Monday, May 5, 2008

Home improvement

We are parked outside of a Home Depot in Lubbock, Texas (map).

I know Saturday I said we would go through Brownfield, but yesterday we decided instead to continue north to Lubbock, for several reasons:
  • We'd already done 137 to Brownfield and 385 to Littlefield two years ago, but we've never been this way.
  • Lubbock has the cheapest fuel, at $4.04 per gallon, that we'll see for the foreseeable future, all the way to Wyoming. While a far cry from the $2.11 we just paid in Mexico, it is a dime or so cheaper than anything else we'll see, and we can fit another sixty or so gallons in the tank, easily making up for the eight additional miles to include Lubbock in the route.
  • The DirecTV receiver is still down (more on that in a moment), and there is a Best Buy just across the freeway here where I can get a new receiver.
  • As Louise so eloquently posted, yesterday was our fifth anniversary. Neither of us wanted to have to cook on our anniversary, and we've both been craving (can you guess?) Olive Garden, and there is one here in Lubbock.
On this last item, neither of us really conceives of Olive Garden as a "special occasion" restaurant (although they seem to be popular for that purpose). But it was hard to know how to do any better in Brownfield, Littlefield, or even Lubbock, and, as I said, we both have had a craving (it's been a long time since we passed one). So we dialed the local Olive Garden into the GPS and headed this way.

There are three Wal-Marts within a couple miles of the Olive Garden, and at least two of them have transit stops. But we really wanted to walk to dinner and stagger back, and the satellite view showed this Home Depot on the outskirts of the very same mall. In spite of having been turned down at Home Depot before, we thought it at least worth asking at this one. Manager On Duty Dean was happy to let us stay, but cautioned that the parking lot was shared with the mall, and mall security would give us the boot unless we parked on the west side with the trucks. He was particularly pleased that we asked permission first. We tucked in between a container and a drop trailer and had an uneventful night.

I spent a good part of the day Saturday working on the pesky DirecTV receiver. Radio Shack did not have the 5,600μF, 6.3v, radial-lead capacitor that I needed. But they did have enormous 35v, axial-lead capacitors in 4,700μF and 1,000μF ratings, and I was able to cobble 5,700μF worth of capacitance into the circuit, just squeezing the axial leads into place and the giant cans into the case. And, ta-da the box booted up, and talks to the screen once again. Unfortunately, it does not see any signal from the bird. A quick check shows that it is not sending any voltage to the LNB, which accounts for the lack of signal.

So now I am faced with the prospect that either (1) something more than this one bad capacitor is wrong with the circuit or (2) that additional 100μF of capacitance is enough to cause some later stage of the circuit to prevent firing up the LNB. I am stuck at this point, having no spare receivers or LNBs to test hypotheses, compare voltages, etc.. I am thinking about buying an old receiver on eBay (about $15, including shipping) for test purposes (after which I can dyke out the proper capacitor for use in my licensed receiver), but I'm first going to find out how much Best-Buy wants for a customer-owned receiver new off the shelf (the prices listed on their web site are for leased receivers, but my contract requires customer-owned equipment).

Incidentally, in digging around for capacitor information, I discovered that swollen capacitors have been a common problem since around 1999, according to this web site and this Wikipedia entry. So for the electronically-inclined, if you have electronics from a certain era that die unexpectedly, you might hunt for swollen capacitors as described in those articles.

In a few minutes we will pack up, make a brief stop at the mall, another at Best Buy, then head off to Flying-J across town for fuel. We'll see how far out of town we make it by day's end.

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