Since Mika and me bought Kana her new jet-ski (who Kana has christened Jenny the Jetski), we’ve run it twice. Once when Mika and me got it from the dealer in Wales, and then again on Xmas Day when Kana lovingly, expertly and excitedly rode us round the lake in the meadow near us in the Midlands. This week, because we’ve had some nice weather in the UK, we took Jenny The Jetski out to Brighton beach, donned our wetsuits, and had wet wild fun!

On the second day the ski just suddenly went limp to a cruise speed. I thought Kana had lost her nerve, and urged her to open the throttle more:

Me: “C’mon K, faster, faster! Open Jen up a bit more! Mika’s loving it back here!”

Kana: “Throttle’s wide open! She’s gone limp! I think she’s scared of water, she’s a newbie!”

After some juddering and hiccuping she stalled completely and wouldn’t start again. The symptoms pointed to either misfueling, or seawater had entered the engine somewhere. Kana has never accidentally misfueled a vehicle, ever, and she confirmed she hadn’t, as we keep the jet-ski octane fuel in special containers, they don’t run on diesel or petrol, only octane based fuel.

I confirmed no leaks had occurred, and on the second restart attempt, fault code P0606 appeared in the infodisplay, which according to the SeaDoo fault diagnosis manual relates to engine ECU failure. At just over a total of 8 hours old, Kana’s new jetski is a paperweight, and cut our watersports trip to Brighton & Hove short and we had to come back to Birmingham. It’s a good job we have a dealer warranty, the ECU’s alone are over half a grand, and that’s un-programmed!

I suspect the dealer has misdiagnosed (or completely missed, if it was intermittent) the fault when the original owner returned it, and it’s come back for us! They’re coming out to us on Wednesday, thankfully 🙂

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I had the misfortune of my tablet getting damaged this week. I was working in Rikku’s bus garage, with it resting on the bus’s bumper crossmember taking readings from the ECU, when Rik called me away. While I was away the vibration of the engine caused my tablet to fall off, straight onto tarmac! Luckily the screen hasn’t cracked.

I’ll show you all how to replace the digitizer, as it’s a lot more straightforward than also having to replace the screen, as less disassembly is required.

A. Removing the SD card cover/Wi-Fi antenna

First of all, your digitizer is GLASS, so you can use sellotape across the glass to hold it in place, preventing any injury, or shards of glass falling on the floor. Removing the damaged digitizer will stress it and maybe cause more damage as you do it. The glass provides 90% of the front frame’s strength, so once broken it loses most of its rigidity.

Once you’ve secured the glass, turn your tablet over, and remove the SD cover, which also doubles as a WiFi antenna, by locating the notch on the left, and lifting up. It unsnaps quite loudly, but be gentle. Once removed, place in a safe place:

2-removing-SD-cover

B. Removing the rear casing

Next up we’ll be removing the rear case, which is easy to do as there’s no screws, it’s all clipped together. A lot of the reviewers of the Bush MyTablet reckoned the aluminium back was just cosmetic, but it is actually structural, and gives the tablet weight and strength to prevent flexing of the whole body to protect the internals,.

Using a flat blade jeweller’s screwdriver, unsnap one set of clips between the front digitizer frame and the rear case, and then use a plastic spudger to do the rest. DON’T use a screwdriver permanently, only to get a start. Note in my picture below, the lip of plastic on my rear case near the headphone port was damaged on mine in the impact, so I used this as an easy access point for my spudger:

3-unclipping-digitizer-from-rear-cover-1

Continue all the way round the case, and don’t worry about snapping noises. The screen is clipped to the backside of the digitizer, but as long as you are gentle, it won’t resist too much, and you shouldn’t break anything. The glass may crack and crunch on the broken digitizer at this point, due to the lost strength I mentioned earlier. I didn’t use tape on my glass as I was on a disposable cloth I could just throw away:

4-unclipping-digitizer-from-rear-cover-2

Once you’ve unsnapped all the clips, the rear case will just lift off. There’s nothing attached to it, so just lift it clear, upon doing so you’ll see the wonderous internals of the tablet, including the relatively large battery, and small mainboard. You can also see how the aluminium back actually constitutes most of the rear cover, with the plastic just being a small frame, proving my point about the strength the metal back provides:

5-lifting-off-rear-cover

When you remove the back cover, WATCH out for the power and volume button pack dropping out. It isn’t plastic welded or screwed onto anything, so it’ll just fall free:

6-watch-out-for-volume-and-power-buttons-falling-out

C. Screw and connector locations

Now comes the preparation stage of locating the connectors and screws you’ll need to remove. If you’re just removing the digitizer, there’s 2 screws and 2 ribbons to remove, but if your screen is broken most of the internals have to come apart as the mainboard and battery are mounted to the back of the screen panel’s chassis with tape and glue, both of which are surprisingly strong!

7-screw-and-connector-locations

The ribbon cable connectors for the digitizer and display are under the tape on the left and right sides, respectively, which I’ve labelled in red, the two red circled screws attach the PCB to the digitizer frame. The battery and speaker cables are under the orange tape on the bottom left. These two are soldered in, but don’t need to be de-soldered at all unless you are explicitly replacing them. Even for a screen replacement, desoldering these isn’t necessary, they can just be lifted out the way. To remove the battery for screen replacement, simply break the glue holding it in, and lift it out of the way after the rest of the disassembly is done, leaving the wires soldered in. Don’t do it yet, you’ll end up with a tangle!

