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Power Strip Pro-Tip


Future Sound Of London - We Have Explosive

With the massive Retro Youtuber explosion going back even before Covid, I've been yelling to the void about "you need a real screwdriver". Thankfully a couple of rounds of iFixit & Linus sponsorships have gotten this point across :-) And now all those LTT screwdrivers have the delightful whiff of awkward about them. (Bias: I've had Snap-On since like 1997)

I think the next tool for home gamers should be power strips. No one ever thinks of power strips except maybe to mount a super long one over their bench.

I want to buy the world a TrippLite:

I've got these everywhere, but they're great on the bench. A lot of time you'll see Youtubers plugging a whole power strip in special just so they have a switch they can throw at a safe distance to turn on a machine (don't daisy-chain power strips kids!). I have test power cables spooled well away from the power strip just in case I want to cower at a safe distance when powering something up. The neon switches make it super obvious if the thing you're working on is powered or not at a glance:

Pair them with a bunch of 1' extensions and you can tidy up and add physical switches to all your awkward-sized wall warts or to move a plug closer to your work surface. I often have two velcro'd to my lamp:

We also have them in the living room so we can quickly power on & off a bunch of vintage computers and consoles and the LiteBrite and bling and stuff.

They're high quality and they're fast. Eaton/TrippLite has the same $25,000 damage warranty they put on their UPS products.

Next up: Desk Lamps!

*** *IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP* I don't use these on a bench through a UPS, they go straight into the wall. IMHO it's a super bad idea to have UPS power backing up something like a power supply you're testing on the bench! (there are stories here) ***

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What Do I Win, Internet?


Rod Serling

I don't honestly know if this says more about me winning the Internet, or me losing at sanity. You be the judge. I was pretty much just playing Geoguessr, saw that restaurant, noticed the name and remembered exactly the place from the TV show from 15 years ago or whenever. And that they were in Wales so it was pretty likely. Also I play an unseemly amount of Geoguessr. Probably as much as any non-bot user.

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Vintage Radio Refurb


Yes, Have Some

Electric cord plug with green goo indicating the insulation is breaking down inside.

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OK Maybe This Is My Cat?


Couldn't just leave the little beggar outside in -15F while we were all cozy on the couch...So after a long night in the basement napping comfortably, how do we greet the day? Find the only sun spot in the house and nap some more of course.

Fixed Tags:
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This Still Isn't My Cat


For the last year or so we've had a persistent stray cat that we've been kind of watching after, along with most of the rest of our neighborhood. As the weather gets cold we decided to try and see if he'd be willing to come in the house and maybe spend cold nights in the basement. Basement because this is a fully functional male cat and we prefer our stuff to be piss-free. Spoiler alert: It didn't work out so well. He hung out on the porch for a bit, but really wanted to get back outside. And he still managed to spray a pair of Natalie's boots even with us sitting right there with him. If we toss him in the basement I expect to hear him echoing through the heating ducts all night meowing and trapped and annoyed.

But now we have actual cold weather forecast for the first time this winter, with temps in the single digits during the next couple days and we want to make sure the little weirdo has somewhere to stay warm. So yesterday, Natalie banged out this little shelter. it's got fiberglass insulation with styrofoam inside with a decent amount of straw so the little guy should be able to burrow in and stay pretty warm. Now it's just a matter of getting him to use it. Today I started putting food in the far inside corner and he is getting more comfortable going in to get food. Hope he figures out that this is where you go when it's cold.

Yesterday we put the box out and introduced the cat to it:

"That's enough progress for one day"

Day 2 - Success?

Fixed Tags:
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Tech Henge


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


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


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


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.



"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


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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