Shaun Merrigan's Information Pages


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HP 8903B Audio Analyzer PCB Pad Replacement

Electronics, Test Equipment. Comments Off on HP 8903B Audio Analyzer PCB Pad Replacement

18th August

HP 8903B Audio Analyzer PCB Pad Replacement

Visual inspection of my recently acquired HP 8903B Audio Analyzer revealed that the polymer pads on the bottom side of the main PCB were seriously deteriorated:

 

 

 

Besides making an unsightly mess, this residue may form corrosive products which, over time, could damage the PCB.  Also, the pads no longer perform their bottom cover to PCB isolation function.  So all the old pads and residue had to be removed and new pads installed.  Lintless wipes, isopropyl alcohol, and nitrile gloves were the chosen tools.

 

 

 

The residue cleaned up completely, and new pads were installed. I won’t need to be concerned with this failure mode again.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Shaun Merrigan

 


Tektronix 7854 Waveform Keyboard Rebuild

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tech. Comments Off on Tektronix 7854 Waveform Keyboard Rebuild

15th August

Tektronix 7854 Waveform Keyboard Rebuild

From the Tek Wiki:

The Tektronix 7854 Waveform Processing Oscilloscope, introduced in 1980, is a 400 MHz combined analog / digital mainframe in the 7000 series that takes two vertical and two horizontal 7000-series plug-ins. In addition to a conventional analog (real time) scope, it contains an equivalent-time sampling 10-bit digitizer and a programmable waveform processor with GPIB interface. The waveform processor can be programmed using a detachable calculator-style keyboard, using postfix operators (“reverse Polish notation” like HP calculators) that operate on entire waveforms, not just individual numbers.

Tek 7854 Mainframe #2 after cleaning

 

It is to the repair of the detachable keyboard that this post is devoted.  I purchased a keyboard for a reasonable price only to find that some keys were intermittent, and some did not work at all.

Opening up the keyboard showed that it was filled with debris:

The … Read More »


The uTracer Tube Tester and Curve Tracer

Electronics, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on The uTracer Tube Tester and Curve Tracer

14th August

The uTracer Tube Tester and Curve Tracer

I have completed building my uTracer (micro Tracer) computer based vacuum tube tester and curve tracer.  This unit, designed by Ronald Dekker described on his website:

The uTracer is much more than a simple tube tester; it is also a curve-tracer. It measures both the anode as well as the screen currents for a range of specified bias conditions, and arranges the measurements in meaningful sets of curves. From these curves parameters like the transconductance or the output resistance can then be extracted and plotted as a function of bias. Alternatively the uTracer can be used as a tester which extracts important parameters like Ia, Rp, gm and um in your favorite bias point in a matter of seconds. http://dos4ever.com/uTracer3/uTracer3_pag0.html

Ronald Dekker makes this tester available as a kit, with detailed assembly and testing instructions.  One of … Read More »


Tektronix DSA602A Digitizing Signal Analyzer

Electronics, Oscilloscopes. Comments Off on Tektronix DSA602A Digitizing Signal Analyzer

14th August

Tektronix DSA602A Digitizing Signal Analyzer Part 1

I recently had the opportunity to purchase one of these units, and I am thoroughly enjoying the process of  checking its operation and getting to know how to use it.  This unit is a laboratory grade, very accurate digitizing oscilloscope from about 1990.  From the Tek Wiki entry:

Inputs
3 amplifier bays, up to 12 channels (using 11A34 plug-ins)

Resolution
8 bits; averaging of N acquisitions increases by log2(N) up to 14 bits

Display resolution
50 pixels/Div

Sample rate
DSA601, max 1 GS/s; DSA602, max 2 GS/s (one channel, left plugin)

Record length
512 to 32768 samples

Sweep rate
50 ps/Div  to 100 s/Div

ENOB
7.2 bit up to 10 MHz, 6.3 bit @ 250 MHz, 5.7 bit @ 500 MHz, 4.5 bit @ 1 GHz

Screen
magnetic deflection color computer monitor, 10″ diagonal (130 mm × 168 mm), 552×704 pixels, 22×11 infrared touch-screen grid

Power
90-132 V or 180-250 V, 48-72 Hz, 465 W (DSA601A) / 585 W (DSA602A)

Features

Automated signal measurements (rise, fall, period, frequency, width, delay, phase, duty … Read More »


Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 3

Electronics, Oscilloscopes. Comments Off on Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 3

7th May

Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 3

 

Part 1

Part 2 

This is the conclusion to my repair of a Tektronix 202-2 Scope-Mobile Cart.  Recall that the problem was three fractured trunnion mount bosses which rendered the cart useless (and unsafe) under load.  My proposed solution was to place the bosses into compression by putting a 6mm countersunk bolt through the trunnion mount concentric with the existing hole in the boss.  By using appropriate sized washers between the top of the boss and the frame member I ensure that the boss is placed into compression and the frame member is securely clamped.  This avoids the tensile loading which fractured the bosses initially.

 

The holes in the trunnion mount were countersunk to fit the flat head socket bolts:

 

 

 

 

The cart was reassembled with the repaired trunnion mounts:

Felt lining was added to the plug in storage compartment:

 

Finally, the cart … Read More »


Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging

Ring Doorbell, Tech. Comments Off on Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging

24th February

Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging

This is a follow-up to an earlier post I made concerning the cold weather performance of the original Ring Video Doorbell. I have had the opportunity to observe the behavior of both the original Ring (i.e., the non “Pro”) and the Pro versions through several cycles of very cold (down to -30C) weather over the past two years, and I can now draw some conclusions.

Background information:

I have both the original Ring and the Ring Pro
The original Ring is hardwired to my mechanical chime doorbell
The Ring Pro is hardwired to my mechanical chime doorbell
The voltage at each doorbell is in the 19-20 VAC range (Klein CL1000 portable DVM)

Conclusions:

The Ring Pro doorbell seems unaffected by external temperature.  It operates properly even through prolonged stretches (10 days or more) of -20C to -30C outdoor temperatures.

