Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lake Washington and Seattle

I really like this view across Lake Washington towards downtown Seattle. On clear skies you can see as far as to the Olympic Mountains on the other side of Pudget Sound. Evening time provides some awesome light this time of year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

BNSF Eastside line

This segment of the BNSF line through Kirkland east of Lake Washington was last used by the "dinner train" running several times a week, as well as BNSF freight locals. Due to freeway expansion near Bellevue the line was cut in the middle, and has now fallen into disrepair. I like the rusty look of the rails telling of better times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Before and After

The old row of cabinets:

And the new row of cabinets:

Monday, January 18, 2010

I made it!

The rear row is almost done. The big pullout cabinet (also known as "Apothekerschrank") is in. All the knobs and handles are installed. I even managed to deal with a drain emergency. Our sewer pipe was clogged and required a rooter company to come out and clean. And I made it in time to SJC for my flight to Seattle.

Still missing is mostly window dressing: toe kicks, moulding, some caulking. Some areas of exposed drywall need to be textured. We'll hire that out as part of the lighting project. And there's definitely need for paint on the uncovered walls. But the cabinets are now usable. And I started with this project only one week ago!

I made myself a nifty drilling template for the holes in the doors from an old shelf. Any kind of plywood works for this really. Then put the template on the inside of the door, another on the outside to act as a block to prevent splintering when the drill exits the door and secured this contraption with bar clamps, while carefully aligning the edges of the template with the door. This ensures that the knob holes are in the same place and height for all doors. Worked great for the 10 doors I drilled holes in today. IKEA also sells a plastic drilling template called FIXA for less than $3. I'm likely going to use this for the many drawer and pullout fronts to be installed in the other half of the kitchen.

The 15" pullout cabinet requires the use of a template called "S1184/0404" to mount the cabinet front to the pullout drawers. Unfortunately, that templates was nowhere to be found in any of the boxes. I found a copy of it over at IKEA fans, and resized it in GIMP, so the dimensions in the template actually match reality when printed. I was quite nervous that this won't work, and I therefore would drill holes into a $120+ cabinet front in the wrong place, so I re-checked every hole location before drilling.

One the screw holes was right over one of the cutouts where the hinges normally go. However, I found that the plastic filler piece for those cutouts has a depression at just the right place to hold the screw securely in place. Once I mounted the hardware, I put the pullout drawers with the front attached on the support rails, and low-and-behold, it slid in just fine, clicked in place and was ready for action.

I also installed a 1/2 inch birch plywood board as temporary countertop near the fridge until we install the final countertop.

Oh, and yes, now that I got the hang of how putting together an IKEA kitchen works, I will do the other half of the kitchen in the coming weeks as well. But first we need to arrange a few things, and I need some rest.

Sorry, still no photos online. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kitchen Progress

Another long day. I stopped by OSH this morning to pick up a few parts, and a sweet 12V driver tool made by Milwaukee. It's battery lasted me all day screwing in drawer rails, door hinges, and other odd jobs. While I have a 3.6V driver tool (thanks, Dad!) which is great for the railroad layout, the 12V tool has quite a bit more "ooompf".

Anyways, it took me a while to figure out how these IKEA drawers for the big pantry cabinet go together, but once I got the hang of it, it became really easy. The doors have some snazzy hinges that snap into place on the door, and are very easy to hang to the cabinet frame. I installed all doors with exception of the pull-out drawer cabinet, which will be done tomorrow morning. The fridge is also in it's final place now, and of course Charlie is exploring the new climber's garden.

The annoyance of the day was putting together the modified layout for the microwave/oven cabinet. For one, it took me forever to get the electrical for the microwave routed properly, the cord is just a tad too short to reach the outlet. Then I needed two attempts to build supports for the mounting frame. Once that was out of the way, I could finally measure how much space was left for the oven. Much less than I hoped for. Which left only room for one 9 inch high drawer. Unfortunately, the Stat drawer fronts come in 4 inches and 12 inches only. I mounted the rails into the cabinet but didn't put together the drawer while I wait for an ingenious idea how to fix this in a way that actually looks half-way decent. Hmmm, I could use two 4-inch drawer fronts and mount them on top of each other. Anyways, this will have to wait until Im back from Seattle.

