Coping: Aftermath, Monitors, and DYI Magic Notes

As I reported in yesterday’s column, things around the ranch here in East Texas were a bit nuts on Thursday.  But this morning things are “back in the groove…”

The lack of sleep was corrected by about 10 AM…which gets me to mentioning the article out this week on how many hours of sleep a person really needs.  It was in the Wall St. Journal and says “Why Seven Hours of Sleep might be better than Eight.”

Normally, I’d have found that pretty interesting, since about 7 1/2-hours is what I run on.  But when I’ve run on 5 & 6 and then drop back to 4 — well, that for me is a crash and that came with this week’s storm.

Once about 3-hours of “catch-up” was done, it dawned on me that the “overwhelming sleep” desire also hits me (like a ton of bricks) a day or three ahead of major (I mean 7-8+) earthquakes.  So if a quake comes along…remember who told you…

A return to my office Thursday morning discovered that one of my four monitors on “the big server” had decided to stop working.  It’s a Sceptre X246W and, turns out, they have a problem with capacitors in their power supplies after they age a bit.

A quick check of eBay quickly found that a capacitor replacement kit for the blown up power supply was available or $15-bucks.  Needless to say, I ordered one.

$15 bucks instead of a replacement?  Easy decision, that one.  And that gets me to the two main points of this morning’s epistle:

The first is that companies that make really good computer gear sometimes find the darnedest places to shave a penny.  True, the difference in cost between a cheap capacitor (temp rated for 85C may be more than a penny compared to a 100C rated capacitor) but here’s the point:  I have found that in all kinds of modern electronics the weak point is usually the power supply.

Same thing with my laptop: Great computer, cheap-ass power cube blew up.  Just put a new 700W power supply in my “big” computer a few months back, too…

Whether you’re trying to  repair a monitor, or that classic audio amplifier that used to drive your subwoofer….there are many occasions when a basic knowledge of electronic components and soldering can literally save you 10-20 times the cost of “whole unit” replacement.

You don’t have to be rich to have a great lifestyle…just clever and be able to fix things.

When the parts get here I may take a bunch of pictures and write up a “how to” for Peoplenomics subscribers.  You know, a short 5-6 page introduction to basic electronics repair oriented to fixing power supplies.

The second point is that if you have not plugged in a second monitor to your computer, you’re living in the dark ages of computing.

Especially if you have a lap or desktop.  Second screens for a mobile device would be stupid…but a projector port?  Hmmm…

Most laptops come with a simple VGA port that you can plug an external monitor into.  When we go on our trip up to the PNW next month, we’ll be taking an external monitor and our LCD projector with us, too. 

So if you have a laptop, there’s usually nothing to buy:  Plug in the additional monitor, go to the display set-up and mark the external monitor for “Extended Desktop” use.  You’ll suddenly have double the amount of workspace on screen and once you get used to it, you will find a huge increase in productivity.

If you have a desktop computer, you may need an additional video card, but you can pick up a EVGA GeForce GT 610 1024MB GDDR3, Dual DVI, HDMI Graphics Card 01G-P3-2616-KR for under $50-bucks.

If you pick up two of these, you can then clone what I’ve been running – four monitors – all as extended desktop. 

My usual “serious work mode” is email/Outlook on the left monitor.  Whatever I’m writing on the middle monitor.  Content/reference material (Explorer or Firefox) on the left monitor.

Then, on the big monitor on top (#4) I watch a Nostracodeus run ker-chunking along,  Gloomberg or streaming futures/live charts.

My point is that multiple monitors are the only way to fly if you have lots of work to get done and employers who don’t give their employees at least two monitors are idjits – neander-comps, as it were.

With another unusual cold snap due next week (and we are likely to set several days of record low temps in this part of the country) I figure that the other two Sceptres are “at risk” so if I can get the first monitor back up and running, I might preemptively upgrade the power supplies of the other two when I get time.

Get time?  OMG…what’s that?

The Audiophile’s Notebook

As long as we’re working on PC’s….

A couple of readers wondered how the home studio is coming along…and that gets me to the next peripheral.

I’ve decided to upgrade the audio card in my music/video computer as part of building the Ultimate Home Studio on a Budget.

The card?  SYBA SD-PEX63081 7.1 Surround Sound S/PDIF In/Out Digital/Analog PCI-e Audio Card CM8828 Chipset with Full and Low Profile Brackets for $35 bucks.

