Ciprian Boboc

personal, astronomy, etc

How to open and repair Duracell 600 Watt PowerPack Pro

Posted by ciprianb on January 30, 2015

I’ve purchased recently (aprox 45 days ago) a Duracell 600 Watt PowerPack Pro starter battery.

It has good reviews on Amazon, but most of those reviews are for an older model (Duracell 600 Watt PowerPack battery). I purchased this battery because it has a 600W inverter and therefore you can use it as a AC source (plug in regular devices there: computer, TV or small fridge).

Duracell Powerpack Pro 600

Duracell Powerpack Pro 600

The internal battery of PowerPack Pro model is 18AH. By comparison, the battery for the older PowerPack was 24AH (therefore 33% more capacity).

My battery didn’t last long. During the initial charge the battery took a long time to charge using AC power (more than 24 hours). I’ve used this battery only once to inflate my car’s tires and I was surprised to find recently that the battery doesn’t hold a charge anymore.

I’ve decided to open it and replace its internal lead-acid battery.

1. First step is to push by hand and take out the rubber protector corners

Duracell PowerPack Corners

Duracell PowerPack Corners

2. There are 4 screws on this side (3 are easy to see)

Duracell PowerPack Screws (3)

Duracell PowerPack Screws (3)

3. The 4th screw is hidden inside the upper compartment:

Duracell PowerPack Hidden Screw

Duracell PowerPack Hidden Screw

4. Flip the battery and find all 7 screws (2 are hidden in the holes below and other 2 are on top next to the handle)

Duracell PowerPack  - 7 more screws

Duracell PowerPack – 7 more screws

5. Finally pry open the battery. I found some reistance next to the handle and I ended up breaking a plastic part there (not a big issue, but I’m not sure if that plastic was glued or I didn’t open the cover properly.

Duracell PowerPack - Broken Part

Duracell PowerPack – Broken Part

6. Disconnect the light cable connector

Duracell PowerPack - Light Cable Connector

Duracell PowerPack – Light Cable Connector

7. Set the power pack on its side and replace the lead-acid battery

Duracell PowerPack - 18AH Battery

Duracell PowerPack – 18AH Battery

The dimenssions of this lead battery are: 7 inch length, 3 inch width and 6.5 inch height.

Pay attention to the battery connectors (not all SLA battery with same dimenssions have similar connectors).

Replace the lead-acid battery and enjoy the repaired power pack.

Duracell PowerPack - Internal View

Duracell PowerPack – Internal View

Posted in Personal | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

WA law initiative against UAVs (drones)

Posted by ciprianb on January 25, 2015

This initiative by representative Jeff Morris, head of House Technology and Economic Development Committee, is due for voting in a few days by WA reps:

The bill is here:

It says:
(b) Any image of a person taken from any location in the Washington state airspace, when the person whose image has been captured is on private property, the landowner and tenants with a right to occupy the private property have not consented to the capture of images of their person on the property, and the taking of such an image is in violation of the reasonable expectation of privacy of the person. The legislature finds and declares that except as otherwise required by the first amendment of the United States Constitution, the reasonable expectation of privacy of a person whose image has been captured under the circumstances described in this subsection (3)(b) has been violated when the image could not have been captured from outside the boundaries of the property on which the person is located […]

Personally, I’m surprised why politicians rush to vote such initiatives without really gathering data about the new technology.
– I think there’s too much fear about privacy concerns related to quads without understanding what can be done with a small quad like a Phantom
– it seems like it may become illegal to take a picture from an airplane (G airspace) because privacy concerns
– the inovation may be restricted in WA state – with such restrictive laws, I’m quite sure, Boeing, Amazon and many small companies or individual engineers won’t be able to experiment and inovate anymore

I took 2 images earlier today from 100 feet and 50 feet using my Phantom Vision 2+.
The pictues themselves can answer privacy concerns. I doubt somebody can really recognize my face by using these pictures. Please feel free to click on the images to see them at maximum resolution (4384 x 2466 pixels)

from 100 feet (distance)


from 50 feet (distance)


I understand that in the future we can get better cameras.
But privacy can be better protected and enforced, for example, by laws preventing publishing or distribution of pictures from somebody’s backyard where people faces can be recognized in those pictures. We really need to understand what’s the real concern about the invasion of privacy. It will be a waste of police resources to search SD cards from UAVs for privacy violations. Personally, I don’t care if somebody takes a picture of me when I’m in my backyard. Neighbors can get better pictures of my backyard from their own houses (because they can use zoom lens) than flying a UAV over my property.
If I want privacy inside my house, I can use my window blinds. When I’m outside (even in my backyard), I’m aware that I should use common sense (some pictures can be taken from an airplane anyway, no matter what laws are voted). And if a small UAV is 300 feet high, it’s very hard to see it (and hear it).

