RocketTux – That Time I Made a Pear Into an Outhouse

Earlier this year I was working on the sprite sheet for RocketTux, adapting artwork from SuperTux and making new pieces of my own – A project that is still in motion! After finally sizing and arranging my spin on the pumpkin, one favourite pieces of background art created by Ingo Ruhnke, I decided that it needed a friend. Yes, it absolutely NEEDED a pear shaped outhouse to keep it company!

Gleefully I went about creating the pear outhouse in GIMP, starting with a picture of a pear we had in our cupboard and working on it until it looked reasonably similar in art style to Ingo’s pumpkin. Many giggles later, here it is in all it’s glory!

My pear outhouse, as seen in RocketTux


And here are a few screenshots of the process. If you’re interested, I have an album of RocketTux development screenshots on Google Drive.

Samsung Galaxy S8: I Liked the S6 Better

It has been a little over a month since I “upgraded” from my Samsung Galaxy S6 to last year’s flag ship Galaxy S8. I can sum up my feelings and experiences in the following the sentence…

The battery life is better.

Honestly, the S8 is “different for the sake of being different” and it manages to do this in ways that are annoying steps backwards in terms of usability. Truly, I wish I didn’t get it, but I am stuck with it for two years (I had to give my S6 to my daughter, because her phone got broken). Yay…

Things that were fine on the S6, but suck on the S8:

  • Earbuds: They’re intrusive ear plugs that jam into one’s head such that one can hear themselves chew or touch things. What’s worse is that the wire is braided and when combined with the body-sound travel problem, the wire makes a horrible “nails on a chalk board” type sound when it rubs on anything.
  • The placement of the fingerprint sensor is fucking stupid! Constantly touching the camera lens, because some idiot put the fingerprint sensor beside it is annoying, but so is trying to press the sensor back there in general. On the S6, I could use my thumb or finger on the device easily, even when it was sitting on the desk, but with the S8 I MUST pick it up to unlock it.
  • The fingerprint sensor doesn’t work worth a damn and it nags much more frequently to use the password instead for security reasons. Really? Seriously? If the fingerprint sensor isn’t secure enough, why the hell is it an option???
  • The on screen buttons are annoying compared to the capacitive/real buttons on the S6. It’s amazing how obnoxious it is to have to DO SOMETHING to just to make a button available to be pressed – the damned thing should just be there already!
  • The camera is 12MP, not 16MP, and it defaults to portrait 4×3 photos, zooms too much when choosing the taller option, and is all around an annoying amount of “change for the sake of change”…
  • The rounded screen is a boring gimmick that adds absolutely nothing at all to the enjoyment of using the device, but it does make it such that one can’t purchase a case that properly protects the screen from frontal drops. As much as I didn’t like the Otterbox on my S6, at least it actually protected the whole device. S8 Otterboxes and other cases can’t, because they must accommodate the “edge” feature, which itself is a useless gimmick (software launcher).

Speaking of buttons, what’s up with the Bixby button? At least there is third party software that allows it to be bound (in a hacky way) to some other function. I bound it to Messenger, making it similar to the “Convenience Key” on my first smart phone, the Blackberry Curve 8520.

And… other than that, the Galaxy S8 is basically a taller, slightly thinner Galaxy S6 with rounded screen corners. Oh, I suppose it also has as USB-C port rather than the older style USB port. Woo… The internet is full of reviews for both phones, so if you’re interested have at’r with your favourite search engine.

To be clear, I don’t hate the Galaxy S8, there’s just a lot about it that annoys every time I use it where my Galaxy S6 never actively annoyed me at all in the two+ years I used it every day. My ONLY complaint about the S6 was that its battery life sucked. Everything on the S6 was awesome – Screen, camera, UI, build quality, sound, all that is very good on the S6. Apart from the camera software differences, the camera on the S8 is just as good as the S6’s, as is the screen, build quality, and UI.

Do I recommend buying the Samsung Galaxy S8 (or getting it for $0 on contract)? 

No, if you can buy something else that doesn’t have the above annoyances.

Yes, if those things won’t bother you or all your other options are worse.

There are plenty of worse devices out there. Plenty.

