RE256 Part II: The Searching Continues

Continued from Part 1

SCANLINES

Modern monitors have a much higher refresh rate than in the old days, by a factor of 10. What I needed was something that could handle 15hz ( or so – I didn’t know the exact refresh rate, since technical manuals are hard to find ). This is where I found a bunch of useful information from people who are into retrogames. If you are REALLY into old games like streetfighter for your NES you don’t roll with some shitty “modern” LCD/LED screen. You go oldschool CRT, where the scanlines are the luxurious background texture of your nostaglia fix.

edit: WTF happened to my re256 links! Maybe I deleted them all in a rage fit or something, but man. I’m really missing that folder right now

OK, so I basically need a 80s era monitor, or one of the specialized NEC Multisync monitors. ( cool, now I know why it said Multisync on the side of my monitors all those years ago ). I’m also competing with people who want to run their old AppleII and need a monitor. Some of those old CRTs are literally selling for $500+ on ebay.

Now, the time is ticking on my ability to return this thing… so I need to know if it even works beyond powering on. I hook up my oscilloscope hoping I can see something useful.

 

I don’t know why, but I was sort of hoping the CRT would just.. magically work and I’d see text. (It isn’t that easy… you can watch this video if interested in converting your oscope to a monitor..) Instead I get this. This is encouraging, since that looks like a waveform – though I have no idea wtf it means. However, the top looks like a TTL signal ( I think? )


and the rest seems like a composite video signal.

Not sure what to make of it… but at least the RE256 is putting out something on the video channel.

Well – shopping / hunting for old computer shit is my idea of fun, so I’m going to put this on slow burn and wait for a monitor to show up.

HOW TO USE THE RE256

So I’ve realized at this point that using this block of metal is going to be a challenge. The more I know about it, the better I can fix it, and how fucked up is that I’m trying to fix a piece of gear that I know next to nothing about, so I can then maybe learn how to use it. Why not just dump it? I wish I knew, and I wish I had. But at this point I have a fantasy in my head of fixing this, and having this awesome distortion analyzer and I’m like already a “RADIOMETER ELECTRONICS” fanboy. They are my BRAND motherfucker.

I’m hurting to recount this because I am missing a folder of 20+ solid links, including discussion of these products on audioforums. But one of the terrifying things I came across was this review of the 201 Audio Analyzer. I take that back there are several terrifying things going on here:

  • IEEE controlled interface, using a custom piece of hardware. RE901 Keyboard with 16 push buttons. This means I probably can’t just hook in some keyboard. I’ll need to find a way to send specific commands to the RE256. No idea if there is a command-line feature, but assume (! ) there is.
  • “The Tape test program does a comprehensive evaluation including.. ” Tape based? Fuck. Odds of acquiring original software just plummeted. There must be hard copies of that stuff somewhere though maybe in a manual
  • “The length of these programs give some idea of the time required to program the RE201 – the tape and tape recorder program consisting of 3229 lines of BASIC and the REPLOT program which simply allows plotting of functions occupies 2400 lines of BASIC”.. haha ha. yeah I’m completely fucked here. Even if I get this POS working, I’ll have nothing I can do with it.

Not Terrifying, but useful info gleaned:

  • Monitor is not RGB ( not surprising ) but rather TTL
  • RS232 interface for printing results
  • Overall a pretty bad-ass piece of machinery

BUYING SHIT

When you can’t do … buy! I think this is probably great advice for business acquisition or something. For me it means I can obsess about gear, instead of learning how to use it. Well I guess I’m buying this gear SO I can learn to use my other gear – but same basic shit. After another week or so of hunting I have acquired:

  • Manuals for the RE901 keyboard, the RE201, and some other RE audio gear. Some of them are programmable, so I hope that their chapters on IEEE interface will contain something useful.
  • Practically NIB IBM 5150 monitor. I probably should have just stuck with a smaller TTL security monitor or something, but this showed up on CL, and only had to drive an hour to get it. And I’m always hoping I can sell this shit at a later date. Plus, you know. It’s cool vintage computer shit. Oh it came with a keyboard – which are also in demand for gaming.

