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About Toastie

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    Good Spirited
  • Birthday 02/17/1962

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    LEGO, electronics, micro controllers, lasers, making things work


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  1. Lalala - I started this - lala - thread - lalala - so I can necro-bump it - lalala lala ... Phew. Four months later with apparent total inactivity (yes, semesters are semesters, and our work on the metrology for ASML's EUV scanners is a bit on the time-consuming side as well ...) I finally arrived at this: Front dark blue trans tile: On-board IR RX/TX. Left RS232 port: Connects to LEGO serial tower. Top: Three keys to select IR/RF/RS232 communication. Back (not shown): RS232 to ZX Spectrum Interface 1, USB (power supply and Arduino programming), 9V power supply. As you may recall, I want my ZX Spectrum, a 1985 computer I still own back from the days (and fixed recently, as two of the 4116 memory chips as well as the ULA died earlier), to control some of my trains (either RCX or PF equipped). The point was: The ZX is in control and runs a program that does it all. This is all about using outdated hardware to run outdated trains using an outdated approach. Some call it retro computing. Others a waste of time. For me, it is pure fun, as I feel to be 23 years old again ;) Now, this is only an update on the progress; hardware works. However, there is still something wrong with the software. Not on the ZX, the Sinclair Basic program works nicely; but with the C++ program on the Arduino Mega hiding in that case. No no no, don't get me wrong: It is not the Arduino MEGA doing the control; that one is only there to translate from x baud/no parity/1 stop bit hardwired into the ZX to 2400 baud/1stop/odd parity hardwired into the RCX protocol. Plus channeling the data stream either originating/coming from a) the inbuilt IR, b) a LEGO serial tower, c) from OOK modulated RF resembling the RCX IR protocol. The latter is to reach my PF/RCX driven trains without line of sight, as discussed here on EB several times (I don't want to resurrect these threads ;)) they all have simple RF (433 MHz OOK) receivers. That's inside: and this is the 1980 electronics on the Arduino Mega "shield" (I found the two 74LS02's on a board on an old mass spectrometer in the lab, we have kept for educational purposes. It is not that easy to get the LS series chips anymore - yes I know the HCT series is there - not the point, this is about the 1980s. And yes, I know that a Mega is not from that time, but I need to start somewhere ;)) (Forgive my bad soldering skills. They seem to be still at 1980 level) Experts in the field will notice a 3 port NOR gate realized with diodes (we are talking 2400 bits per second high-speed data here) - a single transistor logic inverter (with a 1nF/10kOhm low pass "filter" on the RF logic line) ... all these components are +30 years old. I tend to stick to old parts in my work shop ... Here are the almost 20 years old RF components: The solid antenna is just to impress - the two 17.something cm long wires are the RF RX/TX modules antennas matching with 433MHz. Summing up: ZX Spectrum/Interface 1 RS232 communication with LEGO IR tower / RCX / NXT (with HiTechnic IR sensor) works bi-directionally: Check Sinclair Basic control program (a couple of hundreds of "code" lines) works: Check Hardware UARTs required to establish serial communication between a X/N/1 and 2400/O/1 protocol required; I could not get any software serial program on any Arduinos to accomplish this; I believe the major problem is that the ZX Interface 1 requires hardware handshake; it has an input buffer of 1 byte (actually 2, but that is even tougher to sync) and then needs to move that byte before listening again. None of the serial software programs available for Arduinos could handle that weird timing. I used an Arduino Mega (T-O-T-A-L overkill, but I guess that is the cheapest (<10€ - clone of course) one - it has four(!) hardware UART ports. Fully configurable. Check. LEGO brick case built - trying to blend that with the ZX Sepctrum case/hardware. Check??? Next: Will simply dump more pics here ;) Arduino RS232 syncing software needs improvement. And when that is done: Demonstrate how the ZX Spectrum (as >brain<) controls trains from the 4.5/12/9/PF era. PUp is only possible with an ESP32 as essential hardware piece - so not that much of retro computing here (but rather simple to implement). Here is to feeling good: Best Thorsten
  2. Toastie

