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What's New?
2006 Archive
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January 2, 2007

Closed out the 2006 What's New blog entries as two files. is January to June
and is July to December.

Clicking on whtnu06b gives you whtnu06. We will probably
split 2007 into more than two sections to try and keep the
file sizes down. Our goal is new and useful content daialy.

January 1, 2007

Turns out that PostScript gladly reports integers up to
two billion or so to full accuracy. So the trick to picking
up another two decimal points of floating point reported
precision is to normalize each real to an integer in the
ten to hundred million range
, convert it to a string, and
then dink around with the string to replace the decimal
point and sign.

Here's a simple and preliminary example that is only
good for reals between 1.0000000 and 9.9999999...

    /unitsto8dp { dup 0 le /isneg exch store
          abs /val exch store /workstr val 10000000
          mul cvi 20 string cvs store isneg {(-)}{( )}
          ifelse workstr 0 1 getinterval mergestr
          (.) mergestr workstr 1 workstr length 1 sub
          getinterval mergestr 20 string cvs } store

This routine uses my mergestr routine from my
Gonzo Utilities...

     /mergestr {2 copy length exch length add
        string dup dup 4 3 roll 4 index length exch
        putinterval 3 1 roll exch 0 exch putinterval
                             } def

I'll try to work up a GuruGram on a more general

December 31, 2006

I feel it is a good rule to always typeset first and edit
The exact arrangement and appearance of your
work is equally important as the words themselves.

And yes, spelling counts.

December 30, 2006

Spam seems to be accelerating at an insane pace,
and it is not too difficult to predict an imminent and
total collapse of the web
because of it.

At present, we receive something like 2000 spam
messages a day, most of which are trapped by our
ISP filtering. Compared to a few dozen worthwhile

The alarming thing is that the spam to useful ratio
is dramatically accelerating.
Further, the spam feeds
on itself. Since everybody now recognizes the tricks
to bypass the spam filters ( .GIF files, misspellings,
random words, repeated contacts, etc etc...) many more
spam messages have to be sent out
to get even
remotely near their previous return.

The solution is simple: No more email arriving with
postage due.

December 29, 2006

There is apparently now a New England NEEIC
alternative to the California PIER new energy grants.

December 28, 2006

Overheard some alternate energy enthusiasts who
were lavishly praising Sterling engines as the
ultimate solution to low delta-t energy recovery.

It quickly became obvious that they did not have
the faintest clue of the underlying thermodynamics
or economics.

To date, the Sterling engine has been one of the
largest and most monumental engineering ratholes
of all times. Here is why...

    Carnot Matters -- There is a fundamental and
     unavoidable law of thermodynamics that says
     the best possible efficiency of any heat engine
     is proportional to the absolute temperature
     delta fraction. Thus your best possible efficiency
     a 20 degree rise at 70 degree F room temperature
     would be 20/(459+70) = 3.8 percent. And no
     real world system can be even this good.

    Efficiency Matters --As efficiency goes down,
    the size and complexity of the energy recovery
    device will disproportionately increase in a
    hyperbolic or worse manner for a given set of
    recovery values. Which is why absolutely free
    pv solar panels of less than six percent efficiency
    are totally commercially useless.

    Amortization Matters -- If your energy recovery
    device is producing an average of two cents worth
    of electricity per day and your total cost of ownership
    is three cents per day, you have a gasoline destroying
    net energy sink. The longer you run it, the more
    gasoline you destroy

   Gotchas Matter -- A Sterling engine needs a
    special part called a regenerator. Regenerators
    have to be long and thin and short and fat.
    They also have to be very good conductors of
    heat and outstanding insulators. Extreme
    engineering compromise is needed and nobody
    has come up with a good regeneration solution
    to date.

Much more in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

December 27, 2006

Got some demo code tentatively working for
some ultrafast Magic Sinewave solutions given
a good initial guess. It seems hundreds or even
thousands of times faster
than before.

It is based on factoring the equations into a
guess cosine and an error term that ( presently )
is slope estimated. Rearranging the terms
and substituting leaves n linear equations in
n unknowns. This is easily and quickly solvable
by Gauss Jordan elimination.

At present, the solution is "not quite" one step.
A few iterations are still required. But they
do quickly drive the distortion down to all
zeros out to fifteen decimal places
, and the
amplitude to a similarly exact value.

It sure is satisfying to see all those zeros.
And nothing but zeros on the forced harmonic
terms. Often with five or fewer passes.

I suspect an exact one step solution exists.
Fully deterministic for a valid initial guess.

Instead of a slope approximation of minus the
sine, a trig identity of cos (a+b) = cos(a)cos(b) -
might prove of value. But it seems
like there might be a second factor or some
larger interfering error yet to be discovered.

Preliminary code can be made available to
Synergetics Partners and associates at present.

Some useful things the faster code may assist
with: Exploring sinewaves with many hundreds
and possibly thousands of harmonics zeroed
This would dramatically simplify filtering,
offer wide frequency operation, and raising of
uncontrolled harmonics out of the audio range.
At the cost of reduced efficiency and fancier

And discovering scalable code for variable n
that does not require extensive reworking for
each and every n to be analyzed.

And finding new classes of Magic Sinewave solutions
beyond the six or so that are presently known.
Something that would give a "suppressed carrier"
would certainly be handy. Possibly with two pulses
of the "wrong" polarity early in the mix. Or of
multi amplitude stepped supply solutions.

A Magic Sinewave intro appears here.

December 26, 2006

Can the math precision and accuracy of PostScript
be improved? Its out-of-the-box six decimal point
reported answers were not quite good enough for at
least some of my Magic Sinewave research.

A case can be made that more than six decimal
results would only lengthen font files without any
measurable result in most graphic applications.

But 31 bit plus sign math should be good for two
billion states, or over nine decimal points. Minus
where they stopped in any of their transcendental
approximation algorithms. And minus what their
floating point routines allow..

Here's a preliminary experiment: The square root
of two in PS returns 1.41421 . Rounding to four
decimal places and subtracting gives .0000135899.

Combining the two returns 1.4142 1358 99. Compared
against the "real" answer of 1.4142 1356 23. Which
is right on at eight decimal places, and not too bad
at nine.

A simple text reformatter that does the combinations
for you should be possible. And based on our Gonzo
mergestr convenience operator.

Again, you would have to compare exactly what you
wanted against the individual algorithms in use for the
fancier functions.

Adobe does state a precision of "approximately" eight
decimal digits.
And apparently are using single precision
IEEE 754 floating point
. Because of a "normalization"
scheme in this, they are able to make several bits serve
double uses, resulting in the claimed precision.

Possibly more later.

December 25, 2006

Do we have yet another bogus water powered car
fiasco coming down? The known ( and repeatedly
remeasured zillions of times daily ) energy density
of STP hydrogen is 2.7 watthours per STP liter
electrically recoverable or 3.3 watthours per liter
total energy.

This company appears to claim to be able to input
1.0 watthours of electricity to produce 3.3 watthours
of stored hydrogen energy. In an electrolysis related

Although a stunning reversal of centuries of electrochem
and thermodynamic research is one dim possibility, I feel
that much more likely explanations are (A) the usual
ho-hum incompetent measurement of oddball waveshapes,
(B) having water vapor or other gas components in
the output stream, or (C) being yet another in a countless
stream of attempted ripoff scams.

Their 2.5x improvement claim is remarkably similar to
the difference you would expect between average and
rms currents in a typical pulse waveform situation.

As we've seen before, "perfect" and "free" electrolysis
is totally useless
when powered from high value sources
such as pv solar, wind, or grid. Because of the staggering
loss of exergy. Thermodynamic fundamentals guarantee
that a kilowatt hour of electricity is ridiculously more
valuable than a kilowatt hour of unstored hydrogen gas.
The process is pretty much the same as 1:1 converting
US dollars into Mexican Pesos

And that is before amortization and maintenance.

Further, if this is an onboard vehicle system, the fanbelt
alone guarantees that no more than homeopathic placebo
quantities of hydrogen can be produced. As we have seen
here in the November 19th entry.

More on energy fundamentals here, on bogus water
powered scams here, and on bashing pseudoscience

December 24, 2006

Nissan may have just come up with a stunning hybrid
vehicle engineering breakthrough: A motor with two
rotors and one stator. Each rotor can run at different
speeds, and either can act as a generator.

Firstoff, this solves the differential problem in spades.
The ultimate in electronically controlled positraction.

Secondly, generation from an ICE and regenerative
braking from the wheels can be handled by the same unit.
At substantially reduced cost and weight and complexity.

December 23, 2006 ( Please read yesteday's entry first )

Continuing our Gauss-Jordan tutorial, but this time
the Jordan part. When we last left off, we had a
( relabeled ) array of...

           [  1    c01  c02  c03  c04  j05 ]
             [  0     1    c12  c13  c14  j15 ]
             [  0     0      1   c23   c24  j25 ]
             [  0     0      0     1    c34   j35 ]
             [  0     0      0     0      1      z   ]

where cxx is the row and column coefficient for
the left side equation terms, and jxx is the
similar row and column coefficient for the right
side equation term.

The usual way to solve this is by back substitution.
Start off with y = j35 - z*c34 and so on. And then
work your way up a row at a time, making more
complex calculations until you have v through z
all solved.

The Jordan approach starts off the same way, but
it works one column at a time, greatly simplifying
computer programming. Especially if more than
one n x n equation set is to be accommodated.

The rule is that any constant can be subtracted
from one term in the left side of the equation if
the same constant is subtracted from the right
side of the equation.

Subtract z*c34 from row 4...

           [  1   c01 c02 c03 c04 k05 ]
             [  0    1   c12 c13 c14 k15 ]
             [  0     0    1   c23 c24 k25 ]
             [  0    0     0     1     0     y   ]
             [  0     0    0     0     1     z   ]

So far, this is the same as the usual back substitution.
We now can observe y by inspection The difference
with Jordan is to continue with columns instead of
Modify the rows by subtracting z*c24, z*c14,
and z*c04 to get...

           [  1   c01 c02 c03  0  m05 ]
             [  0    1   c12 c13   0  m15 ]
             [  0     0    1   c23   0 m25 ]
             [  0     0    0     1     0    y   ]
             [  0     0    0     0     1    z   ]

Next, modify column three by subtracting
y*c23, y*c13, and y*c03. And then column
two by subtracting x*c12 and x*c02. And
finally column one by subtracting w*c01
to get...

           [  1    0    0    0    0    v  ]
             [  0    1    0    0    0    w ]
             [  0    0    1    0    0    x ]
             [  0    0    0    1    0    y ]
             [  0   0    0    0     1    z  ]

Your values v through z are now instantly
readable by inspection.

Once again, the Jordan method takes just as
many calculations as back substitution, but it
greatly simplifies computation in that loops do
not have any multiple calculations or complicated
in them.

December 22, 2006

Finally figured out what the "Jordan" part of Gauss
Jordan elimination
is all about. Turns out that while
there are just as many calculations that are just as
complex as plain old back substitution, those calcs
lend themselves to much simpler and more easily
automated computer loops.

Consider five linear equations in five unknowns...

    A0*v + B0*w + C0*x +D0*y + E0*z = K0
    A1*v + B1*w + C1*x +D1*y + E1*z = K1
    A2*v + B2*w + C2*x +D2*y + E2*z = K2
    A3*v + B3*w + C3*x +D3*y + E3*z = K3
    A4*v + B4*w + C4*x +D4*y + E4*z = K4

While all sorts of solution methods exist, we seek
one that is computationally efficient. If we dink
around with some manipulations ahead of time, we
can eventually end up with a solution that will be
obvious by inspection!

Arrange the coefficients into a group of arrays...

             [ A0 B0 C0 D0 E0 K0 ] 
    [ A1 B1 C1 D1 E1 K1 ] 
             [ A2 B2 C2 D2 E2 K2 ]
             [ A3 B3 C3 D3 E3 K3 ] 
             [ A4 B4 C4 D4 E4 K4 ] 
             [ A4 B4 C4 D4 E4 K4 ] 

The rules for our "Gauss" part of rearrangement
are that any row can be scaled by any constant term
by term
without changing the results.

And that any row can be subtracted from any other
row term by term and substituted
. Again without
changing the results.

In interests of sanity, let "~" be any coefficient
that resulted from previous manipulation. Scale the
top row by dividing by its initial value...

       [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [ A1 B1 C1 D1 E1 K1 ] 
             [ A2 B2 C2 D2 E2 K2 ]
             [ A3 B3 C3 D3 E3 K3 ] 
             [ A4 B4 C4 D4 E4 K4 ] 

Scale the top row by A1 and subtract it from the
next row down and replacing...

       [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [ A2 B2 C2 D2 E2 K2 ]
             [ A3 B3 C3 D3 E3 K3 ] 
             [ A4 B4 C4 D4 E4 K4 ] 

Similarly, scale the top row by A2 subtract it from
the middle row. Then scale by A3 for row 3 and A4
for row4...

             [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]

Now, scale the second row down by its first nonzero

             [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    1    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]

Next, force zeros in the second column the same we
we did with the first, but using the second row for
subtraction and substitution...

             [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    1    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]

Keep working your way through the array, this time
scaling the third row down by its first nonzero term and
then using scaled subtractions to zero out everything
below in the same column.

Eventually, you should end up with...

           [  1    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    1    ~    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    1    ~    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    0    1    ~   ~   ]
             [  0    0    0    0    1   ~   ]

This completes the Gauss part of the process.
The lower right squiggle will be z by inspection!

From here, we can use back substitution or the
Jordan scheme. More on Jordan tomorrow.

December 21, 2006

Computing power has gotten FUNDAMENTALLY

Just realized I was sitting here solving 14 linear
equations in 14 unknowns to 64 bit precision. And
worrying about how I was going to speed up the
algorithm to get under 120 milliseconds. And being
upset that 32-bit math, while useful, was not quite
good enough to do the job at hand.

That, of course, is while limping along on an ancient
( almost two years old! ) 750 MHz machine. Compared
to back in college where I would spend hours with a
K&E log log duplex decitrig slide rule along with the
Mathematical Tables from the Handbook of Chemistry
and Physics
to try and solve a simple transmission line
problem. To three percent accuracy.

Just about anybody now has personal computing power
that is unimaginably beyond the best available to only
the biggest schools or corporations a very few years

Which tells us that these days, if you have a problem,
throw some math at it.
Another ten million calculations
is simply not that big a deal anymore. Brute force
reigns supreme

And no telling where it will lead.

Places where bunches of intense math have proved both
interesting and popular include my Fun with Fields and
my ongoing Magic Sinewave alternate energy research.

Other technological breakthroughs reviewed here.
And more math stuff here and here.

December 20, 2006

Outside of the thousand cases of White Tiger Energy
, Arizona Auctions seem to be in the middle
of their usual year end lull.

The recent military surplus changes seem to be
pretty much implemented. Per this map, it seems
that mil surplus bargains have completely vanished
in places like Arizona or New Mexico. While very
much increasing in areas like West Florida and
Central Pennsylvania.

Part of their "efficiency improvement" involves
transshipping unsold surplus nearly a thousand miles
from Southern Arizona to Northern Utah.

Your tax dollars at work.

As we have already seen, additional details are here
and here. Not sure where this will leave Government
. Dollar volume at several of their manned
sites clearly appears to have dropped precipitously.

December 19, 2006

An interesting story on America's highest value
farm crop. Now exceeding both wheat and corn
Mostly due to the enormously lucrative
DHS and DEA subsidies and price supports. Plus,
of course, absolutely superb 100% tax credits. Can
ethanol production from it be all that far behind?

Do these farmers really need all that federal aid?

December 18, 2006

Found and verified an even better and much
faster route to Magic Sinewave solutions.

Factor the equations into present angle +
. Regroup the present angles
to the right side, leaving 14 linear equations
in 14 unknowns. Solve by using Gaussian
and Back Substitution.

Note that the fundamental error can be included
in a "pseudo distortion" error array. This
eliminates the amplitude variation
we got with
the present methods. Note also that the slope
of cos(5x) is -5sin(5x) and similar.

I've got this working beautifully in PostScript,
except it is maddeningly at the PS math 32-bit
limit. I find PostScript infinitely more intuitive
and friendly than JavaScript when it comes to
exploring math options.

At any rate, the results seem incredibly fast
converging, likely needing only a single pass.
At speeds hundreds or thousands of times
than before.

Further work probably depends upon your
funded support.

December 17, 2006

So, what are the other "secret stuff things
to do"
in the Gila Valley?

Sadly, our two best wild hot springs are no
But here's my own selection of good
stuff that is still here...

   ~ MGIO observatory tours
   ~ Discovery park simulator and telescope
   ~ Mount Graham aerial tramway
   ~ Gila Box Riparian Area
   ~ Hot well dunes recreation area
   ~ Eden hotel & hot spring ( restricted )
   ~ Arivaipa Canyon
   ~ The legendary 4WD "Rug Road"
   ~ Bonita Creek
   ~ Frey Mesa Falls
   ~ Morenci Mine tour
   ~ Eurofresh tours
   ~ Black Hills Rockhounding
   ~ Bear Springs ( restricted )  
   ~ Mazuma mine scam ( restricted )
   ~ Ash Creek Flumes
   ~ Kennedy Peak
   ~ Bear Canyon
   ~ Needle's Eye
   ~ West End Mines
   ~ Oak Grove Canyon
   ~ Willcox to Bonita bicycle loop
   ~ Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area
   ~ Mcilheney water scam
   ~ Tollhouse Canyon
   ~ San Carlos Lake
   ~ Upper Lower Middle Box
   ~ Cedar Springs
   ~ Crystal Hills ( restricted )
   ~ Pima Gap
   ~ Round Mountain Rockhounding
   ~ Morenci Crystal Cave
   ~ Frey Lake
   ~ Grantham Cave
   ~ Fisherman's Point
   ~ Stockton Wash
   ~ Gila Box float trips
   ~ Buford Canyon
   ~ EAC Library
   ~ Secret hidden springs with fish
   ~ Mesquite Bosque
   ~ Spring Canyon
   ~ El Capitan Canyon
   ~ York Valley bicycle loop
   ~ Roper and Gillard hot springs
   ~ Back Country Byway
   ~ Arizona Eastern Railroad ridealong?
   ~ Mt. Graham Ice Caves
   ~ Red Knolls pseudokarst
   ~ Safford Valley Grids
   ~ Eagle Creek Bat Cave ( restricted )
   ~ Guthrie Peak
   ~ Cliffton Historic District
   ~ Johnny Creek Loop ( restricted )
   ~ Obscure Gila River access points
   ~ Roper Lake
   ~ Hidden streams near Treasure Park
   ~ Lower Marijilda Crossing
   ~ Round the Mountain tinajas
   ~ High Creek Road
   ~ McEwen ruin
   ~ The "lost" CCC camp
   ~ San Simon dam
   ~ Marijilda Ruin
   ~ Lebanon Reservoirs
   ~ Pima Museum
   ~ Table Mountain Mines
   ~ Abandoned old highway 70 bicycling
   ~ Engle Orchard
   ~ Deadman Ditch
   ~ Old Safford Bridges
   ~ Big Lue Mountains
   ~ Prehistoric agave roasting rings
   ~ Bramaham Cave ( permit required )
   ~ Allen Reservoir
   ~ Bear Flat
   ~ Riggs Lake
   ~ Whitlock Cinega Hot Lake
   ~ Webb Peak Lookout
   ~ San Jose hot well
   ~ EAC Anthropological Exhibits
   ~ Zeolite beds
   ~ Carter Sawmill
   ~ Shingle Mill Canyon
   ~ C119 at Pima International Airport
   ~ Goat Hill ruin
   ~ H X Dam
   ~ Taylor Pass
   ~ Greasewood Range
   ~ Dutch Henry Trail
   ~ Pima Badlands
   ~ Muleshoe Preserve
   ~ Arivaipa Ghost Town
   ~ Old Morenci Trail ( restricted )
   ~ Turtle Mountain
   ~ Flying Butress Dam
   ~ Dankworth Ponds
   ~ Guthrie
   ~ Paddy's River
   ~ U of A agricultural Research Station
   ~ Apache Box Buddhist Retreat   
   ~ Mt. Graham sawmill
   ~ Bear Basin
   ~ Toppy's Cave
   ~ Wood Canyon
   ~ Deadman Falls
   ~ Grahm County Historical Society Museum
   ~ Santa Teresa Rock Climbing
   ~ West Peak
   ~ Amerind Foundation
   ~ Copper Canyon
   ~ Old Marble Quarry
   ~ China Peak Observatory
   ~ Redfield Canyon
   ~ Power's Garden
   ~ Fishhooks Wilderness
   ~ Whitlock Mountain Ski Condos
   ~ Day Mine Road   

Are we there yet?

December 16, 2006

Here in the Gila Valley, it is not all that unusual
to come across prehistoric potsherds dating from
the twelfth or thirteenth century. Potsherds have
a unique property in that the pots are extremely
delicate and break easily, but the broken pieces
are virtually indestructible.
And keep forever.

Many potsherds can be dated and time stamped.
Relatively through style, art, temper, thickness,
tradeware routes, rim finish, color, slip, history,
and such. And absolutely datable by way of
thermoluminescence or paleomagnetism. And
association datable by using tree rings or C14
. And, of course, stratigraphy.

With one exception, the Gila Valley is somewhat
of an archaeological backwater.
Only a few dozen
mid sized sites are known, and most of them are
more "interesting" rather than spectacular. Most
artifacts seem to be more of the "steal the plans"
variety or imported from elsewhere.

That exception is collectively called the Safford
Valley Grids
. These are rectangular groupings of
"fields" formed by removing rocks from their
centers and carefully and completely bordering.
There are many thousands of these, typically
grouped by the dozens or hundreds. But sometimes
occurring in singles. Often 15 by 20 feet or so.

These show up quite clearly on Google Maps.

They are invariably sited on mesa top like
benches of very carefully selected Gradual
slope and aspect and soils. Typical absence
of other artifacts and their arrangement

strongly suggests some agricultural use,
Such as dry farming or hand irrigating.

Obviously, countless hours of engineering and
use and maintenance went into their use.

A mystery to me is why they would piss around
with infertile and rocky benches of poor soils,
limited rainfall, and sparse vegetation. When there
was a perfectly good river and easily irrigated
fertile bottomlands a few hundred yards away.

One offered explanation is that malaria or other
fatal diseases frequented the "vapors" of the
bottomlands. Another is the seasonal variability
and violent floods of the Gila River itself.

The definitive reference on these is The Safford
Valley Grids
, available as U of A Press Anthro
Papers #70
. Many of the sites are easily visited
by a mile or two dayhike. Most are on public lands.

December 15, 2006

One of the least expected sources for genuine
new energy developments is Keelynet.

Among all of the pseudoscience dreaming
and perpetual motion scams, enough real
developments accidentally sneak through to
make this site worth a daily visit.

December 14, 2006

As mentioned before, at one time I was very
big on Book-on-Demand publishing. But
these days, I strongly feel that ALL dead tree
books are clearly doomed
. Given the near
certainty of an upcoming decent reader, the
advantages of eBooks utterly overwhelm.

There are several interesting directions in
BOD that seem worth investigating, though.

The first of these is Lulu. Which is basically
an online vanity publisher. Who can handle
book production and marketing for you in
any quantity
at rates that are not totally

The second is good old Gigabooks. Who
show you how to use classic hand bookbinding
techniques for your own low end, low cost,
( but highly labor intensive ) publishing.

The key ingredient for BOD that never showed
up and likely never will is a $500 book finishing
that trims and binds on a desktop. With
perfect bound hard and softbound quality and
appearance comparable to bookstore standards.

Meanwhile, high end solutions abound that make
absolutely no economic sense to me. Such as
the Espresso Machine from OnLine Books. And
costing a mere $100,000.

Let's see. Say you finance one of these at 10
percent for 5 years. Your monthly payment will
be $2124.50. Which means if you sell a thousand
books per month, the machine alone will cost you
$2.13 per book. Assuming, no scrap, free labor,
no down time, no royalties, no rent, and absolutely
free materials.

And assuming the book world will not be totally
and radically different within 5 years.

A thousand books per month, consistently day in
and day out is a huge number. Also, a thousand
books per month is thirty books per day. Or roughly
four books per hour. If it takes more than fifteen
minutes per book total production, the machine will
be unable to exceed a thousand books per month.

Thus clearly boxing itself into a financial corner.

December 14, 2006

The latest issue of Science magazine gives
further credibility that ethanol from corn
under US farm conditions is simply a fifteen
billion dollar vote buying scam.

Your tax dollars at work.

Tilman, Hill, and Lehman, vol 314, 8 December
2006 pp 1598-1600. "Carbon-Negative Biofuels
from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland

In which they find out that plain old wild grass in
mixed species on largely unattended marginal
non-croplands completely and utterly blows US
ethanol from corn away.
While also providing
carbon sequestering in the roots of the perennial
crops. With insanely lower new energy inputs.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

December 13, 2006

Added additional links to our Arizona Auction

Your own custom regional auction finder can be
created for you per these details.

I can do this for you a lot faster, cheaper, and better
than you can. But if you must make up your own, here
is how to go about it:

Start the listing with the National Auctioneers
and your local equivalent to the
Arizona Auctioneers Association. Then compile
a list of local auctioneers from their members
listings that have web sites.
Visit the sites to
make sure they are currently active.
any realtor sites that do not also have estate sales.
Or any superspecialized services not of interest.

Then compile a list of national auctioneers that
may be active in your areas. This is similar to
the middle column of our typical listings. Next,
compile a list of links to all of your state's
universities, community colleges, schools,
cities, towns and counties. email any likely
candidates to find out when and how their surplus
property is disposed of.

Then add the other web auction finder resources.
Most of these could not find a pig in a disphan
when it comes to Arizona auctions. Typically there
will be 65 to 150 Arizona auctions announced at
any one time. See how many you can find how
fast without my help.

Then go on to column three. Where you get a
national newspaper list, a state newspaper list,
and links to all of the Craig's List resources

Next, you go through each and every newspaper
for your state, finding which ones have active
classified sections
and which of those have enough
auction listings to be worthwhile. Some newspapers
(but only those that wish to survive for a few more
weeks) will also have web access to their display
as well. Be sure to seek these out and link them.

You might also want to create a list of all of the major
companies and employers in your area. Again to
seek out which have surplus property routinely
disposed of.

Finally, you recheck each and every listing, asking
all auction sites to put you on their email lists.

December 12, 2006

Google just released the beta of their new Patents
page. As usual, it looks like this will
completely blow away the earlier patent resources.

Winners, of course, are in the marketplace and
losers and failures are in the patent repositories.

For most individuals and small scale startups
most of the time, any involvement whatsoever with
patents and patenting are virtually certain to result
in a net loss of time, energy, money, and sanity

Per this tutorial. Or in the very few instances
when a patent may make sense, this one.

More on our Patents library page. More on
product development on our Blatant Opportunist
and GuruGram library pages.

December 11, 2006

What you may be used to and works really well in
one computer language may end up with lots of
rude surprises in another.

I'm very much a manic fan of PostScript, and use
it for just about all of my general purpose computing
needs. But our Magic Sinewave work demanded
some 64 bit math and web page interactivity that is
better met by JavaScript. So, I have been using
both of these recently, even letting PostScript write
the JavaScript code for me.

I lost a bunch of time yesterday over JavaScript
apparently being unable to find its own variables.
Turns out this is a normal and expected "feature"
instead of a bug.

In PostScript, any variable inside any proc will
be freely available to any other proc. Unless you
go out of your way to isolate it with saves and
restores. There is rarely any need to predeclare
your variables in PostScript. In fact, this is
pretty much unheard of.

But with JavaScript, a variable used inside a
function is ONLY available to that function on a
local basis
. Other portions of the code will be
unable to reach that variable and generate a
"not found" error message.

Thus, for most JavaScript uses most of the
time, predeclaring your variables at the beginning
of your code is a must
. Using the var directive.

A second major surprise is that PostScript's math
functions are directly in degrees, while JavaScript
uses radians. The adjustment is to multiply all
JavaScript degree values by pi/180

I sorely miss an equivalent to {} forall. And JS
is much fussier over syntax. Its parenthesis can
have multiple meanings as well. And the dup ==
debugger in PS seems more useful than the alert
in JS. Especially since I've found no way to cut
and paste out of a JS alert. Except by hand.

More on PostScript in our Beginner Stuff and
our Gonzo Utilities.

December 10, 2006

The holiest mantra of card carrying members of the
Church of the Latter Day Crackpots ( for whom, of
course, Nikoli Tesla is the patron saint ) is "But you
have not done the experiment!"

Well, firstoff, extraordinary claims ALWAYS demand
extraordinary proof
. Secondly, it's ALWAYS up to the
claimant to provide their proof, not up to others to
disprove them

But most importantly, research time and research
dollars are valuable. The foremost rule of legit
research is to not waste time or dollars on anything
that has a negligible probability of success

There ALWAYS has to be some basis for optimism
or some ability to rip off federal funds for any valid
research to proceed.

Obviously the same bad beginner's mistakes that
everyone else makes by an obvious con artist fraud
attempt are rarely enough justification for serious
commitment of new research dollars.

Two cases in point: The Meyer Water Powered
fiasco: In reality, the "experiment" is rerun
millions of times daily.
There are commercially
successful devices including EDM machining
and Qprox products that simply would not work
if Meyer was correct. Not to mention that there
is a whole EIS field ( short for Electrochemical
Impedance Spectroscopy
that routinely has
never shown even the tiniest shred of evidence
of any Meyer validity.

And those old Bearden Claims have newly been
trashed in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer.
For Bearden to be correct, an utterly incredible
number of people would have to have been dead
wrong for a ridiculous time in countless different

As we have seen before, finding an unlimited
source of free energy would be one of the most
heinous crimes imaginable against humanity.

One that would make Hitler look like Mother
Teresa. And one that would rapidly convert
the planet into a cinder.

More on pseudoscience bashing here.

December 9, 2006

Continuing yesterday's discussion of technological
developments we can expect to happen soon...

    Electric vehicles and truly useful hybrids certainly
    could use better battery technology. As could laptops
    and PDA's for longer battery life. A major technology
    breakthrough is unlikely, but small ongoing advances
    seem the norm. And we already have NiMH cells
    whose AA size capacity today exceeds yesterday's
    sub-C's. NiCad technology recently discovered how
    to use three outer electrons rather than just two for
    a potential 50% increase. Use matched versions and
    better manufacturing are routinely appearing on
    product shelves. And a major upgrade in lithium
    energy density is in the works.

   MAJOR WEB CRASH-- Yesterday, I got 2,350
   spam emails ( well filtered by our ISP ), 50 readable
   messages of which twelve were remotely useful.
   And the signal to noise ratio continues to deteriorate
   at a dramatic rate.
If this is typical of others in the
   web, it is reasonable to predict that
the web is near
   certain to totally choke on its own vomit within a
   very few weeks
. The fundamental problem is that
   email arrives postage due. This feature must be
   eliminated if the web is to survive.

   that print objects instead of messages are the crux
   of the upcoming Santa Claus Machine revolution.
   One intriguing low end approach is the RepRap
   system that is eminently hackable. Here's a typical
   service house, an example of architectural uses,
   a good Gateway Link site, a good summary, and
   another Resource Location.

CARBON NEUTRAL FUELS - We have already
   seen below why the Hydrogen Economy flat out
   ain't gonna happen. By far the best means of
   storing hydrogen is to bond it to carbon in a
   convenient room temperature liquid. Iso-octane
   and Heptane have proven themselves to be
   especially adept at this. Advantages of carbon
   neutral approaches to alternate energy (as
   opposed to carbon free ) are that (1) A significant
   portion of the stored energy is provided by
   the carbon component; (2) carbon appears to
   be essential for the creation of room temperature
   liquids of acceptable energy density and safety,
   and (3) energy losses from reformation can be
   eliminated, and (4) delivery infrastructure is
   entirely or at least largely in place.

   CLASS "D" AUDIO AMPS - I first ran a
   tutorial on these in the February 1966 issue
   of Electronics World and had a somewhat
   more recent summary appear here. While
   these have been "somewhat slow" out of the
   starting gate, they are now coming on like
   Gangbusters. Offering you high power, low
   distortion, extreme efficiencies, no crossover
   issues, and -- recently -- minimal output filtering.
   Leading suppliers today include Analog Devices,
   Maxim, National and Texas Instruments.

December 8, 2006

Here's some predictions of some technological developments
we can expect to happen soon...

    BIG LED'S - White light emitting diodes are now
    available in one and five watt levels approaching a
    dollar each at ever increasing efficiencies that can
    completely blow away fluorescents, let alone older
    incandescents. Expect a major move from specialty
    to routine lighting shortly. LED Journal is one good
    info source.

    EBOOK READERS - There is not the slightest
    doubt that the utter demise of dead tree books is
    imminent. An eBook reader or its replacement
    can be expected "real soon now" that offers
    better legibility, better convenience, and better
    currency that traditional publications. Aided and
    driven by a student revolt against backpacks. And
    accepting standard .PDF and other files with DRM
    a minor sideshow at best.

A cheap once-a-week
     mouthwash that completely 
eliminates dental
     cavities sounds too good to be 
true. But it does
     seem to be completely legit research
     at a faster than expected pace
Per this original
     research, this activity today, and
these links for
more info.

    NET ENERGY SOLAR CELLS - As we have seen
    in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial, not one net
    watthour of conventional silicon pv electricity has
    ever been produced.
Nor is any ever likely. Today
    the price of a synchronous inverter alone often will
    consume more than the value of the electricity run
    through it in its amortization. And that is before the
    recent price runup and unavailability of silicon. But
    new developments in SIGS solar and Quantum dots
    may make all of conventional silicon ancient history.

    $500 TRUE HDTV -- Flat panel displays have
    finally turned the corner. Besides routine and
    cheap 24 inch computer monitors, we can expect
    a less than $500 and 32 inch HDTV with a full
    1050 interlaced scan. Only it would be ludicrous
    to still call it a television set, because almost
    all viewed material will be computer, DVD, cable,
    or direct web download. Expect CRT's, plasma, and
    rear projection to die. And LCD's to dominate the
    smaller screens, while DLP mirror technology will
    handle the high end. Meanwhile, expect theaters
    to continue their death wish by refusing to upgrade
    to all digital screens.

December 7, 2006

Added some new links and corrected some older ones on
our Arizona Auction Links directory.

December 6, 2006

A photo and imaging tip left over from way on back
in my Popular Electronics days: There's this cheap
spray-on glop called Krylon Dulling Spray. Which
can dramatically improve anything bright on an
object that threatens to white burn. But the stuff is
somewhat difficult to remove and should not be used
on very high value or high tech items.

Additional photo and other tips here and here.

December 5, 2006

We have been having some email problems over the
last few days. Be sure to recontact us if anything
important slipped through the cracks.

Our email service does have an outstanding spam
filter. BUT -- yesterday we have 1240 spam messages,
54 real messages and 12 useful ones. If this is typical
of others in the web, it is reasonable to predict that
the web will totally choke on its own vomit within a
very few weeks

Here is my proposed solution: The crux of the issue
is that email comes postage due. Eliminate this
feature. Make every email cost ten cents to send.
A recipient will have three options (A) accept the
source verified email at no cost to the sender, (B.)
accept the email and pocket nine cents, or else
(C.) return the email to the
sender with another ten
cents due.

The average user would gladly pay a few dollars
a year to completely get rid of spam. And just
might get filthy rich if spam continues. And
the penny differential should pay for the service.

December 4, 2006

New ideas are just like pancakes or children.
You should always throw the first one away.

December 3, 2006

Magic Sinewaves are a newly discovered approach
to energy efficiency and power quality

Latest GuruGram #72 is on Faster Magic Sinewave
Zero Solutions

Gonzo sourcecode for GG72 is available here..

December 2, 2006

Latest GuruGram #71 is on Enhancing your
eBay Tactical Skills V

Gonzo sourcecode for GG71 is available here.
Earlier tutorials in the series can be found
here, here, here, and here.

December 1, 2006

Too good to be true department? I might have
found a way to make Magic Sinewave solutions
more deterministic very near their zeros.

If so, this should dramatically speed up analysis
time for very high zero harmonic solutions.

Here is the reasoning and some very preliminary
math. The full set of equations to be solved appears
on page four. One seven pulse harmonic equation
to be zeroed might be something like...

      cos (5*p1s) - cos (5*p1e) +.... +
                           cos(5*p7s) - cos(5*p7e) = 0

At present, when we are very near a zero, we use
Newton's Method or "shake the box" to improve
our answers. We make a small change in the p1s
edge and see if things get better. We keep making
small changes till a minimum is found. The "small
change" is then reduced and the process repeated
first for p1s and then for other pulse edges till an
acceptable number of decimal place gives a desired

At present, dozens to hundreds of complex iterations
are used. The method works very well, but it is slow
if more than a few dozen harmonics are to be zeroed.

Instead, if we are only changing p1s, everything else
is a constant ( this has already been used to speed up
the existing code ). We will also assume that the
new p1s cosine can be linearly approximated because
it is so close to the old one.

Now, if we are only dealing with the fifth harmonic,
we have a constant, an error, and a p1s edge angle.
We can exactly take out all of the error by finding
a new p1s offset of -b/m. This follows from the plain
old y = mx + b equation of a straight line. b is our
error and m is our slope. Our slope is known and
will be the negative harmonic sine of angle p1s.

Sadly, this will be likely to make the other harmonics
worse, so only a portion of the offset will be useful.
The problem instead is to take a pile of y = mx + b
equations and simultaneously try to reduce their rms
error. Reducing the square of the errors is simpler
and works as well. We thus seek a minimum of...

       z = (m3x + b3)^2 + (m5x + b5)^2 + ...

A minimum (or maximum) results by finding the
slope and setting it to zero. Which seems to tell us
after expanding, differentiating, and regrouping

angle correction =
         -(m3b3 + m5b5 + ...)/( m3^2 + m5^2 + ... )/

Which implies that the best angle correction can
be directly calculated once rather than finding it
through a many step iterative process.

Much more on this as it develops.

Your comments welcome.

November 30, 2006

Apparently Dr. HTML has gone dark. This
was a superb free web site testing service.

Please let me know if you find any other useful
similar sites.

November 29, 2006

Latest GuruGram #70 is on Enhancing your
eBay Tactical Skills IV

Gonzo sourcecode for GG70 is available here.
Earlier tutorials in the series can be found
here, here, and here.

November 28, 2006

We are discontinuing sales of our slot machine
. Despite careful packaging, too many
are having shipping problems. Refurb also takes
me longer than the value they are returning. But
basically, I am tired of pissing around with them.

These remain perfect student PIC projects. And
( lacking any and all provision for coin or token
mechanisms ) they are completely legal in all

The remaining 45 or so are now available at $2.99
each. Strictly FOB Thatcher AZ. We will not
assist you in shipping in any manner beyond
free loading.

All are individually boxed. Some extra bulbs and
other parts are also available.

November 27, 2006

The Government Liquidation saga continues.

At one time, U.S. military surplus was sold
directly through their own DRMS service.

Where high risk and gross inconvenience got
combined with negligible competition and
unbelievably outstanding bargains. And for
which we did extremely well with everything
from nuclear holocaust fashion accessories to
tinfoil hat liners to water soluble swimsuits.

Sadly, someone discovered that it was costing the
feds $1.65 in admin costs for each dollar in sales,
and that simply dumping the stuff outside the
main gate with a "FREE" sign on it would be far
cheaper. Instead, the feds elected to privatize
mil surplus sales.

The main beneficiary of which was Government
, a for-profit firm in Scottsdale, AZ.

Things started out really great. But over the years,
the Government Liquidation closing bid prices of
test equipment went up so high we could no longer
afford to bid on them. Minimum bids were raised
to $50 on all items, some of which would have
been risky at $2.50.

At least some of their site managers became
legendary in their customer rudeness, inflexibility,
and intentional hassle creation. Maddingly
infuriating bid extensions meant that your
optimum bid window was a few milliseconds wide
precisely 42.7765 minutes into their closing hour.

Many military bases dramatically tightened
security and entry hassles. At least one base
would not make a phone call for you over a
200 foot distance.

As a result, we have personally been forced to
scale way back in our mil surplus involvement.
Substituting industrial distress auctions that
seem infinitely superior on most counts.

And, just as the mil surplus scene could not
possibly get any worse --- it did.

It seems another someone discovered that the
DRMS is still grossly inefficient. Similar to the
British Sailing Ship Bureaucracy whose size and
costs peaked many decades after the last sailing
ship was removed from service. Per this bizarre
. Or this one.

Apparently many surplus warehousing centers are
being closed or downgraded
. One consequence
appears to be that certain Government Liquidation
sites now list only a few worthless scrap items
instead of hundreds of potentially useful ones.
As in down to useless dregs. Arizona and New
seem particularly impacted.

As near as I can tell, DM Tucson surplus material
will be transferred to Northern Utah to save on
shipping costs. A mere 954 miles. Per this map.
Southern New Mexico stuff, of course, goes to
Central Colorado.

Obviously, there is definitely a major glitch today
in mil surplus availability
. Whether it is temporary
or permanent remains to be seen. As will what role,
if any, that Government Liquidation will play in
future surplus opportunities.

Or your own role, depending on where you live.
The places to be appear to be Eglin FL and
Mechanicsburg PA..

November 26, 2006

Some more notes on wind power: Turns out the
Aermotor farm windmill folks are still in business
and still grinding out classic inefficient windmills.

Pricing varies with tower height and diameter,
but around $12,000.00 is ballpark for the mill
and the tower combined. Naturally that is for
pumping only. A generator and such costs a lot
extra. As does shipping and installation labor.

Their recommendation is to have the blade bottom
an absolute minimum of fifteen feet above any
building or terrain, with an unobstructed distance
of 400 feet in any direction.

Normal recommended minimum spacing for more
modern wind farms is four blade diameters center
to center
and at least twelve blade diameters back
to back

The efficiency peak for most windmill technologies
has a rather narrow tip speed to wind velocity
ratio range. Thus fancy electronic regulation would
be a must if efficiency is to be optimized

Yes, there are vertical axis windmills that offer
interesting engineering tradeoffs. Some of which
might behave better near a building roof. These
the Darrius and Savonius Rotors. Both are low
efficiency and do not appear to be of much current
interest in "real" wind farms.

I get the impression that these "gee whiz" approaches
had their chance and blew it. Besides low efficiency,
the Darrius Rotor will not self-start and the Savonius
Rotor speed range and efficiency is much lower.

Few people are aware how severe a restriction the cube
of wind speed
is for efficient operation. You normally
would not want to live or work in any building where
the average wind speed was high enough to make for
practical energy production.

Even if you put windmills on the roof of such a building,
planting trees or earth berming to shield the wind would
save bunches more on heating and cooling costs than
any windmill scheme could ever hope to compete with.

Besides being ridiculously cheaper.

November 25, 2006

Decided to double check some fundamentals of
wind energy over yesterday's post. Mukund Patel's
newly revised Wind and Solar Power Systems
would seem a pricey but good place to start.

Where we find that recoverable wind energy is
nominally proportional to the square of the blade
diameter and the cube of the wind speed. We also
see that the maximum theoretically recoverable
wind energy is 59 percent and corresponds to an
exit wind velocity of one third the input speed.

Real world recoverable efficiencies include fast
two blade modern systems at 45% and the old
farm Aeromotors at 30%. But peaks are only
over a very narrow range of blade tip speed vs
wind speed.

Sure enough, working anywhere remotely near
the ground or a building roof is studiously
avoided. Towers at least four to five blade
are recommended for smaller diameter

Which makes this "what were they thinking?
building having many small windmills directly
on the front edge of its roof
be what those French
Veterinarians would call a "four paw".

The number of physical, electrical, economic,
and psychological fundamental errors here totally
boggles the mind. I'd give the blades three weeks
before the differential speed across them totally
wipes them out Naturally, their employees will
be long since gone because of the psyc stress.

When properly full burden accounted, there is no
way in hell that this absurdity can ever become a net
energy source.
And thus will forever remain a gasoline
destroying net energy sink.

Surely they did not do this on purpose. If they did,
I've got some ski condo timeshares in Arizona's
Whitlock mountains I'd like to sell them.

November 24, 2006

There's a lively discussion going on over in the newsgroup over an individual
who thinks that wind microarrays could form a major
alternate energy solution.

To me, this looks like the usual case of someone
who does not have the faintest clue what they are
getting into, have not done their homework, and,
for that matter, don't even know what homework is.

Naturally, they started off running to a patent attorney
over a concept that ( if workable ) would be totally
obvious to a practitioner in the field
. Besides having
centuries of prior art. And thus patently worthless.

