Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Digital Pinball... Vinyl Decal Application

I took a couple days of vacation just to stay home and work on the pinball machine.

I'm typing this blog from the actual computer that will eventually be installed in the pinball machine: ASRock H61M/U3S3 Motherboard with 500 Watt Corsair power supply, 8GB RAM, 250GB SSD, with ASUS Geforce GTX 750i...capable of three monitor output (Two HDMI outputs, one for the main playfield LCD television screen, another for the 32" backglass LCD monitor, and a VGA output for the older DMD monitor).  This is running PinballX as a front end for now as a launcher for The Pinball Arcade (TPA).  That may change as whatever game you select in PinballX doesn't really launch...it just starts The Pinball Arcade, and you have to manually select...so I'll probably just run the TPA menu.  Wish it had an attract mode, like PinballX or the other front ends.

I have a hundred Future Pinball games, too, on a PinMAME frontend...but after playing TPA...well, the graphics of Future Pinball are wanting.  Just wish TPA had The Lord of the Rings table, and I'd be a happy camper...

I eventually went over the machine three times with spot filler and light paint guide coats for an acceptable finish for decals (no large waves, paint globs or pits that would show under the vinyl, or keep it from laying down properly).

The Vinyl Decals were ordered from Planetary Pinball.  Shipped fast, double packaged and came in great shape.  The vinyl is quality material and thick, with thick backing paper.  The print itself was flawless with perfect alignment of the colors.

There are some very good YouTube videos on how to apply vinyl pinball decals, using weights and mild soapy solution in a spray bottle, and a squeegee.  Overall it went great, and I was able to do these solo, by going slow, being careful and using quadruple checking alignment using the "flashlight method" from underneath to make sure the overlap was perfect on all sides.  I weighted one end with microfiber cloths and heavy weights to ensure no movement, then peel back and cut away about 1/3 of the backing material (spraying both the pinball box and the sticker itself with soapy water as I went) before laying the vinyl down slowly with creasing.  Ensure alignment...squeegee.  Then move the cloth/weights to the end you just applied, and then work on the other end in the same manner, slowly peeling off the bakcing (while spraying the vinyl and box liberally), slowly laying down the wet vinyl down to minimize bubbles (which easily get squeegeed out).  After everything is stuck down, use a very long, clean, smooth, metal straight-edge (I have a 3 foot aluminum level) and brand new razor blade to carefully trim and slowly remove the excess vinyl, leaving a 1/8" edge of paint with no decal on the edges, so the vinyl can't start to pull up over time from being bumped, etc.  Wipe everything down with a clean microfiber cloth to push out any remaining water, and any excess spilled water from the squeegee process.  If you have to flip the box to do the other side... lay down the freshly stickered side on a very large, clean, thick blanket to protect it while working on the opposite side.  Let dry overnight before really using or moving.

   Cut out the button holes carefully with a fresh razor blade.  My buttons cover the holes, so a perfectly round, clean edge was not critical.

   It was easier than I thought it would be...with no major calamities.  Whew!  Now onto the next steps: move it to the basement, attach legs, and install the electronics.  Getting closer!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Digital Pinball - Base Paint

Going on two years... ugh.  But, the pinball machine gets some DIY love only when there is absolutely nothing else required like family, friends, or home and car maintenance.  This means very little time, and mainly in the Winter when yard work goes quiet.  Also nice to be driving a car that needs very little maintenance, as well:  2012 Chevy Volt.

The last few weekends have involved assembling the backglass cabinet and ensuring the two monitors fit properly in the openings.  Then disassembly of the various hardware items before painting (chrome legs, chrome trim, buttons).

Drilled two more holes for secondary side buttons, maybe making those "nudge" buttons or menu buttons, etc.

To ensure I see no plywood grain in the paint job, I used about three tubes of red auto glaze putty all over the exterior of the body and back cabinet.  Once dried, I sanded with 220 grit on a random-orbit sander.  LOTS of dust, even with the dust collector, but smooth as glass.  There was some handsanding in the corners of the back cabinet and inside the openings where the orbital sander just wouldn't fit.

