Why do I bother?

Takes my breath away. This is a CCD imaging IC for a digital camera. Billions of transistors! This is the beauty and genius of electronics.

Winter is upon us. It’s cool (19degC) and has been quite rainy overnight, so it’s quite humid now. But nice. I’m not complaining.

Funny, I heard Sabrina Hahn, the gardening guru, on the radio this morning saying that frangipanis don’t like too much water. They love sun and warmth, but they don’t like being waterlogged. She actually puts umbrellas over her small cuttings in winter, to protect them. I was surprised. That woman has the most amazing memory. She is a walking, talking encyclopedia on gardening, and is funny/entertaining as well. I’m no gardener but I like listening to her on Saturday mornings anyway, just for the jokes.

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The headline refers to a lunch I had with former high school friends (all guys) during the week. The conversation got onto politics and the new government, and I was stunned into silence by the ignorant criticisms pouring forth from the mouths of what I thought were reasonably intelligent guys. All they wanted to do was pour scorn and criticism on a government only three weeks into the job. The new treasurer, Jim Chalmers, copped a bucket load. When I pointed out that he’s actually Doctor Chalmers, with a PhD in economics, meaning he might know what he’s doing, that was just batted away. “What would he know. He’s just like the rest of the pollies, they’re all nongs.” For goodness sakes, they’re only three weeks in the job! “Aaaah, it doesn’t matter, they’re all bad.”

But the conversation soon veered to “abos”, aboriginal policies and welfare. It was racism, pure and simple. All the talk was about how all the money poured into aboriginal remote housing is wasted. No solutions offered, just racist criticism.

I thought better of these guys. I nearly walked out. I’m not sure I want to go to these lunches any more. If you can’t talk about footy and you don’t like racist talk and you like a progressive government, there’s not a lot to talk about. I mostly have to stay silent, biting my tongue. Grrrrr.

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I’m down to one out of three cars at the moment. All I’ve got left is the Honda MDX, (sob).

The Verada is out on long term loan to a mate who had a crash back in February, wrote off his car, (not his fault, still waiting on the insurance payout.)

But last Monday I did a long drive, 55km each way, in the Peugeot 407. It drove beautifully as usual, except for the engine knock when it’s cold. I’ve been worried about that, and the slow warm up, for a fair while and had been planning (I’ll get around to it …. 🙂 ) to put it in for service.

Anyway, when I got home after that long drive and parked the car in my garage, I noticed a fairly large pool of red/pink liquid spreading out from under the engine. Uh oh. Coolant leak. I’m lucky, the engine wasn’t overheating and I’m very lucky it didn’t spill its guts on the freeway.

So on Tuesday I got the RAC to send a tow truck and they took it to their Morley workshops, as Joondalup was booked out. It’s been there ever since, although I’d told them there’s no rush as I have the Honda.

They phoned on Thursday and confirmed a leaking coolant hose (I think) and they’re awaiting a genuine Peugeot spare part.

They also took note of my complaint about the engine knock, and strangely, said that after reading the fault codes and clearing them, the knock went away. Huh? I await further information, but I don’t understand that. I hope it’s true.

Anyway, I’m awaiting the quote for the work, and they’ll bring it out to the Joondalup workshop for me to pick it up when it’s ready. It would be nice if they could bring it here – I could run the guy back to Joondalup, or even to Morley if they want me to. I want to go there anyway, to buy a spare key for the car. It only came with one key and the buttons for lock/unlock are busted. The place that sells new keys is in Morley.

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Strange, a few months ago I bought a couple of blank keys from the Chinese Wish.com web site. I bought the shells and internal electronic PCBs separately and assembled them myself. They just need the key cut.

A couple of months ago I took them to a key cutting service at Joondalup. They passed the keys through a strange ????? looking device with a big hole in the middle. This seems to provide a readout of the characteristics of the electronics within the key fob. As a result, they told me “gobbledegook, waffle waffle, piffle” that my keys use a ???? “chip” and wouldn’t work with my car. I need to buy a key from them at a cost of $260 or thereabouts. Huh? Yeah, right.

