cutouts and fingers designed to foil people
Sunday, December 6 2020
I got out of bed at around 11:00am. Gretchen had taken the dogs for their walk and they'd already got back into bed. They would stay in bed until Gretchen got home after 7:00pm. I made a french press of coffee for myself and Powerful; it was my first caffeine since Thursday.
I have a chonky old NP-943 486-based laptop that I traded for a painting back when I still lived in Charlottesville. It's got a smeary passive-matrix greyscale screen and is generally useless for anything, but I've got the idea of perhaps ripping out its guts and replacing them with a Raspberry Pi and a color display. The keyboard of the old NP-943 is pretty nice, though, and it would be great to reuse that, especially since it fits its own case perfectly. There's a flat ribbon cable that connects this keyboard to the 486-based motherboard and it only has ten conductors on it, which is not nearly enough to provide row and address for the 60+ keys on the keyboard. This suggests there is some sort of serial interface semiconductor on the keyboard, a theory strengthened by the presence of a PS/2 keyboard interface on that same board. But the keys were so tightly fastened to the board that it was impossible to see what its circuitry looked like, and all the wires from the ribbon interface seemed to go to pins of individual keys, which didn't make any sense. There were also only eight unique conductors of the ten on that ribbon. I tried to hook up enough of the old laptop to figure out what signals were being carried on what wire, but in so doing I reversed the polarity of the +5 and GND on the motherboard. The only noticeable effect of this was that the 486 started getting hot quickly. Once I discovered this problem and fixed it, the board managed to beep a few times, but I'll need to hook up a data analyzer or an oscilloscope to see what's going on (if I haven't already destroyed what I need to work).
Here's another tech story I wanted to share from recent days. As you may remember, our household has a cable-based landline connected to six Panasonic-branded DECT 6.0 plus handsets. We've had this setup since 2012, and some of the handsets have started showing their age with symptoms like semi-responsive buttons. So the other day I ordered a single Panasonic DECT 6.0 handset. It was a later model, and I had no problem getting it to join our existing network. The problem came when I wanted to charge the new handset. It seemed a little big for the chargers I had on hand. Some investigation revealed that this was all deliberate, much like the cutouts and fingers designed to foil people trying to use their GreenWorks charger on a different device (even if they require the same voltages). This technique also makes it impossible to use a DeWalt battery on an unmodified Black & Decker tool, even though they come from the same manufacturer. It turns out, though, that I have a surplus of Panasonic chargers to experiment with, so, I believe it was yesterday, I modified one by soldering short length of 1-gauge copper wire to the terminals in the charger so they would stick up high enough to engage with the handsets' terminals (which, I noticed, had little cutouts to ensure that they stayed a sufficient distance from older Panasonic chargers). This modification, though a bit rough and hacky (it required some enlargement of holes through the plastic) made it possible for me to recharge the new handset.
This evening Gretchen brought home some burritos from a new vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) restaurant called Veggie Oasis, which is in the site of a former pizza restaurant at Winchell's Corners (out on Route 28 somewhere along the reservoir). She got me the black bean burrito, and it was pretty good, though I wouldn't say it measured up to a San Francisco burrito. Powerful and I ate our burritos much faster than Gretchen ate hers, which ticked her off. She was already kind of pissed at me for grudgingly giving her some of my burrito when she requested it "to taste." "I fucking got the burrito for you," she'd exclaimed. It had been a fair point, but the thing about burritos is that once I start eating them I don't want to stop. Otherwise it will disintegrate and result in a hard-to-eat mess. Powerful comes from the same school of thought. The solution, though, had been to cut off a part of my burrito before I even began to eat it.
I don't know why Veggie Oasis is choosing to start in the middle of a pandemic, but they have. Perhaps the place became available because the pandemic killed off the restaurant that had been there before. There will probably be other restaurants that won't survive, and it would be great if a few of them were reborn in a form more suitable to our diets. The best case scenario we can think of is as the Hurley Mountain Inn died and came back as a Portland-style punk rock vegan bar & grill (with live music!).
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