The original Ring doorbell … Read More »


Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Testing: Vertical Bandwidth

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tektronix 556. Comments Off on Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Testing: Vertical Bandwidth

27th January

Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Testing: Vertical Bandwidth

I have been doing some basic testing of my Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope, and I have documented some parts of this process.  I have also captured images of the traces, which I will share here.

Test Setup: Tektronix 556, 1A2 plug-in, Timebase A, Tektronix SG 503 Generator, and Tektronix TG 501 Time Mark Generator

I found the -3db vertical bandwidth of the 1a2/556 to be 65 Mhz, which is to be expected for the 50 Mhz rated 1A2.

 

TM 500 Module with Plug ins

50 kHz Reference Signal 6v peak to peak

5 MHz Sine Wave 6v peak to peak

20 MHz Sine Wave 6v peak to peak

40 MHz Sine Wave 4.8v peak to peak

50 MHz Sine Wave 4.3v peak to peak

65 MHz Sine Wave 4.2v peak to peak

I will continue this testing by investigating the absolute maximum trigger … Read More »


Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 2

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tektronix 556. Comments Off on Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 2

22nd January

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 2

In this continuation of Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 1, I have removed the motor and mount assembly and disassembled it.  Now I need to figure out the problem and rebuild the motor.

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Overview, mounted in place

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor removed from mounts.  The Tektronix part number is 147-0029-00.

 

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor removed from mounts.

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor removed from mounts.

The next few images show the disassembled parts of the motor:

Rotor, end bells and bushing assembly

End bell inside, retainer, spring washer felt and bushing.

End bell and bushing assembly

Rotor and spacers

At this point I found several issues by visual inspection:

The original rear bushing had been replaced, probably due to excessive internal wear.
The replacement itself had excessive internal wear and it did not fit in the retainer properly due to its shape.
The replacement … Read More »


Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 1

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tektronix 556, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 1

19th January

Tektronix 556 Fan Motor Repair Part 1

I was recently fortunate enough to acquire a Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope with many accessories and in good condition.  Unfortunately, the cooling fan on the scope was very loud and more concerning, it emitted an alarming metal on metal contact sound.  After verifying basic operation of the oscilloscope, I decided to repair the cooling fan.  This process is documented in the images and commentary that follow.

Part 1: Removing the Noisy Fan Motor

556 Cooling Module with filter and mesh screen removed.  The fan is connected to the chassis wiring at the ceramic terminal which is circled:

Fan to chassis wiring connection terminal.

 

Inside of cooling module and bottom side of motor (fan blade removed):

Back side of motor (fan blade removed).  This is a 4 pole 1725 rpm (loaded) motor.  It moves a very large volume of air.

An … Read More »


Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 2

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tech. Comments Off on Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 2

7th January

Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 2

This post continues my repair of the Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart and  trunnion mounts. Here is Part 1, which details the problem and my proposed solution.

The original design used 5/16″ button head bolts which screwed into the bosses and attached the aluminum box frame member to the polymer trunnion mount:

It is obvious that overtightening these bolts put the bosses into tension which caused them to fail.  The gap between the member and the boss “spring loads” the system and puts additional tensile stress on the boss.  While an aluminum casting could easily handle these stresses, the polymer obviously could not.

What I did was to glue the fractured bosses into place using a low surface energy epoxy and use them as a drilling guide (see Part 1).  Then I drilled completely through the trunnion mounts with a drill press, using … Read More »


Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 1

Electronics, Oscilloscopes. Comments Off on Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 1

6th January

Tektronix Scope-Mobile Cart Repair Part 1

I was lucky enough to obtain a Tektronix 202-2 Scope-Mobile Cart.

 

Upon examining it, I found that the scope tray was loose and the tilt mechanism did not function properly.  The cause for this was broken trunnion mounts on both sides of the cart as follows:

 

 

Three of the four bosses were fractured with the fracture surface indicating tensile overload.  I suspect that the bolts were overtightened and the bosses fractured. Overtightening loaded the bosses in tension by trying to compress the box frame member.  Unfortunately this type of polymer (some type of hard thermoplastic) is not good in tension.

Other mobile carts I have seen use cast aluminum for these trunnion mounts, which is a better choice for strength and durability.  The cart I have for my 556, a 205-2 (triple wide), uses cast aluminum trunnion mounts.

 

 

 

I … Read More »


New Vacuum Tube Box Scans

Electronics, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on New Vacuum Tube Box Scans

6th January

New Vacuum  Tube Box Scans

I have uploaded several new vacuum tube box scans including Philco, Canadian General Electric, Wards, and Hitachi (Hit-Ray):

 

 

Thanks,

 

Shaun M.


Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Images

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tektronix 556, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Images

31st December

Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope Images

What follows is a series of images of my Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope displaying various waveforms.  I am learning about this scope and how to use it.

A brief description of the unit can be found here: Tektronix 556

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Shaun M.



Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Tektronix 556. Comments Off on Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope

5th December

Tektronix 556 Dual Beam Oscilloscope

I had recently the unique opportunity to acquire a complete Tektronix 556 Oscilloscope setup.  This comprised the oscilloscope itself, the matching scope cart, original manual, probes and 12 plug-in units.  This in itself is rare enough, but in addition, this particular scope has the optically desirable blue phosphor CRT and Tektronix C-27 Camera Bezel.   This 50 MHz bandwidth oscilloscope was the state of the art when it was introduced in the mid 1960’s: Tekwiki Tek 556

This will be the first of many posts and updates as I work my way through checking and restoring this beautiful scope.

And now some images:

Thanks!

