Posted by: Mike | October 26, 2009

Football photoshops of the week

First I saw a commercial for a “Chuck the Talking Truck” children’s toy and instantly thought of LSU’s great power-back Charles Scott. The next was inspired by a forum post describing Florida’s play-call procedure as the “meercat offense”.

Posted by: Mike | May 23, 2009

Linksys SR2016 repair

Finally got my hands on a dead Linksys SR2016, 16 port Gigabit switch.  Replaced the three swollen 1500uF 6.3V capacitors with some I picked up on Ebay (20 for ~$10).  Now it works like a champ.  Looking at the board I’m guessing it’s the same as the SR2024.  The dead caps are of the same variety as the ones that are kaput on the SD2008, labeled “STONE.”  I’m posting across it now.  So yeah, if you have a dead Linksys switch and you are too chicken to fix it, drop my a line.  I’m 4 for 4 so far.

Posted by: Mike | April 30, 2009

Another decent workbench

I found this one looking around again tonight.  I think I may start mine on Friday.  I’m thinking similar to this but with at least a shelf and trying to find a way to build in a couple shallow, wide drawers later under the work surface.  The only critique I have of this one is the visible screws after he went through the effort of the nice dowel joints on the legs.  Still thinking…

Posted by: Mike | April 29, 2009

Towards a geek workbench

Updating my grand project: I did find a nice simple workbench design here:  Work Bench design and construction.  I’d seen his reference material, but am impressed by how simple, functional, yet not crappy his is.  I want to add drawers or some type of more segmented lower storage, but this is an excellent starting point.  I’ve been seriously considering the door-as-worksurface alot the past few days.

Now back to my Ubuntu upgrade…

Posted by: Mike | April 28, 2009

How I fixed a broken Linksys SD2008

**UPDATE 4/28/2009**

Got another SD2008 in today.  The power light came on but no link/activity lights.  It had what looked like to be the same circuit board, however the 270uF 25V caps were in different locations. They were all swollen.  The 1000uF 25V caps were fine as they were on the previous one.  Used my last 4 270’s from the batch I bought to fix it and am writing this post across it now.  What took a great deal of time before took me about 15 mins this time.  Partly I was already set up, partly I knew I was best off using my $10 radio shack desoldering iron, adding a little solder to get more flux in there and then extracting much more cleanly.  Then work on the holes a bit.  Finally push the new caps through and solder all in place.

An easy fix.  I’ll keep my eyes open for dead out-of-warranty Linksys switches in the future.  I just bought a big batch of assorted low-voltage capacitors that should come in a week or so.


Lately I’ve noticed that the Linksys Gigabit switches we’ve sold last year are dying at an alarming rate.  Usually all ports will light up or some will not work.  I took one small 8 port (I have to say, most have been the rackmount 16’s), cracked it open, saw the problem and actually fixed it. Yay!

First the problem: on this one it would work for about 10 mins or so, get warm, and then all the lights would go green and nada.

Now we have to open the thing. On the back where the ports are you have to remove the plastic bezel.  There are two metal tabs holding it in on either side.  I used a small flathead to pry it out enough to pull the plastic bezel out one side at a time.  Next remove the plastic cover off the front.  I used the little plastic prying tools I use to take apart laptops, but a screwdriver would probably work here too.  Just press down on the metal casing enough to let the cover move forward.  Do this on the top and the bottom and it will slide off easily.  Next take the top and slide it off.  If you look on the sides you can see how the top and bottom interlock.  Finally remove the screws and you now can work on the circuit board.

On mine, two of the 470uF capacitors were swollen.  So I replaced all 4 of them.  I’ve marked them with red X’s in the photos.  Make sure to get the polarity right. It is nicely marked on the board.  If you forget just look at th smaller caps.  I had to add a little solder in order to remove the existing components.  This is one of those times my cheap $10 radioshack desoldering iron came in handy.  The two caps nearest the inside can be a little bit of a pain to get to and I never got mine to seat quite all the way down due to shoddy work on my part, but it fit fine back in the case and now works like a champ.

