Saturday, February 19, 2011

The best blog:

No, not this one. The Art of Manliness gave me this idea:

22 Manly Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin

Instead of any of those ideas, however, I decided to build a voltage regulator inside one of the smaller tins, so I could charge my phone (a Motorola Droid 2) or any other device that can charge from USB, from a car, without having to spend money on a car charger (the one Verizon sells "specifically for the Droid" is $25).

I started out with the classic breadboard, to make sure that the voltage regulator would actually power the phone. I bought three from Radioshack at $1 each, with the idea that I would have less problems with heat dissipation if I could somehow parallel the outputs of the regulators. Short answer: in a parallel configuration, regulators will sort of try to regulate each other, and when I came back after five minutes the voltage had dropped from 5.1V to 2.5V and I had almost let the blue smoke out of all of them. So I just went with a single regulator. It is rated for 1.5A continuous output and has built-in thermal protection so I decided I was safe.

Once the prototyping was complete, I cut a hole in each side of the Altoids tin and started soldering everything together. The KEY lesson is here: in order for a USB port that is NOT connected to a computer to charge a device, the data pins of the device must be shorted. I learned this after a lot of fussing, but just ended up soldering the green and white wire together and protecting them with a piece of electrical tape and heat shrink.

Once all the other connections were made (+12V to input, output to red wire on USB port, with the grounds for the regulator, input, and output tied together at the wire nut) I soldered the regulator's heat sink to the tin itself, thinking this would help with heat dissipation. So far this has worked out well but the tin has a tendency to get rather warm when the device is operating. Then I covered most everything in Gorilla super glue. And the finished product...

It works pretty well charging my Droid and my roommate's iPhone. Any way, here's an awesome picture, just for fun:

Don't mess with the TI-83!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A year later...

My truck is one of my ongoing projects. Already its timing belt installation, some lighting modifications, and some other things about it are up here. About a year ago I did a torsion bar crank which lifted the front of the truck about 2 inches, which made the truck look nice and level. It's settled a little since then. Today I finally lifted the back of the truck using a set of shackles.

The factory shackle is the smaller one. The new shackles are adjustable and can obtain from 1" to 2" of lift over the stock shackle. I went with the 2". The process was fairly straightforward. I used my new Hi-Lift jack to get the truck on jack stands and get the wheels slightly off the ground. Then I used a breaker bar and hammer to remove the old shackle, using my floor jack to take tension off of the leaf spring. From there it was simply a matter of attaching the new shackle to the frame and using a large C-clamp to push the leaf spring down to the lower shackle bolt.

Here is the first set of Before-And-After pictures:

And, of course, the change in the ride height is obvious, although looks much more impressive in person:

I like these pictures because the shadows tell roughly how long it took me to do all of this. But that includes going to get a burger and watching an episode of Star Trek in between shackles.

The next thing will be to install aftermarket upper control arms and ball joints on the front suspension, to get the full available 3" of lift in the front. Those parts are sitting in my living room. Then eventually I'll install Bilstein/Nismo shocks all around and put new leafs in the back and new torsion bars in the front. But those will wait a while.

New Amplifier

It's about time I finished this one up. About six years ago, I inherited a speaker.

Then, I found it's partner and had two speakers.

(Those clothes are actually all clean, btw.) I had to repair three out of the ten drivers (one low, one mid, and one high). For a while, I ran just the one on a 20-watt single-channel amplifier that I also got for free, until right before I left for college when I bought a radio from Best Buy. It turns out that the radio had a 100-watt per channel stereo amplifier in it that I accidentally discovered. Any way, I used this amplifier all the way through college, and sold it to some random guy for about half what I paid for it. It was mildly malfunctioning, so I thought I'd put the money towards an amplifier that actually has enough power for the 600-watt cabinets.

This amplifier has 500 watts per channel, five times the old amplifier, and 25 times my first amplifier. It literally shakes the entire house. But it's nice to finally have an amp that can drive my stereo.

I may need to build a new shelf...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Power Supply!

I was in need of a power supply for electricity for my breadboard projects, and was looking to buy a DC bench power supply. Instead, I found someone on the internets that gave me the idea to build one out of an old computer power supply. Since there are other how-tos on the internet I won't go into a lot of detail. It was a fairly painless process involving dremels and drills and lots and lots of wire nuts. Long story short, using one of any five plugs (I used phono plugs instead of banana plugs because of the low-ish amount of current I expect this supply to be able to produce), I can get DC voltages of 3.3, 5, 12, -5, and -12 volts, and by combining any of these two I can additionally get (positive and negative) 8.5, 15.5, 17, and 24 volts. The -5 and -12 terminals can only source a small amount of current compared to the +3.3, +5, and +12 terminals.

Noteworthy note: I installed a switch that shorts out two pins on what would have been the connector for the motherboard. These pins are what tells the power supply to turn on. However, when the switch is flipped off, power is not immediately removed. Currently I have to physically unplug the 120 from the back with the switch on and let the cooling fan dissipate the stored energy. The likely cause of this is one of the pins that are shorted together (the gray one, the black one is ground) needs to have a pull-up resistor to let the power supply know it's been switched off. This mod is not worth disassembling it though, at least not right now.

Also, thanks to FREE MONEY FROM THE GUBMENT, I can now watch TV fo' free! My roommate moved out and took the satellite dish with him, but luckily I have my 80s-era TV with rabbit ears and a brand new DTV converter box furnished by your (and my) tax dollars.

Top 11 Albums and Some Others

What five albums most influenced my life? I don't know about influenced... but I have been thinking about that for quite a while, and while this may be a nontraditional post for this blog I think it's worth mentioning. I couldn't narrow it down to five, so I picked ten that changed my life most, and added one. Plus 19 honorable mentions. These are 30 albums that represent something or someone to me, and since most of the music I listen to reminds me of "oddly specific" events or people, if you listened to one of these with me or noticed me listening to it a lot chances are it reminds me of you or whatever was going on at that time. The first 11 are presented in order. No artist is represented twice (although some easily could be) and the last 19 are presented in no particular order. But! I think it will be interesting to look back on this in the future and see what I thought. Which is the point of this blog, so maybe it does fit... hmmm.

#11. Soundgarden - Superunknown

#10. Nada Surf - The Weight is a Gift

#9. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas

#8. Rage Against the Machine - The Battle of Los Angeles

#7. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

#6. Jimi Hendrix - Crash Landing

#5. Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine

#4. Third Eye Blind (self-title)

#3. 311 - Sound-system

#2. Green Day - Nimrod

#1. The Offspring - Americana