 

Shaun Merrigan

 

 


Tektronix Oscilloscopes 7904, 2467B, 2465B at 1GHz

Electronics, Oscilloscopes. Comments Off on Tektronix Oscilloscopes 7904, 2467B, 2465B at 1GHz

30th October

Tektronix Oscilloscopes 7904, 2467B, 2465B at 1GHz

The images to follow show a 1 GHz sine wave (amplitude not changed during the testing) on the following Tektronix oscilloscopes:

Tektronix 7904 with 7A24 vertical (400 MHz) and 7B92A horizontal

Tektronix 2467B (400 MHz scope)

Tektronix 2465B (400 MHz scope)

 

 

 

 

 

I have checked the bandwidth of the both the 2465B and 2467B used here, and they meet the 400MHz requirement at -3db (using a Tektronix SG504 with leveling head).  The bandwidth of the 7904 mainframe + 7A24 vertical plug-in used in this test is about 450 MHz (-3db), but it remains at almost that level out to > 600 MHz.  At 1 GHz I can still easily get 175 mV of signal on the screen of the 7904 + 7A24 where the two newer scopes can only manage  25 mV or less.

Shaun Merrigan


Tektronix 7904 Oscilloscope

Electronics, Oscilloscopes. Comments Off on Tektronix 7904 Oscilloscope

30th October

Tektronix 7904 Oscilloscope

Here are some images of one 7904 mainframe  with a 7A24 vertical module and a 7B92A horizontal module.  The scope screen shows the pulse from an S52 pulse head; the rise time is about 850ps which translates into a bandwidth of about 412 MHz.  Since the 7A24 plug-in is specified at 400 MHz, this is about right.

 

 

This is the same pulse from an S52 pulse head but using an S4 sampling head instead of the 7A24 vertical amplifier

 

Shaun Merrigan


Tektronix 7000 Series Equipment

Electronics, Oscilloscopes, Time and Frequency. Comments Off on Tektronix 7000 Series Equipment

25th October

Tektronix 7000 Series Equipment

I am doing some testing on recently acquired Tektronix 7000 series equipment.  Involved in these images is a Tektronix 7904A mainframe using a 7S12 TDR/Sampler plug in with an S52 pulse generator and S4 sampling head.

The rise time on of the pulse is about 32ps which translates to a bandwidth of about 11 GHz; all this for a few hundred dollars.

Shaun Merrigan


Fallout 4 Vacuum tubes and Nixie tubes

Gaming, Nixie Tubes, Tech, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on Fallout 4 Vacuum tubes and Nixie tubes

8th February

Fallout 4 Vacuum tubes and Nixie tubes

I have been working my way through Fallout 4 and during my explorations I noticed that the labs and military installations are loaded with vintage vacuum tube equipment.  I thought I recognized the front panel of at least one piece of gear:

Front Panel render from Fallout 4 (Bethesda Softworks):

 

 Now compare this image with the front panel of the Racal RA-17:

The resemblance of the Fallout 4 render to the real Racal RA17 is striking.  This Racal-like front panel appears in nearly every lab and/or military installation that I have explored.

Another rack of equipment very frequently seen in labs and military installations is this one:

 

Fallout 4 Equipment Rack (Bethesda Softworks

This image clearly shows:

A nixie tube display (round tubes like the Burroughs 5092)
Twin green phosphor CRT displays
Several analogue meters
A row of … Read More »


NEST Thermostat Network Isolation

NEST Thermostat, Ring Doorbell, Tech. Comments Off on NEST Thermostat Network Isolation

6th February

NEST Thermostat Network Isolation

With the proliferation of IoT (Internet of Things) objects such as smart thermostats, sensors of all kings, video cameras, video doorbells, light bulbs, media hubs and the like it comes as no surprise that security problems are cropping up.  These IoT devices are proving to be a door through which malicious software can gain direct access to your home network behind your router.  An excellent summary of the potential security problems with IoT devices can be found here InfoSec Resources Iot Security Summary.   The takeaway is that these devices are vulnerable, and attackers can use them to penetrate your home network.  Once an attacker gains access to the network behind your router, they have the “keys to the kingdom”.  What is the solution?  As usual with home network security, there are several solutions ranging from relatively … Read More »


Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging Problem and Solution

Ring Doorbell, Tech. Comments Off on Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging Problem and Solution

23rd January

Ring Video Doorbell Cold Weather Charging Problem and Solution

I installed a Ring Video Doorbell (RVD) last spring (2015) and overall, I am quite happy with the utility and performance of the unit. Like any new IoT (Internet of Things) device there will be issues, growing pains and problems to be solved.  This post concerns the cold weather performance of the Ring Video Doorbell.

There are several relevant background points:

The Ring Video Doorbell is installed hardwired
The Ring Video Doorbell charges from the wiring above about -19C (-2F)
The Ring Video Doorbell is installed in a single family residence with the camera facing the street
The Ring Video Doorbell wireless signal has to penetrate wire mesh stucco and several walls to get to my router

Initially, I had my RVD motion settings to maximum sensitivity (30 ft radius) and “Standard” Alert frequency.  This meant I was … Read More »


Numitron Clock Project

Tech, Time and Frequency, Vacuum Tubes. Comments Off on Numitron Clock Project

21st February

Numitron Clock Project

Numitrons are low voltage incandescent display devices perfected and marketed by RCA (see RCA advert above) in the early 1970’s.  I would call this a bridge technology as the display is incandescent, but can be driven by integrated circuits.   They were quickly displaced by solid state LED (light emitting diode) devices from the mid 1970’s onward.

