Saturday, February 28, 2009

I hate cap jewels

Most mechanical watches that won't run are merely dirty, and need to be cleaned and re-oiled. There is a watchmaker near me who charges around $25 to clean and oil a watch--Absurdly cheap for the work involved, but still more than I pay for most of my watches. Out of budgetary necessity, I've learned to clean and lube watches myself.

This is more involved than the phrase "clean and oil" would suggest. It requires detail stripping the watch, removing around 80% or so of the parts including the mainspring and gear train, running most of the parts through a cleaning machine with 3 different sets of solutions, drying and finally reassembly and oiling. It takes me 60-90 minutes on a simple watch I am familiar with, where nothing goes wrong.

The jewels in a watch are synthetic ruby or sapphire, used as bearings. Most are pivot jewels that remain attached to larger pieces of the movement. These have a hole for a pivot, the axle part of a watch wheel. (The gears are typically called wheels in watch repair) Where even more precision is desired, cap jewels are added. This is required on the balance, somewhat useful but extremely difficult on the fork, and marginally useful on the escape wheel. The other wheels don't benefit from extra cap jewels.

Cap jewels must be either ultrasonically cleaned, and then oiled with an automatic oiler, or they have to be disassembled for cleaning and oiling. The picture to the left shows a piece of uncooked rice next to a cap jewel. To remove this jewel, you need to carefully release the legs of the little gold spring from the notches they rest in. (Click the picture to zoom in) The spring will fold up, giving access to the cap jewel, and under that the pivot jewel. There are other types of spring that are not captive, so you have to be careful that when they are released they don't go flying somewhere.

Jewels are hard and slippery--Grab them too hard with your tweezers and they go shooting across the room. Don't grab them hard enough or straight enough and they fall out of the tweezers. This has been responsible for most of the watches that should have been repairable that I have failed to fix--the cap jewel for the balance goes missing. I've learned that the easiest way to remove them is with Rodico putty--a sticky putty that is designed to be low-residue, sold for watch repair. Replacement has to be done with tweezers. Cap jewels have a top and bottom, but it isn't apparent without magnification. Where a cap jewel is used, the pivot jewel is usually removable as well--This makes it easy to knock out of position when trying to reassemble. The pivot that rides in the jewel also gets in the way of reassembly.

Although dealing with cap jewels isn't the hardest part of watch repair, it is the hardest part of a standard clean and lube job.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Russian Watches

The Dueber-Hampden company was one of the biggest pocket watch makers in America, but when the founder died, so did the spirit of the company. It struggled along until the late 1920's, when it was bought by the Soviet Union. The entire factory and a handful of workers were moved to Russia to jumpstart the Soviet watch industry. Apparently this factory became the "First Moscow Watch Factory", eventually taking the name Poljot. Shortly after the American workers came home, the Iron Curtain fell and contact with the Russians they were training was lost. Sekonda was a brand in the United Kingdom started in the mid 60's. They initially sold re-named Poljot watches, later watches from several of the Soviet factories. In the 90's, they lost all connection to Russia, and switched production to Asia. Seconda was a relatively inexpensive brand, although the examples I have are all decent fully jeweled movements. The purple faced watch here is gold plated automatic- they typically had a very thick plating, evidenced by the fact that despite the very sharp corners this watch shows no sign of brassing (Brassing is the watch geek term for worn-through plating, since most plated watches are brass) Russian Calendar watches are almost all instant change--Rather than the date slowly changing over the course of an hour or two, some time within a few minutes of midnight they snap to the next day in a fraction of a second. This is done with a spring mechanism that slowly cocks itself over a few hours. Unfortunately, these are generally only semi-quickset--In order to change the date, you need to set the time back about 4 hours, then forwards. This adds significantly to the wear of the cannon pinion, the part of the watch that lets the hands slip independently of the movement during setting. The cream watch came to me with a pinion loose enough that the hands would stop in the evening when it began to cock the calendar spring. The purple one feels light, but so far isn't slipping. Watches with "USSR" are generally ones meant for the export market, before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Home market watches from this era are generally marked CCCP, and watches after the breakup are marked "Russia". The black-dialed watch is a current export Vostok (Восток in Russian, meaning East) Russian watch, founded as an offshoot of the First Moscow Watch Company when it relocated to avoid capture during WWII. There are many dial variations, most with a military or KGB theme--'touristy' to my tastes. It is a manual wind, with a screw down crown. Unlike the gold plated Sekonda, the chrome on this watch is abysmally thin--The back is already missing chrome in large areas, even though this watch has only been worn a few weeks in total. The buckle was apparently made from recycled paperclips--It immediately broke, and I had to replace it. On the other hand, I bought the watch new for around $25 including shipping, dirt cheap for a mechanical watch. The white-dialed watch is a modern Dolphin true 24 hour automatic--the hour hand moves only once around per day. The date isn't typical Russian in its operation, but rather slow changing with quick set. The back uses a Rolex-style case tool to open. I am pretty sure that this is intentional, to make it more difficult to examine the movement--Although the dial says "Made in Russia" prominently, the movement is Chinese, based on Seiko principles rather than Soviet This one is a fairly old Soviet CTAPT (Start) from the Second Moscow Watch factory, later known as Slava. I'm guessing from the 1950's. No shock protection, and an unsealed case without a hint of water resistance. Interestingly, it has a "marketing jewel", a cap jewel of little value on the escape wheel pivot, in place of a more useful but more difficult jewel to bring the number to the magic "17 jewels".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fun with Abba

