Oooh look! Someone threw out this perfectly good Spectrum SPL-603 power supply!

Well, mostly perfectly good…

She who was once the beautiful 723

The 723 had given up all its magic smoke, to the point where the socket is also buggered. Fortunately this is a stock part in my junkbox, as are 2N3055s (the one output transistor was shorted emittor-to-collector, but I can’t explain why this would break the 723). I also replaced the H1061 with a BDW93B because I could.

Truth be told, this is a terrible PSU.

  1. The non-regulated DC is 52V, which means that at 30V output the transistors are dropping 22V and at 2.5V out they are dropping just about 50V. No wonder two 2N3055s are needed for a measly 3A output (A 2N3055 is good for 15A and 115W, so when dropping 50V you can only get a smidge more than 2A out of it, and that with a good heatsink).
  2. The 723 Vcc is connected to the non-regulated DC, but the 723 is rated for 40V max Vcc. This is probably what broke it.
  3. When I set the PSU to about 6V and turn it off, there’s a ~20V spike on the output. WTF?

So why the high non-regulated DC? I thought maybe it drops under load because cheap transformer, but this is not the case. The transformer gives out 38VAC which drops to 35VAC with a 1A load.

The general schematic is similar to but with a difference — the base of the current limiting transistor is connected to a voltage divider (R4/R5) to ground. This causes the current limiting point to be higher for a higher output voltage. Again, counter-intuitive.

So I changed things around to how it should be. Fitted a different transformer, from an old UPS — it’s only good for about 18V out but that’s enough for me. Not going to try to make a purse out of this sow’s ear.






My new brewing setup. A nice large stainless steel urn with a dual element, and a cooler box with a filter that used to be a braided hose and a tap.

The box under the urn is a PID controller so that I can (in theory*) dial the temperature, have a homebrew, and have water at the right temperature on tap.

It’s not going to win a panel wiring contest, but it works. The PID doesn’t have the switching capacity, so there’s a solid state relay. I also wired diodes to send the positive part of the AC to the one element and the negative part of the AC to the other element to spread the heat.

The switch controlling whether the diodes are in-circuit or not comes from the junkbox. Been a while since one could buy something useful for R3.45.

Grain in the cooler (this is 6 kilos of pilsner, on Saturday), add the water, let it be for about an hour…

..and drain the good stuff (this is Sunday’s brew, an IPA).

The pilsner is all-grain, which means that you end up with quite a lot of liquid to boil.

That’s the next step. The urn, on low, should be able to boil the wort as well. If not, I need to get a 30 liter+ pot, I have quite a few gas burners.

Good news is that both brews started bubbling easily (I added Servomyces to both and DAP to the IPA). The pilsner is my first all-grain and my first lager — I’m using ice to keep it cool.

* The water coming out the tap seems about 5C too cold. Some calibration required, looks like.



Thank you for asking.

Background: I think I found a way to fix a broken display on my Yeasu FT-290R 2m all-mode radio. A broken display on these things is common, and displays are very much NLA. The FT-290 (2m), FT-690 (6m) and FT-790 (70cm) are all pretty much identical except for the RF bits, so a fix for one is a fix for all.

So I advertised on swop shop, looking for an “FT-290R / FT-690R / FT-790R”.

Hello   Wouter ,

Thanks for the mail. I have the requested FT-290R / FT-690R / FT-790R
in an excellent condition  I will be shipping via FedEx courier on a 3
working days delivery and will accept payment via Western Union or
Money Gram

Location: USA

What’s your complete shipping address?

First and foremost before proceeding with transaction we can only
accept payment via western union if you are satisfied with that kindly
get back to me.

Maybe I should ask for a photograph of this “FT-290R / FT-690R / FT-790R”.



