Saturday, December 10, 2016

Don't Be a Cotton Headed Ninnymuggins T-Shirt Iron-On Transfer Design

This line from Will Ferrell in the movie Elf has turned into a bunch of t-shirts.  

When my wife wanted one for a Christmas party we were going to, I decided to duplicate one of the designs by hand in Inkscape, which would then allow me to resize it as large as I wanted without distortion.  I already had some iron-on transfer paper in stock.

Here's the inkscape svg file if you want to iron-on this design to your own t-shirt.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Obsolete" Yamaha/Mando Marine Alternator Drop-In Replacement for YSC-10140-01-AC

The short version:

Smoked 51A Mando alternator
Yamaha part number YSC-10140-01-AC
Mando part number A000B0511
  • 25 year old alternator with Yamaha part number YSC-10140-01-AC failed
  • An exact replacement is no longer available
  • This one worked as a replacement
  • Do your own research, don't blame me if it doesn't work for you.

The long version:

My dad has a 1993-ish Sylvan Barritz that he purchased new.  The boat gets used only about 3-4 months out of the year, and pretty infrequently at that.  Still, our family has gotten almost 25 years of enjoyment out of this boat with relatively little trouble.

Last year (2015), he had a little bit of trouble with a 60A breaker between the alternator and the battery that kept tripping.  One time it tripped and would not reset while he was out in the middle of the bay with some friends.  The solution at that time was to simply eliminate the breaker, which would let them at least get back to shore.  The thinking was that maybe the breaker was flaky after all of the time the nearly 25 year-old boat spends sitting, from fall through spring.

Still enjoying the heck out of this 90s Sylvan Barritz that my dad bought new
(2012 Photo)
This year (2016) he had the entire boat reupholstered, and it looks like new.  He was excited to get it on the water, and my kids were excited to go swimming, so for the first voyage this year he and I decided to take it out and iron out any kinks from sitting all winter.  Launching was fine, and after a little cranking she started right up.  We headed east from Gladstone across Little Bay de Noc for our shakedown run.  The boat was running well and we got her right on plane.  Things were looking fine until about half way across the bay the engine suddenly died and smoke started pouring out from under the engine cover.

Some quick investigation and we found that the 'bush fix' of eliminating the 60A breaker was thankfully not done in a serious or long term way.  The two 8 gauge wires that were meant to be connected and protected by the 60A circuit breaker were smoking and mostly melted, and the small sheet metal screw that was intended last year as a stop gap measure to hold them together had thankfully let go, preventing a major fire.

The boat has made hundreds of trips across Little Bay de Noc.
Often my dad will take multiple trips carting family and friends over
to a nice swimming area on the east side of the bay.
(2013 Photo)
Obviously, we had a dead short on our hands somewhere.  Nothing else in the boat would draw as much current as an oven, which given the smoke and melted wires, is what we had.  We waited a bit for the wires to cool and then tried to touch them together where they had formerly been held with a screw.  This produced a violent arc, as the two red wires were now somehow one red, one black.

Tracing the heavy wire around the back of the engine we discovered that the wire attached to the back of the alternator was somewhat melted-looking.  This indicated that somehow internally the alternator had failed, causing a dead short to ground.  It was now clear that the 60A breaker tripping in 2015 was a warning shot; the alternator was telling us that it had provided almost 25 years of service and could do no more.

Luckily my dad had a few tools on board, so without too much trouble we pulled the main wire from the back of the alternator and again tried to touch the red wires together.  This time, no arc.  This confirmed the suspicion that the alternator was the cause of the short, and without the 60A breaker in the circuit the wires had no choice but to become toaster elements.

We were able to start the boat up and run it back to shore without the alternator, knowing that the battery would power the starter and ignition system, but without the alternator we would only be okay as long as the battery would stay about 9-10V or so.

After landing the boat we pulled her home and I pulled out the old alternator.  We found it had a lot of missing cooling fins and the unit would rattle when shaken.