The connector flaps for the ribbons need to be flicked upwards NO MORE than 90 degrees VERY gently. If you snap the flap, the whole PCB socket is ruined as the flap provides the torque to hold the ribbon in place, pressing the metal contacts together. Taping it back together is not good enough. DO NOT rush, the same goes for the left one. This is where unskilled amateurs make the jobs more expensive, take it from a professional who has fixed mistakes many times! Modern electronics are VERY delicate, and need eagle eyesight and jeweller’s finesse, shaky hands just won’t do!

From the left, lift the silver tape a little (DON’T damage or discard it as it can be re-used), and remove the ribbon for the power/volume buttons. Lift the flap gently, then ease the cable out.

10-power-and-volume-switch-ribbon-connector-location

From the right, lift the black tape. If you’re going to be replacing ONLY the digitizer, remove just the top ribbon that I’ve circled red, which is the digitizer cable, using the same care as for the power/volume ribbon above. If your screen is cracked, you’ll need to remove the bottom one as well, which is your display cable that carries display signals, and the backlight power.

Again, I can’t stress enough, DO NOT rush, and DO NOT force the socket connector flaps over 90 degrees, if they break you’ve just made the job 80% more expensive as you’ll need the sockets replacing, or a new PCB, which will involve data recovery off your old board, especially if you damage the touchscreen connector!

11-digitizer-ribbon-connector-location

D. Removing bottom frame support

Where the speaker is along the bottom you’ll notice a plastic frame screwed into place. This is like a strengthener and support in one unit, it holds the speaker in place while giving the bottom of the digitizer some strength. It also carries clips that the rear cover was mounted to, so I consider it a main structural member of the whole tablet chassis. Simply remove the two screws, and lift it off the digitizer. Watch out as the speaker is now loose on its cable and will slide around!

8-screws for-frame-support

E. Removing screen & mainboard assembly from digitizer

If you look all around the inside of the frame you’ll see lots of clips holding the screen in place. We’re now going to remove the screen VERY GENTLY. This is another step that you should take your time, there’s no medal for rushing it, as you WILL likely break your screen if you do it wrong, the glass on the screen is thinner than the digitizer. That’s the reason tablets have their digitizer separate to the screen, mounted half an inch away.

If your screen and digitizer are already broken and you’re replacing them both, I personally would still be careful, because I’m a professional, and normally it’s someone else’s equipment, which I respect 🙂

9-clips-attaching-screen-to-digitizer-frame

So, while unclipping the clips (they may be stiff) you can use a spudger to keep the screen from re-clipping itself in, but DON’T overdo it, don’t lever the screen too high with too many clips still securing it, it will flex and break. Obviously if your screen is broken and you’re replacing it this isn’t relevant, but still take care, because I would 🙂

The image below shows me using my spudger as the clips are unclipped, my screen wasn’t damaged before, and it wasn’t damaged after, apart from a scratch on the glass caused by the digitizer imploding on impact!

12-unclipping-screen-clips-while-lifting-screen-GENTLY

Finally, once that’s all done, you can separate the digitizer from the rest of the chassis, and pat yourself on the back for getting this far without any major damage, unless you DID damage something I told you not to, in that case it’s your fault for not listening to a pro, take yourself off to the naughty corner and think about what you’ve done!

Otherwise, if all went well, you’ll end up with the tablet looking like this:

13-chassis-and-digitizer-separated

Re-assembly with a new digitizer is the reverse of removal, if you remember my advice you should have a fully functioning tablet that acts as if nothing happened once it is rebuilt!

F. Extra steps for screen replacement

I only had to replace my digitizer, but if your screen is damaged as well, once you finish with the separated digitizer as step E, you’ll need to:

  1. Remove the display cable connector as I mentioned earlier
  2. Separate the battery from the screen back by removing the glue. When you reassemble the battery onto the new screen, use *new* adhesive strips instead of glue to secure it, as you don’t want it rattling around, its metallic case can short stuff out, which you DEFINITELY don’t want happening.
  3. Remove all the tape strips holding the PCB,
  4. If you’re also replacing the battery, desolder the battery cables, making sure you note the polarity. Resoldering the cables the wrong way may short the board out, and cause an expensive mess. I don’t know if the Chinese electronics in these have decent short-circuit protection, and I’m not willing to find out!
  5. Re-assembly, again, is the reverse of removal. With new parts, TAKE EXTREME CARE, you don’t want your new screen or digitizer damaged again! And make sure all the tape is replaced and secured in the original places. Mark out where the strips sit with a marker pen.

Good luck!

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The other day I was working at Rikku’s garage doing routine maintenance on one of her coaches, when her 15 yo daughter Jill rang me on her mobile to tell me the coach of the third party coach company her school hired had broken down:

Jill: Dad, I’m on my way to a rugby match with my school girls team, the coach has broken down on the motorway and the driver’s radio and phone aren’t working!

Me: Don’t worry sweetheart, put me on to the driver, I’ll have a chat with him. In the meantime, get the girls off the bus, and as far up the hard shoulder embankment as you can, away from the coach and traffic.