After the sanding, I applied a base coat of satin black enamel paint placed with a small brush on the edges, and then onto the main flat surfaces with a 6" foam trim roller.  It went very fast, and no brush marks, which was critical.

It will need a second coat next weekend to get a nice 100% coating, with no thin spots...

Already thinking about how to make my own "F-14 Tomact" pinball stencils to closely match the original paint scheme from the 80's.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Digital pinball arcade update...

The progress had been slow...almost two years since the wood cabinet construction, but I'm slowly making some progress.
The back cabinet is together and the dual monitors fitted back there.  One monitor is for the back glass image, and the other one for the DMD score screen.

The next step will be to disassemble, and Bondo all the imperfections, sand, and paint.  Then I'll reassemble and start wiring it up and install the motherboard and sound system.  Should give me something to do over the next few months of Winter weekends.

The plan is to paint black, and the try to duplicate the F-14 Tomcat pinball machine paint scheme on the main cabinet and back-cabinet.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Installing Bluetooth music on a 2012 Chevrolet Volt

The 2012 Volt is fantastic...just picked it up five days ago for a steal.  Certified Pre-owned from Chevy, with lots of warranty still left on the drivetrain, body and battery (8 years/100K).

The only downside, though, is that in 2012, the only bluetooth connection built-in was for phone calls.  No bluetooth music connection.  No big deal.  The Volt forums had lots of ideas for installing aftermarket BT devices for music, to be played through the built-in AUX jack (and USB power!) in the armrest cubby storage.

So ordered HomeSpot NFC-enabled bluetooth Audio Receiver (BTADP-233-40), available on Amazon HERE.

Thanks for Prime, it showed up 3 days later (two business days) in the mailbox via USPS delivery.

Everything arrived in good condition, inside a cardboard mailer.

Inside, there are simplified instructions, the Bluetooth unit itself, wall wart, USB/micro-USB charging cord (to be used in the Volt), mini-jack audio connector (to be used in the Volt), and a mini-jack RCA cord (not used).

Pretty small size, with the AA battery for scale.

Here it is mounted in the Volt armrest.  The USB power cord is plugged into the USB jack, which frees up the 12V outlet.  The mini-jack goes from the bluetooth device to the AUX jack.  I might end up velcro-ing to the side, so as not to take up the bottom of the cubby for other things to store in there.

Connecting was pretty straightforward.  Once the car is turned on the device starts blinking a blue LED.  Go to the phone (for me, Samsung Note 4) and navigate to the Bluetooth devices page.  "Scan" for new devices.  My phone found the device, "GT BT-Reciever 47" in about five seconds, and once selected, it paired quickly without any codes needed, and installed automatically as a "media audio" device.

I powered up Pandora (Pink Floyd), and selected AUX on the factory Bose stereo (acutally sounds very nice with a bit of tone tweaking/fade/balance), and Voila!  Great sounding bluetooth sound.

Should connect immediately upon subsequent car startups, and I'll report the average time for engine-start-to-music.

Geek out!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Vision Monday

Vision Monday

Smart devices are causing untold increases in eye strain, and possible future risks of cataracts.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

C6 Corvette Stereo Install Guide and Links

Bezel removal guide: HERE

Click the image to open in full size.

Install and Speaker Replacement guide:  HERE

Click the image to open in full size.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grass paint for Brown Spots

     If you do your own lawncare, maybe one you'll have the misfortune of killing off some portion of your green lawn inadvertently due to a fertilizer spill, or mistakenly spraying your weeds with grass killer.  Dog urine can also cause yellow spots.
  What is the inventive DIY'er to do?  Grass Paint, aka Grass Dye. This will keep you and your second-in-command happy, and avoid the neighborhood stigma of being a yard n00b.
   Well, that happened to me recently due to a mistakenly mislabeled bottle of weed killer (don't ask). Within 48 hours the spots appeared by the dozen at the locations I had sprayed.   I ordered an 8 Oz bottle of grass paint off of Amazon, which came to nearly twenty bucks with shipping.  It is diluted 7:1 with water (21 Oz water: 3 Oz of paint) in a spray bottle. 