Ideas succeed only when they reach the working model
beta test stage. Once long ago and far away, unproven
ideas used to sell for as much as a dime a dozen. But
these days, ten cents a bale in ten bale lots is wildly
beyond unrealistically optimistic

Fundamentals of why patents and patenting can be
ludicrously absurd for most individuals and small scale
startups appear here, while some guidelines of when
patents actually may be marginally useful appear here.

The bottom line is that many practitioners in the field
clearly agree that wind energy does not scale downward
worth a damn.

Several obvious things would appear to go against
very small windmill microarrays. The first is that
rule #001-A of wind engineering is to have a laminar
flow that is free of turbulence or areal gradients
. This
is one of the major reasons why useful windmills are
placed on high towers.

Smaller windmills placed on building roofs have an
obvious and grievous flaw: The wind velocity at the
bottom blade tips is near zero,
owing to the boundary
of the air layer in contact with the flat roof.
Giving us a second reason why useful windmills are
placed on high towers. The third, of course, is that
wind is much stronger at significant unrestricted
altitudes above ground level

There also can be very serious unresolved infrasonic
problems that cause extreme psychological stress
in people living in buildings with windmills attached.

But the main problem is that the economics suck.

Let's look at one possible set of numbers:
Four meters
per second average wind speed is way high for my area
and many parts of the country.
Which has an energy
capability of 39 watts per square meter

Best possible theoretical recovery would be 59 percent,
and a smaller
wind device more likely 20 percent. So,
eight watts per square meter effective recovery
for a wind device of one square meter area, or
a 44 inch or so diameter.

Total production in 24 hours would be 192 watthours
per day. Or around
two cents of electricity per day at
ten cents per kilowatt hour avoided

From we see that
$45.23 invested at
ten years at ten percent amortizes
out to two cents per day.

Thus there would be NO NET GAIN whatsoever if the
wind generator cost
more than $45.23. Assuming zero
labor and installation and maint costs.

To be a reasonably worthwhile endeavor, the 44 inch
windmill thus
must sell for a lot less than ten dollars.
Including both its regulator and
synchronous inverter.

Smaller wind machines, of course, would have even more
absurd economics.
There is also a tendency for wind
machines to not do well in their hub area. Smaller machines
might have a larger hub to useful blade ratio, further
diminishing their meager capabilities.

Now, yes, these figures are conservative. But the point
remains that no calculations whatsoever were apparently
. And it seems unlikely to me that any could be done
for most areas of the country that would be in any manner
better than conventional solutions.

November 23, 2006

At least one eBay seller is completely honest when
they stated " Buyer is responsible for all fright

Which should become a classic right up there with
the long ago offered swash stickers.

November 22, 2006

Photo postprocessing can get downright obsessive
at times. Ferinstance, what can you do when an
otherwise useful image has some bad burns in it?

Such as these "before" and "after" images that
you can click expand upon...


The first thing is to decide whether reshooting or
extensive rework is worth the time and effort

Next try some "around the edges" easy stuff to
see if somewhat reducing the hot spots makes
enough of a difference.

Then try crowding. In which you make the near
problem areas more contrasty, sharper, and
more uniform. Being very careful not to get too
or too obvious.

Followed by attempting direct repairs from the
outside working in. Then focus on the worst of
the "beyond salvage" areas.

From the good parts of the photo, extract some
pasteable objects. In this case, grab two or three
capacitors to a work area. White outline them and
correct any overlapping wires or defects. Then make
-90, +90, and +180 degree rotated copies of these to
form a catalog of useful shapes.

Paste the most obvious shape into the worst spot.
Being careful to de emphasize it by having part of
it under the label or having wires cross it in an
appropriate manner. Extend or modify the existing
wires so they center on the capacitor ends.

Continue working on smaller and smaller details,
again raising contrast somewhat, darkening, and
making things match and lineup
. Be sure to avoid
any gaffes at this point, such as wires that do not
go anywhere or capacitors that are not connected.

Very small problem areas can simply be made
muddy enough or obscure enough that the viewer's
attention is drawn elsewhere

Consulting and postproc services available. More
photo techniques on our Auction Help library page.

November 21, 2006

Order mixups are a bad scene all the way around.
It pays to set up all sorts of double checking by
at least two people to avoid problems. Your 30:1
Buy/Sell Ratio does give you a first order of
defense against an occasional mixup.

Writing the full customer name on the box where
the label will eventually go is a good idea. We
just had a mixup involving two orders whose first
name both were "Carl".

Placing a copy of the sender and intended
address inside the box on pricier items is also
a very good idea.

Trying to get items back or exchanging them is
usually bad news. IF one of the two recipients
has not yet received their half of the mixup, you
sometimes can ask them to refuse their delivery.

If you send something to the wrong person, they
are in every manner entitled to treat the item as
a gift. And are under no obligation whatsoever to
do anything
that in any manner would correct the
problem. Especially on their own cost or initiative.

If the items are fairly inexpensive and you have
lots in stock, comping a new shipment makes by
far the most sense. If you are out of stock, a
prompt refund of all costs is a very good idea.

Chances are the customer will be back when
they get to keep some unordered free stuff.

Telling both customers the email address only
of the other might get they to exchange parcels
after your total refund. But be sure you are out
of the loop
. Because neither is under any obligation
whatsoever to take any action or trust the other.

Even on a costly item, issuing an immediate
refund to the real buyer and prepaying return
shipping to the wrong one is a very good idea.
With, of course, the fastest possible emails that
explain what is coming down.

Should you actually get the item back, and should
it pass a very careful inspection, you can always
try re offering it to the original buyer. Whoever
sent the thing back to you deserves something
extra, such as a ten dollar gift certificate.

But only on receipt, of course.

Above all, find out why the mistake was made and
take steps to correct similar future problems.

More on similar topics in our Auction Help page.

November 20, 2006

How to spot an extroverted engineer: They
stare at your shoes, rather than their own.

November 19, 2006

Duh. Always try the obvious.

Only a third of our electronics store inventory
has been listed so far on eBay, and I have
recently gotten very lax about new listings.

One lame excuse has been that eBay just
introduced a fairly wonderful new way of
listing that was ridiculously faster and easier
than before. Then discontinued it because
of apparent quirks and bugs.

It finally occurred to me yesterday to use
old Adobe GoLive for my eBay listings.

This is ridiculously faster, gives you local
storage, makes links trivial, gives better
textwidth control, easy bolding, color
addition, use of tables, etc etc...

To interact, you copy the HTML code off
the GoLive screen and paste it into the
old eBay listing code. Being sure to only
have the description part and no headers.

Naturally, excess HTML is bad news on any
eBay listing. But forced paragraph breaks and
line lengths, URL links, bolding, an extra
image, or even limited additional color can
more than prove of value.

Sadly, Adobe does not seem to be further
developing GoLive. Apparently favoring
Dreamweaver instead.

More on our Auction Help library page.

November 18, 2006

Apparently, a web "sniffer" to monitor your
outgoing traffic is an incredibly complex and
subtle piece of gear. Because they seem to be
outrageously expensive and hard to get.

A freeware program called SNORT comes close.
But it is for the Linux crowd and there are major
Win XP use problems.

A simple "traffic monitor" utility that would
give you a thermometer display of your previous
day's activity and a URL list would go a long way
towards instantly spotting a spam source or
someone else taking control of your computer.

A warning that you sent 175,000 emails yesterday
might give you a clue that something might have
been slightly amiss. And ISP use of similar monitors
could dramatically reduce spam at its source.

email me if you know more about this than I do.

November 17, 2006

Factoring is an incredibly powerful math tool.
And I continue to be amazed by the "cubeless"
cubic technique that dramatically can speed up
cubic spline calculations.

Ferinstance At^3 + Bt^2 + Ct + D can be
reversed and factored down once into
D + t(C + Bt + At^2) and factored again
into D + t(C + t(B + At)) and computed
using nothing but multiplies and adds.

Rather than needing explicit calculation
of a square and a cube.

Similarly, yesterday's improved slope calc
is of form Ax + Bx^3 + Cx^5 + Dx^7.

Factor it once to get an intermediate result
of x(A + Bx^2 + Cx^4 + Dx^6) and again
for x(A + x^2(B + cx^2 + Dx^4) and again
for x(A + x^2(B + x^2(C + Dx^2).

While this does require calculating a square
(with the dup mul in PostScript), it eliminates
any direct need for third and fifth and seventh
order calculations.

Similar revelations in our Math Stuff library.

November 16, 2006

Did a little more work on the Spline-fitting-to catenary
we just looked at as GuruGram 69. Some rough and
preliminary additional analysis can be found as
PLOTERC1.PSL in our PostScript library.

First, the generalized equation for the slope of a
catenary as a function of a is ...

 dy/dx = x/a + x^3/3!a^3 + x^5/5!a^5 + x^7/7!a^7 + ...

which can be crudely but obviously coded as...

     /findslope { /xx exch store xx aa div
xx dup mul xx mul aa dup mul aa mul
     div 6 div add
xx dup mul dup mul xx
aa dup mul dup mul aa mul div
     120 div add
xx dup mul dup mul xx
     dup mul xx mul mul
aa dup mul dup
aa dup mul aa mul mul div 5040
     div add
1 atan  } store

This has the advantage of working for
any a that you predefine as /aa 0.5 store .
Making your code a lot more general.

This can be simplified and sped up by
letting w = x/a, reducing the equation

dy/dx = w + w^3/3! + w^5/5! + w^7/7! +...

Finding the actual rms errors is not that
big a deal if you are willing to work in
constant t space rather than constant x
space. Doing so greatly simplifies things
and remains a very good approximation.

The process is to find the A-H spline constants.
then for incremental t, find the equivalent x
and the equivalent y. The real y is also found
as cosh (equivalent x/a). The difference is the
instantaneous error. And the square root of the
summed squared distance divided by the number
of samples will be very close to your rms error.

Finding A-H is trivial from routines found in
the cubic spline library...

/findAH {

                /A x3 x2 3 mul sub x1 3 mul add
x0 sub store

                  /E y3 y2 3 mul sub y1 3 mul add y0
                  sub store

                  /B x2 3 mul x1 6 mul sub x0 3 mul
                  add store

                  /F y2 3 mul y1 6 mul sub y0 3 mul
                  add  store

                  /C x1 3 mul x0 3 mul sub store

                 /G y1 3 mul y0 3 mul sub store

                 /D x0 store /H y0 store

          } store

Doing so fairly quickly reveals an amazingly
good solution at an initial tension of 0.841 and
a final tension of 1.642. With an average error
of something like 0.0002.

Consulting services available.

November 15, 2006

Refurb Log:

While engineering notebooks are pretty much
ancient history, it is still a very good idea to start
a textfile log on each and every repair item.

Such a log should show all disassembly details
as they occur, connector polarities and wire colors,
and, above all, your logic thinking at each and
every part of the refurb.

Picked up an apparently mint Wavetek 1081 at
an auction that had not been powered in decades.

Initial powering seemed to work fine, then went
to bizarre display readings and strange front
panel responses after a few seconds. Which
might be consistent with a blown electrolytic.

The project was valuable enough that a service
log was started and the CD Wavetek Manuals were
immediately ordered on eBay for $9. After receipt
of the CD, oversize schematics were carefully
printed out and taped back together.

A careful visual inspection revealed nothing unexpected
in the way of loose connections, bad odors, or any
apparently stressed parts.

The back panel connector to the companion 1076
was disconnected without change. The manual
shows a convenient 2x5 terminal block with all
of the supply voltages on the top board. Checking
this immediately revealed the -18 volt line was
really at -0.6 volts. And a power-off Ohms check
revealed 0.4 Ohms to ground. A value far too low.

A blown regulator could be expected at this point,
but Wavetek's magic "superregulting" power supply
circuit had a fairly high impedance in the regulator
ground line Which preculded a direct internal short.

Also, the 7819 regulator does have internal short
circuit protection, and the -0.6 volts sounded just
about right. Thus the regulator could be moved
way down on the suspects list.

Removing the other boards did not remove the
short, leaving the main problem on the power supply
board itself. The manual proved very valuable in
dealing with the oddbal front panel knobs. To
remove, you nonobviously pry the knob cap off
with your thumbnail. And then use a large (!)
screwdriver to release the internal clamp.

"Obviously", that big old output capacitor was
bad. But stupidly cutting it did not remove the
short. Reminding us of the key rule of NEVER
assume ANYTHING that you have not proven!

And its iatragenesis co-rule of NEVER hurt the

Turns out there was also a bunch of low level
marker circuitry also on the power supply board.
Fortunately, removing the most expensive and
impossible to replace Harris IC from its socket
did not alter the short.

After carefully studying the entire circuit and
every -18 volt path, an obscure 10 microfarad
bypass capacitor C148 was found. Sure enough,
unsoldering one end of the cap (which is what
should have been done with the previous one!)
left the power supply impedance up at a few K
and a near dead short on the capacitor itself.

At this point, there may have been collateral
and you could still screw up by wrong
assembly or a connctor orientation mixup or
a bent pin. And additional capacitors could
easily blow on repowering.

But the basic problem had been corrected.

(To be continued, one way or another)

November 14, 2006

Latest GuruGram #69 is on Cubic Spline
Approximations to a Catenary Curve

Gonzo sourcecode for GG69 is available here.

November 13, 2006

Just picked up a HP Officejet Pro DTN inkjet
printer and am initially quite impressed with it.

Around $200 with rebate. Fast 37 pages per minute.
Separate cartridges for each color, so no throwing
away the magenta and yellow when you run out of
cyan. Instant automatic networking by plugging
it into a spare router slot. Optional full wireless.

But best of all, includes a simple snap-on duplexer
for automatic two sided printing. What happens
is the the back prints upside down and the page
is dried for a few seconds, then pulled back and
rotated 180 and the front prints normally.

Print quality is more or less "laser comparable".
Ink cartridges may be hard to find locally but
readily available online. Ink quality and endurance
has apparently been dramatically improved.

Thanks to Acrobat distiller, there no longer is
any need for PostScript built into any printer.
Just distill and print your .PDF file on any
modern printer.

November 12, 2006

Still need some advise and probably more than
some assistance in converting thousands of
Apple II 3-1/2 inch disk based textfiles
and other
files into a format usable for our website archive.

Present thinking is to go serial, then USB, then
to a USB drive. email me with your suggestions.

November 11, 2006

Added several recent files to the menu in
our GuruGram library.

November 10, 2006

Latest GuruGram #68 is on Fundamental Factors
Underlying Technical Innovation

Gonzo sourcecode for GG68 is available here.

November 9, 2006

Added several new links to our Auction Help
library page. Your own custom auction finder
can be created for you per these details.

November 8, 2006

Sometimes a sneaky workaround can be
better than either a sledgehammer cure or
no fix at all.

Our Log File reader custom software presently
has a hard limit of 65,535 log entry lines being
processed at once. The reason being that there
is a 65K limit on the size of any one PostScript

Splitting and recombining the file is an obvious
solution for really popular websites. But that
would need a major overhaul of the code.
Another possibility is to scan and group URL
sources by user. But that would take thousands
of extra passes through the entire long log file.

A solution I am exploring is to go into a sampling
mode above 65K
. You measure the total lines in
the log file. If they exceed 65K, you throw only
enough of them away at random to fit your max
permitted legal size.

Ferinstance, say your log file is 83K lines long.
You then pick a random number from 0 to 82.
If that number is less than 64, that line is used.
If not, that line is ignored.

You also print out the downsampling factor when
and where it actually is needed. And with that
many samples, your log info should still be much
more than statistically significant.

All done with trivial mods to the existing code.

November 7, 2006

What happens when you mix two signals together?

Because of two wildly different definitions of the
word "mix", untold confusion has resulted among
radio and audio engineers for many generations.

Mixing audio is done linearly. Meaning that you
simply add the two channels together. More often
than not, you will make one channel higher in gain
than the other seeking some sort of balance. And
you should end up with exactly the same frequencies
that you started with. Anything else may create
intermodulation distortion or other undesirables.

Mixing radio is done nonlinearly. Meaning that
you must in some manner multiply the two channels
together. With the intention of creating sum and
difference frequencies
. One of which is normally
used and the other rejected by filtering.

The key to radio (and tv and wireless, etc... )
mixing is this ( or a related ) trig identity...

    sin(u) sin(v) = 1/2 [ cos(u-v) - cos (u+v) ]

Thus, some sort of a multiplication is needed
if you are to get sum and difference frequencies
as useful outputs. Our trig identity above uses a
true four quadrant multiplier. These were at
one time quite expensive, but routinely see
wide use today.

A multiplication can result from any sort of
nonlinearity, intentional or nonintentional.

Suppose a diode or a comm channel or
whatever has a nonlinearity expressed as
a Taylor series something like...

    f(x) = ax + bx^2 + cx^3 + ...

The "a" here on our linear term is simply
our linear channel gain. Very often the cubic
and higher terms will be very small and can
be ignored. Leaving our square term to
create our main nonlinearity.

Note that...

  [ sin(u) + sin (v) ]^2 =
     sin(u)^2 + sin(v)^2 + 2sin(u)sin(v)

and that our final term is a multiplication.
This term results in our sum and difference

The loss of a traditional rf mixer depends upon
how strong the amplitude of the square term
in the nonlinearity is.

Mixers (espeically those that are not true
multipliers or doubly balanced can suffer
from various aliasing artifacts. the worst of
these is the image at B + 2(A-B) = 2A-B.
Other problems can be input feedthru, half
frequency artifacts from self-squaring, and
similar unwanted crossmod spurs.

November 5, 2006

Got to rewatch the Tommy rock opera by
The Who recently. Which raised several
obvious questions...

    Was there some sort of symbolism in
     the hang gliding over the last supper

   Could the Acid Queen sequence in
   some manner have been drug related?

   Could the scene where Mommy humps
   the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile be
   considered pornographic?

All in all, the final ten minutes include
some of the most spectacular and the
most stridently motivating music ever
recorded anywhere by anybody.

November 5, 2006

Our major GuruGram on the key secrets driving
recent technological innovation
seems to now be
stabilizing. And there's either a light at the end of
the tunnel or else a train heading towards us.

So far, we have got ( with news dates below ) ...

1. Decoupling. (aug 18)
2. Accurate replication. (sept 25)
3. Elimination of the gatekeepers. (oct 23)
4. Computing power insanely beyond awesome (oct 25)
5. Nonlinearizing the tyranny of time (oct 27)
6. 24/7 instant gratification via time compression. (oct 30)
7. Teeny Nano New Nu. (oct 31)
8. Virtualosity through disembodiment. (nov 1)
9. Programmability (nov 3)

And these now seem likely...

10. Devaluation
11. Indirect payback.
12. Unexpected value added
13. Hybridization
14. Increasing competitiveness
15. Lesser trends wrapup?

But I have a hollow feeling that I've missed
an obvious biggie or two.

What would you add to the list?
Please email me with your suggestions.

November 4, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological innovation, number nine on
our list would be programmability.

With programmability, a general purpose device
is "taught" to meet the needs of a specific user

while minimizing or eliminating entirely the need
for specialized, low volume, dedicated hardware.

While laptops and PC's are obvious examples,
the smaller embedded microprocessors such as
the PIC overwhelmingly dominate in the nunber
of units sold and their extensive use range.

A secret of programmability is often to repeatably
combine very simple steps of moving, adding, testing,
and performing fundamental logic operations. Many
individual steps repeated one at a time can go into
a programmable algorithm that gets a larger job done.

One key concept that makes a programmable
computer a computer is its ability to test. And
then, based on the results of that test, alter its
future course of action.
A test might view a
single bit flag and do nothing if cleared or branch
somewhere else if set. Typical flags are based
on a zero result, a negative number, or a set carry.

Another key concept of many programmable
devices is the ability of something external to
interrupt the normal action and temporarily go
on to perform a special task. A programmable
device that can do many things at once is said
to be capable of multitasking. Which often is
nothing but the creative use of interrupts.

Small programmable modules called subroutines
greatly simplify and organize the program code.
At the same time, they allow their own reuse at
many different points in the program sequence.
A fancier type of subroutine with well defined
inputs and outputs might be called an object.

My own very favorite programming tool is
called table lookup. In which you simply find
a previously known answer instead of going to
a lot of trouble to calculate it. My Magic
extensively use table lookups.

Some programmable devices combine their
instructions and data into one area, while
others keep the two as separate as possible.
Leading to differing Harvard and Princeton
computer architectures. Each with its own
proponents and unique capabilities.

While programming can be done at the individual
bit level, fancy tools have evolved using assembly
and various higher level languages.
Two differing routes towared programmability
involve interpreted code where everything gets
done as it comes up in sequence. Or compiled
that does whole tasks but is more complex
to initially create.

More examples on programming here.

November 3, 2006

Here are the arguments against the hydrogen

    1. Terrestral hydrogen is only an
or transfer media and not a fuel.

   2. Terrestral hydrogen creation is inefficient
        as considerably more energy of usually
        much higher quality has to be input than
        is eventually returnable.

 3. No large terrestral source of hydrogen gas
        is known. Water, of course, is a hydrogen
        sink and, by fundamental chemical energitics,
        is the worst possible feedstock.

The CONTAINED energy density of
       hydrogen by weight is a lot less than gasoline.

       And drops dramatically as the tank is emptied.
       The energy density of hydrogen gas by volume
is a ludicrous joke.

5. Virtually all bulk hydrogen is produced by methane
And thus is EXTREMELY oil

6. Hydrogen has the widest explosive range known,
least spark energy required for ignition, and
       has no known
colorants or odorants. Its flame is
       often invisible or nearly so.

7. There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline
       than there is in
a gallon of liquid hydrogen.

8. No effective vehicle compatible means of hydrogen
is known that is remotely as cheap, safe,
      dense, and convenient as carbon bonded hydrides.

  9. No infrastructure exists for gaseous hydrogen
      distribution. Pipelines in particular raise major
      density and embrittlement issues.

 10. Electrolysis from high value sources such as
        grid, wind, or
pv is totally useless as a hydrogen
        source because of the
staggering loss of exergy.
        There ALWAYS will be more
intelligent things
        to do with the electricity.

  11. Improper burning of hydrogen produces highly
nitrous oxides.

12. Terrestral hydrogen is basically a POLLUTION
INCREASES the pollution of
        its underlying sources. It is utterly ludicrous to
       claim that hydrogen is in any manner, way,
       shape, or form "nonpolluting".

  13. Hydrogen rots most metals through embrittlement.

  14. "Carbon Neutral" solutions would appear better
        than "Carbon Free"
because (A) A significant
         measure of the energy of most fuels is in its carbon
         fraction, (B) Carbon appears to be essential for
         convenient and safe room temperature liquids,
         and (C) Reformation is not required or else
         is simpler, cheaper, and wastes less energy.

  15. An optimal hydrogen storage solution exists by
        carbon bonding as in heptane or iso-octane.
        of these room temperature liquids ain't broke.

More info here, here, here, and here.
An energy efficiency solution here.
Research and consulting services here.

November 2, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological innovation, number eight on
our list would be Disembodied virtualosity.

It used to be that ideas, instruction, entertainment,
and escape were rigidly attached to their physical
distribution media. We had these funny pagey
things made out of dead trees we called "books".
Songs were molded into plastic disks with groves
or pits in them called "records" or "CD's".

Movies arrived on long pieces of tape called
"VHS" or on plastic disks with smaller pits called
. More timely info or escape were on
floppier and even funnier pagey things we called
Or once ( once very long ago and
far away ) "Newspapers".

And messages, of course, were ink placed on
paper and stuffed into envelopes. You than paid
the federal government to delay the delivery
of your message for up to a week or two.

The focus was usually on acquiring the physical
rather than its actual content. Naturally,
when and where possible, manufacturers would
obsolete one media format and come out with a
new one. Requiring all previously purchased
content to be bought anew. Thus eight track no
longer reins supreme.

At the same time, an elaborate "priesthood"
developed around physical media creation
and distribution. With the result that the original
creative sources (authors, composers, scholars,
etc.. ) of the IP intellectual property only
received the tiniest fraction of the final selling
price of the physical media being distributed.
And even that tiniest fraction was often stolen
outright through contractual ripoffs.

In each case, the content was physically locked to
its medium of distribution
. These days, though, most
information is simply disembodied bits floating around
in cyberspace. And deliverable at most any speed in
most any format, and freely accessible without physical

And, most importantly, readily convertible into any
chosen temporary physical format.
Present or future.

Threre is no particular difference between the
cyberspace bits used to convey a movie or a song
or a math textbook or a power bill or a crawling-on-
the-grass gothic novel. And no particular reason to
relegate any wanted combination of bits to any
specific "hard copy" distribution media or format.

Established media houses who feel that
"business as usual" can in any way, shape, or
form continue are awaiting a rude awakening.
Especially if they feel that suing their best
customers is a viable policy. Or feel that IP
sources do not deserve and must receive the
lion's share of the final selling price.

Virtual reigns supreme.

A related concept are the virtual sets now
common in tv and movie production. In which
live actors can be dropped into any imagined
environment. And done so from any camea
angle or zoom. Going far beyond traditional
blue screen or green screen video source

Such movies as Toy Story, Robots, or Cars
even got shot completely on location in
cyberspace. And bits and pieces of CGI
virtual animation show up everywhere.

Yet another virtual concept involves exactly
how and where and by whom things are going
to get designed.

At one time, electronic circuits were first checked
by breadboarding and mechanical assemblies by
physical prototyping. Current practice uses virtual
emulation, sinulation, and modeling instead.  

And a reasonable prediction would be that the next
big things along these lines would be the widespread
use and dramatic price reductions of new rapid
prototyping systems or Santa Claus Machines.

November 1, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological innovation, number seven on
our list would be Teeny nano new nu.

Things are getting smaller.

Many electronic components are now so small
you can't even see them and don't dare sneeze.
Which is bad for individual experimenters and
students, but otherwise has dramatically reduced
the size, weight, and cost of emerging electronics.

One early example was the Newtek Calibar. This
pen sized device completely replaced an entire
television studio full of test gear. While providing
cleaner and better waveforms to boot.

But you have to draw a distinction between "small"
and "really small." The latter also being called
nanotechnology. Great heaping bunches of very
interesting things happen when sizes approach the
molecular level.

Relative surface area goes up as volume goes
. And all the rules of friction, stiction, and
attraction/repulsion dramatically change. For
instance, the horsepower per pound of a
nanoturbine is ridiculously higher than that of
its full size bretheren.

By going to nano pore sizes in Super capacitors,
their energy density can be significantly increased.
A new technology called Quantum Dots promises
to lead to pv solar panels that may someday become
true net energy sources that are both renewable and

Many unusual chemical and electronic and
medical properties emerge with strange shapes
at the nano level. Most notable of which are
Buckyballs and hexagonal carbon tubes.

And quantum computing itself on the nanoscale
promises to do complex things in interesting ways.

Chemists and biochemists in particular are excited
about building entire instruments at integrated
circuit scale. For chromotography, DNA analysis,
and even direct neural interconnects.

October 31, 2006

A cheap once-a-week mouthwash that completely
eliminates dental cavities
sounds too good to be
true. But it apparently is completely legit research
proceeding at a faster than expected pace.

Per this original research, this activity today, and
these links for more info.

October 30, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological innovation, number six on our
list would be 24/7 instant gratification via time

The industrial trade journals that are in the process
of self-destructing give us a classic example here. The
"standard" way of selling an indutrial product used to
be to take out a $15,000 ad in a trade journal, wait a
few weeks for it to be published, wait a few more weeks
for a bingo card recipient lead list, wait a few more weeks
to mail our printed literature or alert your reps, and then
wait a few more weeks for an order or two to dribble in.

These days, any more aware industrial supplier has an online
24/7 store.
One that, of course, welcomes single and small
quantity orders. From anybody, anyplace, anytime. And
makes all of their pricing conspicuously obvious.

They also have full product info available, free downloads
of any software needed to run their systems, and totally
free repair and service manuals. Including continuing
full support on older and obsolete products. All created at
the tiniest fraction of traditional data books and print
service costs. And with zero waste or obsolescence.

At least this is true of roughly half of the industrial
suppliers online today. The rest will either quickly
follow suit or will shortly render themselves into
noncompetitive nonentities.

The outcome is not the least in doubt.

Meanwhile, there are new industrial data agglomerators
who gather in industry wide data for your instant and
fully objective availability. One major example of which
is the Data Sheet Archive.

Topo Maps are another obvious example. A complete
collection of any larger area was outrageously expensive,
easily harmed, and hard to maintain. For just a hiking
trip, a visit to an outdoors store might have been needed.

Today, you might go to Topozone and print out the latest
info on exactly the size and scale you need. Without any
infuriating borders or page crossings, even. But chances
are you'll be attracted to such newer and more flexible
services that combine map info with aerial photography
and other services. Such as Google Maps, Google Earth,
or TerraServer.

email is perhaps the most dramatic example of 24/7
instant gratification

A Google Search, of course, is a nearly perfect example.
What used to be a frustrating trip to a library and a
possible six week wait for a no longer available
Interlibrary Loan that might or might not happen can
now usually be resolved in a few seconds.

Even at 2 AM on a Sunday morning.

October 29, 2006

A lively discussion of the new CIGS pv
solar breakthrough is going on now at

Although I find it more than curious that
while many billions of dollars are being
poured into the fusion engineering rathole,
and while California is blowing nine billion
by paying people to put gasoline
destroying net energy sinks on their roofs,
that a big deal is made at throwing a few
million of pocket change at what has extreme
to becoming a major and near in
solution to genuine renewable and sustainable
low pollution net energy.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

October 28, 2006

Made another major auction find: A pair of
near-mint KIM-1 microprocessor trainers!

These 6502 devices predated the Apple and
introduced a generation to microcomputer
fundamentals. Besides being eminently
collectible, these have provenance as I actually
used them in my early microcomputer classes.

They are factory authorized KIM-1 clones
absolutely identical to the originals. And
wall chart schematics.
These have been
slightly modified ( convenient power cables,
a ground clip, and a few output test points
for scope access ), but are eaily and fully
restorable to original condition.

Also have a bunch of related SYM-1 micro
awaiting some checkout and refurb.
These are more of a back burner project.

email me if you have any interest in these.

October 27, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological development, number five on our
list would be Nonlinearizing the tyranny of time.

"The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on."
ain't necessarily so any more. At one time, type was
painstakingly set one line at a time. Typewriters worked
with one character at a time. Movies were edited by cutting
and splicing with scissors and glue above the cutting room
floor. Video similarly was A-B roll edited only in real time.

In book publishing, it was an absolute no-no for an author
to try and tell the publisher how the text and words were
to be arranged. And woe be to the author who dared try
to --gasp -- change even one word after typesetting. For
it was outrageously expensive and time consuming to
do so.

These days, of course, we routinely typeset first and
edit last.
With zero cost penalties and great heaping
bunches of benefits. Because we can now do nonlinear

The original breakthrough in this ability happened when
word processors became screen oriented rather than
line oriented. You could now edit and change anything
you could see. Such techniques as cut-and-paste and
spell checking and advance outlining became routine.

And a whole new level of capabilities got added when
layout programs became document oriented rather
than screen oriented.

Missed a paragraph? No problem. Just let it ripple
on through the whole story. Regardless of how many
pages are impacted. Reposition a figure so its text
is relevant? No biggie. Tivial, even.

The similar breakthrough in video and movies came
about with the Video Toaster and related software.
That let you store your entire movie or show in
instantly accessible form. You could now easily
combine old and new material in any order regardless
of its time sequence.
And, of course, CGI and sound
synchronization manipulated it in previously undreampt
of ways.

Thus shattering the tyranny of time.

October 26, 2006

Just picked up an exceptionally clean Wavetek
1081 + 1076
combo at an auction. This is the
system for broadband swept cable system
measurements. Usable to 1000 MHz.

It literally sat unused in a climate control cabinet
for most of its life and probably has less than three
hours of actual use.

We have yet to check it out and pick up the
readily available documentation for it.
Please email me if you have any interest in
this outstanding instrument pair.

October 25, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological development, number four on our
list would be Computing power insanely beyond awesome.

Back in the olden days, adding one vacuum tube to a
system involved a major upheaval in size, cost, and
power consumption. But these days, adding another
half million transistors to say, an electric can opener,
is no big deal at all. Chances are they are already
sitting underused in the microprocessor of choice.

Engineering and other math analysis at one time had
to be super efficient because of the value of the user's
But throwing another ten million calculations at
something is now often trivial.

Thus, many brute force solution methods now become
eminently practical. And driven by the utterly unbelieveable
and unprecedented drop in the cost of memory and the
availability of raw computing power.

Two examples of brute force math techniques that have
only recently become feasible include our Magic Sinewaves
and our updated Fun With Fields tutorials. As have the
recent stunning advances in CGI computer animation.

October 24, 2006

Jeff Goddell's new Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind
America's Energy Future
is a very good read.

Where we find that despite wildly overoptimistic
claims of recoverable coal reserves, coal remains
by far the cheapest and simplest means of generating
electricity in the US.
With zero foreign dependence.

At least when such minor externalities as its
catastrophic global warming are ignored. And
by using "business as usual" accounting

I find it interesting to compare the two power
plants in Springerville. To the west is a pv
plant whose only tiny little problem is that it
remains a huge energy and dollar sink.
silently producing little polution noiselessly with
few employees and virtually no environmental
hasles. And incrementally expandable.

Whose expansion has been dramatically scaled
since the economics today make no sense
. Because there is no way in hell that
conventional silicon pv panels can ever become
a net energy source. When properly full burden
at the system level.

To the east is a coal plant being significantly
expanded along with some patchwork pollution
add on repairs. Despite their source mine being
expected to run out of coal within three years.

Right now, coal remains king. But I expect pv
to eventually displace much of it, especially for
peaking uses. First because coal will become
more and more expensive as externalities such
as huge carbon dioxide loads are addressed.

And secondly because of new fundamental
breakthroughs in pv involving CIGS and
Quantum Dots and roll-to-roll room temperature
and pressure processing that hold great promise
for pv eventually becoming a useful net energy

One that quite likely has the future potential to
become truely renewable and sustainable.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

October 23, 2006

Continuing our analysis of the key secrets driving
recent technological development, number three on our
list would be Elimination of the gatekeepers.

Also known as disintermediation.

A gatekeeper was a profit stealing and time wasting
obstructionist between you and something you needed
or wanted.

The internet has not only eliminated gatekeepers,
but also the gate itself and the fence the gate was
at one time supposed to go into.

Obvious examples are used car dealers, manufacturer's
representatives, book publishers, music companies,
scholarly journal houses, and, ( sadly ) librarians.

Anyone reasonably swift can now use the online Blue
to find exact vehicle values. And can buy or sell
the cars themselves via Craig's List, eBay, or any of
a number of online Auto Trader publications. To the
point of which it is fundamentally insane to buy off a
used car lot.

I consider manufacturer's representatives to have
been the vilest of the vile, several evolutionary steps
below, say, lawers. These epsilon minuses made it
virtually impossible to find out how much something
actually cost.
Or to get hassle free technical info in
a timely manner. Replaced, of course, by 24/7 online
stores and totally free instant technical information.

At one time book publishers offered extensive services
not available elsewhere. Such as art departments,
type setting, competent editing, or economics of scale.
With the possible exception of promotion and marketing,
there is nothing a modern book publisher does that you
cannot do faster, cheaper, and better by yourself.
Or by
cash-and-carry targeted web alternatives. And their

Similarly, the only purpose I can see for record companies
is to steal royalties off their talent. They accomplish
absolutely nothing useful otherwise
and clearly no
longer serve any worthwhile societal purpose. Anybody
that wants to can now pick up their own recording
studio for pocket change.

Publishers of scientific journals are a good example
of gatekeepers in the process of self destruction. An
individual today has the choice of paying a journal
many hundreds of dollars to publish their paper after
a long delay and then making the issues so expensive
that their own school libary cannot afford a copy. Or
of instantly and freely web publishing to a worlwide
audience. To survive, the journal publishers must
realize that copies of every paper more than three
years out of date should be available free and without
ANY restrictions
, not even a registration. Except
perhaps for a sane monthly access limit.

Librarians were classic gatekeepers. Many of whom
were control freaks. But the notions that the gatekeeper,
the infoseeker, and the infosource had to be in the same
place at the same time, or that the info somhow had
to be "returned", or that access was restricted to
anything less than 24/7 are clearly ludicrous today.
As to online access, Burger King ( and similar WiFi
locations ) offer better service and more info access
convenience than do most libraries.

With far fewer food and drink restrictions.

October 22, 2006

We will shortly have the last cabinets of our "2SX"
semiconductor assortments up on eBay. These
Pacific Rim replacement transistors have become
extremely hard to find.

We also have several dozen larger quantities of
specific "2SX" part numbers individually antistatic
bagged, often in groups of fifty. Many obsolete
semi houses have a $250 line item minimum on these
items, when and if they can be found at all.

With the new ROHS regulations, the price of these
can shortly be expected to go through the roof. We
are unlikely to find any more beyond our present

October 21, 2006

What is a "reasonable" amount to spend at a
live auction if you are serious about significant
eBay selling?

Firstoff, if you do not make a $25 mistake at an
auction, you are not bidding aggressively enough.

But otherwise, you should strictly "bottom feed",
continually offering only lowball bids. Preferably
on "contents of cabinet", "contents of room",
high count inventory, or on "pass - combine it with"
poisioned lots clearly requiring triage.

Distant auctions may involve additional fixed
expenses that can get waaay out of hand beyond
125 miles. But you can sometimes combine
other activities such as exploring restrauants
or visiting friends or camping or just traveling
somewhere new to offset part of the cost.

To justify an auction, there has to be at least one
"gottahave" item locally, five of them for an
hour's drive, and twenty of them for a major event.

Which is why live or online previews are crucial.

As is continuous and extreme research to pin down
the more obscure auctions unlikely to be well
attended or overbid.

If you are careful about religiously seeking out
a 30:1 sell buy ratio, then spending $200 at a local
auction for a possible $6,000 return makes sense
if you attend at least one auction every two weeks.

On the other hand, spending $2000 at an industrial
distress auction for a possible $60,000 return need
only be done twice or so per year.

The best solution, of course, is a mix of routine
low return auctions and the occasional one where
everything goes just right and you hit it big.

I'd be hesitant to spend more than $12,000 at any
one auction because that is a lot of money to risk
that could go wrong in many different ways. Not
the least of which is grossly overvaluing what you are
bidding on, its condition, and its marketability.

Plus, the chances are that similar auctions will happen
in the future that will let you widely spread your risk.

If you win more than five percent of your bids, you are
Paying waaay to much.
Naturally, you make up for this
by bidding on twenty times the lots you could possibly use.

More on live auctions in this tutorial.

October 20, 2006

The evidence that all is not well with military surplus
continues to pile up. Government Liquidation offerings
in certain states ( especially Arizona and New Mexico )
are now down to useless dregs. The bottom of the barrel
is clearly being scraped. Current volumes would obviously
seem far below their operating costs.

When all this settles down, will their be a huge bubble
opportunity of way too much stuff dumped all at once?
Who, if anyone, will be offering surplus items? Or is this
the end of mil surplus bargains once and for all?

As mentioned before, we have backed way off on
mil surplus because of price runups, arrogant site
managers, infuriating bid extensions, and site
security issues. Our present focus is mostly on
industrial distress auctions.

Such as these. Your own custom eBay supply source
finder can be created for you from this service.

October 19, 2006

Continuing yesterday's guidelines on eBay item
storage: Several rooms of our house are dedicated
to shipping and immediate storage of smaller items.
A shop area is reserved for refurb.

A few huge items are occasionally stashed in the
driveway or beside our spa area. We try to avoid
these unless an exceptional opportunity arises.

A $45,000 doghouse in the back yard (actually a
photo processing lab bought from the feds for $175)
holds useful and convenient storage of popular and
mid-sized items.

But our main storage consists of five rental units a
block or two away. Right now, our focus is on making
our available storage much more efficient through
better inventory control and heavier triage.

There is room for a steel building in the back yard,
but the present dollar volume does not quite justify
it. And, as others continue to conclusively prove,
eBay does not scale worth a damn.

There is an optimal size for any eBay business.
Try to exceed it at your peril. Several of the largest
eBay sellers just got done by greed and excessive
fixed cost expansion.

Additional tutorials on our Auction Help library page.
Including this eBay selling tutorial and this eBay
buying tutorial.

October 18, 2006

There's a lively discussion on what you need for
eBay storage solutions over on the
online.ebay newsgroup. I thought we might start
a list of guidelines that work for us here...

~ Avoid any and all long term future obligations.
     Rent storage by the month, not the year.

 ~ Immediately triage incoming items, converting
     lots of big items into fewer smaller ones.

  ~ Avoid placing anything in storge that has not
     already paid for itself. Seek out a 28 day cash
     out and a 15 month hang time.

   ~ Collect bargain shelving and oddball cabinets
      from local auctions. But never pay more than
      $2.50 each.
Use these to organize and make
      your storage more efficient.

  ~ Seek out alternate storage solutions, such as
     a rentable house or excess garage space or
     a distress real estate location.

  ~ Always handle items with extreme care. Most
     especially when loading and unloading.

  ~ Agressively keep accurate inventory records.
     Never store anything that you do not know
     what it is or when you are going to sell it.

  ~ Have an Alvin Pile where you can immediately
     flush anything that is not working for you.
     Preferably getting paid in the process.

   ~Have different storage areas for immediate
     inventory, long term winners, and stuff that
     needs further processing.

   ~ Chances are a forklift can be rented from a
      nearby lumberyard or machine shop by the hour
      if you only occasionally need one.

   ~ Clutter will eat you alive the instant you turn
      your back on it. Continuously maintain neat and
      orderly work areas.

  ~  Be sure to use theTOP HALF of any storage area.
     This can cut your costs by two.

  ~ If you haven't dealt with it in fifteen months, you
     ain'g gonna. Flush it NOW.

  ~ Don't store anything that you are going to end
     up throwing away two years from now anyway.

  ~ If you touch an item that has been in storage
     deal with it NOW. Never set it aside.

   ~ Treat items that will need refurb or repair
      seperately from routinely sellable new items.

  ~ A handtruck and a dolly or two can be enormously
     useful. But avoid buying new or paying list price for

   ~ Metal storage buildings ($15K) or shipping
     cotainers ($1700) are not all that expensive and
     quickly can pay for retail rentals. Available land
     and zoning permitting. But long term sales volume
     has to be justifiable. Perhaps 100K in yearly sales to
     justify a 10K investment.

   ~ Avoid selling anything that you cannot hold
      extended at arm's length.

   ~ Shit floats to the top. If you find yourself forever
      moving an item to get at what is underneath,
      flush it.

   ~ The sooner you get rid of useless trash, the

  ~ Continuously review what you have stored where.

We'll probably be adding to this list over the next
few days, so be sure to check back.

October 17, 2006

Instant and efficient hot water involve conflicting
goals. It takes a ridiculous amount of current to
rapidly heat water, which in turn puts outrageous
demands on needed wiring and peak loads.

As a result, many individuals will end up sorely
disappointed with hot-water-on-demand systems.

Especially direct resistance heated ones.

Secrets of efficient hot water are: (1) do not
let the water cool between heating and use;
(2) do not heat the water any more than its
needed temperature. (3) use low exergy energy
such as gas or a heat pump, (5) Place the heating
and use areas as close as possible. (6) Start with
room temperature water rather than winter ground
temperature water. (7) Preheat and prestore at
least some hot water for initial use. And (8) use
where the heated water is an otherwise
wasted byproduct of HVAC systems.

Here's the fundamental math involved:

One BTU is the amount of energy needed to
raise the temperature of one pound of water by
one degree. One BTU is also 0.2931 or roughly
one third of a watt hour.

There are eight pounds of water per gallon,
so eight BTU per heated degree. Room
temperature water would need something
like a 50 degree rise, and outside supply
water as much as a 90 degree rise or higher.
Thus as much as 90 x 8 = 720 BTU's would
be needed per gallon of water. Or 210 watt
hours of energy.

If a gallon of water was to be heated in
an hour, then a reasonable 210 watts of
power would be needed. Heating the gallon
in a minute would need 60 times as much
or 12,600 watts. Or a 100 amp service at
110 volts. And faster heating rates would
quickly become utterly outrageous.

Typical home systems providing more useful
hot water rates typically demand exclusive
use of two 40 amp circuits
. Whose provision
and upgrading costs have to be included in
your analysis.

Looking to the future, this might end up a killer
ap for supercapacitors. Where the energy
is accumulated at a sane rate and then
delivered at an insane one. Thus load levelling
and dramatically reducing peak powers and
installation costs.

