Lighting rants, car rants, teardowns, lessons-learned, info, etc.
A chronicle of my own learning experiences delving into the fields of
lighting and theatre production tech, hybrid and conventional cars, energy
efficiency, and miscellaneous other topics.
Plenty of useful tech reference stuff and geeky info-dumps.
And like any self-respecting Hobbit, I don't wear shoes.
hobbit . at . techno-fandom . dot . org
-- Many lighting-related meta-pointers, originally to support a couple of
specific projects and seminars as well as being a rathole-farm.
Rather out of date by now; various external links may be dead
linearizing cheapo Torchiere dimmers
[One of the earliest pages here!]
review of early experience as LD at a local con
South Asian culture show, largish lighting gig at MIT, spring 2002
a song of sprinklers: failed, then rescheduled, Israeli dance gig
review of lessons learned LDing *another* con
hogging the WholeHog at H2K2, aka the HoPE 2002 hacker con
a small rant about Neutrik's solderless connector fiasco
more in the "lessons learned" department: description/analysis of
lighting a large backdrop from the side, MIT, spring 2003
review of the Actorsingers' lighting & sound weekend workshop,
early Aug 2003
tech debrief notes for Arisia 04, reflecting two more years on with
getting more comfortable LDing at conventions, along with design documents
from Arisia 06
, -- all chronicling
some of our real glory days at the Park Plaza
... a little time passes in between without specific reporting on Arisia,
but with a camera ready at hand starting in about 2008 the "debriefs"
became more serious and in-depth.
For the entire line of pictorial Arisia reports, see these
(year of the Dumpster Fire, the great Elevator Conspiracy,
and a new home),
gone all-virtual in
and although *canceled* in 2022, there was
something like "normal" returned, for now, and then the
well was poisoned for 2024.
So that's the end of the line, after 30+ years of supporting them.
summary of helping teach and implement a very short-timeframe show
at Splash 2005, a weekend program run by MIT's ESP organization
lighting the dances at Anime Boston 2006, and general observations
showstopping lighting-desk problems stemming from one of those
newfangled plastic-top folding tables ... important lesson here!
a search form to do unlimited message searches on the LightNetwork
*Note: Light Network moved off Prospero and is now at
Fun with color, aka a little roadie humor
Lighting effect "art-fag" descriptions aimed toward costumers participating
in SF/fantasy convention masquerades, or possibly any other sort of
similarly theatrical production
Some quick-n-dirty event lighting solutions thrown together with
various types of compact-fluorescent bulbs and cheezy fixtures. With a
little more work, may have some interesting implications for the stage
An example of hand-cutting a gobo out of aluminum pie-plate, showing that
curves and fairly complex details can be done with an ordinary x-acto
knife and come out looking quite good
Discussion of issues and design deficiencies found in small "DJ grade"
dimmer packs, particularly those of offshore origin
Picture showing results of "de-glazing" the coated type of theatrical
black cotton tie-line: simply soak/swish in warm water, dry, and optionally
"distress" slightly over a table edge or something to knock the rest out.
The glazing stuff is similar to shirt sizing
Source 4 lens tube configurations, from various revisions of ETC's S4
user manual. These are often reassembled wrong by well-meaning people
who go to clean the dust out of them
Bad shot of the difference between old and new Source 4 lamphousing
reflectors; old one on the left is cloudy and loses a lot of light
Mailing-list thread about how the Source Four design has evolved over
time, paint and reflector coating qualities, and why the 36-degree lens
tube is often optically crap in practical use
Close shot of the brass-to-steel spalling that happens to ETC tilt-brake
screws, when they start making those horrible skwee-gee-gee-gee-geek
noises when the handle is turned. Eventually they jam up hard enough
to be unusable, but a whisper of anti-seize applied well before they get
to that point will permanently fix the problem. We can't imagine why ETC
never chose more appropriate materials for these fittings and/or applied
lube at the factory even though it's been a common problem for years
Lighting design diagrams for Lonestarcon 3, San Antonio TX, summer 2013
Short pictorial on flipping the DMX receiver polarity on the Martin
918 scanner, which is internally set by jumpers instead of auto-sensing
like more modern units can
Fixing various mechanical problems in cheap laser-projector heads
Teardown/analysis/review of the Blizzard Rokbox 5 RGBAW LED wash unit
Investigating the waveform purity of "full-up" dimmer outputs, whether
suitable for powering other devices or not
A visit to 4Wall's new warehouse / shop facility open house, 2023
[The company that absorbed ALPS, our usual go-to rental outfit]
Evaluation of the Luxapel Primo 75 LED module for Par64/Par56 retrofit
with wireless DMX, and how to compensate for its optical properties
[Much of which is likely out of date by now, but still here
as perspective on how we sometimes think about spaces we work in]
Kresge auditorium [MIT] hardwired-dimmers circuit map
The horrendous state of the Crestron house-lighting controller at the
Boston Park Plaza hotel, as of '08 or so. It desperately needed to be
[Update: the newer system is a mess too, but at least programmable]
Rear gym at Cambridge Community Center, off Howard St in Cambridgeport
[Was afd_02e.xcf, still present]
Multi-layer GIMP file showing the Arlington Friends of the Drama space.