    Decreasing number of MOCs

    Sven, whereas I really do share your notion, I'd rather go with a word, a sentence, a phrase, a joke - than seeing a "like" icon. Somewhere on the left or right, as this would not be in the text section of a reply, right? Because the text section of a reply does allow us to solely reply with: , , , , - we don't have to phrase elaborate texts - as of now. What I "like" about not having that button in a "uniting the fans of LEGO" forum is, that, well, German is not the language of the World. Nor is Danish or Bengali. Uniting means to speak one language. Or sort of speaking one: It does not have to be perfect, no way. Not even close. When reading a comment saying "You modell ist very cul", I am much more touched as by a like icon. This person tried. When it comes to elaborate commenting, agree with you. But: Maybe this is the big difference of EB vs ... you name it platform. Just my take. Best Thorsten
  3. Toastie

    Decreasing number of MOCs

    This. I totally agree. Also: Maybe even less experienced builders have found a way to construct something others haven't though of. Maybe it is already a very big honor to simply be able to show off our creations in a very educated environment. To me, no reply means: "Noting went terribly wrong". A few replies (let's say two to four) with some text saying something: The ones who are within my universe have taken some time to reply and discuss. Maybe what we have created looks breathtakingly nice to us - including all the time we spent making it perfect - but maybe it is of >zero< interest to others. For us, it was the biggest and toughest effort ever - for others it is a pile of bricks arranged in an uninteresting way - a waste of time. So what? Is it about us or them? It is about us. Inspiration, learning, giving (provided anyone wants something), and most importantly: Having fun making it, posting it, just showing >our< fun. That is all there is for me. It feels good. Best Thorsten
  4. Toastie

    Platform 9 and 3 quarters

    Wow, this is a beautiful terminal. So many details, very nice usage of the ever too much track curves - really nice to look at. And certainly to see trains stop by and take off of rush through!!! OK, whatever station it should capture: This station would for sure better looking if it were looking like yours! Second: What you feel, is the one and most important thing here! When you are looking at yours station (and I guess this will be almost every day - I sure would; this is what I do every day here) and feel good about it: It does not get any better. Third: Oh yes, budget constraints plus size of layout. That is always a chore. However: You really mastered it: I can't see any constraints here - it is just a beautiful building/station! Congratulations on your accomplishment - and thank you for sharing! Best wishes, Thorsten
  5. Toastie

    Leaving Eurobricks

    @Sariel So what's the rush? I mean, these forums will be joined and most of your reasons to leave evaporate, don't they? Yes, there is this "don't criticize" thing here - to hell with them. Just do it, stir it up and enjoy the show. That is my take, at least. As you said: This is a forum for - huh - "adults", whatever that means. +18 maybe? Phew. You know, when I turned 18 I was not even close to becoming an adult. After more than 40 years passed since then - I am still nor sure. Oh well. So long then - and thanks for all the fish. (There are two distinct perspectives on this) All the best - and keep on rocking. Thorsten
  6. Toastie

    Grey Ridge 4-6-0 no. 26

    No. It is not safe. It is absolutely - with any thinking required - complete. With regard to success: It is more than that. It is breathtaking success. Congratulations. The valve gear alone is one beautiful design. The white rims ... man. Yes. She is complete - as in perfect. Best Thorsten
  7. Toastie

    HELP! ! !

    Wait wait wait - oh my. Is this representing a 1st order perpetuum mobile? Wow. I may have to revise my lectures on Thermodynamics! This could be Big Stuff. Like cold riveted girders with cores of pure Selenium ... Best Thorsten
  8. Toastie

    8482 Cyber Master mods

    Well, I don't know about the Cybermaster software, but so far, I'd claim that virtually all LEGO software runs on a Win10 64 bit laptop (I am using) - except for 32 bit USB drivers, e.g. required for the RIS software. OK, needs some tinkering, but works; there seem to be workarounds for every issue (so far); in case of the RIS USB tower and lack of RS232 ports on modern laptops: Use a quality USB to serial converter, make sure the COM port used by converter is < COM9 and all serial LEGO stuff works flawlessly. As far as I can tell. Best Thorsten
  9. Toastie

    Making a Powered Up Extension Cable

    Oh crap I simply could not figure out what "Dupont connectors" really are ... I thought any 2.55 mm pitch connectors are just that. So I was talking about the soldering effort ... but it appears as if Dupont connectors are crimped onto the wire, correct, @dr_spock? Is this reference a good one? Well, I stand correct then: I am using these:;START=0&amp;OFFSET=16&amp;SID=93864a34b28fc8084dd88cc0deedf68bff49fe84015d4da016504&amp;LANGUAGE=EN&amp;&amp;r=1 Reason: Very small footprint. Downside: Needs soldering. Best Thorsten
  10. Toastie