So I said, well, can you just cut the key for me, to match the working one? No, for some reason they didn’t want to. I said OK, I’ll go elsewhere and walked away. I didn’t understand it. I’ll try the Morley place. He charges $40 to duplicate the metal part of the key, or $89.95 for a complete new key. Maybe I’ll do one of each.

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The 55km trip last Monday was to buy a Facebook Marketplace item from a guy in Forrestfield. It’s a DCC model train controller:

NCE Power Cab

Brand new in box, a few years old but obviously never used, $150, about half price. I’ve collected a swag of around five locos and eight carriages, plus a big box of track in the past eight years. But all along, I’ve been missing a controller, to supply power to the track and control the trains, obviously. I’ve been put off by the high price of DCC systems and confused about which system (manufacturer) to choose. I’ve known for a long time that NCE has one of the best reputations, so this made my mind up for me.

This is a small, low power system, to get you going. The power comes from that small wall plug supply, which is quite limited in how much it can drive. Probably four locos at one time at most. If you want more power, so as to drive switches (points) and signals, for example, you need a booster or two, and I just happen to have two 10A boosters that I’ve been building up in the past few years (I don’t like to work too quickly, you may have noticed 🙂 ) from a Silicon Chip magazine design. They’re not finished yet, but this is the impetus I need to finish the job.

So finally, I can make a start on my model railway. I can’t even try this controller yet because I don’t have any locos fitted with decoder boards. Explainer: locos are fed with a constant voltage AC square wave for power. This square wave voltage is rectified in the loco to provide the DC volts needed to run the motor, and it also contains coded instructions which the decoder board recognises to tell this particular loco to start moving, go forward or backward and turn its lights on or off etc.

I have a few decoders (they cost about $40 each!) and I have to fit them, which means dismantling the loco, fixing the decoder PCB in place and wiring the tiny wires to the motor and track. Then I have to program the loco with a unique number (01, 02, 03 etc) on a programming track. I don’t have that yet, either. More money to be spent.

In the last few years I’ve been slowly and steadily buying model railway stuff from the Wish website and now I’ve got a forest of plastic trees and foliage, several carparks full of LED lighting poles, a dozen LED trackside light signals and about six to eight rolling stock wagons of various types (in addition to the eight or so I already had). All this stuff is damned expensive – even Chinese made tanker wagons are $40 each. A real train could have 20 – 30 of these coupled together, or more. That’s a lot of money! Not to mention the cost of the loco at around $100, plus the $40 decoder. It is a very expensive hobby!

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I’m going to buy one of these! I’m excited. If only these had been available when I was a tech 30 years ago. Auto-ranging, true RMS, all the usual volts, current and resistance, relative volts, plus capacitance, transistor hFE, frequency, temperature and a built in 40MHz oscilloscope as well, all for $179. This is ideal! I want it. It will be especially useful for the DCC model trains, to measure and check the DCC coded square wave going to the track.

If only we had had these when I was a tech. I’m going to place an order (Amazon) now. (Later: done, ordered.)

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Wow, the inflation is really starting to become noticeable in my grocery checkout bills. Every week seems to be setting a new record. I used to be regularly under $100 until six months ago, but each week is going up, up. Last week’s was $162, and yesterday’s was $173.35, another record. I’m working on the graph I mentioned, not long now.

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Fergot to mention – I saw another Peugeot 407 Coupe yesterday, a black one.

I don’t like the wheels on this one.

Highly unusual. This is the first time I’ve seen another one, apart from my own. I love the black colour. Maybe I’ll get mine wrapped in black, instead of my boring silver colour.

Anyway, I was driving just near my house and saw this other 407. I wanted to stop and have a chat, but I couldn’t. I wonder if he’s had the boot trouble.