Includes layers for "Unnecessary Farce" in early 2018 and "All Night Strut"
in late 2021, and generally usable as a design aid for future shows
Useful lighting control stuff
Corrected Martin robo 518 fixture profiles for inclusion in Hog _lib.lib.
Flying Pig got some of the values and modes wrong, and left out "lampoff".
Includes comments on the "real life" values that the fixture understands,
although comments do *vanish* once you load it and re-save your show
Hog fixture profile to produce 27 raw DMX-valued output channels
Procedure to extract text-format fixture profiles from HogII _LIB.ROM
Improved Martin robo 918 fixture profile, providing somewhat better
indication of "real life" fixture behavior
Phase-lock macro to fake "tap sync" functionality for Hog desks
Stupid little shell script to translate between channel % and DMX value[s]
a brief study of RS485 signal degradation when launched from various
sources into different types of cable, and some other observations
[including some advice straight from Doug Fleenor himself!]. For
a more visual follow-on, see ...
Related page with more DMX signal exploration, with many 'scope shots
showing waveforms seen under assorted network problem scenarios.
Clearly illustrates what "slew rate limiting" means
Upgrading a Leprecon 1500-series board to a GROUNDED power supply, making
it significantly more stable and interference-resistant
A quick look inside the typical RFU for ETC Express/Expression boards, and
diagnosis of a rather common cabling problem that plagues these units
Observations from first personal contact with ETC's newer line of Eos / Ion
control consoles. There are also some follow-on documents and/or
sections of convention writeups, from
. There was some fun
LED effects play
at Costume Con 37, where what the board was doing was more interesting
than what the lights were doing.
Then the pandemic hit and the industry went dead for a year and a half, and
as people slowly started doing in-person shows again, questions about the
learning these boards
arose on discussion forums
Experiences planning for and using an ETC Smartfade console on a
typical [?] convention show
Review of the Chauvet Stage Designer 50, a small 48-channel conventional
controller, with a helpful supplement to its operation manual
Other theatre tech
a rundown on Clearcom and similar type intercom electrical characteristics,
with pointers to other related resources [was lighting/clearcom.txt]
simple intercom-line splitter that creates a new audio channel on
one output, using a common power supply for both channels
Fixing various problems on Telex BTR-200 wireless intercom gear, notably
a non-reception problem fixed by a little creative metal bending
description of how to roll cables with no twist, using the flip-coil /
over-under / roadie-wrap / fake-it / zero-wrap method [it has many names]
diagnostic on-the-ground proof of WHY we always want to coil
our cables correctly and take good care of them
fixing one dead channel on a six-channel Rane audio amplifier, on which
the final transistors had shorted to ground through the heatsink pads
Inside the main enclosure of a version-1 Mackie SRM450, with the loooooong
screwdriver required to get down the very deep wells in the plastic housing
to the fasteners. This one had a cracked woofer magnet
Downloadable collection of 1-minute test tones in uncompressed .WAV
format: 25hz, 440hz, 1khz, 10khz, whitenoise stereo/mono. Copy to your
every-day-carry device for a quick-n-dirty audio generator, without
having to install any sketchy apps! 15.6 Mb, expands to about 35 Mb
Extensive refurb of an entire Clear-Com style intercom kit, including
new cables and a brief exploration of XLR connector quality
Examination of another wireless intercom system, with a hacky add-on for
"wireless talk-around" functionality
National Electrical Code
[NFPA 70] 2001 ROP draft available in PDF format under NFPA70/, u-find-it
A simplified one-page diagram of the most common electrical outlets
used in the US, adapted from Wikipedia "NEMA_connector"
With many events forced to go purely online during the 2020 pandemic,
I eventually got pulled into the "new normal" of people gathering via
videoconferencing from their homes.
