Monday, October 30, 2006

Comment: Halloween Vacation

Work. Work. Work.

All work and no CoCo makes Capt. a dull boy.

Ahhh. Vacation.

CoCo fun commences tomorrow. :) Until then...


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Comment: CoCoing and Sleeping

Well, I said I was going to post the rest of that last post "next week" and still haven't gotten more than 20 minutes, in ten minute intervals, with that case. And all the while the temperature here in Okie-land is dropping daily, and the External Evil Lab (Bay 16-A-441) isn't heated. So may have to cut back the ambitions. The goal at this point is to

1. Mod the CoCo board (the other one) to the PC power supply. Not sure if I can pull this off, but I'm told it's fairly straight foward.

2. Get the light kit installed.

3. Finish the case, or at least what can be done in time.

That means I might have to drop immediate plans to upgrade the processor and install fans. Which is no real problem since that can be done in the Evil Lab Internal Division (Suite 44A). So we're good. The hold up at the moment is fundage to aquire the light kit and fans. Two more weeks... just two more weeks. :) The real challange comes from the timing on the case. If the temperature drops below 60F for the season, it's bye bye to the painting. (Acutally, you can paint down to 50F but it sucks, takes forever, and the colder it is, the dicer the results.) So, the top of the case must be painted, regardless of where the mods are, by that time.

I've got the first cut out just about done. I bit more light sanding and some filler bits and it'll be complete. Kind of a perfectionist on that sort of thing. Seriously, if I could get a whole afternoon on it, it'd be done. Anyone got one? :P

What else... Ah, been searching for one liners for the Mary's newsletter which inspired me to sit and try my hand at some of my own. Very BASIC stuff. Silly really, but it's an interesting mental excercise trying to get it to work right.

Also played with POKE 282, which will inverse the video, like hitting SHIFT-0. Okay, cool... but, um, why? Well, I sorta found a use for it, but what it really led to was an inverse video input routine for accepting program input when you want a black background. The default INPUT command, of course, makes a green background mess all over the place. Still some work and error catching to do on it, and it doesn't backspace yet, but it might come in handy at some point.

Which brings us back to POKE 282 (0 for regular video, 1 for inverse). There might not be any use for it. But screwing around with something long enough often leads to something else, which DOES turn out to be useful. I recommend sitting down and whacking away at something assinine on your CoCo as often as you can. It's good for you. :)

Now I've got to go get some of the sleep stuff. Someone needs to up the supply of that as well.

Angel's Luck,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pimp My CoCo: Let's Make A Mess!

I really hoped to finish up on this today, but I ended up having to work. Hell month. Sucks. If there are any booksellers out there that need a job, give me a hollar. ;) Anyhow, I'll post this part of it now, and the second part next week when I get a chance to finish up this phase.

First, that paint I mentioned before, Krylon Fusion, rocks. It rocks hard. Serious rockage. Here's a picture (forgot to take more of the finished job, but plenty coming soon enough) of one coat on the bottom of the case as a test. Note that I didn't put in a lot of effort to clean up the bottom of the case. Just peeled the stickers off, and scrubbed it down. Not gonna look at the bottom much anyway. heh... More care will be required for the top.

Anyhow, the paint coats quickly and really does bond with plastic. No primer requried! Very swooth and very sweet. If you enlarge this picture and look close, you can make out the RGB connector label, which is molded into the case, clear as day. After three coats and a little drying time, it really looks like it was molded in black plastic originally. Coolness. :) I'll go over painting techniques in a future post when we do the top, but if you've ever used spray paint, you're good. Really doesn't get any easier than this and it's WAY cheaper than auto body paint, but WAY nicer than standard spray on paints.

Making a mess is one of the fun parts of building something, and cutting and modifying plastic always makes a nice mess! :) The plastic in the CoCo's case isn't terribly thick, but it's too thick to cut with your average hobby knife. Actually, you can but it makes an even bigger mess and it'll take forever. And since we're all about More Power, let's see what happens when we attack it with a Demel Tool! Bwahahha!

We'll be using a standard cut off wheel, and I recommend the lowest speed setting on the tool. It jumps like a mother. As always, use all manufactuer recommended safetry procautions and equipment, particularly protective eyewear. Hot plastic in the eye is one injury even I won't hazard. ;)

Sure enough, makes a HELLUVA mess. That garbage shred on top is actually melted plastic. Apparently taking a cutting wheel spinning at 10,000 rpm to your CoCo case will do that. Go figure. :) Okay, seriously, this is a good thing. That the plastic melts when heated means it can easily be molded, cut and shaped. It would be a Bad Thing if it was more heat resistant.

