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   Yesterday Pluvius came to visit.  He brought some parts for Rev. James' new computer as well as a monitor he was selling me.  I was pleased with the monitor I had from him and this one was identical.  So today I worked it into the setup.  The new monitor is too heavy for my monitor arm, so I am going to have to look into a new solution for that.  Nonetheless it is function in it's current position.  The monitor that was on the arm replaced my 1280x1024 monitor in the upper right corner.  This is my status monitor and it now has a 1600x1200 display which is a nice improvement.
   I did the glue up for my wood project this evening now that the oil finish on the walnut has dried.  Yesterday I sanded the backs of the walnut to remove any oil that dripped onto the back.  This should give me a better surface for the glue up.  After gluing was complete I placed a board on top the setup and a couple of heavy items on top of that—a couple cylinder blocks and an anvil.  That should keep it good and compressed while the glue dries.  We'll have a look tomorrow.
   My to-do list has a lot of check marks.  Yesterday my 3 day synchronization from my RAID array to a backup drive completed.  Changing the drive on with my cheap RAID card is tricky, and potentially dangerous.  So I decided before I started I wanted a 100% backup of the data.  After the RAID repair I plan to use the backup drive in the Red Dragon for automatic nightly backups.  I started this project, and while it works the 1 TB drive I have in that machine isn't large enough to hold what I need backed. 
Xen at work

Xen at work

   Yesterday was an evening of wash, but I kept myself busy while doing it.  I gave my wood project the finishing sanding and then coated the black walnut in linseed oil.  It turned a spectacular dark brown—I love how walnut does that.  I also moved the mount for my hanging bike.  People were complaining it was in the way of the stairs so I moved the rig back a couple of feet.  This is a better position and allows me to raise the bike even higher.  The last big project I worked on was an other broken pane of glass.  This one was in a door which has several small glass pieces.  I wasn't sure how I was going to get in the setup to replace it, but after removing the glass and using a pry bar I found the seam.  It turned out to be pretty easy to remove the wood frame from around the glass.  With all the frame work I have been doing I had plenty of small panes of glass, and had one large enough to replace this broken one.  The last trick was to put the frame back together and somehow drive in the nails that held it in place.  Most of the door is glass supported by a thin frame.  How to hammer this without breaking any other glass was the question.  Turned out Xiphos had a great solution—his pneumatic nail gun.  While this sounds silly at first, the reality is that one quick blast and the small nail is driven.  There is no repeated impacts.  His idea made quick work of replacing the frame and it was clear this solution was far safer than trying to use a hammer.
   Pictured is Xen carving his pumpkin for Halloween.

October 20, 2014

How I Broke the Odroid

Battery Test

Battery Test

   The last of the parts to the solar portion of the solar powered web server arrived this weekend.  I now have the battery, charger, and solar panel.  Unfortunately I had gone and destroyed my Odroid, but more on that in a bit.  Now that all the parts were here I wanted to do a quick check on the battery and charger.  I wasn't sure how sealed lead acid batteries shipped so I thought I'd give this new battery a charge using it's new charger.  For this I used my bench power supply and fed this into the charger.  I played around a bit with different voltages and limited current to see how the charger handled it.  Not sure how the charger works, but it looks to work in pulses.  I watched the current limit light on the power supply steady strobe meaning the charger pulled as much current as it could, paused, and repeated the process.  After a few hours the current draw on the power supply dropped significantly so it was clear the battery had been topped off and was now at full charge.  All ready to go, and no computer to serve.
   So what happened to my Odroid?  Me.  I had constructed one of the current measurement circuits in permanent form and was allowing the system to run.  But at some point I bumped the setup and momentarily shorted the 12 VDC to ground.  This doesn't seem like a problem at first because one would think the power would have just gone away.  But it's a little more complicated that than.  The 12 VDC feeds a converter that steps the voltage down to 5 volts.  This converter likely has a capacitor and this capacitor would have a fair bit of charge because the power supply is capable of delivering 20 watts.  The Odroid is mostly idle and had been running at about 1.6 watts.  So what we briefly had was a setup where there was a voltage reverse.  Not sure what all this did, but it wasn't good.  The Odroid won't start or even get close—it just draws a large amount of current and does nothing else. 
   I looked at the schematics to see if there wasn't something I could find that might cause this problem.  Sometimes a problem like this is as simple as a dead diode that is now creating a short.  It looks like the power goes directly to a voltage regulation chip, but little else.  I may have destroyed the chip, or maybe something further down the line.  But so far it looks like things are bad.
   Not satisfied with my photos of Devil's Lake State Park on Friday due to the overcast skies, I returned today for a follow-up.  This time I had sunlight.  There were still a lot of clouds in the sky, but enough openings to make for better landscape shots.  After shooting at the state park, I traveled to Indian Lake County Park where I had biked over the summer for more pictures.  Then finally back to our home, Elmwood Park were the trees in front yard were giving a fantastic display of color.  I took over 500 pictures, and saved 90.  The fall color is pretty much at it's peek, so this was a good weekend to get out and enjoy the color.
Unlucky Doll