This is sort of a timeline: I was still relatively new at this as I started
writing up some of the experiences, but gradually learned more aspects of
the technology and how to most effectively apply it [in a rapidly changing
landscape of same at the time!].
In a couple of years I went from minor helping out where I could, to being
tapped to set up and run pivotal pieces of virtual events, as well as helping
train the many additional volunteers needed.
A shortish report on the NASFiC that would have been held in Columbus OH,
but had to move purely online via Zoom, Discord, and video streaming
Thoughts on how conventions and other events can better organize their
shared Google Drive storage, after wading through my own years-long
accumulated hodgepodge of "shared with you" links and files from
Another short set of observations from helping run a small literary online
con originally based in the DC area, with bits of perspective on simplified
setups for future events
Thoughts and comparisons from working virtual Philcon and Chessiecon
on back-to-back weekends, with some Discord reference materials
Deguspice's various attendee-viewpoint virtual con reviews over 2020
had to go virtual too
[listed under Arisia group above]
and includes a deep Discord dive, and then
a month later brought useful comparisons of service integrations
Helpful info for training people to be Zoom hosts in virtual events
The right way to launch an event meeting
in Zoom, without messing around with browsers or the zoom.us portal.
(video: slideshow + voice-over)
This is to un-confuse volunteer session hosts who still think that logging in
at Zoom's website portal is the right way to start a meeting. It isn't
Raising the bar on Discord server access, using simple bot functions
More adventures in Discord, used with webhook-driven provisioning as the
main integration layer for the virtual Readercon 31 in 2021.
Also some discoveries about how to correctly set up
Youtube streaming from Zoom
A long, anguished tale of bad support from Vimeo, the "other" streaming
and video storage service.
While testing what an event organization needed to run their online
component, I ran into subtle problems [as I do] and tried to elicit Vimeo's
support to help. They were basically no help at all, and dragged the
whole sad dysfunctional saga out for more than a month.
"Premium" professional-level service, my ass. Back to Youtube...
A Place for Music:
Details of a Discord server set up for
collaborative music sharing and performance, very similar to how music
groups use Zoom.
With correct settings in the Discord client and attention paid to channel
bandwidth allocations, a setup like this is every bit as suited for the
purpose as a Zoom meeting.
This is a live server
that you can get on and play with, but you
may need to email for per-event entry instructions
With a little environment jiggery, it's possible to run two separate
instances of Zoom on a Linux machine.
This is what happens when you screenshare one into the other, and record
It's actually much easier to get this effect in Discord, which isn't so
picky about what screen items get streamed or not
Capture of a long post into a "virtual con-runner" Discord, after helping
with the virtual side of Balticon 56.
Salient points: zoom bombers, and event-logging webhooks [which no longer
work as they did at the time, grrr]
"If I Ran the Zoo(m)" ... heading up the Virtual side for Boskone 60,
which inched a little closer to "full hybrid" but didn't quite make it
I'm one of those people who uses footwear as little as possible in
all aspects of my life.
I don't need it, don't want it.
As a result, there isn't a thing wrong with my feet or legs, and my
soles are well-conditioned to handle harsh environments.
This extends to technical production, a field whose typical workers
remain shod against routinely overwrought fear of foot injury.
In real-life practice it's far less a concern, and shoes often detract
from one's competency -- certainly from my own.
Tech production is specifically mentioned because it's a big part of
what the techno-fandom collective is about.
As recorded in many of the pages indexed here, I'll totally bust my nuts
on any worthwhile gig where crews do not harbor misguided sixties-era
baggage against working barefoot, and thus refrain from giving me any
crap about it.
Instead, they can observe and learn the benefits.
a safety issue, but not in the way one would traditionally
think -- I am far more confident and situationally aware when not
subjected to the clumsy constraints of footwear, especially at height or
climbing, using all four of my hands to be maximally agile and productive
on the job.
There's a personal advocacy page
where I keep a running chronicle -- sort of a continuing who's-who
of establishment foot-friendliness, along with some fun stories -- in part,
about trying to bring executive leadership at various organizations into
more awareness and acceptance of the barefoot lifestyle if it hasn't been
achieved there already.
There's a minimal "sister site" at
where more general info and a short "best-of" link-farm is maintained
to the most comprehensive sources around the net on this topic.
[It's also an excuse to play around with Amazon's
"S3-as-a-website" facility, which how it's hosted.]
I also help co-manage our local
barefoot hiking group,
and try to pound out some miles in the woods fairly regularly.
