Under the hood: Monster Power Platinum HD surge protector

So you may have noticed this photograph in the last post…

No, it did not buff right out, and it’s going back to the manufacturer for repair this week. They’ll probably have it working in a jiffy though. It’s a Crown FM30 transmitter that was serving as an exciter up at a site where Pacific Gas and Electric was doing some “scheduled maintenance” without notifying anyone of their schedule aaaaaaaand THEY TRASHED EVERYTHING ON THE SITE by putting some massive fugly voltage down the C phase.

What you’re looking at, the charred parts, are Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs). These are used to absorb voltage surges to protect equipment. In the event of a prolonged high energy overvoltage… that happens to them. They start to get super hot and blow up. Here’s a very interesting article on MOVs and their failure mode, and how they should be kept happy. Your bathroom reading for the day… 🙂

I never looked to see if there was a current limiting fuse inside that line filter/IEC power plug assembly on the back of the Crown, but it seems like the event that blew this up was a slow-cook kind of situation until it reached the magical “Oh… popped it!*” temperature.

* in the voice of photonicinduction.

One of the things very very highly recommended to use with MOVs is a thermal fuse cutout. This ensures that this slow-roast failure will not cause equipment damage – it’ll do either of two graceful things:

A) kill the power! You should do this anyway because if the MOV is conducting that means the voltage is, or has been, Very Very Wrong.

B) Cut the circuit to the MOV. Not the best… but will avoid Magic Smoke release from the protection device.

So, enter the Monster Power MP PLAT 800 HD surge protector. This protector advertises itself as FIREPROOF. Let’s see what they mean. I was gonna make some comment about voiding warranties but a recent Supreme Court decision likely means I did not actually void the warranty by opening the unit. Oh, by the way—

nice try sweaty

The fact that this screw is lying on top of the surge protector suggests it is not particularly one-way as advertised. Three of the screws holding the bottom cover on are like this; they are milled very badly and have burrs that neatly grip my screwdriver….. OOPS! 😀

We press onward….

Monster Power advertises on the package that the MOVs are encapsulated in a ceramic compound. This is true, they are in small ceramic buckets that feel like the same material used for the casings of “sand bar” power resistors. If one were to pop at high temperature, everything would be safely contained. Oh, and look what’s right there against it in the foreground ….. a thermal fuse!

Monster Did It Right…. ON BOTH COUNTS!

This fuse will kill the power entirely in the event of a high temperature fault. It’s hard to say which protective device will open first as there are two: the power switch is the ubiquitous thermal overload switch/breaker found on most newer power strips. It is deeply recessed to avoid “Oops, I kicked the power off!” accidents.

Each of the two MOVs has a 5 amp / 105C thermal fuse in series with it, and then this 15 amp / 115C fuse is in series with the incoming line power.

I’m not sure why it says “15 / 16 amp”. The information on this particular fuse is here.

Also on this board is a simple common mode inductor and capacitor lowpass filter to attenuate high frequency garbage present on the power entering the strip. I’ve seen beefier ones in other products, but this is perfectly fine for most noise that would be present on a home or small office electrical system.

On the back is a rectifier and transistor for the “protection working” and “HD Clean Power” LEDs. Uh, yeah. I suspect they both just go out if the protector is damaged or the ground is open. The manual mentions an audible alarm but it’s not present on this unit.

Also, test points! That’s kind of unusual and suggests that these units may actually be *gasp* TESTED before leaving the factory to make sure the MOVs clamp and everything actually works!!!

There are two other circuits down inside this – a USB charger (because everything, everywhere, needs a USB charger) and a CATV line protector. I wasn’t able to open the CATV protector’s can to see what’s inside, but it’s grounded to the common ground with a nice fat 14 gauge wire. The USB charger is easier to take a gander at.

One receptacle is labelled “PHONE / MP3” and one is labelled “TABLET”. Compare and contrast the circuits between the two. The one on the left is an older and more common “fast charge” configuration for smartphones wherein the USB data lines are shorted together. The one on the right is a newer style that I believe is designed for Samsung compatibility – the USB data lines are both pulled to 2.5 volts through a resistive voltage divider. I haven’t tested this yet but it looks like it ought to just work.

So there you go. Monster Power did everything RIGHT inside this surge protector. It’s nothing fancy (no metal case or anything)… but it’s designed well with safety in mind. I’d say it’s worth it!

They also make some fancier models that do have metal cases and things like individually isolated sets of outlets. I’ve been quite impressed with these and feel that they’re pretty much on par with the fancy Tripp-Lite ISObar series, just… painted weird colors. 🙂

 

PG&E, YOU GUYS SUCK!!!! Bah! 😀

Believe me— it was well deserved.

This morning I literally LARTed a coworker. The guy started a portable generator INSIDE the building for a few seconds. Why did he decide to do this? It’d hurt my brain to try to reason with him to understand this, so instead I whacked him firmly with a ream of printer paper for his complete and total lack of common sense.

Nobody, not even the guilty party himself, questioned my decision.

