Getting back to it.

It’s been a busy few months.
386 weather center

Flooded at work

Bad weather from Hurricane Harvey

With summertime storms looming on the horizon, weather that has made the yard grow like a jungle and homework assignments, sleepovers and movie nights burning up the rest of the time and energy I have, plus the house sapping the bank account meant I didn’t think I’d be getting back to any projects at all.

oxalis trianglularis

These strange little triangular plants have been popping up all over the yard recently. Turns out they are Oxalis triangularis, or “Fake Shamrock”. They are toxic to animals, and so far quite difficult to get rid of, but amusing and interesting to look at. Coupled with these, I’ve been getting waterlily looking plants popping up in the shade of the front path.

pinhole camera

We had a 75% covering of the sun from the eclipse, I was stuck outside at the cross-box in Thibodaux all day due to a fiber cut, but that wasn’t going to stop me from seeing the sun covered! Piece of cardboard with a small hole poked in it by mechanical pencil saw an adequate pinhole camera created, and the image above captured on a sheet of paper.

dirty generator

Picked up the generator from where it was chained up at the mother-in-law’s house. It’s been sat semi-covered in the shade for the past 7 years, and as such covered in all sorts of grime. Set about with a brush, bucket of water and Formula 409 and got it looking presentable again.

clean generator

Took the solenoid apart because it would click but not spin the starter motor over. The copper on the terminal connected to the positive terminal of the battery had gone all green (the steel nut on it was perfectly rust-free), where as the negative was all shiny but the steel nut had turned to a blob of brown rust. Chemistry is fun!
It needs a new battery but fired up on the old stale fuel in the tank- very surprising. Filled it up, along with 40 gallons of fuel in cans, in preparation. At that time it was unclear if we were going to be hit by hurricane Harvey. We saw some very bad weather (on the TV screen at the top of this post) but thankfully that was it.

living room furniture

Got some new furniture for the living room, which has allowed me to set up the old garage with the old furniture, a TV set and game console.

crepe myrtle and roses

The recent pleasant, cool, dry weather has meant I was able to get outside with a saw and heavily prune the plants on the northern edge of the property. There was a tree growing up through that crepe myrtle plant and the rose bushes were all woody. Does not look like much but that was a full afternoon’s work.

bbq

stripey clouds

Nice weather drawing to a close, meant that a bit of R&R could be had; much welcomed.

A moderate hiatus

The last few months have not exactly been a hayride, but the main reason I’ve not been around here is that I now have a house. It took 7 months of paperwork, lawyers and headaches to finally close on, but it’s been worth it.

house

It’s a nice little mid-seventies brick ranch in a quiet neighborhood; not very far away from the place we had been renting for the last 6 years (had it really been that long?!).

living room

Getting it all set up inside, still with boxes everywhere.

jetwash

The usual new-house steady flow of maintenance happening, despite the summer heat.

sunset

Getting used to being in a house. There’s a lot of yard to mow, twice a week this time of year.. just finished tidying up the garage- yea, got a garage now to put the car (currently broken again) in!

garage

Next big project is to put up a bench in the office, to start working on electronics again. Trying to find the time for anything lately is a challenge. Such is life.

Wipe and wait

My car has a 4-position windshield wiper stalk; off, intermittent, slow, fast.

While the motor needs to be pulled and serviced because there’s little difference between slow and fast, the intermittent wipe had always been somewhat pathetic.

Selecting intermittent would make the relay click, and as soon as the wipers returned to the parked position, click again and they would almost immediately wipe again.

Pulled the dash shroud down and located the clicking box at the top left. (Top right is the key-in/seatbelt buzzer, bottom left the cruise control stalk, above that with the finned heat sink the dashboard dimmer control).

relay delay box

Took the circuit board out and drew up the circuit diagram by following the traces, to get a better understanding of the circuit and its method of operation.

board

Culprits were most likely the electrolytic capacitors. One had a high ESD and the other was meant to be 22uF, it measured in at about 100nF. Replaced them both. Now the wipers wipe and wait about 5 seconds before wiping again on intermittent, and added bonus, they now wipe 3 times after spraying screenwash onto the screen. Not bad for 45 minutes’ work and spares I had in stock.

Odds and ends

Been busy with Scouts events lately. First off was the Raingutter Regatta, which is an event where you build a boat from a kit and then race against other people with boats by blowing at the sail through a drinking straw.

Didn’t win any races but the boats were decorated that morning with Sharpie permanent markers. We have the Cheshire Cat from the latest edition of the Alice In Wonderland films, and Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.

boats

That was a bit of fun. Next up was the Space Derby, which is basically elastic-band, propeller driven craft that fly along a zipline. Furthest wins, or first to the end of the run, which is about 30 feet or so of fishing line, held taut.

airplane

We went for a heavier design which won it first place in the races (not the fastest but it managed to gain the most momentum and coasted on by faster but shorter-traveled competitors). Designed after the P52 Mustang.

wheel off again

Took the wheels off the front of the car again, and changed the brake pads for new ones. The brakes had good pedal but offered little actual braking effort.

glazed

The pads were so glazed I could almost see my face. Plenty of friction material but all cracked up. In the bin they went. The brakes now work properly. That’s better.

Co-processing.

I decided to buy a little something for myself, so eBay was opened up and I hit “Buy It Now” on an item.

