Archive for the “Mad Scientist – Boo” Category

Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.

Here are some pics of a Zenith console TV converted to a home theatre (HTPC) machine.

I don’t watch much TV. As a computer developer, I watch plenty of video monitor without needing non-interactive push-feed broadcast television. I think that maybe some of us remember when TV was actually paid for by advertising and broadcast directly to you for FREE. Paying for cable or satellite, and then STILL having commercials is just a bit too much for me. It’s not that good, I can’t interact with it. The biggest problem I have with TV programming is the sheer amount of fabricated malarkey… politicians that spout baldfaced lies (“non-factual statements”), fantasy garbage under the premise of “science fiction”, and “News” programs on television about television characters on television programs. The half-life of my “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” is about 10 nanoseconds, which is slightly further than I can barf at the speed of light.  So most of my personal video to eyeball input is pre-selected recordings playback.  I get a couple hours of live “TEEVEE” a week in the pub, but that’s mostly it.

I’ve never paid for a “TV” with a tube. I did own a television receiver, I have a couple actually. One of them I won in a raffle when I was pretty young, it is not in use as it is a model well-known to spontaneously catch fire and burn down houses (however it does work very well and was used many years).  I’ve purchased plenty of computer monitors and a few tuner cards to watch TV on them.

The one in my living room was a Zenith console.

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I have acquired a 40 watt infrared CO2 laser engraver.  Here are some pictures and notes on how it works.

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The original Grow Light project is reportedly working very well.  It’s encouraging enough that I’ve gone ahead and designed and ordered the parts for another one.  This time, I’ll use a new driver chip that can handle the full amperage that the Led Engin LZ1 5-watt LEDs can use.

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I’m making a 315MHz radio.  It will feature an Atmel microcontroller, a Texas Instruments ISM band radio, a client USB connector, a flash memory chip, 4 optoisolated transistor outputs, and a JTAG programming interface.

This radio will be a small platform for home automation attempts.  The obvious first task for it will be to control the wall switch dimmer for the Bright Lights project, but this dimmer interface (Maxim Dallastat and D flip-flop) I’m going to use elsewhere as well.  I have so, so much work to do before I can begin to actually consider practical purposes.  I have to set up communications standards, program the mesh networking, generate encryption keys, program encryption algorithms, program boot protocols.

Here is the board

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Here’s a test probe for adjusting LED lamps with a CAT4101 driver. It uses pogo pins on the end of a stick that connects the LED module to an ampmeter and voltmeter. It also has a LED voltage indicator on board. I haven’t yet found a workable ampmeter indicator circuit, and since regular hardware meters work that end of things so much better anyway, I probably won’t try.

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Grow lights are growing (meh heh) in popularity, at least partially due to people growing pot legally for medicinal use. There are grow lights for sale online, some of them look pretty good. Some of them look pretty bad.

This grow light is similar to the Butterfly Sconce, but has many more LEDs, uses LEDs which are tuned for chlorophyll reception, and the dimmer circuit is replaced with a soft-start circuit so the lamp starts up slowly over a few seconds.  Just in case anyone reading this hates plants and wants to kill them, you can also load this up with normal white light LEDs to use while repairing chain saws, or maybe even ultra-violet LEDs for use in destroying our little friends by giving them sunburns.

LEDEngin makes their LZ1 package in many colors, including a 465nm blue and a 665nm ‘deep red’. The LEDs have different voltage drops, and balancing them will be a little tricky. These LEDs run as three times the current of the Cree XP-G’s, but they also put out a lot of light doing that.

NASA experiments and others posting about this subject on the innerwebs are using many more red than blue LEDs, sometimes as much as an 8/1 ratio.  This project will attempt to use 7 LedEngin LZ1 LEDs per string in four strings, each parallel driven by CAT4101 drivers.

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This is an LED lamp design for a big honking array of pluggable modules.  There will be one control module for supplying power and signal, and then a number of LED modules can be plugged alongside.  The object is to make a system that can have replaceable modules, and can be expanded by adding more modules and using a bigger power supply.

