Pat's Log
Fri, 29 Sep 2006

Emissions Testing and Terabytes
I guess it matters where you have your car emissions tested and repaired. As written earlier, the car failed emissions testing with essentially the same numbers as the test two years ago. At that point, the shop could not figure out what was wrong and we ended up spending about 600 dollars to get all of the obvious things out of the way. To no avail. This time, I used a smaller, more specialized emissions shop, and they were dead-on in determining that it was the O2 sensor all along. So, now I have a car that once again passes these tests with a good margin of error. There is also a good chance that it will burn less gas.

In other news, at work, I finally got my hands on a machine that has storage in excess of a Terabyte:

pats@backup:~$ df -h Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/sda1 3.7G 466M 3.1G 14% / /dev/sda3 1.5T 52G 1.4T 4% /data

Using a 6-disk RAID5 array, this momentous day marks the next power-of-ten for me. Now, on to the Petabyte!

[] | posted @ 03:00 | link
Fri, 22 Sep 2006

Antec's (Lack of) Quality Control
20060921 I'm a little angry. After all that work on the car's fender made me feel good about the vehicle I drive, I go in yesterday for emissions testing, and it fails. The results were exactly the same as the last test, meaning that if I invest 450 dollars I'll get a conditional pass. That 450 is supposed to cover repairs to rectify the situation, but it sure didn't last time. So, I'll pay, get a pass, and have to pay again in a couple of years when they still don't know what the problem is. Anyway...

A while back at work, I was working on a running computer, so that I could feel if a hard drive was spinning up as it should. Unfortunately, there was one of those flimsy Y-splitters for power, and one of the wobbly pins shorted with another. I've had this happen before. It's usually a matter of just changing the power supply's fuse. This time was worse. The power supply died, and it took the brand new UPS with it.

I finally got around to doing a post-mortem on the UPS and power supply. The UPS is shot for unknown reasons. It thinks there is an overload when nothing is plugged in, meaning that one of the FETs probably went bad. But why is the UPS affected at all?

Opening the power supply, the real issue became immediately apparent. The main fuse in the unit is the standard ceramic tube, sandwiched into leads that make it suitable for mounting on a board. To save space, they mounted it vertically, heatshrinked the lead that comes back down to avoid shorts, and then heatshrinked the unit as a whole to prevent contact with neighbouring components. The problem is that the heatshrink on the lead that loops down is nonexistant in the area that matters. The outer heatshrink was pressing the exposed lead up against the lower contact, making the fuse effectively "not there."

I mailed Antec and got the response I more or less expected:

There is no way to determine what transpired regarding your power supply cause damage to your UPS. We would have to test your system completely in its entirety to get an accurate analysis of what happen. Now for the simple fact that you have already open the power supply up there has obviously be some tampering of the power supply by an unauthorized Antec service representative. With that being said there not much we could. do.

Never mind that I would not have known about the problem had I not "tampered" with it. I'm tempted to write back saying that small-claims court could easily settle this. They won't show up. I'll get the few hundred dollars to replace the UPS and my court fees. If they do show up, it still not a problem. Any idiot can see that the fuse doesn't do anything. It could just as well have burned the building down. They ought to recall all of their power supplies.

[] | posted @ 02:59 | link
Thu, 14 Sep 2006

Mon Char, Body Work
I've been awfully quiet lately. It's probably because all of my efforts have been going into fixing my car's body while the weather still accomodates painting.

The story starts last year, when I noticed paint behind my driver's side rear wheel bubbling. By the end of winter this year, the bubbles had gotten enormous. This is where most cars develop rust, and in this case, it's the worst rust this twelve year old car has. Last month I couldn't take it any more, bit the bullet, and peeled off the giant bubble.


The rust was bad. Toward the bottom, there was really nothing left. My finger easily pushed through. This is unfortunate, since that's the part of the fender the rear bumper trim is attached to. On the bright side, the inner steel wall was in better condition, with shiny primer clearly visible. Removing rust is a very exacting process; it absolutely has to be removed entirely, so I used a dremel tool with various grinding bits and worked at it until all the soft porous iron oxide was gone. Rust may look shiny when polished, but like cancer, the whole tumour needs to be removed. I then applied an etching solution several times to make sure any rust left was properly treated and sealed.


A typical Bondo-only repair is never good, there needs to be some structural support. Also, because the part I removed had to actually a screw of the bumper trim, there needed to be something rigid. Typically, body shop workers use steel. I formed the bottom lip out of fiberglass, since I don't have tools for steel. The cloth extends far up inside the fender well so that there is a large surface it holds on to. The bare steel was primed, as Bondo seems doesn't adhere directly to steel as well.


Several layers of Bondo and spot putty followed. Getting the shape of the curve to match the steel contour was quite difficult.


At this point, I used a thick asphalt undercoat with rubber to seal the surface exposed on the inside of the wheel well. It took several coats. It should keep the salt out of the fiberglass and especially from soaking into the porous Bondo. A thick coat of primer was applied to the outside surface and sanded smooth.


I decided to go and shell out the money for a custom made spray bomb of Dupont exact match laquer. The area was masked such that the tape at the edges was not stuck directly to the surface. This was done to prevent a sharp edge of paint.


Twenty minutes later, when the mask was removed, the desired feathering is there. Unfortunately, the new paint is slightly bluer than the existing paint, probably due to fading. Nonetheless, it's as good as it is going to get; there is just nothing I can do about that.


The final steps of the paint job are the ones that seem impossible. The shiny finish needs to be sanded to remove the "orange peel" texture and then somehow magically buffed back to a shine that matches the rest of the car's finish. I never thought that that could actually be done without a top clearcoat. Thankfully, I was wrong. Using 1500 grit sandpaper, followed by polishing compound applied with an old sock, along with plenty of water, I managed to match the luster of the finishes.


The entire project turned out fairly well. Most people would not notice anything had been done. Looking straight at the area, the difference in paint colour is quite apparent, however. Also, I did not mention that the fibreglass reinforcement took two tries, since I used stale resin on the first attempt. Finally, the paint finish took not one, not two, but three tries to get right. I think it has something to do with the primer. So, my repair work is not perfect, but it is good enough. It was a very educational three weeks.

[] | posted @ 02:21 | link
Fri, 08 Sep 2006

EngFrosh Movie Night
Tonight was EngFrosh 2006's Movie Night at the Mayfair Theatre. I decided to come visit, and, as expected, there was a crowd of "old geezers" (people from my generation) at Quinn's. We had a few drinks, and I dropped by for the movie.

The movies this year were Super Troopers and Top Gun. The latter was awesome, because it was the movie during my frosh week! But really, a 20-year-old movie on original film is hard to come by. Apparently it was somewhat difficult to get, and there were a few frames missing. Still, the state the emulsion was in was good. I had a great time. I'll hand it to the Mayfair, they always treat EngFrosh well.

[] | posted @ 03:44 | link

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