Unlucky Doll

   This evening a group of us visited House on the Rock for their Halloween event.  We did this last year and loved it so decided to take the trip again this year.  The attraction has such a strange collection of weird things it is already rather creepy.  For the Halloween event they turn off most of the lights, add black lights, and several Halloween elements.  It is a lot of fun to photograph in these dark conditions.  I used ISO 3200 for most of the night, shooting between -1 and -2 F-stops.  The pictures are fairly grainy because of the ISO, but still quite functional and there were several I was pleased with.
Along the East Hill Trail

Along the East Hill Trail

   My work day ended at 11:45 am today, and I changed into some hiking cloths I departed for Devil's Lake State Park.  I wanted a place that would have hills where I had a good view of the color.  Despite optimistic reports from the other day the skies were overcast with almost no breaks.  The skies were a little hazy, and the landscape shots were not going to be too interesting.  However, the park itself had some fantastic yellow.  I spent a few hours taking pictures with two cameras.  One had an 18-55 mm lens, and the other a 70-300 mm lens.  The setup worked well and allowed me to easily switch between normal and closeup shots.
   To go along with my already bad luck week, I lost my camera cover during the hike.  But the pictures I got and the expense of shooting in such pretty conditions make this a very minor setback.
Full Autumn Color

Full Autumn Color

   I decided to bike to work today instead of tomorrow.  Friday is a half day for me and I would like to take a road trip to a state park and do some photography.  Today and tomorrow are forecast to be nice so I thought I'd bike in today, do some photography on the ride in and back, and then take the afternoon tomorrow for photography.  Sunrise is around 7:15 am and I timed my ride into work so that I would be around Villas Park about this time.  The plan worked, but the skies were too overcast to capture the sunrise.  To continue to add to a week of failures I found I had forgotten my change of work cloths in the garage as I forgot to put them in my panniers before departing.  So I had to sit around at work all day in wet, smelly clothing. 
   On my return trip home the skies were perfect.  Enough clouds against the blue sky to make an excellent background.  I stopped for several shots on the ride home and am very pleased with a number of them. 
Andrew Que, October 4, 2014

Andrew Que, October 4, 2014

   Seems to be the week of hardware problems.  First the Odroid, then the Micro-Dragon, and now the Ethernet switch at Elmwood Park.  I was having problems with the Blue-Dragon establishing an Ethernet connection.  After a lot of messing around I deemed my Ethernet port dead.  I wasn't able to get the drivers for my USB wireless card to function, but I was able to tether my cellphone and use it as a wireless portal.  Seemed silly, but it worked.  But it turns out that all the wires Ethernet computers in the house were also having problems.  My 16-port Netgear switch seems to have died.  I installed this switch in December of 2005, and it has run 24/7 ever since.  It's counter part with a 1 gigabit switch I got at the same time died about 2 years ago.  At the time there was a huge price difference between a 1 Gbit switch and a 10/100 Mbit switch.  There is still a price difference, but not as much.  It has not been my week for functional hardware.

October 14, 2014

Micro-Dragon reboot

   After running 138 days, the Micro Dragon had an unexpected shutdown.  Not sure what happened, but after being reset (thanks Zen) everything seemed to be functional.  The Micro Dragon has run for more than 270 non-stop days in the past.
 
   Continued work on a wood project this afternoon.  I don't have a scroll saw, but I do have a jig saw.  So I decided to see if I could convert it.  Using the bench vice I clamped the saw upside down, and used an other clamp to press the button.  This worked alright and I was able to make the cuts I needed with a fair bit of accuracy.  For cleanup I needed to do a fair bit of filing, but I wasn't removing enough material.  So I used the same technique to mount my belt sander.  This made fairly quick work of cleanup.  Not as exact as it could have been, but I lack the tools and technique for doing really fine detailed work like I am attempting.  Nonetheless, I am pleased with the progress I have made.