Sunday, 21 August 2016

Haberdashery cupboard repair

I've been using an old shop haberdashery drawer unit in my shed for a few years.

Unfortunately the occasional flood and general cold and damp during the winters are not doing it any good. I decided I either needed to sell it or move it in to the house before it deteriorates beyond a reasonable chance of repair.

The repair has gone reasonably well so far. I've started with the drawers. Each has been re-glued where joints appeared weak or were separating. Only a couple needed major surgery and only one needed to be completely taken apart and re-joined.

The handles are all rusting to various degrees. I did try sanding off the rust with the plan to lacquer them but the results were disappointing. I have painted them black instead.

I am not aiming for anything historically accurate. This furniture was common in shops. Made to look good from the front but of generally low cost construction. I want to end up with a piece of furniture that will be usable for many more years.

All the drawers are now together and I have waxed them so they have a nicer finish.

Some of the drawer bases may need to be replaced in the future. All the plywood felt flimsy plus some of the layers on some drawers had separated, probably due to damp. I have glued these layers back and they appear to be stable. Only time will tell how well the bases will hold.

The next job will be to repair the frame. The front is in good condition but the lowest edge of the old chipboard sides, where they have stood in the damp, are crumbling and will need some fixing and additional support.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

More 3D signs

I like raised letter signs and with a 3D printer they are fairly easy to produce.

I have used a similar technique on the signs on my Scalextric track. In that case I carefully hand painted round the letters. That was not easy to get the finish I wanted because I did not prime the surface first and getting between the letters was fiddly.

This time I spray painted the whole thing and sanded away the colour to reveal the plastic under the paint.

I tried using the belt sander but that was too aggressive and removed too much plastic.

A hand held sanding pad worked perfectly.

The 3D printed plastic is a bit porous so the base colour paint can still be seen slightly after the sanding. To fix this I just paint the top colour over the letters. This is fairly easy as there is no need to be accurate. It just needs to sink in to the same thin gaps between the print lines that the base paint has already been pulled in to.

For the outside sign I gave it a top coat of clear lacquer.

Belt sander dust port

I am lucky that I have a fairly large shed but I still pack a lot in to it.

The dust extraction port from my belt and disc sander is too close to my spray booth. The sawdust would get pushed under the lid of the spray booth and could get stuck to any paint that may have been drying.

To reduce this I have 3D printed a cowl that sends the extract to the back.

I didn't get the measurements of all the angled faces quite right but it works well enough simply held on the end with a double sided sticky pad.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Project management conflict

Sometimes to get a concept over to others it is necessary to use a dirty big diagram!

The 'draw a dirty big diagram' idea was introduced to me by one of my physics teachers at school many decades ago.  Thank you Mr Rowley (Sid or Syd.)

Today, I needed this and could not find one on the Internet with quite the wording I needed, so this is my version of a very well known concept.

Click on the image to open a higher quality version that can be downloaded for your own use.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

HikVision IP CCTV First Impressions

We've had CCTV at home for many years. The main use is to keep an eye on the horses while we are at work. Initially this was with analogue cameras and for the last few years, exclusively IP to get the highest quality picture.

Previous cameras

Most of our IP cameras have been Vivotek. I've tried some low cost makes and was always disappointed or they broke after a short while and I'd need to buy a more expensive Vivotek to replace them.

In the last few years many more mid-price brands have come to the market so when we needed to extend our coverage I wanted to try them out. A colleague at work is pleased with his HikVision setup so I bought a 4 camera setup with a network video recorder (NVR.)

Full HD is now a minimum requirement for any video and the HikVision cameras I purchased are 4Mega Pixel. At 2688x1520 they are well over full HD (1920x1080) quality.

I only buy dome cameras. I have found that spiders always build webs across cameras but with no overhangs on a dome camera we spend far less time cleaning them.

Spiders webs reflect IR very well so night vision is useless if there is a web over the lens even if the day view looks fine!

Before you get that far the first thing you will notice when you turn on the power is how noisy the recorder is. I have mine in the study where it is just about tolerable. There is a constant background fan noise. It would not be any good in a living room. I am still deciding if I need to buy or build an enclosure for it to cut down on the noise!

Now for the configuration. The manual and the quick start guide are a little unclear about where to start. It has lots of models in the same manual that you have to wade through and tells you how to fit the hard drive but not what to plug in to get it working.

