Homebrew Stereo Gainclone Amplifier

LM3886T/NOPB

LM3886T 68W Audio Amplifier (Newark)

In 2012, one of my posts were featured on Hackaday, a globally read and frequently updated aggregator of projects that modify, create, and otherwise hack. The traffic this garnered was enough to throw a couple 500 Server errors, but it also resulted in getting the attention of someone at Farnell/Newark.

I was contacted through the comments by a member of the Farnell team, who spent quite some time on my site and was “loving the content”. After further communications, he asked if I would be interested in reviewing products for them. Of course I said yes!

The question was, what would I review? After looking through some of their enormous catalog, I realized I’d rather create something out of the components I reviewed, and discovered the LM3886, a relatively inexpensive 68-watt audio amplifier. This is where the adventure began!

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 electronics, projects No Comments

Hacking a Laptop Battery – Increase Runtime

Do you have an old laptop whose battery struggles to reach 30 minutes? I used to.

An aftermarket 6-cell pack would have cost me around $40, which isn’t expensive, but the laptop was old (circa 2006) and not worth putting money into.  I happened to have a fair number of Lithium-Ion battery cells “lying around”, and decided to upgrade my pack, not just with new cells, but with more cells.

IMAG0680

This project was completed about a year ago, and I’m surprised I never posted it before!

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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 computers, electronics, projects No Comments

Creating a Private + Guest WiFi Access Point (DD-WRT)

Screenshot_2013-12-31-15-32-18

Recently I was asked to configure a WiFi access point for a small business, who needed to have both a private internal network, and a public guest network.

There are many privacy concerns when having guests share your network. Specifically, it is desirable to:

  • Disallow access to any computers on the private network
  • Prevent network abuse (such as P2P file sharing)
  • Secure the access point itself from tampering or unauthorized access

Of course, all this needs to be done without impacting the desired service: Internet access.

Although I found many guides online for setting up a guest network when the access point was also the primary router, I didn’t find any that worked for the intended network. So, after some trial, error, and research, I managed to get it to work.

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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 computers, networking, work 19 Comments

Bell Aliant FibreOP with a DD-WRT Router

This has been a long time coming. To summarize, Bell Aliant’s FibreOP Internet service includes a wireless router that has proprietary, limited firmware. It tends to suffer from latency and WiFi issues. So, I sought to replace it with my own wireless router! I ended up first building an overpowered but very functional pfSense Linux Firewall/Router.

Downstairs

Despite my monstrous UPS, I was not happy with the 1 hour run-time. The whole reason for the pfSense router was that FibreOP “hides” its Internet on a VLAN, which means a standard, consumer router will not be able to access the Internet. And from some forum posts I had read, it seemed DD-WRT was also incapable of it.

Finally, today, I pushed through and realized it takes only 4 simple steps to connect a DD-WRT router directly to the FibreOP modem.

Upstairs AP

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 computers, networking, software 27 Comments

Making Bell FibreOP Work With a pfSense Router

Atlantic Canada is very fortunate to have access to Bell Aliant FibreOP Internet. It is a legitimate Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) service, in the same price range as cable and DSL offerings. Speeds start at 50/30 (download/upload in Mbps) for $70/month without any promotions.

FibreOP Plans

As great as the Internet itself is, the wireless router they include is the bottleneck. It is an Actiontec R1000H. Our biggest headaches with it were low WiFi throughput and frequent WiFi drop, but the interface was a little lacking in advanced features.

Actiontec

The logical solution is to use another router. Unfortunately, Bell has configured the service in a way that simply swapping in a new router will not work at all!

Through some research and my own trial and error, I was able to install pfSense to a spare computer, and take control of my Internet.

Disclaimer: Do not follow these steps if you have Bell’s IPTV service, as it will no longer work. There are other sites that describe how to keep those services working, but mine does not. As well, though there should be no impact, I advise against doing this if you have FiberOP Home Phone and rely on it for emergency communications.

This is not an easy task. It requires a very good understanding of computer networking, basic understanding of Linux networking terminology, and availability of network equipment (switches, wireless access points, cables, NICs). Chances are you found this page because you meet some of that description. Just know that if it isn’t working out, you can plug in the Actiontec and pretend it never happened.

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Friday, August 23rd, 2013 computers, networking, software 8 Comments

Rhythmind – Now Free!

Rhythmind Bigger

Rhythmind was released a little over 3 months ago. I’ve decided to provide it free of charge, though of course you can still pay what you want for it.

Download it today from Bandcamp.

 

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 music No Comments

Repairing a Projector with Tinted and Washed-Out Display

My employer came to me with a little project. The office projector stopped working properly after someone touched the pins of the VGA video cable, and presumably released ESD energy into the projector. The picture’s colours were all tinted and washed out!

Before

Note that the bottom monitor is displaying the same colour pattern
as the projector. Grey is completely missing!

He asked me if I’d like to take a look at it. My answer, as would be expected, was “of course!”

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Sunday, February 24th, 2013 electronics, projects, work No Comments

Adding Magnet Feature to a Bally Centaur

Hold SpotBally’s Centaur pinball machine came from the factory with an electromagnet, installed in the top-right corner of the playfield. It would hold the ball in place after it hit the “release” target, which initiates the multi-ball mode.

Unfortunately, as time passed and these electromagnets burnt out, it became more difficult and expensive to find a replacement magnet. Most games no longer have the magnet installed, as it was likely removed to be sold.

On our machine, we had no idea if the magnet was still there, and one day decided to look under the playfield to see if there was one. It turns out there was, but it didn’t work.

Magnet Close

After verifying the electrical side was fine, we took out the magnet to find that a screw had gone through the playfield, and through the coil!

Screw Through Playfield       Original

The price of a replacement electromagnet is upwards of $100! Thus, we decided we would remove the old coil wire and wrap our own. After all, how hard could it be?

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Saturday, January 26th, 2013 electronics, pinball, projects 4 Comments

USB Stick Data Recovery

It isn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. Today I had a client e-mail me in some panic, as her USB memory drive had stopped working. It was plugged into the computer, and someone walked into it, bending the connector.

Initial

Breaking the 64MB, chinese-made promotional USB key was not the disaster – it was losing the files on it.

Workstation

I’ve had luck before re-soldering damaged USB key connectors, so I got my tools together and gave it a shot.

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Thursday, January 17th, 2013 electronics, work No Comments

Custom Car Bluetooth Receiver

Currently my phone is simply connected to my radio’s AUX input with a cable, and if I want to change songs I must do so from the phone. Modern raidos have integrated Bluetooth capabilities, allowing you to pair your radio to your phone wirelessly. In some cases, pausing and skipping tracks can be done directly from the radio’s buttons – safer than waking up and unlocking your phone to change songs within the music player app.

jvcradio

I could have purchased such a radio, but I already had a perfectly fine JVC unit I installed not even two years ago. It has two AUX inputs, the one in the front I’ve been using, and a special Bluetooth AUX input in the rear. Although designed for use with a JVC accessory, I decided to build my own Bluetooth receiver for my car.

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Friday, December 21st, 2012 car, electronics, projects No Comments