A soldering iron can be a tech’s best friend. You never know when you need to repair an electrical connection. You can actually do a whole lot more, You can rescue parts for reuse. You can build your own simple test equipment. You can even build your own projects. You do not have to get a fancy soldering iron at first, but later as you gain experience, You may certainly want one. You also will want to learn about electronic symbols you that you can understand at least simple schematics.

One of the first pieces of test  equipment I ever made was a continuity tester. What is that? it is a tool to see whether a wire cam make a complete circuit.  There are no breaks in the wire. Most of what I do is low voltage, so parts are not that critical. To make the continuity tester, I rescued a battery holder (from the motherboard) and an led from a dead computer. Saved a few bucks right there. So a soldering iron can get you free parts! The continuity tester is just a battery connected to a light bulb or the like.

The second project was to make a polarity tester. I wanted to know which side was positive and which was negative. Two leds (resitors if needed) and test leads from a dead volt/ohm meter was all that was needed here. If the red lead was connected to the plus or positive side of a connection (black lead should be connected to ground) the the top led would light. If the wiring were reversed  then the other led would light. Great for testing diodes to see which way the should be conneccted to a circuit. You can als test low voltage batteries to see which is the plus (+) and negative (-) sides.

So far that is pretty simple stuff. Logic testers at one time were very expensive. Now you can get them pretty cheap at your local electronic store. Logic tester is sort of a simplified voltmeter that can only test for five and zero volts. With digital electronics that is all you need to test. For example, you may want to see if a parallel port is sending a signal on a particular wire. Maybe there is a break in one wire of the cable. You can test each line or wire individually for the result. We like to interface or connect electronic projects to the parallel port. You could also use this for the Arduino, Raspberry Pi. or any device that has a standard digital output. For example, I have and led connected to one of the digital ouput lines of the parallel port. For some reason if the led connected to the parallel port data line is not lighting up when it is supposed to. The logic tester can determine if the wire is outputing the 5 volts to light the led. If not it may be a software or programming problem. You then have to adjust the software. If you are getting the 5 volts, then the led may be faulty.
As I said earlier, logic testers even simple ones were not inexpensive. Found a magazine article that had a circuit to build your own. That meant for a few dollars for a few parts, you could have a logic tester instead of paying may dollars for one from and electronics store. I have since bought logic tester, but I still end up using the one i soldered together from the magazine article. Now you can find a zillion electronic circuits for the web that you can build (aka solder together). More info on the parallel port digital outputs at: http://www.instructables.com/id/No-solder-parallel-port-break-out/

You can use a logic IC (integrated circuit) or you can use discrete electronc parts (transistors and etc,) to also build a logic tester. This circuit not tested by me..
Actually you can get the parts you need from an flourescent light bulb for free,  You have to be extra careful in doing that though
Anyway, even with these three (fairly) simple projects, you can have some pretty neat testing tools on the cheap. You will volunteer to take old and or dead  electronics from friends or whomever. As you can rescue all kinds of parts for free and save yourself lots of money. The soldering iron will pay for itself in no time at all. Or as they say, the more you know…..
If you solder a lot you will want some extra hands:
Screenshot from 2013-06-14 12:44:56
Needed a memory card for the arch linux install so I used the card from my camera. Went looking for a card in the close and  found a one gigabyte  unit. That is fine for the camera as I only usually take pictures and not movies. The card has some linux partitions, so I had to use fdisk to remove them. Created a new fat compatible format partition. Then I had to format the unit. did that with:
# sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb1
Copied the Raspberry Pi arch linux image to an sd card.  Booted it up and started to do the setup. Instructions are here:  http://elinux.org/ArchLinux_Install_Guide


Was not so long ago that when you bought a piece of software, you had to agree to the license, The license was sealed in the package the software came in. To furthermore complicate the sale, written on the outside of the package had a notice that if you opened the package it was not returnable. These were known as shrink wrap agreements. The public who thought this was unreasonable quit purchasing software. The industry claimed it was because people were illegally copying the software. Though that might have been partially true. The real reason for the sales slump was that you could get what was known as freeware that in a lot of cases was as good as the commercial products. Freeware did not have shrinkwrap agreements. The public took the industry to court and had the shrinkwrap agreements invalidated and even made illegal in a way.

At the same time, software known as word processors (aka electronic typewriters) were very popular software. The only problem was that if you created a document in Word Perfect, it would not work in say Microsoft Word. Companies. The public cried out for some compatability. The Software vendors vowed not to have compatability. This kind of killed that market also. Then I forget which one, but they started to add compatability in their software. Sales for their product rose. The other software companies relented and even marketed how they were compatible with their competitors. Why did industry not want to serve the best for their users until they were forced into it?