I’m sticking to the formula so far, Cree XP-G (or XP-C, or XP-E) LEDs, CAT4101 drivers, hardware PWM, and plenty of ESD protection.

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Recently I have enjoyed email conversations with Mark Zinky (of Mark Zinky Design in San Francisco, California) after he posted a comment here. We discussed LED lamp design issues, and we revisited some of the problems I had when building the dodecahedron-shaped ‘Bright Light’ lamp. In particular, he’s helped me understand a fun-DUH-mental flaw in the way I was loading the CAT4101 driver. It’s given me an idea for another LED lamp, and it’s slick.

This is a picture of a ZeroTherm BTF95 fanless CPU cooler:

Off the shelf CPU cooler: ~ $50

So what happens if I strap a small PC board loaded with Cree XP-G high-brightness LEDs on the bottom of it?

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* The basic parts are water blocks, reservoir, pump, tubing, radiator, and the coolant itself.
* Don’t buy kits.  Just like building your own system, you can get the best equipment if you get the parts individually.  When you buy a kit, the manufacturer invariably must include something they’ve done on the cheap, through materials, manufacturing, or engineering.  Example: the Zalman Reserator 1 (blue) I have is terrific and includes a first class Eheim aquarium pump internally, but the acrylic ‘flow indicator’ that came with it started leaking a few weeks after it was installed.  A second one did exactly the same thing (acrylic is NOT good with glycol).
* Don’t bother with the extra expense of silver over copper, the difference isn’t that much.  Be aware that different metals in your system can have a slow electrochemical effect.  Stick with copper and aluminum.  Don’t use anything acrylic, it will slowly crack during exposure to the glycol.  Polyethylene, polypropylene, and Lucite work great.  The only time I’ve ever had a problem with a leak (*up till now) was due to use of acrylic plastic.
* A high flow rate is not important.  Sure, some flow is necessary, but high pressure pumps will only encourage your system to leak.  You don’t see people putting massively high flow rate antifreeze pumps on their cars because it’s not necessary.  Don’t pay extra for larger jets on the blocks or radiators.  Water cooling is much more efficient than air cooling, no need to waste money on hype.
* Rig your water blocks in parallel, not in series.  This way all the parts get fresh coolant rather than daisy chaining the heat from one component to the next.  This also reduces flow rate, but flow rate is not important!
* Rig the pump to pull coolant from the blocks and push it into the reservoir.  The pressure difference between the coolant and the outside should be a vacuum where it’s most dangerous to leak.  In this way, if there’s a break in the tubing, the pump will pull air into the system at the break rather than spray mildly toxic coolant all over your live hot running computer, carpet, walls, ceiling, face, and pets.
* Use of a rheostat to adjust the fan in front of the radiator will help reduce noise.
* Assemble and test (with water) the whole system before trying to install it.
* Mix:

  • 16 ounces of premium automotive grade ethylene glycol antifreeze

  • 6 ounces of Redline’s “Water Wetter” (half a bottle)

and top off with

  • a gallon of distilled water (about 3 quarts/liters needed)

A plastic windshield washer gallon jug works well.  You will need to replace the coolant every couple of years or you might get algae.  I’m currently using “Zerex”, but if your system is in an area with poor ventilation or in a house with children, you might consider using propylene glycol based “green” (green as in environment, not the color) antifreeze instead, it’s less toxic.

My own system is about 4 1/2 years old now, and has been used on two different motherboards/CPU sets:

