Sep 142011

Have you ever done this?


I was recently sorting through several spare computer parts in my home office and decided to figure out if this mother board still worked.  I know, it’s a risky thing to test out an old motherboard.  It’s kind of like eating a box of chocolates – you know how the rest of the line goes.  Anyway, I had a pretty good suspicion that this board was only lacking a power supply, but the only (ATX 24-pin) power supply I had available was in this other I had rebuilt within the past few years.  So, rather than run out to MicroCenter and drop $15-20 on a power supply that I may or may not use, I opened up the working PC case and began to do a little surgery.

I disconnected the power from everything in working case, and I pulled the cables out to the test board just outside the case.  I hooked up a spare CD drive to run a live Ubuntu disk, and I plugged in the basic KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) hardware.  Once I had all of that, I realized I need a way to turn it on, so I pulled the power switch cable from the working case and attached it to the test board.  After a double check of all the cables, I plugged in the power and hit the switch.  Thankfully, there was smoke and no sparks.  In fact, the rig roared to life, booted Ubuntu, and even connected to the internet.

This test was a success.  I don’t recommend it for timid or inexperienced, but in a pinch it can work.  Now I just need to find another power supply…


Jul 102011
Fence post sketch exported from Sketchbook Mobile

This is the quick sketch I drew on my iPhone using Sketchbook Mobile.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to help my brother in law build a fence at his Victorian style home. When I arrived at the job site, there was a question about how best to meet the front of the house. We needed a quick answer in order to get to the home improvement store in time to keep on schedule. After discussing a few ideas and taking a closer look at the site, I came up with what I thought was a workable solution. I just needed a way to describe it. Thankfully, I had my iPhone already loaded with Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile, a great little app that comes in very handy in situations like this.

Sketchbook Mobile let me take a picture of the job site and insert it directly to a drawing layer. I then activated another layer on top of the photo, picked some contrasting colors from the color selector, and began sketching on top of the photo with my finger. Using your fingers takes a little practice, but it helps that you can easily zoom and pan using two fingers. The image above is a copy of the resulting sketch. For this blog post I simply exported it to the “camera roll” and then used WordPress Mobile to upload the image to my blog.
In case you’re wondering, the sketch was approved and we headed off to the store for supplies. The second picture shows the same location with the sketched fence structure in place.

Photo of the built fence post.

This is a photo of the fence post I built based on the Sketchbook Mobile sketch.

Have you tried Sketchbook Mobile or Mobile Express? Do you have any questions about it? Do you use it in any of your workflows?


Mar 292010

This is not my typical tech project, but I really wanted to write about it because it turned out so well.  The accelerator in our car had been sticking for a while now, and lately it had been getting worse.  I knew it was the throttle body because the same thing happened a few years ago, and the dealer service rep. explained that a “throttle body cleaning” would get rid of the sticking.  I have to give some credit to wife for getting this project going, because she was the one who did a little research and found a lot of folks online who talked about doing it themselves.  So in the interest of saving a trip to the shop, I decided to try this one on my own.

View of my car's engine showing the throttle body location.

Where's Waldo? Or, find the Throttle Body.

I did some research of my own online before I got started, and it’s a good thing I did.  I found out that I could actually damage the sensors (i.e. mass air flow sensor) just past the throttle if I used the carburetor cleaner I had on hand (used for cleaning the lawn mower carburetor and engine).  Instead, I stopped at AutoZone (which, by the way, doesn’t show its in-store product inventory on its website, so you actually have to go to the store to see if they have what you need) and found a cleaner made just for this job: Throttle Body & Air Intake Cleaner by CRC Industries, Inc.

Armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous and a beautiful, sunny weekend afternoon, I headed out to the driveway to see if I could figure this out.  Continue reading »