The pizza procession

There’s a plaza over by our house that’s home to, among other things, a pet store, a license office, a Chinese food joint, a mattress store, a haircut place, a Radio Shack, another cell phone store, and a pizza joint. My wife was there last week, getting ready to pull out of the parking lot, when a funeral procession approached. She stopped to stay out of the way.

The pizza delivery guy behind her didn’t.

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An upgrade. And an upsell.

I bought a new radio for my venerable 2002 Honda Civic this weekend. I want to be able to listen to security podcasts on my commute, which wasn’t practical with my factory radio. So, off to the nearest car audio shop (Custom Sounds) I went, skipping both Best Buy and Audio Express. I looked at a couple of $119 decks, then the salesman mentioned an Alpine HD radio deck for $129, and a Sony deck with Bluetooth for $149. Bluetooth didn’t really interest me much, but HD radio seemed worth the extra $10. To me, the secondary HD stations seem more interesting than the primary ones. Then again, I’m the guy who skips right past the hits on U2’s The Joshua Tree and cues up “Red Hill Mining Town.” The stuff I really like generally doesn’t do all that well on mainstream radio.

But my main motivation was to get a radio with a USB port, so I can snarf down a few hours’ worth of podcasts every week to a USB thumb drive, plug it in, and stay in touch with the security world. Total overkill for an Alpine, but like the salesman said, Alpines aren’t crazy expensive anymore like I remember them being in the early 1990s.

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How the IBM PC became the de facto standard for desktop computers

I saw a question on a vintage computing forum this week: How did the IBM PC become the de facto standard for PCs, and the only desktop computer architecture from the 1980s to survive until today?

It’s a very good question, and I think there were several reasons for it. I also think without all of the reasons, the IBM PC wouldn’t have necessarily won. In some regards, of course, it was a hollow victory. IBM has been out of the PC business for a decade now. Its partners Intel and Microsoft, however, reaped the benefits time and again.

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Using a Lionel (or other brand) O or O27 transformer with HO or N scale trains

Here’s a good question: Can you use Lionel O or O27 transformers (or, for that matter, American Flyer S transformers) with HO or N scale trains?

The answer is, not directly. It will make a terrible noise if you hook it up. But you can make it work properly if you add a bridge rectifier. Look for one that’s 10 amps or more; don’t expect to have to pay more than a couple of dollars for one.

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What to do about a router dropping connections

A former classmate and coworker contacted me with a question.

My router is about 5 years old. I have a cable modem and a router. The cable modem is fine. The router keeps connecting and disconnecting from the internet…used to happen occasionally, now happens all the time. I reset it and it works for a while, then disconnects. Is it time for a new router or do you think something else is going on?

I see two options.

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Microsoft just priced its Windows 8-based tablets out of the market

Microsoft just priced its Windows 8-based tablets out of the market.

Extremetech reports that they expect Windows 8-based tablets to sell for $600-$900. I think Microsoft is forgetting its history.

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2011 retail tinplate finds, at Big Lots and Shack

If you’re a tinplate fan like me, it would behoove you to make a trip to Big Lots sometime this week. Big Lots has a selection of building-shaped cookie tins priced at $5 each. The buildings include a town hall, post office, bakery, and general store. Additionally, my old friend Radio Shack is selling a building tin full of AA and AAA batteries for $10 until December 10 (it’ll be $20 after that).

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How to wire LEDs and other circuits risk-free

I see a lot of questions about how to wire up circuits, and unfortunately when people ask these questions on train forums, those innocent questions often devolve into heated and unproductive discussions focused on the math and physics involved, or other creative things that overcomplicate the project, and it scares off a number of people, often including the person who asked the question.

Usually what the person asking the question really wants is to not spend a whole Saturday soldering a circuit together, only to find out in the end that it doesn’t work.

So I’ll attack that issue. Here’s how to stage a circuit, find out in a matter of minutes whether it will work, and delay the soldering until you have something promising.

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