Category Archives: Technology

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Second Hand Tech – Ice Cream Boy

Ice cream – it’s like an entirely separate branch of cooking.  Think of a favorite food and there’s probably an ice cream recipe out there that tries to replicate it in frozen form.  Deciding what combination to make next is always a difficult decision!

Now I have a huge assist in the world of exploratory ice cream – I picked up a Simac Il Gelataio 800 secondhand.  It’s also known as ‘The Ice Cream Boy’.  Love that.


Ice Cream Boy is a self-contained ice cream maker.  No rock salt, no frozen canisters lingering in the freezer, this unit doesn’t need any of that.  It’s a freezer/churner all in one box.  A rather hefty box, the thing weighs about forty pounds and is the size of an average office printer.  But boy does it make great ice cream.


I mean, like ready to eat straight out of the machine ice cream.  That’s a roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream in the photo.  Yum.

The cost for this wonderful tool?  In the mid-seventies and early eighties when it was on the market it would have set you back around five hundred dollars.  That’s an awful lot of money today, but a truly incredible amount back then.  If you google the machine you’ll find very few mentions of it.  Apparently they were manufactured in Italy and imported to the US.  They’re supposed to be built like tanks, and indeed this one is no flimsy 21st century construct.  Nope, it’s a big, bad machine from way back.

I found it second hand.  At a flea market.  Which isn’t where I’d typically pick up my kitchen gadgets.  But…this was only fifteen dollars.  And in terrific condition, only some very minor scratches here and there.  I brought it home, disassembled it, and Lysol’d and disinfected everything.  I mean everything, there’s no way I want virulent, second-hand ice cream.  Everything was pulled apart, the casing, the switches, the…well, there really isn’t that much to the machine, it’s kind of held together with just four screws.  But it was all given an excellent scrubbing (the screws too).  It sparkles now and looks brand new.

And the ice cream?  Delicious!  I’ve made the aforementioned Strawberry Balsamic as well as a Mango-Coconut ice cream.  There’s a David Lebovitz Banana-Brown Sugar recipe in the machine at the moment, almost done and ready for some toasted pecans to be mixed in.  But this machine not only makes ice cream, it also does frozen drinks.  Woohoo!  Just what we need for around the pool this Summer.  As a matter of fact I gave it a test by simply pouring a can of Lemon San Pelligrino into the machine and letting it churn away on that.  Twenty minutes later I had a lemon shaved ice/slurpee.  This thing rocks.


Ok Summer, we’re ready!

ice cream


Second Hand Tech – PS3

I love garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets.  It’s a thing.  But I especially love finding good deals on stuff, fixing it up, and making broken things work again.

I do that a lot with tech.

One of my latest finds?  A PlayStation 3 system for twenty-eight dollars.  Yep, just twenty-eight dollars.  Too good of a deal to pass up!

Until I found out that it was dead as a doornail.  Wouldn’t boot at all.  After a little google searching I found the system suffered from the YLOD – Yellow Light of Death.  Yellow is the color the light on the front of the system flashes when you turn it on.  It seems to be a pretty common problem with older PS3’s.  So there you go, I spent twenty-eight dollars on a paperweight.

Except I didn’t.  I fixed that PS3, and it’s opened my eyes to a world of videogames that I’d missed out on.  Here’s how.

The Yellow Light of Death simply means that the two main chips in the system aren’t connected very well to the circuit board anymore.  The solder that holds the chips in place has cracked from all of the repeated heating and cooling that’s happened over the years.  The first solution I tried, and one that worked for several weeks, was extremely simple.  I baked the system.

No, not in the oven.  I simulated an oven by placing the system inside the box it came in, putting a thick glove on my hand, and running a hair dryer over the vents of the PS3 for five minutes.  Then I let it cool for a minute.  Then five more minutes with the hair dryer.  Then another cool cycle.  I did this for a total of ten heating & cooling cycles.  The inside of that cardboard box was, well, like an oven.  Super hot, hot enough that it melted one corner of the PS3’s plastic case.

After it cooled for half an hour I plugged it back in.  The PS3 was still hot to the touch.  The internal fan immediately came on, which was far more than the system had done before.  The light on the front of the PS3 turned blue instead of yellow, and that fan spun up to maximum speed.  It knew the PS3 was still super hot inside and that fan had a job to do!  As the fan hit high speed a huge cloud of dust and dirt blew out of the PS3’s side vents – it was like a car backfiring.  Boy that thing had been clogged with dirt!

About five minutes later the fan slowly spun down, getting quieter and quieter.  And then, to my honest surprise, the PS3 actually booted and displayed it’s welcome screen.  How about that.

Now, as I said earlier, this fix really only lasted for a few weeks.  Eventually the system fell back into the YLOD.  This time I decided to do a proper fix.  I disassembled the entire PS3, only to find that the system was in fact a mutant – inside it was half electronics and half dust bunny.


The thing had collected an amazing amount of dust and dog/cat hair over the years, whoever had this before me must have had pets.  I gave it a thorough cleaning, and then took a heat gun to the main chips.  Not a hair dryer, but a proper heat gun, the type used for stripping paint or linoleum.  I set it for around 600-700 degrees fahrenheit.  A couple of minutes circling over each chip was all it took, then I let the board cool.  Flipped it over, and did the same with the backside of the board.

In reassembling the system I replaced the thermal paste that helps keep the main chips nice and cool.  There are huge heat sinks in a PS3, but if they aren’t connected well with the chips they won’t cool a thing.  A thin layer of thermal paste stuck everything back together really well.