Talking to the driver, I told him I’d lend a hand and get one of our coaches to him, and tow his broken down one to our garage until the match finished, when I’d then arrange to take it, and him, back to his company’s yard. I got put back on to Jill and explained I’d use one of her mum’s coaches to help out. This is where things went wrong! We have a daily allocation list of vehicles that are in use for runs that day, and also any vehicles in for service. Our Mercedes Tourismo coach WASN’T on the list, so I got Rikky’s Recovery guys, their truck, and a driver for the replacement coach.

Anyhow, I got the team transferred on to our coach, and on route to Jill’s team match with one of our drivers, while me and the Recovery guys brought the other coach, and driver, back to our yard. Rikku was away on a transport meeting trying to secure a new contract. The other transport company’s coach had suffered differential failure, locking the drive axle. Me and the other driver bantered, sharing breakdown stories, until the Matsuki coach brought the girls’ team back, with Jill, who came running over to me, as her team surrounded us:

Jill: Thankyou SO much, SuperDad! You dropped everything for us, you’re my hero!

Me: Ah, hunny, what are Dads for?

Our coach took the girls back to school, and the Recovery guys took the other coach and driver back to his own yard. While they were all away, next thing I know, Rikku appears out of nowhere, fuming at me that the Tourismo was nowhere to be seen:

Rikku: Where’s the Tourismo?

Me: I rescued your daughter and her rugby team from a breakdown on the M62 using it, they’re on their way back to school with a driver. The Tourismo isn’t on the daily allocation list!

Rikku: I NEED it for a job in 30 minutes! If it isn’t on the list you still don’t just take it, you’re supposed to contact Operations! Just because you’re fleet service manager doesn’t stop that rule!

Me: Well I’m sorry for dropping everything for your daughter, doesn’t she come first? I think the job’s getting to you!

Rikku: Don’t start THIS again!

She ended up storming off, we exchanged words, me telling her to stop acting like a spoilt brat when her daughter was in need. She later apologized but it was so out of character it worried me, as we’re both like SuperMum and SuperDad where Jill’s concerned, Jill and Rikku are like best friends, doting on each other. I love them both so much, but these diva-like outbursts from Rikku are getting worrying, as she’s normally super-strong in terms of willpower!

She’s Operations Manager at Matsuki, she owns the whole business but is taking on too many roles at once, as she has to run the entire operation, dishing out daily roles to the different departments (Fleet, Admin and Customer Liason and Traffic Management), as well as allocating passengers to vehicles, allocating routes etc. We need two more managers!

I wouldn’t be surrogate Dad to anyone else, Jill is really grown up for 15, like her Mum (normally) is at 32!

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This is another wear related symptom, and often occurs on power down of an old system after a power cut. It is again to do with the input regulation circuit (the main resistor, diodes, and rectifier transistors bolted to the keypad chassis). If your Optima starts OK on battery, but not on just the mains, the cause of this is the CPU isn’t getting enough power to start up from the AC to DC rectification stage. The start sequence goes visually like this:

  1. Power is applied, the regulators get up to working voltage, and start supplying power to the CPU.
  2. The LED’s all come on, briefly, as the CPU boots up, doing its self test of itself, and the NVRAM, containing your code and exit/entry timers.
  3. Within a few milliseconds of 2 above, once the CPU has started, the LED’s go out, and the alarm now goes into a full alarm condition, leaving just the Power LED on, and any open Zone LED’s. If no zones are open, just the power LED is on.

If the LED’s all stay on with no more activity or sound, the CPU isn’t starting correctly, because the voltage to it is insufficient coming from the AC to DC rectifier stage. Allowing the alarm to start here going into full alarm, would cause too much current inrush, and voltage drop to sustain keeping itself running, due to the strobe/bell and 13v PIR’s drawing power when there isn’t enough.

The transformer puts out 16.2v AC. If the voltage at your battery charge terminals with no battery connected is less than 14v, (the last one I did was 10v) the whole system is being starved of power. The two transistors that are bolted through the keypad chassis need to be replaced, the big three-legged things top right of this picture with the holes through the tags:

Optima-XM-board-faulty-regulators

I always replace both to make sure, as they can be quite stressed out at such an old age, and be breaking down under load, as does the 47 ohm battery resistor. I also check the capacitors accompanying them. The leftmost transistor is a Toshiba TA7805S Positive Voltage Regulator which seems to be the battery regulator, I’ve uploaded the datasheet to Tidelog HERE. The second (rightmost) transistor is an ST Microelectronics LT8I5CV, for which I cannot find a datasheet, and I assume is the AC rectifier stage’s main DC regulator.

I am attempting to find suitable modern equivalents for these regulators, so if any electronics guys out there can help, I’d be most grateful, as finding info on these 15+ year old components is tricky! I’m running out of working ones to cannibalize off old unrepairable Optima boards! A good alternative to the Toshiba TA7805S is the Panasonic AN7805F, the datasheet is on TideLog, HERE, for you to take a peek at, if you understand electronics 🙂

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If you lose your radio code, it can be expensive to go back to the dealer. There are even websites offering to get your code for a fee! Not any more, because I’ve discovered their secret, in the form of CalcGEN! It’s an application to allow you to obtain your code, as they are often generated using the serial and model numbers of your radio.

