Sun Ray 270 to pi/monitor conversion

May 27, 2017

original glory

Sun Microsystems used to be one of the makers of very pretty hardware (if you like the color purple), but that era is no more.  Sun rays in particular are cool though.  The ability to move your desktop with your smart card to any terminal you want is awesome and really, the hardware is really well built.  Also, Oracle sucks.  Combine these two and you have no new hardware or support for a modern ecosystem of sun terminals.  I have tried and failed multiple times to get sun ray servers working and I give up.  I decided to make a decent tiny little thinclient/monitor out of my only LCD sun ray.

custom wiring

The first thought was to just have a pi contained inside it, but it became obvious that I was going to break out other ports from the generic LCD controller.  Doing that and not having HDMI would be annoying, so I added an HDMI switch to the deal.  This did not add much complexity, but it gave me more buttons to put on the front panel.  I decided to use the audio jack holes for the power button to the LCD controller and the input switch button for the hdmi switch, leaving one free to house an RGB LED that could represent which of the three inputs was active.  The power LED for the LCD controller went where the original one did, and the IR receiver went in the corner of the smart card hole.

NEVER trust the silkscreen of the button functions on cheap controllers

It turns out the bulkhead mount HDMI cables I bought have almost the same spacing for screw holes as the VGA ports the sun ray originally had.  I cut and mangled most of the case to fit the new contents and decided to mount as much of it to the LCD as possible so the clamshell could be opened for service.  I also added the 2 composite ports out the original serial port holes as they fit snugly there.

first constraint

The backlight driver went in first, it couldn’t move very far but I put it as far out as I could to leave room for the rest.  Then went the insulating layer (cardboard) and the LCD controller.  With that in and the video cable routed the PI and power supply for it went in easily.  The only hard one was the HDMI switch as it had ports out all four sides and there wasn’t enough space to glue it down anywhere.  After some fiddling it all fit, but I had to add a power switch for the PI because it didn’t like to come up if powered on with the monitor.  This power switch went in the SIM card port that this had for some unknown reason.

all laid out and shimmed with corrugated dead tree

This HDMI switch is actually really cool.  You can only switch between inputs that have signal, and it auto-switches when one comes online.  I’d recommend it for being cheap and useful.

sandwiched between insulating cardboard

This is now 100% more useful to me, it’s a wireless linux box that’s got a built in monitor for working on my single board computers.  I can download and write images right from the second input of the monitor.  If I had decided to spend more time at it I would have lined up the original ports with the USB, ethernet, and other jacks so it looked more stock.  I could have tried harder to get internal sound working on it.  I could have broken out the pi’s gpio to the slot where the smart card went.  This was already a dubiously useful mod for me, and while all those things would have been cool, I really wouldn’t have found them much more useful.

hacked

All of the pictures of this build are here.

AMC Eagle radiator cap

May 25, 2017

So, when I went to pick up my ’57 Chevy 210 I got phantom-of-the-opera’d because I opened the radiator cap while it was really hot.  Despite how I love telling this story to explain that when I do something I know is super dangerous I always do it with my non-dominant hand, leg, eye, etc… I originally wanted a pressure gauge, but it looks like the automotive community settled on temperature gauges instead of pressure.  That’s ok, especially because there are red, yellow, and green zones which means I may eventually get to use the phrase “The red line’s about to blow!”.

Look how safe this makes me, it’s almost idiot proof

The first one I ordered was cheaper and blue which I liked because I decided to go with the blue valve cover but that one had two problems: it was too small (apparently motorcycle radiators are smaller), and it was too high pressure.  I didn’t feel like going out that night to check the pressure on the cap so I researched it online and came up with 13PSI.  Turns out the one on my car is 7PSI, probably because it’s old and worn and someone was trying to stem leaks by limiting the pressure.  I don’t really want to fix leaks either, so I’ll leave it at 7 for now.  The one I got is actually quite nice, so I’m not too broken-hearted over using the other one as a thermometer.

