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Posted: 7th August 2016 by Quinn Dunki in Hacks

So many old hacks. Where are they now?

 

Blondihacks has been running for seven years now, and it’s been quite a ride. I have many, many more hacks in the pipeline right now, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to look back on a few of the older hacks and see how they’re holding up. If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’re probably a lot like me- your life is surrounded by old hacks. Whether it’s the 3D printed MacBook Pro dock on my desk at work, the head-liner mounting bracket for my radar detector in the car, or the bar holding my dish towels to the cupboard door; everywhere you look in my life, you see a hack. Some work out better than others over time, so let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I’d like to start with what is probably my favorite hack to ever run on this site. You might think it’s Veronica, and you wouldn’t be wrong in a sense. Without a doubt Veronica is the thing I’ve built that I’m most proud of. However, my favorite hack on this site here is actually the lowly Dish-O-Tron 6000 Extreme. Why do I like it so much? Well, it’s probably the “purest” invention I’ve ever come up with. It was a relatively original idea, and I felt the solution was very clever. It’s not easy to automatically detect the state of any dishwasher entirely from within a box stuck to the front, and with no connection to the machine itself. All this was done with a couple of passives and a pair of 555 timers. I was always really pleased with this one. Where is Dish-O-Tron now? Sadly, in a box in the closet. You may recall that Blondihacks relocated a while back, and my new home has a drawer-style dishwasher. This completely defeats one of the main techniques the Dish-O-Tron uses to detect the state of the dishes (when and how long you have opened the door, based on angle). I could adapt the Dish-O-Tron to this using some other door activity detection method, but the new dishwasher has its own built in mechanism for what DoT does, so it hasn’t been worthwhile.

 

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Sorry Dish-O-Tron, but you just aren’t needed anymore.

 

Next up is a recurring guest here on the site, my elliptical cardio machine. It’s been featured many times, and I’m happy to report it is doing very well. I continue to exercise on it every day. And by “every day”, I mean “three times a week”. And by “three times a week”, I mean “when I can drag myself out of bed in time before work”. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

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Up front we see the Elliptifeet project, and in back is the roller-blade wheel replacement for the unobtainium factory rollers.

 

The steel Elliptifeet are holding up brilliantly. Because of course they are- they’re freaking steel, and so overbuilt that when the apocalypse comes, all that will be left of my house is those feet sitting on a pile of burning rubble. The rollers have had some iteration since the last post on the subject. I replaced the two-piece factory bushings with a single one made of tubing. The two-piece bushings weren’t holding up under the lateral stress of two separate wheels (in place of the one-piece factory U-roller). I also added a big fender washer to the outside, which helps the wheels track better. I have to say though, the made-for-stair-bashing extreme roller-blade wheels are holding up incredibly well.

Meanwhile, at the top of the machine, the hacked-together power supply has held up incredibly well. It’s been in continuous service for five years now, and has never given me the slightest trouble. Considering the rate at which this machine used to go through expensive C batteries, this hack was one of the best I’ve ever done in my home in terms of quality of life improvement. Why this machine wasn’t mains-powered to begin with, we may never know. It’s a much better product when plugged into the wall, though.

 

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Goodbye C batteries, hello wall wart. This hack is totally non-destructive- it’s a transparent replacement for the batteries that rides on the same connectors and is completely contained within the battery compartment. While reversible, I can’t see myself ever going back to C cells anyway.

 

All of these improvements have made the cardio machine so much more pleasant to use that I find myself using it more often. That’s a good thing, because being in good physical condition is helpful for catching runaway koala bears. Those things can really run! You have no idea.

Next up is Johnny, another regular on the site. He’s had many repairs done since becoming a citizen of Dunki Freehold, and for the most part has held up very well. Unfortunately, I don’t think I chose my lubricants wisely when I rebuilt his robotic arm. It worked very well post-rebuild, but not for very long. The consumable X-nut has worn out again, and the glove is offline as of this writing. The X-nut is designed to last for a couple of years in a heavy-use commercial environment, so the fact that it wore out after only a few hundred games in my home means I probably used the wrong grease on the threaded rods. I have more parts, so we will rebuild him once again!

 

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The glove is motionless, for now. This pinball machine is still amazing, though. The movie is still terrible, though. The William Gibson novella on which it is based is still amazing though. So there.

 

Speaking of Johnny, remember the battery relocation project? In case you doubt the value of getting batteries away from PCBs, here’s the state I found my desktop mouse in this morning:

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These batteries were less than six months old. Admittedly, this was a freak failure. However, it’s also possible that increasing price pressure on battery manufacturers means this might happen more often in the future. Suffice it to say, every battery is a time bomb.

 

Sometimes the simplest hacks are the most satisfying. A while back I replaced the piece of go-shi that was the light switch on my magnifier. The factory switch lasted approximately eight seconds, but my replacement has provided trouble-free service for two years of heavy use (so far!). I still use it at least a couple of times a week.

 

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That little toggle switch on top made all the difference for the general usability and robustness of this headset. It’s hard to complain, considering this thing cost less than a fancy cup of coffee. The replacement switch came off the junk pile, so all I’m out here is a bit of my time. Rumor is, that ain’t worth much.

 

Not all hacks work out so well. After a few attempts to get my vacuum former working, I threw it back on the junk pile from whence it came. Really, these things aren’t hard to build, if you have a heat source, or are willing to fill your kitchen with probably-poisonous fumes. I don’t make enough types of things that would benefit from a machine like this, so I’ll find another use for those materials.