Now to present day, where if you purchase any hardware or software, In some cases, you must agree not to modify the hardware or software or risk going to prison for doing so because you are violating some random alleged software patent or copyright. Seems what it comes down to is you really do not own the product. Huh? Do not believe me. Read the fine print of what you have purchased lately. Pretty much as bad as the shrink wrap agreements.

To make things even more complicated. a certain company from Redmond Washing allegedly bullied makers of computers to add what is known as UEFI as part of the system. That means that company from Redmond Washington can allegedly control your computer at their whim. You still own your computer?. The uefi was allegedly included so that you will be more protected from security issues such as viruses, software piracy, and the like. So far only the systems using the Redmond Washinton software needs this quick fix. Most intelligent people in the industry call it a joke.

Other operating systems have to license use of the uefi software. Linux being one of them. Linux, BSD, and etc  has no use for uefi for the most part. There are a few hardware manufacturers who do make equipment without the uefi, but expect to pay a premium. The uefi for the most part will not be retrofitted to older equipment. (God Forbid!). It has been rumored the real reason that uefi was used to try to lock out open operating systems such as Linux in a competition limiting move by a company that has been allegedly  adjudicated a monopoly already on two continents.

Like in the days of the shrinkwrap agreements, the industry is complaing sales are down and is doomed. Maybe if the uefi was not forced into the hardware of new machines, sales would be dramatically higher. Apparently the industry has not learned the lessons of the shrinkwrap days, You try to control your customer and they will seek business elsewhere.

Again we have open source to replace freeware. I prefer open source as it allows me to use older hardware and software a bit longer. Maybe the industry will get a hint by the time I need a newer system. Also, why maybe many people are not purchasing new systems. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Are you listening industry?


Upgraded one of my last few ubuntu linux boxes to 12.04 so I could run the cobbler software. Cobbler allows you to image machines sort of int he way the ghost program does. You stat the install with:

#sudo apt-get install cobbler cobbler-web

More details at: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Cobbler/Installation


Can not beleive such a wimple stain worked. Took about a week to get the full effect though. You remeber what the wood looked like before the stain.


The after a day or two it looked like this:

And now it looks like this:


Quite a change. to do the stain, you need tea, vinegar, and some steel wool. You will need two containers one for the tea and one to hold the vinegar and the steel wool. The tea does not need to be set up yet. You will meed to fill a jar (with a lid) about two thirds full of vinegar (use the cheap stuff) . Take some steel wool and spread it out. Then take the steel wool and submerge it in the vinegar. Put the put the on the jar and store it overnight say out in the garage. Once the steel wool has steeped in the vinegar overnight it is ready for use. Now fill your other container with some tea.  Take a cloth or a paper towel and soak up some tea. Wipe the wood with the tea soaked paper towel until the whole area to be stained is covered. Let it dry a bit..Take another cloth or paper towel and immerse it into the vinegar and steel wool mixture. Wipe the the wood over all the area you wanted stained. Let dry. That’s it!


Is the web site down? Especially now with all the bad weather, you will encounter websites that will go offline. One of the sites that I have traditionally use was http://www.netcraft.com. Unfortunately, they are not always up to date. but I have found anohter site that seems to be a bit more up to date. I was wanting to get to http://www.instructables.con, but the web site seemed not to exist. Decided to use a new website to see the status. Apparently, http://www.instructables.com gets checked on frequently. The new website for checking a web server is http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/. When you go to the site you will see the status of some popular websites, but you have a fill-in box to enther the name of the server you are curious about. In our case it was http://www.instructables.com

Screenshot from 2013-05-20 01:00:10

Entered the site name and come to foind out the site was up earlier in the day, but it was not up now indicated by the fact it could not retrieve the server data. Hoping it will be back up soon. obviously not for now.

Screenshot from 2013-05-20 01:00:51


Old AT (not atx)) power supplies can be great for working with such units as the raspberry Pi. Using the drive cables you can get as a unit working immediately without any special hardware except the conversion cable (molar to micro -usb). May tale a heat fun an remove the motherboard connection form an old dead at motherboard. That way I can get power from the main lines and leave the molar disk drive connectors free.

P000-285-310-630-df026 P000-256-312-659-d0020Screenshot from 2013-05-19 22:37:45


The digital camera bit the dust. Thank god I have one  although not as good, it is workable..


Melt in your mouth baked chicken, garden salad with cucumbers and covevered with homemade Italian salad dressing, creamy polenta covered with fried mushrooms and bell peppers, and Green peas.


Good day.