That’s it, small upgrade but I’m billing this one as a safety feature too, considering I’m an idiot.  The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Amateur car wiring fail

May 23, 2017

This one’s not me.  This is the exact reason not to use certain tape when repairing electronics that will be serviced in the future.  I found duct tape around a ground crimp on my New Car and it had degraded to a sticky mess.  Please don’t do this.  I know electrical tape degrades as well, and the older tape is basically fabric and tar.  The preferred use is heat shrink, or heat shrink with built in hot glue but that is sometimes not convenient as you need forethought to put it in before crimping/soldering and I don’t have that.  This is really a reminder to NOT USE DUCK TAPE FOR THIS.

Eeewww

 

AMC Eagle Headlight Mod (LEDs part one)

May 23, 2017

When driving this thing home I was really bothered by how terrible the headlights were.  I could see a couple feet in front of me and that was it, whenever you go to pick up a new car and drive it home make sure to leave three hours earlier than you expect (and even then, it’ll get delayed so you have to drive home in the dark).  I’m declaring this upgrade a safety modification to compensate for the fact that I’m putting off rebuilding the carburetor.

The first thing I did was but all the parts:

3 stainless 2″ #8 phillips pan head sheet metal screws (Frentz and sons hardware store)

12 stainless 1.5″ #8 phillips pan head sheet metal screws (Frentz and sons hardware store)

Headlight harness (Ebay)

Headlights (Amazon)

Turn signals (Amazon)

Under-hood light (Amazon)

Epoxy primer (Amazon)

Dielectric grease (Amazon)

That’s the first lie, I didn’t buy all this first, but one bit at a time.  First I bought the headlights and some relays with pre-built connectors and pigtails.  Then I decided that I didn’t feel like wiring up all that myself and bought the kit (I’ll use the relays somewhere else).  I picked up a pile of each type of light I thought I’d need, I tried counting them but after losing count in the manual several times I just guessed and figured I’d either order more or use 12v LED lights somewhere else eventually.  The dielectric grease I ordered but picked up a tube at the auto parts store in the mean time and the primer I had from a previous endeavor in putting a bunch of effort into un-needed repairs.

torn down

To start I removed the headlight bezels, grill, headlights, turn signals, turn signal bulbs, the plastic cable control clips along the trim piece under the grill, and trimmed back the wire that runs to the un-used connectors (the middle bulbs and the driver’s side outside one).  To get the relays mounted I also removed the battery.  The Relays got sheet metal screwed to the plate just forward of the battery which is non-ideal, but that’s the length harness I had.  I sunk a sheet metal screw, fender washer, and two star washers to ground the passenger’s side bulbs.  I grounded the driver’s side bulbs to the screw that attaches the driver’s side quarter panel to the trim panel under the grill.

this was totally mandatory

Behind the grill was really oily and dirty, I cleaned it as best I could and even removed, sandblasted, and epoxy coated the two brackets that hold the grill up.  They were rusty, never again.  The screws I meticulously cleaned with denatured alcohol and a brass brush and re-used them because I couldn’t find stainless replacements locally.

as was this

I didn’t buy replacements for the screws that held the headlights in, but I did get ones for the trim (those got mangled coming out.  The #8 screws I bought had heads that were slightly too big, they worked, but if there were ones with slightly smaller heads than normal they would be perfect.  Of course they’re stainless, always buy stainless whenever possible.  I cleaned the turn signal housings meticulously because if I take it off the car and it’s annoying to handle, it should be easier the next time I take it off.  The wire got routed with sheet metal screws and plastic brackets that zip ties go through (so they’re re-usable).  The loom on the new harness was not split loom, but continuous so I couldn’t wrap the old harness in it unfortunately, but that’ll come another day.

Ah! my eyes!

I tried to get off the side marker lenses but I didn’t know where to pry so that I wouldn’t break it, that’ll come next.  The whole project took about three days of afternoons to do it meticulously.  I think I’ll call this a success, the outer bulbs have a dim mode (they all do, but the center ones aren’t wired for it) that only lights up the bottom of the three rows of LEDs and the center LED on the middle row, I’m not certain about the mods I’ve heard about that use diodes to change which bulbs fire on dim, I don’t know if I’ll need that or really why I’d do it.  The turn signals don’t work, but I have electronic flashers coming in right now that will hopefully fix that.  The under-hood light really could use a diffuser.  Right now the mosquitoes are out and I’m done for the day.

