Posts from March 2008.

UPS modification

Modified UPS

Modified UPS


When I was in college in the very early ‘90s (that’s 1990’s wise guys) I was given an old, and I do mean old, UPS that had a bad battery. Back then you didn’t have google shopping, shop.com, or the other plethora of ways to find replacement parts for odd items. So I had a uninterruptible power supply, with no battery. What to do? What to do?

I’ll tell you what I did: I drilled a hole in the case, ran battery cables into it, and wired up a $95 sealed, maintenance free, marine, deep cycle battery. The battery was HUGE. I’m sure it had over 1000 cold cranking amps (which doesn’t mean much talking about this particular application) and I’d guess it had more than a 100 ampere hour rating.

Over the lifetime of the UPS, I had several fully loaded systems running off it: a 486DX with a 14” CRT monitor, a Pentium 60 with a 17” CRT, and an AMD-K2 with a 17” CRT. I build or upgraded my own systems with new guts, so the power draw on these systems just kept increasing as I added crap to them. The UPS worked flawlessly for six years and on occasion supplied power for longer than eight hours at a time.

There’s something inherently funny about being in the middle of a blizzard, no heat, no light, and still being able to mud via modem and phone line on a 486 computer with your internet friends across the country.

Good times… Good times.

Well, the battery died. I worried about the safety of the UPS with it being so old. I knew more modern UPSes would have better circuits for battery maintenance, and safety. So I bought a newer UPS, then a few months later another, and another. I didn’t attempt what I had done in college for fear of burning down my house, gassing my family to death, or causing an explosion and being horribly disfigured by acid.

Well, all three of the UPSes I bought stopped functioning properly between one and two years after purchase; right after the warranties were up. I ran for a while without power protection other than surge and lightning protection of course.

So, what changed my mind about fire, gas and acid, you ask? Well, there are two factors that contributed to my change of heart. The first being more frequent power issues. One week we had two very minor power interruptions that lasted for several hours each. Both times I lost internet connectivity and work. It was very annoying. One was a car accident taking out a pole while the other was a falling tree or branch taking out a line. The second factor is my small problem with hoarding. Yes, in some alternate universe in a previous life I was a Gold Dragon. I can’t throw stuff away. I have a very hard time with it. I hate the idea of my junk being buried in a landfill somewhere. So, I had all three of these UPSes on a shelf in my attic. I started a project of cleaning up and cleaning out. I was going to recycle or reuse what I could and throw away what wasn’t useful or recyclable.

When I came across the UPSes, I went looking for replacement batteries. Two of them were 24V systems. Five tiny little 7 or 9 amp hour batteries were going to cost me a small fortune. It wasn’t near as cost efficient as buying batteries from an auto parts store. So I decided to do some research and do what I had done before, once more.

There are several good resources for reading up on this.
Dan’s Data has an article on how to Upgrade your UPS! And some good video how-to on You Tube: Turn small home UPS into giant UPS, Car battery UPS, and a list of others.

One thing to notice, some of these people are not using SEALED batteries. It’s very important to use a SEALED battery for use inside your home. When a lead acid battery is charged it can produce a poisonous gas and you can suffer harm from it. Don’t be stupid. Don’t use a vented battery in your home. If you’re going to use a battery that isn’t SEALED, use it where there is ample ventilation.

There are several different types of sealed batteries you can use: gel batteries, dry cell, or sealed lead acid (SLA). You can buy an Optima Yellow Top battery, which is a sealed, dry cell, deep cycle, high performance battery. This is the Rolls Royce of batteries. If you can afford it, get it. I went with two 35 amp hour Werker batteries from Batteries Plus. I felt they were cost efficient and safe. Plus they were made in China, and we all know if there’s one thing China does well it is definitely LEAD.

So, two batteries, wired in series, pictured far above — the white wire connects the positive and negative poles of the batteries, then the remaining positive and negative poles get the red and black wires respectively. This wiring produces a 24V battery out of two 12V batteries.

Really, there’s nothing fancy or stupid about that, it’s how batteries work. If you have a remote control that takes two AAA batteries but only one little grove to put them in, you put them in facing the same way right? ( + – + – ) That’s wired in series, and it makes 3V from two 1.5V batteries.

I didn’t like the terminals being exposed, so I added a battery box, and some wiring channel to produce my final product below.

My Battery Box

My Battery Box

The one battery box holds both batteries inside. The UPS is a CyberPower brand; but, if you want to do something similar you can use just about any UPS you have laying around, the brand doesn’t matter.

For my next project, I’m going to wire up four 12V batteries into a 48V system and use a server sized APC Smart UPS I have laying around, surplus, in my garage. But that’s a project and a blog for another day.