Needless to say this pissed off everyone in the building, led to people having to leave for a while, and perfumed three of the studios with eau d’ lawnmower asshole for hours.

Why?! Why would you even do this?

He thinks this was just hilarious and kept joking about it with me throughout the day. I’m reminded we have a lot more printer paper if needed. I guess he’s lucky I didn’t come out brandishing a crappy old QEI exciter or something. They’re sharp and pointy on the corners! (And even less polite to fellow users of the electromagnetic spectrum, daaang. I mean— some of them I’ve seen— they’ll transmit BEFORE the PLL is locked on the selected operating frequency.)

Video unrelated.

 

Linguini Mountain, Part II

This post is to be assumed to be to the tune of She Wants Revenge – Out of Control. available on YouTube here. So I was up here again and was asked to check the generator and fuel level. Fuel was fine, generator started, amazingly, with only minor reluctance, and immediately filled the shack with exhaust, so I left the vent fan on and walked away for a while, came back, ran in holding my breath, shut it down, and left for a while more. It urinated on the floor… Sure looks like one of the CrapsackWorld props from Idiocracy, doesn’t it? But then I heard a buzzing that didn’t sound right after the generator was shut down and traced it to a pair of relays oscillating. I unplugged the power supply to them and a nice fireworks show of good ol’ arcy sparky happened for a moment, ending with a power strip breaker tripping. Beautiful. I then got to work……

None of this was functional anymore. Especially not after the fireworks show…. Now I’ve just gotta rewire the remote to one of the transmitters to eliminate a final layer of relay bodge and I can start over with better control. How do I come to inherit these things??!! Sadly, off air time may be required. What a thing to greet my operations manager with when he returns from vacation! “Welcome back, I need to nuke your stations!” Actually he’s a really awesome guy and he won’t be mad at all.

Feverish Hot Take… The 2018 Flu Epidemic.

No, you cannot have any time off, just take one of these patent medicines and go back to work. Yeah yeah, I know I look like I have three heads, that’s one of the normal side effects.

I have a theory that one of the major reasons this year’s flu season is particularly vile is that policies and management in many companies have eroded, or completely destroyed, the confidence of the American workforce in knowing that they’ll have a job to go back to if they take any time off sick.

Thus, everyone is just going back to work with the flu, and spreading it at unprecedented rates.

Of course, our current mostly conservative government will not create or enforce any policies granting workers sick leave, or even adequately fund any medical or research programs into infectious disease control, so here we are.

It’s kind of frightening. Most of the people I know who have caught the flu this year are back at work because they’ve been told that absence, even if they have a note from a doctor or clinic, will be considered unexcused and grounds for termination. A lot of them work in supermarkets, foodservice, and other tasks that pretty much guarantee spreading any infectious critter they catch.

I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Linguini Mountain

Names changed to protect the innocent.

And guilty.

Here we go. Before you read this you will need to take some reasonable precautions:

i love VFDs

The road up Linguini Mountain is the kind of thing either dreams or nightmares are made of. It’s well maintained but narrow and unpaved. One edge is a small anti erosion ditch that could easily snag a wheel; the other edge is…… Let’s not think about that too hard, but man what a view

After a switchback that inexplicably shut down the truck engine and those VFD readouts pictured above went blank…. Umm…. Yeah… I made it

Okay, no clue what’s with that but let’s just go inside.

At the far wall sits this generator. It’s too small to run the transmitter so there’s an emergency backup relay system that switches the exciter output straight to the antenna if the site is on gen power, so it remains on the air at low power.

Beyond this point, uhhHERE BE DRAGONS

This transfer switch….. I have no words.

Not exactly what Burk Technologies had in mind for their ARC-16 control ports but ok

Wait maybe on the other hand that was better

Wait what’s going on here

No this can’t be

That isn’t seriously—–??

The air filter was not in use, it ought to be just squeaky clean in that cavity..

Gonna cautiously assume that’s at least 240vac exposed

Old marti repurposed to send telemetry but wait what’s that?

And where’s it powered?

Wait wait enhance

That’s… A tree spine jamming the wires in

Reportedly this QEI won’t run if you put the cover on

That twisted pair bridge wire runs who knows where

Welp. Looks like i have a project.

NOPE. THAT. SHIT.

So here’s why I would have gotten fired this weekend if not for the fact that I’d already resigned with two weeks’ notice.

I found out early today that I would have been expected to come to work and ride out Hurricane Irma right here:

Which is right here….

And those bands are the outer bands of this….

Which at the time was forecast to do THIS.

I’m sorry, I did like my job there for the most part, but if asked to ride out the storm there, in a building which got three feet of water in it during Andrew which didn’t even hit that area much at all…. Well, I’d have just plain refused.

I was hearing stories of how the staff held off on evacuating until it was actually already difficult to get over the causeway due to storm surge and wind.

I’m sorry. It’s one thing to be a dedicated team player with the company. It’s another to endanger your safety to fight a losing battle to keep a broadcast going.

Not much one could do with three feet of seawater in the studios and electrical rooms.