This is a Numitron:

The look and feel of a Numitron display appeals to me and I wanted to reboot my building and soldering skills , so I decided to build a Numitron clock.  I based my clock on the RCA DR2000 which has a beautiful 15mm display height and a board and parts kit (no longer available) from Richard White.  Here are some images of the construction process:

  

And here is an image series of the finished clock just before, at, and … Read More »


Sonos: Music library not found fix

Tech. Comments Off on Sonos: Music library not found fix

2nd January

Sonos: Music library not found fix

I have a wired Sonos system and a central media server (WHS 2011) which hosts all my media content .  Prior to  the latest Sonos update (v5.2), I had no problems accessing my music which is hosted on the server via any connected Sonos controller on either PC’s or iPads.  Post v5.2, however I lost access to the music library.  I tried:

Deleting the shared music folder and re-adding it from different controllers
Modifying the shared music folder permissions on the server
Confirming that SONOS was added as a user on the server
Installing the Sonos controller on the server (!!) and adding the shared directly from the server

All of the above attempts failed with the same error:  The computer “server123” cannot be found.  What is important here is that all my other music sharing services (iTunes, Windows Media Player, … Read More »


HP/Symmetricom Z3805A GPS Disciplined Oscillator

Tech, Time and Frequency. Comments Off on HP/Symmetricom Z3805A GPS Disciplined Oscillator

22nd November

I recently acquired two HP/Symmetricom Z3805A GPS Disciplined Oscillator receiver/clocks.  These units seem to have several different configurations both inside the box and of the box itself, but all appear to have:

Two 10Mhz outputs
Two 1PPS outputs
24v DC power requirement

Inside the box, I have seen reports of:

HP 10811 DOXCO (10Mhz)
Symmetricom  DOXCO (5Mhz with a doubler)
MTI 260 DOXCO
16 channel GPS receiver (newer builds)
6 channel GPS receiver (older builds)

The box itself can be Samsung rack mount or HP benchtop.   My particular units were older  Samsung rackmount builds, but do have the desirable HP 10811 DOXCO.   Both units had older 6 channel GPS receivers that exhibited the 1024 week GPS rollover bug.  (That is, they displayed a date that was 1024 weeks in the past due to nature of the 10 bit week counter used in the receiver.)  I simply swapped the GPS … Read More »


Lucent KS-24361 HP/Symmetricom Z3809A, Z3810A, Z3811A, Z3812A GPSDO system

Tech, Time and Frequency. Comments Off on Lucent KS-24361 HP/Symmetricom Z3809A, Z3810A, Z3811A, Z3812A GPSDO system

9th November

Lucent KS-24361 HP/Symmetricom Z3809A, Z3810A, Z3811A, Z3812A GPSDO system

I have updated my Time and Frequency GPSCon pages to show my recently powered on Lucent KS-24361 HP/Symmetricom Z3809A, Z3810A, Z3811A, Z3812A GPSDO system.

The GPSCon page can be found here: Lucent GPS

Here is a photo of the unit:

In a nutshell, these two units each contain a Double Oven Controlled Quartz Crystal Oscillator (DOCXO) made by Milliren (MTI).  Both of these oscillators are GPS disciplined using an onboard GPS timing receiver located in the REF 1 box. 

These are NOS (new old stock) surplus units which were manufactured around 2000.  The useful outputs are 10 and 15Mhz and 1PPS.  It will be very interesting to see how this unit performs over the long term.

 

Shaun Merrigan


Nest connectivity and charging problems solved

NEST Thermostat. Comments Off on Nest connectivity and charging problems solved

9th November

Nest connectivity and charging problems solved:

I have two NEST thermostats; one first generation and one second generation.  I experienced intermittent connectivity issues with my gen1 Nest soon after I installed it.  Initially I determined that it was not charging properly so I brought out the “C” (AC Common) wire from my furnace control board to the NEST and the charging problem was solved.  When I  installed the gen2 NEST, I made sure the “C” wire was available at installation.  I have no charging problems with either NEST now.

 

Connectivity problems would come and go, sometimes going many weeks or months between incidents.  I tried many solutions (port forwarding .lease times, static ip, etc) with varying degrees of success.  The connectivity problems were irritating rather than debilitating; most of the time the NEST worked fine.  The same pattern occurred after I installed … Read More »


NEST Connectivity Issues Solved

NEST Thermostat, Tech. Comments Off on NEST Connectivity Issues Solved

12th October

I have two NEST thermostats, one v1 and one v2. The v1 had been ticking along fine until about July 2014 when I began to experience connectivity problems. More specifically, the thermostat itself would say that it was connected properly,  but the NEST browser and mobile apps would show it as offline. I tried all the usual fixes: reboot, restart, reset, both (router and NEST), static ip, DHCP Leasetime tweaks, etc.  Long story short, nothing I did solved the connectivity issues.

As it turned out, I was reconfiguring my home network and decided to change my main router from a Netgear WNDR4500 to an ASUS RT-AC68U. This change has resolved all my NEST connectivity issues. NEST Connectivity Issues Solved !  Both my NEST thermostats are fully connected and accessible any time I check them. It turns out that the RT-AC68U has … Read More »


Dell Poweredge CS24-SC Servers

12th October

I recently acquired two Dell Poweredge CS24-SC Servers, each equipped with dual Xeon 5420 processors and 8GB of ECC ram. I love this industrial grade gear because:

1) the excellent quality of construction
2) ease of servicing and use
3) designed to run 24/7 for years
4) no frills, but good solid, reliable hardware
5) Baseboard (BMC) management features
5) amazingly power frugal with the right settings

These servers were (reportedly) part of a large run of 10,000 or more units manufactured for cloud/cluster computing. Many of them have turned up in the surplus market over the past few years. The units I obtained had sequential serial numbers and were configured identically. They were very clean and in excellent condition. The BMC firmware was the latest available version, and the motherboard firmware was the penultimate version. I therefore chose not to attempt any firmware upgrades.

I installed Linux … Read More »


Landscape Photo Diary Updated

News, Site Updates. Comments Off on Landscape Photo Diary Updated

30th June

Landscape Photo Diary Updated

I recently had the opportunity to photograph the area around Drumheller, Alberta.  This is a spectacular and beautiful area of Alberta. I took time to walk and drive parts of the now abandoned CN Drumheller Subdivision (CN Rail).  This particular subdivision winds its way through some wonderful areas of the Alberta Badlands.

