Category: Electronics

Watch Out For Crap Like This.

Watch Out For Crap Like This.

From the early 70’s I was tinkering with electronics.  While my peers were playing ball or getting their hearts broken, I was getting shocked and talking to people all over the world.

Peering through the back of a radio or perhaps the TV, one would see all these glowing amber lights.  Soon after my fascination with the front of the radiant dial on the old floor model radio piqued, I wanted to know how it worked.

Garage sales and discarded appliances became a source of amusement for me.  Boxes of small parts from different devices soon lived in the closet, under my bed, and soon I had to pare down the collection.  A borrowed receiver, some junk box parts, and a crystal as were the rules back then, I was on the air as a newly minted Novice Amateur Radio Operator.  The glowing 6AQ5 tube was the final for a whopping 7 watts unmodulated Carrier wave controlled by the steady fist of what they used to call ‘brass pounders.’

Today, 47 years after the date, I still remember Morse code, but I must confess I have not pounded a key in eons.

Tubes gave way to transistors, which soon turned into integrated circuits. Now we have software-defined radio that minimalizes the power usage and, of course, exaggerates the complications if you need to troubleshoot it.

Time marches on. 

A man once stipulated that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and the same is true of the law of accelerated return of advancement regarding technology.

Most teenagers today have more technology in their back pocket or on their wrist than we used to send a man to the moon.  What they do with it remains to be seen but, the possibility of great things is within their grasp.

Licensing for the Amateur Radio Service is nothing like it was.  One could argue that nobody builds anything anymore, so it does not need to be as difficult as it was back in 1973.

I still tinker, albeit minimally and mostly with antenna design and theory.  All that said to get to the point of this blog.

When I purchased this switch box online, I knew what to expect.  Never in a million years would I push any wattage through this thing.

When I wiggled the wires a number of them came lose of their own accord, cold solder joints.
Here is the inside of the box. Wow.

In my office resides a desk, with several different apparatuses on it.  From state of the art to antique, I still listen to and ‘mess’ with them on occasion.  You see I always appreciate the glow from the dial light of old shortwave radios.  I wanted a way to control the RF from my antenna to the different devices without messing with cables.

The name of this device is miss-leading, and I am confident if put to the test, they would call it a ‘name’ and say they never meant it to handle 1000 watts. With the wording CB in the advertisement, they could argue the illegality of using more than 12 watts PEP ergo ‘what were you doing with this thing?’

A smart person could take them to task, in that this thing would perform miserably at 27mhz.

Whoever designed it had a handle on DC but not AC.  The integrity of the 50 ohms impedance is violated, making this a horrible device even for switching between receivers.  Again I knew what to expect when I spent the $20.  Why then did I buy it?

IMG_5771

Real coaxial switches have the same essential components, they are just well thought out.   If you look at the contact on the switch, you can tell that any kind of wattage would burn the connections and or arc over to the next.  In its original construction, I would not even use it for low wattage use.

Below you can see how I modified it with coax and common grounds.  One last modification is to add a ground lug to it, so I can ground the box to earth ground.

IMG_5774

Enjoy your hobbies, and be very wary of crap from the Far East.  While it is all made there, ‘for the most part,’ some companies have a reputation at stake, while some just want to sell cheap junk.

In its original form, it was just that, junk.

-Best

Scott

 

The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be

The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be

This might seem like a blog about horses or livestock but we will be talking about technology, and how to breathe new life in to your old computers.

In 1946 they designed the ENIAC to be the end all be all in technology.  Twenty minutes of Computer time would replace over 240 man hours where calculations were concerned.  The economic model fell apart with the amount of man hours needed to maintain the computer, not to mention the parts, ‘tubes’ and the energy needed to power it.  

Today in this modern era of technology we have something known as Hardware Asset Management.  If your CIO gives you a blank stare if you talk with him or her about it, consider hiring a new one.

CFO’s hate surprises. Without asset management one quickly learns there are no good surprises in business.

The modern day desktop has a life cycle of five years and the laptop, three.  What if there was a way to extend that life cycle for a minimum investment?

They rate components in computers in something known as MTBF or Mean Time between Failures.  Notice that does not ‘if it fails, but when.’

Looking at the different components within a computer, one of the most fragile and arguable important is the hard drive.  Next would be the power supply, and any moving parts, which would be the fans, drives and cd-rom.

How do we mitigate this to an acceptable level of risk, and push the envelope out one to two or more years?

Normal physical maintenance should be at the top of every ‘engineers’ duties.
·         Visiting with the users looking for clues about what they are dealing with.
·         Visual inspections of how the machines are installed and cared for.
·         Regular dusting of the CPU and other fans looking or listening for bearings, etc.
·         Frayed cables or broken tabs on network cables.
·         Non-authorized software.

Managers of those individuals should be mindful of updates, security and so on.  License compliance is part of Software Asset management and not in the scope of this document.

Now what about extending the life cycle of a computer?

The secret is SSD drives.  As developers constantly up the requirements for applications to perform, we cast aside perfectly viable computers for newer hardware.

What if? 

What if we could solve some of those issues with a simple upgrade? SSD Drives are under $100 for a Terabyte drive.  A disk duplicator cost around $40 or certainly less than one hundred dollars.

