Repair a Lionel train motor

If you want to fix a Lionel train, what you probably really need to do is repair a Lionel train motor. There isn’t much to the rest of the train.

The motors tend to be pretty rugged and they’ve held up over the years. Most “repairs” are really more of a clean and service job, not unlike taking your car in for an oil change. Here are some general principles to follow when you clean and service a Lionel motor.

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How DDoS attacks work

Yesterday, half the Internet was broken. I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t get into Salesforce to check on a support ticket for my biggest customer. Another member of my team sent us a warning that a big DDoS attack was happening, and not to count on being able to issue very many quotes today. So what, exactly, is a DDoS attack and how do DDoS attacks work?

I suppose there’s another question to ask too: What can you do to avoid being part of the problem? We’ll save that for the end.

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Digiland tablet review

Digiland tablet review

The Digiland DL718M tablet is an inexpensive (sub-$40) tablet sold at consumer electronics stores like Best Buy. Make no mistake, a Digiland tablet is a basic tablet for basic needs. But given reasonable expectations you can buy one of these and be happy with it.

This isn’t a new market by any stretch. But it seems like tablets in this price range are usually Black Friday specials, or only available on online marketplaces far abroad. The Digiland DL718M is one you can get today if you want.

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Visit your layout with a cheap camera

I’ve seen a number of videos lately made by people putting dashboard cameras on their trains, which gives a view of a layout that we don’t usually get to see–the view from the trains themselves. I’ve found a cheaper option. Hit up Ebay for an SJ4000 camera, which, if you sort the buy-it-now listings, you should be able to get for less than $20.

If that’s too rich for your blood, look for the Mini DVR 808, which is keychain sized and costs more like $5.

Don’t expect the world for that kind of money, but you can get a surprisingly good view of your layout from a perspective you’ll never see in person with one.

It’s not quite like getting to ride in your trains, but it’s not bad, either.

Why the government (and others) still deal in floppy disks

The revelation that the Federal Government still relies on floppy disks for some of its business is making it the butt of some jokes this week. And although that will serve as confirmation for some people that the government is completely backward, there are actually multiple good explanations for it.

From a security standpoint, using floppy disks isn’t a bad idea at all. Read more

I found a reasonably good, inexpensive keyboard for the Sero 7 Pro

I bought a keyboard this week for the Hisense Sero 7 Pro. It’s a universal keyboard/case made by Afunta, and I paid $12.50 for it. I took a chance on it, and now you don’t have to. Its spring-loaded jaws nicely accomodate the Sero 7 Pro, and the keyboard works with the Sero 7 Pro with no issues. Plug it in, wait a moment, and it starts working, replacing the onscreen keyboard when you need keyboard input, basically turning your tablet into a convertible. It has a micro USB connector, unlike many 7-inch keyboards, so it works with the Sero 7 without an adapter. It’s odd that most keyboards seem to have full-size USB connectors but most 7-inch tablets have micro ports.

I wouldn’t want to type at length with the keyboard, but it’s much nicer than using an onscreen keyboard on a 7-inch screen.

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It’s time to strike down the red-light cameras

I saw some abuses of the red-light cameras on the news at noon. In one case, the car next to the one that ran the light got the ticket. In another, the owner wasn’t driving the car. The reporter asked the mayor of Florissant, Thomas Schneider, if that was fair.

“It’s safe,” he said. And he said the same thing to every other question the reporter asked.

That’s debatable. But guess what? Josef Stalin’s regime was very safe. Do what Stalin said, and you were safe. That doesn’t make Stalin fair, right, or ethical. It doesn’t make Schneider fair, right, or ethical either.

It’s not safe, either.

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Model railroading with your Droid: Color matching

The biggest problem with making custom (or reproduction) decals for use with trains of the miniature variety is getting the colors on the computer-generated decal to match the paint on the model. Eyeballing the color won’t work; you need a computer’s help to do it.

Enter a free Android app called Color Eye. Launch Color Eye, point your phone or tablet’s camera at the paint you need to match, and your phone will give you the closest color matches that it knows about, including a Pantone color and a CYMK value.

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I may have found a few-compromises 7-inch tablet

So I was tempted when I saw a refurbished Acer Iconia 7-inch tablet for $151. Its specs are outmoded but respectable–dual core 1 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB of storage, and a microSD slot. And Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is available for it.

But there’s something better around the corner. I say few-compromises, because I haven’t seen a no-compromises 7-inch tablet yet. The 7-inch sector is all about value.

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