This was daylight-ish, the white balance just went nuts

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

TI-58 Calculator battery upgrade

May 15, 2017

After a weekend at Minicon I came back with plenty of goodies thanks to the trusting nature of Amtrak (look for a CDV-715 post coming up) and one of the smallest was this TI Programmable 58 calculator.

original

I love old bubble display calculators, thermostats, stopwatches, whatever I can get my hands on.

crusty

This repair seemed pretty simple, replace the old Ni-Cd batteries with new ones.  The challenging part was someone already did this once before.

you’ve had some cowboys in here…

The batteries were a snug fit, the power tabs snapped, and I ran out of patience.  The original TI charger for this was rated to put out ~3v although after the bridge rectifier easily identified was somewhere around 6V DC-ish.

looks like a rectifier, that can go

I decided that that’s close enough to 5 for 1977 and injected my new power source there.  My selection was based on what I had lying around which turned out to be a micro-usb lithium charger/boost converter that put out 5 volts and a lithium battery out of an old ipod external battery pack from radioshack long ago (I bought it before the advent of common charger/boost converters for single lithium cells).

all kapton’d up

Put together and with some kapton to hold it in place and a dremel to hollow out the case I successfully added usb rechargability to this old calculator.  I will admit that it is now incompatible with some of the add-ons, but I’m not terribly concerned as I intend to use it just as a pocket calculator.  All pictures (including others not in this post) are here.

useful once again

Completely mandatory Eagle accessories

March 17, 2017

This one is just me showing off.  All my life my dad has had a brass embellished american flag and eagle licence plate frame in the basement on a workbench.  Last year he picked up some model paints and touched it up, then surprised me by installing it on my 1957 Chevy 210 for me when I got home from work. I really like it and decided that I would like another one for my new AMC eagle.  It turns out that it’s made by a company called Baron LFI and originally came with a keychain, moneyclip, and pin.  He found me a new one on Amazon, but it just looks too shiny, almost cheap in the pictures.  Maybe I’ve been conditioned to think that new products are photographed like that and my experience has shown me most new products are crap.  I really gravitate toward the items on ebay that have one photograph taken of them that shows how they really look (I try not to buy things with stock photos).  I found one on ebay proclaiming to be from 1985 and compared them.  The older one has different slots at the top to bolt the plate to, that sealed it, I bought the old one.  I didn’t care about the slots  specifically, but that told me it wasn’t the same mold and therefore could be worse in ways I couldn’t see.  I think it looks pretty good and installing it reminded me I need to sandblast and paint that spring-loaded frame.

Lookin’ good.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Eco Plug (ESP8266) hack, finally!

March 16, 2017

This has been a very long time coming. I first heard about these outlets more than a year ago via reddit and was intrigued.  This is a very convenient form factor for an ESP, a power supply for it, and a relay to control something via mains.  This was before the prevelance of the sonoff (wiki) or electrodragon (wiki) modules that are now so cheap and with some digging I found out that these ‘generic’ modules that were being carried by Home Depot, Walmart, or wherever you don’t expect to buy ESP modules had power monitoring in them.  The actual manufacturer of these parts is KAB Enterprise Co., Ltd and through their website you can see all the different modules they make and some names that will help you google for sellers of them (even a wifi in-wall switch).  All of the wifi devices are basically an ESP with some other circuitry that you may have to reverse engineer or bypass (like I did).  You can find these at Walmart (or probably just their online store).  There are some deal sites that have found these for very cheap prices but even then you may want to just buy the sonoff POW to be sure you have power monitoring with no major modifications.

