All posts for the month June, 2015

Casualties. Upper left: cable modem; Upper right: receiver logic board for garage door opener; Left center: Roku 3; Right center: Powerline adapter; Bottom: answ. machine/phones; Belly-up: Denon AV receiver.

We’ve recovered from the lightning strike/EMP, and it’s not as bad as it could have been.

All the computers came through unscathed. I sure wouldn’t have predicted that, even though they all had surge protection.

A $17 replacement Powerline adapter from eBay restored internet/home network access to the media room, after getting by one little hitch:

When I first plugged in the replacement, I confirmed that it was functioning from the router side, but it didn’t register on the media room’s gigabit switch. I plugged it into a different port on the switch, and the port lit up! Evidently just one port was blown without killing the rest of the switch. So I now have a 4-port rather than a 5-port switch.

Re the Wii and the DVD recorder, I thought they might both be dead, since I saw no video output from them. (They both had surge protection.) But they had in common that they were plugged into the COMPONENT1 and COMPONENT2 video jacks on the plasma TV. Component is high quality video like HDMI, but obsolete as a standard for new AV equipment.

Both devices are also capable of outputting the lesser quality composite video (yellow video plug, red & white audio plugs), and they worked perfectly that way. So it appeared that the TV’s component inputs might be blown. To test my theory, I plugged a working DVD/VCR combo with component video output into each of the TV’s component inputs. Blackness. So now I have a plasma TV with HDMI, composite and S-video, but no component video inputs. (A year or two ago, I added HDMI inputs with an HDMI switch.)

(I looked at the TV’s service manual online. The likely point of failure is the Sanyo IC3001 chip. It is the main audio/video switching processor, with 100 pins, too sensitive to try to replace. Numerous brands of TV have this chip, and it has a history of damage from static discharge. Since the lightning strike was the mother of all discharges, we got off pretty light.)

The DVD recorder doesn’t have much to record these days, though I could record Netflix streaming with it if desired. I do all my broadcast TV recording with Windows Media Center, and my wife does hers with the TiVo Roamio OTA. But the DVD recorder has digital optical audio output, so it can serve as a high quality CD player as well as an alternate DVD player.

I’ll miss playing the Wii in 480p resolution on the big TV, but c’est la wii. Maybe someday I’ll acquire the Wii U, which is backward compatible, but no rush.

My aforementioned friend Tim previously gave me one of his estate sale finds, a video switch that selects one of four composite/component/S-video inputs, either manually or automatically. I will now be able to put it to work. I have an S-video output from the DVD recorder. (S-video is higher quality than composite.) Composite inputs: a VCR, a karaoke box, and a Wii. The DVD recorder will plug directly into VIDEO1 on the TV to take advantage of its S-video input, and the rest will be attached to this switch and routed to VIDEO2. Perfect. Thanks, Tim.

The duplicate of my blown Denon 2802 AV receiver (which also had been surge protected) arrived yesterday via eBay, and in mint condition as advertised.

I’m sure glad I labelled all the cords with our Brother P-touch label maker. When working on wiring behind the TV, I sweat like Barney, the “Mission: Impossible” electronics expert, strike poses like a Tai Chi adherent, and squint like a miner in the inadequate light.

I hope this was a once in a lifetime experience.

(PS: Tim is reducing his stock of wireless estate sale phones, so we are again the beneficiaries. He gave us a couple of Uniden phones and a Radio Shack standalone answering machine for the kitchen. Thanks again, Tim!)

(PPS: I later discovered one more expensive casualty: the Sony SA-WM40 powered subwoofer. The speaker itself was OK, but the amplifier board was dead. Video Revolution wanted almost as much to fix it as the original cost in 2002 ($250 at Ultimate Electronics), so I let them keep it and bought a BIC America F-12 for $199 online. It is definitely a big improvement.)