I'm playing with Audacity, an audio editing program. One of its features is the ability to change pitch without changing tempo...Think a digital version of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

...or go the other way with an Abba song....I turned the pitch to 30% low on "Take a Chance on Me" and the result is bizzare. The pitch of the female shifts to a male tone, but the inflection doesn't. Here is about 15 seconds:

(Sorry for the sound quality--too many conversions between formats)
A new bill proposes that wireless providers be required to keep logs of Wireless network traffic for two years for the convenience of law enforcement. It apparently applies to anyone running a wireless connection to the internet.

I don't think this stands a chance in hell of passing, but even if it does, it is both useless and an unreasonable burden.

Most people running a wireless network are fairly uneducated home users--about a third don't even set up the most rudimentary security.

Logging will slow many routers down. It requires storage somewhere, and few routers have anywhere near enough room. Would it be a crime if the computer the log is stored on crashes? If you upgrade to a new computer, or replace a hard drive?

Logging is also trivial to defeat. In many Linux systems, it takes three commands:

ifconfig eth0 down
ifconfig eth0 hw ether 00:11:22:33:44:55
ifconfig eth0 up

(replace 00:11:22:33:44:55 with the address you want to use)
It is a little more difficult in Windows, but not by much, and there are downloadable programs to do it for you. Google Mac Address Spoofing for more details.

So a rudimentary knowlege of how this stuff works shows that it is easily bypassed and imposes substantial burdens on the innocent. If the lawmaker proposing this (a Republican this time, but based on a Democratic proposal from a few years ago) doesn't understand that much, what business does he have writing a law about it?

If he does understand, and wants it anyhow--What is his real purpose?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interface rant

User interfaces and ergonomics are interesting to me--How little thought is given in some cases, how much in others.

I have a bunch of wireless speakers, made by Recoton/Advent. Several different designs, but all share one simple layout flaw--The volume and tuning knobs are identical and side by side. It is very easy to re-tune the speaker instead of changing the volume. It would have been simple to merely change something on one of the knobs, to make it more distinct--make the volume a different color, or with a different texture, or recess the tuning knob.

My work-issued phone and my last PDA have chargers that are semi-symmetrical--They will sort of fit two ways, but will only completely click in one way. A simple raised ridge or dot on both the gadget and its charger would be a vast improvement.

PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors (the round ones before USB took over) have two problems--The jack is round, but only inserts one way, and the connectors are physically identical but incompatible. Laptops often had a single jack that could do either--Would have been great for desktop machines to have two jacks that would work that way.

My GPS has no "debounce" in its touchscreen--if your finger bounces and touches twice, the system counts it as two clicks. It would have been simple and sensible to ignore clicks that are less than about 1/4 second apart.

My alarm clock has one big button for snooze, and a curved row of 5 identical small buttons for setting the time and alarm. The button you will use most often (to turn the alarm off) is button 4. Why not make it distinct--either the first or last, or give it a texture, or move it out of this row completely?

One of the most ironic is Jakob Nielsen's site. Basically a blog on usability, but without an RSS feed, so you can't see it in a feed reader.

Blogger's date is annoying--it counts when you start a post, not when you finish it. I tend to get a post about 3/4 done, then come back days later. About half the time I have to go edit the date.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three percenters

Part of the purpose of the second amendment is to protect us against a government gone rogue.

This is a widely held belief among politically active gun owners--The argument is in defining rogue.

We've got the "three percenters" who think the current government is already rogue, and promise to respond to confiscation of their guns with armed resistance. The name comes from a claim that around 3% of gun owners will refuse to comply with a gun ban, to the point of armed resistance if necessary.

On the other hand, there are the people who say that Ruby Ridge and Waco prove that you can't stand up to the government, it will inevitably crush you.

