The tri-sign adventure

So I started working at the Miami Children’s Museum again on the exhibits team and boy, did they have some puzzles waiting for me to solve when I got there!

One broken rotating billboard sign (I have no clue who made it, and this is a good thing, because I’d otherwise yell at them)
One SparkFun Redboard
One Pololu motor driver

One 24vdc power supply from Marlin P. Jones

One ginormous Leeson 1/4 horsepower right angle gearhead motor


(and that’s just where I lost count)

This is the guts of one of those three panel rotating signs, like you see on billboards. Note the dead variable freq drive controller at top.

This sign was designed with absolutely no consideration for maintenance once installed. It’s totally ridiculous. The triangular aluminum rods that the sign panels are snapped into lift out (I discovered this after fighting with setscrews on their bottoms for most of a day thinking that’s how they came out!) revealing… a ginormous nigh impossible to access Bodine AC 3 phase 208v motor being driven off a Delta VFD… Uggghhh!!! The VFD was toast, its programming was unknown, it all had to go!



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The Nozzle is now calibrating.


If you’re gonna be in charge of advertising for a pest control company called Nozzle Nolen and your mascot is an elephant, and you’re putting ads in a fairground restroom, you MUST make a silly “nozzle” joke. Somehow I missed photographing that sign but it said “now that’s using your nozzle!”.

That’s just how the universe works.

Also, I couldn’t stop thinking of “Please stand by, we are now calibrating…. The nozzle.”

Oh yeah the Stuart hamfest was great. I guess I wanted to say that but then damn you Nozzle Nolen elephant you distracted me so.


The Orange Line that never was.

This is the downtown terminal for the Metrorail Orange Line to Miami International Airport. It’s missing a few little bits and pieces here and there.


Years ago I was oddly fascinated by the fact that this exists. The original plans for the Metrorail system called for there to be an Orange Line to the airport, but instead of it mostly sharing the path of the existing Green Line, it would have sailed right into downtown Miami and undoubtedly served a lot more areas of the city on the way.

Elevators in Government Center station had their floors labeled Orange Line and Green Line until they were modernized in the mid 2000s.

The Orange Line as it was built finally is a tiny puddle jump from Earlington Heights to Miami International Airport with no intermediate stops.

There’s an enticingly inspiring little tail track beyond the MIA platform, which brings mental pictures of a line continuing south a bit then going west after the airport’s southern perimeter.


There’s a path where the track would have gone, either straddling or replacing a surface street.

Cool, but useless.

As usual…

2:30 pm on a Friday and the city’s already grinding to a halt. Nice…

Last night, there was literally one lane on one surface street remaining open for my drive home. And the county thinks it needs a giant indoor theme park and mall at the end of Miami Gardens Drive??


Oops, I’m spoiled rotten now.


I just realized how badly spoiled I am from this piece of modern technology. This is a PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 digital mixing console. Each channel, buss, and aux has its own equalizer, dynamics processing (gate, compressor, limiter), and everything can be stored and recalled in scene memory including the faders. They’re not motorized on this board but that doesn’t really matter. There are also two internal reverb processors that sound perfectly okay.

What’s going to happen now when I have to mix on an old analog console where it doesn’t even have a weird sounding analog compressor on the mic in channels?

I’m up the creek, man. Spoiled rotten. Perhaps I should squirrel away a few pennies for my own console with digital snake (ADCs remote mounted; only an Ethernet cable runs to the stage!)


Jammed like an orange tree.

So I think I have it licked – if you’ve tried to go to this site and just get “Error establishing a database connection”, it’s likely due to memory exhaustion:

The likely culprit: /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/mpm_prefork.conf

<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
StartServers 5
MinSpareServers 5
MaxSpareServers 10
MaxRequestWorkers 150
MaxConnectionsPerChild 0

And the log that let me catch it in the act:

[23743.574941] Out of memory: Kill process 857 (mysqld) score 45 or sacrifice child

[23743.575134] Killed process 857 (mysqld) total-vm:910236kB, anon-rss:21764kB, file-rss:0kB

[23747.982892] init: mysql main process (857) killed by KILL signal

[23747.982923] init: mysql main process ended, respawning

[23748.272600] init: mysql main process (6431) terminated with status 1

[23748.272617] init: mysql main process ended, respawning

[23749.210945] init: mysql post-start process (6432) terminated with status 1

[23749.364629] init: mysql main process (6467) terminated with status 1

[23749.364683] init: mysql respawning too fast, stopped

While I try to figure out how to get fastcgi and php-fpm going (I’m not in that “go rewrite config files” state of mind right now) I just turned down MaxRequestWorkers to prevent ram-sucking jams.

Speaking of things jamming…. I’m trading in my Harris Z16 for an orange tree soon. Yes, THIS GUY. I have yet to ever send this SSTV slide to anyone though. You know, sometimes life throws you orange playground balls. I really love radio and electronics but this thing will never, ever, send me alarms at 4 AM, and that makes me a lot happier.

Beeeeee-bloopblooopbleebloop... No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.....
Beeeeee-bloopblooopbleebloop… No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No…..
Note the lack of glow on the FAULT led, under the left LCD. This thing was my stand-in orange tree.


And they’re done!


Radio Shack, who once were a big name in electronics, of course, have finally failed entirely. As of today the news is that they’ll close half their stores and sell the rest to Sprint (because Radio Shack themselves proved just how profitable selling cell phones on America’s shittiest network is!)

Since Radio Shack was the last surviving business under Tandy Corporation (which renamed themselves Radio Shack Corporation) this means they have truly come full circle and have run themselves out of business like each and every one of their ventures.

Now let the clearance sales begin I guess… The store where I photographed this pack of knobs labeled as fuse holders was still fully stocked and selling items with extended service plans as of now but has not discounted anything.

On this day the Losing Horns echoed over the airwaves…

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