Saturday, January 31, 2009

BMX bikes, 1U rack computers, and LaserDisc players

I stopped by my brother's house yesterday afternoon to pick up the LaserDisc player. The player is a Pioneer LD-V2000, built back in 1989. The unit appeared to be ordinary on the most part as it isn't a side flipper and only has analog audio outputs. A little research on the Internet indicated it has one interesting feature. It has an RS-232 port and can be computer controlled. Software still exists to control the unit but it's for the hideous OS, Windows 98. I'll need to do some rooting around on the Pioneer site and see if I can find the command sequence for the unit. Maybe I can patch together a software application that is a bit more modern.

There was also a Dell 1U rack unit computer my brother was trying to get rid of. It's an older system with Dual Pentium 3 processors, probably around the 800 mhz range for speed. Nothing special but interesting none the less. The only thing that appears to be missing is the hard drive hot swap cages. Those might be a bit tricky to find.

One other project is in the works. Brother also sent a BMX stunt bike over for me to tinker with. I've been wanting a stunt bike for a while now and this little bike is a nice way to get started riding. It's an aluminum frame Dynacraft FLIP400 Vertical bike. Probably a Walmart special as I've couldn't find any details on the bike. The bike has two problems, the rear sprocket is totally missing and will probably require purchasing a used rear wheel to repair. The other issue is one of the brake cables is snapped. Nothing major there though. If and when I get the bike repaired, I'll need to find my protective riding gear. I'm getting to old to slam into the ground without armor. I did enough of that when I rollerbladed during my early 30's.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More retro goodies

Oh boy! More junk for the ever expanding wire jungle growing rampantly throughout my house. One of my brothers snagged a free LaserDisc player along with a few movies off Craig's List the other day. I have no idea what the player is at this point as I still need to stop by his house and pick it up. Several of the movies are kind of cool though as I heard him mention the titles "The Abyss" and "Aliens".

Spent a little bit of time out in the yard today. I'm eyeballing the single remaining chunk of sod in the backyard. Dragging a lawnmower back into the space for a small patch of grass will grow old in a hurry next summer. Never mind the fact that I think the average grass lawn is relatively boring. The current thought is to possibly replace the grass with a few ideas borrowed from a traditional Japanese Garden. The idea needs a bit of percolation before I give anything a try.

And for fun, here's are a pair of old photo's of something rather unusual, a suspension tower for a gas pipeline. The tower supported a natural gas pipeline that needed to pass over the top of the Missouri river. The pictures were taken around 1961 I believe. What do the pictures have to do with anything? Nothing, I just think the pictures are cool because the tower was such a prominent feature in the area I grew up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Adding a water fountain to the garden pond.

Since the sun was out yesterday, I decided to work in the yard for a few hours. While weeding away at some of the dandelions, I spotted my old whiskey barrel sitting idly in the greenhouse. Feeling creative, I decided to see if I could figure out how to put it into service as originally intended.

The whiskey barrel was meant to function as a holding bucket for water pumped through a old fashioned hand pump I'd set up next to the pond. The problem encountered initially was that the liner for the barrel didn't fit and the overflow lip was too short to reach the edge of the pond. With that in mind, I set about rooting around in the garage to find some way to make the water flow from the barrel into the pond. It didn't take long to find some PVC connectors that would work nicely. I bored a hole in the side of the whiskey barrel a few inches from the top edge. I then screwed a PVC threaded connector into the hole and inserted a 6 inch long PVC pipe to carry the water over to the edge of the pond. The picture below shows the pump and barrel sitting idly before the pond was completed.

Rerouting the water supply from my recirculation system, I was able to successfully test the fountain. It worked quite nicely but still needs some aesthetic improvements. My current intent is to see if I can build a shishi odoshi, or bamboo water hammer, to feed the PVC drain pipe into. That will require rustling up some other materials. For now though, I might try to build a water hammer out of PVC just to see how it works.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My new used NeXTstation

Well, I picked up the NeXTstation this afternoon. The system included a 25 MHZ non-turbo slab workstation - EPROM Rev 2.5 Version 66, a N4000 monochromatic MegaPixel monitor with two channel digital audio, and a video cable to connect the workstation to the monitor. What I don't have is a keyboard, mouse, or software. I don't think I need a soundbox as the monitor has sound output and keyboard connector.

The system has a known problem which manifested itself as a dead SCSI drive. No major problem there as happen to have an old SCSI one gigabyte drive in my stash of hardware. Hopefully the drive still works. I also have a crappy JAZ removable media SCSI drive along with one cartridge, either of which I am unsure of being functional.

The biggest problem is going to be dealing with the missing keyboard and mouse. The system looks like it is non-ADB. It may prove problematic to find an affordable keyboard and mouse. More research is called for.

Family Photos

Yesterday evening was spent with most of my family. My sister and her family, my mother, and my next oldest brother sat around talking for several hours before we looked over some family photos. Unfortunately, my oldest brother couldn't make it due to an emergency arising.

The photos were mostly from the 40's and 70's. The pictures from the 40's were primarily of my parents families. A number of really interesting pictures turned up that I'd never seen before. Among the more interesting photos was a picture of my Dad's parents. Until last night, I had never seen a photo of my grandfather on Dad's side of the family. It was pretty amazing to look at him for the first time. It was very easy to see the family resemblance in his face.

Other interesting pictures included a sequence showing a very large gas tower being erected near our farm. The tower is several hundred feet tall and looks like an inverted letter "Y". I ended up learning a bit more history about the gas tower as it was apparently erected during 1961, just a year before I was born. I may post some pictures once I've had a chance to scan the originals.

Some of the pictures were also from when my Dad was an infantry man in World War II. He took some picture from his tour of duty in the Philippines, New Guinea, and Japan. One of the coolest photos was of three young ladies in the Philippines. Two of the three had impressive looking tattoos totally covering both arms. I'd really like to take a trip and visit some of the places where Dad spent time. It would be really nice to look at the surrounding areas so I can better understand the stories he told me.

Our family photos were pretty cool too. There were a number of pictures from Christmas day celebrations. Looking at photos of myself was hilarious, skinny as a rail with hair that was still somewhat blonde. I'll have to post a then vs now photo after I scan the photos.

On a totally different subject. I may have snagged a really cool retro computer find off Craigs List last night. My brother spotted someone giving away a NeXT Station computer. I've been in email contact with the person and they've indicated I can have the machine. I'm driving to the downtown area early this afternoon to pick it up. The NeXT station was built in the early 90's and was a revolutionary machine for the time. This should be an interesting machine to tinker with. If nothing more, it's a unique piece of history from my time frame.