  • Zalman Reserator 1 (blue) with integrated Eheim 300 pump, comes with very nice blue silicone tubing, but I didn’t use the Zalman water block
  • 2 Danger Den “Maze 4” copper water blocks with Lucite tops and 3/8″ outlets, custom mounted to two Slot ‘F’ AMD Opterons with strips of brass sheet metal
  • ThermalTake “Aquarius” A1983 VGA water block, nickel plated with 1/4″ side outlets, this is very thin and fits between PCI cards
  • Black Ice Xtreme II radiator with 3/8″ outlets (the Zalman Reserator passive cooling isn’t enough for two CPUs and a GPU)
  • 2 ball-bearing fans for the radiator (120mm), and additional chassis fans for motherboard passive components (definitely needed for a Tyan S2927)
  • A 4-circuit fan speed controller.  This is an unintelligent device, merely a set of 12 volt active transistor rheostats.
  • A “Digital Doc 5” fan speed controller and temperature sensor, this needs no interface to the computer (translation: works with Linux)
  • A few polypropylene T’s and L’s in the tubing.
  • Arctic Silver 5” heat compound

Needless to say, my system is less than easily portable.  I consider this an “anti-theft” feature.

The two separate fan speed controllers require a bit of explanation.  I made a custom cable for the radiator fans, with two separate voltage feeds and diodes to keep the two units from parasitically vampiring power from each other.  The rheostat lets me set a minimum fan speed, which is basically enough to keep the fans running at a minimum of noise.  However the “Digital Doc 5” unit monitors the temperature of various parts of the system, including the double radiator.  If that temperature goes over 96 degrees Fahrenheit, it kicks in it’s voltage, boosting the fan to full speed.  The system runs pretty quietly, but if it gets a little warm, the fans automatically spin up to higher speed.  I run the BOINC application, and so 4 cores of 2 Opteron 2218’s are going 100% all the time, and I’ve never had a *problem.

* News Flash! Problem!

04-JUL-2010 There was an “oh, shoot!” moment when a very small leak suddenly went gusher.  A small but noticeable amount of coolant had leaked from the bottom of the Zalman Reserator, and on investigation, the plastic hose fitting out of the bottom of the aluminum tank body snapped right off.  I believe it was clearly the source of the leak, as the inside of the fracture was stained.  The inlet also showed fracture evidence.  They lasted about 5 years?  Or was it 6?

Anyway… on the 4th of July 2010 (a big patriotic holiday here in the United States of America) and a Sunday, the Loew’s superstore is open and had brass 1/4 ” pipe to 3/8 ” hose barbs.  I discussed a sarcastic tone of sympathy with a gentleman who was helpful in the plumbing aisle, he would have rather been home playing World of Warcraft and appreciated that I needed this plumbing to fix my computer.

The coolant is wiped up, the table is wiped down, the brass fittings went into the tank threads with teflon plumber’s tape, and it’s working fine.  O’Reilly’s automotive store had more Water Wetter.  I’m slightly curious to know if I’ll see any electrochemical weirdness with the brass screwed into aluminium in glycol, but that wouldn’t seem to be as dramatic as a cleanly severed line pouring coolant onto the desk.  As I was actually placing an old cake pan under the tank when trying to figure out the source of the leak, it could have been much, much worse than it was.

I suggest replacing the plastic fittings on the bottom of Zalman Reserator cooling pumps with brass fittings if the unit is used more than a few years.

This leak began without much provocation, the unit hadn’t been moved in months.  The strain on the plastic fittings was never really that much, but it seems apparent that the constant vibration of the pump was enough to cause stress fractures over a long period of time.  I can’t blame Zalman for this, but an upscale model might replace these fittings with something a little stronger.

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And now… continuing our “Caveman’s Guide to Pie” series, here is a recipe for a big pile of cute little pig pies. That is, pies that contain ground pig. Or cow. Or buffalo, chicken, goat, sheep, fish, or shrimp. Or wild boar, rattlesnake, bear, pheasant, quail, or eels. I don’t recommend this recipe for ground turtle meat. I can’t tell you why, it involves a personally traumatic childhood experience with a BB gun and Mr. Snappy. But I’m over it now. Really.

I salute to James’s Hand-Made Potsticker Recipe, the recipe here is pretty much my implementation of the Liu Family recipe.  It’s an excellent web page and obviously has deep wonderful family roots, something I value greatly here at Caveman Recipes Inc.  I’ve also taken a few tips from who had a egg noodle dough which was typical of other sites.

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