Personal

Another Recession

I am building this page on the road somewhere in western Pennsylvania. Sherri and I are staying at her mothers house for a short while. We should be returning to Florida in a week or so.

The communications industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn with hundreds of layoffs in the plant where I work. I am usually at work 10 to 12 hours a day lately doing my best to stay employed. Unfortunately no job is totally secure, and the expenses associated with Sherri’s mom have forced a careful optimization of Tubelab’s expenses. So for now, Tubelab is operating with a fraction of my time, none of Sherri’s, and limited funds. The budget for new projects is very limited so except for small parts all development projects in 2009 will come from my “junk box” which fortunately is well stocked. There is no budget for transformers or other costly parts.

When the economy started to slow down last year, sales of PC boards dwindled too. This forced the delay in the launch of the Tubelab SPP. Fortunately it is nearly ready. For now future products must wait until the current new project (SPP) pays for itself.

Tax time

Sherri’s stepfather passed away about a month ago. Sherri’s had to go stay with her mother to help her deal with all of the associated issues. She has been gone for 4 weeks, and will not be back for at least two more weeks. This has left me to deal with all of the things that she usually handles. Those in the USA know what time of year this is. Personal income taxes (ours and my mothers), corporate (Tubelab and G&S programming) taxes, and corporate annual reports all must be done. I have less than two weeks left to complete them, and I am not done yet. There has been no activity related to Tubelab in the last month.

Sherri’s mother had relied on her husband to handle all of her finances for the past 20 years. She had not touched a checkbook in 20 years, and had no knowledge of insurance policies, retirement accounts, house and auto ownership deeds etc. These things are real hard to figure out after after the fact. This experience has let me see just how much I have relied on Sherri to handle all things financial. Fortunately she is still a phone call away. If this describes your situation (or your parents) do all you can to learn about this stuff before something happens.

Thanksgiving

It has been over 1 month since I ordered my new PC. It is still in pieces, occupying my workbench. I returned the defective memory, but have not received the replacements. Two of the three shiny new PC boards shown above are impatiently awaiting assembly into amplifiers, but I have no bench space. The middle board already has a happy home in a new amplifier. I have not been here much anyway.

Last Thursday was the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA. Traditionally it is spent with family. I drove to Tampa to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom and brothers. The Friday after Thanksgiving has evolved into a major shopping event with half of America going to the shopping malls. This is a tradition that I do not choose to support, so I dropped Sherri and friends off at a mall near Orlando. A friend and I went to Daytona for the Turkey Rod Run. A 5 day celebration of all things automotive, where I spent 5 hours before going back to Orlando to pick up Sherri, and return to Ft Lauderdale. A page full of pictures has been added to the automotive pages.

Saturday and Sunday was spent working on the SSE assembly manual, and updating this web site. I have added more of the assembly manual, with more to come after it has been proof read by a few others.

Monday I returned to work, and was rewarded with another “must be done before years end” project. This means more days like today, 11 hours in front of a computer.

My father would have been 85 today. My 5 year old PC has been acting erratic for the past year. I decided that It would be wiser to replace it than to keep repairing it. I usually build my own PC’s but I decided that I would order a custom built PC to save time. I chose a Core 2 Duo computer from a company that has a 3 or 4 page ad in several major computer magazines. They offered a special deal featuring next day shipment and a fat discount, so I ordered one. It two weeks to get the computer and it wasn’t configured as I ordered. I then spent almost 2 days loading it up with all of my applications, and copying almost 100GB of data on to it. As I loaded software on to it, it became more and more unstable. After 2 more days it became totally unusable. At first my e-mail and phone calls went unanswered or not returned, or I got responses like “you shouldn’t be using 64 bit Windows”. They sold it to me! I asked twice for an RMA # to return the whole PC. Then I finally got to e-mail a tech. By this time my whole workbench is covered in dismantled PC and software. It has been almost a month since I placed the order, and I finally have figured it out (with some help from their techie). It seems that the machine will pass a complex suite of memory test software (the one on the Suse 9.3 distribution CD) for 6 hours with 0 errors, but the system memory is schizophrenic with 64 bit Windows, stupid with 32 bit Windows, and just plain dead with Suse Linux. Two memory SIMMS from a local store and the machine is happy, and awesomely fast too. Now I get to load the software all over again. Maybe I will have my workbench back in a few days. I think this could have happened if I built my own machine as well, but I have built a lot of PC’s (50 to 100) in the last 20 years, and I have never seen memory that passes a complex test suite, but fails in normal use.

