Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An assortment of links

Insepctrum - an offline singal analyzer.  Once I finish cleaning up my property (or the weather gets too shitty for me to work on it any more) I'll play with this and post something.

The DOJ is trying to weaken the War Powers Act.

While getting a sunburned hide and sore muscles, I've been thinking of Aldous Huxley.  Could it be that soma, the orgy-porgy, and centrifugal bumble-puppy  (or their real world equivalents of beer/weed, porn, and xbox)  are a bigger worry than Miniluv and it's face stomping boot?  Maybe I should bump this further up in my reading list.  Either way here is an interesting web comic.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I had three cords of wood delivered yesterday.  In the name of getting things squared away here as quickly as possible I put together four racks as described in this instructable.  The "no tools required" part of the title is a bit of bullshit, you need to have a saw.  I have several, so it doesn't exactly matter.
Another gripe is that the 8' 2x4s I purchased at America's favorite big box hardware store are in fact 7'8" long.
Pics below:

I still need to build a few more racks to hold the remainder of yesterday's delivery.  I also have another cord coming next weekend.

I'm planning to grab some blue tarps on my way home in the near future as well.  The guy next door told me that I should build a woodshed because he has had problems with his tarped wood molding.  I plan to do that, but it's a question of if it happens this year or the next.  I still need to cut back a lot of overgrown crap to even have room to build one, and the ground here will require considerable work to get level.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Over the past few years I became increasingly fed up with Portland for a variety of reasons.  Most of them could be summed up as the city council essentially just doing whatever Richard Florida thinks is best.
About two months ago I sold my house and bought a psychologist's vacation cabin up on Mt. Hood, along with a nice diesel BMW and a folding bicycle to commute with.  The locals up here are much more like the dope smoking firearms enthusiasts I grew up with.  I do still have to deal with the transplant influence in state politics, but at least I can cut down a tree on my own property without having to file a bunch of paperwork.
The property is a mess right now.  In addition to several previous owners odds and ends having been left behind, the property is badly overgrown.  Lots of the big trees have dead lower limbs, and there are saplings everywhere.  I've   lost track of how many times I've been to the dump and Goodwill, and once burning season starts again I'm going to have one hell of a bonfire.
Not everything that was left behind was useless.  The previous owner did leave behind a few hand tools and a bit of lumber, along with some oil lamps and oil.  I got a cord of wood delivered over the past weekend and got it stacked in racks I built from the lumber that was left here.  Three more cords are coming on Saturday, and then one more a week later.
I have a lot of caulking to do in order to seal this place up still, but it's going to happen.  At this point I'll say I plan to spend more time writing here, but who can honestly say.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bus Pirate v3 Direct IO Pins

My wife got me a Bus Pirate (among other things) for Christmas/Saturnalia/Yule/Whatever.  For the unfamiliar, a Bus Pirate is a small USB device used to communicate with various chips over standard buses such as I2C and SPI.  It also has some other neat features like pulse with modulation and frequency measurement, and can even be pressed into service as a JTAG programmer and (very low speed) logic analyzer and oscilloscope.  Essentially, it is the Swiss Army Knife of electronic tools.

I don't have any I2C or SPI stuff laying around to mess with right now, but I am planning to start working on something in the near future that will require me to bit bang a very simple protocol.  Because of this, I'm messing with writing data from the pirate in direct i/o (DIO) mode.

When writing data in DIO mode, you simply give the pirate an 8 bit value and it sets the pins appropriately.  You only have five pins (CS, MISO, CLK, MOSI, and AUX) to twiddle your bits with.  These are represented by the five least significant bits. The table below represents the bits


If you want to turn more pins on, simply do a bitwise OR of the values you wish to change. For example, entering a 5 would turn on CLK and CS. (0b100 ^ 0b001 = 0b101 = 5). More to come later.