  It is a thick paint, but stains dead, dry grass relatively well.  One coat gives about 85% "greener" effect, and a second coat a day later from an opposite angle gives 100% coverage. It is green from the street, which is all that matters!  I'd estimate one 8oz bottle diluted 7:1 covers about 100 sq feet.

Now, after seeing the water-based paint first hand, I deduced it was a bottle of plain green acrylic paint.  I went to the craft store Michael's, and an exact bottle of green acrylic paint had the same bottle, size, color and consistency of the more expensive Amazon grass paint.  Diluted up it was identical in action for 1/8th the price.

 I've bought a couple bottles for only $2.50 each, to touch up a couple spots that were a little light, forgotten on the first pass, or which might crop up in the future.
Good luck with your own DIY grass paint job!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to migrate from a Hard Drive to an SSD drive.

Here is Lifehacker's great guide to migrating your Windows computer the newer, faster SSD (solid state drives)

Samsung has a great 1TB drive at Amazon, or for a little less money, the 250GB drive.

The speed one gains, is actually more cost-effective than buying a new computer.  Time to hot-rod your current PC or Mac!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Smart dock for Samsung Note II (and S3, S4, Note III)

Samsung Smart Dock for Note II

Samsung has now bumped up the bar for smartphones... how about a dock (ala the old laptop docks of yore) to work with your smart phone:  full-size keyboard/mouse compatible, external hard-drive storage and an HDMI port out to your modern flat-screen monitor?  What is NOT to love?  Nothing.  Three USB ports, HDMI, charing, stereo sound out, Especially for $99 retail or even less on Amazon HERE

Now I can ditch my old Asus EEE netbook, and use this Samsung Smart Dock instead... and keep one device for nearly the whole day.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Copying Flash videos to DVD to play in a Sony Blu-Ray player

I needed some videos to play on my large screen LED TV through my Sony BDP-BX58 Blu-Ray player.  It was awkward to hook up my desktop to the fireplace mounted TV, so I needed a way to copy the Flash Video to play in my DVD player.

I found a great website with all the details, and the links to download the two programs required to 1) copy the flash video to hard-drive, and 2) convert the FLV format to MPEG.

Here's the Weblink on Videohelp.com:  How To Record Streaming Flash and Save

First, download "Downloadhelper" and also "AVIDemux"

Follow the directions on the website... give the video time to download to the temporary cache folder!

To convert to a video format that will play in the Sony DVD, convert the saved video file with the following parameters:
Video Decoder:  Lavcodec
Video Output:  Mpeg4 AVC (x264)
Audio Output:  AC3 (Aften)
Output Format:  MP4v2 Muxer
Save as an ".mp4" file

Once that's converted (takes a while), use your favorite CD/DVD burner software to burn/close it to your blank disc. 

It should read as a data disc in the Sony BR player, and can be seen in the Video crossbar menu.  Select it, and play the file. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 8 with an Upgrade Disc

How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 8 with an Upgrade Disc

Sometimes, you just need to do a clean install. Unfortunately, the Windows 8 Upgrade doesn't always allow for that, throwing you an error when you try to activate after a clean install. Reader uncommoner shows us a workaround for this issue.
If you do a clean install using the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, you should be fine—but if you've already formatted your drive or you're moving to a new drive, you can't do a "clean install" without installing an old version of Windows first. It'll let you install Windows 8 cleanly, but when you go to activate, you get an error 0x8007007B, saying your product key can only be used for upgrading.
If you get that error, here's how to fix it:
  1. Press the Windows key and type regedit. Press enter to open the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate toHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/and double-click on the MediabootInstall key in the right pane.
  3. Change the key's value from 1 to 0.
  4. Exit the Registry Editor, press the Windows key again, and type cmd. Right-click on the Command Prompt icon and run it as an administrator.
  5. Type slmgr /rearm and press Enter.
  6. Reboot Windows.
When you get back into Windows, you should be able to run the Activation utility and activate Windows as normal, without getting an error. Obviously, you could use this trick for evil, but it has its legitimate place too—if, say, you're upgrading your hard drive and want to do a fresh install on it, or if you formatted your drive before upgrading.
We haven't had a chance to test it ourselves, but it's been well documented around the net, so we're confident it should work for you if you're getting this particular error. If you give it a shot, let us know how it works for you in the discussions below! Thanks for the tip, uncommoner!