The long answer is that SOMEWHITHER will be in the same category as THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE but if, instead of being a good fairy tale and well written children’s book, the author was an anime-overdosed ex-lawyer who decided it would be way cool if Aslan wore power armor and swelled up to giant size like Ultraman to fight Godzilla, who, in this version, is the Beast from the Sea called up by the Whore of Babylon; and if the Dark Lord were a determinist materialist astrologer who is half-senile; and if Nimrod still owned the shining robe given to Adam and Eve by Jesus after they discovered they were naked, and this robe made him invulnerable; and if Serafina Pekkala from GOLDEN COMPASS were a babelicious busty blond dimension-sailing storm-witch teenager from Slytherin House, which, in this version is at the school on the Island of Roke, which is also in the dimension of Charn ruled by Jadis the White sister of Saruman the White, but her pet bird was not her familiar but instead was her horcrux; and if Ramses from Anne Rice’s THE MUMMY showed up as Black Lensman of Boskone; and if there were a plumber named Pally working in Barad Dur to fix the backed-up toilets in the Dark Tower;  And if John the Baptist showed up as a character who could fly like the Nazi-punching ROCKETEER from the Dave Stevens comic of the same name; and if King Edmund were Connor McLeod the Immortal from HIGHLANDER; and if instead of a thoughtful, and funny and moving parable about the nature of sacrifice and the beauty of forgiveness, CS Lewis were a fan of pulp novels and samurai movies, and threw in a bunch of stupid extraneous junk, including The Shadow, who has the power to cloud men’s minds, and, if there were some way to swing it, end up with John Carter,  Warlord of Mars and Robur the Conqueror fighting a air-to-sea duel with Captain Nemo.


This Toyota bakkie is called “die Blou Nier” (the Blue Kidney). Gert is the fellow who drives it, and he drives it well.

Spend a day on the back, out in the dunes, and you will see where the name comes from.

The Blou Nier, BTW, had 750 000 km on the clock when the speedo broke. So nobody really knows how far it’s gone. And they don’t keep easy roads out in the Kalahari.

Cut line for sensitive viewers — we were not there to buy meat at the Pick & Pay.

More »


Look, I get it.  It’s probably OK to not replace your dust and pollen filter every 30 000 kilometers as called for by the maintenance schedule. In not-so-dusty environments you can probably stretch it to 60, maybe even 100 000 kilometers.

You can’t, however, stretch it to “never”.

R100 and Tanya’s car gets fresh air again instead of effectively being stuck in “recirculation” because of a very dirty filter.

Early eighties, to be more precise.

You see, there was Apple DOS (Disk Operating System). And then there were other Disk Operating Systems, faster and therefore better (OK, faster because very often they left out a whole lot of error checking that the Apple DOS performed — but if you have an error there’s not much you can do about it so why check :-)

One of these was Diversi-DOS. It had a splash screen, which of course was stored on the disk, along with display code.

So of course I promptly hacked the splash screen to display my own message. Recently came across a printout from way back then. So here we have some of the first machine code I ever wrote.

086C-   20 2F FB    JSR   $FB2F       JSR $FB2F and $FC58 clears the High-Res and normal text screens.
086F-   20 58 FC    JSR   $FC58
0872-   A0 00       LDY   #$00
0874-   B9 A2 08    LDA   $08A2,Y     Y=0, load from $08A2 (it's down there, 8D 8D 8D etc)
0877-   F0 07       BEQ   $0880       If the value you've loaded is zero, go to $0880 ($00 marks the end)
0879-   20 ED FD    JSR   $FDED       Otherwise print the character ($FDED prints the accumulator A), increment Y
087C-   C8          INY
087D-   4C 74 08    JMP   $0874       And get the next character
0880-   A0 04       LDY   #$04        Now, load Y with 4 and jump to the subroutine at $0895, below.
0882-   20 95 08    JSR   $0895
0885-   C8          INY
0886-   C0 20       CPY   #$20
0888-   D0 F8       BNE   $0882       Then, increment Y and loop, stop when Y reaches $20 (32 -- $ indicates base 16)
088A-   20 95 08    JSR   $0895
088D-   88          DEY               Now do the same thing, but from $20 down to 4.
088E-   C0 04       CPY   #$04
0890-   D0 F8       BNE   $088A
0892-   4C FD 08    JMP   $08FD       And then exit (back to Diversi-DOS)