Taking out the hard drive, placing it in the source compartment of the duplicator and the new SSD drive in the target; in 4 hours’ time you have a solid state drive that is no longer subject to accidental jars such as in laptops.  More importantly than this, is the speed issue.  You also have a perfect clone of the original meaning, you have a backup should something happen.

SSD drives are much faster than regular hard drives and there are no moving parts.

The laptop I am writing this on, was a retired HP with an I 3 processor and 6 gig of ram.  One $100 drive later this laptop performs like a new one.  Yes, the Office applications are still 2010 but, I have Windows 10 and it runs just fine.
Boot up time went from over three minutes, to under thirty seconds.

Application loading time is incredible and if Windows needs to swap, it is swapping to memory and not a slow hard drive.

Bottom line, I have a perfectly good laptop pulled from the retirement pile, for $100 and four hours of my time.

Since the copy process is automatic, you put the two drives into the machine, hit copy and go do something else until it is finished.  Actual human hours involved were less than 20 minutes.
The old Gray Mare now is running like a colt, and I can save the money I would spend on a laptop and new software for something else.

For an individual this is an easy decision to make.  Multiply this by ten or a thousand employees.  Could your P&L use the extra boost?

Like always, I am a consultant and would be happy to visit with you about how you are doing business, and if there are ways to improve upon them.

Bio:
I was working with computers before Bill Gates was a household name, and Steve Jobs was still a criminal working out of his garage, designing and building ways to scam the phone company.  I met him while supporting Next Step Computers during one of my jobs years ago.
From before ‘Al Gore’ invented the internet, to performing disaster recovery strategies for large and small companies, I stay active. Reach out to me on Linked In, or through this blog.
-Best

 

Is the lowest price always your best option?

Is the lowest price always your best option?

 

From time to time, I share with you pearls of wisdom learned through the school of hard knocks.

We all do it.  We look for the best price on things from hotels to rental cars to stuff.  Consumables like food from reputable sources you might do better at a big box store.  When shopping for groceries, I pay attention to coupons vs., the added luxury of services that are offered.

Some stores are pushing the industry of shopping for groceries on-line. They do this by one checker open while ‘nudging’ you to take your selections to the self-checkout, which rarely work correctly.

Sam’s has probably one of the better systems. Using the bar code reader, one can efficiently facilitate their purchase, and I would add a giant asterisk to this statement.  I know few people who want to price, bag and pay for their things, only to be stalled exiting the building, waiting in a long line for some person to take forever to do an inventory of your items, and all of those people in front of you.   This, to me, is a bridge too far, especially when I already pay a membership fee.  All things considered, I will not renew.

While big-box stores killed the mom and pop businesses, so too will the likes of Amazon and other online services, kill bricks and mortar establishments?   The impetus for doing such things comes down to the P&L and morons seeking 15 dollars an hour salaries for entry-level jobs.  They obviously have stopped teaching economics in school, and they surely have stopped teaching critical thinking.

 

In my line of work, I provide several services.  One of them which is the reason for this blog is File Date Stamps.  I also offer other legacy products to municipalities and other businesses who use such things. I serve a dying industry, as we move to do everything electronically.

Leaving forensic computing and disaster recovery my next items to push, those two are also outsourced to other countries who can exploit people without unions and protestors to raise hell.

The Rapidprint and Widmer products have been around for well over thirty years.  Both are robust machines that serve many customers.  With minor attention to replacing ink ribbons and not knocking the things on the floor, they require little maintenance.  Some customers who use these hundreds of times a day, however, cause wear and tear that at some point needs to be addressed.

The year wheel last ten years and I have replaced year wheels in the same machines three-times and counting.  Where else can you purchase a machine that lasts over 30 years?

As a highly trained engineer, my company handles thousands of these clocks in a service capacity.  The catch is this.  Companies must make a profit, or we will not be around to service them.  I could teach someone how to repair them in hours, what takes decades is knowing from the very feel of the wheels if they are right or not.  From the look and sound of the imprint, I can tell you what is going on.  That expertize takes years.

I know of a customer through one of my vendors who purchased a machine online, at some cheap price.  The dealer is responsible for the warranty issues per our contract with the vendor.  That is part and parcel of how this all works.  They allow us a discount, and we must absorb the cost incurred with warranty issues… from the machines we sell!

This customer purchased this machine from some internet-only dealer and had an issue and was told to deal with the vendor.  Nope… not the way it works, and they were not happy.  I don’t blame them but… they looked for the lowest price and not reputation. Sending it to another vendor for repair, eating the cost, the machine broke once again sometime later.

Without going there to see if it is something they are doing, vs. a botched repair job, the vendor would have little way of knowing.  Offering to repair it for them at no charge, the customer balked at the cost of shipping it back to them.

Contacting me, who is in Texas, I told them I would provide the service at no charge, even though I did not sell the machine.  The idea behind that decision is to take care of the customer, and have that customer from then on.   Word of mouth is how I grow my business.  Can I do that for everyone… no?

Doubling down on the $20 shipping charge to get it to me, they are now in some stalemate.  The vendor offering to assist them did not sell it to them, and it is not even their brand of equipment. This vendor goes well out of their way to help customers with the same goal in mind, turn them into their customers.

The original seller is who they should be contacting, but of course, they don’t provide any service, so the customer’s ‘good deal’ has backfired, even though another vendor and I have offered to rescue them from their dilemma.

Is it wise to purchase a machine from some internet vendor that does not provide service?

“Do you feel lucky???”

A word about shipping…

Having intimate knowledge of the different carriers, your package, whether it is diapers or light bulbs, is dropped up to six feet several times during its voyage from the dealer to you.  The heavier the parcel, the more likely it is to be damaged.

As a rule, I insure packages sent by me.  I have had them crushed in the process.  One machine which was packaged in the factory shipping box, had the metal casting broken.  The problem is most customers are not aware of the claims process.

If you get a packaged that appears damaged, take pictures of everything before you open it, and then through the process.  If there is damage to the ‘item,’ you will need those pictures along with the original packaging to file a claim and get reimbursed.

On rare occasions, the jostling of the machine through the shipping process can cause internal damage.  If your new or repaired device does not function straight out of the box as intended, there is a good chance that in the process the ‘500-pound Gorilla’ got too exuberant.  Machines sent from my shop are bench tested for two weeks before they are shipped.  My percentage of warranted returns is less than 2%, and in every instance, it was due to shipping and handling issues.

In known bad areas of the country, I will double box the machine.  Please let us know if you suspect your postage, UPS or Fed X handlers employ the proverbial gorilla.  The cost of double-boxing is minimal, considering the frustration of getting a broken machine back from a sale or service.  We have all seen the video where the delivery person launches your package toward your door from over twenty feet away and leaves.  Those warehouses are hot or cold, and those people don’t have too much skin in the game.  Much like the baggage handlers at the airport, they don’t seem to care.

If you are in Louisiana, you probably remember this event from the picture above.

We very much enjoyed meeting those of you that were there and look forward to serving your needs without pestering you.

We are planning a tour of your state in the upcoming months.  Please take a look at my site for products and or services and let me know if you would like a visit.  www.timedok.com  Unlike most, I will not bother you if you don’t need what I offer.  As a businessman, I too have to screen calls and ignore the 866 numbers.

Most of my customer base is word of mouth, and that bodes well for what I do.  I will go the extra mile for my customers… If you would like that kind of service, check us out… It is DOK with a K!.

 

Cheers!

Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

Apple Update: Do you want to do it now or later, or never?

 

This notice used to be no cause for alarm. Having been in the computer business for some time updates were always rather innocuous.

Novell was the first program that I dealt with that you had to read each and every “readme” and decide if you indeed wanted this patch or that.

Patches were not mandatory they were written for specific bugs or concerns.  The problem with patches like that are, they can only be applied during a “service window.”

A service window is a time of the day and week when ordinary people are sleeping or not thinking about work. Holidays were great times for service windows as applying a patch would be the least disruptive for business functions.  Midnight to five AM Saturday night into Sunday morning was usually a good time for a service window.

While Microsoft has taken the guesswork out of service windows, it would seem that Apple has as well.

You turn on your PC, and it says, applying updates, please stand by.

No matter how urgent your need is the updates will commence, and you will be patient.

With this latest phone update that crippled my one-year-old phone, I am a little gun-shy about taking any more updates from Apple. I am thrilled that they are going to repatriate billions of dollars bringing it into the US as well as providing jobs for Americans, I am not so excited with the fact that my phone is barely usable. The old 4S that I did not update is faster than my 6S.

To say that this practice of slowing down older product is reprehensible, does not begin to cover it.

I was seriously thinking about looking at an Android-based smartphone when I received an Apple watch for Christmas. Great Timing!

Now I have a watch that tells me when to stand and breath but works very slowly as far as my phone is concerned.

My first iPad worked just fine until I was going to give it to an older gentlemen to watch Netflix on or read Kindle stuff.  I reset it and managed to brick it as they don’t have any software that works with that OS, and they don’t have the version of OS for that iPad available.  Resetting it from a usable tablet to original killed it.

I don’t know why they cannot make the server smart enough to detect which product you have and offer you an IOS or apps that will work on that product?  Oh, wait I do to know.  They want you to buy more hardware!

I met Steve years ago while supporting Next Step Computers.  I wonder how he would feel about what is happening today.

I would imagine he would be ok with it.  Like the Schick razor they want to sell you new blades, or in this case more product into perpetuity.

I would think that consumer watchdog groups would be all over this nonsense. A thousand dollars for a phone is over the top, one should get more than a year out of it.

This Pc that I am writing from today, I built seven years ago.  When I designed it, I put in components that were capable of playing the most aggressive video game of the day.  Why?  Here we are seven years later with the latest version of Windows 10, and it is still plenty fast.

An important note to keep in mind.  Hardware is measured in MTBF which means Mean Time Between Failure.  Hard drives die!  Fans Die!  Power supplies Die!  Moral of this story is to keep your files backed up.  If your data are only on your PC, you are living dangerously.

By files I mean data.  Document and pictures, email PST files, excel documents and so forth.

Whether it is an apple update or windows update keep in mind that I have seen Microsoft updates brick computers.

As far as Apple is concerned, I am in hopes that they will correct their error and think twice about that kind of activity in the future.  To screw up their brand in such a cheap way is beneath them in so many ways.  If you want people to purchase, the latest greatest, make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. You might also work on the price!

-Best

 

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

Is Buffoonery the new American Norm?

