Monday, July 14th, 2008
9:51 pm - First World Problems  
So, that was a thoroughly frustrating weekend. Almost all of the loot I bought from Amazon last weekend arrived by Saturday (and all using the supposedly slow super saver shipping), including both the Saitek Flight Yoke and the replacement battery for my Palm. After a quick inspection of the books I'd ordered, I started playing with stuff.

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I was eager to try out the yoke in Flight Simulator, so I plugged it in, loaded the drivers, and then launched the sim. Mostly it worked. Unfortunately, of the three levers on the throttle quadrant assembly, only one was working in the sim. All three were showing up just fine in the calibration screen, and I could assign them to different functions in FS, so the sim was seeing them, but when I actually started a flight and tried to use them to control anything, one wasn't working at all, and the other was only working about 71%. Bother.

I tried looking for newer drivers to no avail. Finally I left a message on their support forum. (I got an answer back today. Turns out there is a sensitivity setting associated with each control device, the magnitude of which FS assigns seemingly at random when confronted with a new controller. In my case, lever #1 was assigned a sensitivity of 100% (so it worked fine), lever #2 was 71%, and lever #3 was 0%. All I needed to do was adjust them all to 100%, and now the thing works fine. Well except for this thing with the elevator pitch that keeps trying to dive the plane into the ground right after takeoff. I'll deal with that in the future.

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Putting aside the malfunctioning yoke, I decided to tackle the Palm. I bought it used back in March, and lately the battery has been dying fast. I'd replaced the battery in my old Palm, and that was east enough. Meanwhile, after I ordered the new battery, the power switch stopped working. Googling around turned up the fact that the power switch on the Palm Tungsten is notorious for breaking, and I'm probably lucky it lasted this long. It's not a fatal flaw, because pressing any of the buttons on the Palm will turn it on, and the power saver will turn it off after a short time without a button press. Still, annoying as all get out. Fortunately, a few people had managed to fix theirs. Unfortunately, the fix involves my old nemesis, the soldering iron.

The problem is the result of a horrible design flaw. The power switch is just a piece of plastic that presses a microswitch on the circuit board. On the old Palms, the switch was on the front of the Palm, so when you pressed down, the force was perpendicular to the circuit board, and the microswitch had the board behind it to provide support. The Tungstens have the switch on the top end, so the the force is directed parallel and offset to the board. The only thing supporting the microswitch are the two soldered pins connecting it electrically to the board. It was designed to fail. Morons.

The fix is to resolder the two pins, and then provide some additional support for the switch by supergluing it to the board. Unfortunately, there were no directions as to in what order these steps should be done. I tried the superglue first. I wound up applying way too much of the stuff. I also managed to glue the switch to my left index finger. Fortunately I was able to remove it before the glue set up completely. I wiped up the excess glue, and decided it would probably be easier to do the soldering first, followed by the careful application (with a toothpick of similar) of a little bit of glue. The soldering part actually went pretty well. The original solder was still there, so all I had to do was clamp the switch down and apply heat with the soldering iron until the old solder remelted. Once that looked good, I added just the teensiest little bit of new solder to each spot. I let it all cool down, and it seemed good.

Then I pulled out the glue again. I completely forgot my own admonition to apply it a little bit at a time with a toothpick, instead just sloppily applying a whole drop of the stuff directly to the board. There was so much that capillary action sucked some of it inside of the microswitch, gluing the switch solid. In trying to clean the glue up and try to save the switch, it broke off and once again became glued to my finger. I then calmly piled all the parts into a small box, and put the whole shebang aside for a day when I wasn't so inclined to throw the whole thing across the room. I mean really. Is a power switch all THAT important?

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I also tried working on a small project down in the basement, fabricating a stop block system for my radial arm saw. That was going well until one of the screws I was using to attach it to the saw fence decided to follow the grain of the wood of the fence rather than go straight, completely ruining the alignment of the thing. Next time I will pre-drill the holes.

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I next tried to do some yard work. I picked up some Round-Up at Wal-Mart to take care of some weeds here and there. Except I didn't buy actual Round-Up, but rather the Wal-Mart generic brand version, which was half the price. Both came in a fancy pump and spray contraption, and the Wal-Mart one looked easier to lug, so that was a bonus. Except that in actual usage, the seal failed after two pumps, making the thing almost useless. Sigh.

After that I decided not to touch anything else breakable with something that could break it, and decided to play computer games for the rest of the weekend.

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At least the weather seems to have become more amenable to my biking routine. I got in two good rides. Saturday I pedaled over to the post office to pick up my mail, and just kept on going from there to the bike path and back. It was a long ride with some steeper than usual uphill grades. One thing to add about that is that there's nothing in the world quite like like biking downwind of a dairy farm on a hot and humid day. Then yesterday I drove to the path and rode about fourteen miles on the three-speed. That was fun.