This tool is for vehicles up to 2009, I cannot guarantee it’ll work on newer ones. NOTE: Some vehicles after ’04 do NOT need a code, as the radios are wired to the CANbus, and are already electronically married to the Body ECU/Vehicle ECU. Simply reconnect the battery, if the radio works, you’re OK.

CalcGENInstructions:
Removal of the radio from the dash is required to obtain the information needed. It is your responsibility to obtain the manufacturer’s recommended tools, and to ensure this procedure is performed on YOUR personal vehicle. I cannot be held responsible for you using this tool, for it being used on rentals, hire purchase vehicles, stolen vehicles, or any other circumstances.

Download the tool by clicking HERE. Extract the tool, and run “CalcGEN_2009_crk.exe”. It is safe and virus free, hosted here on TideLog.

Ford Code:

Select Ford from the ‘code from serial option’

Select Ford M series from the dropdown menu

Enter the 6 digits from your serial number, missing out the letter M

Press calculate and your code is displayed.

Renault Code:

Select the “Code from serial” tab, then select Renault

Enter the last four characters from your radio bar code details i.e f123

Once entered your code is displayed.

Blaupunkt:

Covering all Alfa-Romeo, Citroen, FIAT, Peugeot, Nissan, Rover, and Vauxhall models that have been manufactured by Blaupunkt.

NOTE: Check it isn’t already wired to the CANbus. If the connector on the radio has CAN L & CAN H terminals, it shouldn’t need manual code entry and you can simply reconnect the battery, as the Body/Vehicle ECU is already electronically married (encrypted) to it, manual code entry is not needed.

1. Press the Blaupunkt button.

2. Find your part number starting 7 6, enter the 5th 6th and 7th digit, so if your part number is for example “P/N 7 641 372 001” you’d enter 372.

3. Next enter the last 7 digits of your radio serial number, radio serial number starts with BP.

4. When you have the 10 digits entered in to the calculator press the Standard button, and your code is displayed!

Note: Citroen, Peugeot, Alfa-Romeo and FIAT codes are displayed beside “FIAT code is:”

IMPORTANT: If anyone needs help, for the interests of security, DO NOT enter serial numbers in the comments! Email me at tidosho at gmail dot com instead. There are organised gangs that crawl the internet looking for revealed serial numbers, they reflash (program) stolen radios with known ones, and I want to keep you safe from fraud.

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Kana and Mika both want the three of us to be together when we’re out jet-skiing, so Mika and me have decided to band together to get her a new 3 seater ski to go with Sadie, her yellow 2009 2 seater one, as a Christmas surprise this year. I’ve sold off shares in companies which I no longer need, and Mika used some of her life savings. We all like Sadie, so don’t want to sell her or trade her in.

We’ve found a dealer in Porthmadog, Wales, offering a gorgeous 2015 GTX 300 that had only been used for 3 hours, then returned, for financial reasons. A jet-ski is like a car, as soon as a new one is used, it loses quite a bit of value, so we got this one for the super reasonable price of £9,000 instead of the usual £16,000. Mika and me went up to Wales one day last week when Kana was working, to check the new one out, and she’s a beauty:

Kana's-new-2015-SeaDoo-GTX-300-three-seater-jet-ski-at-the-dealerNeedless to say, we bought her the same day! Her spec list is as impressive as her looks:

Engine: 1.6 litre Rotax 4-Tec 1630 ACE 3 cylinder 300HP supercharged

Primary Color: Black & Deep Pewter Satin with gold seats/front stowage compartment trim

Year: 2016

Make: Sea-Doo

Model: GTX Limited 300

Type: Three Seater

Class: Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Length: 11′ 6″ (11ft 6in, a lot longer than Sadie!)

Weight: 412kg unladen

Features: Electronic iBR reverse system (allows quicker stopping, and dock manoeuvering), iControl Learning Key (A special programmable lanyard starter key that allows engine HP to be limited to teach learners to drive it, like Mika for example), Touring/Sport modes, safety kit, 3 position ski pylon for towed water-ski rider.

We took her on the water for a test run, she looks really mean against dark grey UK clouds, and she actually looks bigger and longer out on the water than she did at the dealership:

Kana's-new-2015-SeaDoo-GTX-300-three-seater-jet-ski-on-the-water

It was Mika’s first go as a jet-ski driver (and her first time in a wetsuit, which she was so cute in!), so I used the learning key to limit the horsepower, she absolutely had a blast, especially when I drove and opened the throttle a lot! I REALLY need to get a waterproof camera to take on-water shots of us! She’s so powerful, 300HP is quite a lot. The GTX 300 is a top end sports ski, if you’ve ever wanted to ride the water equivalent of a Kawasaki Ninja motorbike, the GTX is your girl, but fear not, she won’t bite your head off. Throttle response is gentle, yet rapid if you want it to be, just make sure you tell your passengers to hold on if you’re going to be a boy/girl water-racer, opening the throttle up!

The handlebars are adjustable for different riders, and the electronically assisted steering makes jet-skiing really addictive. I have Kana to thank for introducing me to this very addictive hobby, anyone thinking of doing it, go for it, get your wetsuit on and go get wet ‘n’ wild! But remember, it’s a dangerous sport, always adhere to rules, and speed limits, using common sense you’ll be fine.