Getting the oven mounted was another heavy lifting action which we worked through with no major damage.

Several people asked for photos. No worries, there will be photos posted here. Stay tuned.

Lessons learned:
  • Careful when snapping together the drawer pieces. It really hurts bad when some skin gets pinched in the process.
  • Go to bed at a decent time and have enough sleep.
  • Cabinet frames installed

    Phew, this was a long day. All cabinet frames are now installed in their final positions.

    Hanging an 27kg over-the-fridge cabinet proved challenging. We managed with some ingenious arm raising mechanism. Think dining room chair, plus step stool, plus wife on top to get her high enough so that she can reach the screws in the back of a 2 feet deep cabinet pretty much just under ceiling.

    Lessons learned:
  • When cutting the rail to hang the wall cabinets measure twice, cut once. It really sucks when you're cutting one inch too short because you forgot to take the cover panel between two cabinets into account.
  • Walls are never straight.
  • A sufficiently strong drill can twist off a screw you're trying to force into a wall stud.
  • Thankfully wall studs are wide enough to allow for a second screw.
  • Make sure your screws are not longer than the hole you drilled for them, unless they are the self-drilling kind.
  • Old laminate flooring on top of two layers of old vinyl is about 1/2 inch thick. No matter how much you wish it, a 95.5 inch side cover panel won't magically fit into 95inch air space in front of the cabinets (due to floor and ceiling lights), even if there is 96inches of vertical space around the cabinets. Cutting off 1/4 inch height is not sufficient.
  • Swearing doesn't make it shorter.
  • Previous owners are idiots for not ripping out the old flooring when remodeling. Come on folks, it's not THAT hard.

    Overall, I think this will come out nicely.

    Tomorrow (well, later today really), I'll start hanging doors, installing shelves and drawers, as well as getting the microwave and oven installed in their new cabinet. That will be interesting, as I'm planning to modify the layout of that cabinet to allow for both microwave and oven stacked on top of each other (29 + 18 inches vertical space), while the cabinet is intended to be used with a 28 inch high oven only (the rest is doors and drawers).

    I need to cut a 24x36 inch piece of plywood to use as temporary flooring in the nook for the fridge so it's level with the existing flooring until I replace the old laminate floor in a few weeks.
  • Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Cabinet frames built

    Today I built all 5 remaining cabinet frames that go on the rear wall of the kitchen. We're going to move them in place to make sure the whole row is going to fit in the space available. I will also use this opportunity to cut openings in the rear for power connections at the right places. Then it's crunch time again to set up each cabinet frame on its legs and the rear wall board.

    I just realized that I can install the drywall anchors through the hole in the cabinet, so we need to put them into place only once.

    Lessons learned:
  • READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ... CAREFULLY, AND IN DETAIL. Then think about what you read and modify where it makes sense.
  • If something doesn't seem to make sense, think about it some more, and read the instructions again. It's likely you didn't understand it in the first place.
  • Friday, January 15, 2010

    First cabinet frame is in

    Well, I was at IKEA this afternoon to pick up a few missing pieces, and Tatjana's school concert was tonight, so I started working on the layout ... errrm, I mean the kitchen, only after after 8pm.

    I started with the big high corner cabinet, not only because it's a fairly standard cabinet, but also because I need to establish the height for the hanging cabinets before hanging them, and it all should line up nicely, right? Anyways, I went slowly and carefully and had the frame assembled a while later. If you've ever done furniture assembly this is not really hard. The hard part came when I realized we need to lift this monster into place because the legs are too whimpy to be used to tip the cabinet on. Nor can you move this thing much on the legs.

