my mother called me this morning. "the internet is down!" that was all she told me, said i needed to come and fix it. minutes later my father called with more details. he was at my grand uncle's place: cable was working, but no internet. the modem was flashing a series of colors i didn't recognize. he also said the splitter outside was broken, and comcast had added some new dongles to the coaxials. i was in the middle of making lunch; after i finished eating, i raced down to the cafe on the bike (stopping briefly at the boudreau branch of the cambridge library to pick up a museum pass). it was a relatively warm day, with temperature in the upper 50's, grey sky with peeks of sunshine.

sometime last week comcast must've came by and added noise filters to the cables. how and why they managed to get to the back of the house and do all this work without calling first is kind of suspicious. regardless, when putting on the arcom filters, the technician must've twisted too tightly with his pliers because he actually managed to break off one of the heads of our 4-way splitter. fortunately there was another empty connector so we simply switched the cable (minus the noise filter) to that one instead (and cover the hole with some foil tape i found in my sister's place).

that should've fixed it, but when i plugged the modem back in, the lights showed it wasn't connecting (flashing blue uplink, no downlink or internet lights). after a few failed attempts, my father went to the splitter to tighten the cable and that seemed to do the trick, as the modem came back to life, along with the router and connected devices like internet phone and webcam.

returning to the cafe, my father and i picked up a steel bathroom shelf. the bottom few layers had rust of them, but if we can clean it off (using the old wet aluminum scrubber trick) the shelf would look as good as new.

i left for home, but not before making a stop at the comcast office to return my grand uncle's 2nd cable box (no longer needed since my 2nd aunt and uncle moved out of my grand uncle's place, that's a saving of $10 less/month). they changed the layout of the place since my last visit. now a receptionist greets you when you first come into the store and asks for your name and puts you on a waiting list (conveniently displayed on LCD monitors). the receptionist actually took the old equipment (glad i cleaned off the remote earlier, that thing was filthy, spotted with food stains, maybe my aunt and uncle used it as a kitchen utensil). in return i was handed a ticket, but in order to get a receipt i had to wait my turn in the virtual line.

it used to be an old-fashion counter and people would just wait in a real line; now the counter is gone, replaced by stations, which gives it a more personal vibe. there are also a lot of places to sit, so a combination of fancy TV lounge and RMV. it was while watching MSNBC on one of the televisions that i heard the news about carrie fisher's death. i knew she had a heart attack on the plane a few days ago, but it seemed like she was in stable condition. what happened from stable to dead? as sad as the news is, i can't help thinking about what will happen to the star wars movie now that fisher is dead. will they kill the character in the story? or will they try to recreate her using cgi?

i must've waited 20 minutes before it was my turn. there seemed to be only two people working there today (other than the receptionist, who doesn't do anything but greet people when they come in), and one of them left to go on an extended break. he was the guy who called my name and i could smell the cigarette smoke on his clothes. he printed out a receipt for me. i then told him about how comcast broken my splitter and asked if they had spares. he went to the back but they didn't have any 4-way splitters. "you could always just go to best buy and buy one," he said. yeah, but that wouldn't be free. besides it was comcast that broken the splitter, so you guys should pay for it. i also asked him about basic cable for my 2nd aunt. the cheapest is $7.50/month, plus an additional $7 for broadcast/franchise fees and taxes. at least the initial cable box is free though. they also have an assisted living discount of $2/month but you need to fill out paperwork.

finally back at home, i saw someone had tossed a dell laptop out on the curb. if i had to guess, i'd say it was renee. after parking my bike out back, i came out and picked up the laptop. i'm sure it wasn't working, i just wanted to take it apart for parts, maybe salvage the hard drive. it was a dell inspiron 1300, circa 2006, a decade old. when i got it inside the house the first thing i noticed was the hard drive was already gone, hence the loose hard drive cover. i started opening more compartments and realized the wifi card was gone too. there was still memory, but only around 500MB. i removed the DVD drive but it was just a drive, no burner. one thing i noticed was how dusty it was inside. there was only a single fan, mounted to a heatsink attached to the CPU. the fan itself was impossible to get to without taking apart the whole machine; there was a thick layer of lint fuzz blocking the port. after taking apart everything down to the circuit board, i put it all in a paper shopping bag. there was nothing worth salvaging. i'll bring it to the cambridge recycle center saturday morning to give it a proper disposal.

