• Going (mostly) Software

    11 minutes ago 0 comments

    There was a time, 15 years ago, when the € was "strong" and I would buy tons of surplus parts on eBay. That was the great, glorious time, I'd say, and things only got worse from there.

    It eroded slowly, over a long period : the USD regained its power so importing or trading in € would become less and less worth it. But still, the world was moving "online" and we could find more and more unobtainium so it was OK.

    Two more things degraded : first, delivery became more and more of a hassle. The "last mile" link, the person meant to ring on your doorbell, was more and more unwilling to make that effort. So a lot of back and forth with the shipping companies or the state-owned service. Yeah, work conditions are harsh but we could feel the will was not there.

    And the onlinisation of electronics parts distribution became extreme: a bookseller would trade electronic parts or assemblies from shady Chinese "brands". If I wanted shady, I'd hit the "first price tier" on eBay, be very patient and have cheap delivery. But Amazon promoted the dirt cheap products (with expected quality issues) to a desirable item and this trend has been amplified in the last half decade. It is not a benefit to the consumer because the supply chain is not so different from ali baba or eBay or others, but a premium price is slapped on top of it.

    Oh and import duties became "enforced" more stringently. Affordable US parts became less desirable in Europe, and this shifted more customers to China for the dirt cheap parts. The flow of great goods from USA stalled. Today I don't even consider looking across the Atlantic to source anything but the most specific, direly required tool.

    Anyway more and more parts are available online, which is great for us tinkerers. Professional/enterprise-only stores would slowly open to us, mere mortals: Farnell has managed to ride that wave when it felt that the Raspberry Pi crowd could help boost its bottom line and attract new customers who would be delighted to access high quality parts and references they couldn't imagine existed.

    But slowly the frenzy died with the new normalisation, the binge turned into a careful sip. Hackaday projects overall are less exuberant, right?

    And then Trump came and started an economic war with China. What could go wrong?! I ordered little from China and failed deliveries became significant.

    And then COVID came. The tense situation totally snapped. The industry is totally belly up. I ordered a sweet PolarFire FPGA kit in oct. 2021 and the delivery has been postponed again and again. And then again.

    Today's lead time for this kit is 43 days (as of 20220520) but the last notice I received announced July 2023. Can you wait 2 years for one devkit ? And I am not even bothered that the 4× RPi3 I ordered have been cancelled right away without notice. And last time I wanted to order 2N2369s for the #Logic strips, the Chinese reseller flaked (due to stock mismanagement, we will say). Ordering Arduino Nanos from Spain ? Forget it. Getting an affordable lot of Pi (for the  #Clunky McCluster ) is not reasonable, so it's shelved too.

    Prices have gone way up, availability is down, the free flow of money and goods is breaking down. The time for playing is over.

    Sure, some orders still go through. But then Vlad decided to go kamikaze and at least the Eastern Europe is now out of reach, which is very sad because the old Red Army surplus parts were cheap, funky and abundant.

    Instead now it's a global economic war.

    This whole downward situation is tragic in many ways but at least I have ample stock of stuff for mundane stuff. I have stockpiled insane amount of certain parts. Maybe I could earn a bit of pocket money by selling some of it but I'm a hoarder and I would feel I'm the loser, not the speculator.

    So this explains the title: in order to stay creative, I'm back to pure algo, coding, programming, virtual design. It's safe, "mostly free" as long as I have a stable Linux+electricity+Internet. It's sad...

    Read more »

  • Weird Hall effect sensor anomaly : outputs 12V !

    04/08/2022 at 23:26 0 comments

    I didn't dream and I made a video to prove it so this is not an April fool's joke.

    It could have been a fluke but recently another HES pulled that trick on me so I had to post this and ask you all guys : WHY ?

    The most logical explanation would be a step-up charge pump for internal bias but then WHY would that voltage appear on the output pin ?

    Are there reports of weird voltages in the wild ?

    This can be very dangerous, for example if the pin is directly tied to a Raspberry Pi GPIO...

