Vehicular Derpitude

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted here so I figured I’d gather an important collection:

TV and radio station related vehicles I’ve murdered in the line of duty!

#1 – the Q97 truck. This was my first time ever going up a nasty little dirt mountain road and the truck just… unceremoniously shut down on me right then and there at a switchback in the road. After it cooled down for a few minutes, it restarted and worked just fine. The fault was never identified or replicated by anyone else, but we decided after that incident that it probably shouldn’t go up to the transmitter site again.

#2: The Nissan Frontier that couldn’t take RF.

It made it to the top of Shasta Bally perfectly fine, but as soon as I got back in it, turned it so its back was to the KNCQ-FM and KRCR-TV transmitters, and started driving back down, it decided to shift from 4WD to 2WD. When I tried to shift it back to 4WD the transfer case motor started moving and then halted in a neutral position. An “ATP” light came up on the dash which is apparently the warning that the transfer case is in that neutral state and the transmission’s park pawl won’t do anything to make the vehicle stay put.

It was downhill from this spot where the truck died to a space about a hundred feet away, so I coasted it down there and power cycled the whole thing, which was the point at which I found Nissan’s ONE GOOD DESIGN FEATURE:

Those quick release connectors come out of the bottom of the battery positive terminal, uh, conglomeration, and it’s easy to disconnect them to kill power to everything. The big red wire that remains connected is the starter I guess. After it sat to think about its place in life for a while, it was willing to work again.

On a side note, here’s an important warning about Nissan pickup trucks, and it is likely to extend to other Nissan vehicles. I observed this same behavior on two different Nissan Frontiers and one Nissan Titan of three different model years. When you downshift the transmission to descend a long steep grade, it will automatically shift back up to drive and then start upshifting with no user input OR INDICATION on the dash after 15 minutes.

You get no warning that this is about to happen, it’s just suddenly… clunk and you’re accelerating downhill way too fast.

The only way to reset this is to stop, turn off the engine, and restart the vehicle!

#3: Ford Econoline van I seem to have no photographs of. Blew up SPECTACULARLY while hauling a load of e-waste to a recycling center. The transmission began slipping just before I got there and the cooling system went off with a “POP!” sound and dumped everything out in a flash as soon as I stopped. With absolute seriousness, I asked which bin to push it into and leave it there.

#4: Ford Econoline. Is anyone surprised? Heater hoses blew off where they go into the firewall and the coolant dumped. By this point in time I’d gotten tired of faking it with that dark brown and decided to embrace my natural rainbow.

Honorable mention: The Ford F150 on which some of the wiring harness tape got onto the exhaust manifold and started slowly burning away until I squashed out the flame and tore off the smouldering pieces. I’m not including this one here because it didn’t really die— I caught it before it did, and to be perfectly honest, if it didn’t mean it would have been a 9 mile walk back to the main road, I probably would have just said “NOPE!” and marched off.

Shitposting at 15 kilobits

Today, Comcast had a nice wide area outage across Sacramento and Elk Grove, and the result was, uh, beautiful: with no home internet over every area where they have a rock solid monopoly, mobile data was, uhhhhh, totally usable. Trying to place a phone call took several minutes followed by it just silently failing. I hit the speed test button in Fing out of sick curiosity and much to my amazement, it was actually able to run the test, with comical results:

This is rounded up – as the test was running, it was showing 10-15 kilobits, but for whatever reason the final test results screen insists on reading in megabits. I guess they (sensibly) figured it’d never get used on a connection this slow.

Eventually Comcast came back to life and everything was restored, but it’s still another one of those harsh reminders of how close we always are to having to wonder just how many of our friends are also ham radio operators…..

And with that: the usual caliber of quality posting begins.

This is the worst X11 window manager ever, it’s just clunky and unresponsive.

Straight out of the Mewsroom. On that note, my company has a slack channel named mewsroom and it’s glorious.

I forget what discussion of shitty electronics prompted me to look up the infamous Cellmate but it’s worth noting it’s got a successor which is even dumber 😀

Why did SacRT Route 1 wind up being shaped like this? Is it the concatenation of two older routes? Weird.

I guess I need to figure out what I did to those configuration files but my brain is on fire

First, these three pictures of early stage tri-color foaming wax

Yeah— so I did the config all wrong for this server. Virtual host declarations aren’t in the files they should logically be in and things overlap and I just accidentally found some way to get a horribly blank directory listing to load instead of this page! Very weird, I think I just need to make a backup copy and rewrite the stuff. My apologies if you catch things broken as I’m doing it.

Pictures from The Cloud:

This is the top of the tower elevator and the inside of the tower top hut on Transtower. The lower level is really weird and basically was built by and for Gumby.

My brother sends me regular updates on this kitty named Luna being a cutie peets.

A newborn car wash? I think it’s a Mark VII system.
The ham shack as seen in “Akiba’s Trip”
Rainbow jugs
Useful meme

So I made a previous silly post about this Weston 622 milliammeter… It’s pretty interesting. Inside that removable plug, sealed in place with beeswax, are some kind of heating element and one side of a thermocouple. The other side of the thermocouple is in the meter body. This is actually really similar to the platinum RTD RF power measurement technique that’s the gold standard for average power level measurements on signals that have a varying peak to average power ratio (PAPR). It measures the RMS, “heating value” of the input by….. measuring its heating value! I tested it with DC because that was convenient and the 60+ year old meter agreed with a modern Fluke DMM.

I haven’t come across a ton of info or any original manuals on this meter, but it’s a little different than most I’ve seen when just searching the web or looking at eBay listings (it’s fairly common!). Mine has the thermocouple and heater in an interchangable plug, whereas most have it buried inside the meter case. This suggests that at some point Weston intended it to be used with different detectors. I wonder if there was to be one with 50 ohm coaxial input? A passive thermal RF power meter would be pretty cute!!

UV LED encapsulant musing.

My hair wasn’t glowing. I needed to fix this.

I have this LED blacklight bulb in a desk lamp at my bench at work and it normally makes my hair glow nicely. In case you’re wondering— it’s thanks to the Iroiro Colors 300 series dyes. Neon Yellow, Neon Red, and Neon Pink are probably the brightest. I’m always tempted to just throw Neon Pink over my whole head because it looks so nice, but I am absolutely incapable of deciding on just one color so I continue to be a rainbow.

Anyway, this is what I get when it’s working:

I don’t turn the blacklight off, so it was just kinda cooking there for over a year. Eventually it became a dark purple light that didn’t make any magic.

New bulb
Old bulb

The most noticeable difference is that the encapsulant on the “filament” arrays has darkened right over each emitter.

Old bulb, Well Done
New bulb, the encapsulant is water clear

I had read a while back that some of the nasty but revolutionary UV-A emitters from Nichia, when they first came on the market, were using a metal TO-18 can with a quartz end window to avoid this.

I wonder how many other LED products may still suffer this degradation? I will say I got a good amount of life out of this $12 bulb so I’m not exactly mad, but I feel like if whoever made the “filaments” had used a better goopus on top of the array, it’d still be working fine.

As for the old bulb, I still like its weird violet glow and might try to scrounge up another weird fixture to put it in like this funky 3d printer-activated flicker lamp. I swear I can also see the HVAC chiller out back cycling in its brightness level.

I used to hate this thing but it’s slowly grown on me