    After some grunting and swearing the cabinet was in the corner. Turn the page of the setup instructions and I almost fell over backwards. You need to mark the holes for the screws holding the cabinet at the wall. If there are no studs at the position, to install wall anchors, YOU NEED TO LIFT THE DAMN THING AWAY AGAIN. All FIFTY-SIX kilograms at once. Urgh....

    So we did, and it wasn't fun. I installed wall anchors, and we put the monster back into place.

    Lessons learned:
  • Glue/tape the legs to the floor of the cabinet, otherwise they fall out if you lift it up.
  • The rear support wall support board from IKEA is quite whimpy. I used a 3" wide wood plank instead and screwed it to the studs
  • It's a good idea to use 4 legs for the cabinet. This allows for more weight to be loaded into the cabinet. But don't forget to install these little plastic lids that come with the legs, so that the cabinet sides are directly supported by the legs.
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    The cabinets are on the patio

    The backrow of kitchen cabinets is now on the patio. In pieces. Today I disconnected the microwave and oven, moved them aside and demo'ed the remaining two floor to ceiling cabinets.

    When I took down the last cabinet, I finally learned why they didn't use the space all the way to the wall: There's a heating duct from the living room extending about an inch into the kitchen. There goes one inch of the 1.5 inch "wiggle room" I left when planning the layout of the new cabinets.

    Lessons learned so far:
  • Demolishing kitchen cabinets youerself is feasible and not really hard.
  • BE CAREFUL with nails! They are all over the place. Hammer them down, so they don't stick out from the wood.
  • Wear ear and eye protection.
  • There will be surprises.
  • it's easy to crack drywall when you get too excited ripping out shelf supports.
  • It sucks if cracked drywall is in an area that will be visible later. I'm adding repairing drywall to my repertoire.
  • Make sure there is enough space for your shiny new cabinets. In the worst case I will have to ... errm ... modify ... the end cabinet to allow space for the heating duct.
  • Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Google to review China involvement

    After a serious attack on Google's corporate infrastructure Google decided to "review our involvement in China" and may "shut down, as well as close China offices".

    The blog post from David Drummond has more details on what exactly happened, as well as the implications.

    For corporate America this is an amazing, and very impressive reaction, to an apparently very serious significant incident. Way to go to show some spine, Google.

    2 cabinets down

    Slaming a hammer into a kitchen cabinet is actually FUN.

    I took down the pantry and the cabinet over the fridge today. I worked mostly with a crowbar and a hammer, and my trusty jigsaw with a big blade, for cabinet fronts, as well as cuts through shelves and sides. I don't really want to know what nasty stuff they mixed into plywood 40 years ago, but I tried to avoid breathing that dust anyway.

    In the socket under the pantry we found the dried up skeleton of a mouse. That guy probably has been down there for quite a while. Looks like he tried to chew up some of the drywall with no success.

    Took me just over an hour to take the two cabinets down. The kids were watching and had a blast. Tomorrow I'll do the other two cabinets, and cut away a bit of the laminate flooring, so it's not in the way. Depending on how long this takes, I'll also prep the walls and do some caulking along the floor. If this all works out, I might start setting up the new cabinets on Thursday.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    98 boxes

    Today our new kitchen cabinets were delivered. We're really doing this.

    IKEA in East Palo Alto might want to improve the delivery process a little bit. When we ordered the cabinets 2 weeks ago, we chose a delivery window of 8-12 in the morning. Last Wednesday I received a call from Excel, the delivery company that everything is at the warehouse, and they will deliver it on Monday (today). "We will call you on Saturday, to let you know the exact delivery window". ok. cool, that's service I thought.

    By Saturday afternoon I did not get a call. I call IKEA, get connected a few times, and eventually a really friendly lady explains, "oh, yes Sir, you will receive a call tonight between 7:30 and 9:30 after they put together the route". ok, fine.

    No call.

    I called them again on Sunday, "oh, you haven't received a call, because they plan the route today, so we will call you tonight between 7:30 and 9:30". ok. fine.