Ps. It should be noted that I use the Square Home launcher and have thus used very little of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI outside of the settings menu, phone app, and text message app. I’ve read mixed reviews about TouchWiz, but it generally doesn’t bother me. I just happen to find that the Windows Phone 7 style UI offered by Square Home is vastly superior in terms of ease of use (especially with one hand), simplicity, and customisation.

Bored? Make a Board Game!

Entertaining one’s children all summer on a shoe string budget can be daunting, especially when one lives in a place that doesn’t have any public transit. Escape to greener pastures isn’t always possible, but there’s plenty we can do right here in our house/yard. One such thing is making a new board game to play!

Yes, there are plenty of existing games we could play, but there’s just something magical about making one’s own game. I remember making board games and the like as a kid, usually trying in vain to convince peers to play them, but having great fun with the process none the less. Anyhow, this is the second or third board game I have made with the girls (admittedly I designed this one on my own last night while I was laying in bed not sleeping…).

We came up with the name “Deck or Die” tonight, because the game is played with a partial deck of cards and one die. I created a page for the game on my site, which you can view by using the link in the “My Games” menu or by clicking the link below. All the details on how to make a board and play the game are there.

https://semi-nerdly.ca/my-games-new/deck-or-die/

It’s a pretty fun game that can accommodate about five players. Let us know if you make your own game board and enjoy it!

Final version of the Deck or Die © prototype.

Building a House out of Dirt? Sounds Fun!

Notice: This is not an advertisement nor is it an endorsement; I’m simply sharing something my sister I did for the sake of doing so.

I’m sure this is a familiar story. You know the old, “I saw a post on social media about a workshop for building a house of earthbags or something, which reminded me about that time my sister said she wanted to build a sod house, so I suggested she do the workshop with our aunt, but she asked me to do the workshop with her instead, so I did”, thing which happens all the time, right? Well just in case you’re not familiar with this type of adventure, here are some details about how my sister and I spent a weekend hauling logs and swatting flies…

Earlier in the spring I saw an advertisement for a workshop at the Gamiing Nature Centre and, as I said, I passed it along to my sister who had at one time shown an interest in this sort of rustic housing concept. I figured it would be something fun she could peel herself away from her copyrighting for a weekend and hang out with our cool aunt or something. Little did I know she would instead invite me for a “brother sister bonding weekend”! Now, I’m not your stereotypical nerd who baulks at the idea of manual labour. On the contrary, I’ve always be an outdoorsy fellow who has no qualms getting dirty and punishing his body with real hard work. In fact, I prefer it to sitting on my arse at the computer, provided the weather is cool, the shade is plentiful, and I have something to DO (I swear, one day I’ll actually get a kayak and go kayaking!). So, we made arrangements to make the weekend happen. Real life being what it is, it wasn’t easy, but we managed to make it happen and it was a good time.

We attended the first of the two weekends (Jul 14/15 & Jul 28/29) in which the Gamiing Nature Centre was building a small structure to use as their “Forest School” house. It’s only a 10 foot by 10 foot building, but it’s situated in the heart of their property near Pigeon Lake (in Ontario, Canada), with a large outdoor seating area that surrounds a large fire pit. Mean biting flying insects aside, it’s a serene location that appears to be an ideal place to learn about Ontario’s mixed deciduous forests and other nature related topics.

It’s kind of funny that we paid to do someone else’s manual labour for a weekend, but the hosts didn’t make it feel like that and it turned out to be a nice learning and social experience. I got to use my muscles and junk! Oh, and I finally had a chance to share my expertise at digging out roots. How’s that for something, eh? 🙂

Anyhow… The event was hosted by a nice older Irish-born Canadian, Hugh, who was an interesting person to say the least. Hugh I would describe as an easy going gentleman who enjoys travelling the world by bicycle and really taking in the cultures and events he encounters along the way. In his time he has built three large structures using horse feed bags filled with dirt/soil/clay, two locally in Ontario and another in Australia. Self proclaimed avid reader, it was obvious to me that Hugh has a lot of experience working with others and being resourceful and I think that made him perfect to host this event. He pleasantly answered everyone’s questions and even took the time on Sunday afternoon to take to see both of the “hobbit house” structures he’s had a part in creating.