Chip to be bypassed still present, module removed

module back side (I toasted it)

Reset switch unpopulated (I added one and drilled a hole) and chip to be bypassed remoced

As the KAB website shows there is a difference between the CT-065W and the CT-065W (Advanced) in that only the advanced one has power monitoring capability.  This is apparent if you look at the other reddit thread and have people with modules that have additional components on them.  It was discovered that the power monitoring IC is the hlw8012 that was not terribly well known (to me) until the POW came out.  The extra hoop the CT-065W (Advanced) modules have is that they have an extra chip in there, labeled on the underside (discovered by the person who always saves my ass), called the 1588NAZ04 and there has been some efforts to reverse engineer it in the comments section here.  I took the pinout from here and tweaked it for how I modified my plugs, it is the same pin numbering as here.

1 GND
2 Power 3v3
3 CHIP_EN reset sw
4 XPD_DCDC / GPIO16 PF HLW8012 CF power
5 MTMS / GPIO14 VS GPIO05 HLW8012 Sel output
6 MTD1 / GPIO12 VC HLW8012 CF1 voltage / current
7 MTCK / GPIO13 power sw
8 MTD0 / GPIO15 Y to main board , D8 (power)
9 GPIO2 D3 (wifi)

10 GPIO0
11 GPIO4
12 DVDD / GPIO5
13 U0RXD
14 U0TXD
15 RST
16 GND
17 TOUT / No Connection?
18 GND

I decided that for my modules I was going to just outright remove the chip and use some of the many extra pins on the ESP module to talk to it (indicated in red above), this basically converts it into a POW with a different mapping.  My main motivation is because I have come to really like this firmware, partially because other people already use it and it’s very easy to configure.  With my use of these modules for OpenHAB I really needed these modules to be stable and flexible.  There are other firmwares that people have used on this device (or family of devices, really) but I have my favorite.

Flashing harness, I had to add an esp-12 because I toasted the original, this is not an upgrade, just a repair by me (look closely and you can see that I wired to the pads of the chip I removed)

For flashing these modules I used this other firmware‘s tutorial which worked flawlessly.  The modifications I made to the firmware to add my own hacked outlet module definition was quite easy, it just involved extending a couple tables in the sonoff_template.h file and giving my variant a list of pins and their uses.  I have included that section here:

/********************************************************************************************/

// Supported hardware modules
enum module_t {
CUSTOM_OUTLET,
SONOFF_BASIC,
SONOFF_RF,
SONOFF_SV,
SONOFF_TH,
SONOFF_DUAL,
SONOFF_POW,
SONOFF_4CH,
S20,
SLAMPHER,
SONOFF_TOUCH,
SONOFF_LED,
CH1,
CH4,
MOTOR,
ELECTRODRAGON,
EXS_RELAY,
WION,
WEMOS,
MAXMODULE };

/********************************************************************************************/

#define MAX_GPIO_PIN 17 // Number of supported GPIO

typedef struct MYIO {
uint8_t io[MAX_GPIO_PIN];
} myio;

typedef struct MYTMPLT {
char name[16];
myio gp;
} mytmplt;

// Default module settings
const mytmplt modules[MAXMODULE] PROGMEM = {
{ “Custom Outlet”, // modified eco outlet (ESP8266)
GPIO_USER, // GPIO00 Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO01 Serial RXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_LED1_INV, // GPIO02 Blue Led (0 = On, 1 = Off)
GPIO_USER, // GPIO03 Serial TXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO04 Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO05 Optional sensor
0, // GPIO06 (SD_CLK Flash)
0, // GPIO07 (SD_DATA0 Flash QIO/DIO/DOUT)
0, // GPIO08 (SD_DATA1 Flash QIO/DIO)
0, // GPIO09 (SD_DATA2 Flash QIO)
0, // GPIO10 (SD_DATA3 Flash QIO)
0, // GPIO11 (SD_CMD Flash)
GPIO_HLW_CF1, // GPIO12 HLW8012 CF1 voltage / current
GPIO_KEY1, // GPIO13 Button
GPIO_HLW_SEL, // GPIO14 HLW8012 Sel output
GPIO_REL1, // GPIO15 Red Led and Relay (0 = Off, 1 = On)
GPIO_HLW_CF, // GPIO16 HLW8012 CF power
},
{ “Sonoff Basic”, // Sonoff Basic (ESP8266)
GPIO_KEY1, // GPIO00 Button
GPIO_USER, // GPIO01 Serial RXD and Optional sensor
0, // GPIO02
GPIO_USER, // GPIO03 Serial TXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO04 Optional sensor
0, // GPIO05

For right now that’s it.  The configuration for this firmware is deep and takes some looking but I feel like I could implement any sensor I want in their framework with a small effort.