I had assumed it needed a monitor and the supplied mouse because the manual showed a network screen without DHCP enabled and the quick start guide had nothing about the network configuration.

Anyway, I went through the setup wizard on a monitor connected with HDMI. It had however configured the IP address automatically using DHCP, which on my DS-7604 was enabled by default despite what the manual implied!

Anyway, the wizard was fairly easy and I was surprised to see all my existing Vivotek cameras listed as choices to add. I did not try any of them because this NVR was intended for use with the new additional cameras.

Setting up the cameras was arduous. As the instructions are so confusing it is not immediately obvious that the cameras themselves come with a fixed IP address of by default. I am so used to these defaulting to DHCP that it took me a long time to get going.

If you connect the cameras directly to the Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports on the back of the NVR and use the Activate feature from the config page then they install very easily. They all get an address on the 192.168.254.x subnet.

If you want them elsewhere on your LAN you will need to download the SADP software from the HikVision web site to be able to detect and change the camera settings.

I opted to connect one of the PoE ports back to my LAN so I was running a second subnet on my switches. The cameras were then detected and could be activated from the config screen.

Quality and construction
The 4Meg cameras are excellent with such a high resolution. The night vision was also better and further than I have had on previous cameras. The plants were still visible at night at 10m and just about at 15m.

The build of the cameras is very strong but the external fly lead for the RJ45 PoE network and the 12v power connector are hard to hide neatly out of sight. Particularly the large water proof joint on the RJ45 connector is very inconvenient and unless you make up you own patch lead, pretty useless.

Both myself and a colleague decided to use a separate water proof electrical box next to the camera to protect the connections.

I mounted all of mine on the wall. This appears to be an option the designers have not thought of but I would have expected to be the most common for outside mounting. The partial gimbal arrangement requires the whole body of the camera to be rotated for some positions but there is only one cable exit slot in the side so it is not always in a convenient position.

The very short elastic safety cord between the two parts of the body is very inconvenient so I removed this on all of mine.

The seal between the two halves of the body stays in place. I did not try to see if this was just luck or if it was glued in but either way it stayed put which was much easier to work with than other makes I have used.

I probably have less minor niggles with the HikVision cameras than others so these would be my first choice at the moment.

Ease of use
What bugs me about all the NVR's and cameras I have used is that they insist on using their own web browser plugin. This pretty much means they only work with Internet Explorer (IE)! The HikVision is the same. The downloaded component only works in IE. I use Edge (Windows 10) or Chrome. I had to deliberately run IE to be able to view the cameras. YouTube does not need a browser add-in so why do CCTV cameras need one!

That said the rest of the interface is good or at lease acceptable. Features were fairly well laid out and easy to find.

View and playback worked well. It is a bit odd having to press the a play button even to see the live feed but that's OK once you know.

I would recommend this setup. I don't think it is any better than others I have used, it is about the same but it has everything I need and the price is very competitive. The camera quality is excellent although the fixed IP address by default is a little confusing.


Where to buy?
If you plan to buy any of the things mentioned on this page, please consider using one of the following links as they pay me a commission:
Vivotek cameras
HikVision cameras and NVR

Friday, 29 July 2016

Dual WAN at home

I've had a dual wide area network (WAN) router for a long time at home. The Draytek 2920n router that I use is now an old model replaced by the 2925 series but still being supported with updated firmware from time to time.

The idea of having a dual WAN router is because my Internet connection at home is so poor I could improve reliability and gain a bit of bandwidth for multi users by using two Internet connections from different providers at the same time.

When I first tried it, I found that the load balancing feature did not work very well with my Sky Internet router. The performance was about half the bandwidth that I got with load balancing disabled.

The result of some research I did was that for load balancing a bridged Internet connection worked better than a routed one. This was not just for Draytek but for all the multi-WAN routers in my price range. Unfortunately, Sky remove the bridge option from their routers.

Due to on-going Sky performance problems I recently decided to change ISP. PlusNet had been very good for my Mum for years and they allowed me to select my own connection equipment. Their setup was painless and I selected to use an ADSL modem instead of a router.

The Draytek Vigor 120 was one of the very few choices. Exactly what I wanted and worked plug and play. All I needed to do was add the settings in my 2920 router to use PPPoE to authenticate via the Vigor 120. The Vigor then uses those credentials with PPPoA to authenticate over the ADSL line to PlusNet.