You'll also notice the dimple I cut below the faceplate area. That's from the Dremel shaft where I tried to angle in to get more material. Stupid of me. So that'll have to be filled in. Drat. For the next cuts I'll be using the Flex shaft attachment, or might even try to clamp it down and use the router attachment and a router bit, which would increase accuracy quite a bit.

Should you try to do this, to save you a bit of experimenting, here's what I learned in about 4 seconds after starting. heh. Frist, you can't cut cross ways in a line. The melting plastic starts to cool and the wheel starts to bind, which causes the tool to skip and jump like Starbuck's junkie on free sample day. Just lay the wheel on the area to cut and let it go straight down (it'll go by itself, don't press!). Lift and repeat. Then, trim off the shredded bits with a hobby knife. To remove the rest of the material (the vertical cuts are too narrow in this case), use the Dremel tool to nibble it away bit by bit. Leave a small amount of material around the cut out area. Don't cut completely to where you want to go. Then use a micro file or sanding wheel to take it down to where you want. You'll get smoother results and will require less of what's next.

Of course, even the Dremel tool isn't going to be highly accurate. You can cut thicker plastics with special knives and tools, but not having any we'll use what we've got. So, next we have to use a filler on the edges of the cut and then sand it down to be nice, neat and straight. I chose Milliput (Standard grain) modeling putty from the U.K. This stuff is easy to mold and shape when wet, but sets up to the hardness of stone. Good strong stuff. More important, it sands easily with a simple flat microfile. It's also designed to use with plastic, so it sticks and you can glue stuff to it with model glues and apoxies.

This is the messy part. Milliput is pretty messy. Get's all over when wet. This picture shows where I've backfilled the cut out area. We want to use more than is necessary, a lot more. We're going to file off most of it, becuase the cut is not terribly smooth and all whacky off kilter. When we sand down the Mulliput, it will form a perfectly smooth and level edge. Promise. :)

Working with Milliput isn't tricky once you know how it's going to act. It dries in phases, and what you do during those phases is important. When you first mix it (it's a two part mix) it's pliable and sticky. This is great for getting it to stay put in places where some putties might fall out or drip. In this phase, you can also wet it with a little water and smooth it with your finger or sculpting tool. This second picture shows the mulliput smoothed a little bit. My sculpting set it just a set of dental tools. The standard dental set has all the miniature sculpting tools you'll need and is relatively inexpensive.

In the second phase, after about 30 minutes (depends on temprature, but you can tell by poking it with your finger) it turns soft and rubbery. Kind of like taffy. It can now be cut with a hobby knife or razor for trimming off excess. You can also use a pick or sculting tool to poke holes or etch grooves in it.

The third phase, after about a day, the stuff turns pretty hard. About like porcelin. This is the time to sand it down if there's any light sanding to do. If you're dealing with a large piece, it can also be scored and broken at this point. You can do low impact/speed micro drilling in this phase as well.

Finally, after about three to seven days (again, depends on humidity and temperture), Mulliput turns rock hard. Once it's set up this hard, you can cut it with a cut off wheel or saw, and do heavy duty sanding on it. After a week or so, it's like working with stone. You can accelerate to all of these phases by heating it with a lamp or other moderate heat source.

This final picture shows some of the tools used. In model making, this is what we call the "Ass Point." The point where the thing just looks like complete ass. This is where a lot of people give up because it's hard to see the finished project through the huge messy crap we've just spent a couple of hours making. No worries. Having been here many times before (some days I live in the ass point), I swere it'll work out. ;) When it's done, it'll look like it came from the factory that way. In the next step we'll attach a straght-edge to the case and position it as a fence to sand a nice straight and smooth edge around the cut out. We'll be using a micro file to sand down the edge by hand. More work, but a much nicer result.

When I cut the "big" windows, I'm going to try to get a finished cut right from the start. Haven't figured out how to do that yet, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Also need an easier way to make smaller cuts in the case. I'm thinking the plunge router attachment on the Dremel tool and possibly a template is the best way, so we'll try that next. One of the points of this excercise it to experiment with techniques, and it certainly appears some experimentation is going to be required.

I did change the cut out design after I settled on a light kit. The light kit has a groovy green bar that'll fit under the CoCo 3 case badge that I've cut out. Since the power supply will be externalized, all the converters and other bits to power the lights (and anything else we can cram in there) will fit nicely in the power transformer's old spot. I can't promise I can afford it, but I'm going to see about getting the entire face plate copied to an etching for the plexiglass insert that will go in there. Would be very cool, but potentially cost prohibitive. We'll see.

