Month: July 2012

Carriers just don’t get it

I’m talking about Cox and Verizon in this one.

Last night I attended MoDev-RI (And upon reflection I believe it should be MobDev) and we had a hellish time getting Google’s Android SDK up to snuff on the computers there, and then to further irk us, those with the HTC Thunderbolt had issues. And to top it off, I found out that the Sparkfun Electric Sheep I won won’t work with my Samsung SCH-R910! I think Google really needs to get the act together – and get tighter control on what vendors and carriers can do to the Android distro on the phones.

For example, I had the Samsung SCH-R910 Indulge, Keyron has the LG Optimus. Both Android phones – but completely different UI’s. Maybe I’m fussy here but Microsoft and Apple didn’t get where they are by putting an OS out there and letting OEM’s and cellular providers muck with the user interface. A prime example, on my phone you swipe left/right. On Keyron’s it’s up/down. Bad move Google.

But this brings me to the point of this post. I note both Cox and Verizon offer watch instantly apps for IOS, but nothing for Android. Yet Android is moving up there. In fact if last nights group was any indication I saw but one iPhone yet the computers were majority MacBooks.

This not having it for Android has come up in the past. When the City of Providence rolled out the ProvConnex app it was only for IOS. I raised a small stink and suddenly there’s an Android version. Not to say that you can try to register for ProvConnex and get your credentials, only for the Android app to say it can’t log you in. Ut si!

It’s that human propensity to go for just good enough. I understand why Google let OEM’s and carriers fuck with Android, but it’s not going to serve them well. And Cox and Verizon both need to get their shit together and offer an Android watch instantly app too.

Because for the prices Cox and Verizon charge, just good enough isn’t going to fly.

Looks like Chick-Fil-A isn’t having a good week

With the recent revelation and admission by CEO Cathy at Chick-Fil-A that they were ‘guilty as charged’ in giving money to anti-LGBT groups, the backlash has been pretty severe.

Two cities have now told Chick-Fil-A that they are Corporata Non Grata. Boston Mayor Menino has told the company he’ll block any new openings in the Boston area. And now in Chicago, Alderman Moreno has also moved to block Chick-Fil-A there.

And it is exploding all around facebook and the blogsphere. A lot of corporate America once had anti-gay attitudes, until such time the LGBT community and many of their hetero friends decided enough was enough.

Recall Target? Yeah – that was a turnaround. Even here in RI a local donut hawker backpedaled away from a NOM event.

Bigotry is not good business sense. The only thing you should be concerned with is if the money is at least partially green. Anything beyond that should not concern you.

And even if you are a bigot running a company, keep it to yourself. Else you’ll end up like Chick-Fil-A – a footnote in fast food.

In fact there are no Chick-Fil-A’s here in RI, and only one in Burlington, MA. So I guess they aren’t welcome here. We’re saturated with Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Burger Kings anyhow. And even McDonald’s has a better chicken sandwich than Chick-Fil-A.

Now I’ve heard a lot of people jump to the defense of the franchisees. But the way Chick-Fil-A works is that it takes only $5,000 to buy a franchise and then you forward half the profit over to corporate.

I have no sympathy for the franchisees. If you can’t take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.

And here’s to hoping the ridiculously named Chick-Fil-A disappears sooner than later.

TV Repair Update

So I replaced the three 1000uf 35V 105C capacitors. Got those and a new multimeter – this one has capabilities beyond my cheapie Radio Shack and cost me a total of $16. But the tv still won’t power on.

I did test the caps – the new meter has a nifty little capacitor check. And the ones I took out did fail – the new ones were fine.

This is perplexing – so I’ve started tracing out the power supply circuitry. It’s a slow, laborious thing to do but it will give me a better understanding where the problem lay. If by chance I complete the trace and find no issues on the power supply board then it’s increasingly looking like the controller board took a hit.

