News 11/27/16

Last week was my 33rd Birthday. Didn’t do much on my Birthday since my three sons also share their Birthdays in November as well. My wife made all of us our own Cakes and selected our choice in Ice Cream. A friend gave me a LG G3 Cell Phone with a Wal-Mart Family Mobile Sim Card. I am thinking to activate the phone soon and probably do away with the house line.

I got a hold of a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) from work. It doesn’t work and after spending a few attempts to get it going I stripped it down. It’s a TrippLite brand unit and I have to say it is well-engineered and does not use any cheap components. However since it was soldered together with Lead-Free it is a pain to use my cheapo soldering irons to remove the parts. I am going to use the case for my dual power supply project that I keep putting on the back burner. The case is the same size as the old Shuttle desktop computers.

The Van is still running well however the Gas Gauge doesn’t show the proper Gas levels anymore. Probably because the new pump assembly didn’t line up exactly so a couple of degrees makes a huge difference. Some time I’ll probably end up dropping the tank again and fix that issue.

On the 29th and 30th I will start on a little construction project of a spice rack for my Wife. I plan to use Oak Pallet wood so it will match the Country Kitchen look we have. I might even attempt to make some Milk Paint to finish it. No-matter how it will end but it will have a white with blue trim color scheme.

The same friend that gave me the Phone is really into Google products and he bought himself one of those Google Home devices. I asked him last night how he likes it and he said he loves it so much he bought another one for the bedroom. He also said Google is coming out with a WiFi system so you can connect multiple Google devices together on a network so you can have for an example two or more Google Home devices work together in tandem.

The other night at Wal-Mart a co-worker and I were looking at 4K TVs and he was noticing a fair price for them. When I was looking at them I noticed how they’re lying to the consumer. The TVs in question are not truly 4K but 2K Ultra HD. Every single TV they had except the super expensive Samsung curved screen they had listed the pixel rate for the horizontal¬† 2,048. A real 4K screen resolution for the horizontal is 4,096. However a lot of times you will see it listed as 3,840. So if you are in the market for a 4K TV then just keep in mind that stores such as Wal-Mart will list the TV incorrect and sell you a TV claiming to be 4K but is really 2K. Just remember you get what you pay for.

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Coffee

I am an avid coffee drinker. Probably since I work nights most of my life and when I stopped drinking booze I replaced it with coffee. A friend gave me a Keurig Coffee Maker that a room-mate left behind. I cleaned it up and tried it out. Honestly it makes the weakest coffee I have ever had. Even with the smallest cup I got is like drinking water. Granted the K Cups that came with the coffee maker probably isn’t the best choice however the amount of caffeine intake isn’t that much. I’ve had iced coffee from work that all of the ice melted and was still stronger. The K Cups I tried with this machine were Black Silk from Folders. With my Mr Coffee machine for every cup I brew is a table-spoon of coffee grounds and I typically use Folders Colombian Bean. I attend to brew four cups at a time since most of my coffee cups can hold three to four cups worth. However days when I have to get up early I don’t have time to enjoy a large amount of coffee so a small single cup is enough.

I love the fact I can make a cup at a time. I can make a cup at a time with my current Mr. Coffee maker but it doesn’t brew straight into the cup and if you don’t pour it into a cup ASAP the hot plate will burn the coffee. I might buy of those reusable filter K Cup kits and use it for brewing espresso. Even if it did brew a proper cup to my taste from a typical K Cup it would cost way too much for 10 bucks for 18 cups or 27 bucks for 40 so a reusable filter kit would be the best thing. You can get one of those kits for 10 bucks and Cafe Bustelo Espresso coffee is almost four bucks a can from Wal-Mart. However since the Cafe Bustelo is a very fine coffee ground the screen filter might let fine particles through and you end up with some thick coffee on the last couple of sips. I know this happens with my main coffee maker but honestly it doesn’t bother me.

I guess what I am getting at is if you or a loved one loves strong coffee that can put hair on your chest or wake the dead then I wouldn’t buy one of these unless you want to use it as a dedicated espresso machine. I know I’ll use it for that and I know my wife will love it since she is a lite coffee drinker.

How one project turns into another

Today I was playing around with some Digital Rotary Encoders and thought it would be great to see the wave form on my scope. Sadly I only have an Analog scope. In the past I have played with a Arduino based DSO and thought I would look into it again. Well sure enough I ran into a instructable post that some one took the Poor Man’s Oscilloscope and updated it. So naturally I tried it out and works great.

It’s more of a face lift to the Processing portion of the code. Some added features¬†such as pausing the wave form and able to zoom in and out.

When I built my board up I used a 1MGEG resistor as a pull down from Ground to A0 and also since I’m using it as a scope I tossed on a BNC connector. Since I have a 10x probe I am able to do a voltage divider and able to probe signals higher than 5 volts. With the Probe in the 10x setting 5V is 500mV (Half a volt). That comes in handy for probing CMOS ICs that run at higher voltages. I could also toss on a Capacitor for some AC coupling.

