16 February 2012

First you get chronic illnesses...

...and then you get sick.

I am lucky in that the number of upper respiratory tract infections that I get have dropped from their extreme high in my teen years (anywhere from 3 to 5 per year with some of them lasting nearly a month) to merely 1 or 2 a year.  No matter how well I take care of myself, I still get the bugs... but taking good care of my diabetes allows me to track when something is trying to get a jumping off point and deal with it.  I may get a 3 day stint of relatively high readings and then my body will have gotten rid of the germ and I'm right as rain.

Still, once or twice a year I get something that isn't so easy to shake and I have one of those now.  I would well and truly not have survived my teen years without modern medicine circa post-1940.  One or two sulfa drugs I can stand but they never dealt with the infections I've gotten in the upper respiratory tract.  That is the ears, sinus, throat and, when things get really bad, the upper parts of the lungs although that hasn't happened since I was 16.

I can't really do much of anything safely with tools of any sort, although that doesn't mean I can't find things to do or things find their way to me.

My lady's laptop, a Dell Inspiron 1721 bought a few months after mine, decided that its problems with the battery system (that is it hasn't been recharging them properly) now needed to have a hard disc problem.  As I had been looking a bit deeper at the recharge problem and realized that it wasn't the batteries or the software, that meant that it was the hardware which is on the main board of the system.  Here is what I do when I see a major problem on the motherboard of a system that is over 5 years old: I get a replacement and build a new system.  I can't do that with a laptop and had to buy a replacement and decided on one of the HP Pavilion line of computers... refurbished, natch.

The Inspiron finally coughed up a major problem on the hard drive and it took half an hour just to boot enough of a system to see the drive errors that filled the error log.  Since I had already gotten the major apps installed on the HP, plus removed a bit of the built-in cruft (although I never got to removing all the games and other junk that came with it, but it sits quiescent, unused and, therefore, relatively safe) put in my favored AV (Avast!) and the Comodo free firewall, it was ready for use.  The first order of business was to take a look at the drive from the Inspiron on another computer, which would require that I get the actual hardware to do that, a USB to SATA/IDE drive connector.  Since I was doing that at NewEgg I also got a new drive for the system and scared up some freeware to copy a drive image if I could find it.  Those both arrived just as I was starting to get sick...fun, fun, fun!

A day after it arrived I put the old drive onto a system and did a basic scan, which didn't show much.  Then I took an image of the drive, and put an image of that on the new drive.  That drive wouldn't boot.  Thus I had to scare up a Live CD to see what was going on and that finally revealed that the drive wasn't being properly recognized by the system.  I put on an MBR and still, no dice.  Pull the new drive with image and then put a really nasty chkdsk /f on it.  An hour later... it was bad news for the old drive image.  The second chkdsk /f only took about 10 minutes revealing no other problems.  For S&G's I put it in the system and no boot, of course.  Two directories held massive amounts of recovered files, all unusable.  Thus it was time to pull out the old install DVD and get to work...

The new drive is functional and happy, the old image is mostly awful and unrecoverable, and yesterday I spent most of the day hunting down drivers, apps, and generally getting enough on the Inspiron to get it past the bootable stage and close to useful.  I slapped an AV on it and still have to put on another firewall, and then have to do a final clean-up, defrag and general getting it back into functional order and examine any NEW errors coming up.  Both of the Dell laptops are the same vintage and I'm guessing some minor thing like, oh, a cosmic ray toasted out part of the old hard drive on the machine I was working on.  A thorough low-level disc scan and sector map should figure that out and would make the difference between having a drive that had some minor but critical event and one that is wholly unreliable.  Since there are no cables I can easily get at involved, if its the cables then I'm to stripping the system apart and if I have to do that I will see if I can scare up a new motherboard from that old line of Inspirons.  Basically, by the time you put in the cost and effort to get an old machine up and running, you are at the cost of a low-end refurbished machine that will do more.

Until the economy truly tanks when we are seen as an unreliable spendthrift.

All bets are off, then.

I can do a lot more than just woodworking... a bit of firearms work... geology...

Actually it seems as if my interest in a lot of subjects has some dividend to it.