    Making a Powered Up Extension Cable

    Des, then I'd really go for that suggestion of @M_slug357! @dr_spock is also using this approach since long, as far as I recall. There were several posts here on EB where he demonstrated that; both for PUp and for PF. I myself have cut at least 10 PUp "cables" to use that approach. As I wasn't aware of the Ali Express stuff at that time (it was early stage PUp time, and as soon as the hubs were becoming cheap on BL, I wanted to connect 9V train motors to these hubs), I purchased a couple of the cheapest PUp device (the lights = LEDs), cut the wires and fitted then via Dupont connectors to the 9V motors. Works beautifully well. So I don't see any reason why that would not work with: (any) motor (cut wire and fit with Dupont male connector) -> Dupont female connector - cable - Dupont male connector -> Dupont female connector soldered onto PUp plug. Lots of soldering though. This way, you can also experiment with different lengths of the extension cable (blue above) or - when not required - connect the motor directly with the modified PUp plug wire. Also, when you use that direction (female side exposed when unconnected) the power source (hub) is not exposing its contacts - otherwise accidentally shortening them is always a "threat" When you take that route, you may want to consider using heat shrink tube to securely isolate the soldering pins of the Dupont connectors. A bit of work, but can only recommend. Worked/works flawlessly for me. Best Thorsten
  11. Toastie

    Making a Powered Up Extension Cable

    Never tried, just clipped off the plugs and used them elsewhere. However, no reason to give up here! And your skills are certainly up to the task, I am sure. So more questions to find the solution(s)! Do you have a multi-meter at hand, as @JaBaCaDaBra suggested using for testing? Do you have dumb PUp lights (LEDs) at hand? With regard to the light sensor: Do you get any reasonable readings from the sensor when using your extension cable (i.e. comparable readings from the hub with and without)? Heehee, welcome to the club! I made a custom RS232 cable to connect my XZ Spectrum to my laptop via RS232. In addition to the usual pin mess even with "standardized" DTE to DCE RS232 cables (or better: "who is who" cables, and yes, there are reasons to occasionally revert to that technology ), Sinclair defined their own pin names; they found it more intuitive to call RX TX and TX RX. Same with RTS and CTS. Best Thorsten
  12. Toastie

    MOD: 8404 & 4558 Metroliner Monorail

    Here is to you @shadowmadman Very nice that you are still around!!! Best wishes, Thorsten
  13. Toastie

    Making a Powered Up Extension Cable

    And then there is this "mirroring" thing ... (never) "learned" that the hard way with RS232 cables - and I am not talking about null-modem or whatever cables; just 1:1 extension cables. Is pin "1" (or whatever it is called) on the PUp plug wired to the corresponding pin "1" on the PUp socket so that this matches with pin "1" on another PUp plug? The plug pins are a mirror image of the socket pins - when looking onto the solder side. Yeah, sure, I know. You may be well aware of this (of course), it is just that >I< repeatedly screwed up on this. Sigh. Best Thorsten
  14. Toastie

    Unpopular Opinions about LEGO

    First, thank you very much @Aanchir, for that post. I'd like to call it a carefully phrased write-up. It is a thoughtful piece, standing out in this entire thread. This. I have no clue, how the mods, and let me be "personal", @Peppermint_M (and all others!!!) are handling all these very diverse issues on this forum without >completely< freaking out. I once complained about a war-scene on EB - and got some (reasonable!) moderator flak for being rude. Well, I "hate" war to the bottom of my heart. And voiced it. Nevertheless, EB is about building whatever in bricks - and when folks like to do that, because they want to, so be it. Point is: I got a personal message from @Peppermint_M explaining it all - and not only "accepted" it, but had the feeling of >having< to bow, tip my hat - with a - much more - than slight nod. This forum is outstanding when it comes to tolerance, free speech, and >required< moderation. I simply don't want to go anywhere else (and I don't) - because I feel a sense of "let us keep this thing together" here. Much more, than anywhere else. On EB, we are discussing war, town, spaceships, trains, LGBTQ+, molds, how-to-run-a-company, pirate ships, cranes, trucks, programs, electronics, mini-figs, color of people, muscle cars, licensed stuff - including SW, help on whatever comes to mind, non-LEGO stuff (the pubs), even competitors, and this list has no end. And 99% of the storage capacity of the EB server/hosting hardware - in a decent way. I love this community. Which is certainly maintained as such a place by the moderators. Here is to you: Sincerely, Thorsten BTW, right now there is a - well - what do you want to call it ... discussion going on in the Technic forum. Phew: