Rate the Day

I read a blog post the other day which made a simple diary suggestion:
write one sentence about each day. You will be surprised to see how it
adds up.

I'm not sure I can keep to one sentence, though. In keeping with the
short & simple goal, here's a haiku.

Slow day ambulance
Comfy couch, good Internet
Beth called misses me

(sent from my iPhone)

How to hack an AUX input into a Delco tape deck for $10

I’ve searched high and low for this information, and I couldn’t find it online. After I figured it out myself, I thought I should share. A recent annoyance with our cars has been the lack of AUX-in jacks for my iPod/iPhone. I’ve experimented with RF modulators, and I hate them. None of the ones I’ve tried perform as well as I think they should.

So the goal was to have a headphone-style input jack in each car. I don’t care about controlling the iPod or charging it, just getting the sound into the radio. Last month I did the conversion on the C240; it was already well documented on the internet.

The donor GMC is a 2004 with CD and tape deck. It does not have satellite or changer controls. (There are products on the market which will fully integrate an iPod with a radio which has changer controls. They cost a lot more than the $10 I spent.) In the 5 years I’ve had the truck, I’ve never put a cassette in the tape deck, so I figured that would be a good place to start. As it turns out, I can keep the tape deck functionality as well.

Tools/equipment required:
7mm socket and ratchet
5mm socket
soldering iron and supplies
shrink tubing
assorted drills
Radio Shack #274-246 1/8″ Stereo Phone Jack
1/8″ to 1/8″ stereo patch cord

Before we go any further, I have to do the disclaimers: This worked for me, but I make no guarantees. Make these modifications at your own risk. If you are comfortable installing a car stereo or a set of fog lamps, you should be able to do this hack. If you fry your radio, your iPod, or your car, I take no responsibility.

If you’re OK with the risks, read on.

Here’s my radio:
(Ooh, look at those fingerprints! I really need to detail the poor truck.)

Start by disconnecting the ground terminal on the battery. This helps keep you from frying things or blowing fuses.

Remove the dash panel surrounding the radio, A/C, and speedometer. This should just snap off.

Use the 7mm socket to remove the three screws holding the radio. Slide the radio out and disconnect the antenna and multi-pin connector from the back. Take the radio inside to your workbench.

Pry open and remove the bottom panel of the radio. You should see the bottom of the tape mechanism. Remove the (4) 5mm bolts holding the tape deck, and turn the deck over.

At the rear of the deck you will see two multi-wire connectors running from the tape deck to the main board of the radio. You are interested in the smaller, 7-pin connector. Snip the wires connecting pins 5 and 7 to the main board. Snip them midway between the board and tape deck to allow room to work.

Decision time: if you don’t care about using the tape deck, you can solder the wires from your 1/8″ jack to the wires coming from the main board, and tape up the ends coming from the tape deck. If you want to retain the cassette, run another set of wires from the normally closed terminals of the jack to the tape deck.

Seal all of the connections with heat shrink tubing. Route the wires out through any convenient hole in the radio case. Connect the ground wire from the jack to the case of the radio. (I used one of the 5mm screws holding the tape mechanism for a ground point.) Close up the radio and head back to the garage. Reconnect the multi-pin socket and antenna, and mount the radio back in the dash.

Locate the jack on the dashboard, drill a suitable hole, and mount it. I located mine above the airbag cutoff switch. Reconnect the battery and test everything before completing reassembly of the dash.

You will have to put a tape in the cassette deck to make this hack work. If you’ve kept the deck wired in, it should work normally. When you plug the patch cord into the jack, the signal from the cassette is cut out and replaced by the AUX-IN signal.

That’s it. It took me less than 2 hours, including determination of which wires to cut.

If your radio is different, you can determine which wires to cut using an old pair of headphones. Cut off the plug and strip the wires so that you have one positive and one ground. (It doesn’t matter which side.) Play a tape. Touch the ground wire to a grounded part of the chassis, then briefly touch the other wire to each terminal. You should hear the signal from the tape deck on two pins (left and right.) BE VERY CAREFUL, as you will have to operate the radio while doing this step. You could zap yourself or your radio if you are not careful.

Further refinement of this hack could include finding a way to fool the radio into thinking there was a tape in the deck. I’m sure it could be done with a relay installed at the proper location, but I didn’t take the time to locate the right spot.

Remember, you are on your own for safety and liability. Good luck and happy listening.

Cheap & cheerful passenger cars (edited 1/18/9)

Inspired by a photo in Garden Rail magazine, and by this car at Clark’s Trading Post:

From Clark’s Trading Post RR Days 2008

I’ve whipped together a pair of light passenger cars for the railway.

The basis is the Hartland Locomotive Works ore tipper:

I kept the frames but discarded the tipper and replaced it with bench seats. A set of small Bachmann steel wheels and wooden dumb buffers complete the transformation to narrow gauge. Red paint with black trim makes it fit in with the passenger fleet. Now I need a set of 1:20.3 passengers to hang on for dear life.

They debuted on the RR at the Fall Steamup in October:

I need to get some properly-sized passengers, but otherwise I’m happy with them. The look good with Konrad and his IP Engineering coaches.


Last week we headed out to Nashville, IN for Iain and Amber’s wedding. It was a great trip, a nice wedding, and an excuse for Ericka and I to do some of the unusual traveling we enjoy. We took the Amtrak Regional Service BOS to DC, which provided the opportunity for this photo:

From Notes from Mosquito Hill

Then we transferred to the Capitol Limited to Chicago, then rented a car for the drive to Indy. It was the long way around, but the only way to travel. Even with all the time invested, I found it much more enjoyable than the (2) 90 minute flights involved in returning home. (Not only is USeless Airways charging for ANY bag you check, but they’re even demanding cash for the drink cart onboard. A pox on their houses, and Yay! for JetBlue. Anyway. . .)

While in Nashville before the wedding, Ericka, Anita and I took the opportunity to do some letterboxing in Brown County State Park. What a nice park! It did, however, provide this bit of silliness:

From Notes from Mosquito Hill

That’s not an optical illusion, it really looks like that.

Iain and Amber should be happily honeymooning in Hawaii by now, and Anita may have some more shots of the trip.

New Hobbies

Like I need more to occupy my time. . .

Yesterday Anita, Cricket and I hiked Mt. Willard. It was a nice day, but a bit hazy.



At the top, we stumbled onto a Letterbox. This is basically like a geocache, but without the high-tech. It seems the hobby has been around the UK since the 1890s, but it really took off here after the internet grew.

I thought is sounded like a great idea, so I brought the concept home. Beth was ecstatic about the prospect of ‘treasure hunting.’ We began this afternoon, with the By the Sea series in Ipswich.
We were lucky, finding a Hitchiker on the first try.

We also found Pumpkin Pez in Topsfield and Ice Cream, You Scream. . .Triple Dip in Newburyport. We were unable to locate Touch and Go on Plum Island, but it looks like it may have gone missing.

So, I don’t need any more hobbies, but this seems like a great way to get out with Beth and do something easy and interesting.

We’ll have to make it back to Mt Willard and trade stamps with Piglet when we can. We’re calling ourselves ‘Cricket’s Crew’ if you happen to run across our stamps.

Inn at Ellis River

Stayed here for a couple nights away for our anniversary. We hiked down Canon Mtn via the Kinsman Ridge trail and got really beat up. The trail was in horrid shape; I don’t know if it’s from the recent bad weather or just hard use. I guess there’s a reason they recommend you hike UP and ride the tram DOWN. Live and learn. It made us appreciate the Jacuzzi in our room, though.

We loved the Inn so much we’re going back for Ericka’s birthday.