                                      So here we are with Y=4..31, then 32..5
0895-   98          TYA               Move Y to X via A (because this is how a 6502 works) Second TYA maybe a bug*
0896-   AA          TAX
0897-   98          TYA
0898-   8D 30 C0    STA   $C030       Click the speaker by accessing $C030 (yes, one bit, on or off, no Soundblaster)
089B-   20 A8 FC    JSR   $FCA8       $FCA8 delays for some time dependent on the value in A
089E-   CA          DEX               Now decrement X and loop, i.e. do this as many times as the value in Y
089F-   D0 F6       BNE   $0897
08A1-   60          RTS               And return
08A2-   8D 8D 8D    STA   $8D8D       This is the text that gets displayed by the code up there from $872 to $87E
08A5-   8D 8D 8D    STA   $8D8D       Says "COPIED BY THE DIRTY DEVIL"** in the middle(-ish) of the 40 x 24 screen
08A8-   8D 8D 8D    STA   $8D8D
08AB-   8D 8D 8D    STA   $8D8D
08AE-   A0 A0       LDY   #$A0        $A0 = Spaces
08B0-   A0 A0       LDY   #$A0
08B2-   A0 A0       LDY   #$A0
08B4-   C3          ???               $C3 = C, $CF = O and so on.
08B5-   CF          ???
08B6-   D0 C9       BNE   $0881
08B8-   C5 C4       CMP   $C4
08BA-   A0 C2       LDY   #$C2
08BC-   D9 A0 D4    CMP   $D4A0,Y
08BF-   C8          INY
08C0-   C5 A0       CMP   $A0
08C2-   C4 C9       CPY   $C9
08C4-   D2          ???
08C5-   D4          ???
08C6-   D9 A0 C4    CMP   $C4A0,Y
08C9-   C5 D6       CMP   $D6
08CB-   C9 CC       CMP   #$CC
08CD-   00          BRK

* As I said, the second TYA is not needed, TAX doesn’t change A. But it’s from the earlier code, which didn’t vary the time of each “note”.

** Which is what I called myself waybackwhen.

The result is a sliding note that slows down as it gets lower, then speeds up again. At full volume (erm, there only was one volume) it’s guaranteed to get attention. Of course some guys were much much more into this than I was.

Stay tuned (might take a few years) for when I blog about the digitized voice I once hacked into the Diversi-DOS startup screen… yes, you can recognizably digitize a voice using only one bit.



Winter has hit Cape Town. Wet, cold and miserable. The perfect weather for staying indoors and cooking soup.

I found some whole baby clams at the Fruit & Veg. Just the thing for clam chowder (something I’ve been wanting to make ever since having the Real Thing in San Francisco. Problem being that Tanya doesn’t like fishy dishes, so I needed an alternative.

Enter General Tso’s chicken, another recipe that’s been keeping a tab open on Firefox for quite some time.

Basically, you dredge the chicken (breast fillet cubes) in cornflour and fry it, then it goes into a slow cooker with a Hoisin / soy / rice vinegar sauce for four* hours. Add some more sauce at the end and you’re done.

For the chowder, I used Christina’s recipe, except that I had whole clams which I first needed to steam open. I then incorporated the water / clam juice into the white sauce, boiled the potatoes (small cubes) and onions, and added the bacon and chopped clams at the end.

Now I need to figure out how to make a sour dough starter so that I can serve the chowder properly next time.


* Recipe calls for four hours. We were hungry well before the three hour mark, so that’s how much time we gave it. Worked well enough.



The 2014 XYZZY Awards are out.

I really need to find the time to play some of these.

(Actually, don’t ignore the Hugo Awards. As part of the Sad Puppy foofarah some worthy authors were nominated, some worthy authors withdrew, and Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem was up-leveled. I would not have read it otherwise, and I liked it. Recommended).



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