DIY Addict Goes On The Hunt For A Special Skate Screw With A Rare Thread

(Stands up)Hi, I’m Bill!

(Hi Bill!)

I’m a DIY Addict!

And here’s my story.

Not to minimize other’s challenges in life, but this should be easier.

I’m that guy.  I drive a 19 year old Jeep Wrangler.  I still have and use radios, some of them have tubes in them.

Yes, actual Tubes.  Orange glow, hot musty smell, and so on.

They may smell like old wood, but they really do sound much better than the internet feed I’m listening to at this moment.

That would be Valves for my friends Ol’ Blighty.

Why is that?  Simple, I fix things.   Always have.  All the way down to soldering individual components on a printed circuit board.

I remember deeply annoying my father because before he had a chance to get his tape player fixed in the car, I did the repair for him.  It was just a thrown belt off the tape mechanism.

I could see him wind up to get loud and start a shouting match but “Hey, it works now, go play your tapes” was all I said.

Then I walked out and hid in the bedroom where I kept the shortwave radio and tuned in Radio Canada International.  9625 MHz.  They aren’t there anymore.  Too bad, the news was always better there.

That era was where I got hooked on listening to the World Service Of The BBC and the time signal “pips” from the relay in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

I know, I was weird.  Still am, now it’s all in Spanish and I tell myself it helps my studies.

But all this equipment needs maintenance.

My car, My radios, and even my skates.

I just didn’t think that having “Old Things That Need Maintenance” would include my workouts.

You see, I beat myself up on the trails, hard.  Yesterday was a 2 hour, 2000 calories, 15 mile endurance skate.  Average heart rate is 170BPM, or near enough to that.

I consider that an easy morning at the park.

I have three pairs of skates that I trade off with.  Two are from the last century.  I always have a spare pair in the Jeep when I get to the park.  If the chafing is too bad from the hot spots, I can always stick a square of moleskin on the spot and go on, or if I ‘Throw A Bolt” and lose a wheel, I can swap out the skates and get back on the trail.

That throwing bolts thing.  You see, that’s why god made Lock Washers.  Oh, and Permatex Blue.  You have both of those things and your bolts won’t fly off when you’re on a corner, and at the speeds I do, falling is guaranteed to cause injury.  They just aren’t standard issue on a pair of skates.

I had found some $5 Skates at a local thrift store, still in the box with the original information.  They weren’t anything special but they were NEW.  With that new boot smell.  Tried once and tossed away.  My Good skates are from before 2003 and parts are dry rotting off of the boots.

So I snagged them, used my discounts, and eventually tried them out.

If you are one of the new people considering skating as a sport instead of just tootling around the neighborhood behind your children on the Cul De Sac in the suburbs, let me clue you in.

If your skates are less than $150, they are going to be junk.  If you don’t have a truck (frame for the wheels) that is either Carbon Fiber or some sort of metal, there will be too much flex and you will hate them.

I knew these were … ahem … modest boots, but I had skated more than 10,000 miles on similar boots back in the first skating boom.  I had modded them with a Speed Kit and Heat Molding.

Heat Molding is applying a heat gun to a plastic part to make it soft and to use something that is not heat conducting to push that part into a better shape.  I used a bamboo stick I cut from my yard, and the boots are much more comfortable.

Now, I could have a skate shop here.  Easily.  As in a proper “Pro Shop”.  It’s not a brag, I have skated total just under 22,000 miles (in old money) or 35,405 KM for the imperially impaired.

 

You don’t do that without picking up some tricks.

In this case, you replace the bearings with some faster ones.  I have a couple of old cottage cheese containers crammed with bearings that have been cleaned, lubed, and certified for use.

Next, you replace the wheels with harder and larger wheels.  80 MM wheels, at least 80A hardness, but closer to 90A is better for speed.  Some folks ride on wheels that belong on the bottom of my wheely bin out front – 125 MM tall – Five Freakin’ Inches tall!  On Inline Skates!  WOO HOO!  Speeeeeeed!  I CAN’T STOP!  (OOF!)

Now, bearings and wheels are upgraded.  What next?  What sick trick is Mr DIY going to do with this pair of (ahem) low end skates?

Speed Kit.  At least that is what we called them back in the first skate boom.

