Up the hill again…

There’s a company working to install a DMR repeater as part of their network up on one of our sites now. They chose a good time to do it – we have dry weather today, and a 20% chance of light precipitation tomorrow…. much better than the last time I was up at this site when it was unrelentingly moist, cold, and slippery mud was infesting everything. Yes, it was indeed nasty enough to necessitate the word moist, that’s how offensive it was. Now it’s just beautiful, and with the clear sunny sky I can see two of the other sites I work on from here… the one with the wind farm is showingly only little patches of snow and should be accessible again, and it’s starting to melt off of Shasta Bally over there.


I know the tall snow capped one at right is Shasta Bally – I can see our tower up there. One of the other peaks visible is Shoemaker Bally and I’m not sure which one is which.

This is beautiful sailing weather. Go hit the lake! 🙂

Tower crew at work. They just mounted the transmit antenna for their MotoTRBO Capacity Plus repeater up there next to that weird arm with the IP camera on it.

Speaking of which—

We do not know whose camera that is.

It just kind of appeared when one of the tenants was working on the site.

They did not ask us to reduce transmitter power to drop RF exposure levels to within controlled exposure limits.

The way I look at this lately…. if some fool’s gonna go do work without asking for a power reduction, they DESERVED to be warmed up a bit. 😉

JUST ASK ME FOR A POWER REDUCTION! I don’t bite….. particularly hard.

For that matter, if the camera they did not ask us for permission to install starts malfunctioning due to the RF output of the DMR repeater— welllllllll guess whose fault that is for putting it there. Bwahahaha. I’m turning into the freaking BOFH, aren’t I?

Be sure to water and fertilize your LDF4 lines so they can go into full bloom!

Let’s play Wheel of Dumpshit!

Tonight’s contestant: a Lutron dimmer switch.

This switch was pulled from a studio after it made the lights flicker. Sometimes tapping it would change this but moving the slider didn’t.

Let’s see what’s inside.

Well that’s unusual. A small snap switch is used behind the lights on/off toggle. But wait, aren’t those momentary switches? Clearly a mechanical latch is used. Let’s see that latch….

Wait just a NOPEing minute. They used a cheap and nasty no name Chinese latching push button to latch the light switch…. and it’s worn out and gotten loose, letting the snap switch flicker.

Let’s have a look at the actual switch contacts. Hmm, that switch smells funny and the Bakelite fractures very easily….


This could have caused a fire if it were powering a high wattage bunch of incandescent or halogen lamps.

Yeeeep, it’s dumpshit. Thanks for playing.

What in the electromagnetically radiant fuck

“completed” installation by a local WiSP

Let’s get that mystery battery charger board (?) off the metal framed switch

What’s on the other end of that zip cord?



That poor tripp-lite

Yeah that’s just some outdoor CPE setup (?) lying on top

Custom… Power… Thing?

I agree with this cat

On top of spaghetti, all covered in tape – the 2018 Ford F150.

At work we have a rented F-150 to get up and down the mountains. I was going up to one of our sites, nearing the summit, when I smelled a burning plastic/rubber odor. I opened the hood (easier said than done– the placement of the safety latch is, to use my late uncle’s words, Kardashian) and found the cause after about a minute.

Behold….. Ford wiring.

So I’ve been under the hood of a few modern vehicles. All of them except this have the wiring harnesses protected by plastic tubing. This… uh, they just threw a lot of tape on it.

Interior: they used some kind of vinyl tape instead.

Weird shit.

The burning smell was a loose piece of tape from the harness on the right hanging down into the manifold. I removed it before taking the picture and buried it in the sand because it was actively on fire— it had glowing embers at the end.

What the fuck, Ford?

Incidentally I’m mad at this shitty truck already. It gave me a bloody nose. See, they put this weird aluminum roller in the seat belt buckles that serves only to make them insanely heavy. As I got out of the truck, the retractor brought it up at unnecessary speed to meet my face with an audible CLONK. I’ve seen the same buckles in Kia and FCA vehicles, but they are not anywhere near as heavy (the roller is hollow I guess). The roller makes no sense at all, it doesn’t turn and is loosely mounted. I’m guessing they did this to reduce wear on the fabric? Funny how my Subaru doesn’t have this and there are no signs of wear to the fabric so…. Uhhhh??

I could go on about how much I hate that steering wheel in the background but I’m out of shitposting juice

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.