Dishwasher maintenance

The dishwasher is original to the house and is getting on 10 years now. It's a pretty basic model and nothing very fancy. Lately it started having problems where it wasn't filling with water. Figured the dishwasher was finally starting to give up the ghost and it was time to start shopping for a new one.

Fortunately, I had remembered someone I follow on Google+ describing a similar problem and that the solution was a stuck flood float. Giving it a tap got it working again a few times, but then the dishwasher started doing the same thing again.

This time I decided to dig a little deeper. A single screw holds the cover of the flood float on so it wasn't hard to remove.

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Warning: If your dishwasher is as old as mine, this operation is not for the squeamish.

Underneath the cover is the actual flood float, which is a similarly shaped plastic cup that sits on top of a plastic pin that does the actual switch/valve actuating. Between the cover and float was years and years of built up gunky moldy goo that used to be food debris. Lifted the float off and inside there was even more built up gunky moldy goo. Well, no wonder the float was getting stuck.

I didn't think to get any pictures, but it's probably better that way.

After clearing out all the goo and giving things a bit of a rinse, I put all the pieces back together and the dishwasher went back to work like it was supposed to.

If your dishwasher has one of these, you might want to grab a screwdriver and see if it needs clearing out. Might save you a bit of trouble down the road.

Resistor storage

At the hamfest back in February, I picked up a big bag of resistors that's been sitting on the shelf since then. They turned out to be 50 strips with 50 resistors each. The values are conveniently printed on the paper strip, which saves me time decoding the stripes on the resistors.

DSC02115.JPGI don't have room in any of my storage bins to hold them all, and searching through them in that pile isn't the most convenient thing. Then I remembered reading a while ago about someone using pill bottles to store components in. It seemed like a workable idea, and I happened to have a bunch of them sitting around. I don't have enough for all of the strips, but I can get more pretty easily.

I wrote down the resistor value on a sticky note folded in half, rolled up a strip of resistors and stuck it into the pill bottle. I had enough bottles on hand to do 21 of strips, leaving 29 left to go.

DSC02118.JPGI figure I can order them into three groups, 100 (Ω), 103 (kΩ) and 106 (MΩ). The big printing should make it pretty easy to find the ones I need.

We made a stop at Swig & Swine for lunch today. Between the two of us, the 2-meat platters let us sample almost all of their smoked meat offerings. If you can, sit toward the back at their "meat counter" where you can watch the guys pulling and slicing slabs of meat to fill orders. Fun place to sit and watch.

While we were waiting, the guy slicing meats was nice enough to give us a sample of the pork belly. So delicious.

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Soon after came our platters: Pulled pork/house made sausage with cheddar grits and pickled vegetables, and smoked turkey/brisket with brunswick stew and beans with brisket.

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For dessert, we split a chocolate pecan pie.

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Be hungry when you go. You'll probably leave with leftovers.

MeSQUARES and MePADS

After seeing Dave/AA7EE's many amazing builds using the MeSQUAREs from QRPme.com, I finally got around to ordering a few for myself to play with. Ordered 2 sets (600 pads) of MeSQUAREs and a set of MePADs. The order arrived today along with a couple of bonus sheets of copper clad PCB. Very thoughtful of W1REX to include them.

Although I'd seen them in all of the pictures Dave posted, their size still surprised me a bit.

DSC01981.JPGEach square is about 6 mm (0.2") on each side, so not too terribly small to work with. The MePADs come in a slightly smaller sheet and are used for making the pins of smaller ICs a little more accessible.

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Looking forward to experimenting and building things with these. I don't know if I'll be able to match Dave's aesthetic, but it gives me something to strive for.

Rest in peace Leonard Nimoy

I learned that Leonard Nimoy died earlier today. It was sad news to hear for me and countless other fans out there.

Leonard Nimoy's Mr .Spock on Star Trek was one of my favourite characters and served as a huge inspiration to me in many things. Spock's logic and rationality heavily influenced me as a kid, and his narration of In Search Of... catered naturally to my curiosity about everything (even though young me found some of the episodes really creepy).

Much later, I discovered his photography which gave me yet another thing to appreciate about Mr. Nimoy.

He made appearances at Dragon*Con, and although I never got to meet him there, other people I knew did and always spoke about how he enjoyed meeting his fans.

As Bones says at the end of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, "He's really not dead, as long as we remember him".

After my RadioShack on Folly Road closed, the next closest one was further away over on Sam Rittenberg. Stopped by there on Friday and discovered that one had closed in advance of RadioShack's bankruptcy announcement. Signs on the window point you to the nearest RadioShack over in Mt. Pleasant.

Made the trip out to that location Friday evening to find a reasonably well stocked store (probably full of stuff from the other store), but no sale or clearance items other than RC toys.

According to this list I found via a Twitter posting, the only two stores in the immediate vicinity slated for closing (this round anyway) are located near Tanger Mall and Northwoods Mall (surprised that one is still open considering the one at Citadel Mall closed long ago).

That leaves three stores (Mt. Pleasant, Goose Creek, and Summerville) that may become Sprint stores with an embedded RadioShack or which may eventually go away altogether. The one store up in Summerville (Hurricane Electronics/RadioShack) I believe is a franchise store and would probably (hopefully) stay, probably dropping the RadioShack part.

Si5351 breakout board

Jason/NT7S launched the crowdfunding campaign for his version of an Si5351 breakout board last night, and already this morning it's at over 150%. The stretch goal at $1 500 involves spending some more time on the software library to make the board easier to use.

It's a neat little oscillator chip that seems to provide a lot of capabilities for not a lot of money. He's been documenting his investigations on the chip at his blog for the past year now, including building a couple of receivers and transceivers around the Si5351.

The Si5351A is quite a capable IC at a very modest price. It is a PLL clock generator with three independent outputs which can each generate a separate signal from 8 kHz to 160 MHz. A 25 or 27 MHz reference oscillator is used for the two internal PLLs (the Etherkit breakout board uses a 25 MHz reference oscillator), which allows the user to choose the amount of frequency stability and accuracy required. 

Go check out the Si5351 breakout board campaign on Indiegogo, and pick one up if it's something you'll find useful in an upcoming project.

Arduino thermometer

Started with my first big Arduino project using one of the Sparkfun Redboards and my new *duino work station.

The Adafruit RGB LCD shield and TMP36 temperature sensor were pretty easy to wire up to the Redboard. The LCD shield communicates using the I2C pins, so it just need those to connections plus 5V power and ground from the Redboard. The TMP36 was just as easy to wire using 3.3V power and ground from the Redboard and connection to one of the Redboard analog inputs.

FreezerThermometer.jpg(There was no Fritzing part for the LCD shield, so I just used an LCD display part instead)

A few hours of writing some code and fiddling around got me a working thermometer.

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Thanks to the Adafruit RGB LCD library, the sketch for what I've done so far is pretty simple. Pressing the Select button on the shield makes the LCD turn on and display the current temperature as well as the range of temperatures measured since it was turned on. The temperature is displayed for 30 seconds, then the LCD and backlight are turned off. Pressing the Select button again makes it display the temperature again.

The next step will be to add some additional functions accessed via a menu. I'll add a speaker or buzzer and have it alarm above a certain temperature. Once I have this prototype working nicely, I'll repackage it and turn it into a thermometer to monitor the temperature in our freezer. I'll have to figure out how to attach the thermometer to the power and analog pins, because the LCD shield doesn't break them out. Shouldn't be too hard to work out.