I’m shocked that Linksys was still suffering from this problem and have been generally unimpressed with the quality of their products the last two years, even for cheap network equipment.  But with about $5 worth of parts and a little bit of time I have a nice little switch to replace my aged 5 port 10/100 on my workbench.

Posted by: Mike | April 28, 2009

Questing for a Workbench

I was fixing a piece of junk Linksys Gigabit switch that had popped caps when I became incredibly frustrated with the small worksurface I threw together in a day a few years ago. It was great for the cramped spaces of an apartment but it’s too small to be usable when I’ve got both my soldering and desoldering iron hot. (Luckily no appendages were harmed in this experiment).

So I have sought to complete my Geek man-cave with a nice usable workbench. But I don’t have $1K to spend on it. I’d like to top out at $200 total. So I hit the net and look for plans or at least ideas. I find thousands of them and they all categorically suck in one of two ways.

1) They are master-craftsman style woodworking benches complete with bench vises and mortise and tenon joints and crap like that. This sucks because a) I’m not that skilled b) I don’t want to be that skilled c) they presuppose an existing workbench as well as a few thousand dollars worth of tools and d) if I built something that nice I sure ad hell wouldn’t break out the soldering iron on top of it.

2) Built by a moron with a circular saw with particle board and some scrap 2 x 4’s. These folks actually show me how to slap together crap to make a pile of it.

My plan: to build a decent looking but not “master quality” workbench for general geek projects. I’ll build stuff out of wood. I’ll play with and fix electronics. I’ll need to store a lot of tools because one can never have too many screwdrivers. It’ll need to be a reasonable size to spread out on. It will need to b a good height to stand at or sit at with a stool. It will need to have plenty of access to power, but be able to hide it when working on other stuff. It needs to be able to be built with basic power tools (circular saw, drill, etc.) and without complex joinery. I would also like to at some point integrate a small wall-mount shop-vac I saw the other day as well as a small air compressor.

If you know of an awesome plan, please let me know. In the meantime I’ll be spending more time looking around and playing in Sketchup.

First off, I’m not a gamer.  I’m not into case modding.  But I do like my computer to shut up and let me listen to music.  My XFX Geforce 8600GT has been the bane of my existence since I bought it.  Sure it was a great card performance-wise for what I needed: better than onboard, not expensive. But it sounded like a small harrier in my poor case.

Finally after re-establishing my man cave, and trying to enjoy some tunes, I had enough.  I needed a quiet sound card.  A silent one.  After a bit of research I found the Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 R2.  It fit my needs perfectly: it was silent, and it stuck to my card.  A few days later it arrived.

The installation was actually quite simple.  It took me a little over 15mins while watching my University of Memphis Tigers loose to Missouri in the Sweet 16, so probably 10 mins normal time.  The only bad part is that they used a different bracket to hold the heatsink off the far edge of the card than the one depicted in the directions, but I’m no dummy.  I did lose one of the supplied washers when pulling said directions out of the plastic bag containing both them and the small parts.  BTW, Artic Cooling, shoving all of that into a tiny ziplock seems so un-Swiss, but I digress.  Memory sinks were stuck after the recommended eraser treatment, heatsink was attached and the massive thing was squeezed into the case.  Note that the fins are easily bent (and easily rectified), luckily this makes the thing quite lightweight, and I’m sure quite conductive.

After installing my GPU temps actually dropped by a couple degrees to be sitting between 41C and 43C as opposed to the stock 45C.  This is running in Ubuntu with Compiz fusion doing day-to-day stuff.  Again, I don’t game, so I’ll leave “under load” to those that do.  But now my machine is totally silent.  Approx $40 and 15 mins took my machine to irritatingly noisy to happily quiet, where the loudest thing in the room is the AC/heat (depending on the moment in Memphis).   I’d give it a 8/10.