October 16, 2006

Despite statements from others that "books will
last forever, I strongly feel that the utter and total
demise of books is suddenly going to happen a lot
faster than most everybody expects

Driven by the near infinite superiority on all counts
of electronically distributed media. And aided by
such factors as the iPod phenomena, a student revolt
aginst backpacks
, and routine acceptance of lousy
by cellphone users. Arrival of a "perfect"
book reader or its equivalent is only a matter of weeks
away at the very most.

All of which, I believe, slams the door completely
on Book-on-Demand publishing. Which I once felt
very strong about and was very much into.

Links to the remaining BOD faithful can be found
. But it seems to me that the BOD window of
opportunity is long since gone. And, at best, was
simply an illusion.

The real killer of BOD, though was that nobody
was willing to step up with a suitable collate-jog-
$600 device essential to BOD success.
Those few machines available typically cost several
hundreds of thousands of dollars, used old technology
designed and sold in old ways, and remained basically
unreliable, high maintenance, and hard to use.

Not to mention outrageously high per-book
amortization costs. Or their need to continuously
run at 100 percent capacity.

Possibly some really innovative solutions could
have happened, such as using a waterknife for
trimming and some sort of a pressure clamping
binding system. As might some sort of a hybrid
where the cover had a chip in it with
fully searchible and linkable content.

October 15, 2006

Our new mail server seems to be up and running
and working well. Improvemnts include the spam
of the 500 or so spams we get each day,
better accepted names alias control, and better
remote access.

We have a particular problem of needing two
workstations to independently access the same
messages without interaction.
This is solved by
leaving messages on the host and cloning a
second mail file that autocopies the first.

Once again, some messages may have been
missed or lost, and our spam filter may be
too aggressive. So be sure to email us if
we seem slow responding to recent email.

October 14, 2006

As I mentioned before, I am very much a Netflix
fan. Just revisited the Ken Burns Civil War series.
Where we discover that McClellan was by far the best
general the South had. And that the South won the final
battle of the civil war!

Students these days will want to be sure not to miss the
final disk so they can find out how it all turns out. In the
seldom viewed alternate ending, Grant shows up drunk
at Appomattox during his surrender to Lee.

Comparing the Original to the New Hitchhikers Guide
vids is not even close. The original is infinitely better
on all counts
. Especially the cheezy special effects.
Note that there is a separate bonus disk for the original
tv series.

One of my favorite vids of all time ( right up there with
Godzilla versus the Night Nurses ) was Putney Swope.
Which is not nearly as totally outrageous as it once was
but remains eminently viewable. Curiously, the new
comments correct a myth about the original: The
helicopter guy was a random Mel Brooks, but not the
Mel Brooks. And Putney himself could not remember
lines, so the black is voiceovered by Robert Downey.

Netflix has an amazing number of listings and lets you
reserve titles far ahead of their actual availability.
A few rare and ancient comedies apparently have not
yet made it to DVD. Two I'd like to resee are Make
Mine Mink
and Our Man in Havana.

Two of my favorite available videos remain This is
Spinal Tap
. Which is a rock documentary about
England's loudest band, once called the New Originals.
Besides being noted for their punctuality, their Heavy
Metal Memories
album went pewter.

Plus, of course, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
Which is best categorized as a medical racing science
fiction horror rock documentary love story comedy
action adventure
. And is unquestionably the finest
movie of its type ever made.

"No matter where you go, there you are".
Apparently they actually made this film on purpose.

Two other gems remain The Mouse that Roared
and Safety Last. The latter of which is of particular
interest to cavers and climbers. Where the only safety
net was a small matress on a smaller ledge high on a
building. When they tested the matress with a dummy,
the dummy bounced off and flipped seven stories down
into traffic. All stunts were real! And done with missing
fingers! But they did cheat a little on camera angles.
Be patient with this flick. It starts out rather dull and

And, of course, it includes THE clock scene.

October 13, 2006

We are upgrading and moving to a new mail server.

As a result, there may have been some mail missed
or unanswered in the last few days
. Please try
contacting us again at if you are
experiencing any problems.

October 12, 2006

Google Maps apparently has been quietly replacing
much of their older satellite imagry with newer and
higher resolution aerial photos. I've paricularly noticed
dramatic improvements in the area north of Pittsburgh,

I also happened to notice that the lumps of coal that I
found in the woods below my grade school many moons
ago are now the world's smallest strip mine.

What is really exciting is where Google Maps, Google
, and others are going with online mapping. The biggie
cavers are waiting for is stereo to find sinkholes. Resolution
of a tenth meter should be well within reach.

As should variable spectra multithresholds in which you can
false color blend ultraviolet, blue, green, red, and infrared
spectra for such uses as crop health investigation and such.

Plus a variable mix of topo and geopolitical data. Such as
this crude demo I did a ways back of Pacman, Arizona.

Similar goings-on in our Fonts & Images library.

October 11, 2006

I've always been fascinated by math models and
statistical analysis
. Even if the model does not
accurately describe the underlying situation.

Someone complained that they went to an auction
and did not get anything. What are the odds of this

Assume that there are 40 bidders and 1000 lots.
Assume further that the someone did a proper
preview, there are no shilling games, and that all
other bidders are equally motivated.

We could expect something like a Modified Raleigh
distribution of outcomes, with the someone scoring
on 25 lots being the peak. On any one lot, their odds
of a miss are 39/40 or 0.975.

On 40 lots, you would expect "one time constant" or
1/e odds of (0.975)^40 = 0.36233 to miss or about 2:1
odds of a hit.

On 1000 lots, your odds of not getting anything at your
auction would be (0.975)^1000 or 1.01071e-11.

Or one in 100 billion or so. aka "ain't gonna happen".

Similar topics in our Math Stuff and Tech Musings
and GuruGram libraries.

October 10, 2006

We are repeatedly asked about our NO FOREIGN 
SALES policy. First and foremost, that is what we
offer. If you do not like it, leave.

No exceptions. Ever.

Over the years we have carefully experimented with
foreign sales and have consistently and repeatedly
found that foreign sales are not remotely worth the
time and effort of seeking them out.

If you are a success with domestic sales, you do not
need any foreign ones. If you are not, then foreign
sales will not help you in any manner.

Some specifics...

~  Foreign sales invite ripoffs and scams.
~  Shipping costs are higher.
~  Fulfillment takes much longer.
~  Closure takes ridiculously longer.
~  Delivery times are a joke
~  Theft is endemic.
~  There are stiff fees for currency conversions.
~  Our suppliers contractually forbid such sales.
~  Shipping damage is more likely
~  Honoring guarantees becomes cost prohibitive.
~  Keytowing to bureaucracy NEVER pays.
~  Communications barriers create problems
~  Lying on green slips is an international crime.

And most of all...

~  Certain countries ( most especially Canada )
    are CERTAIN to cause you grief.

More in our Auction Help library page.

October 9, 2006

The plot thickens till it clots. Curiouser and
curiouser. One of the apparent reasons for the
Government Liquidation lack of useful stock
is that DRMS is going through a "cost cutting"
measure that seems to be equal measures of
tragedy and farce.

Emerging details can be found by searching on
MEO for "most efficient organization" and the
A76 Competition. You can start here for the
emerging details of this seemingly clueless
bureaucratic fiasco.

Such as this typical doc. Or this one.

Apparently dozens of DRMS warehouses will
be or have been closed
, including Holloman and
Kirtland. Davis-Monthan seems to remain

The bottom line seems to be this: There is
now a major ongoing glitch in military surplus
availability that may or may not be terminal
How much of what role Government Liquidation
will play in whatever emerges remains unclear.

October 8, 2006

There seems to be a bunch of "new" Arizona
auctioneers and auctioneer wannabees. I've
just added Amazing Auctioneers and a few others
to our Arizona Auction Resources listing. Along
with Proxibid.

Your own custom regional auction finder can
be created for you per these guidelines.

Additional live and eBay auction info here.

October 7, 2006

Refurb Log:

Had lots of unreasonable difficulty finding some
nuts for a lot of bulk miniature phone jacks picked
up during our recent electronic distributor buy.
And offered on our eBay store
Perhaps a general review of nutedness and boltedness
is in order.

There are two basic types of threads, English and
. A comparison of which can be found here.

Classic electronics used English with sizes #4-40 and
#6-32 for most component mounting, with the oversize
binder head being very popular. Sturdier stuff used
#8-32 and #10-32. Note that #10-32 is an example of
a "fine" thread. Some hardware stores may still stock
"stove bolts" that have a less used #10-24 "standard"
thread. These nuts are sometimes square.

The typical "very small" threads were #2-56. Sources
of even smaller bolts and nuts include J.L. Morris and
various advertisers in Model Railroader magazine.

Good sources for regular sized nuts and bolts include
Small Parts and McMaster Carr. Your own local
hardware store, auto parts store, or Home Depot may
surprise you with their availablity. But the quality may
be low, the sizes larger, materials and finish choices
limited, and the costs outrageous.

Over on the metric side of the fence, threads are normally
expressed as #6-1.0 or similar. Meaning a six millimeter
and a one millimeter thread pitch. A 6 mm
bolt or nut is very close to a quarter inch size, but, of
course, is not thread compatible. A "normal" or
"corase" threaded metric nut might be #6-1.0, while a
normal "fine" threaded one might be #6-0.75.

Similarly, a #M5- is a little bigger than an English #10,
a #M4- is slightly smaller than an English #8-32 and a
#M3.5 is pretty close to an English #6-32.

It ended up that the submin phono jacks used "none
of the above" threads, being an ultra fine #M6-0.5 for
the miniature jack and #M4-0.5 for the subminiature one.
Turns out these enormously difficult to find sizes are
stocked by Mouser as part numbers 48KN004 and 48KN006
on catlog page 1479.

October 6, 2006

There seems to be some further evidence bolstering
my feeling that all is not well with Government
. As we've seen, Arizona and New Mexico
listings are dramatically down. Typically being less
than a dozen scrap items compared to the normal
hundreds of useful ones.

This GAO Report has some very negative things to
say. At present, they are complaining that they are
"only" getting twelve cents on the dollar. What they
missed out on is that before GL, they were literally
paying people to haul surplus away due to outrageous
admin costs. Something like $1.64 admin for each
$1.00 in sales.

And this new Internet Ripoff Report also seems to
suggest somewhat less than stellar vibes.

This Earlier Historical Analysis is also of interest.
Relevant parts start on page 45.

October 5, 2006

One of the persistent myths of eBay is that
"whatever works for Wal-Mart should also work
for eBay.". In reality, the success strategies are
pretty much exact opposites.

eBay is inherently a low volume, high fulfillment
cost, highly customized, unpredictable, extreme
value added, non real time, erratic, self-competitive,
and widly non-scalable
sales venue.

Some of the eBay rules that work for me are
found in our eBay Selling Secrets tutorial.

First and foremost is maximizing your personal
value added
by offering unique products that you
have specialized expertise in. And feel very strongly
about. Items that are not available elsewhere.

Second is a decent sell/buy ratio. Most eBay sellers
try to squeak by on ludicrously low margins. My
mininum recommendation is to always seek out a
30:1 or higher SBR

Suitable supply sources are found here.

Third is minimizing your fulfillment costs by
absolutely no foreign sales combined with a
strict policy of VISA/MC/Paypal only.

Fourth is NEVER drop shipping and NEVER buying
wholesale. Nor selliing anything you do not personally
own and have posession of.
Nor anyting that you cannot
hold extended at arm's length. Nor any item with excessive
scam potential, such as ANY consumer electronics.

Fifth is optimizing your time return by initially
listing at higher than expected prices. Always
aim for a 28 day payback and a 15 month hang

Sixth is keeping absolute control of all of your
costs. If you are not including your pro rated
water bill
in your cost accounting, chances are
overwhelming that you are running at a net loss.

Always know your Leavenworth Ratio, or how
much net net net you are getting per hour compared
to prison labor rates. Minimum wage, of course, is
far beyond the pale for the majority of eBay sellers.

Seventh is proper image post processing. A mininum
of two hours per image is recommended, because
few other eBay activities can generate such a high
return for time spent.

Much more on our Auction Help library page.

October 4, 2006

Added R&S Auctions to our Arizona Auctions
listing. This was the last major holdout of
the larger AZ auctioneers to create a web presence.

Just completed a new Northern Ohio Auctions
listing. Doing so turned into quite a trip.
Apparently every man, woman, child, and Holstein
cow in Ohio is an auctioneer.

And most of them seem to have bad hair. Not a problem
in Arizona where nearly all auctioneers ( male and female )
dress western. and all wear cowboy hats. One sight to
behold was Good Ole Boy Bruce Tingle dressed in his
classic western garb while modeling a mink stole.

Or then again, maybe not.

There really is an Ohio auctioneer named Shilling. And
another named Marks. The obvious thing for them to
do is to merge into the Shilling Marks Auction House.

More on which here.

Many auctioneers still do not even have email addresses
and consider the web to be a threat rather than an opportunity.
eBay, of course, is beyond the pale. The general quality of
many auctioneer websites remains mesmerizingly awful.

I purposely limited my Ohio listings to auctioneers that
had real and working web sites. I further required that
combined realtors and auction houses had to have a
strong presence
on the "things and stuff" side rather
than on the "land and houses" side.

Some of the resources I rejected can be found on the
AuctionZip, National Auctioneers Association, and Ohio
Auctioneers Association
web sites.

Additional auction help can be found here.
A Custom Auction finder can be created for you here.

October 3, 2006

One of the rules of thumb from back in my aerospace
days was that the hardest system improvement to
ever accomplish is three decibels

Chances are the you can make minor performance
upgrades by twisting and tweaking. Or revolutionary
ones by resetting to zero and applying new technology
and concepts. But improving an existing system by
40 to 50 percent can be outrageously difficult.

The NIMH battery folks did just that a year or two
back when they discovered they could stabilize
reactions that used three outer shell electrons
for conduction rather than just two. As a result,
today's AA cells completely blow away yesterday"s
sub C units.

In the September 22nd, 2006 issue of Science Magazine,
such a "3 db improvement" to supercapacitors may just
have been made. It turns out that by going to extremely
small carbon pore sizes, there is an unexpected increase
in capacitance (and consequential energy density) by
fifty percent or so. Independent of area.

J. Chimola... Anomalous Increase in Carbon Capacitance
and Pore Sizes less than 1 Nanometer
. Pages 1760-63.

October 2, 2006

Discovered an alternate free zip code finder that
looks quite useful.

October 1, 2006

As we'vealready seen in our Energy Fundamentals
and elsewhere, not one net watthour of conventional
silicon pv electricicity have ever been generated
Nor is any ever likely using conventional silicon pv.

True renewability and sustainability will depend on
emerging CIGS and Quantum Dots technologies.

We can readily identify what has to happen for
pv solar to ever become a truly viable net energy
source: CIGS or better technology. Quantum dots.
Multiple workfunctions. Roll to roll processing.
Sane temperature and pressure manufacturing.
Minimum use of low cost and lower tech materials.
Nothing organic or polycrystalline. No concentration
or tracking. Unbox, plug-and-go fully integrated
systems sold out in Aisle 13 of Home Depot

There's apparently a new candidate we might call
ZMT Technology, short for Zinc-Manganeese-Tellurium.
Like CIGS, it provides multiple workfunctions to raise

So far, it looks like unproven hype. Government labs
are always suspect, because they have accomplished
absolutely nothing in the last half century. But it just
may be a step towards resolving the multi workfunction
issues that are likely crucial to decent pv efficiency.

September 30, 2006

I am very much a Netflix fan. Most of our local
Mom & Pop video rental stores have gone belly
up. And 75 seconds in a Blockbuster store was
enough to convince me that those arrogant misfits
need staked to an anthill.

I rarely go to theaters, with Cars being my most
recent visit. I still marvel at how they absolutely
nailed old route 66. I've been to Radiator Springs!

Apparently others feel the same way about moviegoing
because one of our two multiplex theaters just folded
into becoming a truy bizrre church.

It seems to me the very survival of movie theaters
depends strongly on the instant availability of
direct digital projection. Yet the theater owners and
the movie distributors are pissing around arguing
who is going to pay for the upgrade.

In reality, if the movie distributors paid ALL of the
upgrade costs, they still would be ridiculously ahead
on print and shipping costs.

Not to mention being able to stay in business.

We now have outstanding but pricey home video
routinely available. Within a very few months,
further price drops and performance improvements
can be expected to completely and utterly blow
away the movie theater experience.

Caused by the anytime start - fast forward - pause -
view again - contol volume
on one side compared
against the
squawling baby -obnoxious cellphone user -
blabbing patrons - $12 popcorn - sticky footedness -
incompetent projectionists
of conventional theaters.

September 29, 2006

Several posters have asked about Bruno.

Bruno is the AMOE attitude relateralization facillitator. One of
his specialties is reconfiguring top posters. In a related endeavor,
Bruno is also a product durability tester for a major New Jersey
baseball bat manufacturer.

Bruno also does trucking for Norfolk & Waay. Who, in a Kilgore
Trout sort of manner are NOT me and NOT my website. I have
only the vaguest clue who their webmaster is.

September 28, 2006

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion over
exactly what either regular or super capacitors can do
in the way of energy storage for vehicles and such.

The bottom lines are (1) while the power density of
the latest capacitor developments are becoming
impressive, their energy density remains uselessly
And (2) A capacitor behaves wildly different than
a battery
when it comes to charging or discharging of
its internal energy.

A pure capacitor obeys the law i = c (dv/dt) or its
integration of v = (1/c) integral i (dt). Capacitors
MUST be strictly current driven. Attempting to
instantaneously apply a voltage to a capacitor will
cause an infinite or near infinite current and a
possible explosion.

All a capacitor knows about is whether there is
an incoming or an outgoing current that will alter
its internal charge state. Terminal voltage is
the result of the current integrated charge state

The energy storage of a capacitor is given by
w = (1/2) Cv^2. Thus the stored energy of a
capacitor goes up with the square of its
terminal voltage. The stored energy is measured
in Joules where a Joule is one watt second.

There are 3,600,000 Joules in a kiliowatt hour.
Meaning that today's capacitors cannot remotely
approach the energy demands of long distance
personal vehicle use
. But they certainly are of
interest for a few seconds of passing power or
regenerative braking storage.

Another misconception is that capacitors and
batteries are in some manner similar. Most
batteries maintain a pretty much constant
as electrochemical conversions take
place during charging and discharging.

Plain and simply, capacitors do not regulate
worth a damn.

With capacitors, instead of a constant terminal
voltage, the stored charge is proportional to the
square of the terminal voltge. Or the voltage
goes up as the square root of the stored charge.
A full or an empty capacitor will thus have wildly
different terminal voltages.

Any attempt to charge a capacitor from a resistive
source or an ordinary generator will result
in one half or more of the energy being lost
the generator's internal resistance. Efficient charging
and discharging of capacitors requires a switchmode
scheme where voltage is transformed to an inductor's
current and the inductor's current is then repeatedly
sent to the capacitor. One name for such a circuit is a
transimpedance converter.

Transimpedance converters must obviously work over a
very wide voltge range
. A 2:1 range converter can only
use 75% of the possible stored charge. A 3:1 might
approach 89% of stored charge. And that would be for
ONE optimal input or output level. Any real world use
would call for dramatically wider control ranges.

Any capacitor (and especially a supercap) has a definite
maximum terminal voltage that must never be exceeded.
Traditionally, good engineering practice leaves at least
a 50% margin between normal system voltages and the
allowable maximum.

September 27, 2006

It is the greasy whistle that gets squeaked.

September 26, 2006

Some rumor mongering on the Arizona Auction Scene:

After forty years or so of threatening to retire, Busby Auction
might be getting serious about actually doing so. At any rate,
they are both away on a two year foreign mission. There are
several "second tier" Gila Valley local auctioneers, some
licensed and some not. I expect "real" auctioneer Bruce Tingle
will take up most of the slack from out of Willcox.

The once awful parking situation at Sierra Auction has
apparently gotten a lot worse. Irate business owners
nearby have been known to stick safety pins in tires and
pull similar nasties. Sierra has also recently expanded,
opening a Tucson yard with monthly sales.

Auction Advantage seem to have closed their Pomerane
auction house yard. They may be doing a cooperative
on-site venture with Troy Wilde out of Yuma as part of
Desert Auctions USA. There are at least seven auction
houses competing in the marginal Benson, AZ area.

Cunningham continues to emphasize real estate, but
is apparently still doing occasional industrial auctions
I have done quite well with their previous offerings, and
the deals that got away have been even more spectacular..
Any Cunningham auction house sales are done through
Auction & Appraise.

Government Liquidation seems to have sharply cut
back on their Arizona and New Mexico government
surplus auctions. A few scrap items seem to have
replaced their hundreds of normal listings. While they
have been highly useful to me in the past, I've pretty
much backed off on using them. Owing to prices ending
up insanely too high, their maddeningly infuriating
automatic bid extensions, hostile site managers, too
high opening bids, and increased base security hassles.

I've added some newer and more distant auctioneers
to our Arizona Auction Resources page. These include
Pot O Gold, Desert Auctions USA, Fusco, King, Bob
Frost, and Battermans.

Plus a new ( but so far largely
useless ) Classified Ad Network .
Note that auctions can show up either in the announcements
or for sale categories, so two searches may be needed.

A general tutorial on the Live Auction Scene appears here,
Additional resources are on our Auction Help library page.
Your own local custom auction finder can be created for you
per these guidelines.

September 25, 2006

What are the fundamental underlying "secret"
forces driving recent technological developments?

How can you identify and tap these for your own
uses? I'm probably going to work up a GuruGram
on this, but first thought I might develop some of
the concepts here to get your feedback.

We've already seen decoupling as a major factor
and possibly the single most important biggie.
Other tenative factors might be...

  1. Decoupling.
  2. Accurate replication.
  3. Bypassing the gatekeepers.
  4. Seamless pan and zoom
  5. Virtualosity.
  6. Nonlinearity.
  7. Superimposition
  8. Programmability
  9. 24/7 availability
10. Devaluation.
11. Nanoification.
12. Disembodiment.
13. Increasing competitiveness.
13. Indirect payback.

On to number two...

With accurate replication, the end user gains the
ability to make copies of items or IP that are as
good or better
than those from traditional sources.

People once went to a commercial printer because they
could not produce their own copies that were as good
or as cheap by themselves.

Authors once used book publishers because typesetting and
artwork creation were unbearably difficult, time consuming,
and second rate using previously available tools.

Musicians once used music companies because today's
cheap quality mixing and editing was once impossibly
expensive. And that distribution required a physical media

"Perfect" copies of video or music by either the creator or
the end user are now trivial and clearly eliminate the surface
noise, flutter and wow of previous generations. Generation
loss is now gone.

One obvious consequence of cheap and fast perfect copies is
that anyone overcharging for their product will cause new
copies to be made instead by the end user
. Thus, the price
gougers all loudly scream "piracy". Rather than realizing
that additional copies would likely not be paid for anyway
and probably increase the product awareness and demand.

Traditional copyright and IP protection has thus largely
become totally useless.

The biggie waiting in the wings, of course, is the Santa Claus
For instant replication of real world parts.

More to follow. Please email me with your input.

September 24, 2006

This MySpace theft of IP and bandwidth may be
becoming endemic. I've now got a second image
being stolen. Like the original, it makes no sense
whatsoever to use as teenybopper wallpaper
. But
at least it is only a 33K JPEG file instead of a 9
Meg bitmap. It still uses up our ISP traffic and
fouls up our log stats.

I don't know what the solution is. MySpace refuses
to take any action without costly, draconian, and
ambiguous response of the rights owner
. Clearly
they are trying to make the rights owner the cause
of the problem.

The obvious solution of replacing the image with
one of a suitably clad individual pioneering new
methods of animal husbandry might have the exact
opposite of the intended effect. And increase rather
than decrease any demand.

This also would piss off the legitimate original users
of the imagry.

September 23, 2006

Added two new links to our Arizona Auction Resources
page. A guided tour of Arizona Auctions appears here,
and a general tutorial on the live auction scene here.

Your own custom local auction finder can be created
for you following the details here.

September 22, 2006

Super multi-day mega auctions have their own sets
of major disadvantages...

~ They are nationally promoted, heavily advertised,
   and attract a huge pool of bidders.

~ Bidders may be bigger spenders as they may
   have committed to hundreds or thousands of
   dollars in airfare and hotel bills.

~ Pricing rarely drops below $25 per item.

~ Extreme focus is needed to target your items
   of interest. Energy levels MUST be carefully

~ Auctioneers may get ahead or behind, meaning
    that your lots may not be on the expected day.

~ Professional auctioneers may be enormously
    difficult to understand and may pull all sorts
    of secret insider stuff. You must listen very
    carefully and respond clearly and quickly.

 ~ Online bidders are at a huge disadvantage due
    to comm blowups, time delays, and any sudden
    auctioneer changes in lot combinations, groupings,
    and payment options.

 ~ Mega auctions in your area of interest are often
   few and far between.

~ Ordinary items in sane quantities (especially anything
    tool or machine shop related) are likely to sell for
    outrageously high prices.

~ A local auctioneer is much more likely to cut you a
   personal deal. Or at least favor taking your bid.
   Because they want you back.

~ Previewing and planning can be overwhelming. Especially
   with a sitdown or theater style auction.

~ Your own travel and trucking and rigging and casual
may become major and high risk considerations.

~ Some "professional" bidders delight in pissing contests
   and will not let you outbid them under any circumstances.

~ Many bidders will be spending company money rather
    than their own.

~ If you are attracted to the auction, chances are that many
   others also will be.

Quality of product may differ wildly depending on
    which area is being offered. New inventory versus
    repairs versus obsolete junk.

Plus these benefits...

~ If there are 9000 lots and only 1000 bidders,
    each bidder scores 9 lots on the average

~ Enormously huge bargains can result IF you
   can triage obscure multi-pallet lots.

~ Careful and repeated inspection can reveal hidden
    values that the others may miss.

~ Many items will be high up on murky shelving
   that others may miss carefully inspecting.

~ Items are often grouped into "contents of room"
   or "contents of cabinet" to keep the total number
   of lots down. Knowing exactly what is in the room
   or cabinet can give you a tremendous edge.

~ Bunches of stuff will fall through the cracks
   as not everyone can possibly notice everything.

~ Some larger lots will run out of bidders before they
    run out of product
. Meaning that the dregs may
    go for a pittance.

~ Only a few lots will be of specific interest. It does
    not matter how much the others go for.

~ Side deals can often be cut on "pass it" items
   gotten for $10 each. As can poisioned lots where
   a trash lot is combined with a good lot to drive
   away bidders.

~ Auctions typically run very late. If everybody
   else runs out of interest and energy before you
   do, outstanding opportunities can abound.

You can find these mega auctions on our Auction Help page.

A Custom Auction finder can be found for you here.

September 21, 2006

I recently turned down some consulting work to help
develop a flywheel-supercap-regenerative vehicle with
a 300 mile range
. I see at least four major problems:

~ Lithium batteries have a much better energy
   density than flywheels.
And much greater
   potential for future improvement. Without any
   of the gyro, safety, costs, and exotic materials
   of flywheels. Another problem is that huge
   and cost ineffective motors are needed if the
   windup time is to be significantly less than the
   discharge time

~ Supercaps are beginning to show a promising
   and useful power density, but supercap energy
   density remains ludicrous
. Supercap energy
   is normally measured in watt seconds. There
   are 3,600,000 watt seconds in a kilowatt hour.

   Another problem is that supercaps do not
   regulate worth a damn, making recovering
   more than a fraction of their potential storage
   a serious challenge.

~ The potential of regenerative braking is wildly
As five minutes driving any
    vehicle with a retarder should dramatically
    prove. A reasonable estimate is that adding
    regeneration may add nine percent of range
    for a careful driver. And a sloppy driver will
    reduce their range more than regeneration
    can recover. Yes, if you already have onboard
    generation and storage anyway, then regen
    certainly should be cheaply added. But it is
    otherwise just plain not that big a deal.

~ Any new high tech product development is best
   linited to ONE "iffy" technology
. Stacking
   three of them on top of each other dramatically
   increases the probability of failure.

Much more in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

Consulting services available.

September 20, 2006

Just witnessed what may or may not be a major improvement
in firefighting
. A company by the name of Hazard Control
is selling new buckets of F-500 glop that appear
to simultaneously replace wetting agents, penetrants,
BOTH class A and class B foams, halogen suppressents,
and Noflash all at once. Without most of the costs and
complexity and training and fussiness of CAFS.

A SIX TIMES suppression over ordinary water is claimed.
No aspiration or air injection is needed. Product can be
delivered with any eductor or simply dumped in the tank.

The trick is a custom crafted molecule called a Michelle
. Basically, there are hooks on both ends of
the molecule, hydrophobic on one end and hydrophillic
on the other. Which has the potential to tightly grab and
bind hydrocarbon and water molecules.

This is somewhat similar to the fallen-from-grace halogen
suppressants. In additional to blocking oxygen and reducing
temperature on the fire triangle, these also can directly
interfere with the chemistry of fire

One of the bad features of classic foams is that they also
are good insulators, so they drastically limit how
fast temperatures can drop.The most impressive feature
of F-500 is the sudden temperature drop. You can touch a
pile of burning tires five seconds after suppression.

Smoke also vanishes instantly. Mix is the usual one percent
for class A, three percent for gasoline, and six percent
for alcohol or polar solvents. Ordinary nozzles are used.
Pump pressure at the eductor has to be somewhat higher
than normal. The delivered product appears as a milky liquid
rather than a foam. Glop is claimed to be envinormentally benign
with a long shelf and mix life.

Cost is apparently a $30 premium over a normal $110
5 gallon bucket of classic AFFF foam.

Not addressed was whether the glop is as good as
AFFF for dealing with killer bees. Which is around
one half or more of most rural department foam use.

Is this a fundamental breakthru in firefighting or some
PR hype piled on top of a minor improvement in a
wetting agent?

Time will tell if this glop lives up to its demo promises.

September 19, 2006

Playing with some of the Springerville pv Solar numbers
seems to lead to some interesting results.

I read somewhere that this is the largest pv facility in
the US
, and possibly (depending on how you rate a
German unit) in the world. Its effective peak capacity is
listed as 4 Megawatts. At any rate, there are very few
pv sites even remotely comparable in size or scope.

Next door is a "regular" sized coal power plant having
two 400 megawatt units online, one nearing completion,
and one planned. 1600 megawatts total eventually.

But the "exchange rate" between pv facilities at six
hours per day and coal facilities at 24 hours per day is
perhaps 4:1. So the largest pv site in the US is something
like 1/400th or 0.25 percent of a typical coal generation

One quarter of one percent.

A comparable solar site to match coal generation would
probably be 400x44= 17,600 acres or (at 640 acres
per square mile) about 27.5 square miles. Using up most
of the desert between the plant and Springerville.

Which appears to be a much larger area than a coal
plant and its mine combined.

There are 4047 square meters in an acre and 44 acres
on the site for a total of 178,068 square meters. Nominal
peak incoming energy is 1000 watts per square meter.
Dividing the peak 4 megawatts by the acres gives a peak
power production of about 23 watts per square meter

Yielding an energy conversion efficiency of 2.3 percent or
so. This figure is low because not all of the total area is
effectively utilized for actual cell generation.
note in passing that the latest of conventional power plants
are approaching 62 percent thermal efficiency.

Now it sure is nice looking at all those panels silently
giving the illusion
of producing electricity. With no
apparently obvious pollutants or noise. And not even
any obvious employees. In a facility that can be rubber
stamp approved in ten minutes flat without any objections
from anybody whatsoever. And also can be incremently
and quickly expanded on any scale at any time.

The only tiny oint in the flyment, of course, is that pv
solar today is outrageously expensive and can in no
manner compete with traditional generation.
It is
in no manner renewable nor sustainable when properly
full burden accounted.
Such costs should truly reflect
ALL credits and subsidies, both obvious and hidden.

The entire site, of course, clearly remains a net energy

This picture may dramatically change when combined
breakthroughs in CIGS technology and Quantum
attempt to bring us much closer to eventual
renewability and sustainability.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial and in
our preveious What's New entries below.

September 18, 2006

Details on the Tucson Electric Power photovoltaic
Springerville solar website appear in this fascinating

Its exact location was not obvious to me, and one
of the natives insisted that the pv panels were
really the Greer Snow Fences! Turns out the
facility is five miles due east of Richville.

You can start with Google Maps, and search on
Springerville, AZ, select hybrid, and go 12 miles due
North and then magnify. The panels become totally
obvious and leap out at you. ( The Greer Snow fences
are barely obvious 20 miles west of Springerville on
Route 260 .)

By the most astounding coincidence, you must drive
right by their pv solar panels on your only way to their
two landfills and three (soon to be four) coal fired plants.

Conspicuously absent in the website is their
fully burdened peaking avoided cost. But some
guesses could be made that suggest to me that
the site is not yet remotely cost competitive.

A reasonable cost for afternoon oil fired peaking
might be six cents per kilowatt hour. A recent
pv production day was 20,000 kilowatt hours or
$1200 if competitive. It is not clear whether the
20,000 kWh is at the panel terminals or net actual
grid delivery minus operating costs and conversion
efficiency. Nor whether this adjusts for days of
available sunshine.

At any rate, this site tells us that $1200 amortizes
something like a 2.7 million dollar investment at
ten percent over ten years. My best guess is that
the facility and its overhead and its amortization
cost a lot more than this. I'd estimate 46 cents per
kilowatt hour
as their true burdened pv avoided cost.

There are something like 35,000 panels installed.
If these cost $100 each and everything else was free,
you would be way over competitive peaking costs.

Naturally, a R&D facility would not normally be
expected to be cost competitive short term.

Clearly, they are not aggressively expanding their
site for routine avoided cost peaking production.

In fact, some previously planned expansions have
apparently beed deferred. Possibly because of the
recent runup in pricing of conventional panels.

But the coal plant next door is being aggressively
expanded. Even with a somewhat questionalble future
coal supply.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

September 17, 2006

What can you do when an image you are post processing
has areas burned way too far into the white? Nikons in
particular seem to have linearity problems at the extreme
white end of their dynamic range.

You can check these guidelines against the original photo,
the retouched bitmap, and the final .jpg...

~ Try reshooting the image without flash using
    available light from a skylight and bounce card
    or outdoors in the shade or under a light tent.

~ Try "multiple exposures" to dink with the gamma
    and brightness
of problem areas using Imageview32,
    PhotoShop, or whatever. Trim to problem subjects
    and paste.

~ Try using our Dodge and Burn tools.

~ Optimize the appearance of the rest of the image by
    Swings and Tilts distortion correction and

~ Try to make foreground items perfect by adding
   sharp outlines and sliding acceptable texture areas
   into overwhite ones

~ Unify and darken the outline of all overwhite objects.

~ Subdivide all white items by top, sides, edge features.

~ Add credible line detail to burned areas.

~ Convert overly white areas into pastels of several
   different shades.

~ Try to neutralize large panel areas into a uniform
   and nondescript mottled gray.

~ Replace any burned white wire with darker colors,
    especially any striped ones.

~ Make up imaginary darker details when totally absent.

~ Pay special attention to areas where background panels
   or whatever shows through
. Expecially with bunched wiring.

~ Simply remove the worst examples of anything lots of
   are present.

~ Take out excess detail, especially shiny and "sugary"

~ Pay particular attention to darkening and unifying edges.

~ If all else fails, make an area so nondescript that the
   viewer looks elsewhere.

~ Remove "sugar" or "speckle" by cutting and pasting
   small nearby sample area.

~ Try repeating good objects by pasting them over any
    burned ones. Scaling or rotation may be needed.

~ "Chase an edge" by repeating a good sample over
    and over again into problem areas.

~ On burned out lettering, darken and expand into
    credible hieroglyphics
. These should improve
    automatically on final size reduction.

~ Try to remove ALL remaining overly white pixels.

~ Hope that the final size and resolution reduction to
   .JPG will cover any problems remaining.

Seminars and custom consulting available.

September 16, 2006

Human cannoball during his circuis exit interview:
"Sorry to se you go. Hard to find a man of your calibre."

September 15, 2006

The hardware designer situation is even more bleak than
the a-beginner-can't-compute-on-a-computer situation we
looked at yesterday.

Kids became Silicon Valley superstars by first taking
apart old radios back when the Weller Soldering Gun
reigned supreme.

High schools and even middle schools had outstanding
electronics courses. All of which went away with the
aerospace dryup when the evil empire self-destructed.

Most community colleges cancelled their electronics
technology programs a decade ago. Often giving the
money to the football team instead.

There was ham radio where kids actually did stuff like
inventing parametric amplifiers and single sideband
and bouncing radar off the moon. Instead of being a
laughable geriatric parody of its one time greatness.

There were great electronics magazines, the foremost
and finest of which was the original Popular Electronics.
All long gone, with the possible niche exception of
Circuit Cellar.

And my, oh my, the kits. You could make stuff cheaply
that worked, saved you money, and outperformed the
real stuff on the market. Heathkit, of course, was the

All long gone.

Meanwhile, a college student who works for us did not know
the name of the direction to the left when facing north.

May you live in interesting times.

September 14, 2006

Jeff Dunteman occasionally has topics I find of interest
in his ongoing blog. A recent entry made the observation
that today's crop of computers have no way whatsoever
for a rank beginner to simply jump in and start computing

Even a three year old could proudly create a SYNTAX
on an Apple II. Several flavors of BASIC were
available for immediate use by casual beginners.

More importantly, the next step beyond BASIC was the
ability to list and inspect and disassemble programs. Tasks
no longer available with a few keystrokes and impossibly
more difficult with complex operating systems, multitasking,
compilation, and relocatable code modules.

Yes, you can go out and buy a copy of BASIC but nobody
seems to do so. Even more sadly, kids programming systems
like LOGO seem to be falling by the wayside. And general
purpose programming languages like PostScript seem to have
little beginner interest. Despite their ability to instantly give
an incredible range of wildly useful results.

We got to where we are by three year olds who could create
their own syntax errors and went on to bigger and better
things. It appears we are in the process of throwing the
babies away and drinking the washwater.

September 13, 2006

Picked up a super premium quality Pritchard 1880-C
combined dual grating Monochromator and precision
Photometer. These are apparently an optical spectrum
as they let you dial your own single color of
light to exceptionally narrow bandwidth. Either manual
or under swept motor control.

Apparently the intended use ( nobody else could afford
one! ) was for military evaluation of flight instrument
interaction with low level night vision devices.

This should have all sorts of interesting optical research
applications as we can offer it at a tiny fraction of its
original estimated cost of $85,000.00. So far we have
not tested it, but it appears to be in good condition and
should be capable of being brought up to original factory
specs. Includes precision lens and one extra filter.

email me if you have any interest in this unique optical

September 12, 2006

Had to once again lock out KNOCKOUT.BMP. You
can email me for your personal access.

MySpace users continue to insist on using this huge
and laughingly unsuitable raw bitmap as wildly inappropriate
(and stolen) wallpaper. Causing theft of ISP services
and ongoing problems with our log files.

Meanwhile, the clueless morons at MySpace themselves
make reporting ISP infractions a draconian and impossibly
dificult process. Involving sending sensitive information
over nonexistant channels. It is quite obvious that MySpace
has no intention whatsoever of respecting the intellectual
property of others.

Please, if you are a legit user of this sampler of image
backgrounds, make your own copy on your own website.

September 11, 2006

There's a small auction opportunity upcoming
that I just do not see how I can participate in. But if
you happen to have an 18 wheeler, some time, and live
in the site neighborhood, please email me or else call
(928) 428-4073 immediately.

This tiny auction squeaks by with barely over 9000 lots
and many of those are only a scant five to twenty pallets

The term "adequate" comes to mind. They also have
an electric drill for sale.

September 10, 2006

One As we've seen in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial,
not one net watthour of conventional silicon pv electricity
has ever been produced.
Nor is any ever likely owing to
the intractability and inefficiency and unsuitability of
conventionally processed silicon as a photovoltaic converter.

In fact, the historic price reductions of conventional silicon
pv panels have now been reversed, and are in a sharply
upward trend
, owing to the disappearance of their former
scrap silicon supply.

To me, it makes no sense whatsoever today to try and use a
conventional silicon pv panel for home power generation.
When properly fully burdened accounted for on a total
cost of ownership
basis, all you have done is placed an
outrageously expensive gasoline destroying net energy
sink on your roof. The longer you run it, the more gasoline
you destroy.

For today's panels are in no way either renewable or
. Even if your panel generates ten cents worth
of electricity per day at an amortization cost of ten cents,
per day, all you have is an elaborate "paint it green"
transfer mechanism of conventional energy. Only when
fully burdened costs drop significantly below conventional
does the possibility of renewability or sustainability even

At present, the amortization cost of the synchronous inverter
alone can consume more than 100 percent of the value of
the electricity run through it. And, of course, no other pv
storage system is remotely cost competitive with grid buyback.

The panels do see effective use for (1) solar calculators
where users gleefully pay $500 per kilowatt hour for their
electricity, (2) genuinely remote low power uses such as
mountaintop repeaters and distant livestock watering tanks,
(3) scammers stealing subsidy dollars and similar ripoffs,
and (4) scammers stealing government research funds.

Proof of this is that there is not one power utility
anyplace ever that is using conventional silicon pv
technology to provide avoided cost competitve peaking
power on a routine basis.
All utility use of conventional
silicon pv to date has been has heavily subsidized R&D
or "Hey, we are green!" PR flack.

Fortunately, there are a pair of recent developments in
photovoltaic technology that might be able to get us as
far as ONE THIRD of the way towards genuine renewability
and sustainability
. Possibly within a decade or two.

The first of these is called CIGS technology, short for
copper - indium - gallium - selenide. These reduce the
thickness needed for solar conversion by two orders
of magnitude
( 90:1 or so ) and can process in huge
sheets without the need for high temperatures or high
vacuum. And do so with comparable stability and
efficiencies of conventional panels.

Be sure to search on both "CIGS" and "solar" on
Google, or you obviously will get zillions of false hits.

The second major development involves quantum
, per this tutorial. In a conventional silicon pv
cell, a certain amount of iucoming energy is needed
to knock one electron loose. Any energy above is
converted into heat and is the cause of inherently
low conventional silicon pv solar efficiency.

With quantum dots, two or more electrons (up
to seven in theory!) can be converted from the
excess energy not used by the first conversion.
Which promises a possible doubling or tripling
of cell efficiencies

Much more on our Its a Gas and GuruGram
library pages.

September 9, 2006

One of the projects that has fallen by the wayside
from way back in our PostScript Desktop Publishing
class was a resume that answered the question
"what if ONE single individual was responsible for
each and EVERY major industrial disaster over the
past few decades?

This would be an obvious candidate for an onion
satire. Couched in words like "proven ability to
provide a commanding media presence
", a
deeper investigation into his employment history
would include being an ethics officer for Enron,
honcho of the FEMA rapid intervention team,
did tanker safety training for Exxon, fire prevention
for Yellowstone Park, system monitoring supervisor
for Cherynoble, was a Union Carbide tank inspector in
India, ad director for New Coke, etc... Possibly even
starting out as an Edsel intern trainee.

What would your input be for several employers
of his and the related job titles? email me.

September 8, 2006

One trick that can increase the apparent resolution
of a digital camera: Crop very tightly to subject and
then paste into a larger background.

One way to do this is to load the camera image into
Paint, copy to clipboard, select Attributes to expand
image size, and then repaste original back.

Background knockout then proceeds either manually,
automatically, or with optonal Auto Vingetting.

September 7, 2006

I feel there are many very good reasons why you need
at least a five megapixel camera for your eBay photography.

These include...

~ Cropping throws away many if not most pixels.
    Even a modest one-eighth crop throws away
    nearly half (28/64ths) your available pixels.

~ Bayer filtering requires four camera pixels for
   one final pixel
. As in red-green-green-blue.

~ Essential post processing steps such as rotation
   or distortion correction are best done at least 2X

   final size.

~ Lettering retouch and rework demands extreme
during correctrion

~ Processing algorithms in smaller cameras have
   ranged from terrible to ludicrous.

Naturally, if you really want resolution, you should use a
scanner instead. Or both at once. A 1200x1200 pixel per
inch scanner is equivalent to a 134 Megapixel or so camera.

Detailed free image post prep tutorials appear on our
Auction Help and Fonts & Images and GuruGram
library pages.

September 6, 2006

Cubic spline fits to a catenary raise a few interesting
gotchas, but appear quickly solvable. Here's the results
of a preliminary look...

If the catenary is symmetric, it is, well, symmetric.
This means it is made totally out of even functions
and the only even function in a cubic spline is the
second order one.

The cubic part never gets into play.

Thus, at least a fourth order polynomial is required
to accurately approximate a fully symmetric catenary.
All a cubic spline can do is use its second order term
which is a parabola. There is something around a
five percent worst case error with a unity normalized
a=1 catenary.

