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fiat lux

08/18/2001

Well, I had to break down and add a neon light to my case.



And what a modyssey it turned out to be. I was at the auto parts store, and they had neons in stock. I picked a 9" thin tube model, thinking I'd be all sleek and low-profile. I raced home, ripped open the case, tore off the packaging, whacked the cigarette lighter plug off the end of the neon, just like everyone knows to do, built a quick and dirty wiring harness for it using a Molex and some wirenuts, flipped the switch, held my breath, and....

Nada.

I was so bummed. I looked at the plug I had amputated, and it had a power switch sticking out of this weird bulge. The weird bulge, of course, was the transformer. That's why I got no light. Since it was a low-profile "thin" tube, they stuck the transformer circuit in the plug instead of on the end of the tube like in the big ones. A minor setback.

Not to be deterred (I wanted to say "let there be light"), I removed the screws from the adapter housing and recovered the driver circuit. It was built on a little board about one inch square, with some of the lousiest solder joints I've seen, and a Chinese sticker. Right, this is the missing ingredient. But what about an enclosure? I couldn't let that thing touch any metal, it needed a box of some type.

I was scouring the place for something I could use-- a happy meal toy, an old remote control, whatever--when I spotted the ideal enclosure. An old film can. The perfect size, free (with ample replacement parts), easy to cut (X-acto time!) and with a removable lid that stays on. It couldn't be more perfect, really.

Since the rest of the family was at the pool, I had about an hour or so to make this pig fly. I soldered the leads from my Molex right to the board. Then I replaced the output connections (plain wire) with a motherboard connector salvaged from an old case. On the lamp, I soldered a pin header to the wires and covered the joint with heat shrink. So now, I have the driver in a film can, connecting to the PSU with a regular Molex, and the lamp uses a male 2-pin to mate with the female 2-pin on the output side of the driver.

My wife called and said she was leaving the pool in 15 minutes, so I finished it all up, installed the whole hack in my professional enclosure, and fired the pig up.

...and there was light.



[I bet whoever assembled this earns $0.25/hour.]



[Now this is professional work.]

I see a second neon in my immediate future. The 9" thin tube just doesn't get me where I need to go, if you know what I'm sayin'.


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