Sidebar:  Let me briefly describe the engine in this boat.  It is a GM-derived 3.0L 4 cylinder.  Someone should write up the entire history of this thing, but from what I've read, it appears to be developed for marine use by Mercury Marine (however some sources say Yamaha developed it).  Some people say it derived from the 2.5L iron duke, others say no, it was an older engine.  Nevertheless this engine seems to have a home in lots of boats.

The stern drive is another story.  This particular one is from Yamaha, and from what I can tell it is quite rare in the US.  A search of marine forums for "Yamaha 3.0L stern drive" and you will find posts where people are in search of parts, or they bought such a boat as a 'project boat' and quickly found they can't find parts for the stern drive.

Still, I thought finding an alternator would not be a big deal for this thing.  Another side note: I quickly discovered that you *must* use a marine alternator replacement, as they are fitted with spark arresting devices to avoid igniting the fumes in the engine compartment.  Do NOT attempt to replace this alternator with an automotive unit!

A first search yielded a guy trying to sell this exact alternator, used, for $300:

Absolutely no way would I purchase a 25 year old alternator for $300.  I blurred out the seller name above as I don't want this to reflect badly on him; if he can get $300 for it, more power to him.  But having the exact replacement isn't necessary.  If I can get a 60A unit or a 40A unit it should work fine.  (Even a 90A unit would be fine if I knew that the wires would handle the current and the existing circuit breaker were upgraded.)

You can search around and find out more panic-inducing results like this one from, indicating that it is NOT AVAILABLE and OBSOLETE even thought it used in a lot of different marine engines:

$301 new, but obsolete and not available

Finally I hit on DB Electrical and their AMN0016, which is also available at their Amazon Store.

Specs are nearly the same.  The stock alternator was 51A, this one is listed as 55A.  It is marine-grade.  It has a one year warranty.

The only difference I can find, physically, is that this unit has a single pulley while the stock unit had a double pulleys, for use in two different mounting applications.  Still, if you need a different pulley offset in your application you can swap out the single pulley for the double that you already have.  So don't scrap the existing one until you have the new one in your hands.

I tried calling DB Electrical to discuss this application before I bought it but their tech support line on July 5th was busy, with > 20 minute wait time, so I decided to just order it.  As long as the housing matched the picture it should work fine.  The bolt that it pivots on is a huge 1/2" grade 8 monster, and that hole diameter and the width of the mounting 'foot' was what I was going to ask about.

Here it is installed.  Note the single pulley that came on it was perfectly aligned.  It is literally a drop-in replacement.

DB Electric AMN0016 installed, replacing the broken YSC-10140-01-AC 

The datasheet that came with it:

I wasn't there for the first trip after installation but my dad reports that it worked flawlessly.  He notes that it isn't charging at idle, but just above idle he is seeing 14V on his voltmeter.  This seems to be confirmed by the datasheet above; there is no current output until about 750 rpm or so.  This might be remedied by swapping on a slightly smaller pulley if you need charging while at idle.  Typically you're not sitting and idling the boat for long so I don't think this is a problem.

Disclaimer:  I post this information in the hopes that it helps someone else.  You are responsible for your own property and you are responsible for doing your own homework and research.  If you are not comfortable with a non-standard replacement, you can have the original unit rebuilt (find a starter/alternator repairman), or you can try your luck with a 25 year old used replacement.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

[FIXED] Fellowes DM8C Paper Shredder Motor Never Stops Running

Fellowes DM8C
A long while back I bought a Fellowes DM8C paper shredder.

Over the years, it has shredded just about anything I've fed it.

It is designed with an infrared LED emitter and receiver in its mouth, whose job it is to trigger the shredder's motor to start as soon as a piece of paper breaks the invisible beam of light that passes betweent the two components.

When shredding is complete, the document is no longer blocking the beam, and after a short delay shredding stops.

For the past few years, this automatic start/stop feature hasn't worked.  I've cleaned it several times, but without any luck.  A cell phone camera can usually 'see' infrared light, but I couldn't see anything coming from either of these guys with mine.  To be sure I could see IR light, I tried my TV remote, and my cell camera could see it as plain as day.  So, I figured maybe the infrared emitter had gone bad.