Kana is going to LOVE her new present! I just wish we lived closer to water rather than having to drive out so far! It’s worth it for a day out, just make sure you carry enough octane fuel!

 

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Hoover washer dryers used to be synonymous with quality and could go 10 years plus without issues, but now they just seem to be dropping dead left right and centre when really young. In the space of one day today I’ve both had a Hoover engineer come out to my parent’s machine, for a motor replacement under Hoover warranty, and later that day I myself was called out to fix another Hoover washer dryer, both the same model, different faults.

WDYN856DG

The patient was a 2 year old WDYN856 DG washer/dryer, with no signs of life, except clicking noises, following a loud bang during a dry cycle. Clicking relays are usually always main control unit failure, so myself and Martin, my repair assistant, got to work. There was no other life from the programme selector dial, LED segment display unit, buttons, or their LED’s, apart from the clicking. We pulled the control unit out, it looked fine from within its casing, but once unclipped from it, we saw the catastrophic damage:

Hoover-WDYN856DG-control-unit-PCB-in-shieldHoover-WDYN856DG-control-unit-PCB

Can you guess where the actual brain of that massive washing machine is? Nope, none of the big components! That tiny chip that I’ve circled in red is the computer of the machine, smaller than a two-pence piece! The rest of the board is just power regulation, the control relays, and the outputs for the motor and element, plus all the connectors for sensors. The two small plugs on the very right-middle are the programming headers for programming the EEPROM. You can see the giant ferrite inductor coil, and those big heatsinks? That’s the transistor & Triac that control the motor speed, they act as an inverter and tacho control. The higher the switching frequency of those transistors, the faster the motor spins. They get mad hot, and very stressed, especially the massive transistor to the right of the coil.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, around where the microcontroller is, that is where the failure has occurred. The area is all burnt, and has catastrophically shorted. The yellow highlight on the left is also where some damage to a diode, resistor and capacitor has occurred. The damage is actually worse than it looks in the picture.

We had to replace the motor, and the front-end option selection button unit as they were unresponsive even with a new control unit. We can’t be sure of the exact cause, but we suspect the motor has shorted, and as it’s directly wired to the transistors, has caused a massive short circuit, taking out the control unit and the option selection button unit (which itself had microcontrollers on it, but these were visually undamaged).

Unfortunately you can’t just buy a new control unit and connect it up, the EEPROM needs to be programmed with machine specific code, the machine will just flash an EEPROM communication error otherwise. We had the Hoover engineer programmer, so were OK 😉

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Cats are cute, aren’t they? Fluffy, affectionate, and the cutest face on earth! They also like to bring you *nice* surprises on the morning after the night before! Mice, birds, slugs, spiders and the occasional headless dormouse.

Our cat, though, is slightly different. The other day she turned up at the doorstep with not a mouse, or a rat, no, not even a slug or spider clinging to her fur. She was sat up, meowing, with Superwoman’s cape in front of her! She likes to chase superheroines. We call her Catwoman, and she has a nice shiny coat, not of fur, but leather, and some rather cute ears:

Catwoman-with-Superwoman's-cape

We can’t get her to tell us where the rest of Superwoman is though, although her cape isn’t damaged so we suspect she got away lightly, but can’t fly, so we’ll have to get Cat to keep prowling at night, with her KryptoCollar on. Meeeeooowww 🙂

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You’ve all seen them, the bulbs that are supposed to help the environment, with swirly tubes, short and fat, long and thin. Their efficiency comes from the fact that, unlike filament bulbs, the tubes don’t draw their current direct from the mains, instead they use a kind of inverter, known as a “ballast”, very similar to the ones used in laptops for backlights. Except these run on high voltage inputs, unlike a laptop inverter which will run off 9 to 15v DC and provide 1000v AC ignition voltage, with 300 to 800v run voltage depending on brightness setting.

Unlike a laptop, though, fluorescent lamps aren’t variable brightness. The ballast puts very little load on the AC input, instead it itself provides the current to drive the tubes, like a middleman.

Benefits

Compact fluorescent lamps have some benefits in comparison with standard filament light bulbs:

1. Lower power consumption (as much as 80%) and

2. Much longer life expectancy when used in the correct environment with airflow (5 to 15 times)

Disadvantages:

1. Longer warm up times (mainly only experienced with cheaper bulbs)

2. Cannot be run off a dimmer switch.

3. Cheaper bulbs tend to be failure prone under heavier use more than 3 hours per day, or if not provided with adequate cooling around it.

4. More expensive per bulb than a filament one, but cost savings are made over its life to offset initial cost.

5. Depending on the colour temperature of the bulb, lower colour temps are not suitable for use as backlighting when using a camera.

Available colour temperatures

Fluorescent lamps are available usually in these color temperatures:

  • Warm white (2700K)
  • Cool white (4000K)
  • Daylight (6000K)

The most common colour temperature is “warm white”, which is close in brightness to a classic 60W filament bulb and also is most pleasant to people, but cannot be used as ambient light for use with a camera.

