Repair a Marx reverse unit

When it comes to Marx repairs, the reverse unit is the end of the innocence. Motor repairs are rather easy; reverse unit repair can be as hard as you want it to be.

I’ll share some things I do that seem to make it go easier.

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How to winterize a lawn mower

It’s very easy to winterize a lawn mower and I definitely recommend doing it–nothing gums up a mower like sitting in a garage for five months with a full gas tank. Taking fifteen minutes out of your day sometime in November can save you lots of heartache, and maybe 50 bucks, come spring.

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Bash is worse than heartbleed! Oh noes!

A really bad remote code execution bug surfaced yesterday, in Bash–the GNU replacement for the Unix shell. If you have a webserver running, or possibly just SSH, it can be used to execute arbitrary code. It affects anything Unixy–Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and likely many proprietary Unix flavors, since many of them have adopted the GNU toolchain.

This could be really bad. Some people are calling it potentially worse than Heartbleed. Maybe. I’m thinking it’s more along the lines of MS08-067. But there’s an important lesson we must learn from this. Read more

Scratchbuilding, Marx-style: Finishing the roof

This is a continuation of something I wrote well over a year ago detailing how I build Marx-style boxcars out of simple materials. Train season is starting up again soon, so it’s about time I finished this story.

Once the box that will become your Marx-style boxcar is dry, it’s time to tend to the roof.

This method won’t produce a contest-quality roof by any stretch, but it will produce something that will blend in well with Marx cars. The idea here is to produce something that most hobbyists can accomplish in an evening and that won’t overwhelm the other cars in the train. Read more

How to open a D-Link GDS-2205 5-port gigabit switch

I have a D-Link GDS-2205 switch that I picked up cheaply. It turned out it was cheap because it didn’t work. But I thought I’d try to open it and look for bulging capacitors, since that’s a common problem with low-end network equipment.

Opening these boxes is tricky, but not impossible.

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Change a lawn mower blade safely and easily

I needed to change a lawn mower blade this weekend, which meant I had to remove the stubborn old blade first. That proved to be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I learned the secret of changing a blade without hurting myself, and without a torque wrench, even when the stubborn bolt doesn’t want to turn.

To remove and replace a lawn mower blade safely and easily, you need a length of 2×4 board long enough to stand on, a small plastic pan, the biggest socket wrench you can find, and a socket that matches the bolt on your mower. If you don’t have a socket wrench, you can use a regular crescent wrench, but you want the biggest one you can find. Longer wrenches give more leverage, and you need lots of leverage. Read more

Analysis: Samsung “green” memory

I was at Micro Center today, picking up CD jewel cases and USB flash memory and a cheap USB game pad. And to buy a little extra time–I had one son with me and the other was home napping–I wandered around. In the memory aisle, I spotted some Samsung “green” memory. Manufactured with a 40nm process instead of the usual 60nm process, the modules are 2/3 the size of conventional modules, run cooler, and use up to 47% less power.

Is it worth paying extra for? As always, it depends.

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How to lower your train accessories into your table

One of the first articles I remember reading in a train magazine (I don’t remember if it was Classic Toy Trains or a competing rag) was titled “Put your accessories in pockets.” Basically, it advocated cutting holes in your table, putting a board beneath the hole, and putting the accessory in the hole to even it up with the ground level on your layout.

It’s a great idea–more on that in a minute–but it really didn’t go into much detail about how to do the cutting part.

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The many troubles with e-books

A brief essay by free software pioneer Richard Stallman on the problems with e-books made the front page of Slashdot today. It’s everything I’ve come to expect from Stallman. I found myself vigorously agreeing with parts of it, and vigorously disagreeing with other parts of it.

But mainly I found myself disappointed that he didn’t really elaborate much. Maybe it’s because he covered similar ground once before in his 1997 dystopian 1984-ish short story, The Right to Read.

And, to me, that’s the problem. We’re on a slippery slope. Today it sounds ridiculous that it could be illegal to loan your laptop or your e-reader or your tablet to someone else. But prior to 2009, the idea that you could buy a book and then at some point the party that sold it to you could take it back from you without permission sounded ridiculous.
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Cleaning and storing Lionel track

Cleaning and storing Lionel track is another common question when the subject of trains comes up. Now that you’re getting the electric train track out for Christmas duty, there are some things you need to do to get it ready. And when the time comes to put it away until next year, a little preparation then will leave it in better shape for next year.

First, a note: Since writing this piece, I discovered a miracle. I treated my track with a conductivity enhancer, and the difference is unbelievable.

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