But here’s the kicker – I can replace the electronics, power supply, sink switch board, and cpu – for $150. These are complete boards. I might just do that. Or I can go without a television for a few months. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Return the cable box and unsubscribe video services. That over three months will be $270 saved. I can get a new Toshiba 40″ 1080P LCD for $350 – that seems like the better option. Then I can drag the old TV into the lab and tear it down. Who knows, may even get it running again.

And I have to look at it from the perspective that my time is valuable. It’s rapidly moving into costing way more than $150 to fix this. So I think the decision is made. Just get another one!

The Oatmeal: How Not to Suck at your Religion

Just go read the series here, I’ll pick out my favorite images and comment.

Here’s how I’d handle it. I’d explain that once you die, your body begins to decompose. It decomposes because those formerly helpful flora in your gut decide to start eating you.

Once that starts there are all sorts of interesting gases that get created that attract insects and vermin. They’ll munch on the flesh remaining on the outside for as long as it takes to strip your skin, fat and muscle, then your internal organs which by now are bloated.

Eventually your viscera will liquify and all that will be left is the calcified skeleton.

To sum it up, you rot, or fester as the case may be. Until such time that all that’s left is bones.

All because of fauna, flora, and insectoid.

Aren’t you glad you know that now? It’s why embalming drains out the fluids, and stuffs the body full of preservative in the form of formaldehyde.

It delays the eventual festering. And your body is placed into a hermetically sealed casket and then lowered into a concrete vault. So chances are the only bacterial flora left will have to devour you over a longer period of time, with no fresh oxygen. Fun!

My diagnosis was correct

I opened the TV up and extracted the power supply board. On close examination I spotted this:

The Bulging Capacitor

Electrolytic capacitors should have a nice flat top surface. When they bulge it indicates excess pressure within the electrolyte. When that happens the capacitor doesn’t work so well.

And as I explained here, ripple isn’t good for 5V and 12V electronics. Now I’ve banged together 125VDC supplies to trigger a coin relay on a pay phone, so ripple doesn’t matter as much. But discrete electronics want a constant voltage and current in many cases. And ripple plays havoc with that.

I’m so glad I have the knowledge and experience to be able to take things apart, identify faults, and fix them. That all started with my great grandfather, he’s the one who taught me how to solder wires together at the tender age of 6. My great grandfather was also an engineer himself – and one of his sons was also an engineer. So on my mom’s side of the family – it was a pretty sure bet I’d pick up some engineering skills.

Uh oh – Element ELCHW402 TV has given up the ghost

I bought this in December of 2010 – so here we are a year and a half later of constant use and came home today to a red light on the front of the unit but it won’t power up. Soon as I saw that I knew what it was.

Of course because the standby is a the red light Keyron was all confused. I finally convinced him that it is the power supply for the television that is having issues. This is a common failure mode on virtually every HDTV set out there.

The issue will delve into electronic theory just a little bit.

AC line voltage here in the U.S. is nominally 110V AC (Alternating Current) and can go up to 125V AC (Which it is where I live).

If you were to hookup an oscilloscope to the AC line you’d see something that looks like this:

Sine wave

Now the terms on the image change ever so little on the scope, the Amplitude side is the voltage, and time remains constant.

Electronic logic doesn’t play nicely at 125V AC. So what you do is use a transformer to step it down, then you use a thing called a bridge rectifier. A bridge rectifier makes a semblance of a DC voltage but with serious amounts of what is called ripple.

This image shows the effects of rectifying the incoming current:

Ripple Explained

See the bottom of that image? The voltage rises and falls multiple times. To smooth that ripple out you use capacitance. A capacitor is a device that stores charge electrically. It’s usually comprised of two plates, separated by some dielectric, in many cases air.

And it’s job is to store up current quickly, and release it to smooth out the dc voltage.

In the case of the television we have, they use electrolytic capacitors:

Electrolytic capacitors

You’ll note there are two values on an electrolytic capacitor that are key – the capacitance which is measured in microfarads, and a voltage rating.