Principle of construction and operation

Compact fluorescent lamps use a vacuum tube similar to classic strip lamp, the principle of energy transformation to visible light is the same. On either end of the tube are two electrodes coated with Barium, the tube is filled with Argon and Mercury. The cathode runs at high temperature (about 900 degrees Celsius) and generates many electrons which are accelerated by voltage, bouncing between electrodes, hitting the atoms of Argon and Mercury. This gives rise to low temperature plasm. The mercury energy radiates in a UV light form. The inside of the tube is coated with luminophore (phosphor), which transform UV light in to the visible light that you see.

The tube is powered by alternating current, provided by the ballast, so the electrodes (cathode and anode) switch on and off, alternating rapidly. Because of the use of a switched converter in the ballast, which runs on tens of kilohertz, the CFL lamp doesn’t flicker in comparison to a classic strip tube lamp. The converter, which is present in the screw or bayonet cap, substitutes the starter found in traditional classic strip lamps (which are wired direct to AC line), making CFL’s more efficient.

Here’s a look inside a Philips Genie 11W, for the curious electronic nerds out there 🙂

Philips Genie 11W

To help understand that little circuit board a little more, here’s its schematic diagram:

philipsgenie11w-schematic

 

Theory of Ballast operation

The lamp requires a current to preheat the filaments, a high-voltage for ignition, and a high-frequency AC current during running. To fulfill these requirements, the electronic ballast circuit first performs a low-frequency AC-to-DC conversion at the input, followed by a high-frequency DC-to-AC conversion at the output.

The AC mains voltage is full-wave rectified and then peak-charges a capacitor to produce a smooth DC bus voltage. The DC bus voltage is then converted into a high-frequency, 50% duty-cycle, AC square-wave voltage using a standard half-bridge switching circuit. The high-frequency AC square-wave voltage then drives the resonant tank circuit and becomes filtered to produce a sinusoidal current and voltage at the lamp.

During pre-ignition, the resonant tank is a series-LC circuit with a high Q-factor. After ignition and during running, the tank is a series-L, parallel-RC circuit, with a Q-factor somewhere between a high and low value, depending on the lamp dimming level.

When the CFL is first turned on, the control IC sweeps the half-bridge frequency from the maximum frequency down towards the resonance frequency of the high-Q ballast output stage. The lamp filaments are preheated as the frequency decreases and the lamp voltage and load current increase. The frequency keeps decreasing until the lamp voltage exceeds the lamp ignition voltage threshold (up to 400v) and the lamp ignites. Once the lamp ignites, the voltage drops and the lamp current is controlled such that the lamp runs at the desired power and brightness level.

Failures

Common failures are faulty output capacitors, a major fault in cheaper bulbs, where cheaper components are used. When the tube doesn’t light up on time, or fully, there is a risk of destroying the transistors and their resistors. Lamp startup is very stressful on the ballast circuit, transistors usually don’t survive overloading at high temperatures, taking out the transistors fed by them. When the tube fails, the electronics are usually destroyed too. When the tube is old, the filaments become worn, causing high resistance to the circuit and either tube doesn’t lights up anymore. Normally in this case the electronics usually survive because the ballast will shut down if there is a loss of load caused by death of the tube. Sometimes the tube can be wrecked due to internal tension and temperature difference. Most frequently a stressed tube fails, when powered on, making it look like the whole lamp has failed.

Failure of the whole lamp at its worst is normally limited to a little bit of smoke, and/or a bad smell, and a small pinging noise. They are not allowed to “POP!” or cause direct shorts on the AC line, the input fuse on the ballast will prevent that.

Repair of electronics

Repair of the electronics usually means change of capacitors. When the fuse has popped, this signifies possible damaged transistors and resistors. Failures can be multiplied. For example, when there is shorted capacitors there can be thermally overloaded transistors that will be destroyed. The best transistors for replacing of original types are MJE13003, but they are not easy to find recently. I replaced them with BD129, but they are not available now. There exists other variants like 2SC2611, 2SC2482, BD128, BD127, but I am not sure if they will be long-life.

Mechanical construction

A fluorescent lamp is usually comprised of two parts. One is the plastic cover with holes for the tube and vents, and the plastic clips to attach to the bottom section. The tube is glued in using high temperature epoxy or cement glue. The bottom section has slots for the clips from the inner side. Inside is the printed circuit board with components and wires from the tube. From the upper side of the PCB are wires to top of the lamps, which are soldered or stamped to the contacts on the PCB, normally metal posts. Both plastic parts are clicked together and sometimes glued. Usually you can carefully leverage the casing with a small screwdriver sequentially to release the glue. Next you must leverage more to open the lamp. To close the lamp housing after repair you can only click both plastic pieces together.

Sometimes opening these lamps up is harder than the repair as the housing often gets damaged, lamps that have been heated and cooled regularly tends to lead to the plastic becoming brittle and hard to separate!

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It’s hard work being a superhero, even a pretend one, as Melissa will tell you! I found some more pics of her, this time in action on set, and I can kind of relate to her as an actress. Every time I’ve been to ComicCon I’ve had to do action role play for numerous children at the events, running around in a sweaty bodysuit, trunks, boots and REALLY heavy pleather cape pretending to capture baddies is EXHAUSTING but great fun, especially the time I wrestled the ultimate X-Men goddess Rogue in the sweltering San Diego heat, she really pushed me!

Except Mel probably has to do the same scene over and over again, following several cries of “CUT!” and her cape looks just as heavy as my Superman Returns one, and probably just as expensive!

Melissa-Benoist-SuperMel-on-setShe looks pure Super in the daylight, and shattered! That look says, “Phew, another rescued victim safe with the paramedics!” Let’s just hope not all of them need medical attention! It’s probably her fault they needed an ambulance, she’s just too smokingly beautiful. If only she was REALLY Supergirl….

Melissa-Benoist-Supergirl-4

SuperMel, please rescue me! I wouldn’t mind a kiss of life from you, but have a rest first hun, you look puffed out 🙂 If any of my readers say they don’t want her to fly them home, I’ll eat the lot of you! 🙂

 

 

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The release of Project CARS was huge, but there are a few niggling issues with it. As it uses a much improved version of the Madness engine found in Need For Speed SHIFT 1 & 2, the experience is massively improved, but as the game was mainly designed with wheel and pedal touting PC users, the controls on the console versions can seem a little touchy. Here’s some settings to help you get the most out of it:

At your driver dashboard, press your menu button (the one with the three lines), go to Options and Help in the menu that appears, then controls, and tab across to the configuration page. You’ll see lots of possibly scary looking sliders depending on your skill level! Don’t worry, use this guide to help:

Method 1:

Throttle Deadzone: 0%

Throttle Sensitivity: 30%

Brake Deadzone: 10%

Brake Sensitivity: 15%

Controller Filtering Sensitivity: 50% (you should try different values to see what you like best). A higher value means smoother (less twitchy) steering but it can cause input lag.

Steering Deadzone: 5-10% (it depends on how worn your left stick is, 5% seems fine to me, but experiment as your car may pull depending on stick wear)

Steering Sensitivity: 0

Speed Sensitivity: 60-65% (this setting allows for small corrections, it basically makes the wheel less sensitive, especially on the straights)

These settings should make the game much more playable, and the steering less twitchy. You may need to further adjust it for different types of cars, but have a play, you can’t break anything as there’s a “reset to defaults” option on the controller settings page 🙂 If that still doesn’t feel right, see below:

Method 2:

a. Set all sliders to 0. And I mean everything, throttle, brakes the lot.

b. Turn off advanced settings.

c. Then just turn speed sensitivity up to 80.

Method 2 works out the best way for me, method 1 felt like the controller didn’t centre coming off the steering, the car continued to drift slowly in the direction I’d come off when the stick was straight. The brakes were also too bitey and the steering was still too twitchy with some cars, especially the Karts, Method 2 has made me feel in control again!

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I was even more in love with Melissa as soon as I saw this promo pic. When CBS announced they had hired her for auditions, I knew she’d be good, from her Glee days. I was dreading what they’d come up with for the costume, I had a niggling feeling they’d do something like the horrid DC 52 comic outfit. But, I saw her, and the new costume, and I just can’t get enough of her, take a look:

Melissa-Benoist-new-CBS-Supergirl-outfit-full-promo

Just one word…. WOOOW! They’ve kept the look of the 80’s outfit that Helen Slater wore, with the V skirt beltline, the cape still flows nicely over her shoulders. They’ve sexified her by giving her thigh high leather boots over the top of a pair of dark tights, then given the main outfit a sexy armoured look like the Man of Steel one. The diamond S emblem looks really nicely finished, I suspect it’s leather. I was really surprised, and turned on looking at her. The only issue I have is that the whole outfit looks too dark, it clashes with the old Superman III film where the evil one had darker colours in his outfit, so it makes SuperMel look evil. Not really complaining though 🙂

Anyhow, I still wanna be rescued by her! I just hope they do a heroine peril scene in the new film like the 80’s one where Supergirl gets lost on an evil planet, and gets trapped in a pit of kryptonite gunge after slipping into it, trying desperately to wade out of it as she gets weaker and weaker. I would hate to see that lovely costume get messy too much, but hope they have a backup, because hey, the heroines can’t always win, right?

This sexy costume was designed by three-time Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood, so I might give her a bell if we need any costumes making for KanaPhotographics, because she sure knows how to make a superheroine costume functional, sexy and alluring 🙂

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In wacky tech news headlines this week, John Deere, a General Motors company, and the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors and farm equipment, has said that farmers don’t “own” their tractors, because of ECU code. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway. In a particularly astounding display of corporate delusion, John Deere told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.” It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

Seeing as all modern CANBus vehicles, not just tractors, have computer code running through their Controller Area Network (CAN) control units, for things like the traction control, stability control, ABS, fuel injection, and throttle control (drive-by-wire) systems, this latest news sends shivers through me, as I regularly modify ECU fuel maps on buses and cars, to a professional standard.

Like the license terms for Windows and many software packages, you don’t own the software, but you own the computer it runs on, that should apply here by default, it’s stupid greedy corporations getting attention to themselves, again. Be realistic, how many farmers are going to modify the ECU code in their tractor, or even care that it’s there? It’s unheard of. They’re running a business, not practising hacking. I’ve never heard of a vehicle owner modifying fuel maps or control unit code, as it requires specialist tools, not to mention knowledge, to do, so John Deere are just being stupid, and I love General Motors, driving Vauxhall cars in life, they’re cracking motors.

It makes sense to John Deere: The company argues that allowing people to alter the software—even for the purpose of repair—would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.” The pièce de résistance in John Deere’s argument: permitting owners to root around in a tractor’s programming might lead to pirating music through a vehicle’s entertainment system. Because copyright-marauding farmers are very busy and need to multitask by simultaneously copying Taylor Swift’s 1989 and harvesting corn? (I’m guessing, because John Deere’s lawyers never explained why anyone would pirate music on a tractor, only that it could happen.)

Haha, but what about SAFETY, John? The modifying of vehicle code by an amateur can lead to DEATH, and ACCIDENTS. Hasn’t really bothered anyone till now, though, has it, Deere? CANBus has been around since the 80’s, too, you don’t see, “Man causes pileup and mass death by modifying car software!” in the headlines? Nope! Seeing as most electronic devices like TV’s, microwaves, phones, and even remote controls have software in them, this could open up a massive debate, as you are still classed as owning those.

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I found this picture while looking through Kana’s KanaPhotographics shoots for new material, updating the site, and my heart melted. This is what makes a real Superwoman in my eyes. Kana shot this picture at ComicCon three years ago, and there’s a really heartwarming story behind it:

Cute-Superwoman-babysitting-so-adorableThis little girl had got lost from her parents. She found Superwoman, who came to her rescue, and took it upon herself to be responsible for the girl, and proceeded to babysit her, whilst they looked for her parents. Superwoman kept her safe the whole time, even posing for pictures with her. The little girl was really at ease with her hero. They both found the girl’s parents, who rewarded her with £200, which Superwoman then donated to a children’s charity. A real human superheroine!

This is what really makes me wish Superwoman really existed, and ladies like the one here really deserve to wear her costume, she’s a real life superheroine in my eyes. A really big heartfelt “Awwwww” is in order. If I ever see this Super Goddess at a convention in the future I’m taking her to dinner, she deserves a medal, and lives up to her idol’s standards 🙂 I can see that little girl following in her footsteps someday when she’s older, becoming Superwoman at a convention, rescuing a little girl herself.

Awwwww, it’s what real humans are supposed to be like. I idolise Superman, and try to be the same as he would, except  without the superpowers. Looking out for neighbours, rescuing lost kids, looking after women, animals, and helping the elderly. It makes me tick, even out of my costume and cape, it’s what I feel a human should do, look out for fellow humans, even if it means putting yourself in danger 🙂

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Electric showers are great, but they do go wrong occasionally. At Kitamura we repair all types of showers. A lot of people seem to confuse “power showers” with “electric showers”. They aren’t the same. An electric shower simply heats the water, the water goes through the shower under simple water pressure itself. That is where power showers differ. They still heat the water, but they also have a motor assisted water pump, which acts like the turbocharger in an engine, where a little amount of pressure is converted into massive pressure by an impeller.

We recently got called out to a faulty Mira Essentials electric shower. These were made in 2000, and this one was suffering from random pressure drops, and weak output. Here’s a shot of under its cover, I’ve labelled its parts which I’ll explain below:

Electric-Shower-Components

A. Water input w/filter

The cold water input, with filter. This is a gauze filter that filters any silt in the water. If not filtered out it could collect in the water heater, and cause failure, or blockage in other parts of the shower system.

B. Water impeller.

This is not electrically assisted as in a power shower, but it helps to keep the shower running if there is momentary pressure drop due to something else being used in the water system like a tap.

C. Power and Temperature knob with flow solenoid

This is the ON/LOW/MED/HIGH selector, which works in tandem with two microswitches, and two heating elements. When the shower is switched on, the electric flow solenoid opens, allowing water flow. In the LOW position the water heater is fully switched off, and the water is cold as all microswitches are open. In the MED position, one microswitch is closed, so one of the elements is active, and in HIGH both switches are closed, making the heater operate at full wattage, in this case 4.2kw.

D. HIGH microswitch

This is the microswitch that operates the second element by turning the temp knob to HIGH as above.

E. Temperature knob.

This works by varying the amount of water that gets through to the output. By reducing the speed of water flowing through the heater, it makes the water hotter, and increasing it makes it colder. If the Mode selector is HIGH and the Temp knob turned all the way to HOT, the heater would be shut off by the TCO (Thermal CutOut) on the heater as the water temperature is too high, which will cause scalding to the person using it, and also damage to the heater.

F. Neon indicator PCB

This board contains the neon indicators for Power, Overheat, and Low Pressure. It also contains resistors to prevent premature wear of the neon bulbs, they are run from 240v and don’t last long, especially the POWER indicator, as that is on as long as the mains is on.

G. Mains input terminal block

Self explanatory, this is where the mains is wired in to the shower. In this case the shower had its own switch and fuse in the consumer unit, so we didn’t have to turn the electricity off to the customer’s entire house while we worked!

H. Water heater with TCO (Thermal Cut Out)

Here’s where the water is heated before going to the shower head. The two elements are individually controlled by the microswitches previously mentioned in C, controlled by the MODE knob. The heater contains a thermal cutout so that the elements are turned off if the water gets too hot. Once the water reaches a certain colder temperature, the thermal cutout switch turns the elements back on.

The thermal cutout is normally only activated if the temperature knob is on HIGH, and the TEMP knob set to its hottest, which is minimal water flow, as mentioned in E.

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