BANNED! from Above Top Secret

There used to be a kind of activity where using dialup one would connect, to an electronic bulletin board and post news and responses to news.  The modern bulletin boards are sites like .

I did get interested and spend some time,  maybe too much time posting there.  Looking at my own blog it looks as if I was absent from November 2011 to now,  and that is mostly where I was.

It is fun and maybe addictive.  They have these moderators that will police the place, they remove posts, even ban members from posting for various violations of the rules.  The rules are all written down but there are so many, and subject to interpretation it is pretty much impossible to post very much without breaking a few rules.  There were even posts that were removed because they linked to a site that was unfriendly to ATS.  And also the posts that are removed, are removed.  No one can benefit from seeing what not to do,  because they remove the whole post and put up a big label indicating the kind of sin that was committed.

Really it is just the same stories over and over.  Nibiru and Obama.  Blurry photos of aliens.  The best posts are when people write about their own personal issues or experience and we get to comment, offer help or advice.

I was eventually banned from posting for making fun of the moderators. So I guess I will start posting back at my own website and they will have to create content without me.  Wifey thinks I was spending too much time there any way.

Leo Laporte  always says everyone should have their own website. Where they have control over the content.  This is true,  you never know where someone else will take your stuff on their site.

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Free online courses at

One of the wonders of the internet is free knowledge.

It is surprisingly easy to find out almost anything you need to know,  anything you want to learn about.  If you are not hung up on a diploma, or a title,  you could gather more knowledge and expertise than those with the fancy degrees and titles.

Heard on C2C with George Noory.


A free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Site is here






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Circuit Simulator for Linux Qucs

Continuing to adapt and overcome using Linux rather than windows the free circuit simulator that goes with is called Qucs.  Using it is fairly easy,  seems just like the more common and expensive windows based simulators.  Here is a screen shot.

Qucs circuit simulator

Remembering the windows based programs they usually had some kind of limitation such as only a certain few number of elements or even not including very common components unless you buy additional component libraries at additional cost.

Results page also shows available sources

This one has all kinds of components with it, IR power components, opamps, 1N diodes, 2N transistors, all kinds of sources, filters, everything!

And Qucs is FREE.  Yup, free.  It’s cool, try it.

One way to get it is to install a linux program such as Ubuntu (again free).  Ubuntu can be found here


Once you have Ubuntu up and running visit the applications store and search for circuit simulators or Qucs.  Select and install,  easy squeezy.



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Escape Eats Tires

Replaced the original tires on the Ford Escape.  Searching the internet it is obvious that they have a design issue but no one at Ford will acknowledge the problem.  So I am writing what I know about it here in hopes it will be easy to find.

My experience is this, the Continental tires are NOISY,  and wear unevenly.  The Michelin tires seem to be the fix.  Also important to rotate them with every oil change,  does not help with the original Continentals though.

Our 2010 Escape has Michelin Cross Terrain tires on it, original from the factory and they have been good tires.  Last week, Ford put  new Michelin Latitudes on the 2008 Escape.  They are soooooo quiet.  What a  difference.  If you have the old Continental tires get rid of them and buy Michelin.

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Satellite Radio Fixed! Day 4

All fixed!   They did not charge me anything.  Free rental car, repair under warranty.  The repair record indicates they replaced the satellite radio module.  It has a different ESN now so that must be the case.  But it worked fine when I turned it on so they must have fixed it somehow with Sirius.  Hmmmm, better check, might be one of those six months free accounts like when the car was new.    Will call Sirius and check.  I have the lifetime subscription so any change would cost me money.  Was all paid for up front.  Now my only problem is fixing the presets to all the new channels.  Need to check out the Sirius website.

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Satellite Radio Fail, Day 3 at the Ford Dealer

Well, the Ford dealer had the car today again all day.  About 4pm they called to say that I must have missed my calling,  I had correctly diagnosed the problem (a week ago), maybe I should consider a career as a technician. They have ordered a new satellite radio module.

I did have the advantage of observing the system over a long period of time.  What are the possibilities?  We have the Ford radio, the satellite radio module, the satellite radio antenna and cable.  Since the radio dies right after the big channel change the firmware is the obvious choice, which means replacing the satellite radio module.  If it were the antenna or the antenna cable the indication would be “searching for satellite” or something like that. It would still turn on and start.  I guess it might have been the interconnect cable, would have to have a spare to substitute a known good. But again the timing makes it less likely than firmware.  Also cable problems are almost always intermittent at first before failing completely (right Fluke,  yup, I am talking to you, that 1735 is coming straight back to you guys, under warranty, you betcha).

The part will take until Monday to get here.  The repair is covered under the extended warranty so they are still paying for my rental car, for what, 6 days.

Unbelievable amount of expense and trouble for a bad firmware download.

Meanwhile the rental car they stuck me with, although free, only receives a few FM stations.  No AM, no 2 meter, no satellite, no HF.  I am almost radioless in the car.

I do have to pay a deductable of $105.  I wonder if I could recover that from Sirius in small claims court.  That might be fun.  I honestly think they are completely at fault for sending half baked firmware updates.  For $105 they would probably not even show up.