 

“Doctor, when I do this it hurts.  My hair is thinning, and I am tired all the time.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, other than this strange growth on my neck. What can you give me to make it better?”

“We must run some test first to see if these symptoms are related and then figure out what is causing them.”

“You doctors are all alike, you just want to run my bill up with unnecessary test, so you can make a car payment or even a house payment.  Just prescribe something, and I will be on my way.”

The patient in the above dialogue is a Buffoon.

Oddly enough, I get this same kind of rhetoric when I am called out to come up with a disaster recovery plan and discover that they have many other issues.

“Do you think you can fix these issues we are having?”

“What are some of the issues?”

“Computers drop off the network for no reason.  Printers often don’t get their print jobs, we think it is the printer, so we keep calling Cannon out, but they never fix it! The internet is slow and sometimes unresponsive.  Our phones don’t always work.  The phone vendor keeps telling us it is not his problem but you know those vendors, get your money and then forget they know you.  My lead guy tells me we need more internet bandwidth, would that fix it?”

“It sounds like you have some serious issues, when would you like me to start?”

“Start?  Just go push the right button and fix it!  How long will it take?”

“It depends on what I find.”

“What do you charge?”

“$125 an hour unless you would like to have me out here on a contract for a set amount of time.”

“What would you charge if I contract with you for two hours.”

“$250, (and it may be more if I have to deal with stupid nonsense like this, while I am working.)

“Truly I get this kind of stuff from CIO’s no less.”

The old joke about a thousand dollars regarding kicking a computer to make it work is just a joke.  While that might end up being the final diagnosis (which I doubt), this is a mindset from those who have no idea of what they are talking about.

Truly if it is from someone outside of IT, it is not their fault. Their job is to run the company, turn a profit or drive the business to produce more of what they do.  It is not to run IT.  Now if the CIO has this dialogue with you as a consultant then you have issues.

Some people are in high up positions because of who they knew and not what they knew.  Some are there because their parents own the company.  I personally try to stay out of situations like that because it hardly ever ends well.  I have done it many times in the past.  One of the most frustrating things is working for a guy “CIO” who did not even have a computer at home.  He knew little about computers or technology other than green screen 5250 stuff as a programmer, using RPG or Cobol.

When I walk in your door to resolve an issue or create a disaster recovery plan, there are things that I want to see.

  • Up to date network map.
  • A runbook
  • I will want to see the recent logs from the servers.
  • I will want to see your notes from the change control committee. (living document)
  • I will ask about your issues from the past to current. Are there pain points and what are they?
  • I will want to know what you would like to see as a deliverable. (an end goal)
  • I will want to know about your business model, so I can best position you for the future.
  • I will ask about the age of the hardware and what your hardware asset management looks like.
  • I will also want to know the same about your software. S.A.M.
  • I will want to see the licenses for the software that you have and I will want to see where the software is and when, if ever was it updated.

If you asked your CIO for these things, could he provide them?

As the CEO, ignorance is not an option.  There are seldom good surprises in business.

There are many other things I will want to have handy before I even begin to diagnose, troubleshoot or create a disaster recovery plan.  One of the most effusive displays of frustration from a client was when I discovered through digging that someone had spliced network cable improperly and it would need to be replaced.  Cat 5 to Cat 3 no less.

Yes, I will want to know about the cable plant. Was it installed all at one time or has it evolved over the years?   When you climb into the overhead ceiling to find a gob of electrical tape or even scotch tape holding network cable together, that will make your blood run cold.  If they are that stupid or cheap unless they are under new management or are willing to hand you the checkbook, you probably should just walk away.  Life is too short.

When I talk with potential customers, I can get a sense of their knowledge level quick enough.  How is that done?

I was in data processing long before Bill Gates was a household name.  Steve Jobs was still a criminal selling blue boxes made in his garage and CPM was the operating system.  What I do is not cheap but, it is worth it.  Most companies that have a disaster if not resolved within three days go out of business.

“We live in Dallas Texas, what kind of disaster could we have that would put us out of  business?”

The disaster that I see the most often was caused by employee error.  I do a risk assessment as part of the deliverable which many companies need for their insurance provider.

Now that we are in 2018 is this the year that you pay attention to your network and other infrastructure?  Is this the year that you look at security both digital and physical? “yes, I do that too.”

If you like my blog, please consider following me.

-Best

 

Open letter to Apple

Open letter to Apple

Dear Apple,

It would seem to me that creating an environment where your products have designed obsolescence is wrong on any number of levels.

“An aging relative thought he might like to read on a Kindle type device.  I took my working IPad version 1 and reset it to its factory original specifications.  I then made him an apple account on iTunes and attempted to download Netflix, Kindle and some other games he might enjoy.”

My plan had one major flaw that I had not anticipated.  Not only do all apps require an IOS of a later date but, I cannot update to any more recent IOS that was on there because it is no longer available. The latest IOS will not support the iPad 1, and I suspect the iPad II may be close to becoming obsolete as well.  Since this was my first iPad and I have moved onto the II, IPad Air, and the Pro, I no longer had the backup from that iPad version 1, making it now a paperweight.

Might I suggest that you make available the latest IOS for those devices and a cache of apps that will work with them?  I realize that this might affect people buying new iPads and phones and such vs. keeping their old ones going a little longer but, each phone and each iPad was not cheap. While they may not be a primary device, they will still play a movie or music and serve some purpose vs. filling a landfill.