Cont…

update: August: no update. Monitor is sitting in a box in the garage. Listed keyboard for a stupid price online, just to see if anyone bites. I guess I could probably just check real quick to see if I get a signal from the RE256 on the Monitor. But you know – lots of other stuff going on.

 

 

Radiometer Electronics / RE: Technology / Confusing Dutch Company / Distortion Analyzer

This happened like a year ago, but I’m trying to get through my long ass list of projects. Most of them are small and trivial, and I hesitate to even post them here. Wow, you cut a cord, flipped the polarity and now your power supply is negative-center! Huzzah! I mean I was pretty proud of that, but yeah – not really “post worthy”.

Oh, but this one is.

So I like to pretend I’m learning about audio electronics. I read some stuff, try and pick out the gist of it.. sort of like reading an abstract of a paper instead of the whole thing. About 2 years ago I decided I want to build speakers, or repair amps, or some stupid shit. Why? dunno. But it seemed like a cool hobby, with lots of smart people, and I desperately want to be smart.

So while I bungle my way around an oscilloscope, and trying to trace circuits ( and failing mostly ) – I see this beauty on ebay: an RE:256 Distortion Analyzer. Distortion / Spectrum Analyzers aren’t really important for basic audio electronics – but past a certain point they matter a whole lot. And the good ones remain expensive – vintage HP’s are in the $500+ range. So when I saw this RE256 at like $150… I was excited. Now, do I need a distortion analyzer? well no. But it seemed like it would be great to have. For example, I could test the distortion on an amp, make some changes, and see if I had improved it or not.

Researching the re256 was not easy. I mean – look at the search terms here:

“RE”
“256”
“Distortion”
“Analyzer”

I seriously don’t know how I got my first break, but I came across an audio forum talking about the RE204 Distortion Analyzer, and how it was super well made, and awesome. Hard to find, and replacement parts were non-existent. I don’t know why, but it was like the hooks were in. Because if there is one thing better than owning a useful piece of equipment – it is owning a super rare, hard to find version. Well, you might say the latter impacts the former, and you’d be right! But the heart only knows what it wants. And I wanted it.

In my mind – the 256 was just a “better” version of the 204. I don’t know why I thought that – but sadly, it is a common mistake i make. So of course I bid, and of course I won – and of course things went down hill from there.

The Monitor

So when it showed up, I was excited – and immediately disappointed. See, other analyzer like the hp 8903 have a digital display on it.


I thought I saw one on the RE256. I was wrong. I also quickly realized there aren’t even any buttons on this fucking thing. It is just a big black box with some jacks on it. Well, no worries – I can plug in a monitor, and sure it needs an older 5pin keyboard, but no worries. I have adapters. Note the unrealistic optimism here, and the beginning of the Sunk Cost fallacy. This is an ongoing theme in my life, along with the “cut twice, forget to measure” thing. So I get my plugs and my monitors, and hook it all up, and nothing happens. No signal, etc. Now I’m not too worried, because I didn’t buy this “as-is” this fucking thing is supposed to work. So I must be making a mistake here. So I started on a quest for a user manual.

The Search

I also relish a good “search”. Fun to obsess about you know?:It took a while, but this is what I found out:

  • RE stands for “Radiometer Electronics” a dutch company. At some point it split in half with Audio on oneside, and medical tech on the other. The medical tech is still being made – the audio died out.
  • Parts are beyond impossible to find. There are a few replacement boards floating around on ebay – each priced $600+
  • Manuals are hard to find
  • I was able to find out some stuff about the RE204, and 500 series gear… but not much on the 256.

And then I had a breakthrough – look at this beauty.

Thank you “Test & Measurement World” magazine! Look at all that shit it does! I’m excited again. In a short period of time I realize I need

  • Vintage monitor
  • Vintage keyboard
  • Programming manuals

So one of the many twists here is that the RE256 is designed as an automated tester – like I read about the RE204 (link) there is programming done in BASIC ( woo! ). But I’m hoping I can find the actual programs out there somewhere. I set this in the back of my head as I race to Goodwill.. surely they will have what I need. I come back with an old keyboard, some adapters, but no monitor.