Which is the normal difference between comparable
y=x^2 parabolas and y = (a cosh(x/a))/2 catenaries.

But by going to a half-symmetric catenary, use of two
cubic spline fits of NUBEZ4PTS1.PDF at a=1 gives us what
appears to be a nearly perfect fit on the first pass, even
when magnified by 6400 percent. The slope error also
appears to be nearly zero at the center joint of the two
splines as well. As is the slope discontinuity.

I suspect this is easily proven if you dig deeply enough
into the underlying math. A catenary can be shown to
be the path of the focus of a rotating parabola

The approximation remains quite good for a values
in excess of 0.5
. Lower a values cause significant
errors. a=0.4 has around a five percent error, and
anything less is pretty much useless. These can be
minimized by adding additional four point fit splines.

I'll try to make a new GuruGram out of this if I get
the chance.

September 5, 2006

Termite walks into a bar, climbs up on stool.
"Say, is the bartender here?"

September 4, 2006

Picked up an older Adept 310 (aka 10000-310)
robotic controller. This is a huge 300 pound box
that includes all the high level drivers.

I'll probably offer it as is a time or two and then
strip it for replacement parts and such. The
whole unit is strictly FOB local pickup only.

Please email me if you have any interest one way
or another. This was a $6800 unit. 1600 hours.

September 3, 2006

Two random observations: Now that gasoline prices
are sky high, a lot of people leave their engines
idling at the post office.
Very rare before.

There's also a distress auction of the Hip Chick
dress store. I don't suppose the choice of name
had anything to do with it. "Up Chuck" would have
been an infinitely better choice.

September 2, 2006

I still have not exactly fully isolated a bizarre
bug that seems to hang Thunderbird on one but
not both of our machines. I've decided to dig
down further just in case this malware can in
fact generally cause grief to Thunderbird.

The symptoms are as follows: A rare one of the
apparently "usual" obvious eBay phish scam
attempts will either hang Thunderbird outright
on initial loading or else cause an excessively
long load time. I have yet to separate whether
this is a blowout or a very long delay.

Since loading does not complete, any reset or
further attempted use of Thunderbird does the
same thing
. I have access to our email sources
through Putty. By deleting the malware at its
source, Thunderbird will later load properly.

However, clicking on the remaining malware
message will once again hang Thunderbird.

The sledgehammer repair is to click on the
previous message, then shift click on the post
message, then delete all three. If previous and
post messages are important, they should first
be copied or saved.

The eBay phish message pretty much looks
like any other of its ilk. It is not unusually
long or otherwise attracts attention to itself.
Only one phish in a hundred or so seems to
present this particular problem.

The obvious thing to do is isolate the code and
then shorten it till only the malware portion

Your inputs on this are certainly welcome.

September 1, 2006

A reader requested a way to fit a single Bezier
Cubic Spline to a catenary. We already looked
at some tools to do this in NUBEZ4PTS1.PDF of
GuruGram #59.

A catenary is formed by hanging a uniformly
weighted chain. Per this source or this one. The
catenary is "almost" a parabola, but not quite
and has a form of y = a cosh (x/a).

True catenaries are relatively rare, as taking,
say, a suspension bridge cable. The cable is
pretty much a catenary when hung, but as soon
as you add the uniform bridge load to it, it becomes
more of an ordinary parabola.

We can easily and exactly fit a cubic spline to
a parabola. Just use the two end points and two
points a third of the way as input that you send

I strongly suspect a very close or possibly true
approximation to a catenary can be done by
similarly fitting the end and third position points
Particularly when doing the fancier iterations
method of NUBEZ4PTS1.PDF. Whose acutual
working code can be found as IMBZ4P01.PSL

It would be reasonable to expect that a minimum
length (as found by the iterative method) Cubic
is in fact a catenary. I'll try to prove this
one way or the other if I get a chance.

An older method of using two splines to fit a
1/x hyperbola appeared in HYSPLINE.PDF.

August 31, 2006

There still seems to be some confusion over ac solid
state power relays.
While reliable and silent, they
are extremely fussy over which loads they can work
with in what manner.

Most ac solid state power relays these days consist of
an input optocoupler that usually inputs its internal LED
from a microprocessor or similar low voltage source. An
input range of 3 to 30 volts is preferred; some older units
may require 12 volts minimum and are thus not directly
microprocessor compatible
without a drive transistor.

The optocoupler provides safety isolation. The output
of the optocoupler is usually a small triac that drives the
main triac. A triac is an ac switch that can be pulsed on
with a small gate control current. The rule is that the triac
stays on until its main current either drops to zero or

Thus, ac solid state relays can NOT be used with a DC or
unipolar load.
They also can NOT be used with zero or
very light loads because they have a minimum holding
that needs to be provided.

There are two types of internal SSR drive circuitry. A
zero crossing switched SSR will only turn on very shortly
after a line zero crossing. This is very "gentle" on industrial
loads and minimizes surges and transients.

Heaters can be proportionally controlled by switching in full
half cycles of ac power with a zero crossing switched SSR.
Attempting this with incandescent lamps would create outrageous
flicker and is not acceptable.

A random switched SSR can be turned on at any time and
will stay on till the next zero crossing or reversal. Random
switching can be combined with a synchronized phase control
that allows incandescent lamp dimming or motor speed control.

If you turn the SSR on early in each half cycle, most of the
available energy reaches the load. Very late in the cycle and
very little does. Thus providing the equivalent of a variable
voltage output while efficiently mnimizing any waste heat.

Solid state relays are fussy over load power factor. They work
best with purely resistive loads such as incandescent lamps and
heaters. They behave reasonably well with properly loaded
motors that have a 0.7 power factor or better. A resistor and
capacitor snubbing network can sometimes be added to
improve performance with lower power factor, highly inductive

Fluorescent lamps can NOT be dimmed with a solid state relay
unless they have an electronic ballast that specifically allows
proportional phase dimming. While most motors with brushes
can have their speed controlled with a phase controlled SSR,
most ac induction motors can NOT have their speed controlled
and can be seriously damaged if you attempt this. Induction
motors can only be speed controlled by going to a fancier
VFD or variable frequency drive.

A 220 volt SSR may be used on 110 volts, but not vice versa.
SSR's should be properly heatsunk if they are used anywhere
near their maximum ratings.

August 30, 2006

The concept of "price" has very little meaning on eBay.
If any.

Basically, things on eBay sell for what they sell for. Pretty
much independently of any previous or following transactions.
For "price" to have meaning, there has to be a large group
of statistically identical samples through time.

On the buyer end, you never know how many buyers will
be attracted to a short term listing or how competitive
they will end up with each other. Or whether previous
sales have fully saturated any current interest.

The products themselves may not be directly comparable,
ranging from absolutely new with all packaging, manuals,
warranties, and accessories down to abject trash of little
salvage value. Not to mention knockoffs or scams.

The offer itself may be very well or very poorly done and
may or may not have better or worse competition. Much
or little effort may have gone into prep, ranging from
careful research to a free relisting.

Finally, the seller may have paid a lot or a little for the
item or its prep or its storage and may or may not be in
a hurry to sell.

Regardless, you still should always research previous
prices before offering an
eBay item. Much more in the
many tutorials on our Auction Help library pages.

August 29, 2006

Here's a few items that we have waaaay too many
of in stock...

~ White banana jacks
~ 0.1 Ohm, 250 watt resistors
~ White banana jacks
~ Dual 15 kilovolt 500 pf feedthru caps
~ White banana jacks
~ 3 foot wide cargo netting material
~ White banana jacks
~ Cases of SUV cargo nets
~ White banana jacks
~ Self-Help hypnosis tapes
~ White banana jacks
~ Color video survelance cameras
~ White banana jacks
~ Professional medical books
~ White banana jacks
~ Six kilowatt low Ohms resistors
~ White banana jacks
~ Time overcurrent relays
~ White banana jacks
~ Professional envoironmental books
~ White banana jacks
~ Half inch shrink tubing
~ White banana jacks

Most of these are also on our eBay Store.

Please email me if you have any bulk interest in these.

August 28, 2006

Added some new links to our Arizona Auctions
library listing.

An Arizona Auctions Tour appears here, while your
own custom auction finder can be built for you per
these guidelines

August 27, 2006

Refurb Log:

There's a new generation of AA rechargeable batteries
now reaching dealer shelves that have upped their
capacity at higher currents to 2800 milliampere hours
or so.

One non-obvious use for these is that their capacity now
greatly exceeds older generations of sub-C nicads.

Many older pieces of test equipment had exotic packages
of sub-C cells that were difficult to replace. Especially since
many sub-C cells were not solderable without special tabs.

There now should be room to build equivalent packs with
these new AA cells in the same space with far fewer
hassles. Time and cell price remain factors in deciding
whether an older piece of equipment is worth updating.

August 26, 2006

Outside of the inescapable fact that it flat out ain't
gonna happen nohow noway
, what other hurdles would
a successful first law thermodynamic challenge face?

~ Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary

~ It is up to the claimant to prove correctness,
    NOT up to others to prove them in error.

~ The foremost goal of any legitimate researcher
    when "too good to be true" results occur should
    be attempt to prove themselves wrong.

~ The thermodynamic laws are tested and retested
    millions of times every minute.

~ Student lab errors have long ago discovered any
    and every possible variation
on normal groupings
    of magnets and related common components.

~ "Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck" gets
   them every time. Peer review done in credible
   journals counts more than costly paid ads in non
   scientific ones

~ There's a half life of any perpetual motion claim
    in which the credibility and failure to duplicate
   drops something like twenty percent per week.

~ "Publish or perish" is alive and well. There are
   zillions of second tier researchers just sitting around
   for something they can glomb onto and run with.

~ Questions such as "where is one net watt" and
   "why cannot the output be connected to the input"
   must be convincingly answered.

~ The ultimate criteria is whether the item is not
   in Aisle 13 of Wal-Mart because they immediately
   sold out.

~ The odds against are overwhelming. It always pays
    to bet on the side of bogosity. While holding on to
   your wallet.

~ Any technical field has secret insider gotchas that
   absolutely guarantee outsiders will make fundamental
   stupid measruing errors. Not the least of which is
   correct rms power measurement of unusual waveforms.

And, of course, the real gotcha is that...

~ Any individual knowledgeable enough to propose a
    first or second law violation already knows that
    they will never do so

Again, more on pseudoscience bashing here.

August 25, 2006

It was about time for another perpetual motion free
energy fiasco to crawl its way out of the slime. Sure
enough Steorn has come to the rescue. With a good

My best guess at present is that this is an elaborate
and quite expensive PR hoax
. Time will tell us how
subtle or how stupid their ultimate failure will end up.

The approach of "free energy through magnetic shield
manipulation" has a long history of spectacular failures.

In general, it takes an energy change to reconfigure
a magnetic field through shield manipulations. Also,
thanks to quantum mechanics, there is no way to tell if
a perfectly uniform magnetic field is stationary or
Finally, of course, we have a fundamental
physics law that tells us that the total magnetic flux
through any closed surface is always zero.

As with any free energy scheme, the outcome is not
the least in doubt.
All that remains is to find out
how worthwhile it is to discover where and how they
made their fundamental stupid mistakes.

Much more on pseudoscience bashing here.

August 24, 2006

I'd tell you the "288" joke, but it is obviously too gross.

August 23, 2006

Refurb Log:

One little known fact that can cause lots of grief
involving relays, switches, and other electronic
contacts: Too little current can cause as much or
more grief than too much!

If there is no current going through them, contacts
can "rust" or otherwise build up a high impedance
surface corrosion that inhibits later smaller currents.

Curiously, my Pathfinder has picked up this gremlin.
In that you have to blow the horn before you can turn
the cruise control on.

Relay contacts that are suitable for very low currents
are said to be dry switchable. One traditional way of
providing for reliable dry switching was to use mercury
wetting. Reed relays sometimes provided for dry
switching by use of a wiping contact.

Some of the toggle switches we offer on our eBay store
are dry switchable. But they are strictly limited to
low current, low power uses.
Attempting to use these
for "normal" current ranges will destroy the delicate
contact plating used.

We try to carefully identify delicate dry switchable
devices. Your best workaround is to avoid any and
all dry switching when and where possible. Always
try to have at least some current going through your
switch or relay contacts.

August 22, 2006

My own contributions to The Art of Intrusion did not
make the final cut. Apparently because they were too
white hat or way too ancient.

Back in college days, telephone hacking was a lot
simpler. You used a pin through the cord for free local
calls and a "W" shaped coat hanger to return your
long distance money. If you were destitute, you stuffed
a paper bag up the coin return
at a bus or train station
and mined the results at 4 am. The discovery that a free
whistle in a box of Captain Crunch cereal would give you
total control of the entire phone system was to come later.

My first program attack was on the Adam's Adventures.
Which I did on a fire tower using nothing but a stock
Apple "L" Disassembly, a hex listing, and a pocket card.

Uphill both ways in the snow. Literally.

This led to my tearing method that let you quickly
analyze most any early microcomputer program through
some simple color coding. Key to tearing was the "60"
or RTS return-from-subroutine Achille's Heel that would
quickly subdivide and break down most any early code.

This led to tearing apart and publishing the structure of
AppleWriter, which let others provide all sorts of add ons
and enhancements.

But my greatest hack was cracking Adobe's "uncrackable"
eexec encryptation. This became a classic example of
"cracking through hubris".

eexec was a key protection means for highly valuable early
fonts. But it also severely restricted nonlinear transformations
that were to prove incredibly powerful and useful. Adobe
loudly and longly claimed it was totally uncrackable. And,
if you did their things their way, it probably was.

Turned out there was a flaw that any patient seventh
grader could exploit . That let you totally decript any
eexec file in a few minutes. All you did was -- he he he --
add an intentional extra character error to the eexec
. You'd then send the "wrong" info to a Laserwriter
and it would promptly return an error message that
decripted everything recent up to the error.

Sort of like building a combination safe with a voice
synthesizer that said "try two clicks to the left" on
any incorrect cracking attempt.

August 21, 2006

Picked up a pair of interesting books recently. The
first of these is Kevin Mitnick's The Art of Intrusion
which is an interesting but somewhat uneven collection of
recent hacker system invasion exploits.

The second has some of the finest technical writing that
I have ever seen. This is How Everything Works, subtitled
Making Physics out of the ordinary. By Louis Bloomfield.

Highly recommended.

August 20, 2006

Prospector dies and can't get into heaven because
they are over quota on prospectors. Promises to get rid of
them within 24 hours.

Sidels up to the bar and mumbles "Big gold strike
in Hell." a time or two. Sure enough, place completely
clears out.

Gets offer to stay and declines. "I dunno. There just
might be something to it."

August 19, 2006

One of the more profound consequences of decoupling
is that many institutions and infrastructures are now
not only utterly useless, but are clearly a drag on

Music producers and record companies are rather
obvious examples of entities that clearly no longer
serve any useful purpose whatsoever.

Ferinstance, what exactly is it that the first class
mail part of the post office does, and why is it still
of any use or need whatsoever? Or is this like the
British Saling Ship naval bureaucracy whose size
and costs peaked many decades after the last
sailing ship was removed from active service?

Similar examples obviously involve book publishers
from whom the majority of their services are no longer
either needed or relevant
. Same goes for magazines
and, especially, trade journal publishers.

Nobody felt sorry when the litho camera folks or
the printed circuit tape and dots people went out of
business. To even give music producers and record
companies the time of day is an obvious disservice.
You certainly should never buy one of their products.

If you give these folks a berth, make sure it is a
wide one.

August 18, 2006

Many of the stunning hardware developments of the
past few decades can be directly traced to decoupling,
or simply physically separating inputs from outputs.

Really wonderful things happened to electric typewriters
when the keyboard output was disconnected from the
printer input. You could now store and intercept
keystrokes and do all sorts of wonderful things with
them. Not the least of which were fixing errors, sharing
information, keeping copies, and saving previous work.

On copiers, decoupling the scanning function from the
imaging function eliminated outrageous weight and
sizes and unreliability of huge precision optics Especially
if size changing zoom or other features were needed.

On oscilloscopes and test equipment, going to menu
driven buttons
eliminated the need for costly and
bandwidth limiting switching in tight front panel spaces.

On monitors, expensive and unreliable front panel
controls are now replaced by a decoupled rotary
wheel. Same for washing machines and other major

On prepress, you no longer needed separate paths for
text and graphics. Because the decoupled and captured
intermediates were simply data files.

Just about everything electronic benefited from the
decoupling of power supplies no longer doing their
conversion at 60 Hertz. By going to DC first and then
a much higher frequency, switch mode power supplies
dramatically slashed the size and weight of most
capacitors, inductors, and transformers. And got
much cheaper and more efficient as well.

Music, of course, used to have these silly acoustical
physics rules that everybody had to comply with that
determined the size, volume, tonality, and the skill
complexity needed. Usually combined with ludicrous
ergonometrics. But by newly decoupling the tone
generation from any physical embodiment,
music (snd synthesizers in particular) removed most
all of the physical barriers.

Stunning improvements have happened in decoupling
content from the physical media forms that it used to
demand. Obvious examples are email over actual
letters, music and video downloads, and replacement
of trade journals and manufacturer's reps with instant
online sales.

Google, of course, has totally decoupled information
gathering from the traditional librairian gatekeepers
and the now ludicrous demand that the information
provider, the recipient, and the information itself
all had to be in the same place during totally restricted

In telephony, we have decoupled the ability to talk
remotely from the need for one fixed monopoly to
provide wire-only service to your home or business.
Obvious alternatives are cellphones, VOIP, cable,
wireless, satellite, and great heaping bunches more
yet to evolve.

The lowly computer mouse has long decoupled
itself from the reliability problems of direct
mechanical rollers and long cords. By using
optic sensing and wireless comm.

The next generation of vehicles will almost certainly be
drive by wire. Again decoupling the driver inputs from
what those inputs are supposed to accomplish. For a model
or feature change, you simply bolt a new top on.

Dozens of other examples come to mind. Which additional
decoupling examples can you think of? What still can be

August 17, 2006

By now, most of you know that most eBay messages
and emails are totally bogus. Leading you to a fake site
that attempts to steal your account or your credit card info.

Until recently, I found the Thumderbird email server to be
totally bulletproof. But it strangely started hanging on
obviously bogus eBay messages from "member Sluggo".
So much as clicking on a Sluggo message would hang the
email server.

Possibly these were simply ultra long messges. Also
possible is some new form of "clicking on the email
trashes Thumderbird" viri of some sort. Although I
don't see exactly how this is possible. And word surely
would quickly get out on such a fundamental problem.

One defense is to limit the characters receivable in
an email message.
But this restricts your ability to
receive legit messages with GIF attachments or
whatever else that you may find useful.

A bizarre workaround the worked for me: You cannot
directly click on Sluggo since it hangs Thumderbird.
So, you click on the previous message, hold your
shift key down, and then click on the post message

And delete all three at once without a direct click
Should the other messages be of value, you would
previously copy them somewhere else.

August 16, 2006

Investors are being sought to assist in the design and
development of some upscale designer caver's wrist

August 15, 2006

The last couple dozen of our original HP Agilent
factory manuals were slow enough selling that we
have pulled these and relegated them to the Alivin

You might find some outstanding buys on them here.

August 14, 2006

Our aging Pathfinder has been giving us just enough static
lately that we are looking for a replacement.

Perhaps an 03 or 04 Pathfinder or (slightly preferably)
a Forerunner. Must be 4WD.

And preferably slightly oversize tires and modest additional
offroad features. Also prefer private party within 200 miles.

email me if you have any leads.

August 13, 2006

Yet another approach to finding serendipitious possible
"under the radar" auction and sales source would be through
this SBA Subcontractor Opportunity site.

With the theory that if the company is big enough to need
subcontractors, they just might be big enough to have
surplus sales
and excees needs auctions.

Arizona results through the above link include...

Arizona State University
Dynamic Science, Inc.
General Dynamics
Goodrich Turbomachinery
Goodrich Propulsion
Honeywell International Glendale
Honeywell International Phoenix
Honeywell International Tucson
Litton Electro-Optical
Lockheed Martin
Orbital Sciences
Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials
Raytheon Missle Systems
Sargent Controls & Aerospace
Signal Technology Corporation
University of Arizona

Results for your area can be found by clicking through
on the above link.

August 12, 2006

If you list the top end of the total employment in Southern
a radically different picture emerges. It turns out
that seven of the eight largest employers are military,
shools, or government. And the sole "business" in the top
eight sells only to the military. In a facility that is almost
totally USAF owned.

Which creates their own set of auction and sale opportunities.
Most of which we already know about and have already made
available on our Arizona Auction Resources library page.

At any rate, here they are in size order...

Fort Huachucha ( handled by Government Liquidation )
University of Arizona ( does their own auctions )
State of Arizona ( some handled by Sierra Auctions )
Davis Monthan ( handled by Government Liquidation )
Tucson Schools ( sometimes does their own auctions )
Pima County ( some handled by Sierra Auctions )
City of Tucson ( some by Public Surplus or Auction & Appraise )
Tohono O'Odham Nation ( probably have little to sell )

I haven't been able to find a statewide combined list just yet.
Please email me if you know of one.

August 11, 2006

Sometimes serendipity can play an enormous part in
finding new opportunities. I overheard two auctioneer's
talking that led to a major "secret" auction every Monday
from a larger electronics manufacturer.

From which I got to wondering how many other "under the
radar" auctions and surplus sales there may be. By starting
with this directory or this one, or this one, you can prune
down a list of Arizona Manufacturers who just may have
hidden opportunities.

You should be able to Google similar results for your area.

Paring the Arizona list by size produces...

Walmart ( already known and handled by Bonnette )
Quest Communications ( already known and handled by WSM )
Phelps Dodge ( already known and handled by Sierra )
General Dynamics
Freescale Semiconductor
Microchip Technology
ON Semiconductor
Lockheed Martin
Texas Instruments
Bombadier ( already known and handled by Starmann )
Southwest Gas ( already known and handled by WSM )
Northrup Grunnman
Cox Communications
Computer Sciences
Global Aircraft Solutions
Universal Avoinics
Sargent Controls
Salt River Project

Much more on our Auction Help library page.

Custom regional directories can be created for you through
this link.

August 10, 2006

Never store carbide in a non-locking carabiner.

August 9, 2006

Part of the huge inventory pile of our recent electronics
distributor acquisition included many tens of thousands of
crystals and crystal oscillator modules.

I'm still trying to sort all these out, and have started to
put some of these up on our eBay store. As might be
expected, some of the frequencies are truly bizarre,
while others are mainstream and very much in demand.

All are first quality top name brands.

In general, we have general use crystals, ready-to-use
crystal modules that are DIP sized and produce TTL/CMOS
outputs, 32KHz miniature watch crystals, and special transmit
receive crystal pairs for the 72 MHz model aircraft R/C band.

These are available by the each, in assortments, and in bulk.
At very low prices. Please email me me with your needs.

August 8, 2006

My HP Windows HP main machine has been behaving
strangely lately and I am at a loss as to what to do
about it.

The symptoms are that certain events (such as
clicking on a MSNBC secondary story) cause
the computer to ignore all attempts at running
new programs. Including ignoring ctrl-alt-esc.

It sometimes recovers on a single cold reboot,
but other times demands repeated rebooting and
even an overnight rest.

We have many defenses in place, including
use of Firefox and Thunderbird only, being
behind a cable modem and router, and passing
many of the usual spyware diagnostics.

An XP rebuild would be risky, and I am not
sure that this would fix the problem.

Any ideas? Please email me.

August 7, 2006

The industrial advantages of three phase power are
that the power flow is continuous, smaller wire sizes
can be used, there is less noise and vibration, and
motors are much easier to start and reverse.

Three phase power is rarely available for a residence.
Normal residental power is 220 volt single phase center
tapped. From which two 110 volt lines sharing a common
neutral are divided among the various breakers.

A home shop that wants to use a three phase motor used
to have a big time problem in that the utilities do not want
to instal 3 phase power where not enough will be sold.
And historic "phase converter" solutions can be awkward,
noisy, expensive, and dangerous.

But these days we have VFD's or Variable Frequency
Many of which will accept single phase input
and drive a three phase motor without any need for
anything special in an external converter.

You do, of course, have to check the specs on the
particular VFD to see if it will accept single phase
input. Many smaller drives do.

VFD's are dropping in price dramatically. One
source is Automation Direct. We still have a
few smaller A-B 220 volt 3 phase 1/2 horsepower
drives available on our eBay store at very
attractive pricing. These have single phase inputs.

August 6, 2006

A quick and simple way to double check the
spacing on electrolytic capacitors and other parts:
Use a tube of integrated circuits. The feet will
all point on one tenth inch centers.

August 5, 2006

You just might want to get in ahead of the hoarders
on this one: We have an insanely ridiculous quantity
of genuine H.H. Smith panel mount white banana
immediately available. All mint sealed in
original packaging. Tinnerman snap-in style.

For a nickel each.

Check our eBay listings or email me for details.

August 4, 2006

We have pretty much decided to cease all expedited
. It is far too disruptive, besides always
happening on the day the UPS relief driver fails to
show up.

It also interferes with our shipping help who are on
flex time. And, more than often than not, is demanded
by a problem buyer who has pissed around with us for
several weeks before demanding immediate shipment.

It also galls me to have to pay a shipping service a lot
more than we receive for the actual item. Obviously
this also impacts our fifteen day inspection priveleges
and our very rare need to issue refunds as well.

We try to ship everything next day, flex time and
work loads permitting.

August 3, 2006

A certain background pattern library tool of mine has been
temporarily renamed. email me if you get a 404 while
seeking it. And I'll give you the top secret access code.

It seems that several MySpace users decided that this
stolen and artistically far beyond ugly 2 meg file would
make nice full screen background wallpaper. In .BMP
format rather than .JPG, of course.

Naturally, since they did not want all that load on the
MySpace server, they simply stole our bandwidth for
continuing access. And are continuing to do so, 404's
and all.

MySpace apparently does not give a shit about enforcing
intellectual property rights, because one of the hoops
a complaintant has to jump through is (A) waaay beyond
Draconian, and (B) requires insecure transmission of
highly sensitive information.

There are stronger responses, but the point is starting a
pissing content with obviously stupid individuals is just
plain not worthwhile. An alternate ploy here would be to
replace the .BMP image with one of an appropriately
clad individual pioneering new methods of animal

Or making an obscene text bitmap and then complaining
to MySpace that you find it offensive. Or using this
(relocated to your own server, of course) to mess
with their minds.

Log analysis tools are essential to quickly spot this sort
of idiocy. We saw some useful tools in GuruGram #28.

August 2, 2006

Most of you know about Craig's List these days. As the
online replacement that is completely blowing away most
newspaper classified ads.

But I was rudely surprised when my own ad got promptly
pulled as "not in correct classification". After talking to
several others who had the same infuriating thing happen
repeatedly to them, a pattern is emerging.

Apparently unscrupulous other listers or "hall monitor"
style net nazis are making it difficult or inconvenient for
perfectly legitimate and completely properly classified
competitive ads to appear.

Not sure what the solution is or how widespread the
problem is. Certainly the threshold for pulling an
ad should be raised.
Certainly track should be kept of
who is requesting the ads be pulled.

August 1, 2006

Added some new links to our Arizona Auction Resources
library page.

Your own custom local auction resources page can be created for
you using these guidelines.

July 31, 2006

Just got a call from a client who was trying to use an ac
solid state relay to drive a low current, capacitive load.
And was getting some rather bizarre behavior.

Conventional mechanical relays are usually not too fussy what
kind of polarity of what kind of current gets shoved through
their contacts. Just keep within the maximum rating, and avoid
inductive arcing on the high end. And, on the low end, make
sure you have at least some current unless the relay is
dry switching rated.

Not so with solid state relays. There are only very specific
loads, polarities, and power factors that a solid state relay
can handle.
First and foremost, ac solid state relays use
a wildly different technology than the dc output ones do.

AC only output solid state relays are the most common and
the most widely useful. These are almost always based on
a device called a triac. A triac is a solid state bipolar switch
that can be pulsed on with a very low and often brief control
current. The rule is that the triac stays on until the main
current either drops to zero or switches polarity.

Triacs and solid state output relays work best with purely
resistive loads such as incandescent lamps and heaters.
They are usable with motors so long as you keep your
power factor high ( preferably over 0.7 ) and add a small
resistor-capacitor snubbing network. Details on this in
most any SCR or Triac manual.

On the low end, triacs require a minimum holding current.
Typically a few watts of load. This should also be speced
on the SSR or triac data sheet.

While a low current, high capacitive load (such as a
LCD transparency panel) could be SSR driven, you would
likely be better off with an electromechanical relay.
the very least, you would likely have to add a resistive
load in parallel with the panel.

July 30, 2006

Two important hazmat terms are the LEL lower explosive level
and the UEL upper explosive level. Usually expressed in percent
for an air mixture.

On an air aspirated internal combusion engine, two fuel
goals are to have a LEL as low as possible (so you are
consuming as much free air and carrying as little fuel);
and a HEL-LEL spread also as small as possible (to
maximize safety).

Hydrogen misses on both counts. Gasoline has a much
lower LEL at 1.4 percent and a comfortably narrow
HEL-LEL of 7.6-1.4 = 5.2 percent.

Hydrogen has over three times the LEL at 7.6 percent
and one of the widest HEL-LEL known at 75-4= 71 percent.

More in the DOT Orange Book
And in our ENERGY FUNDAMENTALS tutorial
And in our It's a Gas Hydrogen library.

July 29, 2006

I finally found out what that big fan is for at the front of single
engine aircraft. It is to chop holes in the clouds so the pilot
can see.

A secondary purpose is to keep the pilot cool. If the fan stops,
the pilot immediately starts sweating.

July 28, 2006

The item quantities we have on hand from our
recent electronics store buyout typically vary from
a few dozen to several thousand. We will usually
offer these in lots of quantity "X" for around $9.73.

"X" is initially set to give you a price around one
sixth normal distributor cost new
. And may be
lowered later if there is not enough early interest
in the item.

In general, we often have more than five lots of
, but five is a magic price point eBay number
for Dutch auctions. It also seems about right for
competitive interest.

You can immediately order any or all items that
are over and above our eBay listing at any time.
We try to list our remaining inventory at the top
of each eBay offer. For more details, just call us
at (928) 428-4073 or email me.

We are more than willing to combine shipping and
even "start a tab" for you. Our UPS charges can
often be lower than the eBay calculators because
we have daily pickup and you might have a
business address. But be sure to email us first.

Only absolute first rate mainstream items are
offered here. Often in the most popular and most
in demand values. All items are guaranteed usable
and we always try to understate their condition. Any
dregs go to the Alvin Pile where you may find some
really outstanding bargains.

July 27, 2006

I can't believe that others keep beating the
shilling dead horse on eBay. One more time:

Under the Uniform Commercial Code, shilling
is completely legal
if preannounced or if it
is a distress sale. Otherwise, all that happens
is the the price sometimes can drop back to the
preshill level.

Falsely accusing someone of shilling on eBay
is an infinitely more henious crime than any
possibility of the shilling itself. Simply because
shilling does not work on eBay.

And much of what looks like shilling is not.

Two of the essential elements of shilling are
mark demeanor feedback where the mark is
carefully watched for body language, and the
auctioneer bailout of "I'm sorry sir, I could
have sworn you had your hand up". For a
shill win is always a staggering loss
. One that
must be avoided at all costs.

Neither shill element is possible on eBay. Further,
there is a simple, obvious, and 100 percent effective
defense against eBay shilling: Always proxy
bid your max ONCE very late in the auction.

If you do not liike the current price at your
bid time, you do not bid. If the price is acceptable,
it does not matter in the least how the price got
to that point.

I guess the "shilling bitchers" on eBay see a
pricey item for 99 cents and get pissed when
they cannot buy it for that price. They then
shop around for an excuse to blame someone
for their own monumental stupidity.

Much more on our Auction Help library page.
Especially our eBay Buying Secrets tutorial.

July 26, 2006

Sorry, but if you send us an "email blocked by our
spam filter, please jump through these hoops",
of message, you will NEVER hear from us again.

Epsilon Minuses who pull stunts like this do not have
the faintest clue how rude an insult this is. Nor any
concept whatsoever of the value of the poster's time.

Apparently the "Spamarrest" service is one method behind
kicking sand in the face of people who you are intentionally
communicating with..

These losers should get staked to an anthill.

July 25, 2006

A reminder that we have a pair of eminently restorable
1908 era commercial silent movie projectors available.
These are presently disassembled and thus easily
shippable via UPS.

I really would like to find a good home for these and I
seem to have too many other projects going to spend
the time for a full assembly and restoration.

You can email me for further details.

July 24, 2006

Sometimes nice things can unexpectedly or even
serendipitiously happen when manipulating images.
Ferinstance, a recent scan of a transistor was way
out of plumb. When I fixed this with an ImageView32,
rotation, a diagonal square resulted that normally
would have been cropped.

But it was unusual enough to leave as a design element.
Per this example.

July 23, 2006

A local public library is trying to make a power grab
seeking new taxes for expanded county wide bookmobile
services. I simply cannot believe the utter and total
cluelessness piled on in layer after layer of gross and
utter unawareness.

Bottom line: Local public libraries are similar to T-squares,
slide rules, and electric typewriters. They are an anacronism
that has no future whatsoever unless they suddenly and
dramatically morph.
Business as usual simply will not hack it.

Repurposing is an absolute must.

At one time, small public libraries served as a very useful
gatekeeper for information access. The web, of course,
has not only eliminated the need for gatekeepers or gates,
but has also thankfully gotten rid of the fence the gate
was supposed to go in.

The utter and total demise of books in imminent. Online
distribution of book content is already as good as a
traditional book
. Within a few weeks, we can expect
either a useful eBook reader or else a replacement that
completely blows away eBook readers. Either one of which
will render conventional printed books totally and utterly
Helped along by a student revolt against

The concept of a physical form of information, a provider
of that form, and a recipient of that form having to be
physically in the same place at the same time is now
utterly ludicrous. Equally absurd is the restriction that
only one recipient at a time can have info access. Or
that the info needs to be "returned" after use.

Anything less than 24/7 access these days is, of course,
totally unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the big libraries are eating their young. By
making their collections instantly available worldwide.
For instance, it is much faster, simpler, cheaper, and
more convenient for a Sanchez resident to visit the
New York Public Library than the Safford Library.

Ah, but you say "All a libraray has to do is provide
patron Internet access". Uh, the problem is to draw
some sort of distinction
between such access and the
same access now available free at Burger King. Who
do so (a) without taxes, (b) without silly censorship,
and, of course, (c) without any innane restrictions on
food and drink.

July 22 2006

The Russians recently invented some synthetic
. Which is absolutely indistinguishable from
the real item.

Except by taste.

July 21 2006

Here's some insider secrets of eBay selling
that seem to be working for us:

While Paypal is your easiest and by far your
lowest cost payment source, there is a hidden
big advantage to having your own VISA/MC
merchant accounts: Many VISA/MC users
will not demand an exact shipping figure
, so
several communication and closure steps
can sometimes be eliminated.

Having your own UPS daily pickup can save
you charges as the eBay UPS calculators
assume a residental address and parcel
dropoff. These charge savings can be passed
on to the customer if they are also using
your VISA/MC merchang account.

Offering combined shipping is a very good
and should conspicuously appear in
all of your offers. As can the option of a
buyer "starting a tab". But we feel that
the buyer should ask for combination or
tabs via email.
Retroactively refunding
extra shipping gets you into the "No
good deed goes unpunished" territory.

Ways to reach you should conspicuously
appear in your offerings to take care of
the occasional "I'll take them all"
industrial buyer. eBay, of course, is
fully entitled to fees on anything actually
listed and sold specifically on eBay.

There are traps and opportunities hidden
in the Dutch Auction process. We often
warn buyers here to never bid on all "n"
items in a Dutch Auction
as the last one
will cost them bunches more than the
previous n-1 items. On the other hand,
a Dutch Auction pissing contest is a
joy to behold. And, with industrial sales,
unit cost may not be a big deal if a
production line is waiting for an otherwise
unavailable part

On the seller side, you are charged for
all of your Dutch quantity even if only a
few of them sell. Thus, you should arrange
your offered quantities to total out to
$49.99 or $199.99.
This ploy coincidentally
encourages buyers unaware of the Dutch
Auction trap.

Additional tutorials on our Auction Help
library page. Always start with our
eBay Buying Secrets and eBay
Selling Secrets

July 20 2006

As you may have noticed, I got a tad
behind posting our What's New entries
because I was trying to get all of our
new electronic surplus goodies up on
eBay. So far, about 200 of the 1800+ lots
have been listed. My goal is to add
ten to twenty new items daily

All at prices one sixth of normal price or
lower. Sometimes much lower.

These are selling like gangbusters and
are taking up an inordinate amount of
time. Especially since we just lost our
last employee to Home Depot. Who
had the temerity to offer a living wage.

Meanwhile, I'll be "back filling" some
of the missing What's New dates, so scroll
back on down to pick up whatever I missed
the first time around.

July 19, 2006

We also have a unique five acres for sale in
an extremely remote (think survivalist) area
immediately adjacent to the East Fork of the
Gila River
and surrounded by New Mexico's
Gila Wilderness.

3 074 074 248 118 District-02N Section 11
Township 13 S Range 13W PT NH 4.7Acres

Taxes are currently $2.79 per year.

Access is by foot or horse only. You can
email me for more details on this stunningly
unusual opportunity. Asking $6900 per acre
with financing available.

July 18, 2006

Our Southern Oregon Gold Hill spectacular view
property is now listed here.

We've purposely priced these 20 acres at well
under market because a solvable easement
issue needs resolved before homesite approval
can be granted. We have hired land planning
specialists to assist us in this easement resolution.

Power is on the property and very attractive
financing is available. Mid-size city ameneties are
twelve minutes away. The Rogue River is nearby;
beaches and mountains are an hour away.

Here's some photos...

You can click expand these. Then click again.

This steep to sloping parcel is immediately adjacent to the Gold
city limits and offers absolutely outstanding views. It is in one
of the most in-demand rural areas in the country, and has really great
access both to recreation and to midsize city resources. Plus superb
climate, low crime, and good schools.

Here is a map. Property is the green rectangle "pointed to" by
Thirteenth Street.

July 17, 2006

Their is no reasonable doubt that some "homegrown"and carbon
neutral, renewable, and sutainable biofuel will have to replace
fossil oil. One significant step in that direction appears in Science
for June 30,2006 under a Robert Service news

In which "Phase Modifiers Promote Efficient Production of
Hydroxymethylfurfural from Fructose"
is analyzed that also
appears in the same issue on pages 1933-1937. Basically
they seem to have found an efficiency breakthrough in
creating plastic feedstocks from plants.

Meanwhile, I simply cannot believe that others are continuing
to get sucked into the ethanol-from-US-corn ludicrosity. A strong
case can be made that this is nothing but an outrageous twelve
billion dollar vote buying scam.

Corn under US farm conditions, is plain and simply, the
worst possible source for ethanol. Some studies show corn
for ethanol to be a net energy sink. Others show it to have
an utterly laughable energy gain. Not to mention that the
total available corn crop is but the tiniest fraction of US
energy needs. And requires the finest of croplands.

Ethanol itself may or may not prove useful when derived
from a proper feedstock. Ethanol has significantly less
energy density than heptane or iso-octane
. It also has a
very strong affinity for water. There are also major issues
with moonshine laws.

Both switchgrass and bagassee (sugar cane residue) offer
many times the net energy efficiency of corn based ethanol.

Not to mention being "waste" products to start with and
easily grown in marginal lands nationwide. There are many
other efficient candidate feedstocks as well .

Curiously, not one net gallon of US corn ethanol for fuel
has ever been produced subsidy free
. There are also steep
tariffs that the corn syrup people clearly benefit from that
essentially bans all imports of bagassee.

Much more in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

July 16, 2006

A minor tip when scanning round or otherwise
unstable small objects: A pair of solid state relays
makes an ideal set of "bookends"
. That let you
orient and position just right.

You might even want to have a special set or two
with scratch-free felt bottoms added.

There is usually enough excess resolution on a
scan that you can rotate the image using Imagview32
or whatever to get things aligned properly.

July 15, 2006

I cannot believe the monumental stupidity of many of
the print trade journals. Who now seem to DEMAND
a half hour telephone interview
to give you a renewal
to their marginal publication that has no future anyway.

Such interviews probably cost an average company a
hundred dollars
or more of fully burdened engineering
time. They also clearly drive subscribers away who
do not want to be bothered.

Everybody always lies on trade journal renewals
, so the results are totally meaningless anyhow.
Obviously, you tell them what they want to hear and
never divulge insider company info..

What is even more infuriating is when you tell them
you do not want the magazine and they call you back
three or four times in a row.

July 14, 2006

Refurb Log:

We've had several questions on the differences between
all of the various plugs and jacks we are now offering on
our eBay sale of a surplus electronics buyout.

In general, plugs are male and are often on cables while
jacks are female and are often on a box or a chassis of
some sort. The innermost conductor determines gender.

Also, in general, plugs of a feather flock together. Each
plug and jack combination must be matched to each other.

While we probably have lots of matching colors, many of
these are in yet unopened boxes awaiting triage and
listing. So it is difficult for us to know whether we have
matching plugs and jacks or matching colors of either.

What we list is what we have immediately available.


RCA Phono plugs and jacks are used for
most consumer audio needs. Always
shielded on inputs and sometimes
used on speaker lines.

Banana plugs and jacks have a distinctive
split and swollen look. They are often used
for older audio testing and typically may be
paired on 3/4 inch centers.

Miniature Banana plugs and jacks are about
half the size of the regular ones and are not
all that popular. The Triplett 310 VOM was
one example of a smaller piece of test gear
that used these.

Pin Plugs and sockets are solid and look just
like test probes. They also fit a 5-way binding
post. At one time, these were used on cheap

Power plugs and jacks are used by wall warts
and most newer gear to provide dc power.
There are several different diameters and
pin centers. Your Radio Shack store should
have a collection of test adaptors called
Adaptaplugs that let you select the right
size. Plugs and jacks must match exactly.
As must their polarity.

BNC plugs and jacks are used on most
better grade video and for oscilloscope
connections and for fancier Ethernet
systems. They normally terminate a
RG59U coaxial cable.

Type F plugs are normally used on a cable
system. They are typically hex and use the
actual coax center conductor for their
male terminal.

Type G plugs are similar to type F except
that they push or snap on rather than
being threaded.

UHF plugs and jacks are an older system
involving larger diameter coax cables. These
still see some ham radio use as well. They
have a smooth center pin.

Type N plugs and jacks are a newer standard
connector used on high end test equipment.
Their center connector is doubly coaxial
compared to a similar sized UHF plug.

Regular Phone plugs and jacks are quite
large and once were a telephone standard.
Stereo versions with three conductors are
also available.

Miniature Phone plugs look just like the
older and larger ones, but have a 3.5 mm
diameter shaft. They are quite common
for hedphone jacks on cassette recorders
and such.

Subminiature Phone plugs are smaller than
the miniature ones and have a 2.5 mm diameter
shaft. These are sometimes used with
microphone inputs on cassette recorders.

SMA Plugs and jacks are used in modern
UHF and microwave gear. They are quite
small and almost always gold plated.

Some excellent illustrations and many other examples of
various jack and plug combinations can be found on
this website.

July 13, 2006

When I was in grade school, Pittsburgh's legendary Buhl
was a seven cent streetcar ride away on #10
West View
. My continuing involvement in their sky shows,
science fairs, technical forums, unique telescope, and even
a "school science experts" radio program very much made
me what I feel I have become today.

I am thus deeply saddened by the ongoing debacle fiasco of
our local Discovery Park here in the Gila Valley. Which
really should be an outstanding facility. A real ( albeit
a Kitt Peak hand me down ) 20 inch telescope, a superb
flight simulator, tours to the Mt Graham Scopes, an
upscale narrow gauge train ride, special environmental
studies, an astronomy club, useful seminar facilities,
nature trails, a huge camera obscura, a lake, nice kivas,
and great heaping bunches more.

In theory anyone with a genuine interest could have
gotten unlimited personal access to a research quality

Buy, my oh my. Any competent directors lasted at most
a few weeks. Bunches of funding became available to
build ( finished but as yet unopened ) impressive new
exhibit spaces. But no funding whatsoever for day-to-
day running of visitor serving expenses.

At present, EAC is taking over the facility but seems
to be throwing out the baby and drinking the washwater.
By shutting down both the train and the flight simulator.

I don't know all of the underlying root causes, but a
total lack of decent math and science courses in
local high schools is obviously a factor.
So was EAC's
cancellation of their electronics program because the
football team needed the money. Seems the subsidy
of paying fans $38 each to attend each home game
was not nearly enough.