Location of the infrared sensor
What next, except to take it apart?

Disassembly is pretty easy, the silver piece lifts off of the catch bin, and on the underside of the silver piece there are about 7-8 Phillips screws.  Remove them all, and you'll be staring at the shredder assembly as well as a small control board.

With the unit taken apart I could get a clear view of the IR LED with my phone camera, and indeed I found that it was dimly lit.  So, the LED wasn't bad.

With the IR emitter and receiver both on long leads, I was allowed to bring the two components close enough to be touching.  At this point the shredder DID shut down as it should.  If I tried to separate them slightly, the shredder would turn on.

So, the circuit was working as it should, but it was too sensitive.  I needed the emitter and receiver to be far enough away that they could be mounted in their factory locations.

I tried my best to understand the circuit by taking a photo of the component side of the board, a photo of the solder side of the board, and then using GIMP to superimpose a flipped image of the solder side on top of the component side.  By rotating and scaling the solder layer, I could position it over the component layer and then kind of trace out a rough schematic.  This method was somewhat successful:

Using GIMP to try to understand the IR portion of the circuit.
Gimp isn't really friendly for making straight lines and technical notation.  For that, I think Inkscape is better.  Above you can see how sloppy my freehand mouse drawing is.

Here we find a few important components:

Shredder's control board

  • [A]  The connection to the infrared LED
  • [B]  The connection to the photo diode (IR receiver)
  • [C]  LM324N, a quad op-amp (datasheet)
  • [D]  Resistor "R30", value 1.8k ohms, that goes from the cathode (negative) side of the LED to ground

Now, not being a hardware expert but at least pretending to be, I determined that the op-amp part of the circuit was used as a comparator.  If the IR light is present, don't do anything (op-amp output low).  When the IR light falls below a threshold, trigger the motor to start by setting the op-amp's output high.

So, I thought of two approaches to solving my poor sensitivity issue:

Approach 1: Alter the sensitivity of the comparator by playing with resistor values.
Here's another circuit involving an IR emitter that is probably very close to what is done here.  The designer of that circuit wisely incorporated a variable resistor so that he could adjust sensitivity.  I didn't have a decent selection of variable resistors in stock, and I wasn't entirely sure which resistor to alter.

Approach 2: Increase the brightness of the IR LED slightly.
Again, I don't plan to analyse the entire circuit here.  This is a blog about tinkering.  I found that the resistor marked "D" above would just restrict current through the LED, so why not choose a slightly smaller value for this?

I chose the second approach, but would've preferred to figure out the first approach.  At the end of the day, I already spent a few hours messing with this and I wanted to wrap it up and have the shredder working again.

I swapped out the 1.8k resistor for a 1.5k ohm, which I had in my inventory.  Subjectively, I didn't notice any change in brightness with the cellphone camera, but I did notice that I could hold the emitter and receiver farther apart now.  It seemed like only a couple of millimeters but it was a noticeable difference.  Now I could install the emitter and receiver back into their factory holders, and the shredder remained off.

Well, the problem is solved and the shredder is sitting here quietly waiting for a job.  It was a waste of an afternoon but I learned a little bit about op amps.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dell Inspiron 3520 Wifi Upgrade (Goodbye, Broadcom 43142)

I bought this laptop in 2012 for $399, and the biggest complaint I've had about it, by far, is the Broadcom 43142 Wifi card in Linux.  I even completely switched distros once to get the updated BlueZ Bluetooth stack, hoping for better Bluetooth support.  Nope.  I switched back to Linux Mint.

In Windows the card has seemed to work well, but in Linux -- not so much.
  • Frequently reports signal strength as 100% but has no connection at all
  • Bluetooth will stop working after the laptop sleeps in Linux (a boot to Windows will resolve this problem, presumably because the card gets updated w/ fresh firmware)
  • Terrible wifi reception when the card is actually working
I wrote once before about my frustrations with this card, and I had another article written about my experience with BlueZ and Arch Linux, but I never published it, and probably won't.