 

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That’s good aluminum, so back on the pile for you. I spent so many hours drilling and tapping holes in that thing. Oh well.

 

Okay, okay- you’re all asking: “What about Veronica?!”. I know that project is the main reason many of you frequent this site, based on the email I get. Rest assured, Veronica is alive and well. She currently lives as decoration in my living room, but gets pressed into service on occasion.

 

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I like to put Veronica somewhere prominent so I can look at it. A lot.

 

I have a particularly cool project in the pipeline for Veronica, so stay tuned for that. She’s far from gone from the pages of this blog.

 

The next item is one that I bet most readers won’t see coming. It’s the repair of my salad spinner. The comments on that post were probably the most negative I have received, honestly, and I suspect most readers skip over it as an uninteresting project. However, there is something imminently google-able about it, because it draws more email questions and thanks from non-readers than any other post by a large margin. Seriously! There is a world of people out there who own that salad spinner, have had it break, and are grateful that some nutty chick took it apart to show the world how to fix it. I would not have guessed it, but it goes to show that the internet is a big place, and not everyone appreciates the same kinds of things.

 

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My humble repair to this spinner continues to function perfectly five years after the fact, and long after the OEM design failed (within weeks of purchase).

 

Over next to Johnny sits my MAME cabinet, which I call the Blondicade. This thing has continued to perform flawlessly through many parties and many Saturdays wasted trying to finish Moon Patrol. It’s a crowd pleaser when guests come over, no question. I’ve been very happy indeed with how it turned out.

 

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Galaga just never gets old. Why is that?

 

Another recurring guest here is my relatively recently acquired Apple IIc Plus. It has had many projects done with it, and some have been more successful than others. The gamepad and ROM update have been raging successes. I continue to use the gamepad for most of my 1MHz gaming, and I offered up the ROM modification to many thankful folks at KansasFest this year. It’s not all tortoise-shell kittens and homemade ice-cream, though. The much-anticipated Teddy Top has actually been kind of a bust. It seemed great for a little while, but the hinge mechanism hasn’t held up, and I had to stop using it. I plan to revisit this at some point and come up with a stronger design. We have some exciting new tools here in Blondihacks Labs (more on that soon), so my options are much better for solving this problem now.

 

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Yay: The gamepad and various other mods continue to be awesome upgrades to this wonderful machine.

 

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Nay: This is what has become of Teddy Top for the moment. It sits on the floor under some shelves, next to the spare 3D printer filament. It will return. I learned a lot in this attempt, and Teddy Top II Electric Boogaloo should be something really great.

 

That’s the broad strokes. Anything else you’re wondering about? Drop me a line in the comments. The bird house still has nobody living in it, feathered or otherwise. I may need to put some bedding and seeds in there to make it more hospitable. It continues to rust nicely though, and would make Furiosa very proud. The toothbrush that started this whole site is no more, I’m afraid. After being brought back to life in a second repair, it died shortly thereafter and would no longer charge properly. Something in the charging circuit started killing every battery it touched, the problems are pretty fundamental. I needed something smaller for travel anyway, so it got upgraded (blasphemous for Blondihacks, I know). Mr. T. In a Box was subjected to one-too-many paint-swapping incidents in a 24 Hours of Lemons race, and is no longer among us. The Race Clock, on the other hand, lives on, but in a reduced form. The ignition circuit it relied on for automatic resetting was removed from the race car, so it’s now just a big clock. Still useful, but a shadow of its former glory. The Bread Head, HexOut, and Juice Bridge still get used in every electronics project I do. That’s amazing for the latter in particular, because it has the first PCB I ever etched, and it’s absolutely dreadful. Frankly amazing that it works at all. My salvaged amplifier with the extremely sketchy origin story lives on, as does my cushioned bed frame. The latter had some zip-ties added recently. Never stop iterating!

 

I could go on all day, but you get the idea. Hacking is a way of looking at the world. It’s a belief that you can control your environment, and a passionate dedication to the idea that everything can be made worse with enough effort.

 

This is a good time to support me on Patreon, if you’re not already doing so. Some very cool things are coming to the site soon, and I guarantee you will get your money’s worth. I charge by the post, not per month, so you only pay for the content I generate.

A big thanks to my 39 current supporters. You are the reason this site still exists!

  1. Crawford says:

    Quinn,

    Nice recap/rehash of the old hacks. Some work, and some don’t but they were all fun to watch happen. Hopefully, you inspire folks to not just live with flaws or trash stuff.

    Always good to walk around the ship and see what Kaylee’s done!

    -C

  2. Michael Kohne says:

    Nice recap – on the magnifier – does yours keep flipping down? On mind the screws seem to loosen and the whole thing slides down every few minutes, and I haven’t come up with a way to fix that.

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      Mine seems to rest on the headband in the up position. To lower it, I sort of have to wiggle it past, so that works out. Maybe I have a big head. 🙂

  3. SurprisingEdge says:

    Does that mouse have both batteries facing the same direction in it? Is that an Apple mouse? Apple’s way of being different?
    I’d probably mess that up every time I replaced the batteries.

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      Yah, that’s how the Magic Mouse works. It has a feature where you don’t have to use two batteries if you want it to be lighter. That’s probably related to it being arranged that way.