And frankly, if we’re really concerned about privacy we may ask for laws:
– against neighbors watch programs
– limitation of HOA rules
– invasive TSA searches at airports
– government collection of personal data
– etc

As a side note, the average age of Phantom operators is around 40 – 50 years.
I’m not using my Phantom for close ups. If I want to spy somebody, I’ll probably use very good zoom lens or a telescope. My Phantom is used to take landscape pictures, mountains, forests, ocean shores, beautiful buildings, etc… And most of the time I actually fly my Phantom without even recording, just for the love of flying…

I’m afraid that a bill like actually harms the idea of privacy – by creating an illusion. Bad people don’t care about laws like this. There are even more important laws which don’t prevent spies in their “trade”. Why not just use common sense? It’s pretty easy: treat people with respect as you want to be treated. Don’t fly over somebody’s backyard, and if you do so to get somewhere else, don’t hover there and maintain some altitude.

Privacy and security can be indeed protected by common sense… There’s a fact that new technology may introduce changes in privacy perceptions. Since more and more airplanes are flying over the sky, it’s just common sense that good quality pictures can be taken from airplanes (and therefore, even in your own private property can be “seen”). Years ago, I’ve read a good book about privacy and technology: “The Light of Other Days” by Arthur Clarke…

Unfortunatelly, the politicians are voting on whatever the media is talking about this week and especially on subjects prone to bring extra votes. Is there a privacy concern because what was exposed regarding government surveillance programs? Let’s show the people that we care about their privacy by restricting recreational UAV use. How do we fight for security? We create new TSA rules, we bring full body X-Ray scanners in the airports, we make sure that no liquids (including baby milk) can’t go through security gates, no shoes or belts, just to create an illusion of security by a strong invasion of travellers privacy. Let’s not forget that most of criminals are discovered by old police work, by informations received from citizens. But wait, privacy is super important and let’s make sure that’s absolutely illegal for citizens to fly their small UAVs over private property. It’s a big irony here.

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Converting a Champion Generator to run on Propane (or Natural Gas) and Reasons Behind It

Posted by ciprianb on June 25, 2014

A while back, we’ve planned a party. We invited many friends to our place at around 3pm. In the morning, around 10am, we were hit by a power outage. We’ve waited aprox 2 hours and we were still without power. Therefore, it was the option to call off the party or come up with a different solution. I didn’t want to call off that party so therefore, I went to Costco and bought a Champion 41532 generator.

This generator turned out to be a good buy. Like any generator, it’s noisy, but I can run my whole house on it (it delivers 7000W with a peak of 9000W). As long as I’m not running my dryer, oven or some power hungry vacuum cleaner, everything works fine in my house (all lights – and I have at least 20 CFL lights here, TVs, computers, furnace, etc).

One first problem was how to connect the generator to the house power system. There were multiple options there, but basically I had to decide between a power transfer switch system and a simpler and cheaper interlock kit. I’ve decided for the interlock kit because fewer limitations and price. A transfer switch allows the use of a limited number of circuits (6 or 10 usually), while the interlock kit doesn’t come up with the same limitation.

It’s not very difficult to install a transfer switch but I’ve hired a professional to do the job. On top of that, they got the inspection taken care of. It costed a bit more, but I really didn’t want to mess with the electrical system of my house.

Recently I’ve decided to convert my generator from gasoline to propane or natural gas. As far as I understand, the price is comparable if you run the generator from a propane tank vs a similar amount of gasoline. I’ve read that a standard $20 propane tank holds aprox 4.2 gallons of propane and that delivers aprox the same amount of BTU (or HP) as 4-5 gallons of gasoline. While the price of gasoline is aprox 4$ / gallon, then 5 gallons are aprox $20, too. But then, if you run the generator on natural gas from a grill line, then the price is way cheaper (propably at least 4 times cheaper).

But then there’s the problem of storing the fuel. I don’t see myself storing 10 gallons of gasoline. Gasoline has a limited shelf life and it’s more dangerous to store gasoline vs propane. I already have 2 standard propane tanks and those should give us aprox one day of uninterrupted electrical power to run our house. And if we end up with a long electrical power outage, there’s the option to hook up the generator to the natural gas grill line.

I didn’t like storing gasoline for too long time. A generator is supposed to be use in a emergency and I didn’t want to bother to run it every 2 weeks (as indicated by the generator’s manufacturer), or even every month or so. That’s a waste of time and gas. But if you don’t start the generator for a long time and then you have a emergency, you may have some troubles with the gasoline in generator’s carburetor, tank and fuel lines.

