Star Castle: Monitor Overlay Gunk Removal


My abused monitor overlay suffers a bit more abuse as I try to remove the adhesive gunk left on it after removing it from the monitor. Here is what I did.

Star Castle: Vector Deflection Transistor Replacement


Updated 31 Dec 2017

I’m restoring a Star Castle arcade game and had an issue upgrading the transistors responsible for vector beam deflection. Here is what I encountered and how I solved it. The short version is: Always go to the data sheets.

3D Printer Stutter Problem Solved

IMG 6533

Here’s how I realized my computer wasn’t able to keep up with my 3D printer and how I solved it. The print has other issues I need to work out, but...

Retro Xerox Commercials

My father recorded the animated version of “The Hobbit” back in 1979 onto a large, heavy and amazing machine called a Sony Betamax. My brother and I, as kids, were huge fans of the movie, and watched the videocasette over and over. Many years later, I rediscovered it. Of course, I still love the movie, but, after looking at the tape, it was the commercials that stood out. They were all by Xerox.

You see, Xerox sponsored the entire program and aired a bunch of commercials promoting there services and some of them are absolutely jewels. The crown jewel however, is one which I call “We’re Only Human.” It shows the latest and greatest that in computer technology that Xerox was developing. Small spoiler: Look for the mouse… four years before the Macintosh!

Long story short, I held onto the tape, but either had no good means to digitize video or no means to play back the tape! Well, it took a long time, but I finally came across a great Beta machine, had the means to digitize the commercials, and put them on YouTube. I’ve included a link to the first video of the eleven.

I think most of the commercials do an excellent job capturing the state of computers and information technology at the dawn of the microcomputer age. I sure hope no one at Xerox minds I post them. I sure enjoy watching them and think many others would as well. Enjoy!

Onto other Beta tapes I’ve held...

Back Online!

In case anyone is wondering, this website is served from my own Mac Mini, and so when I moved back in June, my website came down. It’s taken a while, but it’s finally back up. :)

Control PDF Export Quality using Preview


I had a PDF of a pictures which was too large to submit to a server, so I tried to export it from Preview on the Mac to shrink it down. I knew that if you go to

File -> Export…

instead of 

File -> Export as PDF…

you can add the Quartz filter “Reduce File Size” which will compress the PDF. The good news was it did an excellent job reducing the file size. From 12MB to 44 kB, wow! Cant say it doesnt deliver what if offers. The bad news was, the pictures in the document were so compressed as to be unusuable. And there's no way to control the quality of the export.

After some looking around, I came across this. (It should bring you to the comment I’m interested in, but it might not. Skip the article, it’s a comment by a user named “dow.” He pointed out a Github repository with additional Quartz Filters, created by Josh Carr, that gives you much more control over the quality of PDF exports. Just download a .zip of the repository, and copy the .qfilter files from the .zip file to /Library/PDF Services. I suggest reading the contents of the README.md file though first. And that’s it.

Next time you try to export a PDF (again, from the “Export…” window, not the “Export as PDF…” window) you’ll get a list of options as shown above. The selection I made took my 12 MB PDF and shrunk it to 1.5 MB. The pictures were compressed, but far more useful. What a great find!

Slow Bitcoin Core Syncing on a Mac


It’s been a while since I’ve run Bitcoin Core. Recently, I started it up again and ran into the dreadfully long wait of getting it synced up to the blockchain. The problem is, it was sycing far slower than even it’s usual slow self. It would have taken weeks to sync up. This was disconcerting since the developers have been promoting that changes made to it in version 0.10 make if faster to let it sync than getting a copy of the blockchain using Bit Torrent. I’m using version 0.11.2.  What’s going on? For me it boiled down to two things, but the first was enough.

1. Database Cache Setting

In the app’s Preferences, there is a setting for database cache which is by default set to 100 MB. If you’re using slow and old hardware like me, this becomes a more critical setting. It was suggested here that 500 MB or even 1000 MB is a better setting during the initial sync. Once synced, you can roll it back down to 100 MB and give your other apps some room back.