I have a different cottage cheese container with a bunch of speed kits.   Typically low end skates come with white plastic things that fit between the bearings to space out things and give rigidity.   Put them in the trash.

 

My cottage cheese container is stuffed with Aluminum Spacers.  To be fair, they’re probably good enough for “you”.

 

In my case, I need faster.   I need a pair with bolts.  They’re screwed in place to minimize friction and stiffen them.   They are set up so that the wheels run free when spun for as long as you have a mind to lube the darn things up.

I had a bunch I scavenged off old skates and closed up skate stores over the years but as time goes on, you start losing parts.  Move 1200 miles south and you lose more.

I found I have 16 speed kits, but only 7 complete sets.   A Set is a spacer that is threaded, a pair of lock washers, and a pair of screws.

So this being a precision set up, turning a Leisure Activity into a proper Sport, of course I needed another speed kit, at least.

Should be easy to find those screws, right?
WRONG.  BUZZ!  TRY AGAIN!

Apparently the two big box hardware stores, that everyone knows, decided that they don’t have the demand to carry that specific screw to hold everything in place.

Lock washers we have!

 

But those bolts.  Have you ever considered how many different bolts there are?

Mr DIY has.  There are bolts with three kinds of methods to tighten them, more if you want to be really annoying.  Regular slotted screw heads are no good on a trail.  Phillips cross head screws can work but that means you take your skate tool with you for the eventual breakdown.   The original speed kit had two “1/4 inch, 28 thread, button head socket cap, 3/4 inch long”.

Yeah I didn’t think so.  Apparently it’s only used in weird applications.  Different threads you see.  Like my soon to be upgraded cheap skate boots.

Went to Orange Big Box store #1.  Nope

 

Went to Blue Big Box store #2.  Nada, although I really entertained the folks there when I rolled in on a pair of skates to the screws and bolts needed on my skates for more parts.  They were unnerved by me being over 7 feet tall in skates, helmet, pads and sweaty from the workout.   Sorry folks.

 

Went to old line hardware store with the helpful hardware man.  Helpful but sorry.  Had a nice chat about my 19 year old Jeep Wrangler TJ.  4 liter AMC Inline six.  Never kill engine.

Finally went to the other old line hardware store with a different hardware guy.

I won’t say success.  I ended up finding a screw with the right threads and length but it has a cross head Phillips in the top.  Everything else fits.

So if you are out on the trail in Pompano Beach and throw a bolt on your speed kit, I have a spare.

Even if the Sport is getting slowly more popular, it’s doubtful you’ll spot me fly past so I’ll skate on happily.

You see, my own Pro Shop Standard is a minimum of 30 seconds worth of free rolling once you start.   I really want a minute.  I’ll let you know how that all works out.

Badblocks – Conclusively Diagnosing a Harddrive with Linux

I was presented with a computer hard drive that “died”.

Since it was a SSD and useful size of 500 GB, I really did not want to throw it out.

Step 1 was to use FSCK to check the device.  Similar to CHKDSK on windows.  The drive was clean.  fsck -y /dev/sdc1

Step 2 was to clone my existing drive to it to test whether DD would detect problems.  The drive was clean. dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdc conv=noerror,sync status=progress

Step 3 was to realize there had to be a better way.

Badblock.

It came on my Debian distribution.  Oh and “free” since I am using Linux for everything here.  If you are running Windows or Mac, download a “live” disk of Linux, find instructions on how to boot from a live computer and give it a go.

What it will do is conclusively, and exhaustively test a hard drive by writing a pattern to it, byte by byte.  Then badblock will compare to see if it actually wrote onto the hard drive.

The end of my story is that drive was perfect, and I recommended to the client a replacement of the computer.  They did not want the drive back, and since the computer was “past the warranty” it was recycled.

Badblock is not generally recommended to be used to do a read only test.  Everywhere I have seen suggests using badblock to destructively test a hard drive.

Warning: This will destroy any data on the drive if you use the “-w” flag. 

This is also a way to securely wipe the data since you can tell badblock to do a number of passes using the -p flag.  For 1 Pass include -p 1 in the entry.  Five passes is -p 5 .