Monday, December 21, 2015


I've been developing an interest in bushcraft lately.    While on a recent excursion the members of a group I was with I became interested in a lightweight chopping tool.  Some internetting lead to reading about tomahawks.  The Cold Steel Trail Hawk seems to be pretty popular.  I ordered mine from that online retail giant that everyone loves to hate.

As you can see, it doesn't look like much from the factory.  With that said, I am happy that it fits in my Goruck.

The first thing that I did was take it apart, sand the polyurethane off the handle, and coat the head in paint stripper.  After that, the Elder Sign was added to the handle for protection from the Great Old Ones. 

After the paint was removed, I soaked the head in vinegar for two days to put a patina on the metal.  I did the same with my Mora Compantion.

After a light coat of stain and some tung oil on the handle, she's looking great.

On the air

I got my ham license about two years ago, but never really did much with it despite intending to do otherwise.  I managed to finally reach a turning point regarding that when I picked up a gently used Kenwood TM261A (and a power supply) from a local Craigslist seller.

As a budget-minded individual, I decided to try constructing my own antenna before buying one.  The basic ground plane antenna described in the ARRL Operator's Manual seemed like a pretty easy place to start, so I went with that.  My build consists of three pieces of brazing wire connected to a SO-239 connector.

First I went about making loops so that the ground plane wires could be connected to the SO-239.  I bent small L shapes with a bench vise, then squished them into something I could connect with a screw.

I then soldered a third section of wire to the part of the SO-239 that connects to the core of the coax using a propane torch.  I neglected to take a picture, but I doubt the complexity of the operation will astound you.

After running some 50 ohm coax up to the attic, I secured my new antenna in place with zip ties.

I am now able to hit a repeater about 15 miles away and am getting reports of good audio.  As time (or money) allows, I'll probably either build or buy a J-Pole.  Regardless of this, I'm happy for the time being.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

E36 BMW Refresh Part 2 - Leaks and Alerts

A while ago I changed the drive belts.  The tight engine compartment makes getting good photos hard, so I'll just say that it is easiest to swap them out from underneath the car with your head by the driver's side wheel.

On top of that, while changing the spark plugs I noticed that some of the spark plug holes were full of oil when I was changing the plugs (not inside the cylinder, the recess the plugs go into).  There are gaskets for these, but changing them requires that the valve cover be removed.  This means that the valve cover gasket must be swapped out too, leaking or not.  It is important to mention that the gasket is different on pre-VANOS and VANOS equipped cars.  Be sure to get the correct gasket.

Just as before I removed the decorative cover from the engine, the coils, and the spark plugs.  Next the valve cover came off.  I should mention that the rear driver's side bolt for the valve cover is a little bit hard to reach.  Be careful that you don't drop it someplace that it cannot be found, because it is a special item that they don't carry at the hardware store.  A decent auto parts store will be able to order one for you.

With the cover off, we can see the old gaskets.  They can simply be removed by pulling them off.

The old gasket is on the right, and the new one is on the left.  The old gasket has hardened significantly and doesn't even feel like it's made of rubber.  It is not surprising at all that it was leaking.  Re-installation was a simple but unphotographed process.  I did use a small amount of RTV at the corners of the gasket and inside the half moon cutouts at the back of the engine.

Another problem I was having is that the car was claiming it was low on coolant, even though it was not.  The issue in this case was a bad coolant level sensor, located at the bottom of the radiator overflow tank.

There are two hoses that connect the overflow tank to the radiator.  First I unhooked the top one from the radiator (driver's side).

After that I carefully worked the hose free from the fan shroud.

The next step was to remove the bleeder screw and the retaining clip from the tank.

At this point in time you can move the tank around freely.  I disconnected the other end of the top hose from the tank and pumped as much coolant out as I could with a hand pump.  There is a second hose on the bottom and an electrical connector for the sensor.  I removed both of those as well.

When I removed the old sensor, it came out in pieces.  Reinstallation was the same job, but in reverse order.  I am happy to say that I no longer have a stupid warning about being low on coolant when I in fact have plenty.