In the previous case mentioned, a tablet running Android IOS for $100 took care of everything that he needed.  While I would have preferred that he was able to use my iPad 1, I was not about to drop $1000 for a tablet to read, play games and maybe watch Netflix on.

I still have my first iPhone and use it for music, the same is true with the 4S. These are great for plugging into your car.  Even with the cellular service terminated, it will still function to dial 911 in a pinch.  It of course also has your music which plays nicely through the stereo, replacing the iPod.  The apps that I purchased at the time still work beautifully as well.

I must admit that I find it curious how the old updated iPhone 4s performs nicely compared to my 6S which has become slower and slower with every update.  Is that my imagination?  I think not.

The PC industry has been guilty of this for years, although one could blame it on programmers designing software on the latest and greatest hardware.

What we used to refer to as “tight code” is no longer necessary as programmers have terabytes of space, gigahertz of speed and of course gigs of memory to store that slack code in to.

Programming back in the day, was probably more of a challenge than it is today.

Whether the hardware drives the software industry or the other way around, it is the consumer that gets the short end of the stick.

Apple should have a place where one can obtain the latest IOS (or last available) for their particular device, and apps that were written for and worked with that version of the IOS.

While the tail rarely wags the dog, as we are learning with recent events, consumers, if rallied and coordinated, can wag the dog.

Should we organize a campaign to wag the dog?

My two cents!

 

Scott

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When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

When Should You Replace Equipment and Why

 

 

Today I thought I would talk about a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of most CFO’s.  Money and budgets.

 

In the IT ARENA as it were all hardware has a lifespan.

 

  • Desktops 5 years
  • Laptops 3 years
  • Tablets, PDA’s and phones about 2. *

 

HAM or Hardware Asset Management is close cousins to SAM or Software asset management.

Many that I deal with in this industry are loath to do either of these.

 

Why?

What seems so intuitive to a business minded person is out in left field to the IT Manager.

 

While most hardcore IT people will undoubtedly have the updated newest most magnificent PC at home, they will be loath to keep the hardware at work current.  Either budgetary constraints, lack of planning on their IT staff, laziness or foolishness on managements parts while keeping the dinosaurs alive.

IT is a moving target.

One of my clients was experiencing a strange anomaly on one of their machines.  I was there for other reasons, and they ask me if I had ever seen anything like it.

 

On occasion, the mouse pointer would change with some strange addition to it, making the original tip Indistinguishable from where it should be pointing.

 

Nobody has seen everything and the same is true for me.  Offering my services, as they did not have the time for this, I did the usual stuff.

After hours of doing my routine including removing the hard drive and running scans on it outside of its operating system, the problem looked more and more like hardware.  Faulty graphics adapter perhaps.

After moving the PC into the shop, the problem disappeared.

Going back to the work area where the PC was, under the desk was an old UPS.  Taking the UPS into the shop and checking it out, I soon discovered that the sine wave of 60 cycles was anything but clean and, it was not holding the right voltages even though the battery was good.   Upon further investigation, I learned that they had a routine of replacing batteries in old UPS’s and putting them back out.

Putting a new ups under the ladies desk, solved the problem.  It was a $79 solution which should have been automatic.

I don’t want to go into the weeds here, but electronics have a lifespan.  Things called MOV’s for one (metal oxide Varistor) are sacrificial devices that are designed to clamp power spikes keeping them from going downstream, in this case, into your PC and monitor.  They have a finite lifespan.

UPS’s or Uninterruptable power supplies are insurance.  When the battery dies, replace them.

Recycle them after you remove the battery and dispose of it accordingly.   I would bet that all over every office building they have surge protectors that are no longer functioning.  For the same reason, they too have an MOV across the 120V AC line.  They die!

I have written about PC’s lifespan before, so I don’t want to repeat myself.

Hardware Asset Management protects the company in many ways.

You should never put an old machine at someone desk having them limp by with a clunker when they need a Corvette. The software today is memory and CPU intensive with the ever growing demands of anti-virus software and the numerous updates, it is worse.

Soft dollars are real.  If you have employees that cannot work because their network is down, that is real money!

Employing a good software deployment strategy along with keeping the same model of machine in the business is wise, and worth looking into.

Software and Hardware management are critical pieces of a business strategy.

One client I had, bought whatever was on sale on New Egg.  Support was a bloody nightmare and oh by the way, why do you think it is on sale?

Always purchase from a VAR, and build that relationship with them.  You may need them one day!

Leasing vs. owning is worth looking into for many reasons.  Bottom line, you change out the PC’s every few years, and you get the same PC to support throughout the company.

The clunkers end up on eBay and eventually, someone somewhere will be playing solitaire on it.   Today’s Corvettes are tomorrow Clunkers, simple truth! 

Depending on the size of your company software licensing needs to be evaluated and care taken to make sure that you are in compliance. An enterprise license is excellent to have if you are large enough. Software and licensing are evolving daily it seems, with lease being the operative word.  Subscription services much like antivirus software is commonplace, ensuring a revenue stream for the developers.

Gone are the days of buying a box of software with a few floppy disk and using it forever.

I was visiting some friend when I saw an old 486 computer sitting on his mother’s desk.

