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Recent Questions

September/October 2018


Scoping Out Some Advise

Certain techs and engineers still have a need to sample and view composite/NTSC video in its three axes form, that is: X axis (horizontal), Y axis (vertical), and Z axis (intensity).

In the past, this was accomplished using a CRT o’scope: horiz sweep to H input; vert sweep to V input; and video to Z, or intensity modulation input. Since CRT scopes are bulky, heavy, and, in most cases, not battery powered, a PC/digital scope with capture capability would be very handy for field use.

None of the scope ads I’ve seen list these features. Can anyone make some recommendations?

#9181
Paul Dendrenos
Barstow, CA


Resonator Frequency

I have in my junkbox what I believe to be ceramic resonators. What is the best way to test them to determine their frequency?

#9182
Donald Frazier
Geneva, IL


Something Strange With The Range

The effective range of the key FOB for my Ford F150 seems to have decreased over recent months. While it used to work from distances of 75-100 yards easy, now I need to be nearly right in front (10-20 yards) of my vehicle to operate the systems. I changed to a fresh battery, but no difference. Is it likely there is an antenna problem? If so, where is it located and is there a test procedure?

#9183
Les Waldroup
Charlotte, NC


Wireless Data To PC

I have a number of wireless temperature/humidity sensors made by Oregon Scientific for use as weather station sensors. I would like to use them for a data acquisition and monitoring application. Does anyone know what frequency and mode they operate on and how I might use them to send data to a PC to record seasonal trends? Would I need a microcontroller to interpret the output or could it be read directly by the PC and then logged and displayed using software such as MakerPlot?

#9184
Jai Hooley
Edmonton, AB


July/August 2018


Smooth LEDs?

What makes some LED replacement bulbs dimmable, while others are not? Some of the replacements I have purchased do not dim very smoothly. They seem to dim in steps and then just turn off before lowering to where I need them to be. The previous incandesants dimmed much more smoothly down to a soft glow. Is there a different, (maybe more expensive) type/technology that  would more closely emulate the incandesants? I'm using an X10 controller for the dimming, could this be the problem?

#7181
Everett Barham
Elvaston, IL


TV Image Capture

What’s the best way to capture images from my TV? I’m looking to do something like a computer “print screen.”

#7182
Sharon Fitzgerald
Chattanooga, TN


Phone Line Intercom

We use our cell phones as our main phone service, so our “land line” is no longer being used. Is there a way to use the house phone wiring along with the old phones as a whole house intercom system? I have a detached garage/workshop away from the house where this would be especially useful, not to mention almost every room is wired. Would I need to disconnect from the phone company "grid" to do this?

#7183
Jay Bousquet
Lexington, NC


Show Me The Power

When renovating houses as a hobby, I need to locate powerlines inside the walls and also underground. What curcuit can I build that would be useful? Also, what is the theory of how such a detector would work?

#7184
Denzel Meier
Winnsboro, SC


PCBs With PTHs

Is there a hobbyist method for making circuit boards with plated through holes at home? Also curious by what is meant by multilayer boards. I'm just getting started, so forgive if this is an obvious newbie question.

#7185
Leonelo Márquez
Maplewood, MN


May/June 2018


PS2 Emulation

My Sony CD changer has a PS2 keyboard port to enter the CD title, details, etc. Instead of typing, is there a way to emulate a PS2 interface on a PC or processor board to automate the key presses?

#5181
Lee
Schaumburg



Answers

I have successfully plugged an old PC keyboard into that CD changer to enter data. However, what is it that you want to automate? Every entry i.e. artist, titles, etc.; are different?

M. Herman
LaQ, CA

Yes, you can emulate a PS-2 keyboard. An SPI-master port will do the job as long as it can handle 11 bits, or two 8-bit values in rapid succession. Not all microcontrollers can. (If you lack a good SPI port, emulate it in software.) Use the MOSI signal for the key-code transmissions and use the SCLK signal to emulate the keyboard’s clock output. The bits transmitted when you press a key look much like those put out by a standard UART: a start bit, eight data bits, an odd-parity bit, and a stop bit.

The keyboard’s clock output produces a logic-1 in its idle state and created a positive edge for each of the 11 bits. An SPI port configured as CPOL=1, CPHA=1, provides the proper timing. Note: The least-significant bit of an 8-bit key value gets sent first. My old PS-2 keyboard produces clock signals at 13.7 kHz. That’s a good frequency to start with for the SPI port.

A PS-2 keyboard assigns a unique non-ASCII code to every key. Find a list of the keys and assigned codes here: https://techdocs.altium.com/display/FPGA/PS2+Keyboard+Scan+Codes. When you press the “A” key, for example, the keyboard’s circuit produces the hex code 1C. When you release the “A” key, the keyboard transmits a key-release code F0, followed by the key’s code again.

The shift key works the same way. To send an uppercase “A” your microcontroller or processor board would send the SHIFT-key code, the A key code (then a short delay) followed by the key release code and the A key code again. Then it would send the key release code followed by the shift-key code.

Remember, your code must calculate an odd-parity bit and insert it in the 11-bit value to send. You can find parity-generator code on the Internet. Also, ensure you send the key and release values in bit-reversed form. Thus, the 1C code (0001 1100) for “A” must get transmitted as 0011 1000. You can simply set up your code so it uses the “reverse-bit” values to start with.

Jon Titus
Herriman, UT


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