Nice knowing you, Just In Time manufacturing

I hate Just In Time manufacturing. It screws everyone over for weeks with a ten ton lead dildo whenever any sort of supply disruption occurs.

So right now, go to the store and you’ll see this.

Not shown, the news helicopter overhead, the fights breaking out, and the checkout lines around the store.

So what’s the supply disruption here? There…. isn’t one. See, Just In Time always expects that demand is predictable or completely inelastic, so when you have any sudden unexpected demand…

Finished product isn’t waiting in warehouses.

Subparts of products aren’t available (supposedly, production of toilet paper and paper towels have halted due to lack of the cardboard roll core tubes, but that’s an unconfirmed rumor!)

And who the hell knows why everyone snapped up the instant ramen. Uhh.

The supply chain breakdown hit hard and ugly in the electronics industry first as that depends almost entirely on parts from China. (Sadly)

Now it’s hitting domestic products and people are getting slammed into empty shelves over the last box of baby wipes.

Could you really say nobody saw this coming?

Stores are starting to put rationing measures into place, but those are far from fair as they’ll let some dude who lives alone buy the same amount of cleaning supplies and paper towels as a mother of four who comes in for the week’s groceries.

Shit’s Fucked, Man.

Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?

Another day, another case of being thoroughly perplexed by RF Central gear—
When the mast goes up but the signal doesn’t go out, it’s time to investigate.

schwiiiiiiinnnngggg

The forward/reflect/12vdc return meter always seemed to show 00.0 if the PA was off… -1 if the PA was on, in any field.

TWO different bad amplifier units…. one was waiting on the shelf as a spare, one just came off the truck.

 

So what’s inside? I forgot to take a photo but if you remove the hex screws on the back it reveals a Stealth Microwave SM2025-44L, 25 watt linear amplifier for 2000-2500 megacycle DVB applications. Sadly. Stealth Microwave is long gone.

Interestingly the amp bricks are specified as having an internal output isolator. Nifty.

The other major part inside the amp brick is a bias tee that splits 12vdc power sent up the coax out to run the fan and the amplifier.

And now, it gets… horrifying.

I found a datasheet on the SM2025-44L and it’s specified as taking a mighty 8.5 amperes. I mean, at least it isn’t gonna arc furnace anything, but the voltage drop CANNOT be nontrivial anymore.

This has to get to it on the coax. The coax from the indoor unit in the truck to the outdoor amplifier unit is not a short sweet little run. See the big black coil up the mast in the first pic? There’s probably at least 45 feet of coax in there, plus another dozen at least to land it from the feedthrough in the roof to the IDU in the rack.

WHY DID THIS EVER WORK AT ALL? Or does it? I don’t….. I can’t even——- No——— I need to go home and collapse in bed and place the kitteh on top of me and stop trying to think for this week. DONE. I’m so done. What the hell.

Hello, My Name Is E-Waste

Holy heck. I think I’m looking at a piece of terrible broadcasting history here— the Tektronix RFA400A.

It ran Windows NT Embedded.

It has a dual Pentium Pro Slot 1 400 Mhz backplane PC inside, which does not boot, and chances of finding a replacement are probably zero. I’d guess probably about 31 of these boards were ever made and the other 30 have already been thrown in a Homer Paint Bucket full of acid by some gold scrapper in their backyard.

I’m estimating chances of being able to repair this thing at approximately HELL NO percent. Thankfully we have far better, newer test equipment in place already. YEET!

The backplane PC (click for fullsize)

RF downconverter on the bottom of the chassis, small squares at left are relays

The forgotten slobbery use case

Shown here is a Dexter Thoroughbred 600 washing machine I pissed off. And how did I piss it off, you may ask? I left a penny in my pocket.

The newer Dexter machines appear to not have this same issue, but these older ones (looks like it’s from the 90s?) do.

A lip behind the door edge is just the right size that a penny can fall into the space between it and the rotating basket, and get wedged in the rubber gasket, causing the machine to urinate.

A quarter just kinda sits there.

The offending lip (tub edge?) and basket edge. The rounded edge is what the door gasket seals against. The rubber ring seen at the bottom is just where the front cover of the machine meets the tub and is there to fill a gap and prevent the whole thing shaking and banging.