    At 8:30 they call me. "Hello Sir, we will deliver your kitchen between 8am and 12pm tomorrow morning." - uh, could you give me an idea when they'll show up, are we earlier or later in the schedule? - "I don't know SIr, that's really up to the driver, but we can call you half an hour before they get there. Would you like us to do that?" - sure.

    Of course, this morning they called while I was at work in the shower.

    An IKEA kitches comes in A LOT of boxes. 98 to be exact. Patricia spent a good part of the afternoon checking that all the pieces in the delivery manifest actually showed up.

    I spent a couple hours in the garage in the evening sorting the boxes into neat stacks. Each stack represents the major parts of one cabinet. I hope this will make building the cabinets less painful. We'll see how that works out...

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    over the air line-up

    This is the line-up and signal quality I can receive at my house with a Terk HDTVo antenna on the roof.

    2_1 KTVU-HD - 95% no issues

    2_2 KTVU-SD - 95% no issues

    4_1 KRON_SD - 96% no issues

    4_2 KRON_HD - 96% no issues

    5_1 KPIX-DT - 90% mythtv menu doesn't show

    7_1 KGO-HD - 94% no issues

    7_2 LIVWELL - 95% no issues

    7_3 KGOACCU - 95% no issues

    9_1 KQED-HD - 89% very strong MPEG2 artifacts as soon as more than 10% of image changes

    9_2 KTEH-DT - 89% no issues

    9_3 WORLD - 86% from KQED, strong MPEG2 artifacts

    11_1 KNTV_HD - 93% no issues, some MPEG2 artifacts, mythtv menu doesn't show

    11_2 NBC Weather - 93% no issues

    11_3 US - 93 % Universal Sports

    14_1 KDTV-DT - 100% mythtv menu doesn't show

    14_2 KFSF-DT - 100% no issues

    20_1 KFOY-HD - 95% no issues

    20_4 Azteca - 95% no issues

    26_1 KTSF-D1 - 97% no issues

    26_2 KTSF-D2 - 97% no issues

    26_3 KTSF-D3 - 97% no issues

    26_4 KTSF-D4 - 97% test picture ?

    28_1 KFTL-CA - 82%

    28_10 KEAR - 82% Radio

    32_1 KMTP-DT - 87% no issues

    32_2 WorldChannel- 87% no issues

    32_4 WTV - 87% crappy quality, but no issues

    32_5 NTD - 87% no issues

    36_1 KICU-DT - 100% no issues

    36_2 KICU-SD - 100% no issues

    38_1 KCNS - 80% no issues

    38_2 KCNS-2 - 90% crappy quality

    38_3 KCNS-3 - 89% no issues

    44_1 KBCW-DT - 94% mythtv menu doesn't show

    48_1 MSO? - mythtv menu doesn't show, Telemundo

    54_1 KTEH - 100% no issues

    54_2 KQED - 100% no issues

    54_3 LIFE - 100% no issues

    54_4 KIDS - 100% no issues

    54_5 V-me - 100% no issues

    60_1 KCSM - 96% no issues

    60_2 KCSMMhz - 96% no issues

    60_3 Jazz-TV - 96% no issues

    65_1 ION - 96% no issues

    65_2 qubo - 96% no issues

    65_3 IONLIfe - 96% minor MPEG2 artifacts, sound skipping

    65_4 Worship - 96% no issues

    Channels that don't show the MythTV menu are likely FullHD, and MythTV has a little bit trouble with the video driver to show the menu properly.

    Saturday, January 09, 2010

    I must be crazy ...

    We are renovating our kitchen. We picked IKEA's Akurum/Stat kitchen, and will keep pretty much the same layout we currently have, with some minor tweaks. And we're going to do the whole thing ourselves. Well, at least that's the plan.

