Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Procrastinating With Computers

I have a lot of projects going on right now, my regular jewelry and machine tool stuff, an air rifle that’s about 50% done and a lengthy kitchen semi-remodel. But sometimes you have to work on projects for the heck of it. Out in the “barn” I have a Dell Optiplex 270, in the small form factor. We use it to watch Netflix and Hulu when working or running on the treadmill. Unfortunately the other day it wouldn’t power on, and the power button was blinking an ominous yellow.

The Motherboard looked fine (some Optiplexes had bad capacitors) so I assumed it was the power supply. Being a small form factor a new power supply would cost as much as the used Dell had cost. What I ended up doing was mounting it in a Dimension 8200 case, figuring that at some point I’ll mount the 8200 motherboard in another case or just leave it around to trip over. The 8200 cost $3000 in 2002, now it’s not even worth $30.00, nor is the Optiplex. I get all these old Dells at the OSU surplus sales. The Optiplex has a P4 3.0 Ghz and 2GB of RAM, so it will run Hulu fine. That’s about the minimum antique processor for internet video, according to my unscientific tests. But I digress.

The main problem with putting the Optiplex motherboard in the larger case is that there was no way to use the existing 8200 fan and shroud from the case as it hit the CPU fan, and the Optiplex CPU fan has a shroud that wouldn’t reach the rear of the case. So it was just blowing hot air around the inside of the case. Still awake? No? go back to sleep.

I decided I’d mount an old case fan somewhere along the back grill to suck more air out of the case and hopefully provide better cooling. Unfortunately the motherboard only has one fan plug, which was used by the CPU cooler. I could have bought an adapter but decided to waste some time. I dimly remembered buying some female 4 pin molex connectors at a yard sale 12 years ago, searched for them and found them.


The three pin fan connector.


Male Molex from a power supply.


Female Molex and pins.


Wires stripped. (I ignored the blue fan sensor wire).


Pins crimped on.


Checking to make sure I get 12V, although at this point I thought Red & Black was 12V. It isn’t. I should have checked wikipedia first.


Pins inserted in the female connector body.


Optiplex in a larger case.


Here’s the fan wires and connector used by the CPU fan.


Plugged my new fan wires into a spare plug coming from the power supply.


(Can’t use the flash or you won’t see the blur). The fan spins. But it seems to be spinning slowly. This is when I discovered my voltage error.


I rewired so that I was getting 12V rather than 5V…much better. Now all the hot air is being sucked out of the case as fast as it’s produced. I ziptied the fan to the case grill for now, leaving it to run for a while to make sure there are no problems.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unexciting Air Compressor

My old air compressor needed a companion. This was precipitated by the need to fill the tires on the Sienna during a cold snap. Because the old compressor is not exactly portable I needed something that I could lug around easily. I used to thread a hose through the shop window out into the driveway just to avoid lugging the compressor.


My old “portable” compressor. I bought it at a yard sale for $25.00 and it sounds like is beating itself to death every time I fire it up. It takes a long time to fill the tank. But it does work.


My impulse buy at Home Depot, on sale during the holidays for $69.00, and not the most exciting purchase.


It does have cord stowage in the back.


It came with an unregulated hose permanently connected to a tire chuck, one which demands that you lock it down on the tire stem. So you have to unlock it when you check the pressure, reseat, relock, etc. until it’s filled. The other regulated quick connector doesn’t fit any of my connectors. So both of those get replaced.


I made sure the gages read zero…


New regulated connector.


New unregulated connector. Now I can use all my old hoses and not have the irritation of connected hoses snagging on things as I carry it around. Until it dies. I’m assuming that will happen soon as it’s just a cheap oil-less compressor. It’s not as loud as I thought it would be but it does take a while to fill the tank to 110 PSI (115PSI on the gage which makes me nervous…) although less time than the old compressor (smaller tank but higher pressure).

How’s that for a boring slice of my life?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Link Dump

I won't bother apologizing for not blogging more, lately. But I plan to blog more. Part of the problem was that I hate the camera I was using (Nikon Coolpix L20), it had poor battery life and the white balance was always hit or miss. I just bought a Fuji FinePix S1800 so I hope to have more and better pictures. Still figuring out how to make it do what I want. So this post is all words.

Speaking of products I love or hate...
I bought two more of the IOGear wireless keyboards, one for the kitchen and one for the barn. It's held up well in the bedroom for the year and makes HTPC (home theater PC) viewing easy. Only problem is it doesn't work as you tilt it above about 40 degrees as the trackball is a bit loose.

The Nesco Coffee Burr Grinder. I bought it on impulse at Bi-Mart. I should have been warned by the low price. The grinder does an pretty good job of grinding the coffee but the container it grinds into is so poorly designed that when you take the lid off the coffee flies everywhere. There's more coffee dust that I would want from a burr grinder and it seems to cling with a static charge to the container walls. In short every morning is met by a large mess and cursing. Read the 1 star reviews on the Amazon link, you'll see I'm not alone.

I finally hooked up a digital antenna to get OTA (over the air) broadcasts, the DISH feeds are often poor quality and they don't carry the additional local sub-channels. I bought a Philips MANT940 Antenna at a garage sale for $15.00, put it up on the 12' pole that was used by our old antennas. I was surprised that I could get all the local channels! The only down side is that I was hoping to save some money by giving up the DISH feed - but they have anticipated my move and rolled local channels into the main packages they offer - you can't remove the feeds anymore.

I'm off in an hour to take the kids to the Scratch Club, a guy at the local charter school started an after school club where kids could get together and learn the Scratch programming language. All part of my plan to turn the kids into nerds, or inoculate them against it. while our kids don't go to the school, it's open to all kids in the area. I help out as needed. Fun.

A few links:
  • Open URL in New Tab, an IE add-on that is handy when there's a plain text URL and you don't want to copy, open a new tab, paste and hit return.
  • Free OCR, which is a pretty good, free as you can imagine by the name, optical character recognition program. I found it useful when I was shopping for ram on Ebay and didn't want to type long strings of characters from the pictures of labels on pieces of ram for sale. if that makes sense...
  • I forget whether I've posted this already, but it's an automatic bagpipe reed making machine.
  • Our friend Kiko's essays on "The Work of Art".