Archive for category Things that are Busted

What’s that Smell?

As they train to become a doctor, new interns are taught about many different diseases that produce various sets of otherwise similar symptoms. In conjunction with this new and complex knowledge, they are also taught this truism: “When you hear hoofprints, you must not initially assume a zebra is in the vicinity.” This pithy remark is meant to impart that, for instance, if a patient comes in bleeding from an orifice, one must not immediately assume that Ebola is in the building; more likely something much more common is in play, such as hemorrhoids or perhaps an unfortunate excess of enthusiasm coupled with a new, ahem, toy.

One of the clearer signs that I was becoming a competent programmer was that the problems in my code began, more and more often, to in fact, be zebras. Instead of a misplaced character or a missing clause or some kind of blatant conceptual error, the abject weirdnesses that were most often populating the realm of my final, demonstrably accurate diagnoses came to be things like operating system bugs, broken libraries, incomplete emulations and exotic compiler bugs. Zebras.
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Cellphone Etiquette During Conversation

Wandering though life, I often encounter the occasional person who seems to have missed an etiquette class. Or several. In particular, I have noticed that a very large number of gaffes occur during face to face conversation. So as a gift, I provide the following guide to using your cellphone when in conversation with family, friends, co-workers, and friendly companions:

Rule #1: Don’t.

Rule #2: See Rule #1

If your phone rings, vibrates or plays an obnoxious ringtone (all ringtones are obnoxious) there is only one polite action: Turn it off or mute it, while apologizing: “I’m sorry, I forgot to turn my phone off. Fixed!” Slip it back in your pocket and deal with it later.

You may also benefit from my handy guide to Cellphone Etiquette at the Table.

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GMail degrades further. Thanks, Google.

Well, today Google completely dropped support for the GMail desktop notifier. This is (ok, was) a handy little menu bar item that kept a count of how many messages were waiting, a list of message subjects, and gave a little ding-ding when new mail came in. It kept me from having to run my browser all the time, and I could easily hear when new mail arrived no matter where I was (my house is an open design, like a loft.)
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Voice of Russia (former Radio Moscow) going dark

Sad news — another important broadcaster is abandoning the short waves. On January 1st, 2014, VOR will cease transmitting except on medium wave, and a token presence on the Internet.

VOR has been broadcasting to one hundred sixty countries with about twenty five hours of programming each day. As Radio Moscow, VOR was the first shortwave station to broadcast internationally; with that credit, it is also at present the station with the longest continuous presence on the short waves.

Somewhere in my various pack-rattery, I have a beautiful mug from Radio Moscow, obtained in the late 1980′s if I recall correctly. I guess it’s time to bring it out and give it a place on the memorabilia shelves.

Well, I suppose there is a bright side: Without those big gun transmitters on the air, it’ll be a little easier to hear the smaller stations from time to time.

VOR joins the BBC in abandoning the shortwave bands; the slide continues.

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Credible Feminism and “Being Nice”

The following is taken verbatim from a letter I wrote to the New York Times on July 31st, 2013, in response to an article where the author spoke to the desirability of asexual dressing and avoiding being nice just for the sake of smoothing social interactions:

Credible feminism drives equality of power, pay, opportunity, and recognition. It’s not about wearing pants to deny or distance gender. Men and women are naturally and irrevocably different in their sexuality: behavior that celebrates this — including that which drives sexually tuned plumage — is not only reasonable, it is healthy.

Women will never bridge the very real gap by attempting to subvert their own sexuality, because in doing so, they cede many cues of desirability to others.

The same thing applies to “nice.” Nice people are selected ahead of others for many roles simply because it is perceived that it will be more pleasant to be around them. If you eschew “nice”, you cede yet another social slice of desirability to others.

In either case, such a choice is completely up to the individual — but the consequences won’t be.

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On the use of Power Amplifiers in Amateur Radio

As many of you know, I’m a ham operator. I spend a lot of time listening to the HF bands, not a whole lot transmitting, but I do listen. One of the things that tends to irritate me is when I hear some wag putting someone else down because they have a “little signal”, by which they mean 100 watts or so.
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New WordPress version, new MySql version, hoop jumping, aggravation

So, my legions of loyal visitors (notice how I don’t assume you read any of my drivel, just that you visit), my hosting provider informed me that things were changing, and I’d have to update what database I was using and what version of the underlying language, and that also meant new blogging software, and so… the site was down for half a day or so while I located the hoops, jumped back and forth through them, and towards the end, contemplated setting them on fire.

But it’s done now. I think. Perhaps.

However, should you encounter weirdness, by all means let me know and I’ll see if I can work out what I did wrong, or whatever. Sorry for being down, wasn’t my intention.



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Marantz MA700 troubleshooting

I have quite a few Marantz MA700′s; of the group, four of them exhibit random popping sounds of moderate energy at the speaker output with no audio input to the unit. Clearly this is a very common failure mode for the MA700.

I have opened one of the “poppers” up on the bench, and with the buffer amplifier signal cable to the power amplifier disconnected, the popping noise remains, so it’s definitely not in the audio path on the buffer amplifier board. The buffer amp is connected to the power amp via an electrolytic, so there’s no problem unplugging the buffer from the power amp.

There’s another problem with this unit, too: I see somewhat random engagement of the high power rail mode for the amp, but this is not co-incident with the clicking coming from the speaker.

When the high/low power state switches randomly, the associated relay clicks, which is audible at very low volumes, and this is obviously not the design intent. Erratic high/low power switching problems are going to be nearby QU05, very likely the electrolytic CU08, the diodes DU01 and DU02, or QU05 itself. I’d suspect CU08 first.

The main amp PCB shows evidence of excessive heating towards the front of the chassis, where the driver section is located. Unfortunately, it looks to me that the mechanical assembly is complex with regards to the main amp and attached heat sink; taking it apart looks to be quite a big deal, my vision has become very poor, and I don’t actually need the amp, so I’m just going to close up. However, at least this exonerates the buffer amp and provides a pointer as to how to troubleshoot high/low rail power issues.

If anyone locates a specific component that is responsible for the clicking and popping, I would very much appreciate hearing about it; I’m willing to hack in a replacement electrolytic from the component or solder side of the board if that’ll solve the problem. Likewise, if circumstances lead me there — if one of my working MA700′s fails and I really need to fix one of these “poppers” — I’ll post what I’ve learned.

I’ve put the service manual for the MA700 online here.

–Ben, AA7AS

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