    The cabinets are supposed to arrive on Monday. I believe it when I see it. Today I finished making space in the garage. You can park a car in there again. yay. On Monday, this space will be filled with boxes, and boxes, and boxes. Then over the course of the week, I will demolish the row of cabinets on the backwall of the kitchen. This is where the fridge, the oven and the microwave are located. So until I'm done there won't be fresh bread or cake in the house. But we can continue to use the cooktop, so we'll have some warm food.

    I'm planning 2 days for setting up the 5 large cabinets, so I should be done with this before I fly out to Seattle the week after.

    Depending on how this works out, we'll tackle the other side of the kitchen, with sink and countertop. This will involve some nasty work to get rid of backsplash tiles, fixing drywall afterwards, and also replacing the current florescent lighting with recessed lighting. For the electrical and the dry wall work we'll get contractors, they'll do a better job than I could, and for anything dealing with house electrical it's a good idea to get someone who knows what they are doing.

    Once this is all done, I'll redo the floor.

    The first phase should take about a week of elapsed time. The second phase, due to contractors and more complicated arrangement, I'm estimating about 2 weeks. And the floor will be a good weekend's work. So overall, I'm targeting to be done with this in early March (taking work assignments where I need to be out of town into account). Let's see how that all works out.

    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Servo Motors as Switch Machines

    This ended up working better than I hoped.

    Below Talheim station are several hidden staging tracks, and there is not a lot of headroom. I spent some time coming up with a way to get Tortoise slow motion underfloor switch machines mounted in the little space I have, but those things are not made for situations where space is tight.
    I considered using some kind of pushrod to move the switch points, but that requires some careful calibration and extended remote machinery, which is also tricky. That green thing in the photo on the right is one Tortoise, next to five servos...

    Finally, I read Craig Bisgeier's Housatonic Railroad Construction Journal and about his very positive experience with Servo controllers from Tam Valley Depot. These controllers use regular RC model servos, are relatively cheap, and particularly the QuadP, dead-simple to program. Like the Digitrax DS64 and the Team Digital SRC16 they can be controlled with momentary push-button switches from a control table and can be combined with LEDs to provide visual feedback of switch positions. Unfortunately, the QuadP doesn't have Loconet, so it's unable to report switch positions back to a computer. That's a bummer. But looking around there doesn't appear the be an manufacturer that makes a stationary decoder that combines the ability to control RC servos with Loconet feedback and control. A bit odd.

    There are several others that are coming close to the TVD QuadP in options, like the Team Digital SMC4, the ESU Switchpilot Servo (though, after my less than stellar experience with the regular Switchpilots, I'm not going to buy any more Switchpilots), or the Uhlenbrock 67800, but they are either hard to get in the US, or cost quite a bit more. So far (1 week), I'm happy with the QuadP. It doesn't come with a case, so one needs to be a little bit careful with where you place it, but I can live with that.

    Antenna Update

    Over the weekend I finally moved the TV antenna to the other side of the house. Alex came over and helped me mount it, which was a great. It's sooo much easier to mount the antenna mast to the side of the house if someone is holding it.
    As night fell, I hooked it up, when into MythTV and scanned for channels. ... Hmmm. Action36, a couple chinese channels, and KNTV, the local NBC affiliate. That's it? You're kidding me. hdhomerun_config_gui reported signal strengths around 40% and 40-80% symbol quality.

    After I stopped being annoyed I realized that I hadn't conected the little amplifier box that came with the antenna. What a difference that made! MythTV found over 20 channels, many in HD, including all major broadcast networks. Signal strength comes in mostly around 70-100% and symbol quality is 80+%.

    On some channels the picture is somewhat choppy, cutting out, or showing MPEG2 artifacts. I suspect that's what happens when some bits get dropped on the way from the transmitter to the antenna, and/or my MythTV system has problems playing full HD TV. I'll try some more fine-tuning of antenna orientation to see if this improves signal quality.

    I also learned that solar PV systems can cause a lot of reflection of the TV signal, so it's probably A Good Thing that our solar system is behind the antenna.