Along with Hugh, our construction gang included Alan and his son James, Andrea and I, Cynthia, Jennifer, Nizcoleta, and Shelley. Together we used the materials that the nature centre had available to build roughly half of the structure. Hugh advised us that the construction method using cord wood isn’t ideal, but in this case it made a lot sense given the materials we had on hand, which consisted of a large pile of softwood logs, some compost, some wood chips, some horse feed bags, and a couple of bags of concrete. The general idea here is….

  1. Clear a spot of land that is on a minor slop towards where you will put the door. Doors are best placed facing East.
  2. Measure out your 10×10 foot spot and dig out the dirt down to about a foot or two, depending on if you have 6 to 8 inches of gravel to back fill for drainage. Ideally, you’d hire a someone with a backhoe to do this step, as it’s much easier for the machine to dig through tree roots!
  3. Fill the horse feed bags with the dirt you’ve dug up and lay them around the floor to make the foundation of the walls. Ideally, you’d want to add some clay powder to help the bags retain their shape as they settle. Each bag needs to be smucked and compressed remove as many internal air pockets as possible.
  4. Continue piling the earthbags for 3 to 4 layers.
  5. Now start on the cord wood walls by cutting your logs into 16 inch sections and piling them on the earthbag walls as though you’re piling wood. Place concrete mixed with wood chips between each layer of logs. We also added some compost into the centre of the walls for insulation.
  6. And a bunch more steps that are best read about elsewhere.

Again, we were there to build a stable structure using the materials on hand, not to build the world’s most amazing earthbag home. In the end, the foundation of the building will be covered with mortar (held in place using chicken wire stapled to the earth bags) and the mortar will also be smoothed between each the logs on the inside and the outside. The roof will slope backwards towards the west and there will be three windows for light and ventilation.

Here are some pictures I took on the weekend, along with descriptions that will give you a better idea of what we were up to. The full library of images is available here and includes pictures of Hugh’s “off the grid” log cabin and the “hobbit houses” he has worked on.

Sorry that this post wasn’t as interesting or as inspired as it could have been. I’ve been putting off writing it, because I haven’t felt like writing anything, but I didn’t want to leave it too much longer, what with my ageing mind and all. There are many more interesting details and perhaps I will share them another time.

I met some nice people and we had a lot fun. Thanks for the awesome weekend everyone and best wishes to the Gamiing Nature Centre.

STEM Hobbies Are Great, In Moderation

STEM: “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math”, the first entry in Google for the word “stem”, making trees the world over cry in despair. This acronym is used to describe the modern educational movement that encourages students to learn stuff that makes their brains hurt. It’s pretty cool and junk. However, even as a person who does programming, system design, and reading of text books as his primary hobby, I have to say that much like any other aspect of life, one can definitely have too much of a good thing when it comes to STEM related hobbies.

Personally, I find the problem with my STEM related hobbies is simply that they require me to think, a lot. And for me to think, I need to concentrate. And for me to concentrate, I need a distraction free environment. And have I mentioned that I have three kids? Distractions aside though, there are plenty of times where my mind just does not feel like thinking about anything at all, as though there is a mental and emotional drag chute attached to its back as it tries to run against the desert wind. And you know what? That’s OK.

It’s OK to set aside your hobby projects and kick back doing whatever, for however long it takes for you feel inspired about your projects again. It’s a hobby, not something you’re obligated to do, so… don’t feel obligated to do it.

That doesn’t mean one should quit when things get hard or that one should flit from one project to the next, never finishing anything they start. I’m just saying that there’s a balance in life that is probably beneficial for most people to achieve. It’s like treading water for several hours waiting to be rescued, sure it seems kind of passive and ineffective, but it sure beats drowning because you gave up or drowning because you swam too hard and wore yourself out.

When it comes to our limited personal time, our “hobby time”, we need to be open to allowing ourselves to benefit from a variety of experiences, including taking a mental break and using that time to do stuff that does not need to reflect your personal potential. Play a game, read a novel, take a nap. Whatever floats your boat – float a boat! It’s OK, relaxing and unwinding doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a person.

