May 22, 2013

May - 08 2013 | By

Additional notes

Notifications of new show notes and edits are tweeted at:
– They're tagged with #Zentech.
– When what's said is unclear to me (or I'm unfamiliar with a topic) I tend to quote (" ") verbatim.
– Editor's comments are delimited by < >


Zentech will be on next week (the 5th Wednesday). The following show will be on the 1st Wed in June (6-1-13), swapping places with Bike Talk, which will broadcast on the 12th (leading up to some bike event the following weekend).


The guys talked about the Maker Fair they attended at the San Mateo County Fair Grounds last weekend. Glenn summarized it as — "it was packed, it was wonderful"
– Newer 3-D printers are now sold to work right out of the box, where previously you had to assemble them (which you can still do to save money).
– There are different flavors of Maker groups. Paul mentioned a Maker space in San Francisco called Noise Bridge on Mission. He plans to check it out this weekend.
– The local (Nevada County) Maker group is called The Curious Forge.

Lately, Paul has been coming across a lot of computers over 6 or 7 years old. With a machine older than that your return on investment takes a big hit, should it need repair, he said.

Paul had to deal with an older Gateway laptop recently. Following his regular procedure, he blew it out with compressed air. He said be careful if you use a high-pressure shop compressor, and do it outside.
– A high pressure air blast can damage a cooling fan.
– Dust can insulate the heat sink and block air flow, which can cause the CPU to throttle back its speed in an effort to keep its temperature down.
– You can check if the power supply fan is working by sticking a sliver of paper into the vent and noting if the fan blades hit it at a rapid rate.

He went on to say that if an older computer has Windows 98 on it, he would not try to revitalize it. If it has Win98, chances are it won't be able to run a modern Microsoft operating system. However, you can put XUbuntu on such a machine. It's a cut down version of the regular Ubuntu that's specially designed to run on older hardware. The older machine has to be able to boot from a CD or you have to plug something in to it to boot from. Unlike the regular Ubuntu, XUbuntu is probably not made to boot from a flash drive, he said.

Glenn asked if it's possible to use a cable on an Android device to output an HDMI signal to a TV or monitor.
– You can on some of them.
– Apple has an adapter for their products to output HDMI, but Apple charges about $70 or $80 for it. Chinese knockoff adapters don't always work.
– If an Android has HDMI it may be one of at least two types: mini & micro. Google your make & model number to find which one you have. Adapters for Androids are about $4 or $5 and the cable can be had for a similar price.

Apparently, Glenn was considering using an old unlimited cellular data plan (from back in the days when there were such plans) to steam video to his TV.
– A number of companies have been taken to task for their advertising. Paul: the plan is unlimited until you've used as much data as they think you should use. Then they start throttling the speed, but gradually so it's harder noticeable.

On a related note Paul said, "There is a plan afoot, which was published by a consortium of internet service providers, that if they caught you, as they believe, or they got it reported to them that you are pirating stuff, they would actually punish you by nailing your bandwidth down to dialup speed". Speed would be restored if you confess & apologize but after 3 strikes, you're history.
<This is the Copyright Alert System (CAS) discussed on the 2-27-13 show>

The disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed on this show are those of the speakers only and not necessarily those of KVMR, its board, management, staff or contributors.

Ron called. He has an iMac 27 (about 3 years old) and wanted to know if there's a way to adapt a VHS tape machine to it.
– The VHS should have the cable with red white & yellow RCA connectors. Red & white are the audio channels, yellow is the video.
– To play the video signal in real time requires a real time converter. Alternately, you can capture and save the VHS video to a file, then play the file back later.
– There is a device from China for about $15 that plugs into a USB port and has an MPEG2 compressor chip in it. One end plugs into the USB and the other end has the 3 RCA jacks (red, white, yellow). He's seen this device work on a PC and it's purported to work on a Mac.
– Doing a quick search, Paul found the El Gato for $100 that definitely works on the Mac, PC or iPad.
– There's another one called VC500 Mac for $51.87, or $27 for a used one on Amazon.
– If the video is available some other way (e.g. Netflix or is sold on DVD), it may be worth getting it that way instead of doing a video capture.
– Consider that a 1-hour movie will take 1 hour to capture.
– Glenn said that Fry's has an RCA video-to-USB adapter on sale thru tomorrow. It's the Siig ju-av0012-s1 $27 at the register plus tax & $24 rebate; but he was not sure it can work on the Mac.

Bruce called. He has resisted moving on to Windows 7, but the software he works with is going to require it. He uses Delphi for writing programs, and some of its components will eventually stop being available for the older systems.
– Win7 is not as bad as some have made it out to be. And Win8 is not so bad, especially if it's version 8.1.
– Win7 has had a service pack issued, as well as a bunch of patches.
– Win7 seems to run ok on 2 gigs of RAM.
– Paul suggested that any new computer have nothing less that a dual core CPU.
– Bruce thought he might need an i5 or i7 CPU to run a virtual system (and be able to switch between operating systems to test his software). Paul suggested that separate machines connected by a network may be cheaper.

Paul was given a MacBook that had coke or something similar spilled in it. It was one of the earliest Macs that has an Intel core 2 duo chip and may be worth repairing because that means it can use the Mountain Lion operating system. He determined that the motherboard needed to be replaced.

To find the specifics about a Mac it's important to know the serial number & where to find it, and there's a site to help you. Just follow the above link to go to an article from Apple support called ht1349. It will tell you where to look for the serial number.

When you have the serial number you can check if there's been a recall on the product. Enter the serial number on Google followed by the word: recall. Alternately, you can use to get the particulars on your machine, including, as in Paul's case, what motherboard you have. Then, if you find someone parting out a broken Mac on, say, Ebay, you can ask them for the serial of their Mac and determine if that motherboard is compatible with your machine.

Old eyes reading serial numbers may benefit from one of those magnifying glasses incorporated into a goose neck lamp with LED lights around it. Paul picked one up for $2 or $3 at Grocery Outlet, if he recalled correctly.

Paul also got a USB 400x microscope with camera from Amazon. It's UVC compatible so it doesn't need any drivers.

Paul likes to play with Christmas tree lights using an x10 unit with a 16 channel controller. X10 is an old technology that sends controlling signals thru the AC wiring of the house. The signals are sent for just a few milliseconds near the time the AC current is close to 0 in its sinusoidal pattern. You plug an X10-compatible unit into a wall socket and plug what you want to control (Christmas lights) into the unit. X10 can control up to 16 devices.

More modern technology, like that from Belkin, uses wi-fi instead of the wiring of the house. You can even control the units from outside of the house using an app on your mobile device. Each controlling unit is more expensive than that for the X10 at about $50.

Glenn said an X10 system he has used was programmable to do things like turn lights on and off in certain order or to vary the pattern depending on the time of the day. <Making it appear like the house is occupied>

Last updated 10:44 PM 5/22/2013