I have put up a selection of my landscape and railway images on my photo website:  Drumheller Badlands, Spring 2014

 

Enjoy the wonderful Alberta Summer!

 

Shaun M


Nest thermostat: Should I assign an IP or Not?

NEST Thermostat, News, Tech. Comments Off on Nest thermostat: Should I assign an IP or Not?

25th June

Nest thermostat: Should I assign an IP or Not?

The question is: Does assigning the NEST thermostat a static IP using your router result in a more reliable wireless connection?  For my first generation NEST running v4.2.3 of the NEST software, the answer is a definite no.

Background:

I am using my home router as a DHCP  server in order to assign IP addresses to various devices behind it.  This is the typical default behavior of most home routers.  I like to tweak the setup, however and assign static IP addresses to various devices so that troubleshooting is simplified and  IP address conflicts are avoided.

My NEST thermostat connectivity had been generally very good, until a couple of weeks ago when I found that the NEST thermostat could not connect reliably to my router.  (I had updated my router firmware about that time as … Read More »


Xbox 360 Power Supply Replacement

Gaming, News, Tech. Comments Off on Xbox 360 Power Supply Replacement

17th January

Xbox 360 Power Supply Replacement

If you own one or more Xbox 360 in its various incarnations, including the newer 360S and 360E, you have likely experienced a power supply failure. These units all use an outboard power supply which plugs into the wall outlet at your local voltage, and connects to the 360 by a special power cable. I say special cable because the cable and plug design has charged numerous times over the years. The failure modes that I have experienced go something like this:

1) The power supply (“brick”) begins to get noisy on power up, but then settles down to its former noise level in a few minutes. This behavior continues for a few weeks or months. At this point I generally take the brick outside and blow it out with a super duster (canned air).
2) The noise … Read More »


Xbox One Media Center Solution

News, Tech. Comments Off on Xbox One Media Center Solution

24th December

Xbox One Media Center Solution

I have been learning the ins and outs of my new Xbox One over the past couple of weeks and here are some of my observations:

I like the tiled menu interface, and the look and feel of the menus
The entire system feels very fast and responsive
The integration of kinect seems to work well
No TV integration (guide or satellite/cable box) in Canada
Some games available, but nothing I am interested in as yet; let’s see what happens at E3
No Media Center (like the Xbox 360)

The last point is really critical for me.  I want to use my Xbox One for my own music, pictures, videos, recorded TV, etc.  In other words, I want Media Center functionality on my Xbox One.  This is right in line with Microsoft’s vision for the Xbox One :

“The all-in-one entertainment system. Where … Read More »


NEST Thermostat Update and Voltage Measurements

18th November

NEST Thermostat Update and Voltage Measurements

I have had my NEST Gen1 for almost 16 months now and I probably could not go back to a regular dumb thermostat, given the choice.  The NEST charging problem has been solved by connecting the “C” (AC Common) wire from my furnace to the NEST.  See this post for details: Nest Thermostat Charging Solution

I find the monthly NEST Energy Reports very useful, and I am saving them so that when I make important changes to our house (new windows, more insulation, more efficient furnace, etc) I can see an actual difference.

 

I thought it would be helpful to anyone still troubled by the charging problem if I posted my NEST reported and measured voltages:

Furnace running (heating) NEST Reported Voltages: Voc 38.33V, Vin 31.57V, Vbat 3.864V, Lin 100mA (i)

Voltage measured between Rc and C (Power and … Read More »


The Nike FuelBand: 5 Months On

News, Tech. Comments Off on The Nike FuelBand: 5 Months On

15th November

The Nike Fuel Band: 5 Months On

I purchased a Nike Fuel Band in late June 2013 with an idea that I could use it as a step counter over the summer and during the winter.  I did quite a bit of research, and examined competing products. While other products had more features, the Nike FuelBand was elegantly simple, easy to use, looked great and had the best software support (I do not use Android devices).  Since receiving it in June, I have used it continuously for over 5 months, and I am still using it.  How do I feel about it?  I love it.  It is easy to wear, rugged, and easy to use.   No gimmicks, no BS; it just works.

I love statistics, so the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly charts on the Nike website are great.  I can … Read More »


No Video Card Upgrade this round: No compelling reason

Gaming, News, Tech. Comments Off on No Video Card Upgrade this round: No compelling reason

15th November

No Video Card Upgrade this round: No compelling reason

AMD recently came out with their reference design for the R9 series of video cards (Hawaii Chipset): R9 Video Cards Overview .  I have read the reviews and the benchmarks, including comparisons to the 7990, GTX690 and Titan.  I see no compelling reason to “upgrade” my GTX690.  In fact, based on the benchmarks and reviews I have read GTX690 to R9 290X is more of a downgrade in power consumption, noise and mulit-monitor (2560 x 1600 X3) performance.  Crossfire is out of the question, since it does not support individual monitor color calibration, and I don’t even want to think about the TDP of such a setup.

I have looked through many benchmarks which have the GTX690 and HD7990 in the top spot for most games at the resolution I mentioned above.  The … Read More »


New Vacuum tube box scans

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29th October

New Vacuum tube box scans

I have added several new images to my gallery of Vacuum Tube Box Artwork.

The new images include Westinghouse, Tung-Sol and Quality Brand tube boxes.

 

 

Shaun M

 

 


New Section added: Vacuum tube glow, box scans and artwork

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27th October

New Section added: Vacuum tube glow, box scans and artwork

In the spirit of both preservation and exploration, I have added a new section to the the under Photography: Vacuum tube glow, box scans and artwork

Here I will be documenting the artwork used on vacuum tube boxes as well as showing some of the images I have captured of vacuum tubes while they are operating.  I will be adding more images over time as I work through my vacuum tube inventory.