As I try and read up on what kind of monitor I will actually need – I fall into a deep deep rabbit hole.

Next time: Scanlines.

BATTLE DLL! How to Replace missing DLL in windows 7

regsvr dmocx.dllMy Device Manager stopped working. Looking online I found a number of possible routes to fix this problem.

  • sfc /scannow : (   https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/929833 )
    • This runs a scan, looks for problems and “fixes” them
    • Puts together a shitty hard to read log file
    • Spoor: Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them 
  • Windows System Update Readiness Tool
    • This runs a scan, looks for problems and “fixes” them. Fixed 1 problem, left 3
    • Puts together much easier to read log file! Turn off text wrapping..
      (f)    CSI Payload File Missing    0x00000000    dmocx.dll  …
      (f)    CSI Payload File Missing    0x00000000    TabletPCPlatformInput-core-Replacement.man
      (fix)    CSI Payload File Missing    CSI File Replaced    File: TabletPCPlatformInput-core-Replacement.man From: C:\Windows\winsxs\x86_microsoft-windows-m..eplacementmanifests_31bf3856ad364e35_6.1.7601.17514_none_fdfbc5f949b9a49e\TabletPCPlatformInput-core-Replacement.man
    • Spoor: Bunch of shit still not fixed

Ok, so when I look up dmocx.dll – that looks exactly what I need. So this next part should be easy… right? just replace the corrupted guy.

  • Windows Startup Repair
    • Make sure you don’t write over your install ( click that hidden little “Repair” option )
    • Spoor: Doesn’t do shit
    • Didn’t do shit. Said my startup files were fine.
  • Grab the file you need directly from your Install CD
    • Took me a while to find out how to do this. DISM!
    • Spoor: Permission Errors
      • Make sure you are running cmd as Admin
      • Add in a READONLY flag
        • dism /mount-wim /wimfile:f:\sources\install.wim /index:1 /MountDir:c:\targetDir /ReadOnly
      • Create targetDir before hand… dsim doesn’t create the directory

This mounts windows7 files to the targetDir on your C:. You can now drop into windows system32 and grab that pesky dll, and copy it to your main system32.

  • Don’t forget to reg that little fucker!
    • Regsvr32 dmocx.dll

SCORE!

Time Spent: 4+ hours: Seeing as this is about average for fixing shitty windows issues, gonna give myself 2 points

OS’s Reinstalled: Zero! I actually fixed it. So huzzuh for me. +50

Backups Created: 1. I backed up my C drive before fucking around with it. How crazy is that. +3

Style: meh

How do I turn off auto play on facebook videos on iphone? Excellent question!

Has your data skyrocketed recently? Our data went through the roof. After years of only using 2 GB per month, we broke 6 GBs this month!

Verizon doesn’t give us any real breakdown of our data use, and immediately blamed facebook. Although I don’t use facebook that often, I wanted to make sure I had removed the facebook excuse from Verizon’s arsenal. They suggested we disable autoplay. But it wasn’t that easy to do!!!!

Facebook has changed how to disable autoplay – so previous online instructions have not been helpful. The links I found pointed to outdated methods. Using some trial an error, I have put together this tutorial. Images below are for an iPhone 6 running IOS 8.1 .

First of all fire up your FACEBOOK APP. In the lower right corner, select “MORE”

how to change facebook autoplay 2015 2014 1

Select SETTINGS

how to change facebook autoplay 2015 2014 settings

Select VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

how to change facebook autoplay 2015 2014 videos and photos

Select AUTO-PLAY

how to change facebook autoplay 2015 2014 autoplay
Here you will see a number of options. This is what I selected:

  • Disabled smart autoplay
  • Turned on “Never play Videos Automatically”

how to change facebook autoplay 2015 2014 auto-play options

If this reduces your data bill, please comment and let me know!

 

BLINDSIDED: WD Passport Drive Upgrade

western-digital-my-passport-essential-500gb.7039195This one is a complete failure, but learned a few things. Wanted to update my WD Passport Essential from a 500G to 2TB drive. My usual “Measure Zero, Cut Thrice” approach served me poorly here.

