Saturday, February 11, 2017

Valentine's Day book recommendations

John Scalzi, one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors, has an ebook sale today only on his Old Man's War Series and several other books including his Hugo award winner Redshirts. They are each $2.99. Scalzi is a wonderful writer and the Old Man's War Series is great Si-Fi. As Jerry Pournelle would say, highly recommended. Nice escapism for these days.

This is an excellent gift for that hard to buy significant other who's also geeky.  Later!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tree Bien

So since I began soldering again, we have had an electronic Christmas tree that was one of my first renewed soldering projects and it was similar to this kit.  Earlier this year I saw this kickstarter and decided to go for it.  The neat thing is that it is programmable, it has a Digispark that is programmable with the arduino IDE. There is a bit of soldering but it works perfectly.
They use RGB LEDs so a host of colors are available and they also provide some script generation for standard setups.  The digispark also is a cheap but lowered powered alternative to the arduino and I will be using it more frequently. Highly recommended.   More soon, including a rant on the popular meme that machine learning = AI.  Later!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thunderboard Sense can Sense Thunder

After a fairly long wait I received The Thunderboard Sense board from Silicon Labs.  It is pretty impressive and could even be more impressive with a few more sensors.

The board is powered either off a micro usb plug or a CR2032 battery.  It connects to a smart phone app (android and iOS) by Bluetooth Low Energy.

I am most interested in the environmental sensors and they include:
  • relative humidity and temperature 
  • barometric pressure
  • indoor air quality and gas sensor, CCS811
    • ethanol, CO, "a wide range" of volatile organic compounds
  • UV and ambient light
  • MEMS microphone
The sensors communicate over I2Cand the board retails for $36 although they are still scarce and I paid close to $50 for mine. It offers  quite a lot for a small package.  Next step is to look at their app code and begin setting up our own system.  And in reference to the title, the microphone seems fairly responsive and it could indeed sense thunder

Definitely something that would be nice in a Christmas stocking.  More posts over the break.  Later!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Who am I?

This is my periodic Halloween post.  First Happy Halloween!  I wish I had the TARDIS to travel to another Dalek free time period at least until November 9th (day after US presidential elections)!

Boards are still coming in, I just have not had time to do much.  Folks in my lab do like the particle photon and we have done some interesting work with it and PIR sensors.  More later - hopefully I will have sometime over the Thanksgiving break. Later

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meet the Robots: Cozmo

I have been collecting a few robots in the past year, some are kits and some are fully assembled such as cozmo from anki.  Here's a picture of my newest robot:
He comes with three blocks and a charging station.  As is the case for most of this mew generation of robots, cozmo is controlled by a smart phone app.  Saves the cost of a controller but I find it limiting.  So far the pre arranged software includes recognition software, cozmo when he wakes calls me Gregg once he sees me (this requires a fare amount of light).  He also has a display which is meant to show expressions.  It plays a matching cube colors  app and spending time playing it gives you points that result in upgrades (new software).  This is all cute but what intrigued me was the ability to code it.  I wish I had more to say but the mac instructions seem a bit warped and required using brew to install the necessary components.  I am not a big fan of brew.  I hope to finally get he sdk installed and give it a whirl.  My goal is to try to develop some apps for it and explore its STEM capabilities.  A stretch goal is to see if I can swarm them but at $179 a pop, it may take a bit.

The real world has me swamped so I have been slow to post and am creating quite a backlog.  Experience with some of the new small boards on the market such as the omega has forced me to search/modify new benchmarks since the linux version is rather limited.  Later!

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I finally fired up my arduino Yun and, well, I was really YUNimpressed, err I mean unimpressed.  Admittedly I have only spent 30 min with it but I honestly do not want to spend much more time with it.  I can see why the arduino folks retired this product.  My advice if you are tempted to purchase it, is to avoid it.  One has to stand on one's head to access the linux.  For example one method is to load a sketch called YunSerialTerminal using the arduino IDE and then you can access the linux through the serial monitor.  You also access it through Wi-Fi  but it is not as smooth as the Omega.  I hope to blog on the Omega soon and the newer Omega 2 when I receive it.  I see these as much better choices

So if you are tempted to buy a Yun at the discounted prices don't.  I fear I may use my pricey Yuns as simple arduinos in some of my projects.  Sad really.  Later!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Luminary

Actually a few luminaries.  It has been a tradition in our family to have luminaries lining our driveway and entrance during Christmas and often also for new year.  A luminary is basically a  brown lunch bag with about two inches of sand and a candle.  It usually works quite well and is a nice touch to holiday decorations.  However bad weather can make this challenging and it sometimes is difficult to get the correct candle at a reasonable price. 

This year while teaching my STEM classes I had an idea of how to solve the candle problem.  The first exercise in my STEM class is for folks to make a throwie.  A throwie is basically a LED and a coin battery (usually a CR2032) taped together being mindful that the longer positive lead of the LED touches the positive side of the coin battery.  My STEM course manual has directions if you cannot figure it out from this description.  It provides a sense of accomplishment for the students and demystifies touching wiring.  The history of the throwie was that makers also attached magnets and they would throw it at metal structure to decorate them.  We usually place tack on the back and they place it on their id badges.  I wondered if such an arrangement would help with the candle problem in the luminaries.

The first  hurdle was that any LED would not do.  It would have to be large 10mm and would have to flicker like a candle.  I experimented with many a blinking, flickering LED and discovered the best candle like LED at, a great site for LEDs and other geekie stuff.  I experimented with a few and selected a 10mm white flicker.  It was perfect.  I tested it one night with a paper lunch bag and sand.  I secured the LED to the battery with electrical tape and shoved the leads into the sand until only the bulb was showing.  It flickered nicely but simply was not bright enoungh.  Next night I used two CR2032 coin batteries in series, second battery positive (+) side was against first battery negative (-) side.  Fortunately this did not blow the LED but made it considerably brighter.  Please be careful when you first test yours - since LEDs may differ - wear adequate eye protection.   Here is a picture of them in our driveway.
Not a great picture but you get the idea.  Although they dim every night a bit, they are still glowing enough to see from the street after 4 days.

I am working on a bunch of new posts including benchmarks for the UDOO Neo and the CHIP computer. Hopefully I will do better in the new year.  The best to all of you in the new year!  Later!