Posts Tagged ‘recycle’

Eliminating CRTs

October 9th, 2011

Ever since I replaced my primary station computer (a decision that may be reversed soon—details in a later post), I desired to replace the remaining 19-inch Dell Trinitron CRT monitor with something lighter and smaller.  Mom and Dad were in town a few weeks ago on a much-needed vacation and we went to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles Airport.  This is only a few miles from one of the best used computer shops in the DC area—CedarPC.

CedarPC is nice because they’ll sell you “damaged” stuff at a discount if you don’t care about the damage.  I inquired about a 24-inch flat panel I had seen on the web site, but they could not find it.  They did find me a nice 20-inch flat panel that was just missing the stand and the price was right.  The missing stand was no big deal because I wanted to mount the monitor on an arm so I could bring it closer to the HF end of the station desk, tuck it in at the VHF end, or even swivel it out over the couch to watch a DVD.  Sold.

Monitor arms are generally expensive…at least 2-3 times what I paid for the monitor itself, often more.  So, I went to trusty eBay and found something designed for mounting televisions for $15 including shipping.  This did require some modification of the monitor housing and liberal application of wide washers to reinforce the plastic in the housing.  But, it was done with all junkbox screws and washers.

Recycling LMR crimp connectors

June 4th, 2011

A while back, I came upon about two dozen Times Microwave Systems TC-600-NM connectors that had been improperly installed and cut off.  Knowing that LMR-600 type cable is commonly available, I stashed them for later use.  These connectors cost between $8 and $15 each, so the ability to recycle could offer a substantial savings.  I endeavored to see just what it would take to do so.

The first step is to remove the heatshrink tubing (if installed).  These connectors employed a relatively easy-to-remove heatshrink, which I was able to get off with a sharp knife.  (That probably means that they would have filled with water if they had been used.)

Twist off the old crimp ring with two pair of Channel-Lock-type pliers.

Presto!  (Be sure to do this in a work area where it is easy to vacuum up the small strands of braid that will invariably fall everywhere.)

A butane torch gets the pin off in no time.

Unfortunately, I did not have enough hands to take a photograph and demonstrate the proper technique.  Place the tip of the flame on the widest (diameter) part of the pin and rotate the cut-off coax with the pin hanging down.  The solder will melt and the pin will drop.  Reinstallation can be performed in the exact opposite sequence with the pin sitting on top of the coax.

The secret to this whole operation is the replacement crimp rings.  I originally was going to make them but since I did not know the dimensions, I was searching around the Web.  And, I discovered that Times Microwave offers them individually (part #CR-600).  So, I contacted Joel at The RF Connection and he sold me a bunch of them (second from right below) at an attractive price.

The three rightmost components—connector body, crimp ring, and solder pin, form a complete connector.  You just need to add heatshrink, which is also available from the RF Connection and many other vendors.  The trick to getting a correct installation on the connectors is to be sure that the pin seats (clicks) into the body before crimping the ring.  The whole process of disassembly takes about as long as assembly (minus the stripping step)—just a few minutes.

I recently obtained about 250 ft (80 m) of LMR-600 pieces from various places for about what it costs to fill the gas tank in my Escort.  So, this should be a relatively attractive cable for use at K8GU.

Resume of a Master Dumpster Diver: the Early Years

February 21st, 2009


With transition imminent in our lives, I have begun packing up some of my things that I don’t use much right now. It’ll save some time and headaches when we finally figure out where we’re going and begin the moving process. Coincidentally, my good friend Matt recently moved cross-country and elected to dispatch the majority of his tinkering resources via Craigslist. You see, Matt and I share a common vice: we are master dumpster divers.

I was reminded of this reality as I have been trying to center myself with respect to what’s important in life last week week. I have a lot of stuff, frankly, an embarassing amount of stuff. And, although I use a surprising amount of it, I really don’t need it. But, this post is about collecting the stuff, not getting rid of it. I’ll save that for a later post.

As I began sifting through some of the goodies tonight, a confluence of thoughts began to swirl in my head. I’ve had resumes and vitae on my mind for quite a few months now since I’ve been looking for employment (if you hire engineers or scientists, particularly for RF/signal processing/remote sensing/upper atmospheric/space research and development, I’m your man). And, I was poking through the rubble of my home “office,” which is actually my office, hamshack, and workshop, plus Sarah’s desk and books and the place that Sarah and I cram stuff into when company comes. Suddenly, it hit me: my entire resume can be read through my collection of odds and ends.

Dumpster diving, to borrow the analogy from Nelson Muntz, is like “kicking butt” in the sense that it might not involve any kicking at all. Likewise, you have to get to the stuff before it gets to the dumpster. This is the first rule of dumpster diving: Know who to ask, how to ask, and when to ask. The second rule is don’t get greedy. I learned both of these rules at a tender young age.

