Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A (Christmas) Magic Smoke Event . . .

I have recently been giving one of my "old ladies" in the guise of my 1982 vintage FT-101ZD Mk3 a "run out", promoting it to "main station rig" status for a few days despite the fact that I am aware that it is still in far from perfect working order.

It's basically a nice set, so that was no major sacrifice.

However, after the radio had been on for a few hours I suddenly started to get a distinct smell of "something" from it. I've smelt very many electronic faults in my time, but this one seemed rather to smell of a pan on the stove burning dry, but I quickly realised that there was no pan on the stove in the kitchen, and that the smell was indeed coming from my '101.

I removed the power and found a flashlight so I could investigate the cause, and spotted a little plume of smoke emanating from the left hand rear of the rig, and I also noticed that this corner of the rig seemed to be rather warmer than normal.

Straight away I disconnected all the external cabling, and, having allowed a reasonable time for the internal high tension power supply to discharge, I removed the top cover thinking that the sooner I could get at the innards, the more likely I was to identify the source of the problem.

Thus I homed in on the "Rectifier B" board and quickly spotted a rather distressed looking electrolytic capacitor which also seemed to be unusually warm to the touch.

Rectifier B Board in situ - PB-1968B

Now it may be recalled that this radio, bought originally as a “spares or repair” item from EBay, has had a chequered history having done questionable service as a high powered and illegal CB rig. It had no doubt been abused, quite possibly by someone less educated in the finer arts of the tuning and conservation of valve/hybrid rigs, this abuse being most keenly felt by the power supply stages. I had already rebuilt the “Rectifier A” board which had expired completely, and it now appears that I should have paid rather more attention to the “Rectifier B” board, which supplies screen and grid bias supplies to the output stages.

My own fault and hopefully any collateral damage will be minimal.   Looking on the bright side, as one of my “Twitterati” so nicely put it, at least it was “Christmas Magic Smoke”!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Microsoft Windows 7 - Gain without much Pain . . .

With the impending end of Microsoft’s support for their venerable and very successful Windows XP, I had been wrestling with the relative benefits of either “upgrading” my existing main desktop PC to Windows 7, or replacing it entirely, with the risk of having to put up with the almost universally reviled Windows 8.

I had been using Windows 7 on a  borrowed PC for some time and had become relatively comfortable with that environment, and so decided to take the plunge and go down the “upgrade” route with my 7-year old, reasonably specced (for its time) machine.

I purchased a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium from a seemingly reputable (according to the feedback) EBay supplier  and a brand new hard drive from EBuyer.com ( the thinking there being that there was an easy route back if the Windows 7 installation proved to be a disaster).

I have to say that the whole business went surprisingly well right from the initial minor surgery to replace the primary hard drive on my PC, which even included a vacuum out of the dust, cobwebs and general detritus which had accumulated in the last 12 months since I last had the machine apart.

The Windows 7 installation itself went very smoothly, the most anxious moments being those during which I waited with baited breath to see if my 25-digit licence code would be accepted (it was!).

I am not a player of games, apart from the “normal secretarial duties” of EMails, web surfing and writing documents, my machine spends most of its time running fairly esoteric Audio Spectrum Analysis DSP software associated with my hobby of recording “radio meteors” so the amount of software I had to re-install was relatively small.   Everything I installed worked pretty well without any problems and here I am a day later with a machine with a completely new operating system installed running every program I use regularly, consequently I am as “Pleased as Punch”.

The only downside is that of the new Microsoft Office 2013 which I have had “in stash” for a while ready to be installed on a Windows 7 (or later) machine.   This has appears to have been designed to have a “Windows 8” look about it, and frankly it’s horrible to look at.  I felt obliged to install this heavyweight package due to it (a) being cheap due to an arrangement my employer has with Microsoft, and (b) there is no built-in EMail client in Windows 7.  

I could of course opted for something like OpenOffice with Mozilla Thunderbird, but I had the Office install disk already.   Maybe more on that later, but at the moment I am struggling to find any nice words about Office 2013, but I should probably give it more time before I put virtual pen to paper!  It appears to work fine, but it just looks DREADFUL.   That’s a great shame as one of Windows 7‘s greatest appeals is that it “looks nice”, to me, anyway . . .