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Air France from Brazil?

It is way too early to make speculations as to what happened. The only question I would like to know - the plane is a metal box which is effectively a Faraday cage. So what cooked the electrics to appear to cause such failures?


Air France A380

In a stroke of extremely unfortunate timing, the first transcontinental passenger flight of the big Airbus A380 arrived today. Lots of big celebrations were planned, but as you can imagine Air France decided that it will be bad taste to celebrate given what else is going on.


Faraday cages again

Here's a question. I'm at work, right. I decide to go pee. Our toilets are connected to the locker room. The lockers are pretty much like lockers across the planet - metal boxes. In most cases the doors fit snugly. There are tiny holes for ventilation, but the locker is more or less a big metal box, on all six sides.
So how come, when I go pee, can I sometimes hear mobile phones ringing inside the lockers?
Shouldn't the metal box shield the mobile signals?


Repairing the PVR's controller

While the PVR's remote controller is very small and slim, it suffers from the fact that the upper key contacts are essentially 'printed' onto a pop-back (flexible) piece of plastic. After repeated use, these contacts will start to crack, and the most used button (Play) will start to fail after a few months.

So here I have devised a simple fix that I hope will work well. As this repair means tampering with your controller, you really ought to wait until such time as the button on your controller no longer operates at all.

The first thing you must do is remove the battery. Then, if you left the shrink-wrap plastic on, that'll need to come off.

Now look where the battery used to go. You'll see a small gap between the plastic body of the controller and the internal circuit board. You should gently press a wide flat screwdriver into this gap. Use the widest jeweller's screwdriver that will fit. If you use a narrow one, you risk leaving marks in the plastic flexi.

If you are pressing correctly, you should see a small gap open up between the flexi and the controller body. Insert a smaller jeweller's screwdriver in here to keep this gap open. The larger screwdriver is no longer required.

Use the smaller screwdriver to gently separate the flexi from the casing. When there is enough to hold, peel the flexi up and off. It is sticky on the reverse so put it down upside down!

There are many more contacts on the controller than buttons on the flexi. Don't waste time trying to 'short' the contacts to see if you can get hidden stuff to appear on your PVR (you know, test modes and such). I've already tried. Nothing happened...

Clean off the contacts on the remote controller circuit board. My personal preference is a Q-tip dabbed in isopropyl alcohol (if you can't find this in your local chemist: the stuff they sell to clean ink jet printers or the drip-on stuff in older VHS head cleaners and/or floppy disc cleaners is the same stuff; do not use other types of alcohol such as meths or paint stripper!).

Now inspect the flexi. If there is any gunk (broken bits of the contact pad), this will need to be removed. The flexi is transparent and the legend/contact is 'printed' on. If you want the legend to remain, maybe more Q-tip action is called for. If you care less, a little dab of blu-tack ought to clean it up right.

Find some tin foil (alu foil, food wrapping) and cut out a piece slightly larger than the pad you are going to repair, but not so large it'll foul any of the others.

One teeny-tiny dab of cyanoacrylate glue. This is Super Glue and a hundred thousand rip-offs. I would recommend the 'gel' variety as it goes where you place is and not everywhere else. One dab, right in the middle of the pad you want to repair.

Place the tin foil piece, shiny side up, onto the pad you are repairing. Centre it. You might find tweezers helpful.

More Q-tipping. This time a dry one to gently press the tin foil disc into the pad so it fits the contours, the glue holding it in place.

It will look like this:

Pick up the flexi, turn it over, and carefully place it on top of the controller body. When it is in the correct place, press it down to stick it.

Battery back in, point it to your PVR and test the repaired button.


Gameboy games

Here's an update...
Bionic Commando GBC Still not impressed. Seems kinda stupid really. It's like an electronic commando crossed with a bad Spiderman clone.
Eggo Mania GBA On the simpler level ("Over easy"!), I progressed right through the game. Reached the finish in under half an hour, with maybe 45 minutes playing the game in total.
At the end, it simply said I should try the harder level ("Hard boiled"). No whoo-hoo, not score or time or anything. Wasn't impressed, but the graphics are nice.
F1 Racing GBC Played it awhile. The car can change, the track can change. But it's still a slightly more sophisticated OutRun. Bored now.
Gunstar (future) Heroes GBA This apparently wasn't reviewed so well. There are certainly a number of points that suck (that pick'n'mix thing at the end is a bit crap), but you have two 'heroes' with missions on Earth and four moons. Each stage has a score and there's a little EEPROM in the cartridge which records the scores.
There are three levels: Easy, in which you'll do well if you shoot everything that moves and avoid the bad guys; Normal, ditto above but there are more bad guys and stuff shoots back; Hard, like normal but you don't have endless ammo.
After playing around to get a feel for the game and it's controls, I breezed the easy level. I'm now working on the normal level. I don't think I'm going to bother with the hard, I die regularly. ☺
I like this one mostly because the graphics are nice, there is a little bit of skill required but shooting the crap out of stuff usually works (the thing that annoyed me about Tomb Raider II was some of the puzzles were really quite obscure). And the memory chip for the scores. This means, if I'm feeling mindless, I can go back to easy to see if I can beat my previous.
I have the game speak to me in Japanese. Why? Because I can. The characters (especially the girl that flies the odd little ship) are very manga-ish, so it just looks 'better' with Japanese prompts!
Pokémon Pinball GBC Can't comment. Ever since mom found out I had Pinball, she's had it in her Gameboy. If it is any help, she says "piiiikuuuu!" now and then so I guess it'll get a thumbs up from her.
Robocop v Terminator GBC Naff. Played a couple of levels, to the factory second part. It's like a platform game with really slow bullets. The look and feel is like one of those hand-held games from the early eighties with the big LCDs (remember Mario Bros?), only... it just kinda sucks. But not as hard as Bionic commando.

On the plus side, I've found out some stuff about the consoles...

The Gameboy Color is based around a nippy Z80-clone with a few extra instructions clocking at 8MHz (yuk, a 10MHz 6502 would have totally kicked ass, even without the 16 bit stuff!). Astonishingly, only 32K system memory and 16K video memory. The colour palette and display technology allows for some thirty two thousand colours, but only 56 different colours can be shown at any one time. In addition to a wired link cable, the Gameboy Color has an infra-red port. This obviously wasn't very popular as it was dropped from the later version.

On Wikipedia, when talking about the cartridges, it actually says: "The black cartridges can be easily identified from the grey ones." You don't say! ☺

The successor, the Gameboy Advance, is powered mostly by an ARM7TDMI core clocking at 16.8MHz. The core contains some internal memory (32K system, 96K video) plus a custom graphics unit. There is a further 256K memory external to the processor. The display is a 2.9" TFT LCD (again, with no backlight) and the system can support five bits per channel in RGB, for up to thirty two thousand colours on-screen at any one time.
All of this can run for around 12-16 hours (depending on the game and the volume) from two AA batteries.

At gets better. The geeky ones might wonder how a 16MHz ARM can put in a decent enough emulation of an 8MHz Z80 to make playing games smooth. Well, um, it doesn't. There's a Z80 co-processor which is used to execute the older Gameboy/Gameboy Color games, with the ARM arbitrating and doing housekeeping. Like that cool thing where the left/right buttons on top can select original Gameboy resolution, or fill-the-screen wide resolution.

I wonder if anybody has written a mini-Linux to run on the Gameboy Advance, just because...


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