I tried 500 MB, restarted the app and saw a huge improvement. Intead of weeks, I was down to many days or maybe a week. I then tried 1000 MB, restarted, and think I saw further improvement, but I suspect I was reaching the point of diminishing returns. The sync was down to days, which was good enough for me.

2. Mac App Nap

Since Yosemite, Macs now try to put apps that aren’t doing anything into a low funcitoning state that makes the Mac use less energy. It’s been claimed many places that app is being hamstrung by being put to sleep by the OS. This makes sense, and it’s supposed to be as simple as setting a checkbox in the app's Information window. The problem is, on my Mac, this checkbox does not appear. I have yet to understand why. If I open Application Monitor and look at the Energy tab, I can see if the Bitcoin app is napping. It doesn’t appear to be, but it could be when I’m not looking.

There’s a way to set this from the Terminal, but I haven’t tried it and it gets mixed results. To disable it should be:

defaults write org.bitcoinfoundation.Bitcoin-Qt NSAppSleepDisabled -bool YES

And reenable:

defaults write org.bitcoinfoundation.Bitcoin-Qt NSAppSleepDisabled -bool NO

When I saw the sync would be finished in a few days, I didn’t even try. But, if you really hate App Nap, here’s how you can kill the whole thing.

Raspberry Pi 2 PiPlay Wifi Setup

IMG 9280

I have a Raspberry Pi 2 which I’ve setup for some retro arcade action using the PiPlay Linux Distribution. Until now, I’d been dependent on a wired ethernet connection. What surprised me is how difficult it was to setup the wifi dongle that came with the Maker Shed Starter Kit.

It really came down to modifying the two files below. It turns out there are quite a few different opinions on how to do it. It took a lot of trial and error for me to come up with settings that worked. I’m not an expert at this, so there are probably better ways to do this, but this works for me.

I think this would apply to other Pi Linux distributions, but I haven’t tried it.The wifi dongle is a Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8188CUS 802.11n WLAN Adapter. I haven’t tried this with any other wifi dongles. 


This is the script that describes how each interface will acquire it’s network IP address. In many cases DHCP will do. With this setting, the computer will get IP addresses for it’s wired ethernet port (eth0) and wireless port (wlan0) from the gateway. The localhost (lo) is a special case and doesn’t require changing. To be honest, I’m not sure how default plays into things. I do know that it required being set as described below for things to work correctly.

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
allow-hotplug eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto wlan0
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual
wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

iface default inet dhcp

In my case, I needed the Pi to have a static IP address.

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
allow-hotplug eth0
iface eth0 inet static


auto wlan0
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual
wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

iface default inet static


This file handles the wifi authentication. In my case, it was WPA2, which required the following configuration.

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

Photo Clique 1.2 Released!

Photo Clique, the app that lets you share photos between your friends, as you take them, has been updated to version 1.2. Included with this update are:

Get sharing faster

When you start the app for the first time, it will now offer a “default” group name, based on your user name. Anytime you create a group, the app will offer this group name for you so that you don’t have to type it in every time. It now only takes two clicks to get a group started!

If you already have Photo Clique, just go to Settings. You’ll be able to add one there. You can change the default group name any time you like.

Size the “floating buttons” to your taste

There are two buttons that “float” over app, so that you can quickly take a picture or share a picture you already have, no matter where you are in the app. Just go to the Settings page and adjust the slider. Make them smaller, so they doesn’t cover things you want to see. Or, make it larger, so you can’t miss them when you need them. You can still drag them to any place along the sides of the screen any time you want.

Other stuff

The app is now compliant with iOS 9, along with some minor bugs and user interface fixes.

Catch! for TRS-80 now available for download


The files for the TRS-80 game Catch! I wrote decades ago are now available! 

Read the rest here