You see, the house I lived in between the ages of three and nine was next to the Village of Millersburg’s street department garage. Of course, this was a great boon for a child of my age to see all of the equipment and workers coming and going. Mom and Dad may remember this story differently; but, this is my recollection.

Although I was fascinated by all aspects of construction work, the one thing that I obsessed over more than anything else was signage. Some kids are experts on dinosaurs, I was fascinated by road signs. I coveted the road sign poster on the wall at the BMV. Mom had inquired about obtaining one for me to no avail. The other thing I coveted was a road sign or two of my own. A friend had a stop sign in his room; but, I was looking for something more exotic, maybe a yield sign. My poor mother worked some connection she had at the Street Department to get a discarded sign. She told me that we could go down to the sign depot and pick one out in the morning, which was probably a mistake.

I rose particularly early the next morning and, after locating the sign depot, collected a few signs for myself. When you’re a kid, street signs don’t look big and heavy on their posts. But, when you get up close, they rival your personal geometry. So, I left a trail of signs I couldn’t carry back up to the house. I don’t remember the details of what happened next, other than that we had to return all of the signs and get “approved” ones. I hope somebody thought it was funny; goodness knows I learned a lesson that day about the difference between dumpster diving and theft of city property.

A few years later, Mom had an antique dealer come through the barn behind the house and the signs caught his eye. She let him have them for a song. I was incensed at the time, although in retrospect, it was probably better to not profit too much on them.

The basement of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame once hosted an area where kids could dismantle old hardware. We were fortunate to visit when some racks of AT&T Long Lines hardware had been recently donated. I think I carried a half-dozen plastic sacks of relays, waveguide, transistors, meters, and other assemblies out of there that day. Although I have sifted through most of that by now, the juiciest pieces still remain in my inventory, ready for use. I still don’t think that the docents knew what hit them when the budding master dumpster diver rolled in.

Although I dabbled off and on in the barter of used electronics and such in high school, the dumpster diving began in earnest again in college, where I met guys who weren’t afraid to actually climb into real dumpsters to fish things out. Those were good times. Most of the stuff we pulled out of the dumpsters was building materials, which we used to spruce up our living spaces. Blocks from a demolished (the Young Building of Philosophy and Relgion, a grievous sin against architecture and HVAC) academic building allowed us to put an “upper deck” couch behind the regular couch in our apartment for stadium seating. This was great for watching movies, or at least watching my roommates play Mario Kart 64 with their pharmacy notes on their laps…right.

One of the other great successes was DuddiNet and the Tower of Power. I dragged an 8-foot relay rack (rescued from the scrap heap at a summer job) into my dorm room and filled it full of computers and networking equipment. I asked the university IT people if they had any leftover rolls of CAT5 cable and they gave me as much as I wanted. We pulled our own network in the dorm. At that time, the dorms were 10baseT with hubs. So, it was a real bottleneck if you wanted to move some data (use your imagination here) around. We put in a private switched 100baseT network that connected four rooms on two floors.

In more recent years, I’ve scored some terrific stuff just by paying attention when spaces are being cleaned-up. For instance, that’s how I got my HP vector voltmeter and my oscilloscope. And, indirectly, through Dad, it’s how I got some more Greenlee punches and a set of metal-marking stamps. Anyhow, in order to protect “sources and methods,” I’ll decline from disclosing too many details about my more recent activities…I haven’t swiped anything from a forbidden dumpster, though. Promise.

» Read more: Resume of a Master Dumpster Diver: the Early Years

Keep on Flying: A Life Lesson from R/C

July 6th, 2008


I’ve written several times about the airplane.  So, this story will repeat somewhat.  As a child, I was interested in R/C airplanes.  In a rare lapse of judgement, Dad bought a used “trainer” from a coworker.  However, since we’d been told that crashing is inevitable, he sold it.

Crashes are inevitable in R/C.  The only way to get better is to keep flying, keep crashing, and keep repairing.  Although most things in life are more robust than R/C airplanes, the ability to pick up the pieces and devise creative solutions after repeated setbacks is a valuable skill.

The blog…

April 7th, 2007

It never seems that I have time to update the site as completely as I would like. Part of that is in no small part due to the fact that I have to edit lots of HTML using vi. Some sort of CMS (content-management system) was in order. I’ve decided to go with the blog format because it’s a little like a research notebook. I can keep my thoughts somewhat orderly and don’t have to make massive entries as I work on things.

This is my philosphy on the blog: it’s a way for me to organize my thoughts in a public setting.