Another project I'm taking up... where do I get these ideas, anyways?... is an adsorption cooling system/refrigerator.

Basically most refrigerators around your house run on electricity and have a compressor involved.  Those running on propane or other fuels have a burner to heat up a liquid to its vapor point and then evaporating coils to get the vapor to phase change back to a liquid (thus cooling what it is in contact with) and then a final condensation set of coils to make sure the liquid gets back safe and sound to the heater.  You can make that into a solar system, and efficiencies vary.  These ones with minimal to no compressors are absorption systems.

What an adsorption system does, in contrast, is uses a medium to temporarily bind the vaporizing medium to the surface of it as a liquid.  That surface, when heated, breaks the weak surface attraction bonds and creates a vapor that then goes away from the region being heated.  Cooler areas will draw off heat to start and then, since the liquid is barely in a vapor state, the vapor condenses and removes heat from the area.  Since it is a phase change it takes more heat away than it puts in, thus chilling the area down.  This is a chiller, not a real refrigerator, but gets to much of the same ends.  The physics is pretty old, going back to Van der Walls force and the equations that govern this attraction between gases and liquids when they are in relation to surfaces.  It was not applied to chillers until... I think it was 2003 or 04 by Toshiba.  Amazing how 19th century physics can still be used today, isn't it?

Doing a bit of reading up on the subject the main elements for a solar chiller consist of a liquid that easily turns into vapor at a relatively low temp, an adsorption media that can attract a lot of molecules to its surface, a heating chamber with the materials in it, and a cooling area.  That is it, no pump.  Nature does the work both at the chiller area and, when the sun goes down, the liquid and vapor go back to the cooling region with the adsorption material due to the attractive force it has on its surface.

That's the theory, at least.

So what are the actual materials?

Methanol and activated carbon.

Methanol you can get from various sources, but you want it anhydrous.  Anyone doing biodiesel can point you to suppliers.

And activated carbon?  Used for filtering fish tanks.  Get it in the spherical, low dust version as you don't want carbon dust clogging the thing up over the years.  Some fine screening might be a good plus for the system.

I've ordered the basics for a rig to test it out:

- A length of 2" black pipe, 24" long with couplers and bushings to get the ends down to 1/2".

- Copper pipe in 1/4" for the chilling/condensing region

- Copper pipe in 3/8" for the heating to chilling region, thus giving the vapor a slightly easier path up to the 3/8" to 1/4" reducer

- Brass pipe fittings to mate all this up, I have teflon pipe tape

- Plastic boxes used for scrapbook making, which I will fill with brine and use bulkhead 1/4" connectors for, and this will be the chilling region... I may need to put a minor coating of something on the copper pipe, like shellac, say... dunno

Still to be made are a simple stand to hold the rig in place, and a couple of cardboard boxes so I can test the thing out.

For a simple test the black pipe gets mounted on black painted wood, perhaps in an open box configuration to help concentrate the heat, the copper runs up the sides to a platform with a brine filled box, and the 1/4" pipe has some gentle bends coming out of them (and some tighter ones inside the brine containers) to serve as condensers and a simple bend pipe trap to allow liquid to serve as a barrier to any back pressure coming from the heating area so the flow goes in one direction.

I am not expecting more than a few degrees difference between the box with brine and pipe and the box that will just have a brine container without pipe.  A couple of sunny and dry days will help this out no end once it is built.  If I can get any results then I will have the known factors for materials, sizing, volume and so on to allow for scaling up of things.  I'm figuring more heating chambers in a flat box with glazed glass over it, and a top and bottom vent to allow hot air to move slowly out of the system will be a final design goal.

That and an old refrigerator I can strip out and put in some better insulation to help things along.

In theory this all works, although size and scaling is unknown.

Getting to the practice part is the hard part... but even a small chilling box that keeps a constant temp for medications and other such items would be great to have.  Plus it is no maintenance once it is put together with a sturdy frame and always works so long as there is any sunshine at all.  Weatherizing it may take a bit, but that is another bridge to blow up when I come to it.

Just because I'm sick doesn't mean I'm out of it.

Operations just shift venues for awhile.

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