Manufacturers of HDTV flat panel LCD sets are notorious for using capacitors with too small a voltage rating. And when the filtering goes kaput, the television will NOT power up.

The solution, at least 99.9% of the time is to yank out the power supply board, get all new capacitors of the same microfarad value but in a higher voltage level. And it’s good not to get Won Hung Lo capacitors from China. Get good ones, quality ones. You might spend $20 or $30 on parts. Labor is probably 2 or 3 hours. Now in my case I know my labor rate, it’s $50 an hour for electronics work so $150+$20 = $170 to repair the set. As opposed to spending $300, $400, or more to replace it. You see what I’m getting at here.

So tomorrow I’ll tear it apart and then get online at mouser, Allied, or any of the big electronics distributors and order the capacitors to replace. I’ll also be able to do a visual inspection and see if there are any bulging capacitors in there.

I’m so happy I know how to push electrons around. And come to think of it, we probably experience a power spike, what with the vicious thunderstorm last week. That would be enough to push a weak capacitor over the edge.

Nones/Atheists now count 19% of the U.S.

None aka atheists now number a full 19% of the United States.

There is a line in the linked article about the downward pressure on atheism that says “…disproportionately young, often single, and highly educated..”

Of the more significant parts of that is the highly educated people. The more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe in a higher being or power.

And here in the northeast I’d say we number closer to 25%. All your well known and significant institutes of higher learning are in the Northeast and on the West coast.

Imagine – one in four who do not believe in a god. That’s fantastic.

I’ve long been an atheist – since I was a teenager. I went to the best schools in the local area, so it’s no wonder I don’t believe.

And in my career, which is in the I.T. field – the last place I worked had six people in my unit, 3 of us atheists. So in that case 50%.

I’m glad that religious belief is fading away. It’s nothing but a waste of time to be honest.

Getting the Volunteer Examiner Group Together

So back on the 13th of this month I mentioned how I was trying to get some Volunteer Examiners up for a testing session on September 15th. And maybe do a quarterly session too.

I got my buddy Mike, KH6HZ to sign on. And I goaded another member of DC401/Braintank into getting his Extra class license.

So it looks like we’ll have our three Amateur Extra Volunteer Examiners. Yippe!

Megachurches – the reality

So I was on the phone with my friend this evening and she gave me some dirt on the churches of Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar.

Seems that to be a member of either church you must have a credit score greater than 700 and you must tithe 30% of your income to the church.

There’s an old saw, that to be a politician, lawyer or preacher you must have larceny in your heart.

And when you consider the average wage in the section of Georgia where these churches are situated is about $40K per year. After tax that’s about $26,400 – and 35% of that is $9,240 leaving you $17,160 or $1,430 per month!

Now those churches hold say 2,000 people. $9,240 times 2,000 = $18,400,000 per year. No wonder they roll in finery – because that is grand larceny! And every dime of it is tax free. Talk about the ultimate con!

I suppose I missed my calling – but then I have too much integrity to con people out of their money.

Never trust a megachurch preacher. Never, never, never never.

A fairly vicious thunderstorm rolls through Rhode Island

Around 3:35PM I noticed it was getting mighty dark. So I turned on my amateur radio handheld and first hit the 162.400MHz National Weather Service. Yep, thunder or t-storm on the way.

Haven’t seen one like this in some time. Had about 45 minutes of lightning, thunder, and torrential rain. Scanning around the 2m amateur band and I heard that there was a tornado that touched down in Chepachet, RI.

That’s the other thing – the 2m band here is pretty quiet, until there’s something going on. Be it field day, or a storm, that’s when it gets cooking.

I caught a little video early on, a lightning strike:

Even the resident feline, Angie, is freaked out by it. I’ve always loved a good thunder storm. I remember back in the 1980’s I lived across from the Louisquisset golf course. Because of the elevation, that course got hit regularly. We’d just sit on the porch and watch.

The fact that nature can produce so much power just through friction of air molecules is amazing. Got to love static electricity.