I Ordered a Toshiba 2TB driving, thinking I would just swap it out with the 500G drive already in my passport. nope.

1) The WD Passport drives have the miniUSB connector soldered to the drive. No swappy swappy.

2) Shit was too big to fit anyway

HGST MQ01ABB200 2TB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 2.5″ Hard Drive

  • Average Seek Time: 12ms
  • Height (maximum): 15 mm
  • Width (maximum): 69.85mm
  • Length (maximum): 100mm
  • Model #: MQ01ABB200
  • Item #: 9B-0B1-0053-001P9

It is actually pretty hard to find an enclosure that takes a 15mm 2.5 inch SATA.
Also worth noting: many of these USB 3.0 drive enclosures are capped at 1TB ( or less ).

I finally found one for $30- hopefully it doesn’t suck too bad. Could have bought a new Seagate or WD USB 3.0 2 TB enclosure for $40 cheaper. Sucks.

FINAL SCORE:

Time spent: 2 weeks of waiting for products to arrive ( and counting ) : -20
$$$$: Could have solved problem for $40 less AND gotten product already: -20
Successfully upgraded to 2TB backup drive: yeah sort of I guess + 10

 

 

 

 

 

GoDaddy Support Times Are Terrible

go-daddy-tech-support-slowI’ve been a loyal godaddy user for a very long time. I have often recommended them to friends, specifically because of their support. Up until a year or two ago – it was excellent. There has been a steady decline in both quality / availability of service… It used to be I never had to wait more than 10-15 minutes TOPs for support call. Most of the time it was in the 5 minute range.

These days? 30 minutes on hold! Combined with ongoing mail server problems ( GoDaddy’s servers get blacklisted every now and again, and while godaddy DENIES this happens, it most certainly does. Those back and forth email with their tech support team are fucking painful, and they ask for ridiculous shit. ( all email in .eml format, asked me to repeatedly contact my clients and ask to see their server logs ( yeah fucking right.. I’m going to call one of my clients and ask them if I can talk to their IT dept, so I can see why GoDaddy isn’t sending my email correctly ) …

Best part? You can’t even submit a ticket. You have to wait on fucking hold. And if it is after hours? You can’t do shit.

I think it might be time to move on…

EDIT: Day 1:  Found out there is a separate support for servers… I Was able to get on that chat VERY fast, which was nice.  ( launch server -> support ). Of course the problem ( likely a result of a banned server ) was resolved, and they would not tell me what was causing the email bounce backs. Just that “it is fixed now”.

 EDIT: Day 2: Problem is back, 1 day later.

SMTP error from remote mail server after initial connection:
host xxxxx.prod.sea05.secureserver.net [xxx.xxx.xx.xxx]:
554 xxxxx.prod.sea05.secureserver.net :
DED : 8wEy1o0563K58k12901 : DED : ESMTP No Relay Access Allowed From [My IP Address]

25 minutes on hold with “Chat”… so maybe I’m back to “support times suck”…

Tech support was friendly – appears to have confirmed and repeated the problem, and has escalated it. We will see what tomorrow brings!

 EDIT Day 3: New Day, New mail problems!

Received an email today from godaddy support, saying the above issue is fixed. We will see. But don’t worry – more tech support love in our immediate future!

Today my business email account – which uses godaddy webhosting ( separate from the VPS ) started experiencing lag. As much as 4+ hours for some email to come through. This is a problem for me as I was working on a time sensitive project today, and prompt email was critical.

Well, lets look at our options for support!

Chat_Window_-_2014-06-02_22.07.29yeah fuck that.

For some reason the Call line says 2 minutes wait. That is because I call in and disconnected after 2 minutes hahah. That is one way to turn over the support calls!

I eventually do reach a CSR, but we don’t really get very far. 20 minutes on the phone, and his only advice is “Turn off SSL”.

me: why? I’m paying for SSL. I like my encryption.

crs: I’m just telling you what other people have suggested. Let me put you on hold.

me: <waits>

CRS comes back to tell me :

1) My version of outlook is too old, I should update to latest version

2) SSL isn’t that important, it’s “not like someone is going to hack your mail.”