Courtesy of the Admiral Twin Drive-in

Saturday pm at the Admiral Twin (photo courtesy of the Twin)

In the previous post, Lightning-pocalypse Saturday, I detailed the damage done to our electronics by a nearby lightning strike. There was a lot of carnage. Post-triage, here are my actions:

Dead cable modem: With no internet service other than my wife’s iPhone, I wondered where to go in Tulsa for a used cable modem. Then I thought of my friend Tim, whose hobby is hitting estate sales for electronics. He loaned me a couple of cable modems to try. I started with a 2001 vintage Motorola. As previously with the Linksys modem, I called Cox tech support, and they were helpful as always. The rep asked for the hardware address and serial number (found on the bottom of the device), registered them, and activated the modem from his side. It was even easier than the last time. The biggest immediate problem was solved Saturday afternoon.

Phone service: We use an an Ooma Telo (internet phone), so we lost the phones when the cable modem went out. I only had to reboot the Ooma device to restore service once the new cable modem was in. It worked, except the wireless phones showed a “line in use” message even after hanging up. When I hung up then tried to get a dial tone again, I got the phone-off-the-hook-somewhere beeps. I got out my 1980s plain, no-power phone. It worked perfectly with Ooma. I isolated the problem to an injured answering machine-base phone/remote phone set. Once it was removed, all was well. We still have three working phones.

Maimed AV (Audio/Video) Receiver: Our 2002 Denon receiver still responds to remote control, but there is no sound. My research suggests that the Digital Signal Processor is the likely culprit, but replacement parts aren’t available. My speakers still work with another amp, so looks like the receiver is toast. A used receiver from eBay is the way to go here. I found an exact replacement in mint condition for $150 total. But there are many other and newer choices available that could be cheaper, possibly by as much as $50 or more. However, receivers haven’t evolved that much since 2002, except in the useless features department. They are still complex and still have thick opaque manuals. (This CNET article crystallized my thinking on the subject: How to save the AV Receiver). Buying a different model would necessitate my researching each one to make sure it can do everything I need it to do before bidding on it. I can’t save enough $$ there to make it worth all the trouble (including a complex and different setup, and redoing every function on the Harmony remote), so I ordered the mint Denon duplicate on Sunday.

Maimed garage door opener: Appears the motor is toast, though the light still works. I’m not a handyman, so I called Overhead Door Monday. (Fixed on Tuesday; the Receiver Logic Board was fried, not the motor, which makes more sense in retrospect. Same day, happened to receive in the mail one of those Val-Pak coupons for $20 off service, so there is that.)

Dead Powerline adapter in the media room: Getting internet (and local network access) in that room depends on a Powerline adapter talking over the AC house wiring to its counterpart attached to the router, which is attached to the cable modem. The dead adapter also prevented me from remotely accessing the Windows PC in there (I had gotten rid of its bulky CRT monitor). From eBay, I ordered a pair of refurbished Netgear XAVB2101 adapters for $34. Should be here by Thursday.

Dead Roku 3: It wouldn’t power up. I still had a Roku LT, so it went back into service. But it won’t have anything to do until the receiver is replaced.

Maimed DVD recorder and Wii: Appears neither has video output. The DVD recorder isn’t really needed, since I now record shows with Windows Media Center. I had hacked the Wii and added an external hard drive for all its files and games. If it really is dead, I might buy a used one and set it up to use the hard drive. No rush. (They were still usable; see next post.)

X10 Module: Allows remote control of one of those Himalayan salt lamps in the Tiki room. (It looks like a molten lava rock when lit.) It’s plugged into an X10 Lamp Module so it can be turned on/off along with the rest of the lighting in there.) I assumed the module was the weak link. But two different modules didn’t turn it on, so I took the lamp apart and found the light bulb dead. Replaced the bulb, back in service.

That’s all I can do for now, other than label all the cords that plug into the receiver for easy switchover to the duplicate receiver (Done.) The den setup with TV, TiVo, and Roku will get us by until the replacements arrive.

This is all so weird that I am leaning more to the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) explanation, where current is induced in the components by radiated energy, rather than a surge from a direct hit on the power grid. A Facebook reader suggested calling PSO and Cox to check. I sent them both an email. I’ll post any interesting results. (Postscript: they both claimed no knowledge of any outage; CNK, as Southwestern Bell customer service reps used to abbreviate it.)

Regardless of the state of your home electronics, another way to get your movie entertainment this summer is the Admiral Twin Drive-In (see the photo at top). Read more about its history on this TTM page.