There had to be hidden agendas and monumental
egos of total incompentents involved on many levels
as well. Plus possibly some big time real estate ploys
that never saw the light of day. But I suspect the true
story will never be fully known.

Am I pissed? You bet.

July 12, 2006

Refurb Log:

Many Japenese and Pacific Rim semiconductors use
a "2SA", "2SB", "2SC"... part numbering scheme.
Full and free data on many of these parts now can be
found at this resource.

Meanwhile, I've just placed a unique and definitive
collection of many thousands of these classic semis
up on eBay. Five full cabinets of extremely difficult
to find transistors and integrated circuits.

July 11, 2006

The thermodynamics folks are at long last addressing
whether hell is exothermic or endothermic.

If hell is exothermic, eventually all hell breaks loose.

If hell is endothermic, eventually hell freezes over.

July 10, 2006

Refurb Log:

There are two different types of ac solid state relays with wildly
different properties. A zero crossing switched SSR always
turns on at the ac line voltage zero crossing and turns off
when the current drops to zero. Such switching eliminates
a lot of pops, clicks, and transients, and is the most gentle
for industrial loads.

A random switched SSR turns on whenever it is told to and
turns off when the current drops to zero. This allows lamp
dimming and related proportional phase control effects
and even PWM.

A zero crossing switched SSR can NOT be used for dimming
or phase angle control!

The obvious way to tell the difference is with the manufacturer's
data sheet. Should you be unable to get specs on an older
SSR or a discontinued one, here is how you tell the two apart:

Connect the output in series with a 60 watt lamp to the ac line.
Test the relay for normal operation by applying a low level
voltage (typically as low as 3 volts, but may be as high as 12
in older industrial units.) to the SSR inputs. Polarity may have
to be observed in many units.

The lamp should go on with applied input voltage and back off
when the voltage is removed.

Next, find a pulse or function generator and an oscilloscope.
Create a rectangular 5 volt waveform with a ten percent duty
at a frequency of 119.9 Hertz. Apply this to your SSR
input while monitoring with a scope set to line sync.

A phase controllable SSR should slowly and uniformly go
through all of its possible brightness levels. A zero crossing
SSR will turn on to full brightness as each ac half cycle slips
by and will be completely off otherwise.

July 9, 2006

Don't know what has been going on with Arizona
sales at Government Liquidation. All that have been
listed lately are a very few items of minor interest.

I've been doing a lot less with mil surplus lately.
Reasons include GL becoming extremely competitve,
problems with their staffing, and their maddeningly
infuriating bid extensions
. Not to mention their
outrageously high opening prices for many items.

But mostly because I've found that industrial distress
items involving "contents of room" and "contents
of shelves" routinely give me far better bargains with
much more opportunity for personal value added.

More in our Arizona Auction Resources directory
and our Auction Help library pages.

July 8, 2006

Some further observations on scanning items for eBay:

When and where appropriate, a scanner can give you
ridiculously more resolution than a digital camera
combined with greatly improved lighting and far
less visual distortion.

You do, of course, have to use a scanner with decent
depth of field, keep its glass squeaky clean before
each and every use, and avoid nicks and scratches.

There are some scanner quirks you have to be
aware of. Placing a small 3-D offcenter will distort
it, which may or may not be desirable. Capacitors
or similar cylindrical items may show their tops or
bottoms differently depending on their location.

Similarly, 3D objects may show a preferential
depending on their orientation. Always
try a portrait and a landscape orientation if this
becomes a problem for you. Excessive shadow
can be eliminated during post processing.

On lower value items, try scanning eight or more
items at once
. A grouped pile of items can show
different aspects of the same object. Something
that otherwise is tricky to do in a single image.

Heavier small items such as a solid state relay
can be used as" bookends" to keep round items
from rotating. As can scotch tape. A collection of
small blocks can be used to prop up corners of
items that will not lay flat. These can be easily
removed during post processing.

White or pastel paper covers will often darken
if they are distant from the glass. This can
give you useful darker color backgrounds.
A cloth rag or other weight on the covers can
make them more uniform and brighter.

As always, image post processing is crucial and
you should spend most of your time and effort in
image post processing
. Plain old Paint combined
with free Imageview 32 and some of my utilities
can often be all that you would need.

Typically, an item will be isolated from the others
and rotated as needed to become perfectly
vertical. Perspective distortion may also be
required using my utilities.

If the background is acceptable for a low cost
listing, it often can be used as is or lightly
retouched. Otherwise, you should knock the
background out and replace it with one of
or use our autobackgrounder utility..
Backgrounds can be knocked out to white
using our KNOCKBACK.PSL code.

Lettering can be improved by making its
background more uniform and eliminating
any nearby glitches or sugar. "Trimming"
the background of each letter can also
help bunches. In extreme cases, you can
use our Bitmap Typewriter to completely
redo everything for utmost legibility.

Once you get everything looking right,
you'll further want to modify the image
for its best presentation
. This includes
resizing, cropping to an appropriate and
balanced amount of background, lowering
gamma and increasing brightness.

A single click of sharpening can also be
very useful. But always check carefully
whether this improves or hurts your image.
Finally, your bitmap image gets converted
to .JPG for actual eBay presentation.

Much more on our Auction Help page,
our Fonts and Images pages, and our
PostScript library.

July 7, 2006

To someone who has kicked around for decades in
the Arizona backcountry, there is not the slightest
doubt to me that we have major and unprecedented
global warming and that a significant portion of it is
unquestionably man caused.

An interesting and definite summary appears in
Science for 30 June 2006 on page 1854 under a
Richard A Kerr byline.

Neglecting such obvious things as the Ross Ice
Shelf breaking off and the Northwest Passage
about to open, the local Arizona backcountry
evidence by itself is compelling.

We lost our only Arizona glacier. Hundred year
floods are now arriving every two years or so. In
places like remote Blue Creek, stately hundred year
old trees are present in the oxbows of the original
river channel, but the current channel is scoured
clean and totally tree free. Same goes for the recent
catastrophic destruction of Marijilda Crossing.

Old maps show an "artesian hot well" on the
"wrong" side of the Whitlock Mountains. Going
there reveals a dry stream channel from the original
artesian well. Plus the remains of a small windmill
tower, a midsized windmill tower, a large windmill
tower, a 110 volt pump panel, a 220 volt pump panel,
and a 440 volt pump panel.

All long abandoned, of course.

While Arizona has long had a summer fire season
with significant fires, we simply have never had
thousands of homes being routinely destroyed and
entire mountain tops burning off year after year until
recently. And even the hardiest of live oak trees
seem to be dying in the Texas Canyon area.

July 6, 2006

Refurb Log:

Several terms seem to be causing some recent confusion.
Many capacitors are basically cylindrical in shape. A
capacitor with radial leads has the leads going out along
the radius of the cylinder.

A capacitor with axial leads has the leads going out along
the axis or axle of the cylinder. Sometimes these leads
will go out each end of the capacitor; other times both
leads will go out the same end. Either way, this is still
an axial leaded capacitor.

Most people are fairly good at telling male from female.
And this is rather obvious on such things as fire hoses.
But connectors can be confusing. The rule is that male
or female is determined by the innermost conductor.

For instance, the usual end on a BNC cable is a male
connector, despite the obvious "feminity" of the outside
connecting ring.

July 5, 2006

Expanded and updated our Arizona Auction Resources

Your own custom regional auction resource finder can
be created for you using these guidelines.

Much more in our Auction Help library.

July 4, 2006

We have started listing our electronic surplus house
buyout acquisitions on eBay. Our goal is to list ten or twenty
new items each day out of what is probably an 1800 item

All of these items are superb quality, having come from
production overstocks at Motorola, Honeywell, and elsewhere.
Some items are sorely limited in quantity, while we have
great heaping bunches of others.

Our initial pricing will be around one sixth of normal distributor
costs. Some items will be spectacularly lower. Most items
are in pristine condition inside original packaging. Outer
packaging may include minor to moderate cosmetics.

Yes, we will gladly combine shipping on items, but only if
you ask us via email to do so.
Most items can be sold
either on or off of eBay, per your choosing. Most items
are available for instant shipment.

If an item is not yet listed, either we do not have it or else
we have not gotten to the hundreds of sealed boxes that we
are processing one box at a time.

As usual, U.S. Bidders and buyers only. Many items are
US made but very few are ROHS compatible or compliant.

July 3, 2006

Split out the first half of our 2006 archive since it has
gotten quite long. The continuation which you are viewing
here is WHTNU06.SHTML. The earlier material can be
found as WHTNU06A.SHTML or by clicking here.

July 2, 2006

Beware the eBay Dutch Auction trap!

If you bid on all "n" items offered, you
may end up paying a lot more than you
expect. The rule is this:
 Never bid on all
"n" items in a Dutch Auction!
Always bid
only on "n-1" or fewer items.

Ferinstance, say you are the only bidder on
a ten item Dutch offering. The opening price
is one dollar. Just to be sure of winning, you
bid two dollars on all quantity ten.

If you are the only bidder, you will end up
paying one dollar each for your first nine
items. But ELEVEN DOLLARS for the
tenth item!

More on eBay buying here.

More on eBay selling here.

And bunches more on auctions in general
can be found here.

July 1, 2006


A very few of the larger rolls of desoldering braid
we have up on eBay seem to be removed from
service and may end up somewhat shy of their full

We'll be weight checking each roll before shipping.

All shipped rolls are now guaranteed "substantially full".
All braid is guaranteed pristine and fully usable.

June 30, 2006

More on our "scan the baggie" compromise
image technique. After some experiments,
it is real hard to not get lots of "sugar" and
similar poly artifacts when scanning through

Worse yet, you cannot sharpen your image
because it dramatically makes the sugar

If at all possible, remove the items from the
baggie and pile them on the scanner
. The
results will be ridiculously better. Even if
you have to open and reseal the package.
With cropping, the final image still suggests
looking through a baggie. Minus the sugar.

A further complication: If you just dump
the items on the scanner, you'll also be
dumping dust and whatever onto the scanner
glass. So, carefully wash all items before

Once again, the advantages of the "scan
the baggie" technique are that the photos
can be done much faster
. And that you get
multiple views of the item in one image.

June 28, 2006

Speaking of the Alvin Pile, Alvin has his
own website up that can be linked here.
Two current items deserve mention.

The first is a lightly used SunRaise
Thermography machine that almost certainly
will close at a tiny fraction of its $1800
price new. Thermography creates those
"raised print" effects using conventional
print shop rubber based inks. Surprisingly,
the ink need not still be wet. Anything under
an hour after printing works just fine.

The other item is even more intriguing.
This is a Baxter hypothermia machine
which normally costs many thousands of
dollars and is used for cold water treatment
of physical therapy. Unlike ice packs, the
circulating temperature is carefully regulated
preventing frostbite and similar problems.

The non-medical uses are even more
intriguing. What can you do with a
circulating source of carefully controlled
cold water?
Environmental chambers,
chillers, etc etc etc...

This one is likely to go for a pittance.
Two are available and they are apparently
unused military surplus.

You can contact Alvin directly for more

June 27, 2006

Started listing our electronic distributor
components on eBay, with the first 40 or
so items listed and three already sold out.

This is a liquidation, so one box at a time
gets opened and triaged
. The best stuff
goes to eBay, the seconds to a holding
area, and the thirds to the Alvin Pile.

These are mostly "new old stock" conventional
electronic components by major US name brand
suppliers plus some foreign. Some of them are
a tad dated, but I will not list anything that is not
still genuinely useful

Prices are presently between one-sixth
and one-tenth of normal. We ask that you
combine orders as much as possible to
permit continued use of low unit pricing.

In general, all components are guaranteed
to be useful
and most are in "as new"
condition. Outer packaging, however, may
include mild to moderate storage

A lot of onsie twosie items will be offered
as collections in 50 drawer cabinets. Any
item that goes into these assortments is
absolutely first class and mainstream.
salting or junk is added. If for no other
reason, we have great heaping bunches
more first rate components than we do
storage cabinets.

We will be most happy to find the best
combined shipping rate for you. We can
often beat the UPS calculator on eBay
because we have daily pickup.

Be sure to email us for the best possible
shipping deal.

June 26, 2006

A reminder that our web pages are intended
for "medium" type size and no underlining.
Be sure to check your browser settings if
anything doesn't quite look right.

And please report any typos or obvious
problems by emailing me.

June 25, 2006

Refurb Log:

Finding the value of ultra small components
can be quite a challenge. One route is to use
a modern DVM and actually measure the
resistance or capacitance values

Many capacitors use a three digit plus letter
code. The first two digits are the value of
the capacitor. The third digit tells you how
many zeros
to add to the first two. And the
final letter (when used) can tell you the

Ferinstance, a 225K capacitor would be
2200000 picofarads or 2.2 microfarads.
With a tolerance of ten percent. Things
can get confusing for very low values.
A 100K would be a 10 picofarad cap
while a 101K would be 100 picofarads.

The only tiny problem is that caps have
become so small that there is no longer
any room on them for four letters.

One tip on DVM capacitance measurement:
Chances are you will get a nonzero reading
from the probe leads and strays. Be sure
to "fixture compensate" and subtract this
value out when making low pf measurements.

Avoid any resistive loading of any cap
being tested. Especially from fingers.

June 24, 2006

Another advantage of our "scan a baggie"
eBay photography ploy of a few days ago
is that you get a half dozen or more aspects
of the items being offered
all in one image.

It's real tricky to get something like a rocker
switch to reveal all its features in a single
image. But a baggie of them in a group portrait
works like a champ.

More eBay photography secrets in our
Auction Help library page.

June 23, 2006

What are the engineering "magic numbers"
for baseline calculations on electric and
hybrid vehicles

A useful electric car summary appears here.

Firstoff, a kilowatt of power is pretty much the
same thing as a horsepower.
While a "real"
horsepower is only 746 watts, the efficiency
losses of the motor, controller, and wiring
can make real world horsepower and their
input kilowatt hours very nearly equal.

A "typical" electric vehicle under reasonable
road conditions would normally draw something
centered on 20 kilowatts.
If you got 40 miles
in that hour, your electrical energy consumption
would be half a kilowatt hour per mile.

Thus a pure electric car with a range of 300
miles would need something like 150 kilowatt
hours delivered from the batteries. Or more
like 250 kilowatt hours at the input to the
charger, allowing for charging and battery

A normal home electric system is something
like 100 amps at 220 volts or 20 kilowatt hours
per hour if used at full capacity. Assuming
that you have other uses for your electricity,
it would thus take the better part of a day to
recharge a decent performing electric vehicle
at home.

While the five cents per mile sounds rather
attractive, you also have to add in the battery
amortization costs, which are likely to remain
enormously higher.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

June 22, 2006

One of my earliest research projects was
for an automotive miles-per-gallon meter.
Way on back in 1962.

In those days, all we had were germanium
transistors (uphill both ways barefoot in the
snow) and slide rule accuracy was something
you strived for but never acheived.

Doing any kind of division got tricky. The
approach was to sense speed with a
highly modified dc motor that went between
the speedometer cable and the speedometer.
In which every third commutator bar was shorted
and everything else eliminated.

The flowmeter was a paddle type design that
had enough problems that the project got
shelved. But the theory was that you step
charged a capacitor in up to 40 (wow!) levels
for a readout of 0 to 40 miles per gallon.

What really amazes me is that we still do
not have miles per gallon meters available.
Yet I strongly feel that proper use of such
a meter could make as much as a TWENTY
PERCENT savings in your gasoline costs

These days, all of the needed input data
should be kicking around inside the MPU,
so the implementaion cost would be rather

Possibly three readouts: a digital one with
actual MPG to a tenth, a large LED whose
color varied from red to green, and an
optional sound feedback system.

Biofeedback at its best.

June 21, 2006

Here is the recommended and certified
test procedure for cowboy camp coffee:

Drop an anvil in it. If the anvil sinks, the
coffee is too weak. If it floats, it is just
right. If it dissolves, it is too strong.

Similar ongoings in MARCIA.PDF

June 20, 2006

Just barely started listing all of our
new electronic components inventory
to eBay.

One of the dilemmas is that many of
these items are either low cost or
one-off, and that I simply cannot
justify the time for our usual very high
image quality.

Here's a compromise method that
looks like it will barely be acceptable:

   Carefully clean both the scanner
    glass and the parts baggie. Put
    the best surface down and scan.

   Bring the image up in Imageview
   and center on a very nice typical
   component. Rotate the image so
   this component is sort of right side
   up, but preferably at a 20 or 30
   degree lean.
   Crop to somewhat beyond the
   typical part. Do a minimum retouch
   on the part itself, but very little
   more to the background.

   Follow up with the usual gamma
   correction, size correction, a very
    minimal sharpening, and JPEG

Here's an example.

And here are several more tutorials
on professional image prep.

June 19, 2006

How much energy is needed to move
an automobile? A good summary can
be found here. And a good metric to
english converter program here.

You first have to split the problem at
the wheels. External losses are the
rolling resistance, the air resistance,
accelleration, and hill climbing.

Internal losses are whatever happens
between the raw fuel source energy and
what actually reaches the wheels.

They use a Porsche 911 Carerra for their

The rolling resistance of tires and such
is surprisingly independent of speed and
typically might be 180 Newtons or 40
pounds of force.

The wind resistance varies with the square
of speed and might range from 40 Newtons
at 22 miles per hour to 360 Newtons at 67
miles per hour.

Combining the two translates to about 2.9
horsepower at 22 miles per hour up to 22
horsepower at 66 miles per hour.

The power for accelleration is very much
higher. For their example car going from
0 to 60 mph in six seconds, 100 additional
horserpower are needed.

Additional power is needed for hill climbing.
For their example of a 5% grade at 66
miles per hour will demand an additional
24 horsepower.

A reminder that these figures are at the
An ICE runs about 33 percent
efficiency, but after accessories and
drive train losses, only 15% or so makes
it to the wheels.

Electric and fuel cell vehicles have their
own restrictions. Figure 90 percent motor
efficiency, 85% controller efficiency and
97% wiring efficiency for a gross efficiency
of 74% before acessories and drive train
losses. Plus weight and range penalties.

Fuel cells based on hydrogen have a maximum
theoretical efficiency of 83 percent
, but none
available today even remotely can dream of
approaching this figure. Note that fuel cell
inefficiency compounds against motor, controller,
and wiring inefficiencies.

I feel that practical fuel cell systems are unlikely
to end up more than a very few percent more
efficient than the latest of ICE designs

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

June 18, 2006

Updtated, corrected, and expanded our
Offsite Resources Home Page feature.

June 17, 2006

Those Walmart Auctions are an interesting
variation on a theme. Every few weeks or so,
an old Walmart gets replaced by a new one.
Something like three months after the old
store or distribution center closes, an auction
of all remaining fixtures and dregs gets done.

Bonnette is the usual auctioneer. Stores in
rural locations tend to be underattended.
No inventory is ever sold. Only shelves,
pallet racks, auto shop machines, displays,
snack bar stuff, and similar items.

The auctions tend to move very fast and
in large lots. A very few regulars travel
around the country and scoop up unheard
of bargains. IF you happen to need great
heaping bunches of larger and longer
specialized used store fixtures.

Loading and shipping are major problems,
and removal times are sometimes sorely

One exception to the very low prices are
the food prep stuff.
Things like popcorn
machines and hotdog cookers go for many
hundreds of dollars.

As with all auctions, the opportunties
lie in what others miss
. Most of their
white elephants are a perfectly normal
gray elephant color.

Ferinstance, highly specialized display
light fixtures are easily converted into
light box tents for eBay photography.

A huge and utterly grotesque retail bicycle
display system can be bought for $10 and
stripped for fifty ready-to-sell and
individual bicycle stands

And the $15 complete set of clothes
changing booths has panel after panel
of imitation wood that is easily converted
into a backyard shed or whatever. After
removing the sellable large mirrors.

The totally stripped checkout counters
went unsold. And easily could have been
gotten for $5 total. They still had perfectly
good motor powered conveyors in them.

As always, opportunity is where you find
And is greatly enhanced by seeing
value that others miss.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

June 16, 2006

A useful strategy useful for both eBay and
live auctions can be based on the fact that
nobody likes to break a twenty, and people
will go far out of their way to avoid spending
a hundred or two.

Thus you are often best off setting the max
price you are willing to pay just above a
currency threshold
, rather than just below.

Ferinstance, a bid of $103.50 is much more
likely to win than one of $97.00. Always
using oddball penny amounts when suitable.

Some Arizona auction houses are found here,
with a tutorial here, additional auction help here,
and your own custom regional auction finder here.

June 15, 2006

Those alphametic puzzles we provided you
with "instant" solutions for in PUZZLE1.PDF
can be monumentally insidious time wasters
when done the old way.

Per this infuriatingly interactive web site.

Surprisingly, the classic started-it-all problem
of SEND + MORE = MONEY has a totally
deterministic solution requiring no permutations
or trial and error at all. Thusly...

     M must be 1 because of a forced carry4.

     S + carry3 + 1 must equal 10 but not 11.
     S is thus 8 or 9 but O must equal 0.

    Column 2 must carry and N must equal
     E + 1. This also forces S to 9 only since
     column 3 cannot carry. Substituting (E+1)
     for N greatly simplifies understanding
     this step and the ones that follow.

     For column2 to work, R must equal 8 with
     a Column1 carry.

     Leaving D + E = Y. Y min is 12 or 13 since
     a carry is needed and 0 and 1 are taken. E
     cannot directly be 8 or 9 and cannot be 7
     because N = E +1 also cannot be 8. An E
     of 6 makes D an illegal 7 bcause of N.

     E values of less than four cannot force a
     carry. Thus, E is 5 and N = 6 and D is 7.
     Leaving you with a Y of 2.

     Only eight of the ten digits are used,
     with 3 and 4 absent and unneeded.

June 14, 2006

Just bought the entire inventory of a classic
electronics parts store. Most of this will be
third partied out. Tons of stuff.

Not ROHS, of course.

Plesae email me with your needs.

June 13, 2006

GuruGram #67 is on Puzzle Solving with

Sourcecode is found here. Much more is in
our PostScript library.

June 12, 2006

Despite the record number of recent and
upcoming auctions on the Arizona Auction
, there really hasn't been all that
much that great for me recently.

What made for good auctions in the past?

Huge ones certainly where multiple days
and thousands of lots utterly overwhelmed.
Belden and Rubbermaid in particular.

Auctions where the auctioneer made a
really stupid mistake, like moving a high
tech telecom auction to a remote Arizona
rural community nobody could get to.

Auctions where others failed to recognize
. Such as the quarter million dollar
pile of Adept sliders that everybody else
thought were home electric draperies.

Auctions misdescribed where a "sewing
machine" auction really had bunches of
robotics and automation gear and great
heaping piles of inventory as secondary
lots. And I was the only tech bidder.

And one time gambles, such as a zillion
boxes of water soluble swimsuits, gotten
from Holloman AFB in a half price offer
when it failed to make the minimum bid.

Ultra tedious and hot auctions that went
waay beyond reasonable times. And whole
rooms of stuff were literally given away
to the very few bidders still present.

But mostly plain old blind luck.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

June 11, 2006

The "add six inches to your mortgage" email
spam scams seem to be coming out of the
woodwork again. One offers a $241,000 for
$232 per month @ 4.1 % interest and similar

How can you spot these scams and how do
they work?

Firstoff, mortgage calculations are not rocket
science, and there are dozens of websites that
will do this for you at no charge. My favorite
here is

Where we see that the payment rate for a
conventional fixed rate $241,000 mortgage
at 4.1 percent interest for 30 years would be
$1164.45 per month.

For an "interest only" or "infinite" mortgage,
you can simply use the first month's principle
. Or $832.42 in this case.

There are many different ways to scam a
mortgage. The simplest involve hidden
charges, adjustable rates, overappraisal
ploys, or balloon payments.

But whenever the monthly payments are only
a tiny fraction of true costs, this should be a
red flag warning that you are about to be had.

Two of the more blatant scams are to not be
a mortgage company at all. Instead phishing for
sensitive financial info
on applications to do
an identity theft. A second is to deny receiving
several month's payments and then forclosing

to steal the property.

As some sucker said, "There's a P.T. Barnum
born every minute
". Watch out for them.

June 10, 2006

Added several new Craig's List entries to our
Auction Help page. Made some other updates
and corrections.

June 9, 2006

There seems to be more press interest in new
compressed air powered cars and scooters.

Unless some genuine breakthroughs can be
brought to the table, these seem to me to
be wishful thinking, a total lack of understanding
thermodynamic fundamentls, or outright scams.

The energy density of compressed air is very
possibly in the 15 watthour per liter range.
This compares badly against lead acid batteries
at 30 watthours per liter, and gasoline at 9000.

The efficiency of compressed air is very low.
On the generation end, no means of efficiently
isothermally compressing air is known
. Elaborate
multi-stage compressors and intercooler exchangers
are needed to even approach decent efficiency. And
those invariably have giant heat fins for their losses.
The trick is to compress air without heating it.

Similarly, most compressed air motors are horribly
typically in the 30 percent range. And thus
worse than an ICE. An efficient compressed air motor
would likely have to have many stages or variable
displacement. Or exotic control of injection volume.
It would have to exhaust its air silently at room
temperature with zero positive pressure. For
all possible loads.

And there is also the exergy problem in converting
high value kilowatt hours of electricity into low value
kilowatt hours of stored air. Instantly and irrecoverably
destroying most of the energy value and quality.

As is
guaranteed by thermodynamic fundamentals.

The experiences of long term players in this field are
The fire service has hesitated in going from
150 BAR to 300 BAR for its airpacks because of the
law of diminishing returns. While the fire service
would dearly love to use compressed air for vent fans,
fast cutters, rescue saws and such, they have not
been able to do so because of the ridiculously low total
energy in an air pack bottle. Yes, we can inflate a lift
bag or run a tiny air chisel. But that is about it.

Machine shops welcome compressed air solely
because of its portability and convenience. But
any time that serious tail twisting is required,
hydraulics is substituted. Even with its pathetic
energy density, most shop air is produced on
With the compressor kicking in after
only a few seconds of use. Note that shop air
is under 1 watthour per liter
energy density.

Safety is a serious issue. Both the fire service
and the scuba folks require extensive certification
and training
to use compressed air. Even then,
filling a Scott or MSA air bottle remains one of the
scariest tasks on the fireground. Turning this
technology loose on the unrestricted general
public seems utterly insane to me.

Much more in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

June 8 2006

When they marianade shrimp, how do they
tie all those little strings on?

June 7, 2006

The Arizona Auction Scene has just gone bonkers.

Unlike a normally quiet June, there's something
like two or three auctions per day for the entire
month. Everything from airplane parts to walmarts
to machine shops to distress electronics done in
by ROHS to great heaping bunches of the usual.

Your own custom regional auction finder service can
be created for you per this link.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

June 6, 2006

Refurb Log:

Apparently the internal connector on many
Tempsonics sensors is a 7 pin Molex Microblade
2 mm with six pins in use. Direct access simplifies
finding older strange or expensive connectors.

Connector is part 51004-0700 and crimp terminals
are 50011-8100. We are still working on finding
some useful test setups so we can relist the dozen
or so older and longer sensors we have in stock.

June 5, 2006

Several researchers have asked about
the effects of clock stability and jitter on our
Magic Sinewaves. While not fully investigated
to date, stability issues are not expected to
become terribly significant when forty or fewer
harmonics are forced to zero.

Which does raise an interesting possibility:
What if the clock is intentionally FM modulated
at the first uncontrolled harmonic frequency?
Can this do some sort of cancellation and
ease filtering requirements?

A related question is whether Magic Sinewaves
can be developed "backwards" to simplify or
improve power factor correction and quality
upgrading circuitry.

Much more in our Magic Sinewaves library.
And in this tutorial and this development

June 4, 2006

One of the problems in bringing older service
and repair manuals and such to the web might
be called copyright limbo.

In which the original owners have gone bankrupt
or merged, or simply could not care less about
their older products. Yet the legal threat remains
that somebody somewhere owns the copyrights
and might cause all sorts of problems to anyone
freely posting their content on the web.

Tektronix has long ago carefully placed all of their
obsolete test equipment manuals in the public
domain, and these are readily available on CD's
at low cost from a dozen web sources.

HP/Agilent has instead chosen to freely post many
of their early equipment manuals on the web. But
sadly, not everything is available. While certainly
positive and welcome, this sort of compounds the
problem with their clear statement of IP intent.

Radio Electronics (Poptronix, Popular Electronics,
et al...) has made free reprint rights available for the
web available at least to certain webmasters. This
site does hold downloads of many of my earlier
construction projects.

As we saw a few months back, older electronic
data sheets are now being made available from
such sources as... (12 Million) (5.20 Million)   (2-3 Million) (1.07 Million) (701,010) (523,031) (280,758) (253,733)

One obvious remaining problem is Heathkit. As
far as I know, there has been no formal release of
copyrights on Heath manuals and other docs. The
same goes for SAMS photofacts.

It sure would be nice to have a master clearinghouse
for all early technical info on the web. While at the
same time fully respecting any current and any
aggressively enforced valid copyright claims.

June 3, 2006

Found an interesting FINDCHIPS.COM website.

Enter any integrated circuit part number and it
checks several dozen major electronics distributors
for availablity and (often) actual pricing.

June 2, 2006

And what gets worse in going from a printed
story to a web document? Perhaps in comparing
and contrasting MUSE153 against MSINEXEC.PDF.
(continuing our previous posts).

While screens and printed pages are now pretty
much comparable in convenience and legibility,
we do not yet have the killer ap that is going to
completely blow both ebook readers AND all
books and magazines out of the water
we can expect its arrival very soon.

The web signal to noise ratio is utterly appalling.
As a magazine column author, sought out and
possibly sole source unique material was a norm.
On the web, you have 350 million competitors,
almost all of whom huckster worthless trash.

Author payment rates for magazine columns have
long become utterly abysmal. Compared to totally
on the web. Alternate (and usually
indirect) payment methods are now a must.

Printed story authors were usually treated with
extreme respect
. Web authors are invariably
attacked by clueless and tactless individuals
making ad-hominum challenges from their
unhousebroken newsgroup venues. None of
whom ever post factual critique.

While deadlines may have been the bane of
author and editor alike, the "Oh boy, my
latest copy of Supermag just arrived"
a strong expectation in many readers. There
is no comparable web experience, except
possibly for RSS.

The perceived value of a web file is much
lower than the printed word;
It is also much
more easily stolen, and anything even
remotely approaching IP solutions has yet
to be found.

A whole era of useful printed documents just
before word processing became common is
likely to be lost entirely because of the cost
and commitment needed to convert them
electronically and bring them up to current
web standards.

Nobody builds anything electronic on their
own any more. It has become impossibly difficult
and not in the least cost effective to do so.
Heathkit is gone, colleges have dropped most
electronics programs,
and ham radio is a
ludicrous geriatric parody of what it once was.

Previous gatekeepers of valuable technical
information have priced themselves out of
the market.
To the point of which bad content
drives out good.

Your thoughts welcome. email me.

June 1, 2006

The new LED Journal "the magazine of solid
state lighting
" is now in print and freely
available. Temporarily forgetting that all
trade journals are clearly doomed, this one
seems off to a good start.

The journal is also directly downloadable
as a .PDF file.

Meanwhile, Maxim is newly offering highly
efficient LED Drivers with power ratings
to 150 watts and beyond. Both DC and
ac power line operated.

Some color and lighting fundamentals
appear here and here. And a "lots of
LED's from a computer port" sneaky
stunt here.

May 31, 2006

So, what gets better in going from a printed story to a
web document? Perhaps in comparing and contrasting

A profound but seemingly trivial difference is that
web documents are landscape and printed magazine
pages are portrait
. Horizontal scrolling is difficult on
the web but convenient on the magazine page, and
vice versa.

A magazine page set very specific size limits on
how big something had to be. There is no such limit
on the web, provided you use the minimum space
needed to do the job. And avoid excess.

Magazine articles often needed a coalition of readers
that demanded a variety of topics per story. The web
lets you tightly focus on one specific concept.

Magazine stories demanded narrow colums for
ad compatibility. Much time was involved in layout
and column text justification that could have been
much better spent in reaserch and content creation.

There is little point or benefit to fill justification on
the web
. Because single columns are the norm.
With care, even the need for hyphenation can be
completely eliminated. And new vertical leading
can easily be added to make each paragraph
an easily conceived bite sized chunk.

Tight positioning of text and figures is very difficult
in a magazine article, while a web file lets you
intimately relate any figure to its corresponding
This is an exceptionally profound

Many of the more obvious web benefits are, well,
more obvious. Color is free and the norm. The
info is available forever if you want it to be and
can be corrected and updated at any time. You
have a worldwide audience 24/7. Full document
searching of every word is easy, and most any
need for a detailed index is gone.

Linking to anything, anywhere, anytime is another
biggie. Particularly for supporting or background
info. Or to provide more or less detail. And web
files store in much less space, do not normally
degrade with time, and are rarely misplaced or
eaten by the pup or out on loan to a single user.

As is the turnover time going from concept to
publication. Which has dropped from months to
minutes. Figures are easily mangified for more
detail and disability aides such as additional
magnification or text reading are easily done.

There is no particular deadline tyranny in that
anything can usually be published at any time.

You are also free to make your own mistakes,
rather than having to pay an editor to make
them for you

Your thoughts welcome. email me.

May 30, 2006

NEWBIE.PDF passed its group beta test last night
on a batch of unsuspecting volunteer firemen.

Natually, firemen being firemen, the high points of
the evning were the giraffe humpings.

As a group or class project, this seems to work
best by copying the problems onto mystery cards
(orange for simpler absolute newbie problems and
red for
for the slightly more difficult questions for
those that have surfed the web at least once).

Teams of four to six per workstation seem about
right, becuse interaction is super important.

And the giraffes didn't seem to mind at all.

Many thanks for the several emails suggesting
corrections and adjustments. Some of these have
already been made to the story.

May 29, 2006

GuruGram #66 is a Newbie's Intro to the Web.

Sourcecode is found here. Much more in our
Webmastering library.

May 28, 2006

Got to remembering some curious incidents way
back in the early sixties. Where the technical
editor of ELECTRONICS NOW repeatedly
kept warning me not to put too much text into
the figures for my stories.

I will admit at times that there were as many as
two paragraphs that might have gone as long as
eight to ten words each. At that time, it was
enormously expensive to put words into line art.

Any story would get split into two channels - one
for typeset text and a second for art. The only
time they got back together was during final
pasteup. And then, of course, the pasteup person
(often a student on summer break) would be
working upside down.

Which got me to thinking how much things have
changed in technical communications. I'll try
to look at this in more depth in a day or two.
Meanwhile, you might want to compare and
contrast MUSE153 against MSINEXEC.PDF.

Or against my very first major story. Or
this all time classic.

May 27, 2006

Final Score: Prudes 3, Nudes 0.

The last remaining wild hot spring in the
Greater Bonita-Eden-Sanchez metropolitan
has just been demolished.

May 26, 2006

A reminder that many of our "deeper"
files are demos or historical archives.

While we try to properly label the access
on these, a random Google search will
sometimes find them and mislead you
into believing you are viewing current
info or still available items for sale.

In particular, NAMENUMS.PDF is a
historical archive that has not been
updated for many years. The web has
largely eliminated any need for printed
directories of this type.

I've added an Acrobat Note to this file.
I will try to add others that seem to
cause additional problems.

We've left the ads on our older Hardware
, Tech Musings, Blatant Opportunist,
and Ask the Guru archival reprints as well.
Needless to say, most of these items are no
longer available
or may be priced differently.

May 25, 2006

The "water powered car" and "improved
scams seem to be once again
coming out of the woodwork.

Here are the facts...

   ~ There is a fundamental thermodynamic
       principle called exergy that absolutely
       guarantees that electrolysis for bulk
       hydrogen energy flat out ain't gonna
There ALWAYS will be more
       intelligent things to do with electricity
       than instantly and irrevocably destroying
       most of its quality and value. Especially
       from high value grid or pv sources.

    ~ A kilowatt hour of electrical energy is
       ridiculously more valuable than a kilowatt
       hour of unstored hydrogen gas
because its
       thermodynamically reversibly recoverable
       energy fraction is insanely higher.

    ~ Electrolysis "efficiency" is largely meaningless
       because the "efficiency" gets used to destroy
       quality and value. Further, the amortization
       costs tend to utterly dominate the total
       production costs. Electrolysis is pretty much
       the same as 1:1 exchanging US dollars for
       Mexican Pesos.

    ~ Virtually all commercial hydrogen is produced
        by the reformation of methane
. The only time
        electrolysis is even remotely considered is for
        extreme convenience factors when the value of
        the generated hydrogen grossly exceeds its
        stored energy value.

    ~ Manufacturers of large electrolysizers will
       not even tell an individual how much their
       units cost, let alone sell them one.

    ~ It is enormously difficult to correctly measure
        the energy content of unusual electrical
        waveforms. At the very least, true rms
        instruments with credible crest factors are
       an absolute must. It is similarly enormously
       difficult to properly measure the output fraction
       that is in fact dry STP hydrogen gas.

    ~ A properly designed electrolysizer DEMANDS
       the use of often renewed platinized platinum.
       Stainless steel designs are worthless because
       of the hydrogen overvoltage of iron found in
       most any intro electrochem book.

   ~ Few people realize how rare and unusual an
      electrolysizer is. In a decade of attending
      industrial distress sales, I've run across
      exactly one. Which sold for $1700 and
      could only produce a pitiful few cc's of gas
      per minute. Try to find one sometime.

   ~ Electrolsizers raise EXTREME safety issues
      that are far beyond what most individuals
      comprehend or what your friendly local
      hazmat folks will permit. At least one newsgroup poster
      tried for both a Darwin Award and the X
      Prize at the same time. Sadly, his garage
      did not quite reach suborbital status.

And, of course....

    ~ Faraday's Law ain't broke.

May 24, 2006

One of the more subtle reasons that I've
consistently done a lot better at industrial
and distress auctions rather than
regular "people" style auctions is that there
is absolutely zero of the bad vibes associated
with family deaths, sickness, losing the family
farm, sibling squabbles, et al. And the whole
dismal scene that surrounds them.

Other advantages are that "contents of room"
and "contents of shelf" opportunities abound
Especially with the unsorted stuff that special
expertise may be required to recognize unique
And that much inventory is new or near
new, in usable quantities, and properly cared for.

And that industrial auctions typically get way
behind and entire rooms are literally given
away to the very few remaining bidders
have the patience and stamina to make through
it to the bitter end.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

May 23, 2006

It is super important to be aware of the math
of any digital computing platform
you are working on. If quantization and roundoff
errors become significant, you get deviations
in your answers. If they dominate, you get trash.

PostScript, of course, is my favorite general
purpose programming language. There's also
a rumor out that PostScript can also sometimes
be used to dirty up otherwise clean sheets of
. Although it is beyond me why anyone
would want to severely restrict themselves in
such an insanely limiting manner.

At any rate, PostScript uses 32-bit math. Which
is more than "good enough" for virtually any
graphics layout need. This translates to an
internal accuracy somewhere around eight
decimal places, and an external reporting
of six.

Two examples: PostScript was more than good
enough for me to discover the fundamental
secret of Magic Sinewaves. But it had the
disconcerting habit of giving me a slightly
different result if you used a reported answer
in a new calculation. So I went ahead and made
up some JavaScript calculators that had a
full 64-bit math capabilities. The fifteen or more
decimal places completely eliminated any

Naturally, I still used PostScript to actually
write my JavaScript programs for me.

My ongoing investigation of parabola minimum
guessing also gave PostScript fits as it gave
me wildly wrong answers if the parabol points
differed by only tiny amounts. The workaround
here was to simply scale the data enough to
give useful results.

It's not clear how much work it would be to
actually write an interpreted double precision
math package
for PostScript. It certainly could
be done. But who would use it for what remains

May 22, 2006

Just noticed that Apple Assembly Lines is
now up on the web for free download. The
entire and complete set. This was by far the
finest of the "bare metal" Apple II programming

I do have most of these available in hard
copy if you want to buy them as collectibles.

You can email me for details.

May 21, 2006

Fitting data points to a curve can be
tricky, and we've previously looked
at many options.

Such as a Circle through three points,
a Parabola through three points, Cubic
Spline through four points
, Cubic Spline
Circle Approximation
, Power series
curve fits
, hyperbolic spline fitting, and
Bezier Curve fit through fuzzy data.

Much more in our Math Stuff, Magic
, GuruGram, and PostScript

I've been reviewing the parabola fitting
to see if it cannot speed up some of our
Magic Sinewave analysis stuff. If you are
very near a solution, progressive moving
of a pulse edge should bring you through a
minimum that is closely approximated by
a quadratic.

The dilemma is that if the curve deviates
very much from a simple parabola further
from its minimum, its predictive value is
Present investigation involves
finding out how far away you can be and
still seek a useful minimum.

At any rate, here is the key math. You
can either verify this yourself with
some simple algebra, or else steal
it from the web. You are first attempting
to have three data points on a parabola...

y3 = Ax3^2 + Bx3 + C
          y2 = Ax2^2 + Bx2 + C
          y1 = Ax1^2 + Bx1 + C

These are fairly easy to solve for...

      A = (y3-y2)/(x3-x2)(x3-x1) -

     B = ( y1 - y2 + A(x2^2 -
                 x1^2) )/(x1-x2)

     C = y1 - Ax1^2 - Bx1

Finding the zero slope quickly tells us
the minimum (assuming a down-pointing
parabola) will be at x = -B/2A and that
the corresponding y value at the minimum
will (as everywhere else) be Ax^2 + Bx + C.

Other expressions for B are possible by
noting that (x1^2-x2^2) = (x1+x2)(x1-x2).

May 20, 2006

It's literally a little out of our league, but we
picked up a bunch of NFL flag football
goodies from a plastics bankruptcy auction
that include belts and flags, along
with bulk rolls of flagging material.

These should shortly go up onto eBay.
Meanwhile, please email me if you have
any interest in these items.

May 19, 2006

It sure must be frustrating for the
astronomers and their science and
engineering support who are actively
searching for extrasolar planets.

On one hand, the tools and techniques
have dramatically improved in the past
few years. On the other, the search
seems to be the equivalent to rock
climbing while wearing welding goggles,
a bomb squad flack suit and boxing gloves

Nature Magazine for May 18th describes
a solar system a mere 41 light years away
with three rocky planets and an asteroid
belt. The outermost which, while much
larger than Earth, lies in the habitable zone.

Here's the CNN Summary and the Slashdot

Meanwhile, the extrasolar planet total
is rapidly approaching 200, and the new
discoveries are now pouring in at a one
per week
and rapidly accellerating rate.

Per this site.

41 light years, of course, is near enough
that "they" could be warily watching
Roller Derby and Captain Video
. Not
to mention Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

It's Howdy Doody time!

My own predictions: We will know about
many thousands of extrasolar planets and
quite a few habitable ones within a year or
two. And that such planets will end up as
common as dirt

But that the earth-moon systems required
for climatic stability
will remain exceptionally
rare indeed.

May 18, 2006

We're pretty much sold out of our stainless
steel hose reels
. But we do have three left
that need some fairly minor repairs that we
have up as a Dutch Auction lot on eBay.

This is an outstanding deal, but we are going
to strictly limit it to local pickup only and
commercial shipping unavailable. We are
further going to insist on personal inspection

No exceptions.

May 17, 2006

Always remember that you have no friends
at an auction!
Least of all the auctioneer.
Listen to everything, volunteer nothing.
Be invisible till it is time to be in the
auctioneer's face.

Dress down to the point of being shabby,
but always wear one very distinct hat or
other piece of clothing
. If more than five
percent of your bids win, you are bidding
far too high. Always stop bidding if anyone
is bidding against you and you even remotely
approach fair value.

Always stay for the end of the auction. In
some cases, utterly spectacular bargains
will result. Especially if the area has to be
cleared for a new tenant or whatever.

Sometimes you can also make really great
deals on unbid or unsold items after the
auction or during quiet times.

Don't sweat bidding on tons of garbage to
get one or two items. You can usually find
someone to take (or even pay for) the
after the auction. And abandoining
stuff often is not that big a deal.

Stay alert through numerious sitdown and
meditation breaks, sensible food and drink,
mild painkillers, and frequent restroom use.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

May 16, 2006

There's been some press lately about
huge new pv power plants here in the
desert southwest. At least to me, they
make no sense whatsoever in their
as-promoted form. At least not at the
present time with presently available

The largest online grid pv facility in the
world is up in Springerville AZ. You can
monitor its real time stats by going to

Apparently their graphs require something
IE specific, because they do not show up
properly in FireFox.

At any rate, today's production was an
impressive 17,000 kilowatt hours, which
was somewhat above their daily average
for this month. Definitely world class.