The rest of this series can be gotten through from the home page here.

 

 

 

 

Visibility regained

February 27, 2017

So, in the past I’ve been a proponent of “nope, I’m grandfathered in” as a response to why my car or my house have certain features.  The car I most recently adopted has a third brake light (or center brake light, or as a big faceless company calls it: the CHMSL, center high mounted stop lamp) that was added by a previous owner, and I kinda like it.  I’ve talked with people and even though it doesn’t legally need to have it I would feel more comfortable having one (most of them don’t know that older cars didn’t have one).  That being said the one I have right now obscures my visibility in a major way.

just hanging out there

This appears to be a standard aftermarket third brake light that would have been available for purchase to retrofit on your own car (maybe from some place like JC Whitney).  The color does not quite match the rest of the car but it’s perfectly acceptable.

actually mounted fairly well

I’m freeeee!

Even if I was ok with the location the part has seriously started to degrade.  The red plastic lens is slightly warped and the white plastic is absolutely crumbling.

dissected, that white plastic is the same crumbly crap the caps I replaced were made of

My fix is to use a 12v strip of red LEDs and a piece of aluminum c-channel to mount the LEDs pointing in the right direction and make it at least a bit directional.  I chose to mount this on the gate itself because that had a surface that could be easily mounted to.  My weapon of choice for this has been VHB tape because I hesitate to drill a bunch of holes into this car just yet.

replacement plan

I mounted the light to the gate and adhered it with zip ties, tape, and crimp connections.  This is entirely modular and does not require hauling the soldering iron out to the car to make part changes (boy do I have stories about doing that in the past).

VHB, for when you don’t want to break out the drill

I had a look side-by-side and they each put out about the same lumens but the original lamp is probably better lensed.  This light is not very visible in the day time, but it is perfectly acceptable at night.

I swear it looks plenty good at night, and even visible in the day too

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

I need my power back

February 27, 2017

Well, in a previous mod I removed the cigarette lighter and replaced it with a much more useful dual-USB port and voltmeter device.  I still maintain that this is a better use of center console space than the cigarette lighter, but now I really am lacking 12V stuff in the passenger compartment.  So much stuff you can buy at truck stops or gas stations plug into a cigarette lighter that it would be a major handicap not having one.  That being said I still don’t like that standard for connector so I picked a different one.  I particularly like the Anderson Powerpole connector standard(s).  They’re modular, expandable, and high-current.  I have a buddy that has done this, so I’m blatantly copying him because it has been really useful to have an inverter, ham radio, or whatever connected to it.  He saw me doing this and jokingly asked “Exactly how I did it? with no fuse?” and to be honest that’s what I was planning, but, well, the fuse holder isn’t that bad to install.

un-switched, straight from the battery (although I put a fuse)

I used the aftermarket gauge wiring to pull the power wire into the engine compartment.  The path to the battery was along the harness but I didn’t put an extraordinary effort to make the wire neat because it was cold out.

The routing’s kinda… obvious

In the passenger compartment I ran the wire behind the center console over the transmission hump and up under the radio.  This shelf is actually pretty perfect to have it resting on and the cigarette lighter adapter I made is in the glove compartment now (for compatibility reasons).

Anderson powerpole connector and cigarette lighter adapter

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

End caps for the wagon luggage cover

February 27, 2017

I was lucky enough to get a functioning and color correct luggage cover with my wagon.  I did notice, however, that the plastic caps on the ends of the bar that you pull were crumbling into dust.

old and busted

I suspect this has to do with a combination of UV and heat damage over 33 years.  I figured that the quickest way to replace them would be with heatshrink so I ended up putting four layers of the same size on the metal bar and I think it works well.  There’s a cushion so as not to scratch the plastic when extended and it looks better than a bare metal bar.  Another quick fix.

new hotness (I apologize for the quality)

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.