You win, Broadcom, I can't beat you.  So you're sitting on my desk, and I bought the Intel 7260 from Amazon to replace you.

Removal of the old card was a snap:
  • Remove the keyboard
  • Disconnect the antenna coax cables
  • Remove one screw that secures the card
  • Tilt the card out
Installation of the new card is the reverse of removal.

wskellenger@marquette ~ $ sudo apt-get remove bcmwl-kernel-source

Booting into Windows it was almost as if I made no changes, the device was detected and drivers installed.  It just worked.

It was the same booting into Linux, the card was identified and started working without any intervention on my part.  I can't say the same for the Broadcom card, which required some Googling to initially get it running in Linux.

Update Feb-9-2016:
I had some dropped connections with dmesg showing a bunch of stuff like this:

[  415.105430] cfg80211: Calling CRDA for country: US
[  415.110984] cfg80211: Regulatory domain changed to country: US
[  415.110992] cfg80211:   (start_freq - end_freq @ bandwidth), (max_antenna_gain, max_eirp)
[  415.110996] cfg80211:   (2402000 KHz - 2472000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2700 mBm)
[  415.111000] cfg80211:   (5170000 KHz - 5250000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 1700 mBm)
[  415.111004] cfg80211:   (5250000 KHz - 5330000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111007] cfg80211:   (5490000 KHz - 5600000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111010] cfg80211:   (5650000 KHz - 5710000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111013] cfg80211:   (5735000 KHz - 5835000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 3000 mBm)
[  415.111016] cfg80211:   (57240000 KHz - 63720000 KHz @ 2160000 KHz), (N/A, 4000 mBm)

Typically after seeing some stuff like this the connection would drop.

Solution:  This post has the steps that resolved this issue for me. 

Chrysler 3.6L Pentastar V6 Oil Filter Replacement

Last weekend, when I went to perform an oil change on my 2014 Wrangler, I could not figure out where the oil filter was!  After consulting the interwebs, I was delighted to discover that the 3.6L V6 has a replaceable element oil filter, much like the 2.4L I4 in my 2010 Corolla.

Chrysler 3.6L Pentastar V6 Oil Filter Location

The benefits to this design are readily apparent:

  • No steel canister that winds up in a landfill
  • Cheaper and easier to produce, with fewer raw materials
  • Less unused oil gets disposed with the filter
  • Less weight
  • Can offer more filter surface area for less money

Needless to say, I'm a fan of this design.  On the 3.6L Pentastar V6, the oil filter is mounted on the top of the engine, so when it gets removed, the excess oil drains back into the engine and not all over the floor.  Unlike the 2.4L Toyota I4, you don't need a special tool for this one.  I used a 15/16" socket and a 1/2" drive ratchet.

A WIX filter is available from Amazon for under ten bucks.  (I got mine from my very capable local parts store and I paid only slightly more than this.)

I already had some experience with this type of filter, but I figured it is likely others haven't, so I made a short YouTube video documenting the replacement process:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rescuing a Motorola Droid Razr M (or any other Android phone) from the Junk Drawer

I was up in northern Michigan visiting my parents over the Christmas holiday, and I discovered that my mom had placed a Motorola Droid Razr M in a junk drawer.  I remember her being extremely frustrated with this phone, and the few times I looked at it for her, I noticed it was STUFFED with bloatware that couldn't be removed because they were all installed as system apps.

Anyway, sure, she says I can have it.  I have a project in mind for it that will probably place it back in their hands anyway, but I like it so much, it might be my new ATV GPS.  (The beautiful OLED screen is easier to read in sunlight!)
The Motorola "Droid" Razr M
Turns out, this is a great little phone!  It is a "world phone" (I'm old and I guess that term isn't used anymore), so it supports both CDMA and GSM.  It ships with the SIM unlocked, which means that should you leave the US, in theory you can plug a drug store SIM card in and get service.