When I look at myself, for years I just played games made by other people, I installed and tweaked operating systems made by other people, and I occasionally made some music on the computer using software made by other people. That kept me happy for decades and I still do those things for fun today. However, about ten years ago I realized that “making stuff” was a large part of what I enjoyed when I played games and that realization caused my focus to turn from playing games to making games and game mods. Absolutely, I very much enjoy “making stuff” and the research and education that comes along with it, but there are plenty of times when I just don’t feel like doing it. Plenty of times where I just roam the world of Guild Wars 2 “Hulk SMASHING” everything in my path and picking flowers, because it’s cathartic and we all need that in our lives. Definitely, building stuff with electronics and hardware and programming on the computer and other STEM type activities are also cathartic, but… too much of a good thing is… a bad thing.

One could say, “Well, you just haven’t found your passion then, Rob!” and I suppose that can be true in some contexts, but I’m inclined to reply, “You can’t eat pizza every day for every meal. For one, it’s not healthy, but I think the bigger picture is, think of all the other great food and experiences you’re missing out on by only eating pizza”. Passion and determination are great, I one hundred percent agree, but when it comes to one’s “hobby time”, the results one should be focused upon achieving are personal growth and happiness, not some arbitrary deadline or level of perfection. We need to save that kind of stress for “the real world”, because there is plenty of it to go around and it’s probably never going to go away.

“Do or do not. Pick one, it’s your free time!” – Yo Duh

Computer Science is for Crazy People

I’m a firm believer that it’s the computers, not the human beings, that should be doing the computing. However, due to the very nature of computers themselves, that’s often not the case. So when I say that I enjoy programming, this is what I mean…

I grew up with Lego and Meccano sets. When I was an older child, my father taught me how to repair small appliances, like vacuums and toasters. Later I learned electrical theory and about electronics. Over the years I’ve noticed that all of these activities have something in common that appears to be unappreciated: They’re all based upon derivations of the natural laws of the universe!

Lego and Meccano sets are derivations of the physical world, which is quite accurately explained mathematically by Newton’s laws and other related observations that have helped humanity build most of the world around us. Both systems allow the user to combine components that have known functionality to create a larger system, component, or object that has functionality beyond the sum of its parts. In other words, while the plastic parts of Lego are clearly different than the metal bolts and plates of Meccano sets, both sets allow people to use their imaginations to build stuff using a set of well defined parts. Importantly though, all of these parts are based on the natural laws of physics that have been discovered, therefore the way the parts work “makes sense” and can be readily understood by most people.

“Things that go up, fall down! Well, unless they go up too fast and too far… then ya ain’t never getting that shit back!” – Fig Newton

Electricity and electronic components are essentially the same in this regard; All electronic components are based off the fundamental laws of physics and as a result, on some level they’re all forced to “make sense”. Sure, the theory and math is more complicated than Newtonian physics, but none of it is subject to interpretation or imagination, therefore anyone can understand it if given lessons that build upon themselves. Starting with, “What is an electron” all the way up to, “This is how you build an op-amp”, a person can learn the fundamental rules of electronics and how to apply those rules to achieve their goals.

None of this is true when it comes to Computer Science.

The work achieved by computer software and hardware is, at the lowest level, based upon the “on” or “off” state of an array of electrical switches (called transistors). Imagine an infinite wall of electrical switches. Now imagine that you have the complete freedom to organize those switches in any way you could possibly desire, with the results being anything you could possibly imagine. That, in a nut shell, is Computer Science.

The whole of computer software (and much of computer hardware) is an imaginary construct derived from many human minds, not from any law of nature. Consequently, computer software and hardware has been dramatically influenced by hubris and insanity, both of which have, at times, masqueraded as genius. Since even before the invention of the transistor in 1948, many people have made a name for themselves by inflicting the greatness of their intellect upon the world of Computer Science. Absolutely there have been thousands of amazing people who have created wonderful computer concepts, but the bottom line here is this: The human mind is as malleable and flawed as the behaviours of humans themselves, therefore anything a human creates on a computer will also be subject to those conditions. It’s only in the real world where imagination must comply with the limitations of the universe itself.

