Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Transfer of Ownership

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Transfer of Ownership

Beginning today mikestrawbridge.com will be owned and managed by Jennifer Bryan. I will not go into the reasons behind this change but trust that the site is in good hands.

From this point forward, Jennifer will be responsible for the content of the site and will collect the commissions it generates. She will also be answering the questions you send via the “Contact Mike” form. If you need any Crown Parts, she will be able to get them for you.

Thank you for your support and I hope you will continue to support this body of information by supporting the advertisers here. They pay for the web hosting and other expenses associated with running the site.

Remembering Y2K

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Remembering Y2K

As we count down the days to the end of the Mayan calendar, I am thinking back to the last potential apocalypse. I still remember all the hoopla that surrounded the change from 1999 to 2000. It seems many people were convinced that all the computers in the world were going to crash and we would be returned to the dark ages because the computers would not know what year it was.

At first I thought the whole idea was just silly. I had no idea anyone had taken the issue seriously. This is until I got a directive from my company that I had to certify each and every item in the plant to be Y2K compliant. Even in my relatively small plant employing just under 200 people, there were a lot of individual items that had to be certified.

Considering the relative importance of the situation, I first assigned the task to my co-op engineer. As he began to collect the data, and report back his findings to me, I began to realize that there were in fact many people who took the issue very seriously. Some companies were paying big bucks to have their equipment certified.

In order to not take resources away from solving real problems, he and I developed a checklist to quickly verify that the equipment would not self destruct at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999.

Naturally our first step was to see if the device even had a clock and even knew or cared what day it was in the first place. We also developed a form letter to send to manufacturers to get a document that added credibility to our own assessment.

Once we realized that not only did our own upper management actually task the situation seriously, but other companies were also taking the issue seriously we began looking into selling our services outside the company. Unfortunately by the time we realized people would actually pay us to do the work, most of the big contracts had already be let to people faster on the uptake than us.

So we just resumed our own process of certifying all the equipment we had and depended on. Naturally most of the stuff we looked at did not have a clock and could quickly be eliminated from the high priority list.

For most things with a clock, it was a simple matter to set the clock to a date past 1/1/2000 and see what happened. Only after we had tested most things on our list did we get stern warning from corporate not to test in this manner unless specifically told to by the manufacturer. Luckily we had completed most of our testing by the time they told us to quit.

One system of particular interest was the phone system. It did have a very important function of keeping the date and time of each voice message. About a week after we had run our clock forward and back again with no ill effects noted we received a dire warning from the manufacturer not to perform such a test. The assured us that it would indeed self destruct.

Sensing this was a scheme to cause us to hire one of their technicians to test for us, I called our sales rep and told her we had already done the test and nothing bad had happened. She informed me we were very fortunate that it had not crashed but was sad that we did not need their tech to test it for us.

Once we had complied huge notebooks of documentation for the equipment in the plant, we began thinking of how to best present the data to management and the auditors. Yes, they actually had auditors to make sure we actually did the certifications and did them correctly.

We first ranked items by criticality. The highest priority items were placed in the first notebook. These were items that would have the most impact on the operation should they fail on 12/31/1999. Of course these were items that might shut down production or make the facility uninhabitable for some reason.

My co-op engineer examined the data and decided in order to quickly point out how thorough we had been we would sort the data in inverse alphabetical order. After all our most important piece of equipment was made by Zerand and there was no point making them flip through the huge notebook looking for the Z’s.

The most rewarding consequence of the inverse alpha sort pattern was that it put the Zurn company at the top of the list. Zurn made the automatic flushers for our toilets and of course we ranked these as critical since no one wants to inhabit a building if the flushers are not working. The added benefit was the not so subtle hint as to where we thought all the data we had worked months to gather really belonged.

The managers go the last laugh on us however as they required us to be on site at the stroke of midnight on 12/31/1999 just to make sure we had not missed anything. We got to ring in the new millennium with a group of engineers and maintenance workers rather than our families. But, they did give us written authorization to have an actual Champaign toast at midnight.

Repairing my hacked WordPress site

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Repairing my hacked WordPress site

Incorrect tiles and descriptions showing in Google search results

On October 14 my web traffic went down to less than a fourth of what it normally is. It took me a day or so to find out why. From my viewpoint my blog was fine. I finally did a google search on my most popular term expecting to see some drop in ranking. What I did see shocked me. Instead of the normal title and description, my blog post – still ranked number one, now said “Buy Viagra with a prescription.” The cached preview showed a page titled “SOMA for sale.”

However, if you actually clicked the link, which few people were doing, you got the original page. I was really confused.

I did some forum searches to see if other people we having the same problem with Google. It turned out they were but all the post I found were closed to comments and there were no answers. It took quite a bit of digging to find out what was causing the trouble. It turns out that 90% of the people who are reporting the problem are hosted on Godaddy like I am. There seems to be a security problem with he Godaddy servers. If my trouble returns, I will switch away from Godaddy. I hate to because I have had good service over the years from them but this lack of security is not acceptable. See this article for more info: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2010/05/13/hosting-with-godaddy-might-want-to-rethink-that-decision/

I followed the helpful guide at this link: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2008/06/24/how-to-completely-clean-your-hacked-wordpress-installation/

I began by making a copy of the wordpress directory on my web site. I used Filezilla to make the copy. Next I had to learn how to make a copy of my SQL data base. This took a lot of reading before I was able to learn to use the data base controller software on Godaddy’s hosting controls. I also installed a plug on the blog that makes backups. This let me make a copy of the database easily.