Armed revolt is the nuclear option--its primary benefit is in deterrence. The balance of power is important--Small groups should not be able to stand against the government, but the government should not be able to stand against a majority who oppose it. The key here is majority. In order for armed revolt to be an honorable option, the government needs to have tampered with the election process severely enough that a majority voting for someone else isn't enough to unseat an incumbent. Corruption, Hanging chads, butterfly ballots, incumbent franking privelege are nowhere near severe enough.

Freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to due process and to bear arms are all meant to work together to prevent such abuse by the government.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comments policy

One of the things that bugs me is a blog that doesn't allow dissenting opinions. It is their blog, their rules, but I'm not likely to participate if I'm aware. This is extremely common on blogs that promote gun control.

Editing comments without marking the edits is even worse.

It hasn't been an issue yet in the few comments I've received, but I've decided to write up a comments policy. This is in part what I expect from commenters, but mostly explaining how I will handle comments.

Commenters are encouraged to express their views, especially if they disagree with me. I would request that you remain civil, avoid personal attacks, and don't post personal information. Attacking ideas is fine.

In the unlikely event I find it necessary to edit a comment, I will clearly indicate how I edited it, in every place I edited.

I may delete pure spam that is unrelated to the subject at hand, without mention of the deletion. My blog is unmoderated for the first 14 days after a post. I may not approve comments over 14 days old.

If I delete other comments, I will mention that I did, and more than likely why.

If I ban a commenter, I will mention once that I have banned them, in lieu of mentioning every comment of theirs that I delete.

I may change these rules at any time, but I'll publish the changes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Safe browsing

James linked to my last post with a story of an ex roommate who kept getting James' computer infected by visiting porn sites.

Some people get infected, some don't, and it does depend to some extent the type of sites you visit--it isn't just the porn sites that can infect you. Computers used by kids are especially vulnerable.

I've mentioned before what I've used to get rid of spyware. How do you prevent it in the first place?
On a Windows computer it is difficult. Things that can help:
  • Set up one account as administrator, with a decent password and only use it to maintain the computer. Set up a User account with few priveleges, use that most of the time.
  • Keep Windows up to date--I'd leave Windows Update running.
  • Use a router, even if you don't have more than one computer. Make sure you change the password on the router. Set up security on the wireless, or better yet turn it off if you aren't using it.
  • Use a software firewall. These can be annoying for a day or two--they will typically ask "Some program wants to connect to the internet, should I let it?" If it makes sense, let it, if not, don't. In a few days it will know which programs are OK and it will rarely bother you.
  • Don't use Internet Explorer, especially for questionable sites. Instead use Firefox or Opera.
  • Make sure your antivirus is up to date. If it came with the computer and the system is more than a year old, you will probably have to pay for updates. There are several good free antivirus programs--They typically work better than the paid subscription ones. AVG, and Avast are two I am familiar with-I use AVG on my wife's Windows box-It updates automatically, and doesn't suck up system resources.
  • If you are on the internet, and get a dialog box that says anything about installing a program, scanning your system, infection, or similar, close it with the X in the upper right corner--Do not use the buttons inside the box--Even clicking "no" can give the box permission to install who-knows-what on your system. If the dialog box can't be dismissed with the X, close down the browser. If That doesn't work, re-start the system.
  • Be suspicious if a link to a video wants you to download a new codec to watch it--These are often scams to install nasty crap on your system. Be especially suspicious if the video says it is of a current hot female star doing something naked or kinky.
If your computer ever gets to the point where you need to reinstall Windows (or if you want to prevent it getting that bad), give Ubuntu Linux a try instead. It (and most of the software used on it) is free, part of the Open Source software movement. It is easy--Installing a complete Ubuntu system is about as diffiuclt as installing Windows, and easier than installing a complete Windows system. Linux is more secure, partly due to low market share making it a smaller target, partly due to a more secure design. It can be installed instead of windows, or as an option to pick during boot. It can be run as a Windows program, and it can even be run (although somewhat slowly) directly off a USB drive or the install CD, without installing or using the hard drive. If you don' t have high speed intenet, you can even order CDs for free.

A tiny bit of Linux history: ATT invented Unix. Many colleges taught it, and many companies made their own versions. Tannenbaum invented Minux, a version of Unix for early (pre-Windows) personal computers, primarily as a teaching tool. Linus Torvolds used Minix to write his own version, eventually replacing all Minux code. He posted this to the internet with an open source license. The operator of the site called it Linux as a joke. The name stuck. Torvolds got lots of help in improving Linux, until it became as powerful and stable as Unix. Major corporations became interested, and added their own improvements, Various groups made "distributions" combining the Linux core with all the other programs needed for a working system. Linux was hugely popular for internet servers. Mark Shuttleworth, a dot-com millionaire founded Ubuntu, and sponsored a lot of effort in useability. Ubuntu quickly became the most popular desktop version of Linux.