Building a system, device, or component out of nothing but on/off switches is an immensely complex task that really is beyond almost every human being ever born. This is why we have so many computer programming languages that simplify the process by moving the programmer many levels away from the on/off switches that ultimately do the work. And this is largely where the hubris and insanity that I mentioned earlier comes into play: many computer science concepts exist only because someone at some point wanted to pat them self on the back for being so clever! And other concepts exist only because they made sense in the mind of their creator, who objectively had a mind like no one else has and no one else ever will. The end result of this unfolding of history is that Computer Science is now the study of, and further creation of, a collection of systems and concepts that have no basis in reality and that are often poorly documented and difficult to operate, even when they are well documented.

If a person builds a car and the car does not work properly, at least they have the laws of physics on their side – eventually the problem can be solved, because the answer DOES exist. With Computer Science, that’s just not the case, because all of it is completely arbitrary. One could fight for days, if not months, trying to solve a bug in a piece of software, only to find that there there is some underlying issue with the hardware that just does not jibe with the software and no amount of poking at it will ever actually fix the problem.

So, Computer Science is for crazy people, for folks who don’t have a problem with stuff not making sense simply because some person 40 years ago thought of something and now that’s “just how it is, man!”. Good for those wacky individuals. Let them have their cake and eat it too!

Where “CompSci” benefits us all is, as you are probably aware, in the USE of computers. For instance, it would cost me a small fortune to build my own R2-D2 robot, but I could open up Blender on my computer and build a fully functional model of Artoo for only the cost my time and electricity. Similarly, one could spend $50 on Minecraft and get an unlimited supply of Lego-like functionality, which is considerably more than what they would have gotten had they spent the same dollar value on Lego pieces. Of course, this truly wonderful world we now live in would not have been possible had many intelligent people not put the time and effort into creating the imaginary construct that is Computer Science.

I think at this point it is important for me to emphasise that logical programming and content creation using a computer is awesome for almost any human being. The world is a better place thanks to what we can do using computers.

However, despite how much it has changed the world for the better, the “CompSci” that lurks beneath those layers of simplicity and usability are, in some ways obnoxious, inane, and down-right insane for all the wrong reasons. I feel like I should be able to instruct the computer do my bidding and it should find the most efficient way to utilize its hardware and software to achieve my goals – That’s the difference between “Programming” (or “Coding” as the kids say) and “Computer Science”!

Unfortunately, much of the time that’s just not how it works. Often when I am programming I’m forced into spastic routines of ridiculous mental gymnastics that piss me off and waste my time, simply because the people who created the software/hardware/language/etc (all of whom are way smarter than me!) couldn’t be bothered to make it less stupid; they understood it, they liked it, therefore everyone else should too! As annoying as these experiences are, the truly unfortunate part is that unlike what we have in the natural universe, Computer Science isn’t governed by a common set of rules; When the documentation runs short, there’s no external reference one can count on. Humanity can rediscover the laws of physics, but we have no hope in hell of rediscovering the laws of Bob’s post psychedelic musings, that’s just not possible. This why I sincerely appreciate the computer scientists who are bold enough to potentially think themselves out of a job by creating computers with “artificial intelligence”, computers which will be capable of doing exactly what I expect a computer should do – exactly what I want it to do!

I am amazed and enthralled by the wonders and intricacies of our incredible universe, from the quirky electron who can’t be captured, to the joy we feel when our children laugh, but I just don’t give a rats ass about someone else’s crazy ideas that they think are so smart. My limited time here on planet Earth is better spent trying to make the most of what is, rather than to whittle it away on what drifted onto paper from another’s mind.

Building My Replacement Commodore 64 Power Supply

With how frequently it is discussed in the retro Commodore community, I’m confidient that you have already heard about how the original “power bricks” for the C64 can fail and take the computer along with them. Here, let’s have a look at why this is the case…

Yup, that’s a giant soup of 30+ year old glop that many refer to as epoxy, but I am starting wonder if it’s actually toxic waste that the company decided to get rid of on the sly… Seriously, the stuff inside this old brick still sticky depsite the container having a few cracks around the wire holes for air flow. It stinks, it’s gross, but most importantly it traps heat and heat significantly reduces the functional life of capacitors and voltage regulators. Unfortunately, in this type of circuit, when the voltage regulator goes bad it tends to send waaaay too much voltage through it – components rated for 5 volts will usually burn out when given more than 6 volts, but in this case they can receive up to 9 volts. On the Commodore 64, it’s usually the fuse, RAM, and other logic chips that die due to power supply failure.

