Thursday, January 30, 2014

Your Back, Let Me Strain It For You

     It was either wrestling with tires -- a mess largely resolved by mid-afternoon yesterday, I'm pleased to say, and I drove the Hot Needle of Inquiry home yesterday evening -- or working on an especially awkward rack of vehicularly-mounted RF equipment, but something has done my back no good at all.

     How awkward?  Lay on your belly.  Do so on a porch or landing such that your calves are hanging in the air.  Okay, now rear up so you can reach over a 7" barrier, and reach into and see into a vertical opening 5.25" high by 18" wide by just about two feet deep. On the far back wall of this space, there is a device with a couple of fine-thread F connectors at top and bottom, parallel to the wall and right up against it.  Okay, here's a 12 mm wrench;* disconnect 'em and barrel them together.  There's a 4-degree-F breeze blowing up your coat, the cables are dressed so tight they can't flex back as you loosen the connectors and the uplink vehicle has been out of service for a week and a half.  No pressure!

     By the end of the day, after that and related gymnastics only slightly less awkward, along with giving a high-precision TCXO time to actually stabilize (far longer than you might expect), the thing was, at least, working.  Lacking the widget I bypassed, it is slightly less convenient to operate (you have to set up the same frequency on two different inputs of the monitoring receiver, one for uplink-monitor out and another for the actual return from the satellite) and this is being put forward as a Major Failing, never you mind that it's $250 L-band RF switch not actually required to make the million-dollar truck do its job.

     Come to think of it, the pain in my back is about half sore or strained muscles and half sheer annoyance at being expected to excrete a specific component or make Radio Shack start carrying it in a blister pack for $1.298.  Umm, make that three-quarters real, one-quarter mental.  No, seven-eighths real.

     Aw, to heck with it.  I'm gonna go soak in the tub.  There's a mandatory staff meeting today, probably to tell us how wonderful we all are except for not being wish-granting rainbow unicorns and then announce pay cuts.  I can't hardly wait.
* Every male F connector in the universe is 7/16" across the flats.  All of them.  Always.  ...Except for the (very high-quality) ones made by Canare.  This works fine if you were expecting it, rather than finding it out after you have got yourself into a position only a contortionist could love and have dropped your very own personal 7/16" wrench into a space you cannot see into and are fishing around for it blindly, hoping the people who built the truck were considerate enough to not put any exposed 120 VAC or high-current 12 VDC back there where you're groping.  Since I am neither dead not burned, you may assume either they were or I was lucky.


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I used to work on automotive HVAC systems, and spent a lot of time contorted in odd postures to work up in the footwell and under the dashboard.

BGMiller said...

How often do you encounter the Canare connectors? I'm just wondering if it would worth the time to and money to buy a 7/16 and a 12mm, run them through a band saw, and weld the cut ends together. No matter what connector you find you'd have the proper wrench and it could be whatever length works best for you to get back into the void.

Just a thought.


rickn8or said...

You're making me all nostalgic for my airplane fixing days.

Dave in Indiana said...

Sounds like the fun I had back in the early 80's when I had a modified CB and piggy backed kickers... and skip was coming in from Australia....and the winds were a howlin' here. The moonraker was catching so much wind the brake on the rotor was slipping. I had to go out & climb the tower and clamp vice grips of the mast pipe in negative teens windchill to keep the beam locked in place a few times. Good times.

Roberta X said...

BGM: Don't tempt me! So far, the Canares have been pretty rare; we use T&B "Snap&Seal" Fs in (nearly) any work we do. This was part of an outsourced systems integration. The S&S types make a good seal, they're fast to use and the price isn't bad. Not terribly lossy through L-band, either.

rremington said...


Try the Thermacare heat wraps. They really help keep the low back warm and loose.

Anonymous said...

My back started to hurt just reading that.

I use a spray called FreezeIt. It also comes in gel form. Good for temporary relief (especially at bedtime). Main ingredients are camphor and menthol. Seems like modern medicine still hasn't found anything better than what was in GreatGreatGrandmother's cabinet.


BGMiller said...

So would a shorter wrench (6 inches) work better for tight spaces or would you go for something 8" or 10" to get more torque?

Standard open end wrench or a flare nut head such as used for hydraulic lines?


Roberta X said...

I'm going to try the various siggstions for back relief!

BGM: Standard open-end types are what work for most of this; anything fancier tends to get fouled in the wiring.