Thursday, August 7, 2008

Insignia NS-C5112 Wiring Harness


I couldn't resist snapping up a couple of Insignia HD Radio's recently from EBay at a bargain price. A lot of these units don't come with a wiring harness, so here is a workaround for those who need a harness. Note that the four (4) additional audio connectors are pre-amp output, presumably for a power amplifier.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Creative Zen Problems

Even though Creative Zen [MP3 Player] units tend to produce good quality sound, some of their design and marketing strategies leave much to be desired.
The Zen V suffers serious lockups when uploading a large number of files. Most Zen units cannot display embedded images (Album Art) within mp3 files.
The idea behind sealing the rechargeable lithium battery is a nickel and dime tactic, as is the policy of only allowing the battery to be charged with the data lines active, so they can sell an over-priced charger. Actually, you can use any USB charger in conjunction with most non-powered hubs to activate the data lines for charging!
Their service and postal charges agitate me (totally free with Sansa), so they've lost me as a customer!

On a lighter side, here's some Dave Allen clips...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Digital Radio

I seem to have the bug, having discovered how great HD radio is. I was apprehensive at first, mainly because most HD radio’s cost between $200 and $300. However, a search of ebay revealed a number of low cost units. I was initially surprised to discover that bidding on most of these ready to use items went to a level that I thought was rather expensive, but I found an alternative.
While scanning for units, I noticed a number of HD Radio Component Car Tuner Kits for sale. These units are essentially an add-on for existing car radio’s. I figured that so long as I could provide the 12-volts input power, and the output stereo, I could basically make up my own system.
I placed a bid for a couple of Visteon HDZ300 units and won both of them for $10 and $25. The lower cost unit was missing some cables and remote, which was not a problem as I made my own connections. One of the neat features of this add-on unit is that one has the option of using either a line-in for the audio or an FM modulator to send a signal to an in-dash radio receiver.
One of the units has been placed in the Low Cost Entertainment Control unit I mentioned earlier in this journal. I placed a spare transformer and the component tuner box inside the unit, and added a diode to the 12-volt transformer to yield 12.6-volts instead of 13.5-volts which I considered to be a bit high.
I hooked up the RCA cables from the component tuner box to an existing outlet on the Entertainment unit and an outlet lead for the aerial. The controller with its digital display was mounted on the front of the unit, using velcro after making a hole for the interface cable. The Entertainment unit's RCA outlet was then connected to an external audio/video switch box, that feeds the signals to a wall TV, and the audio to an amplifier.
The sound I get is awesome, and I can scan for both analog and digital signals on both AM and FM. Stations using the HD radio technology often multicast a number of channels so you can receive several alternative genres or programs.
The Visteon radio canseek (scan) both conventional signals or just HD signals. The remote is convenient while relaxing.
If I kept my old Chevy, it would be a great replacement for the large radio/cassette player installed in many GM cars that have a very narrow depth. One could easily make up a face plate, add an HD Radio kit, a 12-volt amplifier, also available on ebay, and a dedicated socket for an MP3 player.

Friday, February 22, 2008


This entry is political this time because I’m quite concerned that the present Federal government is wasting so much money that it goes beyond inefficiency. The latest is the really dumb idea that throwing money back at taxpayers is going to get us out of an impending recession. How will spending this money on a few extra gallons of imported gasoline and goods going to help in the long run? It’s not, and so I’m voicing my opinion.

I reckon that if the Fed’s spent $150 billion on development assistance to create fuel cell plants, alternative energy jobs, the country will be much better prepared for the next economic downturn.

If you examine how downturns seem to happen, one thing you’ll notice is that every 10 years we get into a lull. The next lull will likely occur in the next year or so and with the property market being so severe, it will probably, at it’s worst, trigger a depression.

During the last great depression, the Fed instituted massive changes, including construction and reconstruction programs to provide employment.

Instead of waiting for the potential of bad times, why not implement such programs now, because becoming independent on energy would be a wise investment anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An MP3 Player for the Car


I recently purchased an integrated MP3 Player/FM Modulator for a car. This unit is very convenient! – no battery to charge, wires to hook up and switches to turn on, you simply plug the device into a cigarette lighter connector in the car and listen via the radio.

While you can control the frequency, playback, and volume on the unit, it also comes with a small remote making adjustments much easier. It’s designed to use an SD card or USB memory stick containing MP3 and WMA audio files. A line-in jack is also included.

I use the device with 1G or 2G SD cards which creates a lower profile, although all three inputs can be connected simultaneously. In such cases, line-in takes priority followed by SD and then the USB memory stick.

I haven’t experienced much frequency overlap, but changing the frequency is quite easy. You can scroll up and down or press, say, '9' '8' '5' and "Ch Set" which switches the channel to 98.5 MHz. The FM frequency ranges from 87.5 MHz to 108.0 MHz in 0.1 MHz steps.

Pressing the EQ key on the remote rotates playback conditions of ROCK, POP, JAZZ, CLASSIC and NORMAL. Pressing say '1' '2' '5' the device followed by the "Pick Song" key plays track #125.

The backlit monochrome LCD display has two lines. The top line shows the FM frequency, logo for the input device and the track time counting up. The lower line shows only the song title.

On the downside I’ve found that when powering off and on, the device remembers the track number and plays from the beginning of the track. This can be a problem when playing books on tape or long audio files. Even though the unit doesn’t have a shuffle mode (it plays in a directory ordered manner), I found a Windows utility called ‘Reorganize’ which can order the files alphabetically (up or down) as well as randomly.

The player seems to have some difficulty with foreign language characters, which is not an issue for me. The stereo sound quality is very good,and quite clear.

I purchased the unit for under $10 from ebay, and the reason may be that it could be an early version as similar units are more expensive, $20 and up, yet with more features.

Low Cost Entertainment Control

It’s amazing how much energy vampire electronics can consume. A DVD player powered on while playing a DVD can draw about 12 watts and half that when turned off and still plugged in. A computer on standby takes about 65 Watts.

As I have several entertainment systems, including a laptop, plugged in all year the cost can be over $100 (power modules for laptops are notoriously inefficient as are most transformer-less power supplies). Buying a control center can be very expensive, so I decided to convert an old entertainment system as a power center. Someone gave me an old TV satellite control unit to which I stripped out all of the inside parts, yielding some useful components to stash in my parts draw. On the back, I cut out some slots to place six power sockets. On the front I mounted four switches, one to power the entertainment systems, one to power the laptop, one to power a transformer to switch on a hurricane lamp fitted with LED’s and one to power a 5-volt transformer to energize a USB socket. The USB socket only has the power lines connected and together with a headphone socket mounted on the front I can plug in an MP3 stick player.

The transformers are mounted internally and on the back I placed appropriate connectors for the lamp as well as audio sockets for the MP3 connection to a power amplifier.

So now I can control several devices with the flick of a switch.

Post Note: I've also added an HD radio to this.