My first computer was a Kaypro, and I went through the 8088 @4.7 mhz to GHz and beyond.  To see the old 486 running with Solitaire on the screen and windows version three, you could see the mindset and how it evolved.

I recently trashed (recycled) a bin full of disks with programs, backups, and god only knows what all.  The next week I tossed an entire bookshelf full of technical books from Novell to MSCE windows NT stuff.  Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours studying in the bin.  SAD

Your PC is not too dissimilar from your car.  You don’t buy it as a thing but as a resource. When your vehicle starts to spend more time in the shop than on the road, you trade it in.  The same is true of your PC, Laptop and the rest.

Somewhere in my closet I still have a 16mg stick of memory that I paid over $500 for back in the early 80’s.  $500 back then was a lot of cash.  The stick of memory is nothing.  What it did for me was why I bought it.

If you are not connected to the internet as long as you can keep your 486 running, and it does what you need it to do, it is viable.  If you still have a copy of lotus 123, you too can relive the days of / .. 🙂

 

*  2 years on the average portable device is recommended because they are portable, and often dropped.  If you budget 2 years, you can indeed budget correctly.

 

If you find my blogs helpful or entertaining, please follow me.

 

-Best

Don’t throw it away just yet!

Don’t throw it away just yet!

 

Batteries are a troublesome thing and can be a real source of irritation.  Batteries used in devices like this keyboard, for instance, can be in there a long time before they need to be replaced.  The Current draw is small so the battery could last years.

My mouse was recently acting squirrely so I decided to change the batteries.  When I opened the battery cover the familiar white crystals of “leaked battery” were everywhere.  Managing to clean the contacts I decided to change those in my keyboard as well.  Also leaked everywhere but not near as easy to clean.  Removing about 25 screws to separate the keyboard I was indeed able to clean the contacts and remove the crystals which had formed.

The batteries had a shelf life until 2023.  They were indeed still working.  I had another device that I had used at Christmas last year and put up with the batteries in it.  Retrieving it from the closet I took pictures for you.  Also still had power in them which was amazing but defective.

batt5

Duracell has been my go to battery for decades.  Occasionally I get the other brand and it is a good thing that I did.

Another apparatus that I depend on is a lightening defector by Acurite.

As a radio enthusiast and a bit of an outdoor nut, I want to know if there is weather around.  Here in Texas, we get some rather nasty cloud to ground lightning.

The backlight in the detector was dim so I decided to replace the batteries before the last storm.

Installing the new batteries the apparatus did not work.

batt2

Taking a closer look at the batteries it became apparent that the new version of Duracell AAA batteries has a smaller tit on the positive end.  This means that it may very well not make contact with the battery contacts.

batt1

If you look carefully you can see that there is a gap of a few thousandths of an inch between the end of the battery and the terminal.  This is a common type of connector in radio’s and other battery operated things.

If your device fails to work after replacing the batteries, check this!

If you happen to know anyone at Duracell you might forward this to them.

Houston you have a problem!

Save the landfills and your hard earned money, check the batteries and the connections.

-Best

Kits and other fun stuff from eBay

Kits and other fun stuff from eBay

 

I admit it; I am a gadget freak!  Ever since I was a little guy and I heard an announcers voice come out of a radio, I was hooked.

radio parts

There was indeed something magical about listening to a baseball game on the radio.  We had this Zenith floor standing Radio with that magic green eye in the dial.  Lights from the dial illumined the room as often you would find yourself transfixed on their voice and their description of the action on the field.

Those days are gone.

We have ample flat screen TV’s in super ultra 4 K extra high definition! Whatever all that means.  Much like having a stereo that faithfully reproduces a square wave frequency from 20 to 20 KHz when the human hearing is good up to 12khz or 14Khz tops, one has to wonder.  How many colors can my eye slash brain actually discern?

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Satellite Radio offers some nostalgia for those of you who like Johnny Dollar or the Shadow knows.  There are many more stations that one can listen to on road trips.  The art of producing such a radio broadcast is probably all but lost today.

What you can hear on the radio itself, pales in comparison to what the radio used to provide.

AM radio is basically talk radio or news all day.

FM radio, of course, is everything from soup to nuts.

Portable radios of not too long ago, 70 years or so, were tube based.  Two batteries were required, and of course, the longevity of the batteries was not that great.

The TR-1 was the first radio that was a joint effort between two companies.

tr1

 

Other companies jumped on the bandwagon with the advent of the transistor.  Now you could build a portable radio and power it with inexpensive batteries.  This device would fit into a shirt pocket or purse comfortably.

I have purchased two kits from eBay sources that are radio’s that mimic those of today.

One was a straight AM radio with a similar design to those of 60 years ago.  There were no directions included with them that a non-Chinese writing, reading person, could make much sense of.

Building the device using the knowledge that I have, I was able to get it working satisfactorily.  The AM FM radio kit that I bought was also lite on instructions and some parts.

Thankfully the parts missing were easily obtained from my supplies of parts.

This radio contained SMT (surface mount technology) which is always somewhat fun to “weld” as they say in their instructions.  I don’t guess that there is a word for solder in Chinese.

I am always thrilled when I first power up a kit, and it works from the get-go.  No smoke or other short circuits. Noise with modulation did indeed emanate from the speaker.  Soon enough there was a ball game being broadcast which, caused me to pause for a moment.

