Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Play Quake 1 on an Oscilloscope

December 29, 2014 2 comments

Pekka Väänänen must have been bored over the holidays, as he came up with a fantastic and fascinating new use for an oscilloscope and a laptop: playing a round of Quake on his Hitachi V-422 scope in X-Y mode.



After some pre-processing, apparently it’s a playable vectorized Quake game with a very unique display. Never seen anything like this before! Lots more details over on his site. Check it out!




Keurig 2.0 Hack: Make Any Coffee You Want

December 20, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m a bit late to the game for this particular trend on the Internet, but it’s definitely worth sharing. If you drink coffee in the mornings, you’ve probably heard of Keurig and their single-serving K-Cup style of brewing coffee. Pop a pod into the machine, push a button, and out comes an amount of coffee. The original version of these machines would happily brew anything you put into it, as long as it was the right size. Keurig also sold officially-branded coffee pods to use in their machines, but other companies made them too.

Enter the Keurig 2.0. Under the guise of delivering a better coffee experience, somehow, Keurig developed a special kind of ink to use on their K symbol on the lids of these new cups. A complex optical reflectivity measurement system ensures that you’re using an authentic Keurig coffee serving, or the coffee maker will refuse to brew your coffee. I assume they didn’t enjoy losing out on the revenue stream of providing the pods and thought this would be a good way to ensure they controlled the supply of coffee you could purchase.

Unfortunately for them, it turns out people really did enjoy the hundreds of unique varieties of coffee which Keurig didn’t authorize and provided a diverse selection of products which would work in the system. And it also turns out that, when you take away people’s choices in the name of greed, people will find a way around it.

But now, we have the Keurig Hack:

Simply peel off the lid of a “legitimate” Keurig-branded coffee pod, and scotch tape it to the optical sensor. Now, your coffee maker which was artificially crippled by the greed of the manufacturer will continue to brew any of the alternative coffee products dozens of other companies have produced.

I’ve been looking at buying a Keurig machine for a while – making coffee in the mornings is a bit of a pain, and this system really takes the hassle out, but I don’t care for most of the generic selections they offer. Now that this hack is out in the wild, I’ll probably pull the trigger in the next few months, since now I can use any kind of coffee I want. It’s a little expensive, but break-even point is about 3 months of Starbucks drip coffee on the way to work, so it’s easy to justify.

Happy brewing!

[Hack-a-Day] and [Lifars]

Boxed Kit Amps’ Gobo Stereo Amplifier Build and Review

November 26, 2014 2 comments

If you’re a subscriber to Nuts and Volts Magazine, check out my article in the December 2014 issue where I build, test and review the Boxed Kit Amps Gobo Stereo Amplifier, a great little desktop reference amp for any skill level in a beautiful laser cut blue acrylic case.


December 2014 Nuts and Volts

VD-1221 Replacement Substitute Diodes

November 25, 2014 2 comments

We’re lucky that these days you don’t need to stock very many diodes in the parts drawers for refurbishing most vintage gear – pretty much everything except for the main power supply rectifiers can usually be replaced with some combination of 1N4007 and 1N4148.

Some special diodes do still turn up, though, and they’re a bit harder to replace. Varactor diodes frequently turned up in the bias circuits of ’70s amplifiers where they were used to keep a very stable reference voltage for bias under changing temperature and current conditions. One commonly encountered varactor is the VD-1221, which turns up in the Sony TA-4650 VFET amplifier (3 diodes), the Sony TA-5650 VFET amplifier (4 diodes), and the rest of that VFET line. They also happen to not be the most reliable, and a failed VD-1221 will destroy all the VFETS in that channel. Those are unobtanium these days, so if you’re servicing any VFET amp it’s practically mandatory to replace those diodes as well.

Fortunately, in this application, they can be replaced with a pair of 1N4148s in series. Observe the correct polarity, but it’s as simple as that! It’s not the prettiest fix, but it’s cheap and effective.

VD-1221 1N4148

2 x 1N4148 in series will also work to replace the common VD-1212, VD-1220, VD-1222, and likely several other similar series diodes.

Destroying Hard Drives with a Drill Press

November 5, 2014 2 comments

I’ve had this stack of old hard drives lying around for a few years as drives become unreliable or I upgrade. There’s a 160GB, 320GB, two 400GB and a 1TB that failed recently. Most of them have never been even in my personal systems, just in servers, but a handful were my daily-use desktops over the years and have old business records, bank statements and the like on them. Secure wipes take a long time, and there’s no point really with them destined for the trash anyway.

Fortunately, that new drill press of mine can make short work of them.

Now, off to the trash. That’s probably the most fun I’ve had using the drill press yet, too.

Sometimes you just have to build it yourself.

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

When a vintage component network goes bad and you can’t exactly go down to the corner store and buy a Sprague TC-24 anymore, sometimes you just have to build a new replacement yourself.


Use Copper Shielding Tape to Protect Dial Strings from Hot Tools [Tips and Tricks]

October 24, 2014 1 comment

Dial strings are, quite frankly, about the worst things in the world. They’re usually a complex and finicky mechanical system parked right in the middle of an otherwise straightforward electrical project, and if a string breaks good luck getting it back together again in all but the simplest of dial string arrangements. And they break easily. On older, tube gear the dial strings have often worn out and snapped with age and friction. On newer gear, the dial strings have often been snagged on the case at some point during a previous repair attempt, or even worse, they were accidentally nicked with the soldering iron and burnt or melted apart.

That’s a problem which has happened to me quite a few times, even with a steady hand and the best of intentions. After spending many hours re-stringing the dial on a 1970 Toshiba tabletop transistor radio after my soldering iron caused it to snap where the string passed very near the amplifier PCB, I was inspired to come up with a solution that’s a bit more reliable than “just be more careful”: copper shielding tape!


Copper shielding tape is an extremely important part of an electronics test bench. It’s very handy to shield a sensitive part of a circuit from electrical interference, but also, it can shield from thermal interference as well! In this case, because the copper foil is a thin piece of metal with a high melting point, the soldering iron brushing up against the foil won’t damage the string under it, and won’t heat it up nearly enough to cause damage to anything underneath for a short tap. This is the perfect solution to the problem of dial strings snapping when trying to solder too close to them. Copper shielding tape can be soldered, so it’s perfect to provide some protection against an errant soldering iron. A small 2″ section wrapped around itself with only a small section of the adhesive removed to form a cylinder was all it took.

Copper shielding tape is extremely useful to have around. It comes in a variety of styles, but I’d recommend one that’s about 2″ wide and has a conductive adhesive so it can act as a shield without soldering as long as it’s touching a metal chassis somewhere.


I stock a full roll of 2″ x 55 Yards ($56.95) as I use this while repairing Bose equalizers and stereo receivers, but it comes in other sizes. A five-foot section ($15.95) might be a better choice if you don’t see yourself using it often, or if you’ll only use it as a soldering iron shield. It’s available in smaller, narrower sizes also: 1″ x 5′ ($10.99),  0.75″ x 18′ ($8.28), and 0.25″ x 18′ ($5.05) but these smaller and narrower sizes are really more appropriate for actually shielding seams, etc. than trying to protect a dial string.

If you try this out yourself, let me know how it goes!


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