A few minor site updates

I just realized that I had a handful of old ass posts on this site that embedded Youtube videos via a flash object. With Flash’s forced demise last month, all of these embeds broke. I have gone through and fixed them all (aside from one that was linked to a now-deleted account) to embed the videos using Youtube’s html 5 object. So, shall you want to watch a remote control pumpkin drive around my office, or an Acer Predator fail right out of the box, you can once again. Thrilling, I know. I have also fixed some image sizing problems that were making my logo look less than optimal since the site redesign, as well as fixed the automatic icon created if you bookmark this site on an Android or iPad tablet device.

Sega Game Gear Refurb

As opposed to my Game Boy Pocket Refurb this one is going to be a bit more involved. My GB Pocket was fully functional, it just needed a quick membrane replacement job.

The Sega Game Gear is a different story. Game Gears of original vintage have a long-known problem. Sega used low quality capacitors in them, and as a result they tend to fail and leak out over the years, especially when stored in unfriendly environmental conditions (i.e. a hot attic). This means that you could have packed away your Game Gear in perfectly working form in a box, pulled it out years later, and found it dead. Much was a similar situation for my father-in-law’s Game Gear. I was a full-on Nintendo kid growing up, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that really wanted a Game Gear. I mean, how could you not? The color backlit screen blew away what the Game Boy was doing!

My FIL got this out and tried to play it, but found it dead. It would power on, the screen powered on, but there was no video output and no audio output happening. He showed me what it was doing and I knew it was a capacitor problem as I’d known about their failures from watching some retro gaming channels on youtube (big shout-out to The Retro Future!). I told him I could fix the system but that it would be a while as I needed to get a better soldering iron. The one I had was cheap to begin with and already on its last legs, barely having the oomph to get hot enough to melt solder.  Well, that was over a year and a half ago and I honestly kept putting off getting a new iron because this job intimidated me. My soldering skills are pretty amature-level as I only solder things a couple of times a year, and a Game Gear re-cap is a big job. When my wife got me a nice Weller iron for Christmas this year, I knew it was time to tackle this beast of a job.

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new cap kit from RetroModding. I selected that kit because it was cheap and came with enough caps to handle any revision of the Game Gear motherboard, as well as the sound board (different revisions have different caps). I did not order the power board recap kit as this unit still turned on, and from what I read these caps were far less likely to fail. I think because it had to do with higher voltage stuff and being UL listed, Sega actually used decent caps in those. Once I had my bag of shockingly tiny caps in hand, I grabbed a capacitor list and capacitor layout diagram from the Console5 Wiki. Their extremely helpful diagrams make it easy to identify which caps go where, as well as the polarity of each location. I printed them out and laid out each cap in each spot so that I could just hammer through them back-to-back. This took some times to set up, but I’m glad I did it before I fired up the iron, because after the first couple caps, I hit a pretty good stride with pulling the old one, trimming the new ones, and replacing.

Read More

Game Boy Pocket Refurb

Back in November I picked up a Game Boy Pocket that matched the one I traded off a long time ago. It was in extremely good condition as it was, but there was one thing that felt a bit worn out on it; the buttons. More specifically, the button presses felt very loose and sloppy, not how I remember my Pocket. Fortunately it is a fairly easy job to swap out the button membranes, and there are companies out there making factory-spec replacements! I picked mine up from Retro Modding who has an incredible selection of OEM-Like parts, as well as many modding-centric after-market parts. I ordered the membranes and got them a couple weeks ago, but I made a small mistake. I had a tri-wing bit (the type of bit needed to open most Nintendo hardware), but the one I had was way too big for my GB Pocket. Doh! So I had to place another order with Retro Modding and grab one of their retro-system bit sets. The bits came in today and I couldn’t wait to get the new membranes in my GB Pocket and try them out, so that’s just what I did.

After removing the 6 tri-wings on the back (2 in the battery compartment) the back comes off the GB Pocket. I also took the metal cartridge shield off the back just to clean under it. This is totally not necessary but while my GB Pocket was apart I wanted to give all of the insides a good cleaning with some Ispropyl Alcohol:

Read More

One year in the glovebox for an 18650 li-on battery

I’ve seen arguments online about whether keeping an 18650 battery in your car is a good idea or not. I always remind people giant banks of 18650’s power Tesla’s, laptops, and power tools, all of which see all kinds of use and abuse in all kinds of climates.  Still, I have seen people insist that the wide temperature ranges will somehow kill an 18650.  Well, a year ago I decided to toss one of my 18650 powered flashlights in my glovebox to see how it would fare. I used it on occasion over the last year and did not charge it at all. I pulled out my multimeter and checked it last night and would you look at that…

Sitting at 4.05 volts. Like I said, I have used this flashlight a handful of times, so this is basically still a full charge. A full charge would only be about 4.1 volts anyway, so the small drop is just from my use of it. Tested and verified, I have no qualms about leaving an 18650 powered light in my glovebox for years to come.