In the process, I accidentally changed the password on the database so my blog was down with errors overnight until I realized the problem. I had to edit the wp-config file to fix it. It took more reading to learn how to do that.

By this time I was more comfortable using the Hosting control software and I had backups of everything on my hard drive.

I had also figured out some of how the hack worked. Somehow they inserted code that redirected the traffic if the googlebot was doing the surfing. I used http://web-sniffer.net to find out what was being presented to Google.

I got the courage to hit delete and cleaned up all the old files from the server. I left the database in place.

Instead of letting Godaddy reinstall WordPress for me or trying to install it using Filezilla, I used a program called EasyWP WordPress Installer. It is available here: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2008/06/18/easywp-wordpress-installer-cause-there-aint-no-such-thing-as-too-easy/

I simply downloaded the file to my computer and then used Filezilla to copy it up to the server. I then used my browser to run it. I had to open a separate window in the browser to get the right data to access my SQL database on Godaddy. I had to change the hosting parameter that is says 99% don’t need to change but all the info was on the Godaddy info page. I just copied and pasted it into the form.

The program loaded up a fresh install of wordpress and sucked in all the data from my database. At first the blog was still blank because there was some error with the theme. I simply reloaded the theme and it cleared right up. I did have trouble for a while getting 404 errors on individual blog posts but that cleared upon its own after a few minutes.

I then checked through all the photo files in the backup of the upload directory. I had read where some people had had their site hacked by someone putting php files in the photo directories. I did not find any suspicious files so I uploaded all photos using filezilla. That took a few hours. Once the photo files were back in place the blog posts looked fine again.

I then began the tedious task of reinstalling plug ins. I tried to get fresh versions of as many as possible. However, there were a few that I had to restore form my back ups. I really have no way of knowing if they were clean. I have tried to use web sniffer to check regularly to see if any of the posts have been re corrupted but so far none have.

I have to give a special thanks to the folks at smackdown for providing lots of good and useful info on how to fix my blog. Hopefully Google will rescan the affected articles soon and correct their files.

I have learned a lot about how WordPress works and I will be able to rebuild the blog a lot faster next time. I used this event as an opportunity to clean up some plug ins I don’t use anymore and make some other changes to the blog I have wanted to do for a while.

I have no idea what the motivation for the hack is. There are no links I see that would make anyone any money or bring them clicks. The only issue for me was destroying my search results. I guess some people like to cause trouble just because they can.

AW4 Troubleshooting

Friday, September 9th, 2011

AW4 Troubleshooting

Diagnosis of faults in the Jeep AW4 transmission.

The automatic transmission used in the Jeep XJ Cherokee is nearly bullet proof. Seldom does it ever give trouble. Maybe that is why it is so hard to find good information on how to fix it when it occasionally does act up. The same transmission is used in 600hp turbo Supras so it can handle a lot of abuse.

To test if the trouble is electric or mechanical, pull the fuse to the TCU or disconnect the wiring harness. 1-2 will give first gear only, 3 will give third gear. D will give forth gear. The torque converter will not lock manually. You can drive the Jeep just fine this way until you figure out what is wrong.

If the transmission does not shift as described manually, then you have a serious problem and you need to get another transmission from the junkyard. Don’t buy a rebuilt one. If you have yours rebuilt make sure the shops knows how to handle the AW4. If you choose to rebuild it yourself, the FSM has lots of nice pictures.

Most of the time the trouble will be associated with the Transmission Control Unit or TCU. It is handy to have a spare for trouble shooting although the computer itself rarely goes bad.

A transmission control unit located under the passenger side panel under the glove box controls the AW4. The panel is one piece all the way across and there are more control boxes on the driver side so be careful when you remove it.

There are two controllers that I know about. The 1990 and earlier use a different one from the 1991 and up. Somewhere along the way they combined the TCU and the ECU but I don’t know what year that was. The 1991 and up unit has a green connector. It is not interchangeable with the earlier unit.

The TCU gets inputs from a speed sensor, the Throttle Position Sensor, the brake pedal, the battery and the ignition switch. Some models also have a power / comfort switch.

The only outputs control three solenoids. One controls the torque converter lockup and the other two select the four gears in a binary fashion.

First Gear S1 on S2 off
Second Gear S1 on S2 on
Third Gear S1 off S2 on
Forth Gear S1 off S2 off

As you can see, if the TCU has no power, you will get forth gear in D position. Also with the TCU off, 3 will give you third gear and 1-2 will give 1st gear. You can’t get 2nd manually.

