Father Vaughn always posed that deceptively simple question when asked for help with a new problem.
What he knew, and what we eventually discovered, was that the most recent Thing-That-Changed generally had something to do with what was now broken. Even if the difference didn’t seem related in any way, tracking down its effects was always a highly productive use of your time.
His question applies to non-technical problems, too… especially when you think nothing has changed.
While printing up handouts for my talk at Cabin Fever, I finally tracked down why Adobe Reader was producing such crappy colors.
The left is before and the right is after the fix, scanned at the same time with the same image adjustments:
All of the print settings appeared correct (plain paper, 720 dpi, normal contrast, etc, etc), but Adobe Reader (and only Adobe Reader) looked like it was trying to print on vastly higher quality paper than I was using. Too much ink, too much contrast, generally useless results.
The solution was, as always, trivial, after far too much fiddling around.
In Reader’s Print dialog, there’s a button in the lower-left corner labeled Advanced. Clicky, then put a checkmark in the box that says Let printer determine colors.
And then It Just Works.
Equally puzzling: ask for 25 copies of a two-page document, check the Collate box, and you get 25 page 1, 25 page 2, then more page 1 starts coming out. I bet I’d get 25 x 25 sheets of paper by the time it gave up.
I have no idea what’s going on, either.
Memo to Self: verify that the box stays checked after updates.
After we rearranged the living room, we had a few floor lights in different locations that called for more X10 Appliance Controllers. I’m not a big fan of automated housing, because X10 communication is unreliable with a bullet, but it’s convenient to turn off all the lamps from the bedroom.
Anyhow, the old RCA HC25 X10 Appliance Modules I pulled out of the Big Box o’ X10 Stuff suffered from the usual conflict between compact fluorescent lamps and the “local control” misfeature that’s supposed to let you turn the appliance on by simply flipping the switch. The problem is that a CFL ballast draws a nonlinear trickle of current that the module misinterprets as a switch flip, thus occasionally turning the lamp on shortly after you turn it off.
This has been true since the first compact fluorescent bulbs appeared. The circuitry inside X10 modules hasn’t changed much, at least up until I bought the last round of switches quite some time ago. That’s either a Bad Thing (still a problem) or a Good Thing (everybody knows about it).
The solution (everybody knows about it, just use the obvious keywords) is to cut a jumper on the module’s circuit board that’s obviously placed there for this very reason. In this view, it’s just below the lower-right corner of the fat blue capacitor. If you need confirmation, it’s connected to pin 7 of the only IC on the board.
Snip the wire, move the cut end a little bit, and button the module up again.
Oh, yeah. No user serviceable parts inside is a challenge around here…
I wondered if the Thing-O-Matic would benefit from having its two high-current heaters on a separate +12 V supply than the DC Extruder, after finding that the heaters dragged the +12 V output down by nearly half a volt.
A bit of rummaging turned up a suitable ATX supply with a data plate that might justifiably lead one to believe that the supply provides separate +12 V outputs:
There’s no indication which of the four connectors might use +12V1 and +12V2, but, being that sort of guy, I applied an ohmmeter to the various yellow wires and found they were all exactly 0.0 Ω apart.
So I opened the Warranty Void If Seal Removed top cover and found this situation:
All the yellow wires terminate in the same solder blob below the PCB
Two incoming wires got neatly spliced together in mid-air, despite having free holes in the PCB
This may not come as much of a shock: they lie…
Perhaps if you spend more money on your supply, it’ll actually live up to the data plate specs. Then, again, perhaps you’ll just be spending more money.
And, if you swap in a fancy supply for the MBI-stock one, it might not make much difference at all. I suspect the various power levels and current capacities have pretty much the same degree of integrity…