Now I am sure you may be wondering, “Rob, why not just buy a new power supply from Ebay or the like?”, because there seem to be quite a few to choose from at present. Well, dear reader, they’re expensive from the get go and are made even more so by the low value of the Canadian dollar, shipping charges, duty charges, and taxes. An item listed for $50 USD can easily cost me more than $100 CAD by the time its in my hands. Don’t get me started when it comes to buying anything in British Pounds! Unfortunately, no one in Canada is making power supplies for the Commodore 64 to my knowledge, so I’ll just make my own that is good enough and inexpensive (I only spent $1 on it!).

Moving on… let’s have a look the original “full wave rectifier” style power supply that was included with all Commodore 64s.

A respectable design, even by today’s standards, but it has some shortcomings. The biggest (and heaviest!) issue with this design is that it relies on a large transformer to step house electricity down to a level that can be used by electronics. Considering that we routinely charge our mobile phones using small, light bricks, you might be wondering why Commodore would ever use this massive transformer. The long story short is that it’s a very good transformer, with components that can handle much larger current than what was really needed to do the job, and that was a common practice in the 70s and 80s. Seriously, the copper windings inside this thing look like they were made of 16 guage wire! That’s excellent for allowing lots of electrons to flow and to induce a strong current on the equally hefty secondary windings (how a transformer works), but it’s not really needed in this case. And where there is a lot of current flow, there is a lot heat generated! Sadly in this case, that heat got trapped in an big o’l box of chemically putrid goop…

The second issue is the “full wave rectifier” circuit design itself – it’s simple and inexpensive, but it’s not very fault tolerant – if that voltage regulator breaks down, as I wrote earlier, up to the entire input voltage will be applied to the device, which can be disastrous. Also to be noted here, Commodore decided to save 1/10th of a cent by using a “full wave rectifier” design, rather than a “bridge rectifier”, using only two diodes instead of four – truly odd, because it requires a beefier transformer, which you’d think would be more expensive than two extra diodes. Anyway, it’s not the most energy efficient and fault tolerant design.

It’s for these two reasons that nowadays you will usually find power adaptors that use the “switching” method of stepping house electricity down to levels that are safe for electronics. Switching is a simple concept – it literally switches the power on and off really fast, such that it reduces the overall voltage that leaves the output. This switching happens many times per second and the components that take care of it are reliable and do not consume much power to get the job done. While there are some potentially dangerous side effects of this method (holding the output of a USB charger and touching your stove could produce a current so strong it would stop your heart, due to the “potential difference” if the stove isn’t properly grounded), none of them are likely to occur. For the life our electronics, an important feature of switching power supplies is that when they fail they just “stop working” without breaking the device they are attached to. Yay!

Hopefully with this background knowledge in hand, you’ll understand why I chose to use pre-made “wall wart” power supplies to build the new power supply for my Commodore 64!

From left to right those are…
Linksys 9V AC / 1A – For the C64
2Wire 5.2V DC / 2.2A – Also for the C64
Radio Shack 9V DC – For my Arduino!

Yup, because I decided to use the very nice aluminum case from my old PC power supply, I had enough room to include a power supply for my Arduino as well. This will be handy for larger projects that will draw more current than what the USB port on the computer provides (500mA), as I can plug it into a secondary power adaptor to power the components on the breadboard separately from the Arduino. Also, I can run the Arduino without using a battery or the power from my desktop PC. I digress!

As we frequently do in life, I unfortunately learned the hard way that what I was about to do wouldn’t work. That’s life man, that’s life!