And for that I’m assuming I would have been fired in one of those furious scenes.

This is of course assuming it’s still on a course for us as of morning– there’s some potential for a deviation westwards.

But still, not worth it.

In a couple of weeks, northern California will be my home. The only common natural disasters known there are wildfires. I’m okay with this.

The problem with air conditioned cabinets in Florida

These boxes are everywhere around here because certain equipment that needs to be stationed outdoors isn’t happy with the 96 degree F summer outdoor temperatures. They’re an outdoor weather resistant enclosure, with an air conditioning unit attached through one side.

Chill.

Air conditioning units have two functions. They reduce temperature and humidity. The amount of humidity they remove is proportional to the amount of time the unit is in cooling mode.

This cabinet is very well insulated and has a very low heat load… Watch this Nautel loooooaf along…

Standing next to it, I saw that little a/c pack start maybe once every 10 minutes, for about a minute at a time.

 

Brace yourself, the results ain’t pretty.

 

Fungus Among us?!

 

This curious white fungus is attacking rubber parts…

 

 

Various points of moisture or fungus damage…

 

And as an added bonus, open this cabinet on a hot humid day and you’ll be treated to the horrific sight of the equipment becoming soaking wet while still actively running…

 

Insects have been attracted to the cabinet by moisture… This is after a big vacuuming, the junk stuck to the cabinet ain’t gonna yield to that alone…

 

So what’s the solution? I can think of a couple things.

A) do not oversize the air conditioner. This is tricky as heat load is unpredictable and failure to remove enough heat would quickly cause a shutdown or equipment damage.

B) place constantly on LED lights inside to inhibit this mold/fungus growth.

C) use humidity controls on the a/c or a dehumidifier if possible. Not sure if you could easily fit a humidistat to this unit as it’s got its own integrated microprocessor control (hidden behind that piece of filter)… But who knows.

 

 

Your design is bad and you should feel bad for it.

A friend of mine posted a link to this on Facebook and it is literally one of the worst designs for anything I have ever seen.
Straight from the Walmart online marketplace, right next to the counterfeit Duracell batteries

Not that any of these have ever been designed WELL, but this is worse…

It’s literally the worst designed ear piercing gun I’ve ever heard of. Of particular note though, the description suggests it can also be used on the nose or navel. How? No, don’t. Just don’t. On anything.

Also note the random weirdass stud jewelry that comes stuck in a sheet of pink antistatic foam.

A little background on how these things are supposed to work: The tip of the stud (not seen anywhere in the description photos) is pointed. Not really all that sharp, but pointed. The butterfly back of the stud earring is placed in the other end of the gun and it’s driven by brute force (this one appears to use a spring) through the earlobe.

The most common place you find these things is in kiosks and stores in the mall. Claire’s uses a variation made by Studex and theirs has a disposable sterilized plastic cartridge that goes at the end. The gun itself can never be fully cleaned or sterilized, but at least most of it is not in contact with the person it’s used on. Thanks to this, infection caused by bloodborne pathogens left on the gun itself is at least rare. The complications caused by the body trying to heal a rough bruised hole created by jamming a somewhat dull metal stud through, that’s another story. This one, uhhhhh….

good luck

On this design you just get a little stack of steel plates with a notch in them. The outer one is bent to hold the butterfly back of the earring. Sort of. I can’t really imagine how it keeps it lined up such that the stud will align with the hole in the end – chances are better it just kind of crashes into it and either further tears the hole by skewing at an angle, or launches the backing into space.

But it’s not covered with any sort of disposable part…. and it couldn’t even be effectively wiped down to clean it because it’s got all those gaps between the plates.

A felt tipped pen and a magnifying glass are also included for your convenience. I can’t even understand why, as there’s no logical reason this thing should actually make the hole where you want it to land.

 

It should be no secret that I think the ear piercing gun is one of the worst products of modern misengineering, but this just… this deserves some kind of award. This is BAD and whoever designed it should feel bad for it.

Yeah. Do yourself a favor and go find a member of the Association of Professional Piercers if you’re looking to get any sort of piercings and want the process to go as well as possible.

And do beware of the utter bullshit that shows up in the Walmart “marketplace”. Same goes for Sears. It’s all the ecommerce equivalent of the Opa-Locka Hialeah Flea Market or something.

The Analyzer’s New Clothes

image

This Tektronix 1705A L-band spectrum analyzer has temporarily borrowed a garment from an old waveform monitor.

Why?

Because as I had it on my bench powered up naked after running through a calibration on the CRT power supply, an operator comes walking in and rests his arm riiiiight here. Luckily I got him to move before any BANG occurred.

How do you even guard against awful human error like this?!

image
Small naked wire and HV diode are on the input side of a voltage multiplier that puts out FU Kilovolts.

Now if you’ll excuse me— I need to make a sign for him. 😉

Bonus: The resistor the other tech never bothered to replace. Amazingly it still works, but I wasn’t gonna leave it like this!

image
while we're on the subject of near crispy critters
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