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After everything seemed to work as it should, I finished the assembly installing it into the case provided.

The difference between this radio and one of the 70’s was that there are three integrated circuits inside this radio.

  • One of them is the AM radio.
  • Another is the FM Radio
  • The third is the amplifier

Now give that some thought for a second.  The significant parts of the radio were all on chips.  The SMT chip is the FM radio.  The eight-pin DIP is actually a stereo amplifier chip.  The third which had I not looked carefully at resembles a transistor complete in a TO 92 case.  Three legs only.  That is the AM radio which is actually a several transistor AM radio.

All of the rest of the components are supporting components that they could not build inside the chips.

A handful of capacitors and a few resistors, switches and one variable capacitor.

The FM radio oddly enough does not track linearly as it should.  At either end of the band the stations come in, but in the middle, there are “birdies” and dead space.  This might very well be a design flaw in the circuitry.  You can get all of the stations, but they are not where the pointer says they should be.  After adjusting the trim cap on the variable capacitor, I was able to get stations to come in but again not where they belong.

The AM radio is another disappointment.  Yes, it works, and I can get the stations to come in where they should however…. The strong stations swamp the weaker stations.  I have two strong stations close to my house, so they indeed swamp the receiver.  If you ever had a crystal radio, this is much like that only it has a speaker and power.

Some quick research on the AM chip, I learned that this is a flaw of the chip.  One person has designed a circuit to lower the voltage to the semiconductor alone.  This modification supposedly allows the AGC to act correctly inside the chip enabling the radio to have more selectivity.

I have ordered some of the AM chips.  I plan to “play” with that design myself to see if indeed there is a way to build a radio with that chip that is satisfactory.

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As a Ham Radio Enthusiast, when I see a complete dual band handheld radio with a flashlight and FM broadcast radio built in for under $50 dollars, one has to wonder how the major brands will compete with this.

KG-UV6D-2-x

In short the Chinese have multiple “kits” that are on eBay.  I firmly believe that many of these kits were sub-assemblies for larger apparatuses that were discontinued.  The market for DIY folks like myself is rife with such things as most of us don’t need instructions.  If on the other hand, you are one of those “step one, step two, folks these kits may not be for you.

The lack of instructions requires that you bring to the table a wealth of experience.  Knowing how to “weld,” solder is mandatory.  Having some idea of what you are building so you can take precautions with static electricity and of course high voltages is also a good idea.

One of the “kits” on the way is a device modeled after the Tesla coil.  There are high voltages present.  If this turns out to be worth it, I will blog about it.

tesla plasma

If it works as expected audio from some device should modulate the plasma.

Why, why not?  It might modulate the gases inside CFL tubes or neon lights too!

Hope you enjoy the blogs and of course take advantage of your tinkering time.

-Best

 

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

 

As a technology minded person, I often wondered about those who design cordless devices.  In particular, I am addressing phones.  I assume some government agency somewhere spent millions of your tax dollars to come up with what someone thinks are safe levels of radiation.

Maybe these people know more than the rest of us, or maybe they don’t.

Case in point.

The standard cordless phone in 2017 most probably transmits to the base either at 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz.  While your phone may advertise the higher frequency of 5.4 GHz that is most probably from the base to the phone.

Split frequency designs like this are prudent as it takes more power to transmit higher frequencies.

Now, these cell phones that we all carry around transmit either in the 850 MHz range or 1.8 ~1.9 GHz range.

MHz (Mega Hertz) stands for millions of cycles per second,  GHz is (Giga Hertz) or billions of cycles per second.  So every second depending upon the frequency, the RF (radio frequency) cycles millions or billions of time.  IE 2.4 GHz is 2 billion, four hundred million, cycles per second.

Frequency should not be confused or conflated with power.

Power for our conversation today is watts.  How much power or how many watts of RF (radio frequency) are we talking about?

Cell phones transmit up to 1.7 watts of power.

Cordless phones transmit as much and possibly more than a cell phone.  The interesting aspect of this is there is this DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology that has been around for a little while now.  They sell it as a plus but European studies have shown this might be more hazardous to your health than its predecessor.

The base of this technology is transmitting full power all the time whether your phone is in use or not. If the base is next to your bed or on your desk you are constantly bombarded with 5.4 GHz or at the least 2.4 GHz of radiated power in the form of RF.

Move it away from your body.

Why am I writing about this?

Ever since the first cell phones came out I wondered what they were doing and why.  These phones are always talking to the cell towers announcing their availability and telling them where they are while checking in.  The phone was and is smart enough to adjust its power level depending upon what is needed to communicate with the tower effectively.  The reasons are many but the main idea is to “talk” with one cell tower at a time.

My phone, even today will often time be warm in my pocket, or just sitting on the desk.

While we really have no idea what a smartphone is doing all the time, you can bet if it is warm, it is transmitting something.

IMG_4513

I built this little device with a few diodes.  I will not belabor the technical aspects of this device other than to say it does not have any batteries.  These devices are passive in that the only way that they are energized would be by outside energy fields or EM (electromagnetic) forces.

I got the idea from the crystal radio of my youth.  Yes, I built one and housed it inside a pen casing.  With a single diode and a coil and very little know how I had a radio that would pick up local radio stations and never needed a battery.

