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Recent Questions

July 2017

Ransomware Scare

There has been quite a bit of news lately about so-called “ransomware.” Can someone explain how it works and is there a fool-proof way to keep my machines (and those of my family) protected?

Jerry Turner
Joliet, IL

Battery Killer

I have an older model Hunter SRC sprinkler controller that came with my house. Recently, the unit has been “resetting” to 12:00 am rather than keeping time. The unit has a nine volt battery that was reading 2.7V, so I replaced the battery. Within a week, the problem was back and the new battery was also dead (3.1V).

Any ideas what could be killing the batteries? I can’t find a schematic for this unit.

Norris Shaw
Santa Ana, CA

Laser Eye Protection

With high powered laser prices dropping like crazy, I decided to pick up a 3W blue laser from eBay for $50 to experiment with.

I’m concerned about eye damage and would like some advice on eye protection. What makes a pair of laser goggles good and what should I stay away from?

Gary Byrum
Milwaukee, WI

Salt Sensor

I have a water softener that needs pellet salt added to a brine tank. I’m trying to figure out a circuit to detect when I need to add salt as the tank is opaque and salt usage varies depending on use. The simpler the circuit, the better!

Salt Sensor
Greensboro, NC

June 2017

Miniature Parts Needed

I’ve been tearing down Seiko solar quartz watches in search of small efficient engines to power miniature robots. Can anyone recommend a source for additional components, such as miniature axles and wheels?

Naja Heilmann
Norcross, GA

What To Do With Leaded Solder?

I have a bunch of 2 lb rolls of leaded solder that I no longer plan to use, given the availability of lead-free solder. How should I dispose of the solder? Is it considered hazardous waste due to the lead?

Derek Raya
Derek Raya

Sequential Turn Signals

The simple way to do an automobile three-light sequential turn signal is to let the blinker turn on bulb #1 and then the circuit will do #2 and then #3; not a problem.

The problem is the brake lights that use the same filament in the bulbs. Hit the brakes so left and right will sequence once then stay lit, unless you hit the brake again.

Same with turning. One side sequences and if you hit the brake, the other side will sequence once and then stay lit while the turning direction is still sequencing. However, if you hit the brake, both sides will sequence once and then stay lit.

Proper function can be accomplished because aftermarket kits are available that do it correctly. Unfortunately, they are very expensive.

No matter what I think of, I cannot come up with any logic circuit that would prevent the brake indicator from sequencing once, i.e., blinker ON-OFF 12V, brake ON 12V; brakes only, ON 12V both sides.

Any simple ideas? Hope I do not need to program an IC. Guess I can always learn at 72 years old. Started reading N&V when it first began. Love it.

Daniel Zielinski
Port Saint Lucie, FL

Unknown Power Supply For Monitors

I have three mini monitors but no power supplies, and would like to know what power supply to use. I have tried one of the three monitors using a 12 VDC at 500 mA supply and it came on for a nanosecond.

Since then, I have tried the same monitor several more times with the same supply, and also using my car’s battery, my lawn tractor’s battery, and even purchased and tried a 12 VDC at 1A supply all with the same results.

What is the power requirement for such mini monitors? I don’t want to burn any of them out using the trial and error method.

M Williams
St John, IN

AQUABOT Pool Cleaner

A friend of mind asked me if I could fix her “PoolRover” pool sweeper. The timer does not work properly.

The power supply/controller has a big transformer and circuit board inside, and for a lack of ID, has a bar code P12909124848. I have looked high and low for a schematic for this unit, both with the manufacturer and on the Internet, but have come up blank. I started working on a start/stop timer from

Does anyone have any better solutions? Timer on for 30 seconds and off for two seconds, and back on again.

Terry Arnall
Hayward, CA

May 2017

Looking For HV Field Analyzer

I am building a mid-size Tesla coil. I want to study the frequencies produced and map the EM field potentials produced by my coil. Considering the high voltages and frequencies involved, typical RF measuring gear will not work. Does anyone have suggestions or links to help me build the device I need to do my experments?

Ron Sndric
via email

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