This is a pretty typical GoDaddy CSR move – basically “blame the victim”. The problem isn’t godaddy – it is that I want to use SSL. It isn’t their mail server, it is my outdated mail client.

So yeah, fuck you guys.

 Edit: Day 4: Server mail problems again. Despite being told for the 2nd time this issue was fixed, we are getting errors again today.

10th in line on the chat queue, which takes about 40 minutes to speak to someone. I’ll admit the chat queue is better than sitting on hold, but it is still annoying to be tethered. would much prefer an email that I can fire/forget.

Hey here is a VERY NICE THING TO SAY about GoDaddy. They have Hold without music. Sweet Jesus sitting on hold for an hour listening to ads and fucking music is enough to make me lose my shit. So kudos to you on that GD.

OK – an hour total, and I am told “System Admins are aware of the issue – the fix was implemented, and you still might be getting error messages for another few hours”.

That was an hour of my life that was fucking wasted. Well not a full hour, but yeah.

 

Extensis Support Frustration and Font Suitcase Manual Uninstall

extensis-logoI have a problem on a Friday night – Extensis Suitcase has frozen, and basically I need to delete the font database. Frustrating, but not a giant deal.

Problem 1: An uninstall doesn’t remove all the necessary files. This is an ongoing gripe I have about software. Uninstall should fucking UNINSTALL the goddamn thing

Problem 2: Your support isn’t available. I guess that is ok – it is late at night, no big deal. BUT I can’t even find a fucking email address or other way to contact your support outside of on the phone. Well, I work odd hours, so I’m going to be asleep the next time you are awake… so I’d really like to just send you an email. You keep pushing me to the goddamn support forums instead.

OK – fine, I’ll use the “community” – I’m sure this is a common problem, right? Hey guess what, I CANT POST ON YOUR FUCKING FORUMS. Oh, I can register alright, but you assholes are MANUALLY APPROVING  forum regs. what.the.fuck. I can’t even find out where the font database is located.

I end up resolving this shit myself – which is probably what Extensis was hoping for in the first place, but well fuck you.

If you are in the same sitch I was, here is some helpful info:

Fontvault location:

The Suitcase Fusion.fontvault folder is located:

C:Users\<USER>\AppData\Local\Extensis\Suitcase Fusion\Suitcase Fusion.fontvault\

Manual Uninstall

I have already done a regular uninstall, but that clearly hasn’t removed everything, so lets go hunt and peck for extensis to remove. First we go for the extensis folder shown above.

Well – deleting that file isn’t gonna be easy ( it is locked by another process ) . I’ve already uninstalled the program, so who knows what is holding shit up.

Checked in the windows Event checker, which shows some errors from the Uninstaller. The uninstaller was not able to remove some reg keys, so I ran CCleaner to remove garbage from my registry.

No Joy – I still cannot delete the folder. Lets find the specific folder holding this up:

<PC NAME>\Users\<USER>\AppData\Local\Extensis\Suitcase Fusion\Suitcase Fusion.fontvault\SA\l

I traced the process to some core window processes using windows process explorer. Attempting to close these processes blue screened me… so I restarted in SAFE MODE, and deleted the Extensis Suitcase Font Vault folder.

Ran a registry search via regedit for EXTENSIS .. found a bunch of stuff, so I ran CCleaner again… it pulled out several hundred outdated items.

Reinstall

and… it works!

 

BATTLE SPEEDLITE 420 EX : PART DEUX

Right. So in Last weeks BATTLE SPEEDLITE 420EX I lucked into a victory. Basically after taking apart, and half reassembling a broken flash.. I put the flash on my camera, and it still wouldn’t fire. I rotated the head of the flash around a bit, heard a noise, and suddenly the wonderful whine of the capacitor charging up. Because the flash was partially taken apart, I went back to my workshop, and finished up with the assembly.

I was disappointed when, on returning with my “new” reassembled flash… it would not work.

BATTLE PART DEUX BEGINS!

