm still working on the Heathkit receiver, but I back-burnered it for a while to build these speaker "kits".

And finishing these up can now proceed apace as I *FINALLY* have all the various nuts, bolts, screws, and other misc stuff to wind up this project.

Selling these things as "kits" is dangerously close to false advertising. They're NOT "kits".

They're not even "SEMI kits".

These are a collection of parts packed in a box from which a functioning speaker can (hopefully) be assembled after you the builder  round up the rest of what should have been included in the box.

Le Sigh.....


I power sanded the now glued-together-and-cured boxes to get them all squared up, and to make sure the front face was flat. There's going to be a bead of glue between the boxes and the front panel, and while that should be enough to seal the front panel, I still wanted them nice and square.

This is about as good as I can get them with my Flint Knives and Stone Axes.

And then after I sanded them, I blew them out, wiped them down, and dragged them back into the basement to put the foam inside. The box on the left used one piece of foam for the back panel where the speaker terminal plate mounts, while the box on the right used several pieces to cover that area. The left one has a round hole cut in the foam to clear the speaker terminals, while the right one didn't need to be cut because I pieced the foam together from some scraps while waiting for another sheet of foam to get here from Parts Express.

Then I built up the two cross-over networks on some perfboard I bought. I spaced the power resistors about 1/4" off the board with some little ceramic spacers I have for that purpose. The two resistors form a 12dB "L-Pad" (attenuator) for the tweeter, and while I doubt I'll ever run enough audio power into these to heat up the resistors, I always mount them spaced off the board because "Good Construction Practices".  I've seen some boards that were blackened and delaminated because of the heat the resistors gave off, but those were usually power supply type applications.

Here's a better shot of one of the networks. The 'white stuff' you see along the coils and capacitors is some "DAP" caulking compound used as "Staking Compound" to hold the parts securely to the perfboard. This should eliminate the parts vibrating against the board, which can make strange "buzzing" sounds emanate from the finished speaker. It also helps reduce any mechanical stress the soldered connections are subject to, helping to keep the soldered connections from fracturing. I used the DAP caulk because I couldn't find my supply of NON corrosive RTV silicone rubber. It's important NOT to use regular "Household Grade" RTV on something like this, as the regular "Bathtub Caulk" stuff releases Acetic Acid as it cures (the vinegar smell), and acid vapors are not something you want floating around in an electronics assembly.

And I even labeled the leads to the speakers and input.....

And since we're expecting temps in the high 50's/low 60's this weekend, I might get the first coat of the "Acry-Tech" rolled on.

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...