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Photos and commentary - dumb stuff I've seen

While one gets used to crazy French drivers, sometimes you see something that makes you think "duh!". Now, there is nothing wrong with a guy and his girlfriend going out metal detecting, nor using a dinky little moped as his wheels. But to put the detector out each side like that, that's surely asking for trouble as drivers tend to pass bikes and mopeds with barely enough space not to scratch paintwork.

Our local supermarket put their winter fashion range out. Well, I guess in these times of austerity, colour is a luxury...

Speaking of which, you're in the shop and you can buy an electronic labeller for €28,90 or you can buy one of those manual punch-out labellers for the sublime price of €6,66...or you can buy both for €19.
Say what?
I checked. Then mom checked. It's the same thing. Even comes with the same starter roll of white label.

I bought some cat food. A big promo pack, was supposed to be something like €5,60 for 26+16 pouches. That's a lot of food at not a lot of centimes. Well, it went through the till for something like €6,30. Now I've been in this game before. You take your receipt to the reception and the person there will call somebody to go and look at the shelf where the cat food is, and you'll need to go with them to make sure that the promotion sign isn't surreptitiously removed (that's why I tend to photo such signs, but I didn't this time), and then you'll go back to reception who will either try to inform you of your rights incorrectly (the price shown in the shop is the price you pay) or they'll go through various levels of middle-management until they find somebody willing to make a decision and if you're lucky you'll get a refund in the form of a credit voucher valid for a week.
I decided my Saturday time was worth more than to stand and argue with people. So I let it slide.
When I was looking at my receipt, that's when I noticed that not only was the price too high, the girl had only charged me for one box of cat food.
Fair enough. Some you win, some you lose.

It's nice to see Mr. Potato Head is still kicking around. I remember that from when I was young. But - wait - what's this? Fake potatoes? Has health and safety decided that kids sticking stuff into potatoes is bad? Well, can kids instead stick stuff into health and safety inspectors?

Bowl Cakes! Yes! Because Mug Cakes are so last year!
Now, because I'm just totally awesome, I'm going to tell you the next trend to come along that will wipe out Bowl Cakes entirely. You're going to get some sort of tray with edges. Maybe glass, maybe metal. Something that won't melt. Then you are going to put the cake mix into that. And then you are going to put it into an OVEN. Seriously, an oven. Nobody's ever thought of that before. You can make cakes that'll be, like, twenty centimetres (eight inches to the Brits) across. That's ginormous! We'll have to call them Epic Cakes. Pah. Who needs a Mug Cake, or even a Bowl Cake, when you can have an Epic Cake?
It doesn't stop there. You can take two Epic Cakes and you can put one on top of the other, with something like cherry jam in between. These will be Awesome Epic Cakes.
You just wait. You'll see I'm right.
And then you can remember, you read it here first.

About a month ago, when the clocks changed, Orange kindly spammed me with a text telling me about the virtues of the Speaking Clock. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but given that Android and iOS devices (probably others) can auto-sync the time from the mobile network and NTP; isn't it a bit daft to advertise a talking clock for €0,80 plus the price of a call (so assume about a euro) to be told the time in less accuracy than I can get for free?

Now a local supermarket is going a promotion on Scottish whisky. Or whiskey. I can never remember which country spells it which way. At any rate, surely they would not do something as daft as sticking a male mannequin in a tartan patterned skirt?
Oh, wait...

Talking of skirts, I'm afraid I'm too cynical to believe that this security camera in a local chemist is for anything other than quick peeks up girl's skirts. Come on, it's just "accidentally" at Tibia height and inclined distinctly upwards? Suspicious much?

[note to Chemist: given the popularity of the skater skirt, all you need is a windy day...]


Hacking Christmas lights!

I don't understand. Steady, non-blinking, Christmas lights cost about €12. If you get the same thing, only blinking, it costs half that. Bizarre.

So, I opened up the little control box and saw this inside:

PAY ATTENTION! What comes in is MAINS. What goes out is rectified MAINS. As in ZAP-YOU'RE-DEAD. If you don't feel confident about dealing with LIVE electricity, DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT ATTEMPTING SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

Okay, disclaimer over. Mains at 230V AC enters on the right of the picture. The current passes through a bridge rectifier (discrete diodes 'cos they're cheap; actually it's a half bridge rectifier as we're talking Chinese cheap here), as the LEDs require DC to function. Here the current splits into two. One path takes it through some voltage-drop circuitry as the little IC is unlikely to work at mains voltages. The other path takes it through a transistor. This transistor (marked as IN, OUT, and SWITCH) directly switches the rectified mains according to the SWITCH control. Here's an annotated version of the above picture:

The output voltage measured about 208V, which means that each LED will be receiving a mite over 4V. A tad high for an LED claiming to be rated 3V, but not wildly out of spec. The LEDs are all wired in series, so each one is 3V and together, can be run directly off of rectified mains.

This led to three potential options...

  • The first option is to figure out how the switcher unit works and to disable it.
  • The second option is to remove the transistor and place a small wire link joining the IN and OUT terminals.
  • The third option is to just move the output wire to the other side of the transistor.
The option with the least amount of bull attached was option three. Unsolder the negative output wire and find where the rectified mains is, and hook it directly into there.

Piece of cake. It's the IN terminal of the transistor. Look for something that is directly connected to that, but clear of other obstacles (as you don't want any short-circuits with the mains). I have taken the inductor (between the transistor and the output) out of the equation, but I'm guessing it is only there to minimise potential interference from the switching. The switching is still happening, only now nothing is being turned on and off.

Here's what I did:

The control board was reassembled with big gloops of hot melt glue to hold everything in place. If it can work for Apple, it can work for me. More glue to seal the case shut. There is very little asides from a rectifier and a switching circuit, and the lights are LEDs so they draw approx. 4.5W in total. It isn't something that is going to heat up, so great gobs of gloopy glue can seal the thing back up again.

Job done. Non-blinking lights for half the price of non-blinking lights.

Here's a stylishly blurred photo of my lights. Consider this to be about it for my Christmas decoration. I like things that glow. You might have noticed that. ☺


Playmo Advent Calendar!

Of course there's a Playmobil advent calendar. Videos start tomorrow!



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