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Tech Henge

Music: 

Shriekback - Nemesis



As noted previously we basically just bought our way into a retro-computer collection with the addition of an Atari ST and two further 8-bit systems. This created problems for us, but we decided to solve them with craftsmanship and as a result Natalie built an impressive henge.

Previously my office had a bookshelf that Natalie built while I was out of town for work. It worked great for 10 years or so but the shelves were only 10" deep, and while I was able to cram an impressive amount of stuff on there, it had to change. So we designed one 24" deep with a work surface a couple of inches deeper than that, and then a 20" hutch for the top section. This will allow us to have several layers of display items with storage behind them.
Because as is my motto: "If It's Not Display, It's In The Way"

So we've spent the last week setting everything up and trying to consolidate all the new stuff into bins, test what's working and what needs repair, and cabling up all the systems and network hardware. We put two 12u racks in the bottom, one is full of network hardware, NAS, and webservers and the other has several Atari 8-bit peripherals that are hooked up and then storage for in-progress projects like the Kaypro II. We designed it with the three cubbies to accommodate our printer and scanner, but decided that they were better used with books and stuff, so as a bonus we swapped out the top on a metal cabinet we already had and it really fits in well.

You can already see there's room for 4 computers/keyboards and mice "comfortably", and we could probably have 6 going if we really wanted to add anything more. We'll be spending some time to come trying to find the most effective way to fill this thing, but I think it's off to a good start, and we can nearly eat on our dining room table again, so that's a bonus! I think all we have left to do is unfortunately send the Elvis tapestry on a permanent vacation and replace him with 3 or 4 bookshelves to hold all the software and documentation we got with this haul.

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Fall Project Time

Music: 

REM - The Wrong Child

I recently started bringing in a truly special collection of Atari hardware. I was expecting to pick up an ST and some software, and when we arrived found not only that that ST had loads of peripherals and neat stuff to test out, but lots of 8-bit hardware and an XE Game System as well. I actually had to do this in trips just to make sure I had somewhere rational to store all of it while we inventory it and do any repairs and cleanup needed before we start trying to see what other more serious collectors might want to take in. But honestly how could I pass this up an XEGS for this room?

We really only need to make a stand for the 2600 that will let you see and use both systems. All the power and A/V stuff routes to that shelf so we can just fire them up in place and start playing.

But what this really spawned is a project to start building furniture in the office. Natalie has this habit of doing projects while I'm out of town on business as a surprise for when I get back, so in 2015, before the full house renovation, while I was on a trip to a datacenter for a week Natalie built this bookshelf. At the same time she uncovered the awesome tile floor in the office which had been hidden under the crappiest industrial carpeting for all these years.

However we're reached a tipping point with that thing. The shelves are 12" deep which is great for a bookshelf but not so great for cramming a bunch of computer equipment into. You can see it's way too narrow to comfortably fit that scanner for instance.

The goal is to build something deeper which can comfortably store an ST, Mac Classic, and some other small home computers as well as just bulk storage of Crap in My Office. At the moment all my network hardware, switches, firewalls and storage are buried under my main desk. Tidy and out of the way, but a hassle to get to if I need to plug new stuff in or actually work on anything. I don't want to be 70 years old crawling around on the floor to add a network drop, so we're going to get that stuff out of there. We also need just "Bulk Computer Storage" for larger systems like a Mac Pro, KayPro II. My desk and repair bench has been getting a little crowded lately, so I'm hoping a good amount of that stuff can move as well. Some of the details of what we're doing are going to be a surprise, but it'll be cool, I swear. I've told Natalie my only real goal is to have somewhere to put my laptop bag. All this stacking shit is making me itchy :-)

The ST is currently taking up exactly the surface area of a small storage cabinet, which is a little cramped for purposes of troubleshooting to say the least, though a couple of toys have trickled in since I got it, like an Atari 9-pin to USB adapter for a modern mouse and a supply of replacement key switch sliders/stems.

We'll be building more ST projects to share Real Soon Now, promise. Once we get our bearings from all the work office moves and re-shuffling these shelves. My word is as good as a Tremiel promising us all Falcons By Christmas!

So I wanted to save a quick "Before" of that space before we start tearing into the project:



That Panasonic boombox works and sounds AWESOME, but barely even picks up the FM transmitter from 10 feet away because the boombox's day-job is to hide multiple WiFi routers, a network switch and a 10 port power strip, so there's like 8 WiFi antennas right up against the tuner, not ideal. Be nice to clear that up.

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Photo Backup

Music: 

I'm just sticking this here because it seems Mr. Santorum is reportedly expending some effort to get this photo removed from anywhere it's found on the Internet.


So here's a photo of Rick Santorum with his arm around Russian spy and notorious honey trap Maria Butina. I mean, I'm not saying he fucked her, though it seems many other Republicans did. So if he didn't fuck her, then Santorum either missed out or dodged a bullet depending on how you look at it.




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Mac Classic Pt. 2 - This is Fine

Music: 

Pailhead - I Will Refuse

Note: I say "We" a lot. Natalie has been doing at least as much of this work as me. She has a whole method that she likes for the tantalum caps so she pretty much installed all of those. She even discharged the CRT. We learned later that the Classic seems to bleed the CRT automatically which is nice. I'm still sticking a screwdriver back there every time though just to make sure.