The wires on the 1991 and up TCU are connected as follows:

C3 Speed Sensor Tan
C8 NSS 1-2 Light blue
C9 NSS D Green
C10 Brake switch Light Blue/ yellow
C11 Power switch Tan
C14 Torque Converter White
C15 Solenoid 2 Violet
C16 Solenoid 1 Blue
D7 Ground Black
D14 Battery Red
D16 Ignition Yellow
D1 TPS+ Gray
D3 TPS- Tan / orange

Note that the wire colors and traces may be different on different years. Check your FSM wiring diagrams for the right colors for your Jeep. The pin position is the same on all the TCUs however.

If the speed sensor signal is bad, the controller will force the transmission to stay in first gear. It will not shift at all. Unplugging the controller will give manual operation. This speed sensor is mounted in the side of the transmission under the transfer case shift linkage if you have 4wd. Don’t confuse it with the speedometer sensor in the transfer case.

The brake input is used to unlock the torque converter. The 1990 and earlier used +12 to lock and zero to unlock. The 1991 and up is the opposite.

The TPS voltage should read about .5 volts with the throttle closed and 4.5 volts with it open. It should transition smoothly between the two numbers. It seems to work fine even if the voltage is a little off.

The solenoids are located inside the transmission. They get power from the TCU. You can monitor the voltage to see if they are getting power at the right times. You can also add a power wire and switch to juice up solenoid 2 to get second gear when in the 1-2 position. This gives you control of 2nd gear which is hard to come by any other way.

You can check the solenoids by testing the resistance across the coils. Attach one side of your meter to the battery ground. Good grounds are hard to come by inside the Jeep. Connect the other side to each wire going to the solenoid. They should read around 15 ohms give or take a couple. They seem to read different warm than cold but will be in the teens if good.

The solenoids are expensive and require dropping the pan to change. Make sure you have eliminated other possibilities before swapping one.

Contrary to most wiring diagrams I have seen, the solenoids do not ground through the black wire. They ground to the transmission case. So if you are having trouble with a solenoid energizing, make sure it is properly grounded to the case and the case is properly grounded to the battery before swapping it out.

The speed sensor uses the black wire. If either the black wire or the white wire are damaged in the transmission wiring harness, the transmission may hang in first gear. The harness passes right behind the transfer case shift linkage and can be damaged by the linkage if it is moved around by a transfer case drop or something like that.

Normally, the transmission with switch to 2nd at 20 to 25 mph depending on the TPS signal. It gets its speed reference from the internal speed sensor so if you are in low range, the speed will be different.

In the 1-2 position, the torque converter can lock up in first or second gear. In 3 or D it will only lock in 3 or four. The normal sequence is to shift to second, and then third, then forth and then the torque converter will lock up giving an engine speed of about 2700 RPM at 55 MPH.

Armed with this information, you could be able to sort through nearly any fault in the AW4. The FSM is most unhelpful in that it calls for a DRBII scanner that seems to be unavailable at any price these days. Even if you had one the TCU only gives a few codes that are really not very helpful. You will probably still have to sort through each of the inputs and outputs to find out what is really wrong and get it working again.

[phpbay]jeep cherokee transmission, 10[/phpbay]

Mifi 2200 mobile hotspot review

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Mifi 2200 mobile hotspot review

I recently swapped my Hugesnet Satellite system for the Verizon Mifi 3g mobile hotspot. So far I have been very happy with it.

I was at fist concerned about signal strength as we sometimes drop cell calls at our house. My plan to was to find somewhere in the house that had a good signal and then use a router as a repeater. However, in actual use, it picks up everywhere in the house. I just sit it near what ever computer I am using or, if it is charging, just lay it in the floor in the hallway.

This past weekend, I took the device to my mother’s house so she could test it. She currently uses the Verizon USB modem. To get reception in her computer room, she has to plug the modem into a long USB extension cable and tape the modem to the window.

My Mifi needed charging so I sat in on her sewing table well away from where hers gets a signal while I booted up my lap top. I let it connect to the wireless signal and I planned to move it once it charged up a bit. However, to my surprise, it had plenty of signal right where it was. This was in the center of her basement where cell phones hardly work.

She was able to connect with her laptop and carry it upstairs while the Mifi sat in the basement plugged to the charger. Both of us were amazed at the signal strength not only of the wireless signal but also the cellular reception.

So far the only disappointment has been that the tethered mode of plugging the Mifi into my computer via the USB cable refuses to work. I had hoped to use tethered mode while in the car to avoid running down the battery in the Mifi. My computer uses XP so I suspect that there is some problem with the installer it my older version of windows. I gave up trying to use tethered mode as the wireless mode works so well. The battery life is several hours so it has not been a problem yet.

In order to connect my desktop computer to the Mifi signal, I used dd-wrt software to convert my old router to client mode. The router automatically recognizes the Mifi anytime it is turned on and logs in automatically. All, I do is turn on the Mifi hotspot and in a few seconds, I am on the internet with the desktop.

When using my laptop, I always have to hit the refresh button to see available wireless connections before it will see the Mifi. But once I click refresh, it connects automatically.

I have the 3GB per month plan and so far I am on target to use about that much. The satellite plan gave me 200MB per day so I am accustomed to working within bandwidth restrictions. I use Opera in Turbo mode to save bandwidth when possible. However the other users in my house just browse as they normally would.
[phpbay]mifi, 10[/phpbay]