Now, a research facility on an emerging
technology is not in any manner expected
to be competitive or show any profit.
Especially if it has "Hey - we're green!"
pr promotional value written all over it.

Conspicuously absence in their current
figures are their avoided peaking cost
which I'd guess somewhere around six
per kilowatt hour.

And their current amortization burn rate
on which I have no accurate figures. But
if you go to an Amortization Calculator,
you'd find that the avoided cost output of
$17,000 x .06 = $1020 per day is enough to
amortize at most only a total facility cost of
slightly over three million dollars.

Assuming ten percent financing over twenty
years and neglecting maint and labor.

I would guess the de-facto costs of running
this plant to be outrageously higher
than this figure. Somewhat telling is that
expansion plans have been put on hold
because panel costs are now much higher
than they were two years ago.

And that, of course, would be for breakeven
. Where you have an elaborate
smoke and mirrors "paint it green"
situation that in fact uses 100 percent
existing conventional energy. Six cents
of amortization in and six cents of
electricity out is a wash.

The physical and economic facts any huge
new facility would have to recognize are...

    ~ There are no particularly compelling
       economics of scale for really huge pv
       plants. Especially on locally cloudy days.

    ~ Conventional silicon pv never has
       been, is not now, and is highly unlikely
       ever to become a net energy source
       that is renewable and sustainable
       under unsubsidized proper total system
       full burden amortization.

   ~ Prices of conventional silicon pv panels
        are skyrocketing because (A) their
        underlying source of cheap silicon no
        longer exists
, and (B) because of the
       demand caused by individuals scamming
       outrageous federal and state subsidies

   ~ The latest of CIGS pv technology does have
       the promise of moving us much closer to
       renewability and sustainability. I strongly
       feel that it would be unthinkable for a new
       ultra-large long term pv plant to commit
       itself to conventional silicon whenever a
       ridiculously better technology is imminent.

Much more in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

May 15, 2006

We found some excessive wear on one of our
older rod style Temposonic position sensors, so
we've pulled all of this style devices from our
listings until we can come up with a decent test

Our refurb backlog is now quite a few months,
so we are unlikely to relist these any time soon.

May 14, 2006

Finally got a straight story directly from
Cunningham Auctioneers. They simply
leased out their old yard to a second tier
charity auctioneer. They most definitely
will be continuing industrial on-site auctions.
Any loose or leftover items will be sold by
Auction and Appraise on a consignment
basis. The two firms remain separate
and independent entities.

Meanwhile, Auction Advantage is
apparently dropping their house auctions
and going on-site onlly. Their use of an
old church school seemed absolutely
ideal as an auction base site. But I'd
guess the Benson auctioneering market
is highly competitive (American West,
Crawford, Robinson, Tingle, LaGuerre

et al...) and that discretionary income
in the Benson area is largely unknown.

May 13, 2006

One recurring urban lore myth at the newsgroup is
that using dropshippers is an instant way
to effortless

Uh, a much better term would be dropshitting.

Problems with dropshitting include...

(1) There are far too many fingers in the pie.

(2) The sell/buy ratio is ludicrously too low.
          Always seek out 30:1.

(3) Other competitors are certain to panic and
           utterly trash prices.

(4) Opportunities for personal value added are
           sorely limited.

(5) The merchandise is typically overpriced
           worthless garbage.

and, of course...

(6) It is YOU that get hung out to dry on the
           inevitable no ship, late ship, or wrong ship

Tested and proven useful sources of supply for
eBay sellers that
meet the required 30:1
sell/buy ratio include
privitized military surplus,
dotbomb bankruptcies, industrial distress sales,
community college auctions.

Links and details on these appear
on our Auction
library page.

A custom resource locator
can be built for your
regional area per our
Auction Resource
info page.

May 12, 2006

GuruGram #65 is a Magic Sinewave Executive

Sourcecode is found here. Much more in our
Magic Sinwave library.

May 11, 2006

Many problems with trojans and malware
and other nasties invading your computer
should be solvable by adding a simple and
effective traffic monitor to your system.

One that plots your usage patterns versus
and summarizes what was sent to who

Yet I know of no such device. And ISP's
report to me that such systems cost many
thousands of dollars and have complex
use restrictions.

I'd suspect that a simple Ethernet sniffer
with some reasonably swift software would
be all that was really needed.

If you know of any such solution that is
simple and cheap, please email me.


So far, one reader suggested Snort.
I'll have to look into this.

May 10, 2006

We've been getting 50 to 100 "undeliverble"
messages a day lately from email that we
obviously never sent. All from artificially
generated return addresses such as

The most probable cause is someone spoofing
our email address. Most likely mid-European
judging by the timing of the messages and the
utterly vapid worthlessness of their copy.

What can you do in a similar circumstance?

First and foremost, NEVER NEVER NEVER
use Internet Explorer!!!!
Always use the
infinitely better and (at least so far) much less
vunerable FireFox and Thunderbird free
alternatives instead.

Second, have trojan defenses in place. Such
as a decent firewall and several anti-virus
and malware programs resident and active.

If you are on a cable modem or otherwise
are always internet live, try disconnecting
for all but your minimum and absolutely
essential use times, and see if there is any
change in the number or pattern of emails.

It is of utmost importance to verify that you
are not in fact the unexpected source of
the bulk email
through malware running
in a background mode on your own machine.

A final solution presents a dilemma. If
you are running a business, it pays to be
able to accept ANY incoming email
address. Such as
or Without having
to try and guess each and every possible
way a customer may want to reach you.

Otherwise, limiting yourself to a very
few valid email addresses will make all
of these bogus returns invisible to you.

Be sure to communicate with your ISP
and work closely with them. They may
be able to provide other solutions as well.

May 9, 2006

My favorite restaurants? Locally, Toni's Kitchen
is best, but since Toni left, the ambience sucks
and they are a tad pricey. Classic home cooking
with an Italian and mid-European focus. Superb

Best view and buy is Branding Iron's Monday
taco night. Giving profound new meaning to the
term "limited menu".

The Pretzel Rolls at The Breadbasket in Sierra
Vista, of course, are in a class by themselves.
Sadly, these sell out by 07:02:18 each morning.
355 West Wilcox Drive. SE of the fort main gate
by about 400 feet.

Rodney's midblock across from the railroad park
in Willcox is definitely a BBQ with attitude, but
has dropped slightly from his peak. Be sure to
check out the
Rex Allen painting on the wall.

Best BBQ in Arizon forever and ever is Joes in
Gilbert. On Gilbert Road just north of all the
fake front business district buildings. Music tends
towards Porter Wagoner and Bob Wills; Avant
Garde stuff like Hank Williams is strictly verboten.

For decades, I've really liked the Siameese Cat
on the northwest corner of Baseline and Price in
As well as the superb Dim Sum in
Chandler's C-Fu.

And, while I am not sure of the name or address,
there's a great Italian/Armenian restaurant just
South of Falcon Field in Mesa. Probably some
address similar to 4463 East Mckellips Road. On
the Southeast corner of Mckellips and Higley.

In Tucson, most any eegees is hard to beat for fast
food. Superb slushes. And my favorite Japenese
would be Sachiko. Of the two locations, I prefer
the 3200 East Valencia site.

For a Tucson or Phoenix deli, Schlotsky's is quite
good. This is apparently a nationwide chain.

May 8, 2006

A reminder that there is at least one
source of energy research grants that
aggressively seeks out both individual
and small scale startups
. And that the
submission deadline is nearing.
for further details.

May 7, 2006

We sold all of our better stainless steel
hose reels on eBay. Three economically
reels remain.

We offer these on eBay at a very low price
but are strictly LOCAL PICKUP ONLY.
Commercial shipping is NOT available.

May 6, 2006

Which is not to say that a quick buck cannot
be made on scrap broken traffic lights.

But it sure looked grim for a while. I bid on
dozens of pallets of "flashers" sight unseen
at a Phoenix auction. Hoping they were
wigwags that volunteer firemen would find
useful on eBay.

The boxes showed up with all of the flashers
being really out-of-date traffic light control cards,
Worse yet, all of the boxes were clearly marked
BAD in large letters.

Such are the vagaries of high margin surplus
. Worse yet, the few items that I
checked at random were either hand-wired
triacs or high specialized and obsolete cards
that would have taken zillions of hours to
repair All units obviusly were smoked.

I was about to admit major defeat and throw
the whole works on the Alvin Pile ( a fully
automatic garbage disposal system that pays
me $200 per month
), when I decided to make
one last check.

Lo and Behold, the majority of the remaining
units held standard ultra rugged solid state
These were easily stripped and tested,
Amazingly the failure rate of the relays
themselves was ZERO with not one bad unit!

We still have a very few of the older relays
up on eBay, but basically they flew outta here
Apparently I priced them waaay too low.

Talk about blind luck.

Some of the fallout was a solid state relay
that I'll try to get into a GuruGram
format as soon as I get out from under our
current ongoing projects.

May 5, 2006

As we've seen in Stalking the Wild Paradigm,
some areas are open to individuals and small
scale developers, while others clearly are not.

Obvious examples are anything automotive
(where a MINIMUM of three generations of
SAE membership is entry level), anything
medical, and, of course, anything related in
any manner to personal aviation.

I just turned down what should have been some
fast and easy consulting from an individual who
wanted to "improve" traffic lights. Who did not
realize the layer upon layer of bureaucracy
involved, the chronic budget shortfalls and time
extensions, the few big companies who utterly
and totally dominate the industry (Eagle, Crouse
, TCT, EPAC, PEEK, and a very few others),
and, of course, the NEMA and UL and other
certification and qualifications that cost many
thousnds of dollars and take years to complete.

If this individual is series about developing
better traffic lights (arcane degrees and very
specialized expertise is involved), they would
best be advised to seek out one of the big
firms and see about working for them.

Modern controllers are incredibly sophisticated
and easily communicate with each others.
Chances are that existing programming options
are waaaay beyond anything an outsider might
be able to dream up.

There also, amazingly, is quite a bit of traffic
light stuff on the web for enthuasiasts and
collectors. Such as Traffic Light Wizard.

There is even a Traffic Light Web Ring.

May 4, 2006

Made some revisions and corrections to our
Bezier Curve through Four Data Points tutorial
that appears as GuruGram #59.

May 3, 2006

One of the more obscure tools in my Gonzo
is our Curvetracing Routine.

These use some "fairly weak" cubic splines
to draw smooth curves through any number
of data points. Per this example's figure one.

Data format is [x0 y0 ang0 x1 y1 ang1 x2 y2
ang2 ... xn yn angn] curvetrace
. The x and
y values are the current data point, while the
ang is the angle in degrees that you are going
through that current point. A separate tension
parameter lets you further adjust the curve's
smoothness or enthuasiasm.

A few years back, an important addition was
made: If you enter "999" as your angle for
an intermediate data point, then some fancy
code will try to guess at your best angle.

This can be far faster and less tedious.

It does this by temporarily fitting a circle to
the pre-and-post data points and then
finding the needed tangent slope for you.

Also, if your initial data points are 0 0, then
you will append an existing path. Otherwise
you will start a new one. Should you really
need a new path that starts at 0,0 you can
use 0, 0.00001 instead.

The actual latest curvetracing utility can be
found here, along with a demo. At present,
you'll have to manually add this to the start
of your program. I'm a tad gun shy about
making any changes to the original Gonzo


Much more in our PostScript library.

May 2, 2006

Here is an "Oh No, Not Another One."
entry in the wierd new engine sweepstakes.

At present, there is around a 2:1 difference
between theoretical (64%) and actual (32%)
ICE internal combustion engine efficiencies, so
a lot of slop remains, and significant improvements
are almost certain to emerge.

I'd personally give the most credence to those
that split the four cycle or go to six cylcles of
more or less normal construction. And, of course,
to such obvious improvements as electric
and on-demand accessories.

Designs with lots of strange geometry or
exotic seals are less likely to make it out
of the starting gate. The key test of course
is whether the proponent is an SAE member,
their father a senior SAE member, and their
grandfather a SAE member emeritus.

No one else need even bother to apply.

One of the interesting side effects of all this
is that fuel cells may now be falling further and
further behind state-of-the-art ICE efficiency
And just may forever remain so because more
dollars and smarter dollars
are being thrown into
improving ICE efficiency.

May 1, 2006

GuruGram #64 is an intro tutorial on using
our Gonzo Utilities to create Engineering
log log plots and graphs

Sourcecode is found here. The actual utility
appears here along with its demo.

Much more in our PostScript library.

April 30, 2006

A "click to expand" feature can be added
to any .PDF file figure or art cut simply by
using the Linking Tool in any full version
of Acrobat. Clicking takes you to a url of
your choice.

If you are writing your own PostScript code
to be distilled, you can avoid any manual
tool use by building a routine similar to
this one directly into your program...

     /Rect [ llx lly urx urry]
     /Border [ 0 0 0]
     /Color [ .7 0 0 ]
     /Action <</Subtype /URI /URI
     /Subtype /Link

Here llx and lly are the lower left corner
of the area to be clicked on in current units.
urx and ury similarly define the upper right.
And cururlname is where you want to click

More details in the PDFMark Reference

April 29, 2006

While we just sold and shipped our largest and best
HP power supply, we still have a pair of 6653A's,
a 6622A, and a 6651A remaining. These should
shortly go up on eBay, or you can email me if
you want to get in ahead of the hoarders.

April 28, 2006

I've always been a big fan of "rules of thumb"
Which are sneaky ways of quickly approximating

Ferinstance, calculating the electrolytic capacitors
for a power supply can be a pain. Unless you
remember that in an 8300 microfard capacitor
the volts of ripple equal its amps of current
in a
full wave 60 Hertz (120 Hz ripple) supply.

I've also found that "rules" of one percent of
everything that happens in the US happens in
and one percent of everything that
happens in Arizona happens in the Gila Valley

can be remarkably accurate in estimating
a wide variety of goings on.

But my favorite rule of thumb is the one that
us Hazmat specialists use: Hold your thumb
extended at arm's length and close one eye.
If you can still see the scene, you are too close.

April 27, 2006

Picked up a bunch of classic utility switchgear
that include some superb 110v THREE PHASE
kilowatthour meters, some combined kwh
and demand meters
, and some fairly
collectible time overcurrent relays.

These are all "switchgear mount" in
"ammo can" cages, so they are super
easy to interface with ordinary connections
and require no special plugins. Many include
large "paddle style" switches.

email me if you have any interest in these.
The power meters in particular should be
superb for bench testing of VFD motor
drives, alternate energy research, and such.

April 26, 2006

Dr. Jerome F. MacDonald is the senior
member of a
design team that has long
been working in the Dairy
Science division
of the US Department of Agriculture.

have come up with a communications
input-output (I /O)
and interchange code for
computers and terminals.
The coding is
simple, effective, and easy to use. It’s now
spreading rapidly to to other government
agencies and
now is becoming an industry
wide standard.

In fact, the
code now has an Electronics
Industries Evaluationary
(EIE) status and
should shortly go international.

Thus, the
old MacDonald farm interface is
now an EIE I/O.

More at

April 25, 2006

This week's Science Magazine for April
14, 2006
seems to be chock full of goodies...

   ~ A new Books in the Digital Age book 
      that further develops our "Who Needs
      Book Publishers and what have they
      done for us recently
" theme.

   ~ Double Perovskites as Anode Materials
     for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells lets the cells
      operate with natural gas and allows some
      contaminents, eliminating the need for
      the Hydrogen Ludicrosity.

   ~ Catalytic Alkane Metathesis are some
      newly discovered catalyists that eventually
      MAY promise to make gasoline a renewable
. But not yet quite prime time.

   ~ Zinc Oxide Piezoelectric Nanogenerators may
     provide a means for generating micropower
     electricity from within the human body.

April 24, 2006

Assume you are an intern working on a SETI
program at a somewhat advanced civilization
on Iota Rectuli IV.

Strong evidence of rocky planets have recently
been discovered nearby in a minor arm of your own
second rate galaxy sometimes called the "Milky Way".
A mere fifty light years or so away.

Amazingly, one of these planets suddenly and
recently became a "radio star" with substantial
output at the VHF frequency range. Your recent
careful analysis has shown detailed comb structure
with strong harmonics related to both 60 Hertz
and 15.750 kilohertz.

Between the latest of advanced signal processing
algorithms and some exceptionally rare viewing
conditions, out pops a prefectly lucid and clear
ten second video clip of ROLLER DERBY!

As the sum total of everything known about
human civilization
. We can assume that
"Captain Video" and "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie"
are yet to be discovered.

What report, if any, would you submit to
your supervisor?

April 23, 2006

An interesting source of highest quality free
appears here, with well over a thousand
titles offered. And, of course, Project Gutenberg
now offers some 18,000 free titles.

As we've seen before the MIT Courseware site
also offers great heaping bunches of free top
quality scholarly info.

I can see a major train wreck coming...

    ~ We are certain to soon have "some
       other device
" that completely blows
       away all existing ebook readers AND
       all conventional books for ease of use
       and convenience. Pricing of such a
       device will be "ad promotion giveaway"
       within three years.

   ~ The overwhelming majority of services
      a book publisher used to offer are either
      no longer needed at all or else are wildly
. Certainly a publisher
      should not receive nearly as much in the
      per-title return as the author. It is not
      clear to me why we need book publishers
      any more at all.

   ~ Draconian DRM digital rights management
       is certain to self-destruct. And probably
      spectacularly so. In many cases, the quality
      and utility of free and open sources greatly
      exceeds those being DRM'ed to death. If
      a person buys something, they should be
      able to use it forever in any form they choose.

April 22, 2006

Computing power has essentially become
free. As a result, throwing another hundred
thousand or a million calculations at a problem
is simply no big deal anymore. Which opens
up all sorts of new computational possibilities
undreampt of only a few decades ago.

Seti at home, of course, routinely racks up
millenia of computing power each use hour.

I've personally used "obsessively excess"
computing power on early exhaustive
searches for my Magic Sinewaves. Or
finding a heretical new way of analyzing
Electromagnetic Fields that eliminates all
of the coordinate transformation gore by
simply reentering initial conditions before
each and every "relaxation" averaging.

Some interesting things are newly happening
in active filters where we can now apparently
go well beyond the traditional Bessel,
Butterworth, and Chebycheff shapes. To do
this, you simply do a least squares optimization
towards the response you are after.

Ferinstance, others have shown that the "best"
Bessel time delay filters can easily be beat by
dinking around with the cascaded second order
section damping and frequency values.

I'm currently looking at finding the best
approximation to a brickwall filter using two
cascaded second order sections. It will be
interesting to see if anything better than
Chebycheff or Butterworth results, and also
how many optima there actually are.

Present thoughts are to throw ten million or
more random frequency and damping values
and then restrict them to least squares best
. This is a back burner project, so it may
take a while to get up toe GuruGram status.

April 21, 2006

There's a curious alternate lighting scheme
out there called an induction lamp. It would
seem to make a dandy student paper, but
otherwise would appear to be in a temporary
and pricey niche market.

Induction lamps are similar to newer
flourescents, except that there is a rf
transmitter in the base and no filaments
or electrodes
. The rf is inductively
coupled into the internal mercury vapor.
Which lights up in the ultraviolet and
excites a normal phosphor.

Just like the old "hold a fluroescent up
to a Tesla Coil" gee whiz demos.

Induction lamps today offer exceptional
lifetimes of 20 years or 200,000 hours and
are thus in demand for tunnel lighting and
other places where the light absolutely must
not fail
or its replacement labor is insanely
costly. Typical sizes are 150 watts or so.

Efficiency is rather impressive at 87 lumens
per watt
, and the color rendering is fairly
good with several different white optoins.

Negatives include these being outrageously
expensive and having obvious RFI problems.

You can Google "induction lamp" for lots of
hits including this one and this one.

Additional topics for student papers appear here.

April 20, 2006

Found a second use for the solid state relay
: Digital panel meters only draw a few watts
and often involve temporary power clips on their
connectors. There's far fewer possibilities of
fireworks over a loose connection if you have a
60 watt bulb in series.

I may work up a GuruGram on this tester.

April 19, 2006

Our Southern Oregon Gold Hill spectacular view
property is now listed here.

We've purposely priced these 20 acres at well
under market because a solvable easement
issue needs resolved before homesite approval
can be granted.

Power is on the property and very attractive
financing is available. Mid-size city ameneties are
twelve minutes away. The Rogue River is nearby;
beaches and mountains are an hour away.

Here's some photos...

You can click expand these. Then click again.

This steep to sloping parcel is immediately adjacent to the Gold
city limits and offers absolutely outstanding views. It is in one
of the most in-demand rural areas in the country, and has really great
access both to recreation and to midsize city resources. Plus superb
climate, low crime, and good schools.

Here is a map. Property is the green rectangle "pointed to" by
Thirteenth Street.

April 18, 2006

I seem to have been making a lot of really dumb
mistakes lately. I guess the trick is to play them
as they lie, to not repeat them, and to hopefully
learn from them...

   ~ An unhitched trailer can tip over if you get
      the center of gravity wrong.

   ~ The flush mechanism on a toilet has a left
      hand thread.

   ~ Driving six hours to an auction a week early
      assures you of a good parking space.

   ~ Failing to inspect before bidding is really,
      really dumb. And negates on-line bidding.

   ~ Putting identical "first" and "seconds" up
eBay at the same time only pisses people
      off. Besides totally trashing both offers.

   ~ Not looking deep enough into obvious trash
      can miss spectacularly refurbable goodies.

April 17, 2006

Refurb Log:

One long forgotten and "lost" piece of test
equipment is a powered 60 watt light bulb
with a series pair of insultated alligator clips

This was particularly useful for "fuse blows"
symptoms where you could estimate excess
input current without doing any damage. Or
finding out a motor has locked or high friction
bearings. Or simply ringing out questionable
line cords and such.

I just built up a variant on this ancient tester
that I'm using to test solid state relays. A
bunch of which we just salvaged from damaged
traffic light control modules.

I took a three gang wall box from Home Depot
and installed a switch (preferably double pole)
and two duplex outlets. After, of course, removing
the two nails. I then added most of a computer
line cord, zillions of which we keep in stock.

The middle duplex outlet powers a 12 VDC wall
wart, newly terminated in two small insulated
alligator clips. This provides the input control
for your relay under test.

The right duplex outlet has a pronged socket on
it that holds a 60 watt light bulb. Two large insulated
alligator clips are in series with it. And thus goes
across the relay load terminals.

A good relay will light the bulb only when +12vdc
is applied. An open relay will never light, while
a shorted one will light immediately.

Needless to say, there are all sorts of shock
hazard possibilities, so think before using!

I may work a GurrGram up on this depending
on how many of the relays test good.

April 16, 2006

There's some potentially interesting free
online file conversion utilities up on this site.

I had hopes their .BMP to .PDF converter
would directly convert bitmaps into PostScript.
But it apparently goes through a .JPG
intermediate step that trashes the quality.

It is also disturbing to let a third party site
reach down into YOUR computer (NOT your
ISP web pages) to access data. The abuse
and malware potential is extreme.

I'm not clear on exactly how they are doing

JPG to PostScript is fairly trivial as there is
a DCTDecode filter built into PostScript.
We saw details on this in JPG2PDF.PDF.

April 15, 2006

Yesterday's comments on dimes versus
kilowatt hours being interchangable in many
energy stytems leads to the obvious question
of "What does it take to produce a viable
renewable and sustainable alternate energy

Here are some guidelines...

   ~ The system absolutely and emphatically
       must be capable of producing NET new
Gasoline is a net energy source
       becuse one quart of old gasoline is needed
       to produce one gallon of new. pv solar
       remains a net energy sink and is likely
       to stay so forever with older technology.

    ~ The fully burdened cost amortization of
       the COMPLETE energy system must be
       potentially cost competitive with existing
But simply having cost parity
       accomplishes nothing. For all you have is
       a smoke-and-mirrors "paint it green"
       transfer of existing conventional energy.

   ~ The system must offer costs that are
      LOWER THAN conventional alternatives

      to the point where they are capable of
      DISPLACING conventional sources.

   ~ Only that fraction of the costs of alternate
      energy BELOW market alternatives is truly
      renewable and sustainable.
Thus, if a home
      panel produces nine cent per kilowatt hour
      electricity in a ten cent per kilowatt hour
      market, then only ONE CENT per kwh is
     capable of being truly renewable and sustainable.

    ~ Zero subsidies or other incentives will be
       needed if the system is truly and genuinely
       capable of becoming renewable and
       sustainable to the point of differentially
       replacing conventional sources
. In fact,
       your main problem would be beating
       customers away with a stick. Subsidies
       are a sure sign of a worthless rathole.
       And are ludicrously counterproductive.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

April 14, 2006

Many alternate energy enthuasiasts seem
to feel that the dimes and dollars used for
system amortization or excluded opportunity
costs somehow "don't count" in an energy

Which causes all of the utterly bogus voodoo
economics surrounding net energy sink pv
solar panels today. Not one net watthour of
silicon pv electricity has ever been produced
And pv solar today is NOT in any manner
renewable nor sustainable.

In reality, all of economics is a minor subset
of thermodynamics
. And net energy sources
and their demand availability ultimately dictate
the price of nearly everything else.

Sometimes the relationship between dollars
and kilowatt hours is very clearly defined.
Other times the linking is less tight and
may be temporarily affected by supply or
demand issues, by taxes, subsidies, and
such similar fuzzies.

But in the crucial case of home pv panels,
it is no cotest.
In net metering states,
dimes and kilowatt hours are strictly
DEFINED as being directly interchangeable
with each other

Thus every current dime in a pv cost
analsysis exactly equals one kilowatt hour
of current energy
and vice versa. Dimes
and kilowatt hours are thus fungible and
interchangable commodities in this instance.

Cost analysis is easily done with this resource.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

April 13, 2006

Updated and expanded our GuruGram library.

April 12, 2006

Here's an alternate method of visualizing
a Magic Sinewave: For n pulses per
quadrant, you really seem to have a zero
phase synchronized and 100% depth modulated
(zero signal = zero width) bipolar PWM carrier
of frequency 4n.
Whose pulse widths will
proportionally set any desirable amplitude.

The waveform has the following magic
properties: All odd and even harmonics
are theoretically zero up to 4n.
Thus, a
seven-pulse-per-quadrant magic sinewave
will zero out the first TWENTY EIGHT
even and odd harmonics!

And, crucially, the absolutely minimum
number of switch transitions (one half-
bridge event for each harmonic zeroed)
guarantees the highest possible efficiency.

The first two uncontrolled harmonics
will be fairly large and require filtering.
These harmonics are never larger than
the fundamental.

Very exacting math is required to
precisely determine the pulse edge
positions. Example calculators appear
in our Magic Sinewave library.

Any desired number of harmonics may
be zeroed up into the hundreds and
possibly the thousands. But as the
number of harmonics increase, so
will the number of pulses and switching
events. Even extreme waveforms should
still retain advantages over conventional
PWM, though.

Real world quantization (especially when
retaining 8-bit word capabilities changes
true zero harmonics into those that remain
astonishingly low. Typically way below
-65 decibels below the fundamental

It is highly unlikely that (A) any more
efficient sinewave generator can be
for a given number of zeroed
harmonics; and (B) closed form solutions
for determining the pulse positions are
extremely unlikely
to be found.

Here's an intro tutorial.

April 11, 2006

As Scooge McDuck would say about his
dime, it's "Good old number one".

Thanks to Michael Holly for scanning and
third party posting my very first national
technical construction project
from the
April 1963 issue of Electronics World.

Links to other early projects and technical
articles can be found here.

The story paid $150 at a time when tv
dinners cost a quarter each. Sigh.

Curiously, the Music-Speech Discriminator
story in the same issue was also mine. At
the time Electronics World insisted on
pseudo author names if an author appeared
more than once in the same issue.

I'm just as glad my name did not appear on
this one because additional work should
have been done both on the "log" amplifier
and the Schmidt Trigger before it was ever
published. It did work, sort of. But its use as
commercial killers was strictly limited to ultra
snotty FM stations. All long gone, of course.

I eventually hope to provide on-site
reprints of each and every one of my
books and papers. This will take
considerable additional support from
our Banner Advertisers and Synergetics

April 10, 2006

I'm amazed at the sharply dropping prices
and incredible variety of LED's and multi-
LED assemblies
. Such as at this site or
this one or this one.

In particular, traditional pilot lights are now
replacable with identical size and based LED's
at prices ranging from three to six dollars.
The four-LED versions give superb virtual
brightness. Especially when matched to the
lens color.

I've just listed some really nice automation
pushbuttons and pilot lights on our eBay
store that are excellent candidates for LED

Turning to the bigger picture, modules with
dozens of LED's in them are now cheaply
available. The largest single LED's are still
stuck at five watts. Some devices are now
approaching a stunning 100 lumens per watt.

And there's apparently no close-in physical
limits to what should come down next. It is
just of question of learning curves, Moore's
Law, and improved geometries that should
shortly give us a 60 watt 110 volt incandescent
lamp replacement for two dollars or so.

Very high performance caver lights are found here.

April 9, 2006

We pride ourselves in having the finest product
on eBay, bar none. Here's some of the secret
tools and techniques we use on, say, a piece of test
equipment to get the finest image possible...

   ~ Extensive image post prep. At least 90
      percent of your time should be spent
      improving your image, not taking it.

   ~ 5 Megapixels minimum resolution. Lots
      of extra res is needed for rotations, for
      distortion correction, lettering touchup,
      and antialiasing. Even modest cropping
      alarmingly gobbles pixels.

   ~ Use BOTH a Scanner and a Camera.
      Or sometimes even both at the same
      time. Per this tutorial.

   ~ Simple plus custom tools. We normally
      only use plain old Paint plus ImagView 32
      plus the custom routines linked here.

   ~ Background knockout sharpens edges
      and defines product. Done with our
      knockback utility or direct substitution.

   ~ Backrgound substitution eliminates any
       too harsh white, allows vignetting when
       appropriate, and dramatically minimizes
       JPEG edge artifacts. Done either with
       our manual pallette or auto-backgrounder.

   ~ Architects 2-1/2D Perspective makes all
       vertical lines truly vertical. Using our
       nutilt correction utility.

   ~ Pixel Locking in which each and every
      vertical or horizontal line is made so to
      one pixel accuracy. This greately eases
      use of symmetry and replication. And
      dramatically ups virtual sharpness.

    ~ Punchthru Elimination. If a background
       is knocked out to white for later color
       substitution, then absolutely no true white
       pixels can exist in the image itself. One
       combination utility appears here.

   ~ Edge Chasing. In which a believable edge
       gets replicated by random length cutting
       and pasting. Rotation handles other sides
       and mirroring takes care of corners.

   ~ The "open lasso stunt" in Paint. Knocking
       out a diagonal edge is trivial using an
       open ended lasso of proper endpoint slope.

   ~ Image Leveling in which an entire panel
      background is made identical. This also
      greatly simplifies edge/corner replication.

   ~ "Shadowless" Techniques in which any
      and all un-useful shadows are minimized
      or (preferably) eliminated entirely.

   ~ Lettering Improvement, either by sharpening
      the image leveling outline. Or, in extreme
      cases, by doing a total ultra-res relettering
      using our ultra high resolution, fully anti-
      aliased Bitmap Typewriter. The latter is
      normally cost effective only when more than
      one identical instrument will be sold.

   ~ Available Light Photography. Flash sometimes
      causes unacceptable harshness and shading.
      Digital cameras are amazingly sensitive and
      outdoors or skylights plus white reflectors can
      often give you better balance and more than
      enough light. Which can be further brightened
      with ImagView 32 or a fancier package.

   ~ Dodging and burning. Or in some cases,
      outright replacement of a flashed or
      overwhite area. Tutorials here and here.

   ~ Whole Cloth Accessories. Such things as feet
       or handles or connectors are sometimes done
       as new and original artwork, especially if
       the originals are muddy or lack field depth.

    ~ Cut and Paste Reuse. "Borrowing" portions
       of your existing images and reworking them
       can often greatly reduce the total imaging time.
       But always respect the VERO rights of others.

More tutorials and support on our Auction Help page.

Ultra image consulting services, training, and site
seminars available. email me with your needs.

April 8, 2006

If you do not have medical insurance, most
hospitals and practictioners have an in-place system
for substantial discounts for cash payments. These
often can be in the 30 percent range, sometimes
a lot higher. And further negotiation is often

The reason being that most insurance companies
only pay fifty cents on the dollar or less
their negotiated contracts with practictioners.

But these discounts are never advertised and there
are severe gotchas if you do not know the rules
ahead of time. For instance, some may demand
immediate payment and giving them a day to
calculate the payment may disqualify you!

So, always ask beforehand, then ask again.

More thoughts on medical issues in our
Don't Get Sick tutorial.

April 7, 2006

The info you can dig out of Google never
ceases to amaze me. Most people now know
you can simply type in a phone number to
get the equivalent name and address.

Suprisingly often, you can enter an oddball
Manufacturers Part Number (!) and get
all sorts of hits and useful info. Especially
when you add a field-narrowing keyword
or two that are carefully chosen.

I've had this work even on obsolete parts
from companies that have folded or gone
through several mergers.

If a part number consists of 36 combined
letters and numerals, then six characters
would allow over 2 billion different part
numbers! Thus, it doesn't take much to
make a part number truly unique.

At long last, most manufacturers will tell
you how much their parts cost
and without too much hassle. The usual
easiest way is to try and buy the item
through their online store.

But there are still a few epsilon minuses
who send you to their distributor who in a
week or two refer you to their rep who
eventually decides their comission is not
high enough to tell you what the item costs.

Curiously, there seems to be a backlash
among the electronic test equipment houses.
Most of whom stupidly refuse to post prices.

April 6, 2006

Revised and corrected our GuruGram #52 on
Full Transparency from Raw PostScript.

April 5, 2006

And ( see below for buyers ), here are some of the most
common eBay seller mistakes...

   ~ Not recognizing that eBay sales are a profession
      demanding EXTREME time commitment, attention
      to detail, and very high personal value added.

    ~ Trying to work on too low a profit margin. Always
       seek out a 30:1 or higher sell/buy ratio.

    ~ Not having the faintest clue what your true costs
       are. If you are not including your pro-rated water
and similar obscure items, your cost accounting
       is probably woefully inadequate.

   ~ Not recognizing that the minimum profitable eBay
      sale is somewhere around $19.63.

   ~ Not offering unique products not found elsewhere.

   ~ Failing to keep proper tax records.

   ~ Exceeding a 21 day cashout or 15 month hang time.
      While avoiding the profit loss of "too fast" sales.

  ~  Not realizing that eBay seller profits happen during
     BUYING and not selling.

   ~ Not buying except under EXTREME distress situations.
      If more than 5% of your buy offers are accepted, you
      are paying way too much

   ~ Failing to promptly provide tracking info to buyer.
      Naturally, you NEVER ship without tracking and

   ~ Not keeping your item descriptions complete, accurate,
      and somewhat understated.

   ~ Listing anything you cannot hold extended at arm's length.

   ~ Not having proper inventory controls in place.

   ~ Not having a VISA/MC commercial account,
      UPS daily pickup, a trade name registration,
      and a state tax stamp.

   ~ Using arcane terms and conditions that exceed
       ten words absolute maximum.

   ~ Failing to promptly answer all emails and to
       correct all problems as quickly as possible.

   ~ Not using a camera AND a scanner AND web data
       links when and where appropriate. Images rule.

   ~ Failing to keep shipping charges strictly revenue

   ~ Not spending nearly enough time in image post-
. At least 90 percent of your photo
      effort should go here.

   ~ Selling foreign.

   ~ Listing any item at an opening price less than
       you are willing to sell it for.

   ~ Withdrawing an on-the-block offer in violation
       of the Uniform Commercial Code.  

   ~ Selling any item violating VERO rights.

    ~ Selling in known problem categories.

   ~ Stealing images and copy from other sellers.

   ~ Accepting anything but VISA/MC or Paypal.

   ~ Not offering inspection priveleges. Not promptly
      offering refunds. When appropriate, including
      buyer costs and without return.

    ~ Falling for account-stealing phishing emails.

   ~ Posting feedback before customer evaluates item.

~ Being rude or confrontational in seller email contacts.

  ~ Using dropshippers, palletized "bargains", doing
     consignment sales, or selling for friends.

April 4, 2006

There apparently is an interaction bug in Adobe Acrobat
7.x.x between transparency modes and the exact Reader
colors that are displayed.

Others web report this as a change in colors...

    "We are aware of color mismatches when viewing
      PDFs which have some kinds of transparency in
      PDF 1.4. Yes, this has been duly reported as a bug
      to Adobe too. "

    "Details: As soon there is an extended graphics state
      parameter dictionary present which contains any
      transparency blend space operators, Adobe Reader
      7.x switches into CMYK mode showing incorrect colours.

I believe the "harsh" first page in our PSTRANS2.PDF
file is related to ( and explained by ) this bug. And
probably has nothing to do with Cooltype or any
use of text smoothing.

The harshness appears to be only on the reader; your
pages should print normally. One crude workaround is
to put transparency on all pages of a document. The
bug would be somewhat less obvious this way.

April 3, 2006

Here are some of the most common eBay buyer mistakes...

   ~ Failing to proxy bid their max ONCE very late in the
, doing so in oddball penny amounts just above
       a currency denomination threshold.

   ~ Failing to realize that an awarded bid is an enforcable
under the Uniform Commercial Code.

   ~ Not knowing the TOTAL transaction cost of the bid
      price, the shipping costs, and any special charges.

    ~ Failing to acknowledge that it costs money to ship stuff,
      and that the carrier charges are typically only a tiny
of true total shipping costs.

   ~ Not fully reading the offer or seeing what is not there.

   ~ Failing to contact the seller if there is ANY question.

   ~ Failing to pay promptly and in the expected manner.

   ~ Bidding on all "n" items on a Dutch auction. ALWAYS
      bid on n-1 Dutch
or less!

   ~ Withdrawing a bid for frivolous or remorseful reasons.

   ~ Buying foreign.

   ~ Not realizing that "too good to be true" offers are.

   ~ Paying with anything except VISA/MC or Paypal

   ~ Failing to research value elsewhere. eBay is seldom
      the only or the best buy.

  ~ Not realizing that shipping heavy stuff long distances
      is practically NEVER cost effective.

    ~ Falling for account-stealing phishing emails.

   ~ Getting into pissing contests with other bidders.

   ~ Failing to preview the seller's feedback. Anything
       less than 98 percent is suspect and below 95
       percent should trip a red flag alert.

 ~  Nickel and diming the seller over trivial charges.

~  Being rude or confrontational in seller email contacts.

   ~ Negging before resolving any seller conflict.

April 2, 2006

Because anybody can now instantly find out
everything about anything, the value of
is falling dramatically. And may
in fact approach ZERO in the near future!

The utter info glut also raises quality and
needle-in-haystack issues over and above
simple overload. For, like Greshams Law,
Bad information drives away good.

Which does not bode well for traditional
information gatekeepers. Especially since
we have to ask WHY we even need gates,
let alone gatekeepers. Or even a fence
to put the gate in.

Author payments have dropped something
like 30:1 in real dollars over the last decade
or two. At the very least, this means that
authors will have to seek out indirect payment
and alternate revenue streams.

Trade journals are in dire straits because the
model of charging outrageous fees for something
that won't appear for many weeks or months
in the future. Combined with abysmal technical
content that is clearly plummeting.

Traditional Publishers once offered all sorts of
services that are now laughingly obsolete. Such
as typesetting, art departments, rack promotion,
and, above all, decent editing. The last known
competent book editor was locked in a closet at
Howard Sams in 1977 and has not been seen since.
Or the need to produce books in huge quantities
and then ending up throwing most of them away.

Books Themselves are clearly in jepoardy, and I'll
predict that their near total demise will happen a
lot faster and a lot sooner than most people expect.
Driven by a multi-purpose device that just happens
to completely blow eBook readers out of the water.
Combined with a student revolt against backpacks.

Libraries no longer have a clear purpose as they
demanded that the gatekeeper, the reader, and the
physical materials all be in the same place at the
same inconvenient time. With the added ludicrosity
that only one reader could access info at once.

But Scholarly Journal Publishers clearly have the
most serious problems. If they are to survive at
all. Sloppy researcher "A" throws some crap up
on the web and instantly delivers zillions of free
copies worldwide. Competent researcher "B"
pays an outrageous fee to have his peer review
paper published in the distant future in a journal
so expensive
that their institution's own library
cannot afford a copy. Guess who wins?

At the very least, scholarly journal survival
demands unlimited free instant access of all
abstracts without so much as a registration
hassle. Combined with sanely limited quantities
of free access to any paper over five years old.

Oh, the times, the times, they are a changing.

April 1, 2006

Parallax has a free new eBook on Exploring the
SX Microcontroller
, along with upcoming contests
and development systems.

The SX is basically a "PIC on Steroids" that runs
extremely fast (to 75 MHz) and offers an expanded
but quirky instruction set. Unlike the PIC, some of
the instructions are now two or more bytes,

The SX apparently excells at doing things really fast.
Such as directly generating video output, performing
software radio functions, or generating virtual
such as all-software UART's, stepper
drivers, LCD display interfaces, and such.

The SX might ease some of the "pinch points" in
my Magic Sinewave firmware. Especially for higher
pulses per quadrant and stronger harmonic rejection.
Per this intro tutorial.

Note that Intel also has a high end SX microcomputer
that is a totally different device.

March 31, 2006

Interesting new components include a single
chip microphone with a direct digital output
from Akustica; and three new $4 low-G
accellerometers from FreeScale. Part
numbers include MMA6270Q, MM6280Q,
and MMA7261Q. The latter is THREE axis!

Now, all we need is a companion $5 gyro.

March 30, 2006

Some energy grants available to individuals
and small scale startups
can be found here.

March 29, 2006

New GuruGram #63 is a very brief note on our
Two Phase Magic Sinewaves.

It turns out that modifying the chip code for a
phase shift is rather trivial. And thus, a two chip
solution looks simple and effective.

If a single chip solution is attempted with a
best efficiency magic sinewave, it appears
there will be an unavoidable pattern versus
dependency, which makes for ugly
coding. The situation is eased somewhat with
lower performance normal magic sinewaves,
especially those with an even number of
pulses per quadrant.

Thus, a single chip two phase magic sinewave
appears both costly and complex, but can
be done.

Sourcecode is here. More magsin info here.

March 28, 2006

There are times and places when you might want
to keep robots and search engines off of certain
pages on your website. Possibly because the info
is private or out-of-date or still being edited or so
huge the robot could get lost.

The usual and standard way to handle this is by
adding a robots.txt HTML entry to your home
page. Details on the robots.txt standard can be
found here, while this entire site is devoted to
robotic search control.

Back before our eBay store, I worked up a
Galley Slave system that gave you a website
product gallery with click-through enlarged
photos, more technical details, etc. I have
kept this demo active because I may return to
it sometime, and you just might like to use
something similar for your own online store.

Unfortunately, Google is jumping into the middle
of this demo of NO LONGER AVAILABLE items
and causing all sorts of disappointment. I'll be adding
markers to our demo like this one as a temporary

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.

March 27, 2006

New GuruGram #62 is on a Enhancing your eBay Tactical
Skills III

Sourcecode is found here. Additiona auction info here.

March 26, 2006

Refurb Log:

Repainting a case or a cover can very
dramatically improve your final product
appearance. Especially if it has been
through he military storage or loose
industrial inventory wringers.

I'm very much impressed with the new
Krylon "No Runs, No Drips, No Errors"
new "Smoothest Finish" spray cans that
you should be able to find at your local
hardware supplier or paint store.

Apparently they have a new solvent and
much finer particles or whatever, because
the results often seem ridiculously better
than traditional spray cans. Fast drying, too.

One curious gotcha, though: If you try to
use this stuff to repair a botched up paint
job with conventional Rust-Oleum enamel
or whatever, you may get a rather violent
finish interaction
that gives you a "wrinkle"
or "crinnelated" finish. Which might be
real cute if it were more controllable.

Naturally, any larger bare metal areas should
be primed first. If you really want to do the
job right, then a shot blaster cabinet and full
stripping is the best way to go. While shot
are now available from AutoZone
and such for as little as $79, note that you do
need a decent shop compressed air supply.

You also have the option of injecting shot
blasting material into a power washer
a $25 accessory that is readily available.
But this can be kinda uncontrolled and
rather messy.

Durability of most paints can be dramatically
improved by heating to 175 degrees or so for
a reasonable time.

Naturally, plain old masking tape is essential
to protect any areas to remain unpainted. As
is cardboard or whatever barriers to prevent
any overspray problems.

What also should be obvious is that a dozen
light coats are often better than fewer heavy
You should not even begin to think about
worrying about color coverage till after the third
coat or so.

March 25, 2006

I've made some additions and updates to
our Auction Help page. In particular the
long missing ENHEBAY2.PDF is now up.

