Paper Shredder Repair

Now is probably a good time to mention that I have a paper shredder. When I was shopping for a shredder, the basic requirement is that it must be relatively “secure”. Straight cut shredders (that produce long straight strips) are definitely not secure.

Ultimately I settled on the CARL DS-3000 personal paper shredder. The DS-3000 is a cross-cut shredder which produces “particles” no larger than 2mm x 4.5mm and this meets DIN security level 4. These days, the NSA mandates 1mm x 5mm “particles” for classified documents.

At this point, it’s probably helpful to show you what my shredder bin looks like:

shredder confetti

From the particles, you can make out various truncated words such as “A/C”, “exp” and the number “5”, but it’s almost impossible to reconstruct any bank balances or personal information from it.

This particular model was the right balance between my budget and the level of security. Plus, the shredder is compact enough to sit on your desk. I bought it in 2009 and I use it every couple of months when I have accumulated enough material that needs to be destroyed.

I was in the middle of shredding papers when it suddenly stopped working. Now the shredder does not respond when I stick paper into its slot. The LED indicator looks dimmer than usual when it is turned on.

But I’m not ready to give up on it just yet…

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CY-20 Cheap Flash Teardown

Following up on my DIY slave flash project, I thought I’d get something more powerful than that tiny Xenon bulb. I bought the cheapest flash on DX.com – the CY-20. It has a considerably large bulb and as a plus, it has what looks like a tiny window on the front for automatic output control. The main reason for getting this was the 2.5mm jack on the back of the flash that allows it to be externally triggered.

retaining clips on the CY-20

Opening it was easy. Remove the 4 screws that secure the hotshoe mount and go round the casing to release the retaining clips. Surprise surprise, take a look at the sensing window.

CY-20 open, showing the decorative

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Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter

Recently, Panic noticed the odd output resolution and MPEG-like artifacts with the new Lightning digital AV adapter and decided to take a hacksaw to it. They found an ARM processor inside.

Lightning digital AV adapter

image credit: Panic blog

Shortly after, they received an anonymous comment that explains it all:

The reason why this adapter exists is because Lightning is simply not capable of streaming a “raw” HDMI signal across the cable. Lightning is a serial bus. There is no clever wire multiplexing involved. […] We did this to specifically shift the complexity of the “adapter” bit into the adapter itself, leaving the host hardware free of any concerns in regards to what was hanging off the other end of the Lightning cable.

This system essentially allows us to output to any device on the planet, irregardless of the endpoint bus (HDMI, DisplayPort, and any future inventions) by simply producing the relevant adapter that plugs into the Lightning port. Since the iOS device doesn’t care about the hardware hanging off the other end, you don’t need a new iPad or iPhone when a new A/V connector hits the market.

While I understand what they are trying to achieve, I think it’s sad that this new Lightning system can no longer carry the uncompressed HDMI output. Maybe they could have streamed the raw video output in a format close to what HDMI expects, then have the adapter add headers and trailers to the data, but that would still be tricky since the system needs to stop sending frames while the adapter is doing its work. And what about HDCP?

Just one of the many tradeoffs that engineers need to make.

Dissecting the SoundGraph iMON MM

Correction: The device is actually an iMON Multi-Median (MM), which includes an IR receiver and a remote control.

My friend recently passed me a brand new unopened SoundGraph iMON IR receiver device. Here’s how it looks like:

As you can see from the box, it supports up till Windows XP. If you’re thinking how the terms “Windows XP” and “brand new unopened” go together, it’s because he’s kept it for 4 years.

The receiver is quite interesting, it’s a transparent orb with the usual IR filter at the front. I can’t help but notice the PCB looks like it only has a few components in it. And you know what Dave from the EEVBlog always says: “don’t turn it on, take it apart!”

Unsurprisingly, it uses a Cypress Semiconductor CY7C63221A for USB communication. Cypress Semiconductor is quite well-known for manufacturing single ICs which combine a USB transceiver and microcontroller to lower component count. You can find their chips in some keyboards and maybe mice as well. The CY7C63221A is already obsolete, but luckily Octopart still has a cached copy of the datasheet.

In the middle is the IR receiver, which is a 3-terminal device that (I assume) decodes 36-38 kHz modulated IR signals and outputs the de-modulated signal.

So it looks like I won’t be able to tell how it communicates just by looking at the chip, but at least it’s supported by LIRC. I’ll probably hook it up and try it out when I have time.