Set aside a block of time to do this.  My drive was on USB 3.0 and it took 29 Hours to complete.  YMMV!  Use USB 3 if you can, or plug it directly into the computer.

Step 1 – Connect the offending drive into a USB drive container, plug it into the testing computer, and power it on.

Step 2 – As Root, run “dmesg” in Terminal.  It will tell you at the end that you plugged a drive into your computer, what the device name is such as /dev/sdc,  and the block size of the drive in bytes.

Step 3 – Run the command.  Running this with the “-w” flag will destroy any data on the drive.

Final Warning – RUNNING THIS COMMAND WILL DESTROY ANY DATA ON THE DRIVE.   Badblock will refuse to run if the drive is mounted, so you may have to turn the drive off, and back on, to make sure the drive is unmounted.

The Command that will wipe all data and conclusively test the drive for me was:

badblock -w -p 1 -b 512 -c 1024 -s /dev/sdc

First, if you see the picture at the top, I should have used 512 and not 4096.  It simply means that Badblock was a bit less efficient.  See the line in the picture that starts “[224902.607064]”.

Second the -c 1024 seems unnecessary since it is testing 1024 blocks at a time.  64 is default.

Third since I did not specify the “-e” flag, it was to run to finish or report an error and terminate.  That was intentional.  If you have a lot of errors already on the drive, you can estimate the errors and list them in a text file to be used in badblocks to skip those.

If you wanted to get fancy.

Mine ran to end of job and finished with a simple “Reading and comparing: done” message.

I now have a new-to-me 500GB SSD.  Yay for me, right?

Oh and that weird “^[[15~” stuff was from when I dropped my keyboard about 6 plus hours into the whole thing.  It spewed garbage into the terminal session but kept running.

Training Rack at Lowes or Lost in Hardware

To train a Herding dog you have to keep their minds busy.  Physical exercise and mental exercise.  You know, like a Greek Athlete.

I don’t think that my little McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack will ever throw a discus or take a philosophy course but he’s an amazing creature.

He just wants to help.  He wants to be involved.

He wants to come along.

But we have a long term project.  Low voltage lighting.

You know that weird stuff that can run off of a car battery.  Since it runs at low voltage it doesn’t need quite as much protection and anyone can do it.

We figure that we have about 40 watts of the stuff and you can read on my front porch at midnight due to them.

I have a couple of those three AAA battery lights that are basically a flashlight, and they can be converted over to this system.  I have done that already to a coach lamp that is on my fence.

The rest come piece after piece.

This weekend was a Big Project though.  Run 20 feet of conduit, sink a lamppost in the front of the house, and rehang the mailbox.

Don’t think it’s much?  Stand outside in the front yard holding a post for a solid hour when reinforcements are sent off to the store to get some quick drying concrete.

Since it is winter, do it in full sun, on a cloudless day at 80F/26C.  Give or take a C.

All this activity had Rack confused.  He wanted to come along.  Anywhere.  When he thinks he’s taking a ride in the CAR!!! he starts to burble and basically speak in tongues.  Its comical.  He starts running wind sprints back and forth from the front to the back door whining and making weird coffee-percolator sounds.

Sometimes he is right.

We stopped work so we could take him to the Vet.  That’s fine because it’s one of his favorite places to go.  We went, he got fussed over and we came home.

But there was a stop first.  We needed another piece of conduit to glue to the first pieces laid in the trench I had dug that morning with Rack sitting at the front door looking hopeful.

We took Rack.

You see, Lowes Hardware has a policy of allowing dogs into the store.  This seems to be as official as can be, and it isn’t like some idiot taking a dog into a supermarket, this is a hardware store.

Securing a cart, I picked Rack up off the ground and placed him in the blue plastic apparatus.

He didn’t like that.  Immediately tried to get out.  I did because I didn’t want to be asked to leave because my dog decided to water the plants.

We walked into the store with a 47 pound black and white dog being disrupted by the rattling of the cart across the asphalt.   Getting into the store, he wanted no more of that.

When I say SuperDog (TM) I mean it.  He is a McNab Dog.  One of the most intelligent dogs on the face of the Earth.  But he is fearful.  Fearful means to run.

Or in this case, to leap.

From a sitting position.

Inside of a cart.

Right in front of the orchids.