If you plan on doing this, do some research. Talk to an electrician. Be smart about it. A 12V battery can deliver non-trivial damage to flesh, either by a spark or by acid burns. Be careful.

And in closing I feel the need to have you agree that you will hold me, my family, heirs, and executors harmless for anything you chose to do after reading this blog. You understand I’m not telling you to do anything or how to do anything. I’m just sharing what I’ve done and what I know. If you try something similar, and lose an eye, or in some other way damage yourself, loved ones, family, friends, etc., you understand it was by your own actions and is, was, and forever will be your own dumb fault. You agree that you will be a grown up and take responsibility for your own actions. And you understand that you are on your own.

How that for a disclaimer? My mom used to just say, “Don’t be stupid.” But I think in todays climate, you have to spell things out for people.

Jesus was an Alien

Alien Egg Easter

Alien Egg Easter

I woke up this morning feeling more warped and crazy than usual. Being the day before Easter, and being that the tradition is to dye eggs, I looked critically at my canvas (the egg in my hand). I tried to envision Charley Brown stripes across it’s surface, and different twirls and colors, when I happened to turn it up-side-down.

I was flooded by feelings of shock and horror as the repressed memories of the X-Files being cancelled came rushing back. Choking back tears I heard those simple notes and knew the truth was out there. I could trust no one. I had to get my message out. The question was how?

How indeed? What was my message? What was my age again? And, what on Earth was I talking about? Oh, yeah, not on Earth, right.

Green Alien Easter Egg

Green Alien Easter Egg

After my tearful memory passed, I chuckled to myself and took a raw egg and died it green. Yes, a RAW egg. Boiling eggs is so 1984. I died a RAW egg green, let him dry, put glue where the eyes should be, rolled him in purple beads, poked a hole in the top (his head?), poked a hole in his bottom (his vent?), put a miniature bellows to his head, squeezed lightly and his egg guts dribbled into a bowl.

My hollow alien egg. This is actually the second egg I tried. The first one was decorated completely awesomely, however it exploded when I tried to blow the guts out the tiny vent-hole. Yes, I got egg all over my face. This guy’s actually upside down, But who cares? He’s still out of this world!

A sun-burned Grey?

A sun-burned Grey?

So after egg dying was over, I decided to make the black egg this year. I tried a different method though. I poured all the different dye bowls together into one giant bowl and dipped my egg inside. Unfortunately it didn’t turn black.

It turned pink! Oh well, these are a race of aliens that Mulder and Scully hadn’t run into yet… I guess. Maybe?

Oh, fudge, it’s Easter and Jesus was an alien! So there, I said it. Everyone was thinking it anyway. I know you were because that’s what this entry is titled. Pink alien egg, 1984 hard boiled, but at least he’s right side up and his eye’s are symmetrical.

My eldest daughter (who goes by the web pseudonym of Tweedle-L) got into the L. Ron Hubbard, scientology act with her twisted old man with her rendition of the monsters who come at night and experiment on her.

They're coming to take her away.

They're coming to take her away.

Little, green, nazi, aliens, that’s where it’s at this year.

Luckily, my wife had something to do with our children. They aren’t little, freaky, female clones of myself. My youngest daughter (Tweedle-A, who faithfully attends a religious pre-school) decided that her daddy was being ‘Sacrilegious’ and told me to stop. So I did.

Easter is not about Aliens.

Easter is not about Aliens.

We cleaned up. Not wanting to waste the egg insides I just blew out, I decided to have some lunch. A little food coloring in the eggs and I soon had a wonderful Dr. Seuss meal, Green Eggs and Ham.

The Illuminati are sending me a sign.

The Illuminati are sending me a sign.

Pay no attention to the fact that those eggs look like an illuminate pyramid with three orbs above it. Really, I wasn’t going for anything other than green eggs and ham. I just realized this striking coincidence when I imported the photos from my wife’s digital camera.

Then again: Trust no one! The truth is out there!

The Real Mr. Potato Head

The Real Mr. Potato Head

The Real Mr. Potato Head


Tweedle-A came home from school one day with a whacky, cut-up, potato. It looked like Mr. Potato Head had a crude lobotomy; and, by crude I mean it looked like preschoolers had operated by removing the top part of his head instead of taking those funky chunks of gray matter out through his nostrils. Googley eyes and buttons for ears, this potato’s cranial opening was packed with cotton balls covered with grass seed. A little water, and a few days later and Mr. Potato Head was sporting a green mohawk in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Definitely something to blog about.