And the penny doesn’t exactly come out unscathed from the ordeal.

Stuff like this is a good example of why, when you test a design, you must consider some unusual use cases. This could have been prevented if someone had just noticed that the spacing of this assembly easily allowed small flat objects to get sucked in and jammed there.

And maybe Grass Valley Group could come up with a newsroom video archival and playout system that doesn’t toss its cookies every time the moon is in a certain phase, but that’s clearly asking too much. *Growls in frustrated engineer*

Because my style is more distinguished

I kinda chuckled today at the nonsense with the browser tab open to a cheap looking vinyl lingerie set appearing on Faux News today, both because the commentator never considered his whole screen would be shared on air, and because… that’s just boring, man.

Maybe it’s just that we’re a lot different but this is more my style: the badass gloss PVC ballgown, with quite functional padlocks.

I’m pretty sure they can make it in other colors as well — Misfitz seems to make some off the rack stuff but also offers a ton of custom options. I’d probably want it in purple or red.

I have a different dress from them and I totally love it. The PVC fabric feels really nice and heavy without being inflexible, and it smells like 1855A coax, which amuses me far too much. The belt isn’t part of it, though it’d be freaking amazing if they had a rainbow glitter fabric like that for trim. It’d also be nice if it had epaulettes for a radio speaker/mic, but who else ever uses that?

Yeah, I’m all classy like that, and I’m making a mental note to leave tricolor foaming wax visible on the studio computers that can feed the router. Sacramento, y’all need more TCFW in your lives.

Fun With Video Manipulation

Back in the 90s I ran the camera for my school’s morning news production. It wasn’t exactly a well equipped production; we just used the video out from a crappy RCA VHS camcorder on a tripod and a plastic Radio Shack mic plugged into the thing’s audio input.

One day I aimed the camera at the monitor (which was just the usual television set on a rolling cart with a VCR on the shelf below it, standard 90s classroom fare…) and it created this fabulous “infinity mirror” kind of pattern. If I aimed it just right, it’d keep going, otherwise it’d repeatedly erase itself to white or black and just flash.

Apparently I’m far from the only one who appreciates this kind of silliness.

The original “Scanimate” systems used video feedback through analog circuitry to work their amazing magic.

Here’s a 1984 exploration of video feedback dynamics by Jim Crutchfield:

I only kinda recently discovered what hilarious things you can do on a video mixer/switcher, and it seems almost like the cheezier the device is, the better? The ones that are made for home video editing seem to be particularly great as they have built in frame sync. In fact, it sometimes amazes me that the big HD professional switchers for live production and editing DON’T handle unsynchronized sources elegantly. I could see it for oldschool analog ones.

The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher at WSVN had me spoiled – as long as the video input format on any given port matched what you set it to expect in the engineering config page, it took it just fine, regardless of sync. You only needed it to be synchronized accurately if you wanted to avoid some otherwise unavoidable latency (up to a frame or two – hardly terrible, but SOMETIMES noticeable as a slight lip-sync issue).

The Sony switcher “tub” – usually this gets controlled by some remarkably boring automation.

The Sony switchers where I work now will exhibit vertical roll problems if you don’t have things in sync, which is, um, special. A fair number of Evertz converters and black burst timing distribution to everything keep it all happy for the most part.

Now, this is all basically fine if you are using professional grade equipment with a correctly operating master timing generator. Each video source (VTRs, cameras, etc) will use a phase locked loop to synchronize their video timing to the sync pulses and burst phase of the master generator. In the old days, it was necessary to use delay lines, either built into distribution amps, standalone, or implemented using long pieces of cable to match the delays throughout the facility to make sure everything reached the switcher in the same timing. Nowadays with HD video, SOME buffering is added to give you a few lines of leeway. I’m not sure exactly how much in any given case, but the Grass Valley Group CQX switches are advertised as buffering and time-shifting by up to three video lines in the event that the sources hit it a LITTLE out of sync, so they can provide perfectly timed output. They can also do some basic clean cut and crossfade transitions onboard.