Original Hardware

I’ve owned every revision of Game Boy over the years. Original Game Boy, Pocket, Color, Advance, and Advance SP. I still own my original Game Boy (although it’s lost in storage some place) and Advance SP, but my Pocket, Color, and Advance were all traded in on their new models at some point. Out of the 3 models I traded in, the Pocket, Color, and Advance, I missed my Game Boy Pocket the most.  The Color was never a great device IMO due to the absence of a backlight, and the Advance was only improved upon by the Advance SP.  And while the Advance SP is probably the pinnacle of Game Boys, it also changed up the form factor significantly. It lacks that old-school feel with its foldable design and bright backlit display.

Something about the old-style rectangular top-loading format of the Game Boy speaks to my past childhood.  I have missed the Pocket since I got rid of it because of its compact form factor and its vastly improved LCD display over the original Game Boy.  It was basically the Game Boy revised and fixed the biggest issue with the original Game Boy by using a crystal-clear and much more responsive LCD panel.

I ended up coming across one on eBay that was in really really good condition that didn’t break the wallet (increasingly difficult these days), and decided to jump on it.  I gotta say, I am very pleased with this beauty.  Just look at it!

I think the membranes are a little worn out on it, so I am planning on replacing those soon, but the over all condition is incredible. A nearly scratch-free lens, and fully intact and functioning pocket is back in my collection, this time permanently.  The display is just as beautiful as I recall too. While I really do enjoy my emulation devices, there are just some things that don’t translate well to emulation, or can’t even be emulated at all. Now, if I could just find wherever the hell my Game Boy Printer went to, and hope I didn’t leave batteries in it, I would be really happy… Digging through boxes is a task for another day though.  Time for some old school gaming!

Free Lumens (Kind of)

I recently flashed a modern OS on to my soda-can quad light, the BLF Q8. The refreshed interface on the light brought my interests back to it and had me wondering… what else could I do with this light? After doing some reading around on various forums, I found out that the Q8’s output could receive a significant increase in output with a few fairly simple mods! One mod is what is call a “spring bypass”. The Q8 uses gold plated steel springs, and while they’re okay, they’re not the best springs you can use, as they create some resistance between the batteries and the light. A spring bypass is basically soldering in a better conductor between the top and bottom of the spring so that is exactly what I decided to do. I already had everything I needed for this one, a soldering iron, solder, and some wire.  I used 18 gauge copper wire and made the connections. It wasn’t difficult, but my soldering iron is really showing its age and I need to upgrade to a better one sometime soon.  Here’s what my tail PCB looked like after modding:

Read More

Country Financial Ripped Me Off

On December 1st 2018 a freak warm front swept through the area bringing with it 29 Tornados. One of those Tornados was a devastating EF3 Tornado that completely destroyed many houses in my town. Over 400 homes were damaged by this Tornado which had wind speeds estimated at 155mph and was a 1/2 mile wide. Our house was in this Tornado’s direct path. We were fortunate enough that when the Tornado reached us it had lifted off the ground but the official storm track still put it coming right over our backyard. As a result we had extensive shingle and siding damage done. No face of the house was spared and we took damage from the extreme winds and flying debris on literally every side. My daughter and I were home at the time and ran to the basement as soon as we realized there was a Tornado nearby. We both suffer from PTSD from it to this day, with Tornado sirens setting off a near panic-state in her, and having adverse effects on me as well.

I had been a client of Country Financial since the day I turned 16 and got my license, only because that was who my Dad used at the time. As I grew, I continued to use them for multiple vehicles, multiple life policies, and our home policy. I had made some small auto claims in the past, none my fault, and had always been satisfied with how it was handled. I wish I could say the same for the Tornado damaged to my house, but my experience was the exact opposite. Country Financial weaseled out of tens of thousands of dollars in necessary repairs and stuck me with the bill.

Read More

Light Throw

I decided to pick up a “thrower” style flashlight, or a spotlight as some may call them. All of my previous flashlights were general or flood-style lights. Sure, they could throw some light a decent distance, but they were mostly just general use.  This is one of my first real “special” use case lights, and I mostly got it just for fun, not necessarily because I had a real use case for it.  I picked up the Noctigon K1, also from Intl-Outdoor, the same guy who makes my venerable D4v2. This light’s one purpose is to throw light as far as it possibly can. It does this by using a very small flat LED, and a very deep and polished smooth reflector. This focuses the emitted light in to a very narrow beam.

 

It isn’t super high lumen, peaking at about 1000 lumens, but it focuses 90% of that 1000 lumens on a very concentrated spot.  This means that the light can travel very far, nearly a mile in the case of this light. At the K1’s price point, this is very impressive. I have been playing around with it for a couple weeks now and it’s got a certain giggle-factor to it when you realize how far away you can light stuff up.  Just remember to not point it at any neighbor’s houses, you don’t want to annoy anyone when you’re playing around. Light responsibly 🙂