Santa Rosa Slug

Technerd Master of Disaster

Technerd Master of Disaster

Bryan, pictured here, has been having issues with his new Santa Rosa MacBook. He recently took it into an Apple store to have it repaired. Apple then sent him an on-line survey where he could only leave 2k of comments. He asked me to post this on-line so he could send Apple a link to his comments and tell the world that they are selling rotten produce. Bryan’s comments are below in blue.

To Whom it may concern:

Apple needs to get an actual engineer in the store, not just someone with a “Genius” title that can reload software or recommend replacing the motherboard — they did not know what the issue was and asked me what I wanted them to do.

I am fairly new to Mac’s (six months now); but, I have two minis and I’m on my second generation of MacBook. I am getting very used to what works and what does not work on them. I wasted three hours in the car, only to be told there was nothing wrong.

There is definitely something wrong. My new Macbook is a “B” series with an x3100 video chipset, 2.2GHz CPU, 4GB of memory, and 160GB hard drive. I was shocked to find out that it runs slower than my “A” series 2.0GHz MacBook with only 1GB of memory. There are obviously some issues here than no one in the store wanted to address. As I mentioned earlier, the “Genius” asked me what we need to do to fix it, last time I checked, he was the “Genius” and he should have told me what is wrong with it. There are issues here that may remain unresolved for a long time.

The issues I see are:

Excessive rainbow pin-wheeling when streaming video
Horrible boot time
Tiger is unsupported

Yes, you read that correctly. I am stuck with Leopard because Apple will not write a driver for Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4) to run upon the “B” series MacBook hardware. How completely messed up is that?

I ran quite a few benchmarks using Xbench, and found that there are some obvious issues with the video chip or video driver in the new Santa Rosa series MacBook. I ran Xbench 1.3 which is the same software that other reviewers of Apple products run. This is the best way to stress all system components to their limits.

Sadly my Core 2 Duo 1.83GHz Macmini benches higher than my new Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz MacBook. As you can see below, the Mini trounced each new “B” version MacBook except the MacBook Pro. The following tests were run with newly loaded images of both Tiger and Leopard.

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Macmini 2.0G memory, 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, 80GB HD

Results 103.57
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.2 (9C31)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model Macmini2,1
Drive Type ST980825AS
CPU Test 115.33
Thread Test 174.65
Memory Test 126.59
Quartz Graphics Test 161.02
OpenGL Graphics Test 271.48
User Interface Test 233.71
Disk Test 32.13

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MacBook 4.0GB memory, 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 160GB HD

Results 67.31
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.2 (9C31)
Physical RAM 4096 MB
Model MacBook3,1
Drive Type ST9160823AS
CPU Test 119.32
Thread Test 206.37
Memory Test 147.08
Quartz Graphics Test 164.04
OpenGL Graphics Test 22.60
User Interface Test 250.51
Disk Test 33.74

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In Store Floor Model 2.4GHz MacBook “B”

Results 77.25
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.2 (9C31)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model MacBook4,1
Drive Type FUJITSU MHY2160BH
CPU Test 162.39
Thread Test 329.42
Memory Test 169.93
Quartz Graphics Test 187.39
OpenGL Graphics Test 25.10
User Interface Test 260.84
Disk Test 37.69

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In Store Floor Model 2.4GHz MacBook Pro

Results 124.05
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.2 (9C31)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model MacBookPro4,1
Drive Type Hitachi HTS542525K9SA00
CPU Test 167.60
Thread Test 306.51
Memory Test 166.67
Quartz Graphics Test 184.99
OpenGL Graphics Test 167.95
User Interface Test 324.84
Disk Test 37.37

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The MacBook Pro scored best overall. What’s telling is how poorly the new “B” series did on the Open GL Video scores. Surprisingly the Mini clearly ran away with the best Open GL Video score, beating out even the MacBook Pro on this task!

One would expect that a machine with a 400MHz faster CPU, a better video chip set with double the shared ram, and twice the system memory would kick the crap out of a Macmini. Am I right? I personally think there is an issue here that Apple is refusing to acknowledge or wants to cover up.

If someone at Apple would care to contact me and address these issues, I am all ears. In the meantime, I am very unhappy with the run around I got at the Apple store. I expected a resolution; I would have settled for an acknowledgment, documentation, and escalation of the issue. There is a serious issue here and it needs to be addressed before EVERYONE that buys one of these machines gets stuck with the same issue.

The new MacBook should not have been shipped in their current production state, unless Apple is now subscribing to the Microsoft theory: “Ship it now, and we’ll fix it later!”

Sincerely,
“Soon to be previous Macbook Owner if it Does not Get Better” Bryan F.
itpmguru@yahoo.com

So, it seems from Bryan’s testing above that Apple and Santa Rosa aren’t playing nicely together. I would highly advise anyone reading this to delay purchasing Apple’s newest hardware until these major flaws are resolved.