Enhance III is in the works. You can
preview some of its probable content by
checking the eBay related entries in

March 24, 2006

Zero Defects certainly is a laudable goal,
but getting there with real world customers
can be tricky at best. Chances are that you
will be blindsided where you least expect it.

Some strategies towards "no unhappy
customers" include...

   ~ Throroughly researching your products.
   ~ Carefully understating descriptions
   ~ Giving 15 day inspection priveleges. 
   ~ Promptly offering (often full) refunds.
   ~ Protecting yourself with 30:1 sell/buy ratios.
   ~ Giving immediate tracking info.
   ~ Shipping as quickly as possible
   ~ Avoiding problem categories.
   ~ Keeping most product weights fairly low
   ~ Linking listings to additional info
   ~ Never skimping on proper packaging
   ~ Carfeully clean and/or refurb before shipping
   ~ Prompt refund as the ONLY adjustment.
   ~ Spell out all known defects or problems
   ~ Never selling anything customer unsuitable
   ~ Recognizing that adjustments are expected
   ~ Keeping terms less than 10 words maximum
   ~ Avoid humor for it WILL be misunderstood
   ~ Never worrying about the feedback sideshow
   ~ Verify good product is in stock before listing..
   ~ Keeping all shipping charges revenue neutral
   ~ Try to be available 24/7
   ~ Never saying anything nasty in emails.
   ~ Flushing anyone who nickel and dimes you
   ~ No good deed goes unpunished
   ~ Testing electrical items for main functionality
   ~ Never try to be a penpal
   ~ Block ALL refunded buyers regardless of fault
   ~ Respond facutally & unemotionally to feedback
   ~ Absolutely no foreign bidders or shipment.

Let's look at some "case studies", some of
which were clearly our fault..

   ~ I replaced a knob on a Tek plug-in without
      properly phasing its position. Customer
      rightly complained that settings were off.

   ~ We mixed up two orders shipping together.
      Customers have NO obligation whatsoever
      to return anything to you.
All you can do is
      politely ask. In the case of lower value items
      stocked in quantity, comping is fastest and
      cheapest in the long run. But you NEVER
      ask customers to ship to each other.

    ~ I called an Option 1 TCXO oscillator an
       "oven" not noting that a fancier option 4
       oven existed and was customer expected.

   ~ An apparently mint PIC emulator from a
      bankruptcy auction would not communicate
      for the buyer. I felt this was baud rate or
      interconnect related, but refunded anyway.

And these problems which clearly were not...

   ~ We were falsely accused of selling product
       safety recalls. All of our offered products
       post-dated any recalls and were fully
       corrected at time of manufacturer
. All
       code dates always carefully checked.

   ~ An individual bought a precision seismic
       testing simulator thinking it was a plain
       old car audio thumper.

   ~ We throoughly reconditioned a precision
       scientific instrument including expensive
       factory replacement parts. It tested
       perfectly. The customer claimed a failure
       within twenty minutes of operation but
       absolutely refused to make the simple
       measurements (a VOM resistance check)
       that could have allowed an email/phone
This with full docs provided.

   ~  Customer negged us without contact after
       dozens of our emails, phone calls, and
       eBay communications went unanswered.

   ~ Customer negged us over nondelivery
      after an extremely late payment and
      unreasonably short delivery expectations.

  ~ Customer negged after an improved variation
      of offered product was shipped. New product
      still had the same Tektronix "-A" part number
      version as the old one.

Much more on our Auction Help page.

March 23, 2006

Many hundreds of you are accessing our
RSS feed info daily , but I still have a hollow
feeling that all is not well. We pass this
but not all of them.

What is supposed to happen is that every
few days, you should get an update of this
news blog
and a list of several popular
tutorials. That include Energy Fundamentals,
eBay buying, eBay selling, Magic Sinewave
, Auction Help library, our Magnetic
Fields Heresy
and Marcia Swampfelder

Is this happening? If not, can you please
tell me what I am doing wrong? email me
with any help you can provide.

March 22, 2006

Some assorted comments and such...

There are apparently now 185 extrasolar
at last count, and we seem to be
gaining one every fifteen days or so. I'd
expect the rate to climb sharply real
soon now. You can Google "extrasolar
to pick up lots of sites that
include this one, this one, and this one.

There's a new LED Trade Journal. Too
early to tell how useful it may become.

Some new chips that may be of interest:
The STPM01 single phase power metering
IC from STM. New MEMS accellerometer
devices from Freescale, (MMA7260Q),
OKI (ML8950), Kionix, (KXP74-1010), and
again STM (LIS3LO2DQ). New gas sensors
that eliminate the usual preheating hassles
from Applied Nanotech. A $20 development
system eZ430-F2013 from TI. (Its only tiny
fatal flaw is that it is not for a PIC!). And a
new 360 degree Hall Device MLX90316
rotary position sensor from Melexis.

March 21, 2006

It seems to me that any new product
breakthrough development has a unique
viability threshold that it has to get through
one way or another.

Obvious older examples: video recording
demanded both a cartridge approach and a
helical scan to combine high tape speed with
low tape usage. The little noted breakthrough
that enabled most all of modern electronics
happened when MOS shift register memory
smashed through the nickle-a-bit magnetic
core cost barrier.

The microprocessor revolution took off the day
that an unheard of third tier MOS Technology
started selling 6502 chips at Wescon for $20
each literally out of bushel baskets. This at the
time the Intel and Motorola big boys would
not even let you near a prequalification list
for their thousand dollar prototypes.

The desktop publishing viability threshold was
crossed when that combination of PostScript
and the Apple Laserwriter I came out. And two
obvious examples of viability thresholds that
just have been crossed are cost effective flat
panel displays
of acceptable size and viewability.
Plus megapixel digital camera image sensors and

And here are some viability thresholds I feel
are very shortly about to be crossed...

    ~ An ebook reader so good that we will
       have an utter and total demise of books.
       Only it probably will be a totally different
that just happens to let you read
       stuff more confortably and with much
       more convenience that a "real" book.
       One that relegates DRM to a sideshow
       and probably will be greatly aided by
       a student revolt against backpacks.

    ~ extrasolar Earth-like planets becoming
       as common as dirt, thanks to viability
       thresholds being crossed on a dozen new
       and updated technologies. But I'll also
       predict that the earth-moon combinations
       required for climatic stability
will remain
       extremely rare indeed.

    ~ truly renewable and sustainable pv solar
. It flat out ain't gonna happen
       with conventional silicon panels. And new
       CIGS technology will likely only get us a
       third of the way there. But solutions will
       eventually abound, brought about by
       multiple and split workfunctions, nano
       and MEMS construction techniques,
       metalloradicals, direct antenna conversions,
       photonic lattices, and such. More in our
       ENERGY FUNDAMENTALS tutorial.

    ~ A revolution in lighting efficiency. Today's
       incandescent lighting is only five percent
       efficient at best and represents a staggering
       waste of energy. There's no known near upper
       physical limit to LED technology today, and
       100 lumens per watt or higher seems totally
       approachable. I'd expect a ten watt and two
       dollar 50 lumens per watt white LED shortly.

    ~ Sanity emerging in scholarly papers. Any
       serious researcher has a choice: They can
       spend thousands of dollars to publish a peer
       reviewed conventional paper that not even
       their school library can afford to own. Or they
       can directly publish on the web at zero cost.
       Guess which is gonna win? If the publish-or-
        perish crowd is able to survive at all, it will
        be through absolutely free abstracts and
        free access to any paper three or more years
. The latter possibly with a sane quantity
        download limit, say ten papers per month.

    ~ Dramatic improvements in ICE technology.
        The efficiency of today's internal combustion
        engines are less than one half of their Carnot
        Limit. And Carnot itself can be pushed. We
        can expect a split Otto cycle, an improved
        Miller Cycle, and lots of new six cycle options.
        One likely consequence would be automotive
        fuel cells becoming of less interest. Clearly
        more dollars and smarter dollars are being
        spent directly on the ICE than on fuel cell

    ~ Direct solar-to-liquid hydrocarbons. As we
       have seen before, the "hydrogen economy"
       emperor has no clothes and is totally bogus.
       But carbon neutral ( rather than carbon free )
       solutions that end up with isooctane or heptane
       similar room temperature liquids make
       infinitely more sense on all levels. The key
       secret will likely be a more detailed understanding
       of photosynthesis-like metalloradicals.

March 20, 2006

Several clients have asked us about two
magic sinewaves. These could be
useful for capacitor-run motors or for various
I-Q modulation schemes. With fixed filtering,
perhaps four octaves of frequency range could
be provided.

At present, we have single phase and three
magic sinewave chips and sourcecode
available. It is also possible to derive a
single phase output from the three phase
chips, but you cannot simply use one of the
three outputs because of the differential
common mode delta drive

Creating a 90 degree phase shifted single
phase chip would involve only a trivial
in the sourcecode.

Producing both phases within one chip
might get a tad ugly, as it appears that
the pulse overlap (and hence the port
) will be highly amplitude
. Certain timings may also
be unacceptably tight.

Considerable development effort would
appear needed. Code would almost
certainly be much more complex than
the single phase and three phase cases

At first glance, a two phase chip whose
first nonzero harmonic was the 29th would
possibly fit in a 4K PIC. Higher zero harmonic
rejection would probably require going
to an 8K or larger PIC device.

Using a pair of chips in parallel, one for in-phase
and one for quadrature would appear to be a lot
cleaner and simpler.

Either route can be done for you on a custom
basis. Click here for our
Magic Sinewave History.

March 19, 2006

Some other ICE internal combustion
engine efficiency breakthroughs may
center on various experiments that
involve six cycle operation.

While these may seem limited to lower
speeds, that is precisely where the
efficiency and pollution problems lie.
Proposed solutions allow switching
between four and six cycle operation,
provided electrically variable valves
become common and cost effective.

In one six cycle scheme, normal suck-
takes place on
your first four cycles. Fuel-free air
is injected on cycle five and exhausted
on cycle six. This provides additional
cooling and spent gas removal for
lower temperatures and higher

In a second six cycle scheme, water
is injected on cycle five, creating a steam
that converts normal heat losses into
useful power while again reducing pollutants
and increasing efficiency.

March 18, 2006

Refurb Log:

Stepper Motors and their drives have
gotten quite fancy even while prices
have been dramatically dropping. It is
super important to understand exactly
what type of stepper and driver you are
involved with before attempting any
repair or modification.

There are two basic types of steppers.
A bipolar stepper often has one winding
per phase that has to be driven from a
full bridge to provide current in both

A unipolar stepper will have a center
tapped bifilar winding
for each phase
and thus can be driven by a simpler and
cheaper current sinking drive. For the
maximum performance, though, you can
sometimes simply ignore the center tap
and use a full bridge bipolar drive on a
unipolar stepper motor

There's all sorts of fancy games these
days that involve half stepping and micro
stepping and similar options. One very
interesting variant is called current drive,
where the stepper motor is driven from a
much higher voltage
. This can greatly
improve your response speed.

Direct current drive is outrageously hot
and inefficient, so it is often combined with
switchmode techniques. Besides improving
the efficiency, the pulse duty cycling can
give you a current multiplication effect

You might only draw 100 mils average from
your 38 volt supply, while providing two
amps of phase drive to your 3 volt stepper.
A properly sized filter capacitor must be
included to fill in during the pulse on

Two classic chips for this sort of thing are
the ST L297 switchmode current controller
and the ST L298 full bridge driver. These
both remain readily available as $5 parts.

Several ap notes are available directly from

March 17, 2006

A curious fact that very few people seem
aware of: The word "gullible" does NOT
appear in any major dictionary or spell
checking program!

March 16, 2006

Sure seems to be a quiet time on the
Arizona Auction Scene. Hasn't been
any industrial auctions for several months
now. Except for some classic machine
shop stuff.

Meanwhile, there are bunches of musical
chairs going on. Cunningham just may be
getting out of (or at lest de-ephasizing) the
classic auction business while favoring real
estate projects. Sierra is apparently greatly
expanding their presence in the Tucson area.

Auction Advantage seems to be ceasing sales
at their superb "old church school" home. And
the future of the Pima College auctions are
presently not at all clear.

More on our Auction Help page. Especially
our Live Auction Scene tutorial.

Your own custom regional auction resource
finder can be created for you per these

March 15, 2006

Corrected some links on our home page.

Put some new temperature recorders and
some classic Tektronix plug-ins and some
other interesting new stuff on eBay .

Work continues on our Schleuniger wire
cutter refurb project. It sure is challenging
to try and restore a total basket case. The
latest surprises involve the stepper driver
. Fortunately and surprisingly,
key chips remain available.

email me if you have any interest in a
superb UC3750 programmable wire
cutter that is heavy industrial grade.

March 14, 2006

I am rarely impressed with "new" ICE
internal combustion engine designs, and
have been even less impressed with the
ongoing government funding boondoggles
at Southwest Research. But maybe, just
maybe, they have really outdone themselves
this time.

The claim is that a new technology based
on splitting the Otto Cycle into two seperate
cylinders, one for compression and one for
power can nearly double real-world ICE
efficiency. Cost effectively and with far less
and loads of other major benefits

More info here, here, and here.

Key search words to get and stay up to date
on this are Scuderi and Air-Hybrid Engine.
Yes, they are still within the Carnot limit.
The underlying enabling technology would
seem to be electrically controllable valves.
This also appears to be a variation on the
Miller Cycle , various six cycle operation
schemes, and the ancient Reid Engine
that others are exploring.

I suspect that these eventually would lead
to a tank that is filled at a carefully controlled
compression ratio, mixture, and vapor-to-
liquid ratio by one system, and combusted
by a second. Both of which can be separately
optimized to do their best possible job. It
is not yet clear whether rotary or piston
compression might end up best.

This one definitely bears watching. If true,
any motivation for automotive fuel cells
would be dramatically diminished to say the

March 13, 2006

Refurb Log:

Never underestimate the power of a
Sherwin-Williams overhaul! Giving
a customer a fresh looking and squeaky
clean item often guarantees that your
item will stay sold.

This is especially important on surplus
instruments that may be grimy, have
storage cosmetics, and lots of useless
labels on them. In general, you want to
remove any and all non-original labels.
Except possibly for reasonably current
calibration date info.

Citrus based cleaners such as Resolv
or Citra-Solv are handy to soften labels.
Leaving a sponge on a label overnight
can help bunches, as can removing as much
of the label as possible to expose the
underlying adhesive

Ordinary glass cleaner can then be used
to remove the bad smelling orange odor.
This is espeically important if you are going
to repaint later. Be sure that no odor
remains at shipping time

Special MicroTex polyester polyamide rags
work a lot better than regular ones. Helped
along for light tasks by the Mr Clean Magic
, and for serious stuff by Scotch-Brite.

Soft plastic scrapers can be faked from
drawer dividers or vehicle ice removers.

Tire shine can sometimes dramatically
improve black bakellite cases.

Retouching paint usually causes more
harm than good. Although careful use
of a permanent marker Sharpie can often
reduce the odd scrape or scratch.

Repainting an entire cover or case can
often give amazing results. The latest of
Krylon "Smoothest Finish" interior/exterior
spray paints
seem to give excellent color
matches, improved durability, and far less
splatter than before.

Simply replacing worn feet can make
a difference as well. If a decorative
part is cracked or worn, sometimes
scraping with an X-Acto knife or a
little superglue can help. Other times,
replacement parts might be available
from the manufacturer at prices that
may end up justifiable.

Sometimes you can cheat and do a
virtual overhaul first. In which you
clean up the image of the item being
sold. This is far simpler and cheaper
on any item that you are not sure will
sell or how much you will get for it.

Just be sure that you can in fact make
the final instrument look like what you
appear to have offered.

March 12, 2006

There's a new speed reading course that
lets you read War and Peace in twelve

It's about Russia.

March 11, 2006

The perpetual motion nuts and the otherwise
thermodynamically clueless seem to be invading
the newsgroups again. You can instantly spot
them by their vitrolic personal attacks any time
unemotional factional and easily verifiable info
is presented to them.

Knowing how much and when to respond can
be frustrating. There is no way that you can
convince someone who "has" to be right, so
your only hope is to make lurkers and other
group denizens aware of the poster's inherent

The goal, of course, is to get them so mad that
they box themselves into a corner by posting
outrageously "not even wrong" claims that
display their utter and total cluelessness.

By mixing up power and energy, confusing real
and reactive power
, ignoring average vs rms,
routing DC through transformers, failing to
recognize that pulse trains have a Fourier Series
frequency equivalence, or claiming to clearly
violate Faraday's Law, all of those Laws of
, or other stuff
that flat out
ain't broke.

Sadly, things of value you post to a newsgroup
will disappear with a half life of twelve hours or
so. While posts you may regret stay around
forever in the archives.

For long term effectiveness, I feel that posts to
your own website, blogs, rss, and your own news
pages can be much more controlled and end up
ridiculously more effective in the long term

Two key papers of mine that demolish the usual
posts are How to Bash PseudoScience and our
Energy Fundamentals. While a thermodynamics
intro appears in HACK64.PDF

The inescapable facts of why electrolysis for
hydrogen from high value electrical sources
such as grid or pv flat out ain't gonna happen
appear in MUSE153.PDF.

And the latest "resonance is free energy"
flap gets dealt with in HACK59.PDF

While the usual "overunity through pulses"
crowd needs to carefully study their rms-vs-
blunders in our MUSE112.PDF and
MUSE113.PDF tutorials.

And, once again, our Energy Fundamentals
tutorial tries to deal with those who feel that
outrageous subsidies for bolting pv net energy
on roofs will in some manner cause net
energy renewability and sustainability.

At present, the fully burdened and properly
accounted for price of a synchronous inverter
alone guarantees home solar electricity stays
a net energy sink.

Even when the magic fifty cents per peak
watt holy grail is reached, you still only
have an elaborate "paint it green" transfer
scheme that still uses 100% conventional
and traditional energy sources. The old
energy, of course, going into the amortization.

Sustainability and renewability can only
emerge on any differential that is below
conventional old energy breakeven.

But, as noted here a week or two ago, the
new developments in CIGS photovoltaics
might get us as much as one third of the
to the goal of solar pv ultimately
becoming a truly renewable and sustainable
net energy source.

March 10, 2006

Here's a partial collection of links to some of
our more intriguing PostScript-as-Language apps...

Acrobat .PDF Content Extractor
Auto-tracking .PDF Web Links
Beginner Projects
Bezier Curve thru Fuzzy Data
Bionomial Goes Binary

Book Cover Layout Utility
Digital Camera Swings and Tilts
eBay Image Theft Detector

Elaborate Cubic Spline Manipulations
Fibonacci Sunflowers

Flutterwumper Utilities
Fractal Fern and Image
Free Font Collection
Galley Slave Thumbnail Touring
Gambler's Ruin Simulation

Gonzo PostScript Utiities
4x4 Linear Equation Solver
Logfile History Analyzer
Nonlinear Graphic Transforms
PIC PostScript Flutterwumpers

Pulse Monitor Software
Real Time Acrobat Animation
Ridiculously Better PowerPoint Emulator
Simplified Electromagnetic Field Plotter
Smith Chart Generator

Ultra-Legible Tiny Typography
Universal Bitmap Manipulator
Vignetting Image auto-backgrounder
Writing Complex JavaScript Programs
Word Frequency Analyzer

March 9, 2006

The price of Santa Claus Machines continues to
drop dramatically. But we are still far away from
low cost hobby, small shop, or toy devices that can
desktop produce useful three dimensional objects.

Two machines in the $20,000 class are newly
available. A ZPrinter 320 Plus inkjet from and a fused deposition
"sticky string" modeling BST unit from

Meanwhile, in a vaguely related development,
Adobe has extended their Acrobat to include
3D capabilities and standard CAD imports.

And one school that seems to be doing some
interesting Santa Claus stuff is found here.

March 8, 2006

Refurb Log:

Holding nuts or spacers during reassembly can
be a real hassle. Sometimes placing the unit on
its side
or upside down can help. Other times,
removing items the make access difficult can
end up saving you bunches of time and hassle
in the long run.

That ancient Heathkit Nut Starter is essential
if you can still find one. But my favorite trick
remains using a small amount of beeswax on
screwheads and anything else you want to
temporarily hold onto. But avoid doing so on
anything that has to end up superclean

Various forms of hemostats and screwholding
devices can also be handy. Someimtes, though,
a plain old alligator clip can work wonders. In
extreme cases, you can sometimes superglue
a nut to a folded piece of card stock
, giving you
an exceptionally tiny "wrench" that needs
minimal clearance.

Small mirrors and strong lights can also help
you bunches. As can magnets. And magnifiers.
Sometimes a child or someone with smaller
can end up immensely valuable.

March 7, 2006

A current ROADMAP:

While much of our web site is new and up to date,
there are some nooks and crannies sorely in need
of revision and overhaul. In absence of additional
advertisers and partners, I pretty much have to go
with where my current interests and the majority
of viewer demand lies.

As revealed by our daily Log File monitoring.

Our latest and best info will appear on our What's
page, while the newest tutorials should show
up in the GuruGram library.

Other pages of current interest being actively
improved upon include Auction Help, Cubic Splines,
Hydrogen Energy, Magic Sinewaves, Acrobat,
PostScript, InfoPack, and Patent Avoidance.

Plus, of course, our eBay Auctions and our
Amazon Books. Also reached via our Book

I've also recently added access to bunches of my
classic reprints to our Guru's Lair archive. There
are many thousands of files remining to go here.

I eventually hope to have all of my articles and
all of my books in eBook form up here. Again,
advertisers and partners, and research associates

The Hardware Hacker, Tech Musings, Resource
, and Blatant Opportunist libraries are essentially
complete and offered in their historical context. A
few of the oldest columns still need updating to
modern layout standards.

Our Refurb Logs remin very much ongoing and
active, but I've been a little slow moving each item
from its initial What's New entry to over to its
compiled Refurb Log tutorial. To keep up to date,
simply search What's New for Log: every now
and then.

Several software demo pages that involve this
do NOT offer current products! It seems
you can still Google these. I'm working on a robot
to try and stop this.

If you are overwhelmed by our website offerings,
start with the latest What's New info (now also
a RSS Feed) and then go to the Top Files Sampler
and Recent Uploads boxes on our Home Page.

March 6, 2006

New GuruGram #61 is on a Book Cover Layout

Companion utility is found here. Sourcecode is
found here.

March 5, 2006

If you are at all serious about selling
a self-published book on Amazon or in
any bookstore or any other retail outlet,
then you absolutely MUST have an ISBN
along with a rear cover barcode.

ISBN's cost between three cents and
three dollars each and are gotten here.
Minimum order is ten.

An ISBN barcode tutorial appears here,
a free barcode generation utility here,
and an online barcode generator here.

March 4, 2006

I thought that my Smith Chart Drawing
were still buried in the 1000+ pile
of GEnie PSRT era and earlier files still
awaiting a sponsor or translator.

Smith Charts greatly simplify high frequency
VHF, UHF, and Microwave analysis.

Turns out the code is cleverly hidden in our
PostScript Secrets as column 43-A.

Lots of similar older and obscure stuff does
remain deeply hidden in our Ask The Guru
historical library archives.

March 3, 2006

Picked up five super premium HP Agilent
system power supplies that include a pair of
6653A's, a 6627A, a 6675A J07, and a 6651A.

The 6675A J07 is the most impressive, being
rated 0-200 volts and 0-11 amps for a total
of 2200 watts. Fully GPIB programmable and
controllable of course.

I've just placed this beast up on eBay.

March 2, 2006

Several major manufacturers are at long last
bailing out of conventional silicon pv solar panels.
Having finally concluded that (A) there is no
way in hell than conventional silicon pv can EVER
even remotely hope to become renewable or
, and that (B) silicon is simply not
, having totally sold out through 2006.

The heir apparent is a group of new processes that
involve CIG (copper-indium-gallium) or CIGS
(copper-indium-gallium-selenium) semiconductors.

Here is a news story and a company announcement.

While clearly not an instant panacea solution, these
compound semiconductors do appear to make really
major advances on several fronts.

The material is ridiculously more absorbent of solar
energy than silicon, allowing active areas that are
much, much thinner. By around 70:1 or nearly two
orders of magnitude!

The material has a direct bandgap, meaning that
(A) at least some "loose change" energy above the
workfunction energy is not lost, and (B) recombination
and crystalline defect problems are much lower.

Further, the material can apparently be bulk processed
industrially on large sheets in a vacuum free environment.
Compared to earlier thin film approaches, the material is
insanely more stable and apparently does not degrade
significantly with time

Efficiencies in the 12.5 percent range are reported.

My own view is that this development should take
us "one third of the way" towards pv renewability
and sustainability
. But that significantly higher
efficiencies will be needed for ultimate net power

Likely brought about by multiple or distributed
workfunctions, direct nanotechnology antenna
techniques, metalloradicals, and possibly photonic

More in our ENERGY FUNDAMENTALS tutorial.

March 1, 2006

Refurb Log:

Oilite buishings remain one of the greatest
mechanical engineering developments of all
time. I probably should have included them
way back in our Elegant Simplicity tutorial.

These were invented by Chrysler engineers
in the 1930's and consist of a sintered sleeve
bearing made from bronze and similar powders
into which oil has been vacuum impregnated.

Despite inroads from Nyliner and others, these
remain the mainstay of many lower speed and
lighter load industrial bearings. You can buy
a typical smaller oilite bearing from McMaster
or Small Parts and others for around forty
four cents.

The correct way to change out a worn oilite
bearing is with an arbor press and a special
matched insert. But you can sometimes get
by using nothing but a hex head cap screw.

Ferinstance, on a 3/8 od by 1/4 id oilite bushing,
A 1/4 x 1-1/2 inch capscrew should have a head
diameter that is a comfortable slip clearance to
the 3/8 inch hole. Any spacer larger than 3/8
inch id can be placed on the other side of the
bearing surface and terminated with two
washers and a quarter inch nut.

Suprisingly little force will be required on the
box end wrench or 7/16 inch socket that tightens
the nut. The process seems simple and safe.

There is a 20:1 mechanical advantage from the
1/4-20 threads and around an 18:1 or so further
advantage from the wrench arm. Which means
that a little over three pounds of force creates
half a ton of extraction at the bearing surfaces!

February 28, 2006

Do brack-and-mortar libraries have any
future whatsoever? If so, why?

A traditional library was a gatekeeper to
hard-to-find information.
Usually a highly
authortatian one of, for, and by control

Since Google has now totally demolished the
information access fence
, it is not clear exactly
why we need any gates, let alone gatekeepers.

Libraries demanded that the information, the
information providers, and the information
recipients all be in the same physical place at
the same time
. They further restricted info
access to one-patron-at-a-time. Both of these
concepts are now utterly ludicrous for web age
information dissemenation.

It is reasonable to assume that a "nearly perfect"
eBook will arrive within a very few weeks. When
this happens, a logical consequence will be that
most schools will be totally textbook free within
a very few years

Driven in part by utterly ovewhelming economics,
and possibly in part by a student revolt against

May you live in interesting times. email comments

February 27, 2006

I've been refurbing a Schleuniger UC3750
programmable wire cutter that's turning into
quite an adventure. This high end US made
factory floor machine cuts any number of wires
for you to any preset length at rate as fast as
several per second.

Also cuts ribbon cable, coax, fairly heavy cable,
tubing, and such. Rerurb is now around 80%
complete, but the outcome remains in doubt. So
far, key issues have been badly worn bushings, an
incorrectly installed rectifier, roller refurb, some
transformer rework, and a new power entry module.

Please email me if you have any interest in this item

February 26, 2006

A new search engine specific to the nondestructive
testing community is now up at

February 25, 2006

Managed to negotiate some lower UPS charges
for the hose reels we have up on eBay.

While we still strongly recommend free local
inspection and pickup
, the UPS packing charge
is now a reduced $59.

We have approximately 14 of these remaining.
being all stainless steel, these suckers are heavy.
But they sure refurb beautifully.

By placing the reels in two boxes (easy six bolt
reassambly) of 61 and 44 pounds, the UPS size,
weight, and oddball shape penalties can be
eliminated. A typical price for UPS delivery, say,
to Nebraska, is $51.00 .

By the way, because we have daily UPS pickup
our rates are sometimes considerably
lower than what the eBay UPS calculator will
predict. Be sure to verify your shipping charges
on any and all of our items via email
, as they
may be quite a bit lower. Payment via VISA
or MC instead of Paypal simplifies this for
all concerned.

Call us at (928) 429-4073 or email us for further

February 24, 2006

History tells us that Alexander Graham Kernatski
was the first Telephone Pole.

February 23, 2006

Cunningham has long been one of my favorite
Arizona auctioneers. Apparently there are big
changes afoot.

They definitely have long term leased their 3138
West Durango
auction house yard to a second tier
(and largely charity) auction house clled Arizona
Auction Center
. Who do not seem to have a website.

Meanwhile, they continue to list yard auctions at their
Auction and Appraise competitor's site!

Rumor has it they may be going real estate only. I'm
not yet sure exactly what is coming down here.

More on the Arizona Auction Scene here, here, and

Separately, there may be a glitch in the Pima College
auctions as well. It is not totally clear when these will
resume or who will be doing them.

Your own custom regional auction finder can be created
for you per these details.

February 22, 2006

The name of the game in electronics these days
is called RoHS, short for Reduction of Hazardous
. Basically, you might not be able to
sell your electronic products if they have too much
lead (aka solder), cadmium, mercury, or a few other
hazardous substances present.

Electronic distributors are scrambling to become RoHS
. Newark Electronics, among others has
an extremely agressive RoHS program.

One of the unintended side effects is that most
electronic distributers have now completely dropped
stocking of classic CMOS and TTL integrated
Or may shortly do so.

Presumably such obsolete semi firms as Rochester
and Luke Systems will continue with
pricey and limited availability.

Meanwhile, I have several thousand tubes of classic
CMOS and TTL parts I hope to get up on eBay
shortly. Note that these may shortly become
impossibly difficult to locate at any price.

February 21, 2006

A reminder about our Gonzo Utilities. These are a set
of device independent but non-WYSIWYG PostScript
utilities that I personally have used for many years.

Among their other features, they can greatly simplify
Using PostScript as a General Purpose Computing
, offer superbly fancy typesetting, greatly
simplify gridding and graphing, and provide unmatched
quality electronic schematics.

They also let you read or write most any disk file in most
any language
, thus leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

You can start with our PostScript Beginner Projects or
else go to most any .PSL file in our GuruGram library
or elsewhere for detailed use examples.

To use the Gonzo Utilities yourself, download them into
a known place in your computer or place them on a
floppy or other media.

Then, after making obvious site changes, include one
of the following in the beginning of your standard
ASCII textfile
that will hold the PostScript instructions
that you are going to send to Acrobat Distiller...

(C:\\Documents and Settings\\don\\Desktop\\
gonzo\\ run % use internal gonzo

(A:\\ run % use external gonzo

Note that you MUST use a DOUBLE reverse slash
inside a PostScript string every time that you really
want a single reverse slash!

To activate the Gonzo Utilities later in your program,
use a
gonzo begin ps.util.1 begin nuisance begin

February 20, 2006

All of the emergency services have their own form
of gallows humor. Needed to maintain sanity in an
insane world.

In the case of EMT Ambulance Crews, it is usually
their frequent flyer program.

February 19, 2006

By how many DECADES will the California 8 billion
dollar rathole fiasco SET BACK the development of
renewable and sustainable pv solar electricity?

Let's assume the 8 bil only costs 8 bil, rather than its
true triple cost after transfers and admin. And that
there are ten million of our pioneer panels from two
days ago in fact installed and working.

Our projected panel returns two cents of genuinely
renewable and sustatinable pv solar electricity per
kilowatt hour for eight cents of "old energy" gasoline-
in-disguise invested. A 400 watt panel would generate
about 2.5 kilowatt hours per day, or around five cents
of renewable and sustainable pv solar electricity.

At 300 effective days per year, each panel year would
generate $15 worth of renewable and sustainable
electricity per year. Ten million panels would thus
generate 150 million worth of renewable and sustainable
electricity per year.

8 billion divided by 150 million leaves 53.3 and change.
Thus, the California pv fiasco will likely set back the
development of renewable and sustainable pv electricity
by a grand total of 5.3 DECADES!

Assuming a zero interest rate, of course."

More in our ENERGY FUNDAMENTALS tutorial.

February 18, 2006

Refurb Log:

It sure can be rewarding to take an ugly duckling
pallet of junk from an auction and do a high risk refurb
that sells for thousands of dollars or more. On the
other hand, trash is trash, and the beast may have
died for a really good reason.

Here's some high risk refurb guidelines...

~ Make sure you know the demand and the used
        market value
before you begin.

   ~ Try to have full technical data and service info
       on hand.

   ~ Stay within 30:1 cost return and $75 per hour
       effort. Otherwise flush the project before it
      turns into a rathole.

    ~ Keep a meticulous engineering notebook on
       your progress. Most especially wiring, pinouts,
       and tricky disassembly details.

   ~ Use a two level approach where you first do only
       the bare refurb needed to prove you probably
       will have a viable and marketable product.

    ~ Separate wants from needs. Tightly focus on
       needs only untill you are sure of success.

   ~ Pay particular attention to factory and dealer
. The Wayback Machine can be of help
      if the company has folded or merged.

~ Outrageously expensive factory parts may in
      fact end up cheapest if they are otherwise
      unobtainium. But watch your 30:1 return.

   ~ Sometimes replacing a part backwards or upside
may expose new wear areas and greatly
      extend product life.

   ~ Exceptionally valuable resources include Small Parts
      and Grainger and most especially McMaster Carr.
      Plus, of course, that crochety old blacksmith down
      the street.

   ~ Watch the nickel and dime effect where you make
      three dozen trips to the hardware store at $6 each.

   ~ Iffen it ain't broke, don't fix it. At least not right away
      and not till you are absolutely certain of success.

~ Sherwin-Williams counts! Efforts spent cleaning
      and painting known functional items can pay back
      spectacularly. But only on a known winner.

   ~ Work on ONE project at a time. Otherwise you will
      bury yourself in "ain't gonna happen" futilities.

   ~ Aim for a two week completion time. Otherwise
      flush the project or strip it for sellable parts.

And finally, of course...

   ~ NEVER sell an item that you are not completely
      proud of and satisfied with. EXACTLY spell out
      all defects and UNDERSTATE all features.

February 17, 2006

I am mystified why the State of California would blow eight
billion dollars
(plus admin and transfer costs that likely
triple this figure) paying people to put gasoline destroying
net energy sinks
on inappropriate rooftops.

Clearly, conventional silicon PV panels will never reach
sustainability and renewability. And every cent poured into
this particular rathole can only set back the time when
true renewability/sustainability can emerge.

Let's instead postulate a "pioneer panel", the very first
real world sustainable and renewable pv solar energy
system. What would its characteristics have to be to
allow pv solar energy to be anything but a monumental
"feel good" energy sink and net destroyer of gasoline?

A nominal pioneer panel size would be one square meter
delivering internally synchronously inverted "plug and go"
110 volt 60 Hertz consumer ac power with utility buyback
and storage option.

The at-the-terminals efficiency would have to be in the
forty percent range, brought about by an absolute minimal
material use and ultra low cost processing that involves
spread or multiple workfunctions probably combined with
MEMS nanotechnology techniques using nanoantennas.
Plus possible photonic lattice techniques.

Let's see. Such a panel would generate something like 400
peak watts at appropriate sites, or about 2.5 kilowatt hours
per day. Naturally, only a tiny fraction of the delivered energy
could be renewable and sustainable
, owing to materials cost
and amortization. Let's assume the fully burdened panel can
deliver ten cent per kilowatt hour energy at an infrastructure
cost of eight cents per kilowatt hour for two cents per KWH
of genuine net honest renewable and sustainable energy.

The "old energy" breakeven pay for itself would then be
about twenty cents per day. Assuming a ten year lifetime and
a ten percent interest rate, the retail cost of the zero-installation
hassle panel at Home Depot would have to be under $454.00
total. Or more like $378 in an area with 300 days of available
sunshine. Per this amortization calculator.

I very strongly feel that such a pioneer panel is definitely
acheivable within a one decade time frame. Provided that all
of the ludicrous sideshows are immediately flushed

Naturally, if you build these pioneer panels, they WILL sell.
"Beating your customers away with a stick" comes to mind.
And absolutely ZERO in ludicrously counterproductive and
pointlessly "not even wrong" subsidies would be needed.

The key point is that NOTHING ELSE MATTERS long term
but acheiving pv renewability and sustainability. Clearly, dollars
blown on anything but this specific goal simply set back the
time when solar electricity ever becomes viable.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

February 16, 2006

There's an amazing group of Tempsonic linear position
sensors available from MTS Systems.

These are basically a nickel magnetostrictive rod that
gets whapped with suitable control electronics. Any
magnet near the rod interferes with the pulse travel
and creates an output. Thus, sliding a magnet along the
rod allows for extremely accurate position measurement.

Advantages over conventional linear potentiometers are
much more accuracy and freedom of noise and wear.
Outputs can be linear voltage, pulse width modulated,
or start-stop width controlled.

The contactless system also simplifies such tasks as
floating liquid level sensing or measuring the position
of a hydraulic cylinder from outside of the oil circuit.

I picked up a bunch of these at the Rubbermaid auction
in various conditions from new to heavily worn and
in sizes from four inches to a whopping seventy two inch
length. I've now placed most of these on our eBay store.

Typical pricing new of these sensors is $400 to $800.

Ours are available for a tiny fraction of the going
price. But you may need some interface expertise to
be able to get these working properly. And companion
connectors and cables may be outrageously expensive
unless you work up your own alternatives.

Do note that you may be able to avoid a long linear
sensor by going to a rotary wind up "volume control
on a spring" solution instead. But anytime you truly
need a contactless linear sensor, these MTS devices
can offer some superb possibilities.

February 15, 2006

Refurb Log:

Any time you find an exceptionally bizarre test result, make
sure you are absolutely certain of your diagnoisis before
continuing! The medical folks call iatragenesis a "physician
induced disease". Which can cause you no end of repair
and refurb problems.

Here is the probable story: I was refurbing an automation
system where the power supply was left a basket case.
Amazingly, the +35 volt power output seemed to have
suddenly reversed polarity!

What likely happened was this: A plant electrician type
apparently decided to replace a chassis mount bridge
rectifier and managed to get it physically 180 degrees out
of place from its companions.
Thus reversing the internal
diodes. The bridge markings were incredibly subtle and
the ac symbols still lined up.

There were bunches of indirect evidence that this mistake
was in fact made. The output filter cap plainly was marked
(+). System design normally would demand a positive output
voltage. The polarity would have been wrong for a Zener
subsystem. And no sane manufacturer would place two
identical items beside each other with one reversed.

Is this enough evidence to justify reversing the bridge back
the way it apparently was supposed to be? I felt not. Instead,
I'm going back to the manufacturer to try and score a schematic
or otherwise make absolutely certain that the system power is
supposed to be positive rather than negative.

"Preponderance of evidence" just barely won't quite hack it.

February 14, 2006

The prices on much of the test equipment at many
Government Liquidation auctions now seems to be
well above that of eBay pricing!

The most reasonable expectation is agressive
participation by the "real" test equipment houses.
Or that GL auctions have simply become too popular.

There's still a few opportunities now and then. Especially
when an oddball piece of test equipment shows up in a
NON test equipment auction. Or when the lots are huge.
Or when other items poison the lot. Or when they are
buried in a triwall with hundreds of other nondescript
items. Or when they are truly bizarre. Or when you are
stripping huge obsolete systems for currently in-demand
sellable components. Or when there are listing errors.
Or when they are a special interest item, such as older
GR gear.

But the higher prices combined with site manager hassles
and their maddingly infuriating bid extensions makes GL
a lot less of a useful resource than they once were At
least for me.

More on useful supply sources on our Auction Help page.
Your own custom regional resource finder can be created
per these details.

February 13, 2006

Here is another apporach to the "true" length of a
Cubic Spline
. Along with this older one from our Cubic

Our method in GuruGram #60 makes a simple approximation
up front. The "true" methods apparently go through a
lot of ugly math involving elliptical integrals and such only
to end up making some simple approximations as well.

February 12, 2006

New GuruGram #60 is on Finding the Length of a Cubic
Spline and its Subdivisions

Companion utility is found here. Sourcecode is found here.

February 11, 2006

Added some of our newest and best tutorials and
utilities to our Cubic Spline Library.

February 10, 2006

Just listed some superb Hannay hose reels to eBay.

These are ALL STAINLESS STEEL, have oversized
1-1/2 inch piping reduced to 3/4 redline ready, and are
in clean used condition as copper mine surplus. Normal
list price is over $1200 each. 24x26 inches. Manual

April 2000 build date. About 18 remain available. 3500
series SS3520-24-26 apparently custom upgraded with
fancier rotary pressure seals.

February 9, 2006

On any of our older archive files, please double check the
before acting on suggestions or recommendations!

Or email me for a current review.

In particular, one alternate to patents and patenting in
the good old preweb days was to place your concept in
the public domain by publishing in a national magazine.

These days, magazines are struggling to exist and have
ceased to be a viable anything. Not to mention their
utterly abysmal author payment rates. Or the fact that
few people build things out of magazines anymore.

If you have an "idea" you want to sell, your first and
foremost task should be to bring that concept up to
where it is ALREADY actually selling
. For anything
less has even less value today than it did then.

At one time, undeveloped ideas were worth as much as
a dime a dozen. These days, unproven ideas are worth
less than a dime a bale in ten bale lots.

Any product has an idea mortality curve. The further
you go along that curve towards actual marketed
products, the higher the value of that idea. You are
often infinitely better off by positioning yourself as
a purveyor of risk reduction, rather than an "inventor".

For product success, your item MUST be presently
working its way through beta test! Anything less is
ludicrous and guarantees unmarketbility.

And, of course, patents are even more of a problem
rather than a solution for the individual and small scale
startup. As I've mentioned a time or two before, any
involvement whatsoever with patents and patenting is
virtually certain to result in a net loss of time, energy,
money, and sanity

One key to successful idea promotion is to have your
own website
where (besides direct sales) you strive to
be a definitive gateway resource to your concepts.

A second key to successful idea promotion is to get
yourself a track record.
Yeah, this is very much
a chicken and egg problem. But if you already have
proven winners, others are more likely to pay attention.

A third key is to agressively seek out every scrap of
info you can in your target market
. There is no point
whatsoever in writing forest fire simulator software if
you have never sharpened a Pulaski.

And a fourth promotion key, of course, is agressive
through friends, associates, trade shows,
and business associations. And, above all, the web.

Further recommendations available per our infopack

February 8, 2006

I'm utterly amazed that the "free"print trade journals still
exist. I fully expect their imminent demise.

At one time, trade journals were absolutely superb
for pinning down impossible-to-find info and supply
sources. I subscribed to many hundreds of them as
core research materials for my various print columns.

The whole trade journal idea was based on ripping off the
post office by stealing extreme subsidies while outrageously
overcharging advertisers for utterly unaccountable results
having ludicrous lag times. The rules demanded excessive ads
combined with limited marginal to negligible editorial quality.

At any rate, there are a very few electronic trade journals
left and you might want to subscribe to them before their
final anorexic demise. Those I still find of interest include
E.E. Times, Electronic Design, EDN, Machine Design,
Sensors, and Battery Power Products and Technology.

February 7, 2006

A reminder that my Magic Sinewaves are a newly
discovered class of mathematical functions that
promises to dramatically reduce the distortion and
significantly improve the efficiency of simple all digitially
derived high power line frequency sinewaves for ac motor
controls, electrical vehicles, solar inverters, aerospace,
mobile power, telecomm, and power quality conditioning.

Key features of a magic sinewave are that they use
the fewest possible switching events to completely
reject the highest possible number of low harmonics.

Any number of low harmonics can theoretically be
forced to ZERO. And held well below -65 decibels
in real world quantizations.

You can start with our MSINTRO1.PDF intro tutorial and
its three-phase-specific DELTAMS1.PDF companion.

A development proposal appears here.

Seminars, consulting services, demo eval chips, and system
development services are available. As are complete
and exclusive IP rights packages. I have unique and sole
source expertise in this area that can significantly shorten
your development times.

The timeline of Magic Sinewave development appears here.

February 6, 2006

Started revising our Length of a Bezier Cubic Spline 
routines, and you'll find some temporary code here.

I hope this eventually becomes GuruGram #60.

Also addressed is the tricky issue of subdividing a cubic
spline into equal LINEAR parts
. And of finding any point
on a spline a given distance in from its initial end.

It turns out there is no sane way to find the exact length
of a cubic spline
because of the horrendous elliptical
integrals piled on top of everything else. But that a 100
chord approximation is more than good enough
for most
uses, especially involving print or graphic displays.