  • Resistance is fut^Wavailable

    03/31/2022 at 21:47 7 comments

    You're never safe from a good surprise !

    A renowned electronic parts store in Paris (one of the too few remaining) found an old box in the back of their warehouse and sold its contents for such a ridiculous price that I bought the whole box. I happened to visit the store at the right time, and left so crazy happy...

    These are boxes of vintage 5% 1/2W (approx. 50pc) and 2W (approx. 5pc) resistors, of the OHMIC brand (never heard of it). Type is "agglomerated". Made in France !

    I have no idea of the date codes but the packages are mostly intact. How old is it ? I have no idea, but the phone number on the package looks like some 1950s or 1960s at best. So it might be 50 years old easily.

    The address of the company is approx. 3km from my place though now the building is a sort of high school.

    Some boxes have been opened and parts added or removed (probably from other boxes or existing stock)

    The leads look very oxidised but it might be some sort of flux or whatever, according to the small sheet/notice inside one box. I'll have to investigate.

    This is totally insane ! We're speaking of the stock of a store, with radically vintage parts. It was a total steal, the deal of the year ! And even better than that : the range of values is exhaustive. Like close to E24 ! Thus, due to the variations, I can pick from neighbouring boxes if one value is exhausted.

    This means that most of my needs for resistors in my neovintage projects are met. They look RAD.

    So here I make a little inventory...

    ×10

    11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 43, 47, 51, 56, 62, 68, 75, 82, 91

    ×100

    100, 120, 130, 150, 160, 180, 270, 300, 330, 360, 390, 430, 470, 510, 560, 620, 680, 750, 820, 910

    ×1K

    1K, 1.3K, 1.5K, 1.6K, 1.8K, 2.4K, 2.7K, 3K, 3.3K, 3.6K, 3.9K, 4.3K, 4.7K, 5.1K, 5.6K, 6.2K, 6.8K, 7.5K, 8.2K, 9.1K

    ×10K

    10K, 12K, 13K, 15K, 16K, 18K, 20K, 22K, 24K, 27K, 30K, 36K, 39K, 43K, 47K, 56K, 62K, 68K, 75K, 82K, 83K , 91K

    ×100K

    100K, 110K, 120K, 130K, 160K, 180K, 200K, 220K, 240K, 270K, 300K, 330K, 360K, 390K, 430K, 470K, 510K, 620K, 680K, 750K, 910K

    ×1M

    1M

    .

    The look is one thing, the value however is what matters from the electronics perspective. These are sold as 5% but I measured values that are 10% off... Humidity and other ageing factors certainly have affected the reliability and accuracy, I'll probably have to "bin" the parts and avoid using them at full power rating. This should be "good enough" for digital electronics though.

    The actual quantity varies from box to box, certainly depending on the orders, sales and requirements. The crazy low price might also be because these parts would blink red alert signals on a RoHS checklist. Don't lick your fingers after manipulating them !!!

    Look how far we have evolved in 60 years: a 1/2W resistor vs a 1/4 chinese modern hypercheap resistor...

    Would I be willing to sell some of them ? Maybe, though I do not feel comfortable with it, even though it could be easy money, so maybe I'd accept some parts swap, unless another type of deal is possible. But with the international situation right now, I would rather keep the boxes well sheltered. It'd be a shame if something happened to this collection.


    Edit: @sxpert  notices that this is the same type as used in the CDC6600.

    Resistors in a CDC 6600 module
    Resistors in a CDC 6600 module

    This is the same type because it was common at the time, I believe that Bourns still offers them and the Soviets built them too (I bought "some" on eBay for my neovintage projects). Either OHMIC manufactured them under licence, imported them or used expired patents. It should also be noted that the French electronics industry was budding after WW2, as witnessed by the discovery of the bipolar transistor effect mere months after Bell Labs. Like other industries in Germany, Italy and Great Britain, it crumbled under the combined pressures of political uncertainty, market efficiency and economy of scale....

    Read more »