Yep, even in winter.
Here are some other hike stories not linked under the bf/ page.
Monadnock again and
again and even
in stranger times,
In 2019 I also started bagging various 4K peaks in the White Mountains,
but am probably not going to obsess about trying to knock off
Car stuff -- hacks/mods, rants, pix, stories, etc ...
Since my 2004 Prius went out to well-earned pasture in 2021,
the Prius material has MOVED
All the same links still apply, they're just not in this index now.
The not-necessarily-Prius car material is still under here.
Electric vehicle exploration, an entirely separate section on its own,
primarily about the Hyundai Kona EV
Well-known but seldom followed guidelines for obtaining much higher
fuel economy from most vehicles -- no gimmicks, just technique
A dumbed-down version of the above covering just the very basics. Used
as a handout at Altwheels 2006 and beyond, to encourage smarter driving
Visual guide to quantifying tailgating distances/times on the roads and
evaluating the degree of hazard
An open letter to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, taking it
to task for failing to discern the ever-increasing self-righteous
entitled attitude of American drivers everywhere. Despite its
chosen DC beltway location, the Foundation remains rather ineffectual
on the political and legislative fronts where clear thought and
action are desperately needed
Simple automotive testing widget to beep and light an LED when given power,
and optionally load down the circuit at the same time. Like a noid light,
but more versatile
Using a primitive network-splitter to isolate pieces of a CANbus and help
reverse-engineer a little scantool data protocol, using a Scangauge as a
half-ass packet sniffer
Article on defective tire valve stems, that began cracking away near
the base after only a year in service. Entirely due to outsourced
Hack-job proposed State of the Union Address segment, endorsing
uniform enforcement of a three-seconds-minimum following distance
to help save lives and sharply reduce automotive property damage
Vrooom! Random thoughts on the "sexiness" and animal appeal of
traditional muscle-cars versus electric vehicles
The "Yuppie Button": safety-enhanced rear lighting modifications to
aid driver alertness, maintain proper vehicle spacing, and prevent
collisions. Stand up to bullying!
Solenoid control wiring problem on a Tundra pickup: quick diagnosis,
Insides of a Honda rear-window wiper motor, and discussion
What can happen when you text on the move, or *anything* else that distracts
attention away from the essential task at hand. PUT THAT DOWN AND DRIVE
Quick fix for a windshield crack caused by a flying rock, using one of
the kits with a vacuum/pressure syringe and sealant glue. Must be done
promptly to avoid further crack expansion
SOLD! 2000 Subaru Legacy L wagon, 58K miles.
Reference remains for historic value and mildly amusing pictures
Preliminary version of a "car hacking" article that Michelle Delio was
working on for the MIT Technology Review, forwarded for editing/approval
Final release version of MIT Technology Review "car hacking" article,
which despite what was thought to be a final editing pass came out
rather mangled away from the supposed original. Compare and contrast!
[All the articles by Delio have since been pulled over the HP / Carly
Fiorina imbroglio, and a stupid, busy-work "investigation" was launched]
Design and motivation of a "throttle position sensor bias" control
to smooth out off-the-peg engine response
Sad-but-funny saga of getting the runaround at a local dealer over a
simple radiator leak
Plea to the local net/social community to let the Pooper enjoy
a dignified retirement [which eventually did happen, yay]
One-page quickie chart of subnet bit boundaries and allocation strategy
that allows sensible room for expansion, based on RFC1219
A blast from my distant past: recovered documents and discussion around my
hobbyist laser show years. Kept me off the streets in the eighties
Original "netcat" source distribution tarball from 1996, aka really
old laurels and embedded mini-rants about the Berkeley sockets API
A close physical look inside the MBTA's Charlie Card
Installation of a Rheem "Marathon" water heater, with supporting details
on tank construction, minor plumbing triumphs and letdowns, and ways to
take the pressure off
A classic mistake: trying to go production using immature beta products
just because they're "new and cool", and landing in a support nightmare
A review of the Garmin "Nuvi" GPS family compared to older types, and why
Garmin has fallen OFF my list of competent product builders
Photo collections from inside some of the "Gilded Age" Victorian-era
mansions in Newport RI
Quick fix for the bad sharp-edged ergonomics of a unibody Macbook
Diagnosis and [redneck] repair of an APC SmartUPS, with thoughts on how
the problem cause may have been a long-standing design fault -- which
later turned out to be
Early-ownership review of a new mobile phone, slightly less dumb than what
it replaces but not anywhere near the level of modern "smart" devices
Gateway file to an extensive writeup on my house renovation that turned
into a deep energy retrofit, with detailed pictures and text on
construction, building science, HVAC, air-sealing, and some funny
contractor moments. A book-length treatise in 27 parts --
Requires minor human intervention to find the actual pages themselves,
or just web-search for "energy retrofit" and "hobbit"
Partial teardown of a Leviton GFCI outlet that went bad one night
Autopsy of a Canon Powershot G9 that bricked itself, due to a known
problem where two screws come loose and rattle around inside and
eventually short out the main power supply
Pictures and story of local water main work, adding a tee connection for
a line into a new subdivision
Upgrade of a local street from dirt/gravel to paved, including massive
new drainage infrastructure installed underneath. In six parts
Ice dams and related thermal fun from 2015's "wikkid cold" winter in
New England with lots of snow, one stormy smackeroo after another
Adapting glowing LED poi balls to a flow-arts staff, for spinning with
enhanced persistence-of-vision play, and taking it all up another
technical level in Chapter 3
of the story
Detailed description of exactly how Fiserv screwed over various online
bill-pay service subscribers when they cut over to a redesigned website.