 


Shaun Merrigan Landscape Photography Pages Updated

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26th October

Shaun Merrigan Landscape Photography Pages Updated

I have updated my Landscape Photography pages:  Shaun Merrigan: Landscapes from the Heart  Here are a couple of samples:

As well as my professional photography (Metallography, Scientific Photography) I am an avid landscape photographer. I work in medium format film and digital, and I prefer to explore the lonely and forgotten places on the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairies.

Shaun M.


Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver Fan Noise Solution Part II

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12th October

Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver Fan Noise Solution Part II

This post will furnish additional detail about installing a quieter and more efficient rear panel fan in the Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the duct/standoff/adapter can be made from wood. I chose solid pine because I had some in my offcuts box; plywood would be a good choice too.

The dimensions of the duct are: 75mm H x 60mm W x 15mm D as shown:

The holes are 55mm diameter (fan side) and 45mm diameter (receiver grille side). The hole on the receiver side had to be smaller in order to accommodate the 42mm bolt hole pattern of the OEM fan, while leaving enough material around the fastener holes for a sound mechanical joint. In addition, I happened to have 45mm and 55mm hole saws … Read More »


Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver Fan Noise Solution

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9th October

Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver Fan Noise Solution

I recently had the opportunity to acquire a Cubic Communications CDR-3250 VLF-HF Communications Receiver (two, in fact), fully functional, in very good condition. This is a very high quality, mil-spec receiver using DSP for the final IF, giving a large selection (51 possible, depending upon the mode) IF filters. It is stable, selective and has one of the best menu systems I have used in a receiver. Also the the audio quality and audio recovery is the best I have heard this side of a tube radio like the R390A or SP600JX. Oh yes, stereo headphones work (mono in both ears) properly from the headphone jack.

The receiver incorporates a small box fan in the rear of the chassis to pull air through cooling the modules and power supply (also at the rear). … Read More »


Windows Update Breaks Windows 7 Media Center Extender

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30th July

Windows Update Breaks Windows 7 Media Center Extender

This is a follow-up to my post regarding restoring Windows 7 Media Center after having problems with a couple of patches from Microsoft.
After restoring the WMC7 PC, most functions worked correctly, with the exception of:

1) TV Archive (it was working but failed on every file due to incorrect file permissions)
2) WHS 2011 did not longer see the restored WMC7 PC as a client, therefore automatic backups did not work, and the Lauchpad indicated that the WHS 2011 server was offline (it was not)
3) Some files, notably Recorded TV files, were no longer accessible from the WMC7 PC or from Extenders.

All of these issues were solved by performing the following steps:

1) Uninstall and then re-install the Extenders
2) Uninstall and then re-install the WHS 2011 connector software on the restored WMC7 PC
3) Make sure … Read More »


Windows Update Breaks Windows 7 Media Center Extender

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20th July

Windows Update Breaks Windows 7 Media Center Extender

The second Tuesday of the month has passed and Microsoft released another round of updates, fixing some critical vulnerabilities.

A summary of the July 9, 2013 update can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/bulletin/ms13-jul

It turned out that my Windows 7 64-bit WMC (Windows Media Center) PC had 17 updates available.  I applied all the updates, rebooting as required, and everything seemed to be running fine.

Unfortunately, I found that two of the patches had adverse effects on my WMC (Windows Media Center) Extenders.  Specifically, the Extenders (Xbox 360) would boot into Media Center and then report a “Connection Failure” , reboot into Media Center, report a Connection Failure, etc,  thus rendering them unusable.

After doing a system image restore to return the PC to its pre July 9 patch state (I have been down this road before), I … Read More »


Audible: Get it to work with WMP, Sonos and iTunes

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24th March

Audible: Get it to work with WMP, Sonos and Itunes

I recently looked into joining Audible again after a hiatus of several years.  Looking at the greatly expanded catalog, and the new owner (Amazon), I decided to take the plunge.  My goal was to have all the audio books available on all my devices: Audible, Windows Media Player, my  iPads and Sonos.  The good news is that this can be done, but the process is not straightforward. There are a number things to watch out for:

Only use Audible Audio Format 4 for replay on all of the above devices. This is the highest quality that is available on all the devices.  The “e” format sounds better, but will not play on Sonos or WMP
You need two pieces of software from Audible: the Audible Manager, and the Audible Download Manager.  It is … Read More »


NEST Thermostat Functioning Well after Wiring Change

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16th March

NEST Thermostat Functioning Well after Wiring Change:

Over a month on since I changed my NEST v1 thermostat wiring to include the “C” or 24Vac Common wire, it is working flawlessly again. We have had several cycles of cold (-20C) and warm (+8C) and there have been no problems with charge levels, network communication or connectivity.

I wonder why NEST does not strongly recommend the use of the “C” wire when it is so simple to install? BTW, if you are looking for a wiring diagram of your furnace and controller, check the back side of the access panel (Doh!!) on the furnace; it should be there.

I have e found a couple of very useful links for anyone in a similar situation and seeking a solution:

Adding a C wire to a Thermostat

When-Nest-needs-a-common-C-wire

Shaun M


HP Z3200 Photo Printer Scan Axis Drive Belt Replacement

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15th February

HP Z3200 Photo Printer Scan Axis Drive Belt Replacement:

I recently had to replace the Scan Axis Drive Belt (otherwise known as the carriage belt) in my HP Z3200 Photo Printer. I use the printer several times per week, but the print volumes I do are relatively light, so the belt did not “wear” out. Instead, the elastomer (rubber) component of the belt which binds the Kevlar strands together began to deteriorate and eventually disintegrated completely. Not only did this affect the Scan Axis alignment (see first image below) but it also left innumerable rubber crumbs throughout the paper path. I successfully replaced the belt and cleaned up the paper path and internals with a minimum of trouble, as well as replacing the noisy (howling) power supply fan. I should point out that I do have considerable background … Read More »


Gigapan Epic Pro Firmware Update Problems and Solution

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11th February

Gigapan Epic Pro Firmware Update Problems and Solution

Gigapan has a firmware update available for the GigaPan Epic Pro, here: GigaPan Epic Pro Firmware Update

To find out if you need it, check the firmware on your Epic Pro thus:

Select “Options” – “Expert Options” – “Firmware Version”
The current firmware version is P010100171-8.