One Strong, One Weak Lightning
(Tulsa lightning photo by David Russell on Flickr)

Around 5 am yesterday, we were awakened by the rumbling of an overdue thunderstorm. Within a few minutes, a tremendous light-sound explosion jolted us (psychologically, not electrically). My 1984 vintage clock radio came on by itself. The off button didn’t work. After I unplugged and replugged, it worked normally.

My wife decided to calm down by watching the 1989 tube TV in our bedroom. The color was way off, a downward-pointing V-shape of purple over a field of green, overlaid on the picture. I later verified that the TV was the culprit, not the Apex digital tuner, since it looked the same with the Roku box as input.

Pretty odd that a 31-year-old radio could need a reboot. I thought one that old either worked or not. And it looked as though the TV needed a degaussing to demagnetize the tube. The picture was a bit fuzzy before (I had planned to replace it soon), but it didn’t have a color problem.

Next, when I flipped the light switch in the bathroom, there was an audible pop like a static discharge. The light did come on normally.

That got me worried about the computers, even though all the media room devices were on a power strip with surge protection for both AC power and the cable input. Likewise, the office/computer room devices were all on surge protection.

Had a power surge toasted them? No, three Windows PCs appeared to be undisturbed. I figured the Raspberry Pi would be fried (ha ha), since it has been sensitive to power interruptions in the past. No, all its lights were still on.

I next tried to remotely log into the monitor-less media room Windows PC. I failed due to a toasted Powerline adapter, which normally brings network access to the media room via house AC wiring. It was feebly blinking and wouldn’t reset. It was not surge protected, as it needs to be plugged directly into the AC socket.

First significant casualty: the 2002 Denon media room receiver. The on/off switch did nothing. After an unplug/replug, it appeared normal and responded to the remote, but there was no sound whatever. This, despite surge protection. Later in the day, I reset its microprocessor, but still no sound, and when it scanned for FM stations, it found none with its previously adequate short wire antenna. Not promising. Later, I tested the speakers, and they were OK.

The 65″ plasma TV appeared fine (whew) as did the Blu-ray and a VCR, Not so the DVD recorder, which had no video, despite LEDs and remote control still working. The Wii also lacked video output. The VCR was able to play tapes and display video from the few remaining Cox Cable analog channels. (The analog Cox channels are going away entirely in August.)

Everything in the den still worked, a minor cause for celebration because the boss, er, my wife, gets edgy when her TV domain is not up to par. That includes a TV, the TiVo, the Roku, and another Powerline network adapter, which still worked, unlike its stricken compadre in the media room. I was able to stream shows into the den from our PCs via the Plex and Emby channels on Roku. (Oddly enough, these devices were NOT surge protected, though they soon will be.)

But I wasn’t able to stream from the internet to the den, because in the office, the Linksys modem was dark, though the separate Linksys router was still working. The modem wouldn’t boot up even with a different power module. Ugh. My first priority would be to replace it. Also, there was no home phone service, since our Ooma Telo is internet-based.

Miscellaneous damage: an X10 lamp module, a Roku 3 in the media room, and as I learned later, a wireless phone/answering machine. Also, the garage door opener motor!

Finally, a microwave and the oven were the lone devices in the house to lose their time setting.


OK, it wasn’t really this bad.

Was it an electrical surge conducted through the wiring, or more exotically, a burst of electromagnetic radiation inducing current in the devices, or both? I may never know. Lightning is freakish.

But the results were nuclear, despite surge protection. This is the first time I’ve lost electronics from a lightning strike.

I’ll talk about what I was able to recover during the day (quite a bit) in the next post.

Albert the surf cat

Albert, as seen from above the Laz-E-Boy


Albert, our neighbor’s cat, decided to cool off on my Laz-E-Boy chair in our media room today.

The ceiling fan was on, as was “Echoes of Nature: Ocean Waves”, an environmental recording on CD I had ripped to my laptop Windows 7 PC.

I used the Raspberry Pi computer running free PleXBMC software to pipe it in from the PC, in 6-channel stereo. I also put the album on continuous play.

He really seems to appreciate it.