Introducing: This American Pinball Podcast

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Last weekend I learned of a new Pinball Podcast - This American Pinball. The host is a super-thoughtful guy, fun pinball player and collector with a ton of professional experience to give the podcast a professional polish and direction. Looking forward to more episodes!

Just in time for Halloween, check out horror stories from pinball collectors:

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mistory/this-american-pinball?refid=stpr.

Centipede’s G07

“What’s the Diagnosis Doc?”

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Last week, Centipede decided to jump line in the repair queue with a monitor problem.

Monitor dark, game was playing blind and no neck glow. It had been playing fine the day before and hasn’t shown any warm-up quirks leading up to the failure.

My gut reaction was - flyback.

Before ordering parts, I consulted this handy troubleshooting workflow chart:

https://flic.kr/p/cLbnA7
(first google result for g07 troubleshooting chart)

 
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The fuse at 901 was indeed blown and you can see a slight crack in the flyback. I’m surprised it wasn’t arcing. If it was a Hantarex it would have arc’d… :)

The Fix

I ordered parts from https://www.arcadepartsandrepair.com/ (the first time I’ve used this particular site) Prices were average, shipping was fast and the order was correct.

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Not a fan of axial-lead fuses, so I added board-mount fuse holders when I replaced the fuse.

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The new flyback proudly boasts its Chinese origin. Hopefully it’ll hold up? The transformer adjacent to it at T-503 looks pretty crusty but works and those aren’t made anymore, so I’m leaving it.

Time to Test it Out

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Quick test showed neck glow was back. I made a few small adjustments and we were back in business.

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I let the game “burn-in test” for a couple of hours and so far-so good. Fingers crossed it stays working so I can move on to other regularly scheduled projects in progress!

A Look at the Books: Merch Sales this Summer

Backstory

For a couple years, usually adjacent to shows I often get feedback for:

“Wouldn’t it be cool if our pinball-arcade group had shirts to wear to the show?”

One year, I engaged a friend / local collector who was in the shirt biz. The good news is, it was nice supporting a friend and his wife’s side-gig and the shirts turned out great. The downside is, it puts me “in the middle” in some unfulfilling combination of personal shopper, transaction guarantor, tailor and delivery-boy. Yuck.

This year, I decided to try to use some available online-services to meet this need. I set up a couple designs with a print-on-demand service, tied in to a shopping cart on the blog and made it live. Took maybe a day or so, in all. Nothing major.

Yada yada, [trolling]… yada yada..

Look, I normally don’t engage with trolls and I’m pretty good at ignoring negative crap from keyboard-commandos. I don’t want to break my streak and answer this, per se but call it a catalyst for this post that hopefully other hobbyist bloggers might fight insightful or at least entertaining. One of my favorite podcast networks, Bald Move, does this thing they call “Empire Business” where they divulge all of the nitty-gritty financials to their supporters. This is going to be sort of like that.. Remember Catalyst, not Troll Engagement! anyway….

Today, I found this little gem in my inbox:

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I laughed (loudly) when I read this. Laughter provides a dopamine release that generates more happiness. This actually improved my mood, somehow - so thanks for that.

Putting spell check, toxic trolling, mental illness or whatever aside for a sec.. Looking back, when I did post the Merch link, I did post in our local Arcade & Pinball Facebook Group (that I helped to co-found) some throwaway line that “… and the profits… if there are any…. whatever, we’ll do something good with that”

.. and what I meant by that, was that I’d donate them to a good cause or try to do something positive in the community, hobby: generic social good with whatever pennies were left over.

Platforms

SquareSpace

This site is hosted on Squarespace. True, I have web-development experience dating back to my teenager years and while I could certainly build up a site / blog or roll my own Wordpress or similar - these days - why would you? Going with a provider like Squarespace gives me a solid content-management system with nice content-creation tools in native apps for IOS and Android. It also gives me a nice selection of highly customizable included templates that have mobile-friendly, responsive designs.
.. and it keeps my hobby from taking on aspects of my day job. For $10/mo that’s a no-brainer, friends.

Not for nothing, Squarespace also provides a robust analytics platform that can be pretty informative. Not that I pay it much attention. This is a passion / hobby project and creative outlet for me. (full stop)

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So, my Merch experiment was based on Squarespace, Shopify and Printful. There are certainly cheaper ways to go about setting up a shopping cart but they come with tradeoffs in inventory management, up-front expense or up-front time expenditure.
Shopify Monthly Recurring Charges

Shopify

Shopify provides a shopping cart platform. This is inventory management, order fulfillment and secure credit card processing.

June Hosting Invoice - $29.00
July Hosting Invoice - $29.00
August Hosting Invoice - $29.00

Printful

Printful is a really cool print-on-demand service. Your art, their products. They are secure, have a nice selection high quality products, an easy-to-use online interface for product branding & design.

Printful makes their money on the transaction. So, a $15.50 shirt would cost you about $17.80 shipped. Once you order it, Printful charges My American Express for your order. Once it is fulfilled, your payment minus their cut gets deposited back into my account. In this case, $1.95.


Other Platforms

I also use AWS for DNS, large file storage, CDN features. Not including any of that in this particular post, though since it doesn’t particularly pertain to my Merch Store experiment.

YTD Merch Sales

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$183.09 were my total Sales in 2019. Don’t get too excited, though… $113.90 of that was me buying shirts from my own store. A couple for myself and a couple to give away at events, etc.

Bottom Line

Total Sales Revenue ……..$183.09
Less Inventory Buy ………$113.90
Less Production ………….$58.62
Less Shopping Cart ……..$87.00
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Total Profits ………….. $(76.43)

Final Thoughts

Again..

Don’t feed the trolls

I don’t want to address the specific, ridiculous claims in the email above but it was a Catalyst and a reminder that I’d been meaning to express an open-door policy with respect to those financials. I took the store down last month (unrelated to this emailer, obviously) to keep my hosting fees in check but I definitely intend on doing it again in the future to make it easy for my friends in the hobby to get show-shirts, etc. Because… this is all for fun, folks. If you aren’t having fun - do something else. :)

Mo’ Retro!

I’ve been a little quiet here for a few weeks with a busy schedule of life-related things. However.. you might have noticed a new menu item on the site. I shut down the “merch” link for now, since it cost me nearly $50/mo to run and added something a little different.. I’ve been exploring some “other retro” things that are nerd-adjacent, although not entirely related to arcades and pinballs.

BBS

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First of them, is the BBS. I spent some time trying to revive my old OBLiViON/2 BBS, “The Graveyard” (of course it was the graveyard, because.. I was 14) but I haven’t had a ton of luck finding it on my archives and backups.

So, I’ve been going down a route of building up a “new” BBS using a modern Node.Js BBS Platform called Enigma. Time will tell if this was a good decision or not but I’m pretty familiar with Node and this gives me the ability to host the BBS on a super-inexpensive instance on AWS. Note: I tried to use an Azure Windows instance for this but Azure doesn’t support 32 bit or earlier OS’s without a bunch of flaming hoops.

 

Over Labor Day weekend I was able to get some inter-BBS door games running via BBS Link

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My current challenge is trying to get a few local-doors set up so we can have control over game-resets and don’t have to join a game so far along in progress. I’m making progress on that front…. Hopefully this week I can get my licensed BRE running on the instance…

Getting DOS running on Linux is like herding cats.

Getting DOS running on Linux is like herding cats.

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More details on this to come…

Multi-Cartridges w/ Everdrive

In other news… I’ve been playing with some multi-carts from Krikzz, as well. More details to follow… but my initial impression is: “I’m having a great time with it.”

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This has been part of a larger “project” where I’ve hooked up the NES, N64, Gamecube, Genesis & DreamCast to a 19” Television for a retro-gaming trip down memory lane. Sadly, my Atari 2600 needs some repair but I’ll get there..

Fire Marshall Bill

Gameroom lighting… What to do?

I went down a path of using a 12V switching power supply, LED Controllers and cut-to-length LED strips to provide a flexible lighting solution in my gameroom. The overhead work-lights are great for working on games but are not dimmable and have the ambiance of a automotive chop-shop in the shady part of town.

The LED strips have been pretty cool in that they can react to music, have flexible color options, were relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Unfortunately, they are also a fire hazard.

These are the LED Controllers that I’ve been using: LED Controller Link on Amazon

This is the power supply that I’ve been using: 12V Power Supply on Amazon

I’ve had two failure out of these LED Controllers in about 9 months.

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Unfortunately, this last failure wasn’t restricted to just a puff a magic smoke being released and the corresponding LED strips going dark. This time, the internal short on the 12 volt side of the LED controller essentially turned the 16 gauge wires that ran to the power supply into a 3-foot long heater strip. The jacketing on the cabling melted, smoke rolling off of it like burgers on a grill that have been left on for too long.

The thing is, I put a perfectly capable 12 volt power supply on these and I undersized each run with only about 7-8 foot of LED on each one. 16 AWG wire is better than spec for this purpose. It is simply a matter of sketchy design on the LED controller itself. It should not be able to weld-itself closed circuit. Full Stop.