Argonne National Lab

I took a field trip with work down to Argonne National Lab to see their engine labs. We also stopped by their photon source (used to generate x-rays).

While we were walking through a storage area they pointed out a real version of the Hunt for Red October’s caterpillar drive, in reality called a “Magentohydrodynamic drive” which uses massive magnetic fields to induce flow in water.

Magnetohydrodynamic Drive

Pictures of the advanced beamline that they put materials/experiments in the way of to blast them with x-rays:

Advanced Photon Source

Advanced Photon Source

Advanced Photon Source

Here’s a picture of the accelerator used to get the photons up to warp speed. (99+% c )

Advanced Photon Source Accelerator

And I managed to find evidence of the infamous government’s Sector 7 as noted on this bicycle:

Proof of Sector 7

Finally, for being one of the most advanced research facilities in the world, they sure managed to keep things looking fresh out of WWII on the exterior, here we can see some of the outdoor exposed infrastructure leaking like a sieve, good thing it’s just steam:

Argonne National Lab Aging Infrastructure

HP 3325B Function Generator

I saved a HP3325B from the trash almost 6 months ago which is an awesome score.  When I had first powered it up it threw a FAIL 023 error, I put it under my desk and decided to get it out and patch it up today.

First key bit of information is that HP / Agilent are absolutely spectacular companies for providing service manuals, product manuals, and datasheets well beyond the retail life of their instruments.  You can still pick up documentation directly from Agilent here.

In digging through the datasheet you can see that a FAIL 023 means we’re having a problem with the dc offset, so I printed off the relevant service information (groups K,J) and prepared for the worst.  After powering the machine on at my desk I was again met with the FAIL 023 when requesting a sine wave, and a new error was a FAIL021 when requesting a square wave.  I then out of chance cycled through the other 3 settings (triangle, etc) and returned to the square wave and sine waves to discover that the errors had went away!  It’s likely that I had a stuck/hung up relay and switching away from square and sine waves cycled something into place again.  We’ll see how long it lasts but hopefully I’ve just picked up a nice piece of equipment.

Additionally while I was reassembling the covers, turning the instrument from side to side resulted in a nice pinball sound, I swung it back in forth until I was greeted with 3 washers on my desk, I can’t imagine that these were helping with things but they’re out now.  Looks like they came off the main power transformer which someone had helpfully duct-taped into place at some point.

How to Repair a Camshaft Position Sensor 1997 Ford Taurus

If you’re looking to swap out the camshaft position sensor (distributor, synchronizer) on a late 90’s Ford Taurus jump on over to the projects page where you can catch my photos and instructions on how to do it quickly.

Make Plastic Lego Train Tracks Work with 9V or 12V Trains

I’ve posted another project for those of you stuck with 9V or 12V Lego trains force to pay very steep prices on eBay for additional track (especially the straight track!). Head on over to the projects page to check it out. Ultimately it’s a pretty simple solution, you just need the aluminum flashing tape used commercially during building construction and cut into strips or stain-glass-makers copper or aluminum foil tape, stick it down on the tracks, smooth it out and it works out perfect.

Windows 7 Hyperterminal Replacement

Well, firstly  a moment of silence for our lost old friend hyperterminal.  But you just want to get serial data flying around again right?  I spent about 30 minutes downloading and finding no free serial port solutions for Windows 7 until I remembered PuTTY!

You can download PuTTY here, and either install it or run the exe.  PuTTY will launch, select

Connection type: Serial

Set your configuration and hit open and you should be in good shape.  You can set up local echo and all of your other preferences through the myriad of menus at the left.  Most importantly you’ll again have a lightweight serial console for Windows 7.

I2C Communication Arduino MEGA to Duemilanove

If you’re wondering how to get I2C running from your MEGA to Duemilanove Arduino boards here’s the scoop:

MEGA Pin 20 is SDA (Serial Data)

Duemilanove Analog Pin 4 is SDA

MEGA Pin 21 is SCL (Serial Clock)

Duemilanove Analog Pin 5 is SCL

Hook up SCL to SCL and SDA to SDA across the boards, also hook up ground between the two boards.  You do NOT need to connect the +5V between boards.

You’ll need  SCL and SDA to be pulled up (to +5V with resistors, between 2.2kOhm and 47kOhm), it will run without them but its recommended to make your bus within specification.

Example bus from Instructables.
MEGA Pinout information (search for i2c on the page).

AVL Smokemeter or Opacimeter Controller Software

If anyone is looking for a free terminal style controller for an AVL 415S Smokemeter or a AVL 439 Opacimeter I’ve posted the ones I use at work here.

You’ll want the very old school Terminal from Microsoft:

Microsoft TERMINAL

And the preset terminal buttons for the AVL 415S Smokemeter:


OR the LabVIEW interface for the AVL 415S Smokemeter:

LV Smokemeter Control
(Taken from this post)

And the preset terminal buttons for the AVL 439 Opacimeter:


OR the LabVIEW interface for the AVL 439 Opacimeter:

(Lightly modified from this one)

Laptop Reviews

I’ve been shopping for a laptop for a while, I’ve found a couple of worthwhile sites to share:
Notebook Check is absolutely awesome, they have reviews/data on all of the integrated/dedicated notebook graphics cards.

Next good resource is Deal News, they’re basically continually price comparing and pulling the best prices from all over the big box stores and on the web.

When it comes to computer stuff Newegg can’t be beat for honest reviews, decent prices and wide product availability. Their extra few $$$’s for shipping each additional item gets old fast, but the shipping speed is usually worth it.

I don’t recommend buying from eCOST, I’ve got a post on their scammer tactics with rebates amongst the older posts.  I also don’t like much, they heavily censor the “customer” reviews only allowing people posting great or excellent posts through, they occasionally allow marginal reviews but never anything honest when a product that sucks.

EagleCAD Panelize / Copy and Paste in Board View

Took too long to figure this out.  EagleCAD of course likes to keep the schematic and the board synchronized, and it won’t back annotate edits on the board into the schematic.  These are all happy, logical things that keep board designers sane.  However!  When it comes time to panelize or make multiple copies of a board layout for printing it won’t allow you to copy and paste sections of the board because it doesn’t want to perform the backannotation.

It took me a while of searching, but Keith’s Electronics Blog makes it sound like a cake-walk, it’s not that easy.  However, a random forum post gets it right:

Open your first file
Execute panelize.ulp
[It's in the top bar, icon with ulp in black text on a white "sheet of paper"]
Cut (don't forget origin click)
Open your other file
Save as different file name
Execute panelize.ulp
Paste the other board in [the part you're trying to panel that you previously "cut"]

EagleCAD RS232 Driver Panelized

EagleCAD RS232 Driver Panelized

EagleCAD Layout – Arduino Base

If you’re looking for an Arduino basic layout in EagleCAD (all clock/power/ICSP lines run but nothing else) here it is:

Arduino Base Layout

The board layout is troublesome on a single layer board, most of the I/O are currently blocked with power or ground, I’ll leave that up to you to figure out what you want to do.

If you’re looking at this, you’ll probably be really interested in this single sided Arduino layout.