I have a couple of very important tips for Windows users (Windows 7, specifically) which will help prevent any disasters from occurring (i.e., a botched firmware upgrade which will result in a dead Epic Pro):

1) Install the Firmware Upload Tool “As an Administrator”
2) Connect the USB cable from the Epic Pro directly to the motherboard, not to a hub or to the front panel USB ports on your PC. Not doing this caused my Epic Pro to lockup and not be recognized by Windows.
3) Run the Firmware Upload Tool “As an … Read More »


Nest thermostat battery charging problem and solution

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7th February

Nest thermostat battery charging problem and solution

My NEST (Generation 1) had been working flawlessly for several months, both summer and winter (heating and cooling) until about January 23rd, 2013 or so. Then it began to struggle with recharging, had network dropouts, disconnects, and began to insert Delay Times (apparently randomly, and up to 2 minutes in duration) into the heating cycle. I recharged the NEST using the USB interface a couple of times, only to find that it would run down within 8 or 10 hours and never recharge. With -25c temperatures for days on end, the last thing you want are strange delays and the resultant furnace cycle down/up and an unreliable thermostat. In fact one day with -40c windchill, the furnace would run for about 10 minutes and then cycle off as NEST inserted a Delay Time for … Read More »


GPS Clock Data Reset

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5th January

GPS Clock Data Reset: I rebuilt the equipment rack that holds my network gear, HPZ3801A GPS Disciplined Clocks and the Zotac micro PC’s that run the associated software. The result is that there have been several interruptions to the data stream which I upload and display here. So I reset the log files, and restarted the logging from zero. The good news is that all the critical equipment now has UPS backup, so in addition to delivering clean power to the devices, short interruptions in the mains will not cause the clocks to reset.


Mass Effect 3 Omega DLC

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24th December

Mass Effect 3 Omega DLC

I played through “Omega” last night and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There are new adversaries and weapons, and if you choose to take them on you will have a blast. I have read reviews about this DLC suggesting it was shallow and lacked focus. Well, I guess it depends upon how deeply you have explored your relationship with Aria in ME2 and ME3. I committed to helping her in ME2, and she (at least) respects my choices. I wish I could have recruited Nyreen along with Garrus earlier on….


Flickr Christmas Gift

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22nd December

For anyone who may be a Flickr Pro user, Flickr is giving a three-month extension to Pro accounts. When you sign in, you will be presented with a window to click through and accept the gift.

Merry Christmas!

Shaun Merrigan


NEST Thermostat Update

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21st December

NEST Thermostat Update

From November 30 to December 12 we had no wired internet connection. Therefore the NEST thermostat could not connect to NEST.com via our network. I found I had to turn off the NEST’s network connection so that it would not run down its internal battery constantly trying to connect to a non-existent network (Note: to the NEST team; this should be addressed). At no time did I ever lose local control, however. The NEST simply behaved like a typical sophisticated programmable thermostat. We have been experiencing one of the coldest winters in the last few years, so I can readily appreciate the very useful features of the NEST such as: tweaking the temperature from my iPad, making schedule adjustments via the iPad and viewing our energy usage.


Internet Connectivity Restored

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19th December

Internet Connectivity Restored: Our Internet connectivity has been fully restored. After a couple of hiccups scheduling the installation, and some effort required to reconfigure my new DSL modem, I am reconnected and back online. We now have a VDSL 25Mbps down / 2Mbps up connection with no caps. In fact, I am getting 24.5Mbps down and 2.6Mbps up consistently. Streaming video, gaming, etc are easily handled with this speed. My NEST thermostat is connected to NEST.com again, and my weather station is fully back online, as are my GPS Disciplined Clocks. Photography updates will follow.


Internet Connectivity Update

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30th November

Internet Connectivity Update: iPad saves the day

Due to the hot economy hereabouts (cannot schedule the technicians), my DSL upgrade has been delayed somewhat. But I had to terminate my existing DSL service in order to obtain an activation date, thus I have no high speed internet. However I can used my iPad as a roving USB connected hotspot (no bluetooth or wireless, thanks) in order to edit, update, get mail, etc. It is a kludge, but a secure and stable one until my 25/2 DSL is activated.

My internal home gigabit wired network remains fully operational, of course, so everyone is happy talking to each other and various devices; they just have no outside connection.


Internet Connectivity Issues Update

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28th November

Update to my ongoing Internet Connectivity Issues:

My ancient Zoom X4 DSL modem finally packed it in. I could not stand the connection dropping anymore, so I reconfigured my new ISP’s VDSL modem to work with my current (6MBps) connection. Naturally it is working fine.

This connection is due to terminate tomorrow and my new 25/2 connection will be activated. (Of course I saved the modem configuration, why do you ask?)

So with a bit of luck, I will be back on Friday.


Internet Connectivity Issues

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18th November

I am currently in the process of resolving internet connectivity issues that I am experiencing.

I am also taking this opportunity to switch ISP’s because my current ISP does not offer any residential ASDL beyond 6Mbps. I am switching to Teksavvy and trying their high speed (25Mbps) ASDL plan. Of course this means a new modem and a line speed change which will solve the connectivity issues too. I am about 800 meters or so from the CO, and should have no problem with 25Mbps ADSL.

What this means is that some of my pages (Weather Station, Cams, Clocks) may not be updated as frequently as expected.

I will update this blog as I work through the process.

Shaun M.