When he landed on the concrete floor, he was flat, legs pointing to the cardinal points on the compass.  Confused.  Looking very surprised that It Worked.

I put him back in the cart and looped a thumb under his harness and we went about our business.

He was thinking “Hmmm.  To attempt this again or not?  Not completely sure.”

But, by the time we left, he was enjoying himself.  Not acting quite so crazed.  He actually smiled at a kid walking past.

Yes, certain dogs smile.  Others grimace.  I can tell the difference.

But this was a training expedition.  Rack got about a C+ grade.  A little better than average.   Form on the High Dive was a solid 9.

Not olympic form, but a good solid performance.

That’s what training dogs is about.  Taking steps and keeping their minds engaged.

Sometimes all it takes is two sections of PVC Conduit, and a couple bell end 90 degree sections.

(You, British people!  Stop giggling, that’s what they’re called here!)

Thinkpad X201 Disassembly and The Flu

I have to ask myself what is this fascination of tearing apart computers when I have “a cold”.  In this case, The Cold turned out to be The Flu.  It wasn’t fun.  I’m at about day 5 and this is the first day that I’m clear enough to sit down and write.

The back story goes that I was handed a wee little laptop.  Thinkpad X201 if you are following along.  It’s a pocket rocket of a machine, i7 processor, 8GB of memory, 500 GB mechanical hard drive.  All of that was crammed into a 12 inch case.  It predates the whole “Ultrabook” computer thing where people started building machines that were thin, light, and powerful.  The Mac Book Air is a prime example of what they tried to emulate.

I think they got the power right.  I was told “I have data on this that I need recovered, then see what you can do with it, it’s got a heat problem”.

What Thinkpad doesn’t?  Lenovo switched to a heat sink compound a while back that has the consistency of Silly Putty or dried tub caulk.   That is to say that it dries out and flakes away.  I found that out later when I opened the machine and had little grey bits of goo fall out onto the table.

What I did was to recover the data, there wasn’t much because the machine was not trusted, and then reload it.  It came with Windows 7 so I reinstalled that, then I made sure that Windows 10 would never get onto the machine by turning Windows Update to manual only and checked each update on the list to make sure it wasn’t rumored to be either Windows 10 Related or Windows Telemetry.  I don’t like what Microsoft is doing to a once very stable operating system and neither should you.

There is also a registry setting that will help keep that horrible pest off your computer, but if you have that little nag box sitting in your task bar you can be guaranteed that you will be “upgraded” to Windows 10 Home.

No.  Not on your best day.  I am not allowing that.

When I was chatting with someone he suggested I put it on a torture test and recommended Prime 95 which calculates prime numbers.  It also turns any given machine into a furnace.  I was typing in chat that it was playing well when “Black Screen”.  The processor hit 100C and turned off.   Yes, as in Boiling Water Temperature.  Processors these days tend to run 50C or cooler.  100C under load is going to shorten the life of the machine.  It needed help.

I found a series of videos, one that showed how to disassemble the machine so that the motherboard could be removed.  The second one showed the reverse order how to reassemble it.  By the time I had fully tore this little machine apart, I had nothing left in the case and a mother board on the table with the heat sink below it with a few random coins for size comparison.

If you are curious, there’s a game token, a penny, a UK Pound and a UK Two Pound coin.

I ran that video in stop motion, and every time that the author removed a screw, I removed the same.  It took me about 20 minutes to tear it down.  The picture at the top is the result.  The blue squares are the processors and the heat sink compound.  They were cleaned with Rubbing Alcohol, and the lot was reassembled with the second video one screw at a time.

So if it was so straightforward, why am I writing about it?  So I have the info for later.  Complete with the videos.

Oh, make sure you have a little cup to put all those little screws into.  There were two sizes and they have to be put back in the same holes.  Luckily the video went “Large Screw” first, “Small Screw” Second.

Good luck, Future Me if you have to tear it down.  But after a week of beating it up, it’s a great little laptop to go onto its owner if I can convince him to take it back!

And if you are not “Future Me”, the Standard Internet Warranty applies – this is at your own risk, if your following these instructions turn your laptop into a dragon that consumes you or starts a fire, or causes any sort of damage, you are on your own because I can’t take any responsibility for that.

Besides, I still have the flu.