Angel's Luck,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pimp My CoCo: Death of a 6809, A New Paint, and Look Design

October is a tough month in the book business (my regular line of work), mainly because there's a lot of holiday prep, no workers, and everyone has to scramble to take vacation at the last minute before the blackout cut off. Fun. So, working on the CoCo is tough, but at least I get a little vacation in November to finish everything off and get it up and running. :)

In the meantime, I did manage to get a little planning done. Digital cameras and photoshop have made building much easier. Sure you can still detail diagram out modifications and designs, and for intricate or complex stuff that's definately the way to go. On the other hand, if you just plan to slap on some paint and cut a few holes, crude overlays in Photoshop work great. This is the initial plan for cutting up the CoCo case.

Two small rectanglular windows on top will bookend an outtake fan in the center. This fan will blow straight up, pulling air out. The second fan will go on the left and be an intake. Cool air in, hot air out This is probably a lot more than is necessary, but I decided not to cut vent holes into the windows (for now), so an outtake fan is a good idea. Plus it'll look cool. :)

The CoCo 3's case is beveled at the top, limiting the window space. We should still get a decent look at the board, but not nearly as much as I'd like. While the flexible plexi I'll be using could be forced into a concave shape, it'd be a bitch to anchor. So for this first time out with the CoCo case, I'll be keeping it to simple flat, square windows. On Random Rodder's suggestion, I'll be gluing the windows into place, thus we won't have any edging eating up viewable room. The thin plastics we'll be working with here make that pretty easy. Haven't decided on the glue/epoxy mix yet.

More than likely, I'll use a single cold cathode light bar instead of an LED array to light the interior. Even with the small windows, it should "glow" nicely. The three slashes are a bit trickier. Cutting them into the CoCo's case may be difficult if I keep them the same size as they were originally on the case badge. Too thick to do accurately with a hobby knife, too small to take a dremel to. Burning them out with a heat knife would work, but would be messy and difficult to control. On the other hand, nothing says I can't make 'em bigger. Those will light up with red, green and blue LEDs on a small PCB and be sperated with dividers glued to the underside of the case. (By the way, blue LEDs are freakin' expensive!)

The decal is obviously just a place holder, but something like that. Easily done on an inkjet with Photoshop and some decal paper.

I've been looking forward to trying this new paint from Krylon called Fusion but haven't had an opportunity. Well, I'd planned to use autobody touch up paint, but for about $5.00 this is worth a try and considerably cheaper. I love experimenting with new materials and stuff. :) They also have a new H2O brand of acrylic spray on paint. My prefered medium by far. Acrylic is smooth and super tough when dry. For the CoCo's case, though, we'll try the Fusion because it is suppose to bond with the plastic, making it tough and smooth. We'll see, but can't wait to have a go. I chose black satin for the case. The key's will be the same, but will require several top coats after the decals are applied. Painting and putting itty-bitty decals on all the keys should be challenging. (Behind there you can see the plexi I'll be using for the windows and off to the left, nestled in the case is the PBJ 512K upgrade. If I switch boards I'll have to figure out how to do this upgrade to the new one. Yipes!)

Here's a picture of the 6809 socket. No chip to go in it yet, but soon we'll be able to wire it up and give it a try it. Should look pretty funky with all the wires coming out of it from where I burned the pads off the board. Assuming I get it to work, of course. If not, we'll swap in another board I have and go with the nice, reliable soldered 6809 instead.

Looking at this picture, I also need to get a mat to put down on the work bench. Nice piece of static free carpet or one of those fancy electronics mats or something. Hmmmm.... should have thought of that already.

And sadly, here's a close up of the mangled 68B09EP. Sigh. Poor guy. Tried to save him, but ended up having to cut it out of there. He's been sitting there quietly doing the job for probably close to 20 years and then some bungling dumbass comes along and rips his brains out. Sheesh. We'll save him for posterity, of course. :)

So, next week I'll try to get the templates done and then start chopping up and preping the case. Also need to locate and decide which fans I'll be using. Something already wired and ready to roll from a PC supply would be nice, but Radio Shack does sell these small fans that would work nicely and be much smaller. It'll be slow going over the next two weeks, but once it's preped up, the rest of the case work should be doable in an afternoon. Of course, with the way I hit SNAFUs, I wouldn't count on it. :)

Angel's Luck,

PS If anyone gets a chance, take a look at this drive and let me know if there's anything more I need to do to it (it's a 1024x768 picture). Briza mentioned a terminator chip, but I don't see anything here that indicates such a beast. This is the top drive, Drive 1 in a two drive system. Many thanks.