If the coffee has really kicked it up a notch for you, you’ll see what:  This card has both SPDIF in and out

Now, if you’re listening to the odd MP3 (when the boss ain’t looking) you probably won’t benefit much (if at all) from going SPDIF…but if you are setting up a media server (to feed the big screen those DVD’s because that way you can get your DVD Player and streamer in a single box…then this might be something for you to think about.

In the “ultimate/cheap home studio” I found a deal on the card for even less ($29.95) and that will give me a 96 KHz audio chain instead of the typical slower sample rates… but then again, you’ll need an audio system (amp) that can eat SPDIF out…but if you’re going for a high quality home theater experience, well, this has potential…

A Few Words About Magic

Meantime, my “gear move-in” continues and here’s what it looks like as of this morning.  Still to come is a large area rug and more sound panels on the wall from where this picture was taken.

Remember, this started off as a deck that we’d cobbled on the north end of our “trailer” which – more than ever – causes great visual discontinuity.

I forget which movie it was…but a couple of years back there was a stoner-flick (drug film) about a couple of heads (but not Cheech & Bong) who were traveling across the South and they end up at this trailer out in the woods.

The outside of the place looked like typical “white trash” (old car and refrigerator in the front yard kind of thing) but when they shot changed to the interior, it looked like a highly decorated and details super up-scale midtown apartment.

I loved it!  We were already on track and working that way, but the film really sealed the deal for me.

The contrast between “regular trailer” look on the outside and whole different planet on the inside…well, that’s what I’m talking about…

Elaine and I both like the look of Trader Vics (old-school pseudo-Polynesia/Tiki) vibe, so our dining room (which we finished a good while back)  has that “vibe.”

Amazing what some rolls of reed fencing, a staple gun, a couple of grass hunting mats and some sticks of bamboo can do, isn’t it?

The reason for the pictures and such?

Well, it’s the weekend.  Every room in our home has been a collaborative effort between Elaine and me.  We discuss the reasons for this, the reasons against that…but it’s all part of a marvelous dance of two minds building shared space. 

In the end, though, it crystalizes into a really fun, unique place to live.  And that’s where our subject now turns to “magic.”

Any damn fool can write a check.  And sure, there’s a level of “magic” involved in having enough money in the bank so the check doesn’t bounce.

But there’s another magic, too.  The kind that comes from the head, heart, and hands.  Some people are into trading paper for things.  But I really enjoy the “magic” of taking an idea and moving it (in ring-pass-not) fashion from the mental realms out into this world.  Passing “the veils” that keep the mental and physical worlds apart.

This being another Friday, I can’t think of a better time to remind you that we all (one way or the other) work for “the man” at something most of the time.

But what defines us (our space, our life, and such) is how we invest that other time ands what kind of magic we choose. 

People who build beautiful handcrafted furniture, exquisite glassworks, marvels of metal sculpture, or people who build boats…these are higher magicians, as I see it, than the fools with the checkbooks.  Not much learning about the great esoteric issues from name-signing, is there?

And since we’re (most of us, anyway) less than 8-hours from a weekend, the solid question to ask going into the weekend is “How will you have taken concrete steps to improve your life and make it something really special between now and Monday?”

How you answer that defines what kind of Life Magician you are.

Reflections on WoWW

Whether those pictures from space of war flashes on the ground in Gaza are the “sky flashes” meme that dream and data sources had been hinting at should become clear over time.  But check out this reader note:

On the night of July 22nd I was awoke by my phone ringing around 3am. I am out of town in the boondocks so my phone sits in the window to get service. Half awake I go to the window before I even look at my phone the sky seemed to light up in a blue flash at the horizon in the distance. Dumbfounded I stand there looking intensely again for it to happen. It doesn’t. I chalked it up to a weird story I heard about methane from cows causing a glow in the fields. They call them ghost cows. I know it’s a stretch but hey it was too weird. Then I read about your sky flash.. Who knows maybe I wasn’t awake… I went back to bed and dreamed of a earthquake that rumbled for a long time I even remember thinking in the dream geez is it ever going to end. I was not scared until I looked out the window and a flood of water was rushing toward me. Even weirder is that I knew I was in Arkansas and that a dam had broke. Totally unrelated I am sure to the sky flash but nevertheless it has bothered me for days. Hope all is well. Once again I have told no one about this I just feel compelled to tell you…. Haven’t quite figured out why I do…


The painter girl in Kansas

Funny thing about that earthquake reference…something about to pop?

OK, Skil saw at the ready (or more like the old Weller soldering iron this weekend…) we’re off on the next round of adventuring… see you Monday or for tomorrow…

Write when you break-even or when so moved…


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George Ure
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