So if you need to see some rising and falling edges or a wave form and all you got is a Analog Scope then I would give the Arduino Poorman’s Oscilloscope a try.

A long week

I had an opportunity for a new job this week but let me tell you, everywhere I turned lady luck was dishing out bad luck.

My wife took the van to help a family friend buy a car. They made it to the local McDonald’s for I guess food and the Van stalled out and wouldn’t start again. We thought it was the battery because it was a cheap battery begin with from Wal-Mart and back when we had Alternator issues it was running on the battery only for a couple of days. A Mechanic from across the street brought over a battery to jump the Van with but do dice. He recommended the spark plug wires so I changed them out, no dice. So the next morning I changed out the Key Lock Cylinder thinking that has to be the issue since some times the key sticks or you have to fight the key. It started right up as if nothing had happen. I turned off the ignition and went to start putting the steering column back together. When I tried to start it again it would only turn over and not start like before. Since there was no trouble codes or check engine light, I was starting to get worried that I might have to take it into a shop. So I tried switching around relays and checking the fuses again and decided to have my brother take me on the other side of town for my Drug Screening for the new job and when we come back we’ll see if the van starts. If it starts we can quickly drive it home. Well sure enough that idea worked. I was able to drive it home with no problems.

After reading the Hanes manual for the Van I figured out it must be the fuel pump. I checked for spark and with most Dodge/Chryslers you can disconnect the Cam Shaft Positioning Sensor and see if it turns over. So instead of buying the whole pump assembly (pictured left) I bought just the pump (pictured right).

a38002_p04_ange16145_p04_top

I had to “drop” the fuel tank to get to the pump. I also had to take apart the lower half of the pump assembly to get to the pump. After swapping it out and one of my sons and I were fighting the full tank back in the van worked fine. By time I finished and did a quick test drive I had to pick up my wife from work. After picking her up the van died in the middle of the street and we got it pushed into a gas station lot. By this time I was feeling lost and mad. We walked back to my Wife’s job and caught a ride home. That night I had the Van towed home. When the tow truck came the driver told me I have two days to fix it or it will be towed to impound because it is “immobile” and the property management will see to it.

While all this was happening we had not paid rent yet for the month. Since Friday was Veterans Day the property manager gave us a break and told us no later than 4PM Saturday. So my mother loaned me her truck and I went to NAPA Auto Parts and got the whole pump assembly. Got back home and with in an hour the Wife and I had the tank back out on the ground. I pulled the old pump assembly and what do you know… The hose to the pump I replaced the day before had disconnected (circled in red).

e16145_p04_top

I could have just put it back on but with the luck we were having I would have been probably dropping the tank a third time. So, I replaced the whole unit and we got the tank back in the Van and now it runs like new. We got the rent paid and everything is now back to normal for the exception of my back. Since the first tank drop I have been having muscle spasms that literally make me fall to my knees. Last thing I need to happen is making my back worse at the new job that requires a lot of heavy lifting. So in other words I had to turn down the job even though I was thrilled about it and would have been a huge career change for me.

I want to thank my friends and family that were able to help my household on this endeavor. Also thank my Boss for letting me stay at the last-minute.

So my advice is on this, sometimes you can’t cheap out on car repairs. You’ll end up doing it again and end up spending the same amount that a shop would have charged. Most of the time I try my best to do things right the frist time but when finances make you avoid it than Murphy’s Law will cut in.

Continuity Tester / Signal Injector

Having a Continuity Tester / Signal Injector is nice to have to pinout a circuit. Most Multimeters will have a Continuity tester built in but if you only have one meter and it’s being used for something else a standalone tester is great.

How the tester works is it just tosses a low voltage around 1.5 volts into a circuit and makes a beep/buzz when the two probe ends touching together creating a short.

The unit I built is just a old stereo PC speaker amp and a PICAXE 08m2 micro controller.
The right channel on the amp is only used and Pin3 on the PICAXE sends out a square wave so when the output of the PICAXE finds a connection to the positive input of the amp it closes the circuit and a beep is played. Both the micro and amp uses the same power supply. Since the PICAXE can only handle 5volts I tossed in a LM7805 to power it but use the same common ground. The speaker was also replaced with a small three inch 16ohm 25watt speaker I had in the parts box.

The amp also has a AUX input for a external device and a headphone jack. So I can always toss on some remote speakers and also inject another audio source and use it as a signal tracer for Radios and such.

As I said it is a very simple circuit to add to a audio amp. Just add a LM7805 voltage regulator to power the PICAXE add a 0.1 cap for protection on the output of Pin 3 of the PICAXE. The Positive probe would also be Pin 3 and the Negative probe side would be the input of the amp. Both the PICAXE and amp share the same ground. If you put it on a scope you’ll see a 2.5V Square wave.

The code for the PICAXE is very straight forward.

main:	sound C.1,(100,100)		        ; play the sound
	pause 10				; wait
	goto main				; repeat

Here is the Schematic
continuity

I might use the AUX input for a signal generator.