As it happened, the the 5v adaptor I picked up from a thift store for $1 was insufficient for powering the Commodore 64. While it was rated at 2.2 amps and my (cheap and limited) multi-meter indicated that it delivered 5.19 volts (which I initially brought down to 5.02v using a 10K & 330 ohm voltage divider), my C64 failed to turn on when it was in use. Here are some pictures of my progress to this point. Note that I removed the Radio Shack wall wart from its case so I could use the 9v AC off its transformer for the C64.

Incidentally, the 9v DC Radio Shack supply powered the 12v DC power supply fan just fine, even with its 4 awesome LEDs! Heh, that was pretty ahead of it’s time when I bought the power supply in 2007 or so. 🙂

This ATX power supply served me well for more than 10 years before giving up the ghost!

Thinking about how to put them in there…


The guts of the 5.2v wall wart, which I took apart to see what was loose inside. Turned out to be an inconsequential chip of the plastic shell. Also, a nice chunk of steel plate from some other thing I took apart at some point.


The guts of the 9v DC Radio Shack wall wart. The cheap buggers used a 9.6v transformer and a very simple bridge rectifier circuit to make the 9v DC. If I had an ocilicsope I’d show you how noisy that DC current wave form must be, but I don’t have a scope. It should look like ____ but I bet it has lots of ripple, like so ~~~~~. That said, it’s good enough for a fan and my Arduino projects!


Note the plastic shim under the board that prevents it from shorting out on the mounting plate! It’s a piece of the lid of an old laundry bin.

The Arduino works!


The resistors that make up the voltage divider for 5.02v DC, before I applied the heat shrink wrap, and the 9.6v AC (orange wires) all wired up to the C64 connector.


So at this point the computer didn’t turn on, not even the power light. Initially I thought that the problem might have been the 9v power supply, as the Radio Shack one was 9.6v at 500mA unloaded, where as the Linksys one was 11.89v at 1A unloaded. Just to make sure I hadn’t blown up the C64 completely, I pulled out the wall warts I used to power my VIC20 (of which the Linksys wall wart was one)…

And my C64 was indeed still functional! Pardon the picture of the VIC20, what you’re supposed to be looking at is the “wall wart” power supply. 🙂

So I disconnected the orange wires from the Radio Shack transformer and installed the Linksys wall wart. I left the Linksys one inside its case, because I didn’t have a need to open it.

Nope, this didn’t work either!

Well, that left the 2Wire 5v wall wart as the problem. Too bad really, because it was rated for 2.2 amps, which should be enough to drive the Commodore 64 and the Ultimate 1541 II+ Cartridge (which itself is a little computer), where as the little 1.8 amp wall wart that I used with the VIC20 probably will not have enough juice for the job. I guess I will find out next month when my Ultimate II+ arrives!

I wanted to be able to use the Commodore 64, so I decided to put the 1.8A / 5v wall wart from my right-busted Blackberry Playbook tablet inside there for the time being. Yes, that means after all that effort I am… using exactly the same wall warts that I used for the VIC20 last year! lol… Such is life folks! 🙂 Check it out in all its majesty!

Originally this ATX power supply had two fans, one pushing air in and the other blowing air out. It’s plenty efficient in this case with the one fan blowing into the case and air escaping out the vents.

If the the Playbook wall wart isn’t able to power the system properly, I’ll order a Mean Well RS-15-5 5V/3A power supply (from Digikey, as they appear to have the lowest price, for both the item and shipping costs, that I can find). The Mean Well is designed for industrial use and will be quick to swap into the power supply case. In the mean time, the girls and I will continue to enjoy puttering with BASIC!

Go Baylea, programmer extraordinaire!

So proud!


Disclaimer:
I am a person who learned about electronics in high school and college in the 1990s. I am not an expert in the field and this post is for your entertainment and general information only; it is not a definitive guide on how-to build something. Importantly, I was taught how to properly handle high voltage electrical systems and how to use a soldering iron, while you may not have been!

Please be careful and do your research before working with electricity, chemicals, and high temperatures. Even better, find real life people who can bestow their knowledge and experiences upon you in an environment where you’re able to ask questions and listen to answers until you fully understand! Ask around at school or work or check your local social media / forums / papers for hobby groups such as makerspaces or computer/electronics clubs.

Note: I’m not affiliated with any links provided in this article, they just exist for your reference.