And wouldn’t you know it, once again I had a working PS3 system.  Hurrah!


Well, that’s after I pulled it back apart again to figure out where to put a single, leftover screw.  Wouldn’t you know it was probably the most important screw in the whole system, the one that connects the ground cable.  Whew, glad I noticed that.

So, twenty-eight dollars for the system and four or five dollars for a tube of thermal paste.  I’ve been playing PS3 games now for a couple of months – did I mention how cheap PS3 games are nowadays?  Most can be found for five dollars or less.  Thrifty.   🙂




Your Ghost Host

Vacation time!  Well, last week was vacation time, and we were down at Disney World.  My wife was running a half-marathon there, so we stayed for the week to hang out and take in everything Disney.

There were race errands to run the first morning, so I was sent off to the parks on my own.  And where did I head first?  The best place in all of the parks – The Haunted Mansion!

I’ve always loved the Haunted Mansion.  From the dour door greeters, the bad puns, the haunted hallways, and the animated spooks, it’s a concentrated brew of a lot of my favorite things.

So imagine the excitement I felt when I discovered there is now an entire store dedicated to Haunted Mansion merchandise at Disney World!  It’s called Memento Mori and opened about a year ago. IMG_9730 I’m pretty good at resisting the temptations strategically placed by Disney to pull money out of our pockets, I really am.  But there was something lurking in the back of that store that knew exactly how to extract cash from my billfold.  Well, from my MagicBand anyways.

Personalized Ghost Portraits.

Yep, portraits of you and your loved ones done up as Haunted Mansion spirits.  I loved it the moment my eyes fell upon the demo portraits hung on the wall.

But these weren’t just ordinary portraits.  No, they’re better than that.

If you’ve been through the Haunted Mansion you’ve seen the hallway of portraits that morph between ‘normal’ and ‘scary’ versions of each painting.  They’re classics, and have been up in the mansion since the very beginning.  Here are a couple to refresh your memory:

Horseman2animation  medusa

There have been many used in the Haunted Mansion over the years, there’s a great encyclopedia of them on  Similar effects have been done for years using lenticular images.  Here’s a very simple explanation of how lenticulars work, but it’s really just putting rows of lenses over an interlaced image.  The lenses show you one version of the image from this direction, and a different image from the other direction.  It’s physics and science, no magic.  But the result is very cool, allowing images to change as you view them.

lenticular ringLenticulars have been limited in the past to mass-produced items.  Advertisements, toys, and trinkets – lenticular images were printed and pasted onto all sorts of things over the years.  Even the new ELO CD I bought last week has a lenticular sleeve.  I remember having little plastic rings when I was a kid that had lenticular images.  Digital technology has changed all of that, and now it’s possible to produce custom, one-off lenticular images.  Disney has latched onto this idea and put it to great use in the Haunted Mansion gift shop.

You see, there’s a room at the back of the gift shop.  And in that room is a ‘ghost camera’.  It’s an old Victorian looking thing, a large wooden box with a lense on the front, set atop a sturdy wooden table.  All the better to hide the computer and software (I mean, spirit apparatus) inside.  haunted-camera-twoshot
The room is set as a vintage photo parlor – you sit on a small bench at one side of the room, and the ‘camera’ and it’s operator summon forth your ghostly projection at the other end, capturing it’s image on film.  It’s all very well done, with the cast member never revealing the technology behind the trick.  It’s explained that ‘It will take a few moments for your apparition to manifest’, and sure enough, soon you’re done and shuttled off to the front of the store to wait for your portrait to materialize.

We waited alongside a large portrait of Madame Leota, the spiritualist from the Haunted Mansion seance room.  Another cast member greeted us as we waited, pointing out some of the haunted corners of the shop.  The Madame Leota portrait shifts and changes at times, and occasionally Leota appears in a haunted mirror across the way.  There’s even a spirit trapped in a bottle on a high-off corner of the shop.haunted-shop-tripleOur cast member took great pleasure in pointing all of this out to us, and the time we spent waiting for our portraits to print flew by.  Soon we heard the faint ringing of bells and a rap on a small cabinet by the Leota portrait.  The cast member opened the cabinet doors, and there, as if by magic, sat our finished portraits.  They were amazing!



We quickly took some photos before handing them off to the shop keeper to have them shipped home.  I’ve composited the ‘normal’ and ‘spooky’ versions side by side here, the effect when tilting the image is really striking.  It’s one thing to see a random image shift, but to see your own portrait change right before your eyes is something that just tickles and delights.  It’s my favorite souvenir of the trip by far.

The cost?  A very reasonable $20 per portrait.  Of course that’s before you decide you must have the $25 themed picture frame to go with it:


Any old frame would work, but really, how can you pass up something like this?

I predict these portraits will become the centerpiece of our Halloween decorations every October.  Or…should we keep them up all year?  🙂

IMG_9705Bravo to Disney for thinking through the entire experience.  From the themed photo parlor, the distractions to pass the time while you wait, the ‘materializing’ of your portraits – the entire process was fun and in ‘spirit’.  The haunted portraits are unique to Disney World, you won’t find a similar booth at Disneyland.  If you find yourself at Disney World though, stop in and visit the cast members at Memento Mori and let them snap your portrait.  It won’t hurt…much!

Do you have a treasured Disney souvenir?  What is it and how did you discover it?