Long introduction to my generator story… Now, fast forward to today and how I’ve converted my generator to gas.

I’m not a mechanic and my experience with engines is limited. I’m actually a software engineer and converting the generator was a bit of challenge for me. But it turned up fine – it took me under 3 hours (and that included time spent on finding the proper screw drivers, drills, etc).

I’ve ordered a tri fuel conversion kit from Their web site asks you for what kind of generator you have and I assume they deliver the right kit based on your selection. I got my conversion kit in aprox 1 week and it costed a bit under $200.

I’m probably going to create a youtube video with installation instructions, but for now I’m going to explain it using a few pictures.

If you have a new generator, make sure you run it on gasoline for at least 2 hours before starting the conversion. If you’ve used it already for 2 hours, then you’re set and start converting it.

I’ve decided to get rid of the gas from the tank of the generator. You can either burn it all by running the generator (slightly tilted) until it runs out of fuel or just pump the gas out (my approach).

Make sure you also turn the gas line off (so you avoid residual gas to come into the carburetor when running on propane).

Then start by taking apart the air filter.


There are 6 screws on front (on the sides), 2 close to carburetor and one in the back holding the air filter to the frame.


I had some problems with the screw in the back. I had to remove the wheel in order to get access to that screw.

Open everything and expose the carburetor.


Install the motor snorkel on front of carburetor. Make sure that the hose gets inside the carburetor while the choke is on run position. They especially give us warning not to install the snorkel if the choke is not open (in run position).


After that, install the air filter back, on top of the motor snorkel.


I had also some problems installing back the 2 screws next to carburetor (I had to push the cover in order to get it in position).


The next step is to install the regulator. You have to drill 2 holes in the carburetor’s frame using a 1/4 drill. Make sure you don’t drill into the gas tank. Especially if you still have gas in the tank, then pay a lot of attention to this step. Gas explosions are not fun, so stay out of trouble (by removing the gas and eventually shielding the tank when drilling).

I have shielded my gas tank with a little piece of metal (which I positioned between the frame and the gas tank).


Here is the regulator attached to the frame.

Make sure you tighten up the connections, add sealant on the threads and connect the gas / vapor tube before tightening the regulator.

In my case, I had to do some extra steps here (there was no space to rotate the part coming on top of the regulator (fuel outlet)).


Finally, connect the propane gas to regulator.

The gas tube was only 3/8 size and the regulator inlet was 3/4. Therefore, I had to use 2 step down conversion fittings (3/4 to 1/2 and 1/2 to 3/8). I bought them from Home Depot for aprox $3 each.


Before starting, make sure you read the motor snorkel manual. It tells you how much to rotate the part on top of the regulator to allow the proper amount of propane gas in (5-6 rotations for propane gas, probaly 7-8 for natural gas).

Also, you can allow a bit more propane in, for the initial start and then reduce the in take.


Use also a tachometer. I don’t have one, therefore I had to adjust based on the sound of the engine. But I’ll buy a tachometer to make sure I get the proper rpm rate. And that’s pretty much all.

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Enjoy Life

Posted by ciprianb on April 23, 2014

We move through life and sometimes we look back. What have we accomplished so far? What did we bring new to this world? How did we spend our life so far? What does it make up proud so far? What are the lessons we learned?

Every single person is different. We learn so much every day. And it’s a pity we get to share only a fraction of our experiences.

I think we have to be active, set and achieve small goals and try to be happy – enjoy what we have.
Life is precious. Spending time with family and friends is good. Creating something new and helping with the progress of the mankind is great.



We are too often living on “auto-pilot” and wake up too late regreting the lost time. We avoid risks and stay close to routines. We’re afraid to take new paths and we go over and over again on the same route.

But we have to stop and think. Does the well established route make us happy? Or do we want to try something new and try a new adventure?
We all are remarkable creatures. With enough motivation, every single one of us can achieve a lot. We are the top life form on our planet and we shouldn’t forget this.

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Memento Mori

Posted by ciprianb on February 20, 2014

Today we said good bye to a friend. He was young and his death was completely unexpected to us.

Aside from grieving and remembering the good times spent with that person, it makes me pause and think about our short journey in this universe… It’s hard to accept, understand, and wonder why a good person must die so young…

I found myself trapped in pointless thoughts or actions. Laughs, tears, emotions, cries, dark or light – all this human life – and what’s the point of all of it?

Maybe we should bother less about small problems and enjoy this gift named LIFE.

Well, good bye, dear friend, and I hope your soul is in heaven now.


