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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Computer Hard Drive Parts Become Signal Mirror.

I try to stay somewhat prepared for disasters of many kinds.  I keep some things handy to throw together in case we need to leave home quickly.  I have some things that are handy for survival or for camping and one of the things I've lacked was a metal signal mirror.  They are not very expensive to buy but I had some old computer Hard Drives laying around that needed to be erased and or destroyed to prevent data recovery from them.  I decided to keep the platters from inside the drives to use as signal mirrors.  Here is a brief guide to making your own.

Here are two hard drives with a 3 & 1/2 inch floppy disk for size comparison.  Notice the screws around the edge of the case and some are under the label.  I remove ALL labels, stickers, and screws when dismantling a hard drive.

Closer view of one hard drive. Notice where two screws under the label were removed.

The shiny metal platter inside the case.  Remove all screws in the middle hub and those holding other mechanisms in place.  There are two magnets inside the case that may give some resistance to removal.  Try not to scratch the platters but you may need to be forceful with other parts.

Here are two platters that I removed from a computer hard drive.  Your drive may have only one platter for it may have more.  Your platters may also be larger or smaller.  The platters are made of metal and not easily broken like a glass mirror.  I keep mine inside a plastic sandwich bag to keep them from getting too many scratches while camping.

Here is one magnet from the drive I dismantled.

I placed the platter on the magnet and moved it around on both sides to completely erase any data on the platter before I use it as a signal mirror.

Hold the platter in one hand, shine the sun's reflection onto the other hand between forefinger and thumb held to form an L.  Using this method you can easily aim your signal spot.

Here you can see my signal spot on the larger tree about  the height of the farside curb.  To get someone's attention at a great distance, simply move the spot back and forth across their face. You may not be able to see the spot at a large distance but you will still be able to see it on your hand and you can move the mirror back and forth to make the spot move across your hand and the gap between  your finger and thumb.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sometimes You Just HAVE to Let Go

Today I wanted to put Corel Draw 3 onto my computer.  OK, I know that there are much newer versions of Corel Draw but version 3 was the last one I bought since it worked quite well for my purposes.  It is only about 20 years old! What ever happened to backward compatibility in Windows anyway? My current computer is running Win7-64 and the installation process just comes up saying that the software is not compatible with my version of windows.  It suggests that I check with the manufacturer for an updated version.  BUT I LIKE THIS VERSION!  And, I can't afford to buy a newer version.  So, I guess it is time to let go of Corel Draw 3.

Following are pictures of the edition 3 of Corel Draw on CD:

The Front Cover

The Back Cover

Inside the CD case. 

Inside the Pamphlet that is in the CD case.

My Corel Draw 3 was purchased and run on Windows 3.0, and then Windows 3.1 for many years.  The specifications state that it requires Windows 3.0 or above (Windows 3.1 is strongly recommended).  I have run it on IBM compatible PCs from 286 up to Pentium. (the 286 required protected mode windows and 4Mb of memory).  I liked the way it worked.

So, now I must leave Corel Draw 3 behind and continue on with other graphics programs.  I still have many that work well but it is a loss of a good tool that has served me well over the years.  I have Serif products that also work well and are reasonably priced.  I also have Paint.Net which is FREE and I have downloaded a ton of addons/effects for it.  And so it comes to this, if you are using Windows 3.1 then I highly recommend Corel Draw 3.0 but if you are using Win7-64 then you might want to check out Paint.Net at

Friday, March 30, 2012

Good Old Days! Or, How I First Started Recycling.

A LONG time ago, in a small country community where people helped their neighbors without thought of being paid or filled with beer as a reward, I was helping a neighbor clean out his basement.  My neighbor was old, about ten times my age, and I was about eight years old.  I was a stick with skin on it, not strong, but I had endurance and speed.  I could only carry small boxes or bags of "this gets thrown out" up the stairs and out to the garage for more sorting, but I could run them up the stone stairs, out the door, and across the back yard in just a minute.  Then dash back to see if he was ready with the next box or bag.  The last box to appear was much larger than all the rest had been and I remember Mr. Rosewarne saying something like "I'd sell this for a dollar if anyone wanted it."  Looking inside the box I found that it contained a bicycle.  I immediately told him that if he was going to sell it, I would buy it but I would have to make payments because I did not have a full dollar saved up yet.

My allowance at that time was 40 cents a week, a nickel for each year in age.  Every Saturday we received our allowance and I would put a quarter into savings leaving me with 15 cents to spend.  Usually a nickel was spent on Coke and the rest on bubblegum and comic books.  I realize now that Mr. Rosewarne was probably well aware of my financial situation.  He agreed to sell me the bicycle for 50 cents now and 25 cents a week for two weeks.  He also warned me that the bicycle had never been put together because the person he had originally purchased it for had moved away and had gotten a much better bicycle as a moving present from his parents.  The tires and inner tubes might be bad because he had put the bicycle into the basement many years before.  I informed him that I could take care of any problems that it might have as I half carried, half dragged it up the stairs, out the door and down across his side yard and our sandy driveway to our garage.

A bicycle! One of my very own!  I quickly started removing items from the box.  In those days a bicycle arrived in pieces, completely.  There were no parts pre-assembled, you had to do all of the work yourself.  There were no instructions in the box. There was not even a diagram of how the parts needed to be assembled.  No  problem.  I would figure it out.  Axles, washers, nuts, and gears.  Wait! GEARS!  It was a 3-Speed!  This was no run of the mill bicycle!  I dragged out our "Sears and Roebuck" catalog and thumbed back to the well worn section on bicycles.  There I found just what I needed, a diagram of all the parts in a 3-speed bicycle in an exploded diagram so you could order just the part you needed to replace.  Only, I needed it to see what order to put this advanced bicycle machine together properly.  It took me a full day to assemble the bicycle except for the tires.  The tires might be OK to ride on for a little while but the inner tubes would not hold air and they were in such bad shape that they could not be fixed.  With all of my money for the next two weeks accounted for there was only one place to possibly find the parts I needed... the dump!

Today they are called "Landfills" but back when I was a kid they were just dumps.  My father worked as a heavy equipment operator and repairman for an excavation company (he fixed bulldozers, front end loaders, cranes, trucks, etc).  He made parts and tools that he could not obtain otherwise and I often helped him in the shop.  I had used the Oxygen/Acetylene torch and the Arc Welder a few times under his supervision, and I had full access to his hand tools or the drill press.  My dad often had to take items to the dump for work and we would tag along with him to see if anyone had thrown away any interesting items that we might use to make a go-cart or other contraption.  We often found broken bicycles and since they were metal pipes, we usually ended up going home with more that we actually took to the dump.  On the next trip to the dump after I had acquired my new bicycle I did find tires and tubes that might work, and several spares too.  I was in business!  With a little testing I found two good inner tubes and was soon riding my new bicycle around the neighborhood.  THANK YOU MR. ROSEWARNE!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Herding Cats

If you regularly watch any kind of nature television programs then you should be familiar with the herding of caribou or other similar animals.  They run for long distances at high speed and the photographer is in a plane or helicopter filming from above looking down upon the herd.  The animals bunch together when they pass through a narrow point in their travels to the point that they are shoulder to shoulder.  Have you got the picture firmly planted in your mind?

Now imagine that the herd scene is taken from your walking height and the herd that you are watching consists of just cats.  OK, now reduce the numbers of the herd until you end up with three cats being herded in front of you.  They run ahead of you seemingly with some urgent purpose in mind, some desired destination.  And what is the destination?  The bathroom.  Yes, the bathroom.

I spend a lot of time at my computer, surfing the web, filling out job applications, playing games, etc.  I sit in an old worn out computer station swivel chair.  The kind with five foot rests with wheels sticking out from a central post.  It has a handle to adjust the height if you lift up while you pull up on the handle the seat raises a little bit.  If you apply a little of your weight to the seat while you lift the handle you can make it go down slowly until you reach the height that you prefer.  The seat swivels around and has an adjustable backrest that goes back/forward or up/down (no fancy stuff like leaning back, or adjustable arms).  The backrest swivels so that maximum surface meets your back as you lean back onto it.  The hydraulic lifter has some sort of spring on top so that when you get up the seat springs up a few inches until it reaches a mechanical stop.  With the seat higher and when you sit down it lowers back to the normal position with some resistance.  I'm not sure what function it does, maybe is is to boost you in getting up and to cushion your sitting when you "Plop" onto the chair.  The seat cushion is fastened to a plastic shell which in turn is mounted onto a metal plate welded to the top of the hydraulic lifter piston.  Only the plastic shell is broken on one the left side and I sit on a slightly left-leaning seat.  I am no longer getting the cushion support so after long periods of sitting it feels like I am sitting directly on the left side of the mounting plate. The rivets that held the backrest to the swivel mount broke a long time ago so I replaced them with a piece of bent coat-hanger sticking through the mount like an axle.  By now you should be asking yourself; "What does this have to do with Herding Cats?"

While I am at my computer I usually have the company of three of our four cats.  "The Girls" hang out with me. If all three are not on the bed right behind me, then Miney (Mine-ee) is sleeping under my chair between the legs, Baby and Missy are somewhere close.  Being in the condition that it is, my chair makes a bit of noise when I get up.  The backrest rattles, the seat pops up and thumps against the stop, and the hydraulic lift makes a whooshing sound.  This seems to be a signal for all three cats to stop what they are doing and run ahead of me to the bathroom.  It does not matter why I am going to the bathroom, I get the company of all three cats.  Baby, being the most nimble, jumps up onto the window sill and sits.  Missy usually jumps up onto the sink counter where the food is kept.  And Miney stays on the floor (she seems to have a problem in jumping up onto things).  When I turn to go out the door, all three cats again run ahead and usually end up on the bed.

I'm not sure why the "Three Girls" act this way.  Perhaps they are trying to protect me, or maybe it is a "Pride Movement" when I get up from my chair.