i did a load of laundry in the late afternoon, procrastinating from having to clean the fish tank, which has sat neglected since before cristina moved in, which was the last time i cleaned. i promise i'll finally clean it tomorrow.

my stepper motor parts finally arrived today. back in early december i ordered a 24BYJ-48 stepper motor ($3.49) and a ULN2003 stepper motor driver board module (87¢). the stepper motor was to replace the one from the broken foscam webcam that can't pan horizontally. stepper motor with driver board combos are actually pretty cheap, you can get both for around $1.60 on ebay including shipping. but those are typically the 28BYJ model, and i needed the 24BYYJ (24 meaning 24mm) so i payed a little more to get the matching size motor.

but i realized some time later that i didn't check what kind of connector the stepper motor used. the one from the foscam used a very smaller connector, and i was afraid the one that i got was like the other stepper motor i have, which has a much larger connector. sure enough, when i took the 24BYJ-48 out of the package, it was the large size connector, incompatible with the foscam. when i went back onto ebay, i saw the one i should've gotten ($2.20) and quickly ordered it, figuring it'd take at least 3 more weeks to arrive. in the meantime i have a spare stepper motor.

the new ULN2003 stepper motor driver board module has a weird design. maybe it's the fact that it's a module and not a stand-alone board, because the connectors are at the bottom of the board, like it was meant to be attached to a breadboard. but the biggest breadboard i have can't fit the 7x7 connectors. the cool thing about this ULN2003 is the use of tiny SMD LED's and resistors.

i hooked up the new stepper motor to the new driver board and then connected the board to the GPIO ports of my raspberry pi 3. i ran my old stepper.py code and the motor started spinning just fine. i was surprised that the SMD LED's were red; i was kind of expecting some other color, like blue or green. red is so boring!

steve and paul finally came back from where ever it was they spent their christmas. they left a pile of luggage and boxes on the front steps. while they were moving everything inside, i took the opportunity to quickly throw their package that'd arrived last thursday onto the rest of their stuff. i don't even think they know i had it this whole time and was keeping it safe for them; i don't want the credit anyway. or perhaps maybe they did know, because a little bit later i heard one of them bringing the trash out. they almost never do that, especially given how they were alway for almost a whole week, so they don't have any trash. unfortunately they forgot that trash day is not tomorrow since christmas was observed on monday.

for future reference: the silicone o-ring for the briel espresso machine is #227 2-1/8" inner diameter with an 1/8" thickness. the one that i got has an 2" inner diameter (#226). it works too (as silicone is stretchy) but 2-1/8" is the more accurate size o-ring. the material has to be silicone, has it has a higher heat resistance (up to 450°F).

i finally got to eat some hot dogs! i wanted to cut them into funny shapes using alex's sausage cutter, but unfortunately i think that's only designed for vienna sausages, which has a smaller diameter; i couldn't fit the hot dog through any of the cutter holes. so maybe one day when i do eat some vienna sausages, i have a gadget that can cut them into funny shapes. anyway, to my hot dogs i added some homemade sauerkraut, which only made it more delicious (though sauerkraut is a better match for german sausages).

steve and paul brought back the loud upstairs noise as well. i cranked up the white noise from my portable speaker for about 15 minutes before the white noise was driving me crazy and i had to turn it off. they were so quiet earlier, buy maybe because they were napping. came evening, around 8:30pm, they started blaring the audio on their television. finally by around 10pm they stopped.