Monday, March 25, 2013

DIY iPod / iTouch wall mount speaker system

After perusing the web for a cost-effective iTouch wall mount, I decided to try my own hand (and tight wallet ) at making my own wall mount.  My iTouch from 2009 barely holds a charge, so it is to be relegated to wall duty as a WiFi sound portal for my basement billiards room and bar.  Power will be from a USB plug and amplifier behind the wall.

I had a pair of wall-speakers left over from a previous custom home build, so those were free, and mounted quickly.  Fortunately, I had access to the back of the wall inside the utility room, so it was relatively easy wiring everything up, but this could be done by fishing wires inside a wall, and running them along behind the baseboards, if need be.  The amp and USB power plug could also be wired easily, too, with a low voltage wire portal that exits the wires right above a wall outlet.  [Probably hiding the transformers inside a wall would be do-able, but could be a cause of a very rare, but dangerous fire... just sayin'.]

Add the backplate loosely, then tilt  into place
Backside of the speaker
Speaker mouting screws

A Lepai Class-T amp from Amazon was mounted on a wall stud.

The pieces for this DIY iTouch mount were picked up at Michaels for less than $10.00.

Lay out the mearsurements, cut with a razor knife by scoring.

 A 3.5x5 inch wood photo frame for about $6.00, and a couple pieces of thin wood from the Michael's craft aisle.  One is 1/32" thick and the other 1/16" thick.  Each was about $2.00.

I cut the thinnest piece of wood to both fit the frame dimensions, and from that fitted wood a rectangular cutout to match the face of the iTouch to ensure not only the screen was fully visible, but also the camera and the front button.  I sprayed a few coats of black with a hint of copper to match the frame's paint.
The mat-board all cut out, prior to paint
After the first coat of paint... the wood grain is not noticeable in the room light.

The iTouch was loosely fitted onto the mat-board, and small birch wood pieces cut to reinforce the iTouch on all four sides, making room for the headphone jack and the 30-pin connector.

Once fitted, the actual wood frame was marked where the wires would interfere, and notches cut to allow their exit.  Since they are on the bottom, they won't be seen after the whole frame is mounted on the wall.  Note the notches were painted to match the frame.

A 90-degree headphone plug had to be ever-so-gently trimmed so as not to interfere with the mat-board, while allowing the iTouch to remain flat.
30-pin wire and frame groove...

Measurements were made to mount to drywall screws at the appropriate width which allows the screw heads to ride inside the routed groove in the frame.

The frame was trial mounted to the wall and pencil marks made for the holes in the drywall to accommodate the headphone and 30-pin wires, making sure the holes would not protrude beyond the frame itself.
Mounting screws and wiring in place ahead of time.

Once mounted epoxy was used to hold all the pieces in place, and once dried and fitted again (don't forget to have the cables installed!), a flat piece of 1/16" wood was placed over the iTouch to unify the whole system, and not allow the iTouch to fall out or away from the frame. (Note the headphone jack cutout was not complete at the stage of this photo below...but the layout of the wood and backplate are correct).
Wood attachment system... headphone jack and groove not placed (yet)

Once the epoxy dried, the whole mount was attached to the wall and hooked to the amp.
Installed on the wall, ready to party!
The whole system: iTouch wall mount and speakers

Power up!  Pandora streams loud and clear.  The Lepai amp is set for max bass, and minimal treble, and set at about 90% volume setting.  The actual speaker volume will be regulated through the iTouch screen.