The trouble is, Verizon has prevented the use of this "world phone" inside the United States on GSM networks.  If you try to insert an AT&T SIM card or a T-Mobile SIM card, you'll be SOL.  It turns out, as some smart guys on XDA have figured out, there is only one byte (arguably ONE BIT) that stands between you and your Razr M living on cheap drug store pay-as-you-go SIM cards here in the US.

Several years ago I mentioned on this blog that modern smartphones are amazing pieces of technology.  Where else can you find a high res, touch-sensitive color screen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, a 2000+ mAh battery, SD storage, and above all, a Linux kernel + Android?

Out of the junk drawer, this phone (and many others) can be immediately used for:
  • Standalone GPS navigation with an excellent app like OruxMaps (for Geocaching or for outdoor use)
  • Streaming music from Amazon or Google Play
  • Playing MP3s
  • Watching video on Netflix or YouTube
  • Casting video to Chromecast
  • Getting News and Weather
  • Reading books with the Kindle app
  • An Alarm Clock
  • Playing Games (MAME4droid or Angry Birds, anyone?)
  • this list doesn't end....

Once all the crapware is removed, the Razr M runs the stock Android 4 (Kit Kat) beautifully.  It also has near-field communication (NFC), which I don't even have on my daily driver phone (Moto G 1st gen).

A negative is that the Razr M lacks a gyro, which means it can't be used with Google Cardboard.

To prepare this phone for tinkering, we need to do a few things.


Root the device following these instructions.  This method took a little messing around, but I was able to get root this way in about 30 minutes.  One of my problems was that I had a flaky USB cable that was making data transfer a bit difficult.  This alternative root method may also work, and is said to be much easier.  I didn't discover it until later so I didn't try it.

Once rooted, install these apps from the Google Play Store.  All of these are pay apps and most of them are less than a pint of beer.  Some of them are less than a bottle of water.  Seriously.  If you spend maybe $15 on these apps, combined, you will have them forever AND you can use them on other Android projects.  Skip one visit to Chipotle and buy these instead:
  • Tasker (duh)
  • Secure Settings (with the Pro upgrade)
  • Titanium Backup
  • Optional: Busybox Pro (Pro has nicer installation options)


With root attained, we need to give the phone a courtesy flush.

The amount of crap Verizon ships with this phone is unimaginable.  There is no doubt that many first-time smartphone users have been soured on Android and switched to iOS because their experience with Android was poor.  Was the poor user experience the fault of Android, or was it all the bullshit installed on the phone that the user never wanted, and is unable to remove?  Most of these apps are just using data, consuming RAM, tracking location, and burping up useless notifications.

Does Apple allow their phones to be shipped to the end customer with so much garbage pre-installed?

Frozen apps appear with a blue bar in Titanium Backup
Using the extensive list here (look for the debloat list), freeze as many of these useless apps as you want using Titanium Backup.  Some of the apps, like Facebook and IMDB, can actually be completely removed without fear of screwing something up.  For other apps, it is safer to use the 'freeze' option in Titanium Backup to disable the app and make it invisible to Android.  If the phone starts misbehaving, you can easily unfreeze the apps to make them visible again.  The debloat list on XDA is extensive and perhaps overkill.  I *want* the Play Store and I *want* the YouTube app.  I don't want notifications from Verizon telling me to set up cloud storage.

In Titanium Backup, just press/hold on an app in the Backup/Restore list, then click the "Freeze!" button:

The button marked "Freeze!" will disable the app
and make it invisible to Android without actually removing anything

Airplane Mode

Since I don't plan to actually use this phone as a phone, it is best to put it into airplane mode.  This will disable all of the radios on the phone (Wifi, Bluetooth, and Cellular) and significantly increase battery life.  However, since you probably want to access the Play Store, you probably want to re-enable Wifi AFTER the phone is already in airplane mode.

You can use Tasker + Secure Settings to automatically enable Airplane mode at every boot, and subsequently re-enable Wifi.

Ready for Use!

That's it, with root and all of the crap removed, the phone runs really well and is ready to use immediately for any of the tasks I mentioned earlier.

I've got a project in mind that I will write more about in the future.