Atari 2600 progress

After replacing the voltage regulators and several capacitors on the Atari 2600s, one of them is back in operation!

Pac-Man on the Atari 2600
Pac-Man on the Atari 2600

Out of the 18 cartridges I have, half of them worked (were playable) when I plugged them in. The others just gave me squiggly lines or just a black screen. Not sure if it’s an issue with the cartridges or the cartridge slot.

Still lots of work to do on the consoles. The other console only got a quick check with a couple cartridges, so I’m not sure if it’s working yet. The switches on both of them are a bit finicky so I’ll probably have to take them out for cleaning/refurb. I don’t think any of them will need to be replaced though. The cartridge slot seemed a bit touchy too, but looking into that will be a bit more work I think.

After that I’ll tackle the controllers. There are a few of them to work on. I’ve got 5 Atari and 5 third party joysticks plus a pair of paddles. The one joystick I tried mostly worked, although it wasn’t very responsive when pushing the stick in the down direction.

Phinally Done!

My doctoral diploma arrived in the mail a few days ago, which makes my PhD fully official now!

Clemson University PhD diploma
Clemson University PhD diploma

Because of COVID-19 related precautions, the Clemson “hooding” ceremony wasn’t going to have any actual hooding of the PhD graduates like there would be for a normal event, so Connie and I met up with my advisors to have our own private hooding ceremony the week before the Clemson ceremony. Having the hood put on me was the important part, so I’m not wearing the regalia.

My own private PhD hooding ceremony

To commemorate the occasion, Connie made me this cool ornament.

PhD ornament
PhD ornament

A much modified Clemson University Fall 2020 Doctoral “Hooding” ceremony was held at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC on December 16, 2020.

There wasn’t nearly as large of a crowd at the graduation as I expected, and it seemed like maybe about half of the PhDs listed in the program were present. Made for a pretty quick ceremony. For people who couldn’t make it to the hooding ceremony, the whole thing was streamed for people to watch online (don’t let the preview image fool you, there was no hooding going on).

I show up for a few seconds at the 40:56 mark in the video.

This is the part of the ceremony where the PhD is conferred to the graduates (from Connie’s vantage point in the stands):

And this is Connie’s view of me walking across the stage:

2020 graduates were also given a nice little pin custom designed for the occasion. From the hooding ceremony program, the pin is described as “a block ‘C’ logo that was in use in 1955 when Clemson offered its first doctoral degree program. Across the C are three stripes like the ones graduates are wearing on their sleeves today.”

Clemson PhD graduation pin
Clemson PhD graduation pin

Although the PhD is done, work on related research continues. I still need to re-write one of the papers I wrote for my dissertation and submit it for publication. My advisor also asked me to submit an abstract based on my work to the upcoming IADR meeting, so I’ve got that to work on as well.

In my graduation regalia under the Out sign
I’m out

Christmas Nativity 2020

The Christmas Nativity scene at Mah House continues to grow, with an expanded cast of visitors coming to see what’s going on.

A stable has been added to provide some shelter. An angel announces the news!

Christmas nativity scene 2020
Christmas nativity scene 2020

More shepherds have heard and brought some of their animals to join the rest of the visitors. A dog, another duck, and another penguin have also joined the pilgrims. The road to the stable is getting busy. I think next year we might have to extend the road.

Christmas nativity scene 2020
Christmas nativity scene 2020
Christmas nativity scene 2020
Christmas nativity scene 2020

Some new wise men and their camels have joined up with the wise men from the East and are continuing their journey. Commander Data has transported over to help guide them.

Cmdr Data has transported over to help guide the wise men from the East
Cmdr Data has transported over to help guide the wise men from the East

The newcomers are pieces we bought from a seller on Etsy and come from the same set as the other nativity pieces made and painted by Connie’s mom.

French Press coffee Mah way

It’s not difficult to find tutorials online for making French press coffee. I’ve tried a few, and settled on this method. It makes a cup that I enjoy black, or with a splash of cream.

My French press comes from IKEA, a 16 oz press (or a 32 oz press, depending on how caffeinated I want/need to be). You can find fancier ones out there, but these were reasonably inexpensive and do a perfectly good job.

Small (16 oz) on the left and Biggie (32 oz) on the right
Small (16 oz) on the left and Biggie (32 oz) on the right
New 16 oz Clemson alumni mug for scale.
New 16 oz Clemson alumni mug for scale.

I like to use an electric kettle to cook my water. Cooks the water quickly, pours nicely, and the one we have holds just enough water to fill the big press. Get one with an automatic shut off feature.

Electric kettle for cooking the water.
Electric kettle for cooking the water.

Most French press recipes call for very coarsely ground coffee and long brewing times. Since I don’t want to deal with having to adjust my grinder whenever I want to brew with the French press or Aeropress, I go with the same medium-ish grind that I use with the Aeropress. The grind size is pretty close to what you’d use for a regular drip coffee machine. I’ve found that one very heaping Aeropress scoop (17 grams or about 3 tablespoons) of coffee (double that if I’m using the big press) makes a cup of coffee that I like.

17 grams of ground coffee (about 3 tablespoons)
17 grams of ground coffee (about 3 tablespoons)

Dump the coffee into the press and add a tiny dash of salt (something I picked up from a Good Eats episode). I find it helps enhance the coffee flavour but doesn’t make it salty (unless you add too much).

Coffee into the press with a dash of salt.
Coffee into the press with a dash of salt.

Add water to about the top of the metal band, give it a bit of a stir, and put the press part on. I like to push the press down a bit so that all the grounds are submerged. Let it sit for about 3 minutes. Set a timer if you like.

After the brewing time, press the grounds all the way to the bottom, and gently pour into your coffee receptacle of choice.

Press the grounds and pour.
Press the grounds and pour.

The press uses a fine metal mesh to filter out the grounds, but really fine particles will still get through. Towards the end, I slow down the pouring and leave a bit in the press so that I’m not pouring all the fine stuff into my cup. That will help reduce the amount of sludge at the bottom of your cup. If you pour too quickly, the grounds get stirred up and you’ll end up with a bunch of sludge at the bottom of your cup. If you like sludge, then pour however you like.

Enjoy your coffee!
Enjoy your coffee!

Drink straight up, or doctor it up however you like.

Atari 2600 refurb plan

After going through a few forum posts, I think I’m going to start with replacing some of the capacitors and the 7805 5V voltage regulator on one of the Atari 2600s (the older one).

Physically the caps look fine but after who knows how long in storage, they probably need replacing anyway. There are three electrolytic capacitors, five mylar film (green chiclets) capacitors, two polystyrene capacitors and one ceramic disk capacitor I’m planning to replace.

I’ve replaced the video cord with an RCA-F adapter, so now the video signal will go through regular RG-6 coax right to the TV’s coax/cable input.

The power connector is a 3.5 mm tip-ring jack, which I’d like to replace as well with a more standard 2.1 mm barrel jack, but finding one with the right footprint is proving a bit difficult. That might be a second slightly more involved project.

Time to go shopping in my parts bins. I think I should have most of what I need already on hand.