Package

3 weeks later, it arrived from Kowloon, Hong Kong. The reason for the package? This empty socket.

socket

As if by magic, it was filled with a suitable device:

387

Upon fitting a 387 co-processor, a jumper needed to be shorted to inform the board to use it.

jumper

CheckIt determined that the thing was working (which is good, as there are surprisingly quite a lot of fake/broken chips circulating the market).

checkit

It was then tidied up into the desk. Makes a significant improvement where a math co-processor is utilized.

lotus 3

A bit of fun, reminder of days gone by.

Some new subjects to focus on

As mentioned in an earlier post, I recently acquired a Canon A-1 35mm film camera. It dates to 1978, and it was Canon’s first foray into fully automatic exposure cameras.

It gives a digital readout of the f-stop (aperture) and exposure time through the viewfinder using red LED numerals (which can be disabled), you can hold the reading for backlit scenes, calculate both, just the aperture or just the exposure time. Very innovative for the day, just focus and click. I got the pictures back that I had taken from being processed. Here’s a small selection:

Bayou Lafourche at Leeville
Bayou Lafourche at Leeville.

Hydrant
Experimenting with depth of field.

Leeville North, LA Hwy 1
Louisiana Highway One, at North Leeville. Once the busiest road in the area, now a ghost town.

Captain Thuan
Fishing boat, Bayou Lafourche, Larose.

It does have a light leak on the right hand side of the mirror. After a little reading, it seems that’s fairly common on these as the felt stripping that blocks the light disintegrates with time.

Pointe des Chenes

Compare with a modern digital image, adjusted with a warming filter. Quite different. I like both, but all the images taken with the Canon look like they could easily have been shot in 1985.

More illumination

Also, I didn’t take any pictures of the process because messy and Kerosene, but I got the red Coleman lantern cleaned up and running.

lit up

It burns brightly, which is good. New mantle from Walmart, some kerosene from the jug in the back room, the pump needs to have the leather bung replaced because despite oiling it, it doesn’t pump very well until it “catches” and starts to pump reasonably.

Illumination

I recently fitted some LED bulbs to my reversing lights because LED and because they weren’t very bright. Unfortunately, the addition of LED’s didn’t really help. Most of the light was going back through the plastic of the reflector.

splish splash

Began by taking the worst lamp unit out and gave it a bit of a clean up in the sink. (Read: gave it a thorough clean with q-tips and soap and lots of water).

flash on

Taking a picture with the flash on shows that the reflector now reflects better because the plastic inside isn’t covered in grime and the reflective surface is a bit cleaner. However, the reversing light is still very dull.

dremel

Out with the Dremel.

lamp unit off

A bit of smoke and hot plastic later and the reflector housing is off. Indeed, the plastic is made from this kinda tan colored ABS which isn’t very reflective. You can just about see the remains of the silver paint that used to be on it at the bottom. Heat and age have made it all flake off.

taped up

Cleaned out and taped up the sections I didn’t want to paint. Stupidly I forgot to take a picture of the afterward, but I used shiny aluminum paint which, although not as shiny as the original chrome, is a lot better than how it was.

epoxy mix

Mixed up some “5 minute epoxy”, using the traditional matchstick and random piece of card.

epoxy

With a combination of cynoacrylate and the epoxy glue, I fixed the reflector back onto the lamp assembly.

polished

After a quick polish with some plastic polish, the result is visible.

light on the right

The light on the right is brighter than the one on the left now; before it was the other way around.

all bright

After going through the same rigamarole with the left light cluster, it looks a bit better than before.

buffed up

Machine polished the left lens because it was very scratched, particularly over the reflector. Looks better now, the white marking is where the plastic has crazed in the sun.
I think I’m going to be on the look for Renault 9 rear lights, because those actually line up with the rear swage line. For now though, these ones are working better.

Coleman Model 200A

On a whim, I picked this up for $0.25 – it’s a bit of a mess but should come apart, free up and hopefully be useable.

Coleman dirty

Gave it a bit of a clean up.. looks a lot better- the tank is painted but the lid is red stove enamel.

cleaner coleman

The pump, pipes and everything are jammed up solid with old gooey kerosene and dirt, so that’ll be fun to clean. It’ll get there though. This one is more efficient on fuel than the bigger twin mantle one I have.

Film photography and a 386

I went to an estate sale at the end of last week and picked up a few things, the computer below and a camera, of the notably interesting items.

386

A 1993 Magnavox (Philips) 386 SX/20, with optional CD-ROM sitting on top. It was grimy on the outside, filthy inside as to be expected from an older system.

A1

After a thorough cleaning, the Canon A-1 camera. 35mm film camera with fully automatic exposure (AE). View through the viewfinder (this shot before I had cleaned the lens and filter, so it’s a bit hazy) shows the aperture and exposure time in f/stops and 100ths of a second respectively.

viewfinder

It’ll calculate that and set itself if you leave it in fully programmed mode.. fancy stuff. Bought a new battery for it and a foll of Fuji 400.. have been shooting some pictures so once that’s finished I’ll see if they came out OK.

wolfenstein

Got the computer running after giving it a thorough clean and fixing a couple contacts. Found a cable to replace the one in the back to link to the CD. Added a network card so it has CD interface, network and sound. Multimedia on a 386, before “multimedia” was a coined phrase!

cd working

Added a larger hard drive in (540Mb, or rather, 30Gb but partitioned down to the max the BIOS can handle without an overlay) and got the CD to read. 1x so it’s not fast but it does work!