From the Archives: Audio cassettes, a computer power supply, and a pair of cheap earbuds [2012-08-11]

Instead of updating this so that I’m speaking in the present, I’ve decided to keep the text as it was when I sent this email. Read this post as if it were 2012-08-11.

Audio cassettes

Audio cassettes. (Attr: Malcolm Tyrrell)

Recently, I’ve been longing to put some of the songs that I have which are only available to me on an audio tape. I decided to take my friend’s suggestion and digitize them using Audacity on Lyman. The reason for choosing this computer over my other ones is that it has a decent sound card: a First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy sound card with a break-out box.

A First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy break-out box

A First-generation Creative Sound Blaster Audigy break-out box (Attr: Caroline Ford)

I don’t use that computer much, partly because it’s not connected to a network, but mostly because it was slow. It used to run Windows XP and it was really dragging to use (I stress dragging). Now it runs openSUSE 11.0 and it’s still slow if you run KDE. Since it’s v11.0 and LXDE wasn’t included, I decided to work under IceWM. I used to hesitate using it, but now that I’ve migrated to Linux, I have no problems with it.

Unfortunately, when I went to turn on the switch to the power supply, the switch piece popped off. The inside of this toggle switch had two spring contacts and I had lost one. To repair it, I had originally intended to solder wires to the contacts to permanently close the circuit, but the space was too small for the soldering iron to fit. After attempting to melt the plastic, I pried the switch out. Not getting out far enough, I opened the power box to see how it was connected (this is something they say you should never do, but as long as you don’t attempt to open any capacitors, you should be fine). Before I did anything irreversible to the switch, I spotted the lost spring contact. I reassembled the switch and glued it in place with a hot glue gun.
It worked.

The power supply switch on Lyman hot-glued in place.

The power supply switch hot-glued in place.

So, I have successfully ripped two tapes (the audio, not the tape themselves) and I may do more. But one problem: the earbuds that I was using “snapped” near the jack (no sound at all; I know, why use cheap earbuds when doing these kinds of things?). When your cheap earbuds snap near the jack, you’re better off buying new ones. I wasn’t sure when (and if) I would bother getting a pair, so I wanted to try to repair it myself.

After painstakingly melting plastic, stripping wires, burning wire tips to get the paint off, soldering, and glue-gunning in place (I had no shrink-wrap and I wasn’t about to get some for this cheap project), I have only managed to get the right channel working. I’m not giving up quite yet. I’m going to try to solder wires with actual insulation to the connector and solder the earbud wires to those.

I think I’ll stick to software.

My friend ended up giving me a pair that he never used, and I’ve ripped a few more tapes since then.


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