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Do Not Fear the Universe

Posted by ciprianb on May 22, 2013

Let me start by quoting Albert Einstein:

“The single most important decision any of us will ever have to make is whether or not to believe that the universe is friendly.

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.

I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.

For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly—and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.

If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe’, then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.

But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.”


There are so many fears: fear of night, fear of future, fear of uncertainty, fear of losing what we have, fear of change, fear of death. But really, why should we spend our time in fear? Yes, if we’re in real danger, a short adrenaline shot maybe’s useful… But then, if we spend hours or days in fear… then we get sick and die.

Jesus told us not to fear: “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” . Perfect love casts out fear.

So many wars or fights start because fear… We have to let go and not obsess about control.

“We try to control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. Control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.”

Terrorists act because fear and insecurities. They’re afraid of a bad outcome in after-life, poverty for their families or other reasons rooted in fear.

Ideas, thoughts, laws of physics, everything can be seen as a flow… It’s our decision to fear this universal flow or just accept it. We have our own free will and we can influence others, but probably we can make a bigger impact if we let go and not oppose this universal flow / will of God / laws of Nature.

When I’m out at night time, watching galaxies or star clusters far away, I am in a state of amazement of the beauty of Universe.

And I believe that we live in a friendly Universe, in a place where we can build instead of destroy, we can create and expand our dreams and imagination beyond any limits.

Posted in Personal, Religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

SkyMap for Windows 8

Posted by ciprianb on December 19, 2012

SkyMap application (based on SkyMap Windows Phone code) has just been released on Windows 8 and Windows RT platforms. There are 2 versions of this app:

Be ready for Dec 21st (end of Mayan calendar) and use this app to check if planets align or if there is anything special happening in the sky.

SkyMap for Windows 8 Home Page


Windows Store Description:

The popular Windows Phone SkyMap application, downloaded by more than half of million users, now comes to Windows 8!

SkyMap is an amazing planetarium for your device. It enables you to point your device at the sky and see what stars, constellations, planets or deep space objects are out there in real time. SkyMap shows the sky in 3D, like you see it at night time exposing a collection of over 110000 stars.It’s very easy to use for any viewpoint, time and location on Earth: it determines your location automatically, supports pinch to zoom for more details and provides a highly customizable map.*Free trial availableSkyMap has a full set of features in order to help both casual stargazers and amateur astronomers to explore and locate the objects in the sky.
  • can use the current time and location but you can also customize them
  • interactive zoom
  • night mode
  • touch screen support
  • realistic Milky Way image and horizon
  • stars twinkle
  • constellations with beautiful Johannes Hevelius’s artwork
  • constellations, stars, deep space objects, planets, sun and moon information
  • fast loading and initialization
  • point to sky mode
  • improved sky map graphics: planet images, star colors, diffraction spikes, etc
  • sky object information (wikipedia integration)
  • alt/az grid
  • additional customizations (show/hide map layers: planets, stars, messier objects, etc)

Posted in Astronomy, Software, Technology, Windows 8 | Leave a Comment »

Our trip to Cancun, Mexico

Posted by ciprianb on October 31, 2012

The tropical resorts in Mexico are a great vacation destination.

We’ve been to Mexico many times for vacation:

  • cruises to East and West coasts of Mexico
  • vacations to all inclusive resorts (Puerto Vallarta and Cancun)

We’ve just returned from a trip to Cancun (Iberostar Paraiso Lindo at Riviera Lindo, close to Cancun). I think this trip was great.

My wife and daughter enjoyed swimming with dolphins. And I did some scuba diving. On top of that, the resort offered all kind of activities: water sports, archery, darts, pool games, bingo, etc.

I was also really happy to use this opportunity to practice my Spanish.

I haven’t learned Spanish in school. Actually there are a bit more than 2 months since I’ve started to learn Spanish seriously. And I had a very good and fast progress. The trip to Mexico was my main motivation to keep learning Spanish. And once I got there, I’ve started using the (limited) Spanish phrases I learned.

I really think that, in order to learn a foreign language, there is a need for a strong motivation (e.g. a trip somewhere, a desire to impress somebody, a job demand, etc) and the desire to practice that language. Also, I’ve learned that complicated grammar structures, obscure verb tenses don’t really matter much. It’s more important to relax and engage in discussions with native speakers whenever possible.

But back to scuba diving.

They offered a free scuba dive tryout in the pool. I think that is a great marketing approach – because they got new customers. People are trying it – and a good percentage of them will love scuba and are willing to try it out in the sea.

And once somebody dives in the sea and watches the beautiful marine life, feels the liberty to swim in any direction, he’s hooked for scuba.

Here’s a video of my second dive at Manchones coral reef:


Posted in Personal, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »