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Archive for July, 2013


ENC28J60 Ethernet Shield

I’ve been working on an LED matrix scrolling sign and it’s working great at this point. However I need a way to change the messages on it.

My first thought was to use SOFT SPI to change my scrolling display and add an ethernet network shield. And yes, that works. It’s also about 10 times slower than hardware SPI for the scrolling sign.

I tried the Wiznet 5100 ethernet card first. And found the bug on the shield where the data lines don’t tri-state. Thus, multiple SPI devices don’t share the SPI bus well.

Then I noticed there’s another ethernet shield, the ENC28J60. According to most it’s dirt cheap but the routines to make the network stuff are all in software whereas that is in the hardware part of the Wiznet chip. But in the name of science or curiosity, I ordered a couple of different configurations of the ENC28J60…

IMG 3904

As the eBay seller advertised, this board is supposed to work with the Arduino UNO or MEGA and they supply a web server sketch. I tried for the better part of an hour to get it working and finally found the current EtherCard library on GitHub:

EtherCard Library

The library seemed to run fine on an UNO with the shield, no way I could get it to run on a MEGA.

After searching all over the net I finally found a reference that you needed to add in the CS parameter (the 53):

Away it went. Sort of…well, okay flaky on the MEGA at best. The sketch the seller supplied was old…way older than the current EtherCard library by three years or so. It was hard coded to use D10-D13 as well. Matter of fact it only ran on Arduino0022, wouldn’t compile on anything newer..I guess in Asia anything that runs, regardless of what or how is a bonus for them.

It was at that point I really started to look at the PCB wiring.

If you look closely, D10 through D13 are used by the SPI bus for the ENC28J60 chip and there’s no connection from the ISP to the ICSP header on either the UNO or MEGA boards. Matter of fact, even if you removed the yellow 6 pin header and put in a female one it wouldn’t match up with the UNO or MEGA header.

There’s also no resistors on the D10-D13 lines so the Arduino is heaving out 5V to a 3.3V chip. I’m going to check the data sheet for the chip and see if that’s going to be an issue or not. According to the data sheet, those data inputs are 5V tolerant. So no limiters needed…

I do have to say though, the ENC28J60 runs DANG HOT. Like I don’t want to leave a finger on it (it feels as warm as the Wiznet chips and I put a heatsink on those). I measured it and it’s 47c but they are rated for 85c. Pretty much a branding iron.

Turn the board over and…same thing. D10-13 are traced back to the ENC28J60:

IMG 3906

Within five minutes of work with an Xacto knife and those traces were gone:

IMG 3907

I flipped it over and did the same on the lettering side of the PCB:

IMG 3910

Now everything was isolated and I could run this shield with an UNO or MEGA. All I had to do was move the jumpers to the proper pins. Thus, as I see it I rescued the boards.

IMG 3911

Any way, after going through all of this, because I could never find out if the ENC28J60 would share an SPI bus with anything else, I found out, it doesn’t. I didn’t waste one second more time on it at this point. Just made a note of this lesson learned.

I have a Bluetooth board on order. I’ve never used BT before but from my understanding it’s just good old fashioned serial. So that’s my next experiment in the near future when it shows up…


Laundry Sink Facelift

After having the ensuite updated, we’d been using the laundry room a lot for cleaning up. And we’ve come to hate the taps on the sink. The sink isn’t one of the fibreglass ones, it was a deep stainless one. Almost like a bar sink.

So after mulling it over for, oh, 10-15 seconds, we decided to change the faucet. Not a big deal.

Having done sink work before, I know what it’s like to reach around behind the thing and work on the plumbing. It hurts muscles, joints and makes your install a royal pain. So, first order of business? That’s right.

Take out the sink:

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The sink was held in by a bunch of brackets underneath the countertop. A 3/8″ socket in a drill made quick work of taking it out.

The tap looks like it was for a bathroom or something. There was no aerator in it so water mostly just splashed all over the place. You can see the old plastic supply tubs that had copper inserts around them to make them fit. Sheesh. Probably acceptable in 1990 when the place was built.

Next, time to take out the tap:

IMG 3884

It seems that after 23 years and some water “issues” the nuts holding this piece of crap together was rusted pretty darn good. What’s that you say, “Brass doesn’t rust!”. Yea, I’d agree. If it were brass or copper. Nope, the retainers holding on “ole junko” was stamped steel. Probably done by a “drive by” plumber.

I’ve done a number of faucet installs (as a home owner, I’m NOT a plumber) and I’m a big fan of the braided lines. That’s what I used for this install:

IMG 3886

The old taps were on 6″ centres and the new ones were on 8″ centres so I had to drill some new holes. Used a drill with a hole cutter bit and it makes a nice neat job. I’m big on using the proper tools for the job.

Considering the water “wear” around the old holes, new holes is a good thing. Five minutes to put the new supply tubes in. Hand tight, wrench with extra 1/4 turn. You do NOT want to wrench them on too tight.

All that was left was to reinstall the sink. Another 10 minutes (trying to reach around in there with a socket) and presto:

IMG 3887

A faucet (Moen Danika) that allows you to get a bucket into the sink, taps that turn 1/4 for full off to full on, water that goes from the tap right down the middle of the drain (not on the bottom and splashing all over).

Of course the proof was when the wife gave it her 100% seal of approval. Those are hard earned…


Renovations – The Good, Bad and Ugly

Nothing says “renovation” like a house full of drywall dust, floors that look like Hannibals Elephants just marched through and that “lighter than air” feeling in your bank account…

We recently had a bit of a plumbing leak in the ensuite bathroom and decided that it was about time to give it a face lift. We’d had a few quotes and decided on a contractor to do the work. And as anyone who has ever hired a contractor, you know you’re at their mercy and you really hope they aren’t just a “general” contractor.

We started with a 23 year old bathroom:

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The view into the room:

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Which, about 8 minutes after a crew arrives sudden turns into this:

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Ever watch Mike Holmes on TV when he “makes it right”? That’s the guy you want. Although you probably don’t have his budget. In reality, you get what you pay for. It’s not Mike. Or even a remote descendent.

Any way, after two months, we ended up with a look like this (tiled shower, new fixtures, 12mm glass door):

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New tiles around the tub and fixtures:

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And then new tile floor, countertop and cabinetry:

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So the view each morning is this:

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Admittedly I did some of the work myself (and fixed some of the contractor oversights; and wish I’d caught more), I did the baseboard heater, mirror frame, the baseboards and countertop.

The single annoying thing is the floor tile is not flat. How you can lay floor tile and notice it’s not flat is beyond me. Take a straight edge, lay the tile, and it doesn’t have to be level, it has to be flat. A no brainer. Apparently the helper was a no-brainer.

So for all you homeowners that are wondering if you should hire a contractor, my advice is… only use their services for what they are good at. And trust me, it will NOT be everything. If there’s tile involved, ask the tile store to recommend someone. They’ll always have a good idea of who knows their stuff and who doesn’t.

If there’s plumbing involved, get a real licensed plumber to do the work.

For hardwood, be sure you use a guy who does nothing else but hardwood floors.

Drywall is probably within the capabilities of the contractor. Not sure I’d advise trusting them with more than that unless they have professional people they use. Contractors are always good at demolition.

So apart from the floor for our renovation, everything is acceptable. Notice I didn’t say stellar, or, outstanding. It’s no doubt better than an untrained homeowner could do, but it’s just as far from what a pro could do. Yes, the price will represent that.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

The odd part? The contractor seems to feel it’s a good job. We obviously use different measuring sticks.



Last year my EHX Deluxe MemoryMan decided that the volume pot had been abused enough and it started to get noisy. Real noisy. And then it just quit. No sound at all. The fact that I rarely used the volume pot indicated these things go through quality control faster than I’d go through last months paycheque.

No, these are built quickly, cheaply and as such are prone to problems.

Note well that I’m talking about the newer DMM’s from about the late 1990’s on. These typically used the Panasonic MN3005 bucket brigade delay chips (and later on MN3008’s). You got about 500ms (if the unit was setup correctly; I doubt many were). The problem was that Panasonic stopped making the chips around 1999. I suspect EHX bought up all they could find and also started using (doubling up) the MN3008’s.

Around 2009, EHX had pretty much exhausted the worlds “reliable” supply of MN300x chips and they came out with a DSP driven unit that didn’t really couldn’t hold a candle to the original. Which means, at exactly that point, the EHX Deluxe Memory Man became a collectors item…and as of now, they can be found on eBay and command premium bucks. For some pretty beat up and ratty looking units I might add.

I found a few schematics online. They cover some of the build variations. I tend to favour this schematic for my EC2002_REV_E unit (2 x MN3005’s):

Memory man schematic

When I first got my DMM (that’s Deluxe Memory Man, not digital multi-meter), I read a lot about the “mods” that people were doing to them. Like changing the op-amps to something a little cleaner. Since the volume control on mine was shot, I decided to cut out the 4558 op-amps and replace them with TL072’s. Reason? The TL072’s are a quieter op-amp and work good for non-over drive signals in my experience. A lot of guys said that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in the op-amps, but wow. The TL072’s give a much clearer tone (the 4558’s seems slightly mid-rangy and muddy to my ears) and since clean and clear is what I want, I cut out some of the 4558’s, put in sockets, and installed the TL072’s.

I didn’t change the 4558’s that are in the delay circuit side. I could have, but didn’t.

While I was in there, I also socketed the SA571N. Most of the schematics I’ve seen all use the NE570, but my DMM came with a SA571N. The NE570 is 24V, the SA571N is 18V. Since the circuit runs off 15V, the SA571 had worked fine. My MN3005’s were already socketed, as was the 4047.

The keyword in the last paragraph was “had” worked fine. Yesterday I go into the studio and I have bypass and I have some sound coming through, but I don’t have the DMM echo. It was gone. Turning the BLEND pot to the full “wet” side resulted in silence. Nothing. Oh great. I’d already spent time last year replacing the op-amps and many of the caps (for high quality ones) so who knows. Maybe it blew out a MN3005. In which case, it was only useful as a door stop.

I started signal tracing and it was at the compander (SA571) that I’d lose the signal each time. I popped out the old one, dropped in a spare that I’d bought when I was originally socketing the parts. The echo was back the instant I powered it up.

IMG 3868

And while I was in there, I also added heavy gauge wires on the volume pot lugs to replace the wires that I’d used since last year.

So why’d the SA571N die? Maybe it was a questionable chip that although rated for 18V, didn’t like 15V or there was a spike or who knows. All I know is that it’s once again working and that’s all that mattered.

Earlier this year, I’d been watching eBay for another one, since this is part of my go to sound I have to have one and I found a used one for a reasonable price and bought it. While advertised as in perfect working condition it wasn’t. The vibrato/chorus slide switch was broken and laying inside the unit. I couldn’t figure out why the switch didn’t work until I took it apart and then it was pretty obvious.

Probably unlike most, I didn’t blame the eBay seller and I had it fixed with a new slide switch in a few minutes. No big deal to me since I now have a spare.

I’ve ordered some more spare parts for my DMM (except for the MN3005’s; those are darn near impossible to find, let alone find them at a decent cost). Although my two DMM’s are essentially the same, they do sound significantly different. I’m going to change out the op-amps and replace the caps in the spare one…that should help.


SwingByte – bites the dust…

Late last year at one of my golf lessons my LPGA instructor showed me a new “gadget” called a Swingbyte. It attaches to the shaft of your club, you pair it up with an iPad (or iPhone) app and it gives you some numbers and records them as you swing (and hit a ball).

After using it for all of one minute we could both see that the way the device is attached to the club was a big fail. It would twist on almost every swing and you’d have to realign and sometimes calibrate it again. So while it worked it was somewhat of a deterrent to use.

If you’re of the mind that these swing “add-ons” are going to give you as much or as accurate information as a Trackman, give your head a shake. A big shake. That’s the same kind of thinking behind buying a driver that will correct all your swing faults. Having the best equipment money can buy is not going to help anyones swing faults. Especially for the long term.

As my instructor pointed out, these are good for one thing. Reference. For example, assume you normally have an open club face at impact. You can make a minor change, re-swing (or better yet swing 3 times), look at the number the Swingbyte gives you. Confirm you’re either going in the right direction or not. Work on it.

I use mine for swing alignment. I.e. reducing the out-in or the in-out path. Do I care if it says I swing 105mph or 85mph? Not in the least. Because in all honesty I have way of knowing if it’s accurate or not. What I could do, if I was working on swing speed is look at the numbers to see if I’m going up or down in speed.

This year SwingByte announced “VERSION 2”. An entire redesign of the shaft “zit”, well really, that’s what it looks like, a new clamping mechanism and an updated app. Plus they’d happily give you a discount if you ordered one sight unseen. That’s called “blind faith”. And at times, as was in this case, misplaced faith.

But hey, for the cost of a couple dozen of Pro-V1’s, I took a chance. In hindsight, even considering I’d eventually lose the Pro V1’s, they would have been a better investment.

So what’d you get for $100 plus shipping?

IMG 3728

It’s kind of a good thing it’s white cause if it was grey it’d look like a slug on the shaft of your club. Some complain that it gets in their line of sight and find it distracting. I didn’t get to use it that long but even so it didn’t bother me.

The new clamping setup, which is promoted to “never” come unclipped, seems like it should do the job.

IMG 3730

In my experience with it, all evidence to the contrary. I’m an 8 handicap, senior and I don’t have a sonic boom swing speed. I had less than 30 hits at the driving range before my Swingbyte broke:

IMG 3732

The clip part that is supposed to wrap around and lock the whole assembly in place is held in place by two aluminum “rivets”. Really. Nice soft malluable aluminum.

When I contacted Swingbyte and supplied them with a photo of the less than stellar parts, they admitted there was a problem with some of the assembly runs and the rivets were not “seated” correctly.

The second annoying part is that the USB cover on the end of the Swingbyte pops open on every hit. It needed to be made of rubber for a better friction fit not the El Cheapo plastic that, luckily, is tethered, but still pops off.

Last and a big fail is the LED lights in the SwingByte itself. There’s a pair of them in there that light up for power and a good connection. if you live in a climate that has any amount of sunlight forget trying to see them. At least without cupping your hand around them like you’re trying to light a butt in the wind. I figure during the testing phase of these, it was winter and dark. In which case they’d look fine.

Swingbyte was very helpful in correcting my unit. I was offered the option to send it back, if I paid for shipping (apparently you have to reward shoddy engineering) or a replacement clamp. I thought long and hard about it because I really could use a couple dozen Pro V1’s. In the end, I decided that I’d take the replacement clamp, if that didn’t plan out and I have no expectations about it doing so, I’d design my own with some of the HandyMan’s best friend. Yep. Duct tape…

On the down side, as quick as Swingbyte is to mail me the replacement part, I do believe they sent it by outrigger canoe. Five weeks to get a replacement part tells me they either don’t have any, they had so many failures they ran out of spare parts, or it really did come by barge or something.

So I’ve used it since I repaired it right? No. It’s full swing (no pun intended) golf season right now. I tend to practice in the off season and that’s when this gizmo will see the light of day again. And maybe by then I’ll have my own clamp setup made.

My advice to those thinking that a Swingbyte will cure all manner of ails, you have two choices.

Buy some more golf balls.


Sign up for some golf lessons where the instructor has PGA accredited credentials after their name. That right. If you’re going to invest in golf lessons, you want to use a PGA (or CPGA) professional. You don’t want a club fitter, or CGTF or USGTF. If you’re going to spend your money wisely, plan on spending some time looking for a PGA professional instructor who is more interested in your game than you are…