Good and bad news on the Mac Classic front.

If you read in part one, we over-paid a princely sum for a Mac which "Works as intended", but which should really have been "For parts or repair" for 1/3 what we paid.

So I'm personally beholden to make this fucker run regardless of personal cost in blood or treasure at this point.

"Rookies do very tidy job and rightfully feel pleased"

We recapped the motherboard on the Mac Classic. We got a heat gun, generous with the tape all around to make sure we didn't mess up any other components, and quickly and easily got the old parts off, we cleaned the pads up with solder wick, tinned them with new solder and put in the replacement tantalum caps, applying a bit of flux and cleaning regularly along the way. No damaged pads, everything went extremely smoothly regardless of which of us held the iron. Natalie really did most of the installation of the new parts.

Before:

After:

"Rookie makes Rookie Mistake"

The eagle-eyed among you already see why my office smelled like shit all day last Saturday. Of course, tantalums don't note polarity the same way any electrolytic I've dealt with has. So we installed them all backwards.

I know I have seen at least one person mention that while doing a recap and replacing electrolytics with tantalums. In fact, in the box from the company we ordered the replacements from:

So it's not like there weren't ample people trying to get this information into my head. Oh well, happens. Here's the before & after, after the second recap:

I also took the cardboard shield off the high voltage board and saw sticky burnt electrolyte gack on the back of the board. That gack was the smell that took this machine beyond just "nicotine soaked" when you turned it on.

We've removed the high voltage board and will re-cap that in Part 3.

I'm in no position to recommend the hot air station we got, but it was just "not quite the cheapest one on Amazon". Came with some extras like a pair of side cutters and a couple pairs of tweezers, so that was helpful.

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Nixie Clock

Music: 

Bloodshot Bill - Mary Ann

Natalie got me a cool nixie clock project for Christmas. We've split duties putting it all together and we just finally got it all worked out and on the shelf.

Overall the project was pretty easy, though you can see there's one pretty badly folded in place resistor that wasn't in the directions so we had to cram it in last minute. And we had a couple of issues with certain numbers on certain tubes, but it looks great in the end.

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Dr Pepper Clock

Music: 

We just got a really great Dr Pepper restaurant clock, as featured in the arcade scene of Wargames. We think it's meant to be modular and can be attached to lighted menu-boards. It's got a pass-through 110V plug so you can daisy chain stuff off of it, and the side trim is easily removable to clip in a sigh board on each side.

However, while it is beautiful, it doesn't need to be on all the time, so I added a switch. The wiring is very simple with just a couple of wire nuts tying the inbound power to the AC plug and fluorescent light. I found some suitably retro-ey looking switches on Amazon at 6 for $9.

We decided to put the switch on the bottom just in case I cracked the plastic or something similarly horrible happened. All in all, very straight forward, but one pro-tip was in drilling the hole. I started with a small drill bit and worked my way up, but when I got to the larger drill bits I ran the drill in reverse to just use friction to make the hole rather than trying to hog out a hole in very thin and brittle material with a way-too-big bit. This worked /great/, thanks Dave.

Wiring before:

Switch:

Wiring After:

Switch external:

Fixed Tags:
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Sharp Boombox Repair

Music: 

Tom Petty - Freefallin'

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Go Mighty Corolla

Music: 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Stay tuned and wait. for. it.

Ok, so I had just gotten off of 128, and I wasn't going a thousand miles an hour, and there was no Stop 'n Shop, but there was a Wegman's. I threw RoadRunner on, because it's the very best song to finally break the 300,000 mile barrier on this rustbucket. Aaaaand, it didn't do it. Why yes, I am a sysadmin, why do you ask?

Just a bit further toward home though, I found a real Plymouth RoadRunner Superbird in a parking lot:

Natalie and I think it's this one right here.

So yeah apparently the odometer thing's A Thing with Toyotas from the mid-2000s. And they don't see it as a "design flaw" that every inspected car becomes illegal at 299,999 miles. It's like $500 to fix, apparently, which means it's still worth it to keep it on the road, but it is the second-costliest and absolutely the most pervasive and 100% predictable non-recall inspection-failing repair in this car's 14 year history.

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Lindstrom, Minnesota

Music: 

We're currently on a week-long road trip between Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Before we left, we mentioned our trip to Kari Lindstrom, proprietor of our favorite vintage and antique shop The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey, NH, and she mentioned there was a Lindstrom, Minnesota, so we decided we'd head up and see what's what.

So it was that at the end of a long day of Paisley Park, then the World's Largest Ball of Twine (as built by one man), we made our way for Little Sweden and made up there by around 4:00. Even still, we found a great antique store and got some fantastic handmade raised sugar and raspberry jelly donuts that took me straight back to when I was 4-5 years old getting donuts with my parents from a local bakery.

I did try really hard to get to The Sweet Swede to get something sweet for the sweetest Swede we know, but apparently it's not really a thing anymore. Fudge.

Natalie got some great pictures of this adorable vacation town:











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Stereo Slide Viewer Hack Proof of Concept

Music: 

Peaches - The Inch

Wherein there's some history, and a major pet project.

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