I was a little disappointed because from time to time the ADSL Internet connection would drop and required the Vigor 120 to be manually restarted to get things working. After some investigation it appeared to be the Internal link that went down between the Vigor 120 bridge and the WAN port on router. The ADSL line was still up according to the link lights and incoming traffic would trigger a working connection.

I firmware updated the Vigor 120 but that did not fix it. I am fairly certain the problem was solved after I forced the network port on the Draytek router WAN port to be fixed at 100 full duplex instead of auto negotiate. A common network conflict with auto-detecting port speeds.

The bridge connection has been working reliably for 4 days now, so I am confident enough to say it's fixed.


As a side note.  The Broadcom chipset is often recommeded over the Vigor's Infineon chipset. I could not find an ADSL modem with a Broadcom chipset but a low cost way would be to get a second hand router with a Broadcom chipset and use that in bridge mode. That was trickier to find than I first thought so one option would be to get an old Sky Sagem 2504N router from ebay, unlock it with the non-Sky firmware that is available and enable the bridge feature! I've not tried that yet.


Where to buy?
If you plan to buy any of the things mentioned on this page, please consider using one of the following links as they pay me a commission:
DrayTek 2920 dual WAN router
DrayTek 2925 dual WAN router
Sky Sagemcom 2504n router

Monday, 18 July 2016

Door mechanism repair

Just as we wanted to go out last Tuesday the locking mechanism on one of the pair of our back doors refused to move. One bolt was stuck out and the other dropped in.

This is the mechanism on the door that has to be closed first or opened last on a pair of uPVC French doors. I now know that this is called the slave gear box.

We had a quick look on the Internet but the videos we found only mentioned the first door not the second, so we called out a locksmith.

To cut a long job short, we were not impressed by the guy that came to fix the door. He took a very long time to fiddle with the door and eventually take it apart only to say he didn't have the part to fix it. I saw him take loads of measurements.

Eventually he struggled to put it back together and I suggested that as he needed to take it apart to fit the replacement part when it arrived, that he should simply close the door and use a screw to hold the locking mechanism fast. We could still use the first of the two doors to go in and out and the thing would still be fully secure when closed.

He contacted his office to put the order through for the necessary part and I had to pay for the call out.

From one photo I had already found the make and exact part of the bit that was broken and I could have had it delivered next day. There was no reason why a professional locksmith company should not have already got the part.

3 days latter I called up their office to find out when the replacement part would arrive.

They could not give me any information about the status of my order. I have no patience for this sort of thing and cancelled the order there and then.

This was 4pm on a Friday. By the middle of Saturday, I had received and fitted the part.

I now know that these locks are measured as the distance from the centre of the lock barrel to the front face of the lock and from the centre of the barrel to the centre of the handle spindle. In my case it is a 35-92 lock, 35mm and 92mm.

I have written off the call out fee as training for me to know how to take a uPVC door apart. It is very unlikely that I will be calling a locksmith again.

The little bit of knowledge I did not have at the start was that the overlapping plastic lip on the door was a complete unit simply held on by 4 long screws. Once that is off the slave mechanism is visible and easy to remove, just lots of normal screws.

Before removing anything, mark the exact positions of the metalwork for the latches. This will save a lot of time when re-assembling the door. In my case the locksmith and the original fitters had already put those marks on.

The lock barrel has to be removed. That is one screw going through the centre of the barrel assembly. Then the lock cam needs to be aligned with a bit of trial and error until the whole thing can slide out past the escutcheon.

Two screws from inside the house to undo the pair of handles and then the connecting shaft can be pulled out. That frees up the slave gearbox mechanism so it can be removed.

The bolts at top and bottom remain in the door, only a slide fixing needs to be removed to take off the flat geared connector rod assembly.

The lock came with the connector rods but they were a different pitch gear at each end, so I swapped over the rods from the old to the new gearbox.

Refitting the door is the reverse of taking it apart.

If you put back one connecting rod at a time, it is fairly easy. I started at the bottom, the slide fixing just sits over the end of the geared section preventing it coming out. A single screw stops the slide dropping down. I then did the same at the top. Took me a couple of minutes. That is the bit that the professional locksmith struggled with and I eventually told him not to bother!

At each stage I tested that everything moved the correct distances before proceeding to the next bit.

Job done, everything worked and I even made a quick adjustment to make it open and close a bit better.