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Satellite Radio Fail – Day 2

Ford dealer had the car all day.  No diagnosis yet, they said.   Sirius said to R&R the module.  Can’t take any outside advice on a diagnosis, warranty issue.  It might be covered under the extended warranty.  Driving a rental car tonight, only the FM band works,  no AM, no Sat radio.  Heavy sigh…

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Ford 2008 Escape Sirius Satellite Radio Fault

INTERNET SEARCHERS, If you have this problem please leave comments after reading.  My problem was resolved,  see later posts (click link for day 2 upper right).  Thanks.  D

The satellite radio is offline.  I know Sirius sends these little updates through all the time.  The last time it was working was before the big change where all the channel numbers changed.

After the big change I noticed that the radio was no longer indicating the name of the channel it was tuned to when in satellite mode.  Then, about a week later,  “satellite radio fault”.  Has not worked since.  I think Sirius bricked my radio with a bad firmware update.

January 2010, somewhere along I80 in Colorado

Now, I know a few things about electronics.  I even know a few things about embedded uP’s and firmware and such things.  But this knowledge will not help me very much. No, what I need is the person at Sirius that I get on the phone, or the guy at the Ford dealer to know something about it.  But the guy at Ford of course told me to call Sirius.  Although every day at work I update the firmware on multiple devices,  there is no public information or firmware update available for the magic Sirius radio box.  Not really sure where it is mounted in the vehicle.  Sirius will not be able to do anything because the uP does not even start up.  So anything they send will not be received.  Ford thinks they can not fix it because they have no idea how it works.  To them it is a foreign thing that some other company installed in their product.  The Ford service guy suggested I should call Sirius, “sometimes they tell  you  to point the car north”  he said.  Lots of commercial  Geosync satellites north of here…That must be the problem,  on the wrong bird.  Actually in the big city satellite radio runs mostly off terrestrial repeaters.  But I digress.

What probably happened is that Sirius sent through some kind of firmware update, and I shut the car off too soon not knowing that anything was going on.  I only hope that they did not brick the radio.  I will be trying to fix that today.  Wish me luck and send money.

First thing to try is disconnect the battery for about ten minutes and let the radio go completely dead,  then reconnect.

Satellite radio fail

Update, Same day.

Disconnected the battery,  reconnected after 5 minutes.   No change.

Next step, call Sirius.  Lady on the phone wanted to send a refresh signal.  Never mind that the radio is not receiving anything, never mind the uP will not even start.  I explained about all that.  She was not aware that there had been a change in the channel numbers.    So we sent a refresh signal.

No change.  She transferred me upline.  Another female.  Same deal, transfer again, this time a guy answered.  The guy had me shut off the radio, then shut off the motor, then open the door.  I drew the line at running around the car three times. I still have my pride. Close the door, restart the car.  No change.  Finally he decided that there was in fact a hardware problem and the satellite module needs to be replaced at the Ford dealer.  Huh, who’d a thunk it.  So next comes the phone call to Ford, see when they can do it.

Satellite radio fail

The Ford dealer closest to work is Galpin Ford.  They can get me in on the 27th.  It seems there are a whole bunch of people with satellite radio problems.  hmmmmmm.

Not one to create panic,  but this is obviously some kind of conspiracy.  Ford needs the money?  Sirius wants to change to a new module that has features that allow the government to spy on us?  Aliens gathering data, studying our habits in preparation for invasion!


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The 405 is closed this weekend

News Flash:   405 to reopen early Sunday at 11.

Everybody  to the beach!

Live photo here

Starting Friday the 15th of July, late evening, do not go near the 405.

If you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard.

Going South they will put you off at the 101.  Going north you will just sit there until they reopen it sometime the next week.

So get out early or stay home the weekend of the 16-17th July.  Closure starts Friday 15 July, 10 PM.

I plan to try to set a record as being the last car to get through before the road closes.  Will have to time it just right.  Still waiting on a call back from the record book people.  Also on Saturday I plan to operate a roadside taco stand to feed all the people stuck on the freeway and make a killing in taco money.  That is if FEMA does not show up.




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Alternatives to Microsoft

I have a licensed copy of Windows XP for my HP 1000 netbook but it has not been installed for many months.  Rather than use Microsoft, Joe and I have been using Linux operating systems.  My first was Ubuntu, which is a very easy to use application and it is free.   It includes a free software store similar to what comes with the IPODs.

Ubuntu Software Center

Browsing at the free applications store I noticed this education package.  And it looked interesting so I selected it to be installed.  Now when the computer starts up it indicates that something called Edubuntu is running.  The Edubuntu changed the whole look of the operating system and installed quite a few free educational games and programs that kids would really like.

Wallpaper after installing Edubuntu

Son Joe has a blog all about Linux, there are quite a few different flavors,  mostly free.  Joe’s blog address is

There may be a few programs that you will need a windows machine to run but if all you want to do is browse the internet, maybe need a word processor and spreadsheet, all those programs are free on Ubuntu.  They work very well,  the open office applications produce documents that can be opened and edited with the Windows office applications.

If you are still running Microsoft give Ubuntu a try.   It is free!

Ubuntu can be installed along side Windows and you can choose which to run when you start up the computer.  Or you can run it from a bootable CD or a thumbdrive.  It is great for older machines that may not have enough memory or hard drive space to run Windows very well.






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