The Lionel KW transformer

The Lionel KW transformer

The Lionel KW transformer was the second largest transformer Lionel made in the postwar era. It delivered 190 watts of power and provided two handles to control two trains. Internally, the design is very similar to the ZW. If the ZW was Lionel’s Cadillac transformer, the KW was the Buick. I always thought Lionels were overrated until I ran a 675 locomotive with a KW.

There was a time when nobody made modern transformers the size of a KW or ZW. Now that they do, the ZW and especially the KW cost a lot less. I remember when a reconditioned KW cost $200. Today you can get one for under $100. An as-is KW with minor issues will cost half that. These days, the KW is a bargain.

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Which wire is hot, black or white? Is the black wire hot?

Which wire is hot, black or white? Is the black wire hot?

If you don’t do electrical work very often, it can be confusing and can lead to questions. Is the black wire hot? Which wire is hot, black or white?

The first rule is there are no rules. So if you see lots of different colors in an electrical box, you probably need to call an electrician. But if you see three or four colors, you can probably figure it out.

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Dyson vacuum cleaner repair/rebuild

Dyson vacuum cleaner repair/rebuild

Our Dyson DC-14 pet vacuum started making a terrible loud, high-pitched noise one day. It still worked, mostly, but the noise was obnoxious enough that you wanted hearing protection while using it. And when I investigated further, I found the vacuum brush was not spinning either. I finally got around to fixing it.

A Dyson vacuum cleaner making a loud noise, a high pitched squealing noise, and the vacuum brush not spinning are all symptoms of the same 1-2 problems. The clutch is engaged and possibly damaged. It’s also possible the filters are clogged.

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Prong stuck in an outlet? Here’s the fix.

Prong stuck in an outlet? Here’s the fix.

The other day we went to unplug a lamp so we could plug a vacuum cleaner in. But something didn’t quite feel right. When we looked at the plug, we could see why. One of the prongs was missing. When we looked at the outlet, the prong was still there. There’s some bad, or at least time-wasting, advice out there on how to fix a prong stuck in an outlet or socket. Here’s how we fixed it.

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Cleaning N64 games

Cleaning N64 games

Cleaning N64 games is a controversial topic. It doesn’t have to be. There are some techniques floating around that can be harmful. But I also bristle when I see people say there’s one and only one right way. Here are some techniques for cleaning N64 games, based on my decades of experience fixing computers and game systems.

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Cheap closet doors

Cheap closet doors

It’s not uncommon for fixer-upper houses to be missing closet doors, or have irreparable closet doors. I’m not sure why people beat up on their closet doors, but it seems to happen. I do know a legal bedroom has to have a closet with a door. If you need to fix a missing or busted door fast and cheap, here’s just the thing. I’m happy to share what I do when I need cheap closet doors.

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Replace your UPS battery

Replace your UPS battery

My UPS started squawking one Friday evening, the tell-tale sign that the battery was dead or dying. When that happens, it’s time to either replace the UPS battery, or replace the entire UPS. Hopefully you can just replace the battery. Here’s how to replace your UPS battery.

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Commodore 64 models

Commodore 64 models

Over the course of its 12 years on the market, Commodore released a number of Commodore 64 models. The computer’s capability changed very little over time, but the technology did. The world changed a lot between 1982 and 1994, and that gave Commodore some opportunities to lower costs, chase other market segments, or both.

Here’s an overview of the various Commodore 64 models that hit the market over the machine’s long life.

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IBM PS/2 vs PC

IBM PS/2 vs PC

The IBM PS/2 line was a fairly radical departure from the older IBM PC line. This was deliberate, as IBM wanted to disrupt the clone industry, which it saw as a threat to its business. Here’s a look back at the IBM PS/2 vs PC, the line it replaced.

IBM succeeded with the PC because it created an ecosystem, not just a PC. IBM’s misstep was creating an open architecture and then trying to close it back up after the fact with the PS/2. In IBM’s defense, it’s not clear whether they knew this at the time. If nothing else, in the case of the IBM PS/2 vs PC, IBM created a classic case study of open architecture vs closed.

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