Some time ago I wrote a post about an HTPC (home theater PC) that I was building. The intent was to use it as a DVR on our cable system via a Ceton TV card. After quite a bit of trouble I finally had it ready to go using Microsoft Media Center to control the DVR and playback. Well, about the time I got it ready to go, Cox Communications decided to implement switching to their cable system. This required that I get a switching box to use my Ceton TV card. After trying three different switching boxes I could not get the box to work with my Ceton TV card. So the HTPC basically became just a PC attached to our TV.
Since that time Cox has raised their rates to the point I had to switch providers. We now have AT&T U-verse which uses a streaming technology for cable TV delivery rather than the traditional cable. So I still can’t use the Ceton TV card on the PC. Our two year discount with AT&T has run out and their charges for cable TV are just as much if not more that Cox was.
Paying nearly $170 a month just for cable TV is stupid. So I have decided that it is time to cut the cord and go with streaming TV. I have been investigating this now for about the last 6 months trying to determine all the pieces that we need to get the TV service we really want. As part of this investigation, I discovered some software called PLEX. PLEX at its most basic is a personal media streaming server. The cost for PLEX is free. There are a few more advanced features that require a $5.00 a month PLEX Pass subscription. Not a bad investment for what you get.
I used the Media Center PC that I mentioned above to install PLEX. I did upgrade from an AMD A4 processor to an A8 processor and added an additional 8 Gb of memory. I also replaced the DVD drive with a Blu-ray drive. I have ripped most of our DVD and Blu-ray collection and put it on the PLEX server. It puts a very nice front end on the media and automatically downloads some additional meta-data about any media you put in the PLEX file system. You can access the media via the web or apps that are available on Windows, smart TVs, streaming boxes, X-box, and smart phones. All my testing so far has gone well. Continue reading “Getting Ready to Cut the Cord”→
I thought I’d publish a short post on repairing my Warlock after the 2015 High Frontier launch. I flew it in the Warlock Drag Race and while the up part was just fine, the landing was not so much. I landed on the asphalt runway and one of the composite fins took the brunt of the landing. It pretty much crushed the lower corner of the fin and then started to splay the fiberglass skin of the fin apart.
I might have been able to repair it but it would have been a very weak fin and probably would not have withstood another landing without taking damage again. Instead I decided that my best route would be to cut the current fin off at the body tube and graft another one into place.
These fins are through the wall type fins, meaning that they extend into the body tube and are glued to the motor mount on the inside of the rocket. I didn’t want to try and remove my rear bulkhead in order to gain access to the fin root, hence my decision to cut the fin off at the outer body tube and graft a replacement on at that point.
In order to provide some strength I decided that I would take my new fin and add a tang that would fin into a clevis that would be put into the part of the fin that was still inside the body tube. I got some birch plywood that would fit into the composite material between the fiberglass skins. I decided how deep I wanted the tang to be and cut the plywood accordingly.
Now I needed to remove the Nomex honeycomb where the plywood tang would go. I got my Dremel tool out and put in a straight router bit and started removing Nomex. When I got the depth I thought I needed I pushed the plywood into the space to check the fit. After several iterations of routing and checking, I finally had the clevis done. Now I had to do the same thing to the new fin in order to place the tang.
Once that was complete I mixed up some West Systems epoxy to put the tang in the fin. I wiped the excess that oozed out of the slot and set it aside to set up. The next day I used some more West Systems to glue the new fin into the piece that remained in the body. The next day I used some 30 minute epoxy to add new fillets to the fin and the process was complete. I did do a test flight at Leonard to make sure the new fin was as strong as it looked. The test flight was fine. It even landed on the repaired fin with no damage. Now all that was left was to fix the paint job.
At least that was what I thought. I later found a crack around the circumference of the bulkhead in the nosecone. Now I need to stabilize that before I can fly it again. I’m thinking of using three flat head wood screws to hold the bulkhead in place and then put a new epoxy ring around the bulkhead hold everything in place. Hopefully it will be ready to fly at the start of next season.
When I received the March/April issue of Sport Rocketry I noticed the headline on the cover, “Steampunk Rocketry Designs and Techniques”. That sounded interesting so I opened the magazine to the story and immediately saw some amazing looking rockets. I dove into the article and each paragraph started my mind swirling off into different directions thinking how I could make something that might look as interesting as those in the article.
Rather than start working on a new rocket to create my first steampunk example, I looked at my fleet of tired rockets that I seldom fly anymore. I was drawn to my Big Bertha that I had built many years earlier with a three engine cluster. It was sitting there with a rather ugly plain blue finish. No markings or anything else, just solid plain blue. Yes, this should work, I’ll convert my Big Bertha into Steam-Bertha!
Using the article as inspiration and a guide to begin sourcing the parts I would need, I started getting my materials together. First I got a couple of manila file folders for the heavy paper that I’d need for the straps that the “rivets” would go on. Now for the “rivets”. I went to Michael’s and picked up a sheet of half-round pearls with sticky backing. I’m not sure what other crafters use these for, but for me they were going to become my rivet heads. I also found a few cards of pre-punched cardboard centering rings in my Estes rocket parts stash. Those could be used as portholes. Also in the stash, were some extra launch lugs that I could turn into external piping to disguise the actual launch lug that was already on the rocket. Continue reading “Creating Steam-Bertha”→
After stumbling onto a TV tuner card called the InfiniTV 4 by Ceton, I decided to try my hand at making a Media Center PC. There was potential to save some money on my cable bill and get some additional functionality that isn’t offered by Cox.