I am posting this update from my laptop.

From the Nats

I am posting this minor update (from a hotel room with free internet) to add the pictures from the 2006 Mopar Nationals including an entire page of pictures of the 2008 Dodge Challenger concept car. It was announced that production of this car will commence in April of 2008. I have done some minor reorganization of the site to make room for more pages in the future. Everything is still here, although some pages (and their links) now have their own sub page. I have been working on the assembly manual for the SSE amplifier. My return (and the manual) has been delayed by car trouble. Try to find an oil pan for a Volvo in rural West Virginia.

The break in my work schedule lasted for 7 days (I knew that it was too good to be true). The SSE boards are in and three amps are already up and running. I can build these boards in about 45 minutes each, they go together real easy. I am already working on the construction manual. I have gathered about 500 pounds of transformers which will all be tested and the results posted here (two transformers are already done). I will be out of town for most of August, so there will not be much activity until September.

I finally got a break from my relentless work schedule (it won’t last) so I have been updating the web site every night. I have added (or finished) several pages in the Tech Pages and Tested and Proven Circuits sections. These pages were created to explain some of the experiments that began as a thread on the diyAudio forums. Some of the material is directly cut from my contributions to those threads. Some additional material has been added.

The SSE section has been updated, and will continue to be updated as more info becomes available. The PC boards are on order. My amp has been stressed tested in several ways, including me playing guitar through it, and plugging it into a Variac and cranking the input voltage to 135 volts while playing rock music at full volume! It is still going strong.

I have added some text and old pictures to the Tubelab SE assembly manual. I sold every assembled board that I had during the time that I was too busy to build any (the past 4 months). The pictures (text too) for the checkout and bias adjustment pages were lost last year. I have finished assembling a new board, and the new pictures will be shot this weekend. I will add them to the site ASAP.

On the road again

I am currently on the road beginning a 2500 mile road trip. I will meet my grandson, and see my daughter for the first time in almost 3 years. I must be back at work in 10 days, so I will have little time for tube shopping. I brought the laptop to work on this update. It will go live when I get back. This is being written in a hotel room in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Next stop, Moundsville, West Virginia.

We are being told that tropical storm Gamma is expected to visit south Florida late Monday night. I had set back up 1 bench and was working on the second. Now it looks like I must pack it all up and hide it in the closet. Since the window behind the bench leaked about 4 gallons of water during the last storm.

Accidents

The wife of a fellow engineer was killed yesterday while riding her bicycle in an appropriate bike path. The path had debris scattered across it, as do most of our roads. The debris likely caused her fatal crash. Another friend of mine was killed while working on a ladder to remove debris from his yard. The ladder fell over backward, his neck was broken.

Hurricane Wilma

Hurricane Wilma, the 7th hurricane in 14 months to visit us, has devastated this area. 98%of Broward county has no electricity, and it will be 4 weeks before it will be fixed. Without power, there is no gas, since it takes power to pump gas. I am creating a page of pictures of storm related damage. All of these pictures were taken within bicycle distance of my house (most are within 200 feet) since I am saving what gas I have to run the generator, and many streets are not passable by car. I can post these pictures since I have one of the few working phone lines in the area. Tubelab, and the SE amp boards are obviously on hold for a while. My work place is closed due to damage for at least a week. It will take about a week to clean up the mess. I have lived in Florida for 53 years, this is the worst hurricane that I have seen. Andrew caused worse damage, but over a much smaller area. Wilma has caused severe damage for at least 5 counties. There is a path of destruction that looks like these pictures that is 100 miles wide, and goes completely across the state.