Archive for the ‘Misc Stuff’ Category

PCB and kit stocking status

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

I now have everything that I normally stock on hand – except SCELBI front panels.

I was a bit behind on things, but today I shipped a few items that I owed people, so am caught up, with the exception of those SCELBI front panels.

In addition, due to popular demand, I made a new run of Brain Board kits. I tested an example earlier in the week, and except for a bad 74LS74 IC, I found they work fine. I’ll have to go through my stock of 74LS74’s and test them before finishing putting together kits. With luck, I’ll have kits ready to ship by next weekend. Watch for an update in the next few days before sending money.

Where Did My Neighborhood Bats Go?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

One evening last summer, during an evening party, I got out my bat detector. Much to my surprise, I was unable to detect any bats. This struck me as very odd, since during previous summers, I never had any difficulty detecting plenty of bats. Well, I just found out what happened to my neighborhood bats. There is a disease, known as White Nose Syndrome, attacking colonies of bats throughout the world. In many cases, bat populations have plumeted, with some species facing possible extinction.

The real question I have, is, with such a disasterous decline in bat populations, why didn’t news of this reach me through regular news channels. I only discovered the problem, when I stumbled upon the story when I looked on the web for a link to the instructions I used to build my bat detector.

I’ve been thinking for some time that major English language news agencys have a narrow focus on a few topics, instead of covering a broad range of news. That millions of bats could die, some literally in my back yard, and that the news agencys leave me unaware seems almost criminal. Instead, we get bombarded with the news about a few wacko’s killing inocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maybe, due to high costs and tremendous competition, the major news agencies are limiting news to what they can sell, not what an editor thinks we need to know. It seems, at least at major news agencies, the role of that editor, the person that promoted a point of view, has been replaced by a marketing person. To me, it’s a shame.

Apple Service Sucks

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

I have had two negative experiences.

A while back, a Powerbook trackpad failed while still under service contract and Apple didn’t want to fix it because the service person claimed something was spilled on it. Though the machine was used by other family members, I know of no actual spill. They wanted something like $900 to repair it. I ended up getting an aftermarket trackpad off of ebay and fixing it myself for $40. So much for the extended warentee. I must admit that a service manager called me after I sent negative response to their after service questionnaire. He offered to have another look at it, but by then, I decided I could handle it, myself.

My iMac hard drive was recently recalled due to a high failure rate. I made an appointment and took it in to their store. Result – after waiting around for a while, someone checked out my machine and made sure that it operatated correctly, found that they had the replacement drive in stock, then said that they would have it ready in 3 to 5 days. I asked if they were going to migrate the data. The answer was no, it was going to take so long because changing hard-drives was a “delicate” operation. 5 days to change a hard drive, without migrating data – Apple, give me a break – you can do better than that.

While waiting for help on the iMac hard drive, a woman came in complaining about intermittent WI-FI connectivity with her iPhone. I can’t imagine the Apple “genius” solving that problem.

Old School Engineering

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

I just viewed Dave Jone’s latest video blog about the Sony Walkman. For some reason, I decided to download the service manual and have a look. One thing that I immediately noticed, was the lettering on the schematic appears to be another example of Leroy Lettering.

This caused me to reflect a little bit about my first year or two of college and my first job in industry. Before discovering computer science, I started out in a mechanical engineering program. The first engineering oriented courses you took, were drafting courses. I had no trouble with perspective and different technical aspects of drawing. However, I really had trouble creating drawings that looked nice, clean and sharp. There was no mention of Leroy or any other mechanical lettering system, so we had to hand letter our work. To this day, I don’t have the hand of an artist, and I think that lack of natural artistic ability held me back in that program. The skill of an artist, developed or natural is something that is apparent in a well done engineering drawing or schematic.

In years gone by, many engineers would spend their workday at a drafting board. I started my first co-op engineering job, in the late 70’s. That first company that I worked for, still had a drafting department for creating PCB layouts, as well as an art department that did the artwork for manuals as well as marketing material. The “uniform” of many of the experienced engineers was a white shirt, dark pants, a dark tie and a pocket protector. Second level managers omitted the pocket protector and added a sport coat. It’s basically the look of the NASA mission control team for the Apollo program.

A few years later, in the early 80s, I remember going for a job interview at IBM’s small system division. That was the first home of the IBM PC which was located in Boca Raton, Florida. Almost all the engineers there still wore that “uniform”. I did see one guy wearing a colorful shirt and jeans. He stuck out like a sore thumb. The IBM employee that was with me at that moment, pointed him out, and said he didn’t really fit in to the culture.

How times have changed.