Sadly, that wonderful cubic spline "t" parameter is NOT
normally linear with distance along the curve
. Typically
changing "faster" along the "more bent" portions of the

The workaround is to build up a pair of arrays, one in "t"
space and second in "s" space. You can then accurately
to find s as a function of t and vice versa. Very
conveniently, your last entry in the "s" array is a very
good approximation to the total spline length.

February 5, 2006

Two of the more obscure electronic surplus houses
certainly deserve repeated mention: Marlin P Jones
has all sorts of motors and unusual surplus items that
are particularly suited to amateur robotics, They are also
one of the very few sources besides us for autographed
of my Active Filter Cookbook. These are the
blue and white Synergetics Press versions that have much
better bindings
than the Newnes ones.

And Surplus Traders remains an outstanding source for
oddball wall warts and the solderable NiCad cells needed
to rebuild older system batteries. Along with lots of other
flat panel display, video interface, cables, and great
heaping bunches more. But note that they typically have
mininum quantity orders often in the 25 to 100 range.

February 4, 2006

I may be doing something wrong on our rss feeds and
could use your help in debugging.

The intent here is to have a new top WHATNU06.SHTML
file show up nearly daily. With a few "reference files"
that long term stay in place below. Such as ENERGFUN.PDF,
MARCIA.PDF and such.

You can view our present RSS feed here.

To do this, I change the lastBuilddate and the latest news
pubDate and resave the file as whtnu.xml.

Is this working, or what am I doing wrong? Please email me
with details.

February 3, 2006

Refurb Log:

I've found it pays to keep a few fiberglass rods in stock,
especially in the 1/8 and 5/16th inch sizes. These typically
cost 40 cents a foot from McMaster Carr, Small Parts, or
any of a number of similar sources.

I originally got these to service those long mini-shafts
common to Tektronix plugins. But since have found them
to be most useful to deal with broken pins on card guides.
and to make an excellent "splint" for epoxy repairs.

Speaking of which, I've found that a two-tube epoxy called
JB Weld is head and shoulders above the others because
of its high solids content that pretty much stays where you
put it rather than running or puddling. Found in most any
hardware store.

But note that JB Weld has a powdered iron filler in it.
While great for grinding or filing, you can assume its
electrical properties are an atrocity. Particularly at rf.

February 2, 2006

Many thanks to local Allen Pump for picking up our
remaining bypass feeder inventory. In some classic
thinking outside the box, they are remanufacturing
these into superb high performance irrigation pump

February 1, 2006

Refurb Log:

There's some really good and some really awful features
of those new power entry modules. These are single snap-in
blocks that give you a removable line cord, one or more
switch poles, one or more fuses, and possibly some line
voltage switching. All in one very attractive snap-in (or
optionally screw-in) packages.

Our Banner Advertiser Sponsor Jameco Electronics has
these for $5 up, as do the other major distributors that
include Mouser, Digikey, Newark and Allied.

The really ugly thing here is that there is usually a tiny and
totally insecure
and totally unforgettable little piece of
plastic that holds the fuse in. This, of course, promptly will
disappear forever, especially in a school or factory floor
use area.

Easily letting a penny part trash a valuable instrument.
Naturally, each manufacturer uses their own variations on

Another problem is that these modules are kinda huge and
may need too much behind panel depth for a refurb or mod.
While the normal single size opening of roughly 30x70 mm
is nicely standard, this is a very large rectangular hole to
have to cut or punch.

January 31, 2006

It saddens me greatly to see cancerous wildly uncontrolled
growth descending on the Greater Bonita-Eden-Sanchez
Metropolitan area
. One of the very few remaining superb areas
in the American West.

I had hoped that the 1800's clan wars still being bitterly
fought, the ultra conservative religious base that dominates
the valley, the (until two weeks ago) utter lack of decent
paying jobs, and, above all, the lack of a unified school
district would hold the developers at bay.

"But with a unified school district, there would not be enough
football teams." Naturally, pointing out that there could
now be middle school courses in oceanography, cinematography,
and C++ Robotic Programming gets met about as well as an
illegal receiver downfield during a halfback pass option.


January 30, 2006

A reminder that I have a pair of highly collectible and eminently
restorable 1907 era commercial silent movie projectors available.
These are presently disassembled, allowing for UPS shipability.

Please email me if you are interested in the unique opportunity.

January 29, 2006

A concept called "Total Cost of Ownership" is likely to turn any
home electric vehicle charging units (or much worse - electrolysizers)
into big time sucker bets.

Any electrical device has two costs associated with it: The electricity
consumed and the fully burdened original cost and its amortization.
In the case of a home vehicle charger, running it only a few hours a
night can make the amortization costs totally outrageous per unit
of output.

There is no way that a low duty cycle device consuming retail
electricity can compete with a high duty cycle commercial one
at wholesale or avoided costs.

Let's look at a much more obvious example first: Those new
high efficiency miniature fluorescent lamps can easily cost a
lot more than conventional incandescents, and in fact do so in
most home uses! Clearly, these new lights are quite beneficial
in any socket that is run four hours a day, 300 days a year. Also
clearly, they will never pay for themselves in a closet light. Any
home light that is used less than a few hours per week will almost
certainly never justify the higher cost of the fluorescents.

Especially since their current rinky-dink quality means they do
not remotely approach their promised lifetimes

In the case of a home recharging unit, 20 kilowatts is a nominal
value for an average vehicle doing average stuff, based on a
gallon being roughly two liters and twenty miles per gallon for
twenty miles per hour. Based on these energy efficiency figures.
For rapid charging, at least a 200 kilowatt capability would be
needed, which is far beyond the total service capacity of most
homes. Which means that home rewiring (and possibly even
heavier service transformers) may be needed for a home auto
recharging unit.

Costs for the rewiring, the charger, and its amortization could
easily approach $10,000, especially for early adopters. Which
could add more than the electricity costs to the output product.
At a dime per kilowatt hour, amortization could be viewed as
a ten cent surcharge on the first 100,000 kilowatt hours run
through the device. Neglecting efficiency losses.

Thus easily doubling the costs of the first few years of ownership.

More on related items in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

January 28, 2006

We are rapidly selling out of many of our longer term eBay items.

Newly gone are our Adept Robotic Sliders, the 16 mm aerial gun
cameras, our duct smoke detectors, hydraulic filters, bypass feeders,
Staplex air pollution devices, autoclave sterilizers, surge protectors,
water soluble swimsuits, older PIC emulators, and great heaping
bunches of smaller stuff. And our home energy efficiency devices
should all clear in a week or two at their present rate.

For which we are greateful and most thankful to you.

Several very interesting items remain that do not seem to be getting
the attention and interest they deserve, considering that they
are outstanding bargains: One of these are our half horsepower
genuine Allen-Bradley AC motor drives that easily double as a
lighter duty single phase to three phase converter. Our authentic
"fruit style" refurbed slot machine mechanisms seem to have
garnered little interest, despite them being an outstanding first
PIC programming project and being fully legal in all jurisdictions.

Also, we have great heaping bunches of small animal lab cages,
super premium quality all-stainless steel large hose reels, and
stationary monitor gas detectors that are easily reprogrammed
to many current needs. Plus one zillion brand new American Made
and superb quality SUV cargo nets at two cents on the dollar.

Additional details on our eBay store.

January 27, 2006

Modified our
Bezier Cubic Spline through four data points utility to
give you a choice of a "good" result that is quite fast or
a "better" result that takes several iterations.

Any number of Cubic Splines can be drawn through four
data points, but the "best" one will usually end up being
the shortest. Our chords are now optionally broken up into
thirds so they more nearly approximate the true spline
lengths. Several repeat trips are made. And convergence
is usually quite rapid. Four trips should do it.

A partial tutorial appears as NUBZ4PTS.PDF in our
GuruGram library.

January 26, 2006

Thermoelectric modules have stayed pretty much where
we left them way on back in the Hardware Hacker 68 you'll
find in the HACKAR2.PDF collected archive.

The problem remains that these devices are horribly
inefficient. Typical COP's vary from 0.15 down to
ZERO at higher delta-T drops. This means that many
many more watts have to go through the heatsink than
the cooling watts.
And it is enormously difficult to get
even a fan cooled heatsink below one degree per watt.

Thus, it is trivially easy to have your TE heatsink rise
EXCEED the cooling drop of the TE module
, thus
heating rather than cooling!

The TE modules are well suited for low power apps such
as dewpoint detectors, microscope slide chillers, or noise
figure control.

There performance at the one to ten watt level is usually
highly disappointing. Thus their use in picnic coolers or as
CPU temperature control devices is marginal at best. The
odds are very high you will be unhappy with either device.

These modules remain a classic Engineering Rathole and
simply do not work at all at higher power levels. And will
not until fundamental new TE materials are discovered.

January 25, 2006

New GuruGram #59 is on Fitting a Bezier Cubic Spline to
Four Data Points

Sourcecode can be found here, and the underlying point-
fitting utility here. Additional Cubic Splines are here, and
more GuruGrams here.

It turns out that an infinite number of splines can be drawn
through four points, depending upon your choices for t1 and
t2. Apparently the shortest spline is in fact the "best", but
the length differences are often at the fourth or higher
decimal place.

While our chord apportionment method of drawing straight
lines between the points and proportioning these to t1 and
t2 gives a useful approximation, you can improve results
by subdividing the splines or going to true length calculations.
Both of these add complexity and computation time as they
seem to require multiple passes.

Consulting Services available.

January 24, 2006

Another interesting new component is the Melexis Absolute
Rotary Position Sensor IC
. That senses a magnet's position
to better than a degree accuracy and 12-bit resolution. The
output options include analog, PWM, or serial.

Part number is MLX0316.

January 23, 2006

We looked at pyroelectric "people detectors" motion sensors
way on back in HACK39.PDF, which you'll find as part of
HACKAR2.PDF. Two of the problems with these had been
that very special lenses were needed for custom aps, and the
lens + detector package usually ended up rather large.

The problem being that pyroelectrics have to work on ac or
changing signals. Lenses have "hot" and "cold" areas that
a person has to walk through to create the ac signal that is
needed for detection.

Aromat, who is now a division of Panasonic has just introduced
some brand new miniature passive infrared motion sensors that
include(!) an internal lens. These are less than fingertip size and
come in several flavors of standard, sight, spot, and 10 meter.

January 22, 2006

Posted a preliminary new Bezier Cubic Spline through four
data points
utility to

I'll try to work up a GuruGram on this shortly.

As with nearly all of our utilities, this uses PostScript as
A General Purpose Computing language
. You alter the
standard ASCII textfile in an editor of your choice and
then send it to Acrobat Distiller.

It turns out that you can draw an infinite number of cubic
splines through four data points, depending on your choice
of t1 and t2 for the intermediate locations. If t1 and t2 are
too close together, the mid space will be "too straight" and
the outer space will be "too loopey".

Similarly, if t1 and t2 are too far apart, the mid space will
be "too loopey" and the outer space will be "too straight".

I'm not sure what the optimum criteria for the "best" curve
would be. I'd guess it involves the second derivatives through
the t points. But it turns out a simple and useful approximation
is to set your t values by the chorded linear distances between
the inner and outer data points.

January 21, 2006

Got some preliminary revised Bezier Cubic Spline through
four points code working. Use of Basis Functions apparently
dramatically simplifies things.

For any point...

          xx = x0B0(t) + x1B1(t) + x2B2(t) + x3B3(t)

If the inside points are somewhere near uniformly spaced,
arbitrarily putting them at t=1/3 and t=2/3 would yield...

        firstx - x0(8/27) - x3(1/27) = x1(12/27) + x2(6/27)
   secondx - x0(1/27) - x3(8/27) = x1(6/27) + x2(12/27)

Since x0 and x3 are already known, this is an easily solved
plain old two variable linear equation pair. A similar y
equation pair is equally easy to solve.

Its not yet quite clear to me what the behavior will be for
other t values or whether higher order Bernstein
can be used to fit more points, so stay tuned.

January 20, 2006

I've been accused of ridiculing the hydrogen economy,
but the simple fact is that the hydrogen economy
inherently self-ridiculing.

Here is why the emperor has no clothes...

~ No large net energy source of hydrogen is known
   that is conveniently reachable. There are no large
   terrestrial hydrogen mines, wells, or farms.

~ Hydrogen on earth is only an energy carrier or
    transfer system. You first have to fill it with energy
    before you can empty it. This process is inherently
    inefficient and highly wasteful of exergy.

~ Hydrogen is inherently a pollution AMPLIFIER that
   INCREASES the pollution of its underlying net energy
   sources. It is utterly ludicrous to claim that hydrogen
   is in any manner "non polluting".

~ The energy density by volume of STP hydrogen is absurdly
   low, typically being 1/3000th that of gasoline. Known
   methods of increasing the density such as liquification
   or pressurization raise major and unresolved safety,
   efficiency, and cost amortization problems
while still
   falling far short of gasoline energy density. 

~ The energy density by weight of hydrogen is a useless
    measure of no terrestral consequence whatsoever.
    The CONTAINED energy density by weight is much
than gasoline. While improving gasoline to the
    theoretical hydrogen density would only have negligible
    benefits of slightly reducing vehicle weight.

~ Virtually ALL commercial hydrogen is produced by the
    reformation of methane. Hydrogen is thus presently a
    product and service of "big oil"
. One that is certain to
    increase foreign oil dependency.

~ The explosive range of hydrogen is among the widest
   known and its spark trigger energy is exceptionally low.
   Hydrogen burns with a nearly invisible flame. No
   colorant or odorant solutions are presently known.

~ Electrolysis is wildly and totally unsuitable for the
   production of bulk energy hydrogen
because any
   one kilowatt hour of electricity is  ridiculously more
   valuable than a kilowatt hour of unstored hydrogen gas.
   Thermodynamic fundamentals involving exergy will
   absolutely and positively guarantee that electrolysis will
   forever remain the equivalent of your 1:1 exchanging
   US dollars for Mexican pesos
. There ALWAYS will
   be more intelligent things to do with electricity than
   instantly and irrecoverably destroying most of  its
   energy quality and value. Especially from high value
   grid or pv sources.

~ Water is an ash. And thus by chemical energetics is
    the worst possible place to seek a hydrogen source.

~ Hydrogen improperly burned in air produces highly
    polluting oxides of nitrogen.

~ There is only one known method of creating a hydrogen
    product of acceptable convenience and safety. And that
    is by carbon hydride bonding to form such liquids as
    iso-octane or heptane. At present, "carbon neutral"
    fuels appear to have overwhelming advantages over
    "carbon free" ones.

~ There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline than there
    is in a gallon of liquid hydrogen
. The gasoline also offers
    four times the energy density by volume. And has no
    frostbite or blindness safety issues

~ Many metals will self-destruct if placed in contact with
   hydrogen through a process called embrittlement.

~ Any fuel solution of lower energy density will have a
   compounding infrastructure effect where more product
   has to be shipped and stored, thus intrinsically making
   its costs noncompetitive. For instance, pipelines are
   ridiculously more efficient at dealing with conventional
   hydrocarbon products than hydrogen.

More in our Energy Fundamentals tutorial.

January 19, 2006

Oops. Apparently the four point Bezier cubic spline
curve fit in MUSE145.PDF is only valid for x values
that are monotonic and non-repeating.

I'm not yet sure whether there is also a problem in
the underlying BEZ4PTS.PDF. Hopefully I just got
sloppy at column deadline time. This contributed file
did use an intriguing u = 2t - 1 parameter space that
is further explored in BEZIERU.PDF

Your comments and input welcome.

January 18, 2006

New GuruGram #58 is on The Math Behind Bezier Cubic

Sourcecode can be found here, and additional Cubic Spline
info here.

January 17, 2006

I guess I spent several decades "perfecting" color organs,
or music-to-light converters. Among many dozens of designs,
my first appeared in the April 1963 Electronics World, while
latest and best was the Psychedelia I, in the Sept 69 PE.

Basically, these took an audio input, filtered it into channels,
and then modulated light bulbs to follow the music. While a
major component of rock concerts and DJ club scenes, home
or dorm units seem to have clearly fallen by the wayside.

Why? First because static light displays are not all that exciting
any more. It is enormously difficult to get deep and vibrant
colors. Especially with controlled heat.

Second, because the dynamic range was usually very
, nonlinear, and highly mismatched. Third, because
rf noise on these would take out AM radios, unless you used
exceptional shielding and filtering. Bulb "singing" was a
related problem. And finally, because low end imitators offered
even more rotten performance

I guess if I were doing a classic color organ redesign, I would
set it up to use low level audio inputs that were routed to
an automatic level control and an extreme compressor. I'd
further improve the dynamic range by linearizing the brightness
versus voltage
using ROM table lookup correction that took into
account the actual bulbs in use. Plus continuous drive to eliminate
low brightness interactions. With a PIC, of course. And I'd
treat the RFI problem a lot more seriously.

But these days, the obvious display is a home theater screen.

What might be really interesting is some ultra high end DSP
that takes the music and, instead of simple filtering, extracts
all of the individual instruments
back into separate channels
of amplitude and color dependency. Each channel would then
become an avatar or agent on the screen. Or otherwise
represent itself. Mood sensing could lead to countless ongoing
display variations.

Sort of a super screen saver.

January 16, 2006

I've made several minor adjustments on our web pages that
should improve contrast and legibility. Please let me know
what you think of them.

I'm definitely going to stick with our "retro" look. It seems
to me to be the best way to deal with linking the enormous
quantities of data in a useful way.

January 15, 2006

The local job market here in the Greater Bonita-Eden-Sanchez
Metropolitan Area
has kinda been turned topsy turvy. Three
major corporations are hiring sight unseen. Successful applicants
must be able to show a core body temperature measurably above
January ambient.

Our own needs are for part time order fulfillment, packaging, and
product cleaning and refurb. We try to seek out individuals who
specifically have part time interest and already have a dozen or
more jobs. Such as dog grooming, personal caregiving, catering,
non-profit work, or whatever.

We combine only moderate wages with perks the others cannot
even dream of touching. Such as extreme flextime, high autonomy,
a dress code that does not draw all that fine a line between the
casual dress days and the clothing optional ones, lack of most
hassles (although I do get tedious over quality control and proper
item prep.), and absolutely zero workplace harrasment.

Plus an aggressive profit sharing program we call bonus hours.
One bonus hour is awarded for every $500 in daily cleared gross
sales. Other bonus hours are added for any tasks that get excessively
dirty or otherwise unreasonable.

January 14, 2006

Refurb Log:

Had our HP 830C start making terrible noises. On inspection,
there was a black lagoon gloppy mess on the righthand side
as well. It was easy to strongly suspect the two were related.

One problem with modern peripheral service is that most of the
parts snap together
. If you do not carefully study and understand
the disassembly process, you are likely to break a tab or at
least go to far too much trouble for what should be an instant

A second problem is that the service info may be readily
available but inaccessible
to you if you do not get your Google
just right. Once I found that this area was properly
called an inkjet service station or an inkjet parking station,
useful service info popped right out.

Meanwhile, I discovered that the ink was more or less water
. While the proper procedure is to remove all cables and
cartridges, followed by
the right cover, removal of the electric
connections to the right cover, removal of the parking station,
and removal the station stepper and gears, you can probably get
away with putting the whole printer in the shower right end down
and using a hot water shower head on the station till the water
runs clear.

It may take a while. Possibly three separate ten minute
sessions. Be sure to thoroughly dry, reshaking often.

More on related topics in our Refurb Log.

January 12, 2006

And a reminder that there are three different ways
you can measure pressure. And that it is important that
everyone doing or interpreting the measurement exactly
understands which is which

Internally, nearly all pressure sensors respond to the
difference between their two inputs. These are called
differential pressure sensors and they measure psid,
short for pounds per square inch differential.

A "normal" pressure gauge will have one of its inputs
connected to ambient. And thus will measure psig,
short for pounds per square inch gauge.

A pressure sensor that has one of its inputs referenced
to a perfect vacuum will measure psia, short for pounds
per square inch absolute

A perfect vacuum is thus 0 psia and -14.7 psig. Normal
room conditions are 14.7 psia and 0 psig.

January 11, 2006

There were all the usual mixups and confusion with
yesterday's TFD pumper tests, so I thought I'd go over
the fundamentals here. Approximately...

30 MILES of Air = 14.7 psia
30 FEET of Water = 14.7 psia
30 INCHES of Mercury = 14.7 psia

Perfect vacuum = MINUS 14.7 psig

Thus, if you built a magic box that was 30 miles high
and weighed the air in it, the weight of the air would
be 14.7 pounds if the box was exactly one square inch
and 14.7 psi or POUNDS PER SQUARE INCH if it was a
different size.

This pressure varies a little with weather (the worst of
hurricanes are 10 percent low) and quite a bit with
altitude. At 3000 feet, you'd have something like 13.1
psi. Dropping to around 10.1 psi at 10,000 feet . One
half of the total air is under you at 16,500 feet..

A perfect vacuum can NOT lift water more than thirty feet!

The best of fire pumps can only draft to 26 feet or so at sea
level, dropping to 22 feet or so in Thatcher's 2800 feet.

Deep wells work by putting something at the bottom and
pushing the water UP. You can PUSH water upward as far
as your energy and materials will let you; BUT you can only
SUCK water up TWENTY feet or so.
The least little air leak
will dramatically cut your lifting ability.

And may eliminate it entirely

Other things useful to remember are that a cubic foot of water
weighs around 62.4 pounds and holds just under 7.5 gallons.

Since there are 144 square inches in a square foot, a one foot
cube box full of water will exhibit a pressure of 0.4133 psi.

A pints a pound the world around.

Giving us the approximate rule that ONE foot of water
head equals ONE-HALF of a psi
. Or two feet per psi.
A sixty foot water tower will deliver roughly 30 psi and
exactly 24.79 psi static pressure. If the fire scene is
twenty feet above the pumper, an additional ten psi of
pump pressure will be needed.

January 10, 2006

Yet another mesmerizingly awful "worst" hobby
project of all time had to be the Gravity Wave Detector
in Nuts and Volts magazine. This was just a cheap opamp
with an electrolytic cap hung across its inputs.

Which almost certainly was measuring the diurnal input
offset temperature drift as their shop cooled off at night.
Clearly, the technology was twelve orders of magnitude
shy on sensitivity and fifteen on selectivity to actually
find or interpret a gravity wave.

Electrolytics, of course, are a witches brew of bizarre
nonlinear electrochemistry, and never should see use
as a precision sensor of any sort. Especially at zero bias!

Chances are overwhelming that whatever it was they thought
they might have been measuring would have gone away
with a decent low drift op amp inside a picnic cooler. One
combined with a stack of decent mylar caps.

Just like those "antigravity" experiments where it turned
out they had invented a propeller. In which downward moving
air apparently lightened an object.

Anytime you find a "too good to be true" result, you should
always immediately stop and aggressively try to prove
yourself wrong.

Only once in a lifetime was I unable to prove myself
wrong. Details on this fascinating story in STALAC.PDF

January 9, 2006

My own worst projects? If the truth be known, very few
of my high school electronics projects worked very well at
all. It took a rather long time to find out what engineering
and product development were really all about. Or that
the first cut on any project will be wrong and will have to
be redone. Probably from scratch.

My worst published project was likely an ultra cheap
color organ. Audio had to be loud and distorted to drive
the easily blown pilot lights that shone on some huge
Delco light dependent resistors. Worse, while rated to
200 volts, the LDR's would spark with nonlinear illumation
and end up with very short lifetimes. But it was amazingly
cheap and simple and cute. Definitely minimilist.

My worst "failed before publishing" project was an ice
cube maker using a thermoelectric module. Turned out the
delta T across the heatsink was larger than the delta-T
cooling provided by the TE module
, thus heating instead
of cooling. And trashing the concept completely.

My worst "corrected after publishing" was a simple PE
square wave generator that I was offering dialplates for.
I forgot about the inverse relationship between time and
, so the linear dial should have been really
cramped at one end. I did replace each and every sold
dialplate and promptly published a correction.

I did purposely create bunches of "not even wrong"
projects, publishing them in April issues under the Marcia
byline, both in Popular Electronics and the
rather short lived Modern Electronics. A summary can be
found in MARCIA.PDF.

Typical was the mass teleportion project where the user got
his settings wrong. His girlfriend arrived at Petauluma all right,
but she was rather upset at being newly lefthanded and three
inches shorter. "But she complains a lot anyway".

Most of the mass teleportation production went to importers
of specialty herbs and spices.
Where the 4X cloning feature
and ordinary phone line comm would eliminate all of those
annoying long lines at customs and allow you to set your own
international currency exchange rates.

The most diabolical was the "in-situ" solar cell process in
which you built ultra efficient 110 volt dc solar panels using
nothing but beach sand, hardware cloth, and a cookie sheet.
and, a chemical known as 3,7 Dimenthylpentadecon-2-ol
. AKA the sex pherome of the pine sawfly.

Naturally, if you were an entomologist, you would use this
stuff in picoliter quantities. But locked in wax for, say, a
one year gradual release. Instead, we had these dudes
spraying two liters of this onto their sand covered cookie

Don't let it bug you.

Many of the products in the Swampfelder columns were
really the combined names of several Arizona fire lookout
. Where some of the stories were actually written.

January 8, 2006

Someone just asked me what the worst hobby construction
projects of all time were. In general, Ziff Davis quality
control was ridiculously better than Gernsback, so much of
the really bad stuff appeared in Radio-Electronics and its
renamed and repositioned offspring.

I'd guess that a RE cable tv descrambler project caused the
most grief. Fatal errors in the story were combined with the
very limited places where it would work at all, added to the
questionable skills of the theft-of-cable epsilon minuses.

But my vote for the most mesmerizingly awful hobby project
of all time
would have to be the magic lamp in the April 96 RE.
This was a "free energy" project that was so "not even wrong"
on so many levels it clearly was one of a kind.

The premise was that if you took a half wave dimmer circuit and
used a 32 volt incandescent bulb lit to normal brightness, your
cheap average responding meter would record only one-third
the voltage and one-third the current. For an obvious power
savings of 90 percent. In reality, of course, we had standard
Beginning EE student blunder #0001-A of confusing average
and RMS current and voltage readings.

Naturally, the author never bothered to touch the 32 volt bulb
to see if it was any cooler. Compounding ludicrosities included
a patent being granted on a mainstay circuit found in most any
1938 industrial electronics textbook, the circuit being illegal
because of power quality considerations, and extreme stability
and bulb lifetime issues over late angle phase. Compounded
by the author's belief that a conspiracy was doing him in.

Amazingly, at a 126 degree half wave dimmer phase delay angle,
the ratio of average to RMS current is in fact a whopping 3:1! I
did a detailed analysis of related topics in MUSE112.PDF and

January 7, 2006

The future just ain't what it used to be. And "they" just
don't seem to be getting it. Not at all.

Dramatic and profound and fundamental changes have taken
place in IP intellectual property recently...

The value of IP has dropped dramatically and
is fast approaching ZERO!
Back in the correcting
Selectric and 3x5 card days, it might have taken
a painful year to author a book. These days, nearly
anybody can knock out a much better ebook in a week
or two. And there are now far more anybodies.

The gatekeepers are no longer in charge, and boy
are they ever pissed!
It used to be you had to go
to a book publisher for typesetting or a record
company for studio work, or a scholarly journal
to expose your paper to a receptive audience. Today
these all are simply obstructionists who clearly no
longer serve any useful purpose whatsoever.

Anybody can easily and cheaply and conveniently
make any number of superb quality copies of just
about any IP.
Any attempts to "protect" IP went out
with introduction of the Apple II. In the first place,
the stuff being protected is no longer worth nearly as
much as it once was. And the options for capture are
now so overwhelming that any atempt at protection is
clearly doomed to failure.

Research has gone from difficult and costly to utterly
Anbody can now find out just anything about
everything with a click or two on Google. And thus
totally trashing the value of information in the process.
Information is now utterly overwhelming, so any attempt
at controlling a portion of it ain't gonna happen. Sadly,
this also dooms most libraries.

Traditional media has become totally irrevelant. The
watchword is now fragmentation from countless sources.
At one time, if you watched a video screen, your choices were
over-the-air broadcast network television. If you wanted
to make others aware of your products, you had to place
an outrageously expensive and glacially slow inefficient
ad in a trade journal. There is no longer any point whatsoever
in network television, over-the-air broadcasts, or printed
trade journals. And certainly no point whatsoever in public
. Or in worrying about "analog conversion".

IP Law overwhelmingly favors the megacorporation over
the invidual.
Patents have long become a ludicrous joke to
the point where it is insane to try and patent a million dollar
. And the "sue your best customers" mania of the record
industry is not in any manner improving or increasing the
return to the indiviudal song writer or artist. Copyright, in
particular, should be strictly limited to a nonrenewable 18
months for a corporation or 36 months for an individual.

IP respects no international borders. Knockoff copies
are certain to result on any IP that is generally perceived
as "overpriced" or "overvalued". All from either unknown
or uncontrollable sources beyond the limits of US law.

I'm not sure just where I'm going with this. Your comments welcome.

January 6, 2006

Refurb Log:

How much new money should you throw at a project
during refurb? Certainly pocket change spent at a
hardware store or Radio Shack can dramatically
improve appearance. And McMaster Carr or even
Small Parts can end up fairly reasonable. But beyond
that, "cut all your losses and move on" can set in fast.

Our normal eBay goal is to seek out a 30:1 sell/buy
. So, adding $25 in parts should add at least $750
to the marketability of the project.
There seldom is
that much differential payback to refurb, except in
very special cases.

I did go ahead and spend another $250 on a pricey
autoclave as an experiment. But we have sold these
and the odds seemed real high that replacing
the costly single-source heater was all that was
needed to get from junk to a high demand item.

Sometimes you can simply stash an item till another
one like it shows up. Waiting might be better than
a direct repair.

Rule ot thumb: Think twice beyond $25 and real hard
beyond $50.

January 5, 2006

We are continuing our bailout of stuff that has been
around for a year or more without processing. Much
of this has or should soon appear on our eBay store.

My foremost rule here is to ask "Would I buy this
item now and for how much?
Attempts are made to
fully clear one small area at a time, such as a shelf
or a tote or a box. With the rule "If you touch it, you
dispose of it"

Favoring expensive over cheap, new over used,
working over needing refurb, "our" sort of stuff
over "ain't us", multiples over singles, general
interest over highly specialized, docs available
over mystery, current suppliers over orphans,
and previous winners over unknowns.

And, crucially, stuff we feel good about over any
that we do not.

A lot of the dregs might end up on the Alvin Pile,
and you might find some outstanding buys here.

January 4, 2006

Closed out our two-part 2005 What's New archive
and started this one. These files have gotten a lot
longer now that they have daily coverage, are much
more "bloggier", are rss linked, and include a lot
more images than before.

Future files will continue to be split whenever their
size gets out of hand.

January 3, 2006

They just discovered that Viagra makes lawyers taller.

January 2, 2006

Refurb Log:

Items are typically very easy or impossibly difficult to
refurb, and there often is a very fine line between the
two. Sometimes a little patience and rethinking that is
combined with a very unusual tool or two can salvage
any marginals. Plus bunches of blind luck.

Ferinstance, I got this otoscope medical device that had
its threaded locking ring epoxy seal break away from
its battery case. And some epsilon minus apparently
cross threaded the ring while attempting a fix.

Stripped threads are often bad news, especially if
brass and large diameter fine threads. But by reversing
the ring
and using the good "exit" threads and some light oil,
the ring was first gotten to work properly backwards, and then
even frontwards. Much of this was a combination of patience
and blind luck. And using just the right amount of force.

To reassemble the device, a special spanner wrench is
usually used that lets you twist two holes in a ring that
are spaced an inch apart at the bottom of a six inch
deep case. Such a tool normally costs a lot more than the
otoscope itself. But an ordinary stainless steel dinner fork
can be destructively bent into a tool that is just barely enough
to get the job done.

More on related topics in our Refurb Log.

January 1, 2006

Got one of the usual late night phone calls from an
individual who just invented a new way of marketing and
wanted to run out and get a patent on it to "protect" their
invention. The individual, of course, had never really
marketed anything themselves.

For openers, a patent in no manner prevents anyone from
stealing your ideas.
All a patent does is give you a right to
sue someone should your idea in fact get stolen. As the
typical enforcement cost of patent litigation is in the
$300,000 range (yearly litigation insurance alone normally
costs more than $90,000), the cost of a getting a patent is
pocket change that simply does not enter into the economics.

There is, of course, not one patent in one thousand that cannot
be busted outright by a diligent enough search for prior art in
obscure enough places. Nor does more than one patent in
five hundred ever return a net positive cash flow.

I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but any
involvement whatsoever by an individual or small scale
startup with the patent system is VIRTUALLY CERTAIN
to result is a HUGE net loss of time, energy, money, and

Much more on these topics in our Patent Help library.
especially our Collected Patent Tutorial Reprints, and
specific files on When to Patent, The Idea Mortality
, How to Bust a $650 Patent, and, of, course, our
classic Case Against Patents that started it all.

December 31, 2005

Here's some of the major Data Sheet Sites, courtesy of
the Sci.Electronics.Design newsgroup... (12 Million) (5.20 Million)   (2-3 Million) (1.07 Million) (701,010) (523,031) (280,758) (253,733)

And, of course...    (1)

December 30, 2005

Some eBay sellers seem obsessed with having as high a
sellthru rate as they can, attempting to sell everything
every time on its first listing.

In reality, there probably is no correlation whatsoever
with fast sellthru and optimal
eBay profits. In fact, if
things are selling too fast, you are probably charging far
too little.

My own feeling is that if it takes a few weeks or even a
few months to sell something, the chances are you can
get a much higher price for it. And that your total return
even after the extra fees should be significantly higher.

Especially since your first relisting is free.

At least to me, a twenty one day cashout and a fifteen
month hang time
appears about right for industrial items
acquired in quantity. Especially if a 30:1 sell/buy ratio
goal is in fact acheived.

More on our Auction Help page.

December 29, 2005

I've been doing more study into image pixel interpolation.
This is an utterly fascinating subject with some amazing
potential. Several very interesting links appear here, here,
here, and here.

It still turns out that your "best" image interpolation scheme
for minor size changes often remains the High Resolution
Cubic Spline Basis Function
. Such as we are using in our
Universal Bitmap Manipulator and as we looked at back

But if you are reducing an image, another problem rears its
ugly head. You might get Moire sampling artifacts or dropouts
of fine detail. The workaround is to combine a low pass filtering
(such as a Gaussian correllation) with your downsizing
prevent missed lines or added artifacts.

When highly magnifying, there are newer and fancier techniques
that go beyond what you can do with high resolution cubic
splines. Many of these are based on Lanczos techniques, while
the present top dog just may involve a process called LAD

Beyond these techniques are whole other worlds of content specific
and nonlinear transformations. A content specific image processor
might deal with a picket fence area differently from a blue sky area.
And nonlinear techniques can solve particular problems. For instance
an algorithm of "Replace each pixel with an average of its nine nearest
dramatically reduces artifacts in a noisy image. But also
introduces very bad problems of its own.

Another consideration is that the fancier techniques often involve
great heaping bunches of computer horsepower
and may not be suitable
for real time or even near real time uses.

December 28, 2005

Refurb Log:

Sometimes you can guess at a schematic simply by
noting which integrated circuits are apparently used
how. I was refurbing a Heath 4804 byte analyzer that
seemed to be behaving erratically. Docs appeared to
be unavailable anywhere. On closer checking, though
operation ended up pretty much as they intended.

We'll first note that you can read the date code on any
IC to get an age estimate. Chances are the unit was
sold about a year later. A typical date code might be
1389 which would be the thirteenth week of 1989. The
IC package style, its SMT vs thruhole mounting, and
its complexity can also give you major clues as to what
you are dealing with.

In the case of the 4804, the inputs obviously went to
a pair of 4-bit transparent latches whose true outputs
indicated their current or held logic state. This was
followed by a plain old 8-input NAND gate that allowed
"1" "0",, or "don't care" adress trapping for fancier
uses. The choice of chips and their position made it
obvious how the unit was supposed to work

Their hassle (and a really dumb mistake) was that any
ungrounded inputs could easily pick up the power line
or a radio station via body coupling. If you did not know
that All unused inputs MUST be grounded, you would
easily get erratic and confusing results.

If I were keeping the unit, I'd add eight 100K resistors
from each input to ground
to discourage noise source
inputs. But I kept the unit as is on eBay, just in case
anyone wanted an authentic collectible.

Naturally, if any item has a use quirk, you should very
conspicuously point it out ahead of time

More on related topics in our Refurb Log.

December 27, 2005

Someone had asked when the eBay spring slowdown starts.
This is nothing to worry about, because it is simply that little
between the winter slack period and the summer slump.

December 26, 2005

The fancier features of a Universal Bitmap Manipulator
demand a high quality true X-Y pixel interpolator. For
such utilities as a precision rotator, a true keystone
corrector, a general distortion remapper, or a scanner

The "best" interpolation often involves High Resolution
Cubic Spline Basis Functions
. As they involve a 4x4=16
correllation at every pixel in a megapixel image space,
these can easily get excessively time intensive. Most
especially when using raw PostScript to create corrected
.BMP images. The big question is what corners, if any
can be cut for faster performance.

The full 4x4 interpolation looks like this...

p03(b0y)(b3x) + p13(b1y)(b3x) + p23(b2y)(b3x) + p33(b3y)(b3x) +
p02(b0y)(b2x) + p12(b1y)(b2x) + p22(b2y)(b2x) + p32(b3y)(b2x) +
evaluated pixel -----> X <----- is positioned here
p01(b0y)(b1x) + p11(b1y)(b1x) + p21(b2y)(b1x) + p31(b3y)(b1x) +
p00(b0y)(b0x) + p10(b1y)(b0x) + p20(b2y)(b0x) + p30(b3y)(b0x)

You can get this result by starting with four X interpolations that
are followed by one Y interpolation, or vice versa. Either way ends
up with the same result shown above. Twenty lookup-multiply-adds
would seem to be needed at first glance.

But terms like (b0y)(b3x) can be combined into a single table
lookup. Ferinstance 10X the x residue plus 100X the y residue
could give you a 100 entry lookup for each of sixteen tables.
Thus reducing you to Sixteen lookup-multiply-adds per pixel.

Further, as this plot shows, those four "corner" tables do not
do all that much. They only add two percent worst case and add
very little noticeable in most other positions. (red on the plot is
a one percent or higher weight; green is two percent or higher.)

So it would seem tempting to bundle the corner table weights
with those of their diagonal neighbors. And getting us down to
Twelve lookup-multiply-adds per pixel.

A second corner cutting opportunity involves dealing with the
rare underflows. As this analysis shows, underflows can occur
just under two percent of the time at an average of a five percent
darkening of the blackest blacks.

Naturally, the underflows have to be trapped out somehow. The
obvious dup 0 lt {pop 0} if might be approximated by a simple abs.
This would incorrectly lighten a few of the lowest energy blackest
of blacks. While eliminating a time intensitive test on a centermost
processing loop.

I'll try to work up these concepts further.
Consulting services available.

December 25, 2005

Optimum bid strategy very much depends upon the
auction venue. As we've seein in EBAYBUY.PDF,
your best eBay bid strategy is to always proxy bid
your max once very late in the auction, doing so in
oddball penny amounts just above a currency
resistance threshold

This may also seem best at a live auction on a big
ticket item that you really want, but I have found
compelling advantages to consistently offering
the auctioneer loball floor opening bids,
if you are subtle about it. The auctioneer is more
likely to notice you and accept your bids and may
even give you a fast hammer every now and then.

The situation with Government Liquidation auctions
is much more complex. I've cut back on my bidding
here because end-user bidders have gotten way too
competitive, because of an unacceptably high $50
minimum bid opening, their maddeningly infuriating
auto bid extensions, and problems with site access
and site manager customer treatment.

Trap #1 is any GL auction is that your optimal
bidding time is precisely 42 minutes into the last
hour of the bid offer
. Anything less telegraphs
your intent, and anything later trips the ludicrous
bid extensions and really invites competition.

Trap #2 is that oddball penny amounts will immediately
tell the competition that you have just proxy bid your
should you become high bidder. Thus one or two
even bid increments above a currency threshold may
in fact be your best bet.

December 24, 2005

O.K. Heres some more details on our "Use both
a camera and a scanner"
ploy from two days back.

The basic idea is covered in EBAYFOTO.PDF. I'll
first take an ordinary picture using a Nikon Coolpix
at full native resolution. The next step would
usually be going through our Swings and Tilts utility
to force Architect's Perspective. But this particular
item is squat enough that the persepective can
be forced
by background knockout alone.

While I've got a new Fast Background Knockout
utility available, this time, I used our plain old
KNOCKOUT.BMP with a simple cut and paste.

As we've recently seen, fitting background to a
diagonal line can be greatly sped up by using the
lasso tool with a matching diagonal closure
. The
rest of the image is post processed using my
usual tricks.

At this point, the space for the label gets carefully
measured. Label width is 561 pixels, its left height
is 120 pixels, its right height is 118 pixels, and its
right offset climb is 233 pixels.

The side label is than scanned. Any retouch or
lettering improvements are best done before
perspective distortion
using our newly revised
Bitmap Typewriter tools.

Now for the tricky part. The image is resized to
120 x 561 pixels and rotated vertically. It is then
copied into the center of the top half of a new Paint
page of exactly double height or 1122 pixels. The
reason being that we want to keep the original left
side of the label the size it was, while progressively
applying climb and shrink correction to the rest of
the label.

Some playing around with NUTILT01.PSL is needed
to find the magic values that give you exactly the right
amount of climb and shrink. In these examples, setting
the tiltaxis to -1.15 and the howmuchtilt to 0.1 gave a
quire good fit.

The newly "perspected" label is then rotated back to
its normal position and cropped to size. The "white"
background may no longer be a pure white, so the
lasso tool is used to crop out all but the active label.

Merge time. The scanned and corrected label is then
pasted on top of the camera image
of the rest of the
module. Some minor edge cleanup and treatment may
be needed to make the patch completely invisible.

One minor gotcha: The lettering across the label will
be uniformly spaced rather than perspectively spaced
where the distant letters are compressed. You are very
to notice this discepency at all. The problem
can be fixed at the cost of computation time.

December 23, 2005

We have pretty much decided to strongly discourage
premium shipping services. The day we use one is the
day the UPS relief driver forgets to stop or the day our
shipping help uses their flextime for dog dentistry.

More often than not, someone will piss around negotiating
for a month or two and then demand instant shipping. It
makes little sense to double or even triple their costs for
little apparent benefit

Plain old UPS brown is surprisingly fast for most people
most of the time. And most of our eBay feedback praises
our fast shipping using this service. And the disruptions do
not in any way seem to justify the benefits.

December 22, 2005

The obvious answer to whether you should use
a digital camera or a scanner for your eBay
photography is to use both at once...

Note the infinite depth of field along the lettering
plane! Plus the total absence of any flash flare on
the label. Combined with our usual pixel locked 2-1/2 D
"Architects Perspective" and our normal shadowless
with JPG edge artifact reduction.

What you do is scan the label, resize and retouch as
needed, and then use my Swings and Tilts backwards
to distort it into the correct trapezodal shape. Then
cut and paste and retouch the borders a tad.

You can click expand the above image to get it up to
the normal eBay JPG size. The full size, full res
bitmap image can be made available on request.
The latest Swings and Tilts version is found here.

I hope to expand our Universal Bitmap Manipulator
routines to simplify converting flat text into a
perspective paste. More on PostScript here.

We have the finest photos on eBay, bar none. Yes,
Consulting and Seminar services are available.

December 21, 2005

Refurb Log:

I can't emphasize strongly enough how important
careful inspection of auction items and continuous
inventory control
is. Here's some recent examples
that have caused me grief...

   ~ A pricey community college instrument needed
      an outrageously expensive replacement part.

   ~ What I thought was a complete scanner turned
       out to be only the slidemaking attachment.

   ~ Most of a stack of large electronic breadboards
      was missing crucial inserts.

    ~ A pallet full of slot machine mechanisms turned
       out to be pulls needing extensive refurb.

   ~ Apparently new-in-original-packaging drafting
       table covers turned out to be the old covers
       stashed in new boxes.

   ~ Repairs to an oscilloscope plug-in were so
      awkward they could not justify resale price.

   ~ What appeared to be a real bargain was really
      a mix of useless halves of two wildly different

    ~ An attempt at humor in an instrument description
      caused wildly wrong assumptions by naive buyers.

   ~ A lab oven turned out to be a much lower value
      lower temperature incubator. Also flood damaged.

Much more in our ongoing Refurb Log and on our
Auction Help library pages.

                                 ( earlier material appears here. ) 

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