Thoughts on how stringent limitation of cross-border internet connectivity
could help provide significant mitigation of today's most common "cyber"
Possibly the most heartbreaking commentary applicable to the political
environment of 2016 [aka the rise of Lord Voldemort]
The reason a USB thumbdrive stopped working: tacking the loose crystal
lead down better brought it right back to life. A lesson in how
shoddily-built offshore electronics fail
High-resolution scans of some old maps and park plans around Harold Parker
State Forest and surrounding Andover. This was a project for the
Friends of Harold Parker
Various review text about owning a smartphone, signaling my [partial]
assimilation into the Borg hive-mind
Technical inquiry into Goal Zero power-source products in the "Yeti" line,
and the resulting email conversation with their support department
An attempt to get Wikipedia and related sites to NOT insist on encrypted
transport for open public-domain content, after they screwed up their
accessibility by insisting on TLS 1.2 level connections and rejecting
all others from "outdated" clients
A quick helper to zero out most of the "phone home" web destinations in
Firefox releases, preventing probes back to mozilla.org for updates,
extensions, search plugins, and other obnoxious telemetry we don't need
Fixing a hyper-sensitive F1 key on a new laptop, with a tiny paper shim.
Also commentary on NVMe storage, a RANT about Ubuntu release architecture,
and some laptop-innards porn
Do NOT view this if you like solving the daily
Complete pregenerated solution to original
code, in "cal" format, but
with a 10 or more day skew since NYT lobotomized the answers
A contemporary answer to the indoctrination
platitudes we all
get subjected to from an early age, and are often coerced to recite on
The original means nothing these days; we haven't earned that privilege
since about 1942.
And it never should have involved religion
in the first place
Another financial-institution rant, about Fidelity Investments and their
piss-poor handling of the process of getting online and establishing email,
co-trustee and other relationships. Originally on Reddit, then censored by
Fidelity's social-media whitewashing nazis. At least a few people managed
to read it and comment over the weekend before it got trashed
A Christmas morning rant-let about how "e-card" and other supposedly
lighthearted websites sneakily try to track the living crap out of you
Haunted UPS: tracking a phantom power-on problem in a big old APC
The geeky wallpaper page has
been split out to a separate index. Most picture links are unchanged,
and new ones periodically get added
Resuscitation of an unusably dirty U-matic video deck
Got a Tektronix SPG-class sync generator with a flakey power supply
that won't reliably start up? Here's a fix for it [shown in red]
Nobody needs this corporate crap.
Do yourself a huge favor:
and get the fuck off Twitter any way you can NOW.
You can "follow" me right here, where I control my own content.
Assuming, of course, that the hosting provider's infrastructure doesn't
get compromised. These days, that's a bit of a crapshoot.
Image disclaimer: Requests for "original" or non-watermarked material
are denied by policy, no exceptions. Sorry.
3rd party statement: This site is not a public blog, it does not accept
"guest posts" or the like.
If that's all you're after, piss off,
find some other victim.
If you spam us about it, we *will* hunt you down and have your provider
permanently BAN you from their facilities.
I normally read mail at avian.org, should you wish to get in touch,
but if that doesn't work
I'm reachable here at techno-fandom.org too. Use the obvious mapping to
determine either email address,
and please do feel free to contact me about any of the material here!
Can't find something you thought might be here? You're not looking