Web Page Unique Visitors

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

I’ve been using the same hosting service since 2009 and just went back and collected yearly stats for “unique visitors”.

Web Page Unique Visitors

Web Page Unique Visitors

The data for 2009 was only for 11 months so I multiplied by 12/11. The data for 2015 is for 5 months so I multiplied by 12/5.

The overall trend is for a general increase in activity, but this year could be slightly down over the past couple. However one real popular blog posting could affect the yearly results in a big way. November of 2014 had a major temporary increase in hits with my report of Steve Wozniak still thinking about improving the Apple II design generating over 26,000 visits for that month alone.

The total number of “unique visitors” over the last 6+ years is 537,704.

Reason for Lack of Posts this Month

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I’ve been busy working on my VCF east exhibit.

It’s about the relationship between HAM radio and early personal computers. I have lots of interesting things to blog about. However I want to unveil my discoveries and experiments at VCF east, rather than reveal the exhibit contents ahead of time through blog posts.

Come to VCF east next month, and you’ll get the first look at what I’ve been busy working on. Sometime during or after VCF east, I plan on putting up some web pages and will have quite a backlog of stuff to blog about.

Familiar Sight

Friday, March 6th, 2015

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

I was killing some time the other day, browsing the web, finding out about the great warplanes of World War II, when I ran across this photo.

The photo was found on this blog page which contains much information about it:

After looking at it, and reading the caption, I wondered if this was the same war plane factory that I had visited in the mid 80’s. At the time, I worked for the Computer Systems Division of Gould, Inc. This company produced super-mini computers and sold a large percentage of the computers used to power commercial and military flight simulators. When introducing a new version of the computer, some of the engineering team attended a show in Fort Worth, Texas. Before the show, a local sales representative invited us to visit the General Dynamics factory outside town. At the time, General Dynamics made F-16 fighter planes at the plant. We got to walk out on the factory floor. We could see workmen constructing F-16s, one rivet at a time. No automation or moving assembly line there, those planes were practically hand-crafted. Our guide told us that it was the longest factory in the world. He said that they rolled raw material in one end and complete airplanes out the other end. It was a very cool experience. Later on, at the show, I got to “fly” a General Dynamics F-16 cockpit proceedures trainer. What a memorable trip that was.

Follow this link to see F-16s under construction in this factory.

Well it turns out that this factory was indeed the same factory as produced 3000 B-24s during World War II and over a hundred B-32s towards the end of the war. It’s official name was Air Force Factory #4. There are a number of photos of this place while B-24s Liberators were being constructed on the Library of Congress website.

B-24s Under Construction

B-24s Under Construction

Today the F-35 lighting II is produced at the facility.

Infant Mortality?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

If a 40 year old, NOS, IC dies after a few hours usage, should it be considered infant mortality?


  • IC – integrated circuit
  • infant mortality – a term used to describe an electronic product that has a terminal failure soon after being put into use
  • NOS – new, old stock – an old part that hasn’t been used and is essentially is new condition, except for shop wear
  • shop wear – physical wear that can occur to an item that is on the shelf in a store or in storage in a warehouse
  • terminal failure – a failure that precludes using the item for it’s intended purpose
  • Corey,
    Thanks for the inspiration for this post – too bad you were bitten.

    ExTech EX-330 multimeter snapshot review

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    Cutting to the chase, I’m a bit disappointed with this multimeter. I bought it primarily based on low price, features and relatively good review in Dave Jone’s EEVblog #91.

    The Ohm, DC volts and Diode check function work as expected. Some of the other features don’t work as well as I had hoped.

  • AC volts doesn’t work in millivolt range
  • Capacitance tester is basically unusable, except for a very small range of smallish caps
  • My sub $100 Tek 465 oscilloscope can be used for checking AC volts, though accuracy is approximate.

    The Fluke counter I picked off of eBay and repaired for around $40 is vastly more accurate and usable for frequency readings.

    At some point, I’m going to have to pick up a more capable capacitance tester, but in the past I have hacked one together out of spare parts on the few occasions when I really had to have one.

    For the features that do work well, the ergonomics of the EX330 are quite nice, much better than the $29 unit that it’s replacing.

    Bottom line – you get what you pay for, though I’m starting to believe that if it works or can be repaired, there can be some real bargains found in the vintage test gear marketplace. :-)

    Opinion – how not to take out Isis

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

    Trying to take out Isis by bombing them from a few high flying aircraft is like trying to destroy a fire ant colony by stomping on it’s nest.

    This approach has only really succeeded once – and that was when we resorted to using nuclear weapons at the end of World War II.

    There is an old saying that might lead to an alternative approach that might have more promise – Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.