I’ve been using this ugly Kensington Mac keyboard for over a year now, and am hooked on the feel of scissor-switch/laptop keys.  They’re light and responsive.  However it seems that the keyboards that have them always have odd layouts.  As I’ve been putting in hours kludging together some PHP/SQL my old keyboard has been a source of frustration.  First it’s white keys are turning a shade of yellow.  Second they odd page up, page down, home, end layout plus extra Ctrl keys still confuses my poor fingers.

After some searching, I thought I found it.  An Enermax Aurora Premium.  Scissor switch keys, nice aesthetics.  The reviews scared me off the black, since the paint seems to wear off.  But then when I was about to click “buy” and was looking at the photos it hit me.  It has the huge Enter key, tiny backspace, and odd backslash placement:  deal breakers.

I’ve settled for a Logitech Cordless Desktop S520.  It’s a phony.  Standard keys laid out to look laptopish, but normal placement and wirelessness, plus low cost (and some Best Buy rewards burning a hole in my pocket) convinced me.

The layout is very nice.  They managed to stick the bonus fluff keys at the bottom, but in a way you don’t bump them typing, even with my odd 6 finger typing.  The slant is perfect. The calculator key is nice if I’ll ever think to use it.  Ctrl, Alt and Meta are where my fingers naturally expect.  The downside is that the keys go deeper than you would expect, which takes a little getting used to.  The included mouse is decent.  A little small, and it feels like the indentation on the right side is bigger than the left, which just feels off, although I can’t see a difference with my eyes.  It feels more like one of those little laptop mice.  The wheel, well, it kind of sucks.  The “click” on it is a bit abrasive.  I may nd up using my older Logitech MX518.  I’m not a gamer but I have loved Logitech’s gaming mice, especially when dealing with graphics and other tasks that require accuracy.

Overall I would give the set a 6/10.  Better in some ways than I expected, but not stellar in any way other than the keyboard’s layout.

Posted by: Mike | March 29, 2009

FreeNAS on Atom board est morte, vie le Boxee

After I got FreeNAS running I sought the perfect case, then ran into too many hurdles.  Nothing suited my needs, or was far too pricey.  I hate to spend nearly $300 on a machine with under $100 invested in the CPU/Mobo combo.  Eventually I just ran out of steam on the idea.  The 2 SATA limitation, single PCI slot, and only 10/100BaseT Ethernet limited my dreams too much.  Not enough drives vs not enough throughput, can only fix one if you ignore the CPU load problem left me in too tight of a spot.  But I know I’m not too far off.  I’m looking forward to future Atom/ITX iterations for this dream project.  There must be some interest figuring this long-vacant blog post has still been getting comments.

Now the board is nicely situated below my TV in a Winsys chassis, dedicated to Ubuntu/Boxee lightweight media center-ish thing, mostly for watching back episodes of TV shows like my favorite, Burn Notice.  I’m using an old MCE remote kit with my schmancy Logitech Harmony remote pretty well.

I’m going to try to keep up with reviews of interesting toys and gadgets I play with, since I am interested in playing with the review formula.

Posted by: Mike | August 6, 2008

delays and potential prose

I apologise for the delays in both the filesystem benchmarks and the FreeNAS projects, but I’ve been a bit worn out from the whole back-to-school thing at my real job, and wanted to help someone get a decent image of XP running in Spanish for a computer lab being set up in Mexico, since I think it’s a noble cause.  Plus a lot of my free mindcycles are being taken up by planning my wedding, or at least watching the planning happen.

I’m thinking of editing some essays I’ve written on the history and philosophy of technology for posting, but I usually end up not liking what I’ve written before I can finish something like this. We’ll see.  My fascination with Douglas Englebart has been renewed, so there may be something about that.

Oh, I’ve really been enjoying the Byrds lately, so if you’re into that sort of thing, I recommend it.

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