Next stage:  subwoofer, and the bass can come through the wall-mounted fresh air grill for the utility room.

Geek Out & Enjoy!  Let me know if you tackle something similar yourself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Image or Clone a new drive using Norton Ghost 15.0

This will detail how to image (or copy) a hard drive running Windows 7 and having an SRP, (aka "System Reserved Partition) which is a small 100Mb partition on the original hard drive. These instructions are for a new hard-drive of the same or even better, larger capacity than the old one.

1. Power down the computer

2. Open it up and install the new hard drive (SATA power and the SATA data cords). Leave the original hard drive in there, too, of course....

3. Power up and start Windows

4. Under the start menu, type "Disk Management", and open that program "Windows Disk Management" and you should get a prompt that the new disk needs to be initialized. Make sure you select the disk drive (check mark) and ensure "MBR" is selected, so the new drive is bootable. Note the SRP partition of the original C: drive, circled in red:

5. Restart/Reboot the machine to make the new disk visible to Norton (though it won't be visible in My Computer, yet)

6. Place the Norton Ghost 15.0 Disk into the DVD drive.

7. If it doesn't start automatically, browse to the DVD drive via "My Computer" (disc is named NGH15.0.1) and open it to see the files therein.

8. Double-click "Autorun.exe" to run it.

9. During the install, a few DOS command windows (black windows) will open and close on their own several times. This whole process can take more than a few minutes...maybe like fifteen or more...

10. This link HERE to the Norton forum help site has a lot of good information, but it's missing some steps and explanations that I will detail.  If you don't have an SRP, then follow the instructions on the website, using the tips from this post to help you along.

11. Go to the Start Menu, Norton Ghost, and run the Norton Ghost Program. It will begin analyzing your system:

12. Once finished, click "Tools" and "Copy My Hard Drive", and "Next" on the pop-up window.

13. ensure you check "Show Hidden Drives" box. Click and select the source drive (we'll start with the "System Reserved" partition, aka SRP). Click Next.

14. For Destination, select "Unallocated" (the new drive), click Next.

15. "Check": Source for file system errors

"Check": Destination for file system errors

'DON'T SELECT" Resize drive to fit unallocated space ( this will keep the size the same for the SRP) "Check": Set drive active (for booting OS) 'DON'T SELECT' Disable SmartSector copying 'DON'T SELECT' Ignore bad sectors during copy "Check" Copy MBR Destination partition type : Primary Partition Drive letter : "" (click the down arrow and "none" will be a the top of the list)

16. Click Next, and then upon reviewing the settings, select "Finish" (If you happen to go "back", double-check that the drive letter is

17. Norton Ghost will copy over the small 100Mb partition to the new drive, usually in less than two minutes. Click "Close" when finished.

18. Now to copy the main C: drive: Click "Tools" and "Copy My Hard Drive", and "Next" on the pop-up window.

19. Click and select the source drive (usually known as "C:" drive). Click Next.

20. For Destination, select "Unallocated" (the new drive), click Next.

"Check": Source for file system errors
"Check": Destination for file system errors
"Check": Resize drive to fill unallocated space (ONLY if you want to expand the new space to fill the rest of a larger new drive)

"DON'T SELECT" Set drive active (for booting OS) Remember, the small 100MB SRP partition actually does the Booting...
"DON'T SELECT" Disable SmartSector copying
"DON'T SELECT" Ignore bad sectors during copy
Destination partition type : Primary Partition
Drive letter : (click the down arrow and "none" will be a the top of the list)

21. Wait......... a few hours, perhaps!

22.. You can move the "Performance" slide toward "Slow" if you need to use your computer for other tasks...or just leave it at "Fast" and run overnight... Make sure no other software is scheduled to do scans, etc., like a malware or virus scanner or other routine backup program.

...more to post after the image is completed in the morning!