Part 1: “Well, what next.”

I’m not sure why the flash doesn’t work. I don’t clearly remember if I did hear a “crunch” before the flash fired. I am cast adrift in an ocean of “what the fuck do i do now”.

Ok – lets take stock.

  • Power is getting to parts of the flash. For example, when I power the flash up, this happens:VIDEO
  • I no longer hear the whine of the Capacitor inside charging up.

I guess I could trace the power inside the device, and see if it is making it to the capacitor!

Part 2: Strip it down

Because I don’t really know where to start “tracing the power inside the device” ( I just sort of made that shit up ), but I DO know how to take screws out of things… So why not do that!

I pull out the screws I know and end up with something that looks like this:

Speedlight420EXdisassembled

Now, as you might have read from last time, messing around with a photography capacitor is a great way to get shocked. something like 300+V could be sitting in that thing. The instructions want me to pull off the rubber caps on the side of the Speedlite Flash Head, and this will let me access enough of the cap to safely discharge it. They are a pain to get off, and are actually glued on. I used a screwdriver to dig under the edge, scratching the shit out of everything, but finally getting a good enough grip to peel it off.

IMG_8526 IMG_8527

Part 3: Defrazzle the Frozzle

There are a number of ways to drain a capacitor. Apparently some people like to bridge the poles with a screwdriver. This makes sparks and I guess sometimes gouges pits out of metal. While, this sounds fun and all, it isn’t really an option. I can barely get to the poles. I have to put together this fuckery, which I attach to a resistor. It isn’t the right resistor to be using – this is 50w 8Ohm, and is used as a dummy load for audio amplifiers. But whatever, I’m in a hurry. And I’m pretty confident I’m not going to see much voltage going to the cap ( since It isn’t even charging up to begin with ) .

speedlite-drain-capacitor

Draining the Capacitor

I wasn’t sure that I was actually connecting to the cap, because of how this works – you have to shove a thin wire down into the body of the flash to touch the positive pole of the cap. To confirm this was connecting – I set my Multimeter to “continuity”.. basically this sends a small charge across, and if the connection is good enough, it “beeps”.

What happened instead was I saw the resistance increasing, and then flip to a “1”. No connection. I seem to recall that this is what happens when you try to check resistance on a capacitor. Basically your multimeter is sending out a small charge to check continuity.. but the cap just eats it up. as the cap starts to charge up, resistance increases, until to goes to infinity ( 1 ) .

Sure enough when I now check the voltage on the cap – I see a small charge. This tells me I am successfully draining, and charging the cap. So I drain it again with the 8 ohm 50w resistor, and get back to work.

 

Part 4: Shit’s still broken

I’m going to sum up the next two hours pretty quickly here.

  • Small screws
  • Spring shoots out when you take off top of the flash
  • Attempt to measure if the Cap is good, but my tester is the wrong range AND you can’t really measure a cap while it is in the circuit. ( 1 hour wasted right fucking there )
  • I try to read an electrical schematic, all i get out of it is that the Cap is 1150uF/330V
  • Frustrated, I am going to end the day by just putting it back together.
  • Another goddamn spring shoots out.
  • I find  a wire that has pulled out. Momentary joy as I think this might be “the problem”.
  • Solder that wire back on. accidentally de-solder the wire next to it. May or May not have soldered the shit out of the plastic LED that the wire attached to ( AF ASSIST BEAM EMITTER )
  • Put flash back together – only 3 screws left over! I know where 1 should have gone, but I made 2 extra screws appear.. clearly we have some Loaves and Fishes shit going on.

 

get some nice sharp/small testers

get some nice sharp/small testers

 

soldering

soldering These 3rd Hands really kick ass

 

Final for the day:

  • Still powers up, but no charge to cap that I can see
  • Try to test the lights on the front. I can get the left of the 2 front red lights to turn on ( I think one is a wireless indicator ) .So basically nothing gained today. Part DEUX definitely goes to the broken flash. All I accomplished was to hit on yet another series of personal limitations, and possibly wrecked the AF Assist in the process.

Dark Days Ahead.