NEST Thermostat Update

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16th November

NEST Thermostat Update

Winter is certainly here now, and the NEST thermostat has been performing well. I have had some issues with my ISP and DSL modem which have prevented the NEST thermostat from connecting to the web for 12 or more hours, but local control has been maintained throughout. This is a good sign, and indicative of well thought out design. I have a V1 Nest, which does not include humidity control. However, I think that my solution: a dedicated humidity controller with an external temperature sensor is probably superior anyway. In my cold climate, we absolutely need an air intake temperature sensor to regulate the humidity. Think about this at -25C….

My gut feeling is that my house is more evenly warm now that in was with the conventional programmable thermostat (Honeywell) that I … Read More »


IE9 Problems IE10 Joy

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16th November

IE9 Problems IE10 Joy

I was experiencing the dreaded blank page problem with IE9: at some point during the day, newly opened pages appear blank. There is no solution but rebooting the machine, and nobody knows why. (I have tried all the posted solutions short of reinstalling Windows 7).

The good news is that whatever the problem was, installing the IE10 preview has solved it. No blank pages, crashes, hangs, or issues. I had nothing to lose because the “blank page” problem had apparently infected IE9 64 bit, which I had previously thought to be immune.

To my surprise and delight, 1Password is working fine in IE10, and I have turned off all the third party tracking cookies too.

I should make here a general comment about Windows 7. I am running Win 7 Ultimate … Read More »


RAID 6 Server using 3TB Western Digital Reds

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16th November

RAID 6 Server using 3TB Western Digital Reds:

The WD Reds are performing admirably; not a glitch or hiccup since the install. They are fast, amazingly quiet and reliable in 8 x 3TB RAID 6. I note that Adaptec is still not officially supporting this drive, but the Adaptec 6805 is working fine with 8 x 3TB Reds in RAID 6. All systems nominal.


Western Digital Reds Arrive, but Promise let me down

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10th October

I finally received my shipment of Western Digital Red 3TB Hard Drives which I had initially ordered in mid-August. I had thought that installing several of these drives in my Windows Home Server box would be a simple way to increase my RAID 6 storage space. Alas, I found out the hard way that my Promise Supertrack EX8760T RAID controller does not recognize WD 3TB drives and thus sees the WD Reds as 946GB, Sata II drives. In fact, they are 3TB, Sata III capable drives. A few emails exchanged with Promise Tech Support left me quite disappointed. In a nutshell, the Promise Supertrack EX8760T does not support 3TB drives, and there are no plans to support these drives in the future. Too bad, since the EX8760T is quite a robust card, and it has … Read More »


Nest Thermostat Update

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10th October

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my NEST Gen 1 thermostat updated itself to the latest software (V3) last week. This added a couple of new features like filter change reminder based on hours of use(forced air heating), energy use comparisons to similar house builds, Early On, Auto Schedule in Heat/Cool mode and several other new features. This is the same software that was rolled out with the Gen 2 Nest Thermostat, so I am not feeling left behind.

There were no issues transitioning from cooling season to heating season. We typically have 4-6 weeks in the fall and again in the spring where heating and cooling is not required, and we are just now getting into the heating season. I have had no issues at all with the NEST: Network connectivity has been … Read More »


Dell 30″ Ultrasharp on sale

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23rd August

Dell has their 30″ IPS Panel monitor on sale for $300 off. I have two of these and just bought another. This is a vastly under-rated monitor for photography (once calibrated) and it is great for gaming as well. Don’t miss this.


NEST Thermostat update

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17th July

The NEST thermostat has been operating faultlessly since I did the wiring reseat and SSID fix. We have had some very hot weather and I have been using the AWAY/AUTO AWAY modes, so I really appreciate being able to remotely cool the house down before arriving home. I also received an email from NEST showing me my cooling usage for the month of June. In aggregate, over time, this information will be very useful.

I am just finishing up the installation of a digital humidistat as the NEST has no provision for controlling humidity. I knew this before purchasing it, of course. I needed to upgrade my old wall mounted mechanical humidistat to a digital unit with a remote sensor on the fresh air intake in any case. This is particularly important in a cold … Read More »


Weather Station Tweaks and Updates

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24th June

I have completed several updates and tweaks to my Kildare Neighborhood Back Yard Weather Station:

Cumulus Software updated to v 1.9.3; most of the changes are under the hood.
Gauge Display page tweaked to a tidy 3×3 layout; this looks much better.
Web Cam repositioned for a better sky view and color images.

Shaun Merrigan


NEST Thermostat

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24th June

Further updates on my experiences with the NEST thermostat:

Although it is possible to enter a Canadian Postal Code using the NEST itself, I found that I could only change the geographic location ( City, Province) using the WEB app. The geographic location could not be changed using the iOS NEST app either, as that option is not made available. Having said all of that, once I made the changes using the WEB app, the proper location appeared on my NEST thermostat.

Had a problem earlier in the week with the NEST dropping my wifi connection and the battery not recharging. I did two things which solved the problem: first I reconnected all of the thermostat wires by pulling them out of the base plate (while pressing the release) and then pushing them back (not touching the release) to make sure … Read More »


NEST Thermostat

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2nd June

I installed a NEST learning thermostat (www.nest.com) this weekend.  No issues with the installation on my 2 stage heating 1 stage cooling, forced air HVAC system. I tested both heating and cooling and all worked fine. There are several problems which I have solved which may help other people who decide to install the NEST themselves:

1) The NEST will not behave as expected if the battery voltage is <3.7 volts.  For example, I thought that the proximity sensors were not functioning, and that I had some obscure network connectivity issues upon first installing the NEST. The NEST would not dectect me as I approached it (approach detection enabled) and kept dropping my network connection.  It turned out that ALL of these problems were related to the battery voltage being < 3.70 volts.

2) I could have waited several hours for the … Read More »


shaunmerrigan.info updated

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8th April

I have completely rebuilt the site; it is now based on WordPress rather than uploaded HTML code.

I have basically massaged a WordPress theme me into more of a website and less of a blog.  But this suits my purpose for the site, which is primarily a way to view my back yard weather station information and GPS clock data.