First I needed a PC to put the InfiniTV card in. I didn’t want to install it in my main system as it might end up in the living room. I decided to use a small form factor. The case I chose was a Silverstone ML01 case. It is a nice looking low profile case that supports both mini-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards. It has places to mount either two 3.5″ hard drives or three 2.5″ hard drives. The case does not come with a power supply so I had to add that to the mix. One thing to note, the PSU would need to be no deeper than 5.5 inches to leave room to put a DVD drive in. The DVD would also need to be as short as possible to ensure there would be enough room for cabling.
I picked a Rosewill 400W PSU, in hindsite, I could have used a smaller PSU. Something in the 250W to 300W range would have been find and would run cooler. But this is a nice PSU that has a quiet 120mm fan. The DVD was an ASUS DRW-24B1ST drive (OEM 24x DVD burner). The two worked together to leave just enough room to route the SATA power and data cables between the drive and the PSU.
For the motherboard, I picked the Asrock FM2A75 Pro4-M. It is a mini-ATX form factor board for the AMD FM2 socket. It has all solid state caps. For outputs, it has VGA, DVI and HDMI. It also has an optical sound output, and supports USB3 and eSata. The motherboard fits nicely in the case, but the front panel header is on the front edge of the motherboard. You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, except that the case front panel connector is very tall. The case has a plastic hard drive shelf that goes between the motherboard and the case front. With the front panel header on the front edge and the case connector installed, the drive shelf won’t fit without putting a serious strain on the motherboard. To avoid the strain, I removed the drive shelf.
Fortunately the alternate 3.5″ hard drive mount was under the DVD drive bay. The Seagate Barracuda ST1000Dm003 (1Tb 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s) drive fit there nicely. There are rubber grommets on the mounting holes to reduce drive noise. The grommets work great. I can hardly hear any drive noise.
This is another one of my long-term projects. I started it several years ago. It got put aside because of other more important things and other distractions so I never found the time to get back into it until now.
Before I put it down, I had nearly finished the upper part of the model from the interstage to the Launch Escape System. I used the Apollo Conversion kit from RealSpace Models to replace the obviously undersized parts that were included in the kit. RealSpace has improved the conversion kit since I purchased mine. It now comes with a pewter LES rocket and photo etched tower (I had to use the one that came in the Airfix kit). The details on the CSM are also improved since I bought mine. If I do another one, I’ll definitely purchase one of his new ones.
I also modified some of the details on the S-IVb. I removed the hump on the attitude control pods that was only on the S-IVb 500 version. Also the Airfix kit only has two ullage motors on the S-IVb. The S-IVb 200’s that were used on the Saturn Ib had three ullage motors. I tried carving an extra one from some scrap styrene, but my fat fingers made that a near impossibility. Recently Airfix came out with a 1/144 scale Saturn V/Skylab kit. It didn’t need ullage motors on the Skylab, so I stole one of the ullage motors from that kit and used it on the Saturn Ib.
To do the black roll patterns on the interstage, I made some black decals and applied them to the model. It looks pretty good and I didn’t have to mask over the raised detail on the interstage. That is never a fun job. I made all the decals myself and printed them on my Alps 1300 printer. I used the detailed drawings by David Weeks (also available from RealSpace Models) to create my decals. David’s drawings are invaluable if you want to get anywhere close to accurate. I didn’t add nearly as much detail as I could have using his drawings.
I could have done more to make the model more accurate but to me that just gets tedious. I’ll add enough detail to satisfy myself and that’s good enough.
When I picked the model back up, the first stage was completed, but had only been primed. It still needed final paint and decals. I had started scribing dividing lines for the antenna frames. Airfix just had them as rectangular blocks between the oxidizer and fuel tanks, but they were really two pieces. Also they had all the antennas the same size. When actually the only ones that were the same were the ones at quad I and III. The antennas at quad IV were different and at quad II they were only on one of the antenna frames. So when I started to work on the first stage I decided that I would fix the antennas. Continue reading “Airfix 1/144 Saturn Ib”→
I had just finished watching Oklahoma State get past Kansas St. and was watching the news. They were reporting on the 4.6 quake that happened earlier that morning around 2:30am. When I started feeling some shaking and a rumble sound like a semi-truck going down Delaware. The talking head said that they were feeling an earthquake.
The shaking continued and got worse. It was quite frightening. I wasn’t in panic mode, I was still sitting in my recliner after all. But all the same, it was frightening. The TV was rocking back and forth, my reading light was shaking and I could hear the house creaking. It seemed to go on for minutes, but I think it was more like 45 seconds or so. There was no apparent damage to the house and nothing fell off the walls.
California can keep these things. Very disconcerting. I’ll gladly take my chances with tornadoes, at least I get some warning that it’s coming.