Since my original device that I designed and built years ago, I found this version on the internet for a few dollars.

Setting this thing on top of my phone it soon became obvious that the cell phone is transmitting constantly.

  • Is it looking for data?
  • Is the phone talking to the tower?
  • Is the phone talking to my Wi-Fi network?

The answer is yes.  We really have no idea if the phone is doing anything else in the (tin foil hat category).

Now with 1.7 watts of RF at 2GHz, give or take, right next to your ear hole, one has to wonder if that is healthy.

Out of curiosity, I moved my device around the phone to discover that the most of the radiation or highest amounts come out of the phone right by the earpiece.  Why?

Knowing RF and the possible link to brain tumors, lymphoma and other nasty things why would the engineers put the transmitting antenna where it would be closest to your head?

This is the iPhone 6S.

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My curiosity got the best of me so I checked my cordless phones.

IMG_4513

The light powered strictly by RF from the phone is very bright, right on the ear hole and down by the mouthpiece, the light, or power output is nonexistent.

IMG_4510

Imagine that your phone has enough RF power to illuminate an LED to full intensity and that energy is being pumped into your head right through your ear hole and of course next to your skull.

Tell me; why in the hell would you not put the antenna at the base of the phone where it would be furthest away from the body/brain?  The energy required to light the led dissipates with distance.  Logic would dictate that the less energy radiated close to your brain would be a good thing.

The pictures speak for themselves but now you know what you are looking at.

What can we do?

First off, we should ask the government for our money back that they paid for these studies.  One would think that if they can come up with SAR (specific absorption rate) and what is safe that just maybe they might have said, “you know, you phone makers should place the transmitter/antenna away from their brains.”

It is kind of like that commercial where the bank is being robbed and the guard says, “Oh I am not a guard, just a monitor… you are being robbed.”  What good is the FCC if they cannot think outside the box? The government, which they are part of, is to protect its citizens from faulty designs, much like the Corvair of the 60’s.  Where is Ralph Nader these days?

It is amazing to me that they did scientific studies to figure out how much tissue would cook or be damaged by rf.  Then they came up with the acronym SAR and finally did nothing more about it.  “Look for a phone with a low SAR rating.”  Are there labels, using this phone can cause brain cancer?”

What is so germane about 2.4 GHz and why am I sounding a little stressed about this?

That box in your kitchen that burns popcorn so nicely happens to work in that same frequency range.

Since there are millions of microwave ovens out there the FCC put broadband Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and many other unlicensed transmitters that the public uses in that same frequency range as the microwave oven.   Part of your license on each piece of equipment reads something to the effect that this device must accept and deal with  RFI or radiofrequency interference.

How does the microwave oven work and what does that have to do with my phone?

Microwave energy excites the molecules in stuff causing them to move faster.  Much like rubbing your hands together you get friction which causes heat.  That is how a microwave heats your lean cuisine dinner or left-overs from Sunday Brunch.  Yes it uses more power but I ask you, would you stick your head in your microwave to see how long it takes to fry your brains?  Consider the cell phone or cordless phone like a microwave crock pot, it might take longer but eventually, something is bound to be heated up.

Just for you people who think that I am a tin foil hat kind of person think of this one. 

How many of our urchins you call grade schoolers now have the very latest iPhone sticking out of the back pocket.  A trip to any mall will answer this question.  Even if it is a hand me down generation 5, it puts out all sorts of power right next to that thinner more malleable skull and younger more tender, still forming brain tissue.

Then there is this whole blood brain barrier thing that doctors talk about.  Does it really seem like a wise idea to put that kind of power that close to those newly formed brain cells?  They are future tax payers you know. Wink wink…

Possibly one of them will say, “someone should really put the transmitter in the base of this thing away from my brain.” Will it take a child to figure this out?  Maybe a riot on the Berkly campus to get the attention of corporate america who might tend to overlook such things.

I know, I am gettin my tin foil out… 

With telecommunications being a multi-trillion dollar industry it is no wonder that this is overlooked.  Much like the back scatter x-ray porn scanners at the airport which virtually strip search you, there is a greater good.  Bombarding our bodies with ionizing radiation is not harmful as long as the government says that it is ok. (sarcasm)

Calling attention to it might cost Nokia or Apple or Panasonic a few dollars.  What is the big deal about a few brain tumors, “can you hear me now?”

Since industry will probably not respond, how can you protect yourself?

Blue Tooth technology also uses RF in the same 2.4 GHz range but the power is very low.  A class one transmitter uses about 1mw or Millie Watt.  There is a newer headset that wraps around your neck with the earpiece extending from them.  That would put the blue tooth transceiver around your neck away from your brain.

Try to always use a headset or speakerphone, and if they still have them, a corded phone.

Use e-mail or text and by all means try talking to people face to face.  I know that is a radical concept but, I don’t think you are in danger of getting exposed to radiation that way.

About the device…

While the original crystal radio of my day used a 1N34 germanium diode this device uses nine 1SS86 diodes one tied to the other with an LED as one of the diodes.  The legs are purposefully left long like that as they act as the antenna to capture any energy that might be present.

If you are creative you could make it look like a bug with a tail and a head that glowed.  Just a thought.

I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this.  Just a person who thinks common sense is in limited supply.  These days we too readily accept that which is, without asking why.  Ask Why!

Cheers!

Scott