Nowadays since there’s no analog color subcarrier to deal with phase synchronizing, and it’s basically just more important to have a robust sync pulse than a whole video waveform, trilevel sync is becoming more commonplace. That’s just basically a pulse that tells everything “please start your first video line here”.

The really cheezy wonderful switchers that are the most fun to play with were designed to work with consumer grade equipment that gave you none of these luxuries. They just had to deal with the video coming in at whatever timing it did, so they incorporate a frame sync buffer on at least one input. While this can lead to some delay, it offers a lot more flexibility as to sources.

It also allows you to create some amazing feedback loops with video coming back not quite in phase and essentially crapping rainbows.

I’ve already babbled about the underlying technology more than I intended to, here are some pretty pictures.

The Videonics unit used here is actually a rather powerful little device; it’s a microprocessor driven unit with onscreen display and menus brought out to your preview monitor. Downside to this is, you have to use a monitor just to see what you’re doing on it. Eh, ok.

Examples of raw video feedback:

In high def!

In many cases it is possible to use a video mixer looped back to itself with no external sources to synthesize some trippy shit. 😀
It tends to lend itself to a flashier dynamic, which I don’t like as much, but you can with careful manipulation of the controls get it to generate some more stable effects.
(Definite epilepsy warning on this video!!)

This video has more of the slow moving, blown out full saturation effects I prefer:

Dreamy little seascape….

So there were also some really bizarre devices made that didn’t bother with the whole sync thing and let you basically fade/wipe to a solid color, pause recording on your VCR, switch source, then fade/wipe back in. Here’s a video review of one of them I have. This thing… is…. HEAVY. It’s also fun to add into a feedback loop.

Raw video from a Sony XV-T33F which is a bizarre title generator with drawing tablet for input. It can also do the offline fades/wipes, but it can also do some peculiar color animations and stuff that are amazing in and of themselves.

I should draw a bunch of shopping mall interiors on mine.
(Not really electronically manipulated, but this video is the inspiration for the thought above)

Lots of 1990s computer graphics set to the Macintosh Plus “Floral Shoppe” album (all we’re missing is a broken transmitter in the middle of the everglades)

Here comes the sun

So, what’s odd is, while I’ve seen a number of examples of the mixers (particularly the Panasonic WJ-MX12) being circuit bent, along with the Sony video sketch titler… really most of the bends I’ve seen just give them some extra glitchy “blinds” effects. All of my video toys are unmodified as I’ve never really seen the need to get in there and mess with them to get those. The WJ-MX50 has a nice blinds effect and other cheezy stuff baked in from the factory. It’s advisable to print out the pages from the manual that lists all the wipe patterns and hang it on the wall next to the switcher; it’s got like 64 of them or something sufficiently absurd. Conspicously missing is a star wipe. (The Sony switcher shown at the top here can star wipe. If it doesn’t have a wipe you want, you can also store custom patterns in it. It also has a smoke wipe. This… uh, may or may not get used by our directors when coming out of marijuana-related news stories.)

Star wipe, and where to use it:

The wipe being accompanied by a whooshing sound amuses me far too much. The switcher at WSVN was set up with pretty much EVERY one of the weird shiny-circle-7 wipes accompanied by a whoosh. Thankfully, it was only a whoosh, and even the “NEWS ALERT” used on that station was a whoosh or a little musical bit – it was not the abrasive terrible wshEEEWWWWWWWW-CLONG!!! used by Fox News Channel.

I’m fairly sure the cheezeball Datavideo titler/switcher unit I have can do the star wipe.
Most of the Datavideo stuff I’ve seen was from the mid to late 90s. I didn’t realize they actually go waaaaaaaaaaaay back:

Datavideo’s still around and they make some really fun looking switchers and streaming production systems.

Most of my stuff is still in boxes from moving, but I’m planning to set up a nice little rack with various cheezeball video boxes and matrix switches to route video between them. Expect to see a lot of silliness come from this soon.

Loafing Around

When Cassie warms herself in the sun in the window…

Now with Maximum Purr Point Tracking solar charge control

…. She rises into a quite happy kitty loaf

I uploaded these peetsies and as far as I know they’re not on any posts, so I’ll place the peets here