Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

Visiting New Scientist

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Today I spent the day visiting my New Scientist colleagues at their offices in Theobald’s Road in Holborn, London. Holborn’s a bit of an old stomping ground as I used to work there for a while for the bank (in the Old Prudential Building) so it was with mixed feelings that I made my way to the area today.

In the sunshine, like today, it’s a fine looking area, and not nearly as depressing as I thought it might be. In any event, meeting the people was great fun, and we went out for a pub lunch in Lamb’s Conduit Street.

There was time during the day for a good chat with all the devs; Ken, Matteo, Vivienne, Neela, Ruth and Rowan. Most worthwhile, and I think I’ll do this again in a couple of months.

New jammer worked great on the train in the way home. Very amusing as well.

ZoneMinder Running Again

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

After a long period, since Grace moved into her present bedroom, so probably about four years, I’ve finally got my CCTV system running again. This is based in a software package called ZoneMinder – and it allows you to toe up a bunch of video cameras to a PC and do all the monitoring and movement detecting you want – with alerts, time-stamps and the ability to manage and view from any net connected browser.
I have an eight port input card, which cost a fortune originally, and as I no longer run a power hungry file server, I fitted it into a Mini-ITX box. It’s running Ubuntu 8.04 as that’s about the most recent thing that will run (without recompiling a kernel) in the C3 mobo as the Via processor doesn’t have the mov instruction. Probably unsurprisingly, it runs quite well despite the lower specified board in use for this application. I’ve run a length of CAT5 from the point in the loft where the original co-ax cables terminated into the new study and connected a four way BNC/CAT5 balun at each end. This seems to work well enough for monitoring purposes.

Montage of four video feeds

Video Feeds at Sefton Villas

I’m collecting four feeds (the fifth, an IP camera, makes the system reboot, so it’s not presently included) – one of which is a nest-cam mounted in a box on the side of the shed. At last, a blue tit has started using the box – as yet only at night to sleep – and this is probably because we have remounted it in a better position, now north facing, on the new shed. The picture accompanying this post is a montage of the feeds, including nightime Front Garden and Back Garden views and of the little bird snoozing this evening. Grace has named him(?) Albert.

Arduino Arrives

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Today saw the long awaited arrival of an Arduino starter kit. Ordered from oomlout a couple of days ago it’s arrived in good time, and made a great impression.
The kit itself is neat, tidy and very well presented in a plastic compartment box – so no cause for untidiness or losing anything – together with a great little guide to getting started. The guide, as well as some handy introductory material about the kit, programming and electronic components. After that each page takes you through constructing a small experiment – working up in complexity and using all the components in the kit.
I chose to install the IDE on my eee 1000H netbook rather than my desktop as it had a much more up to date Ubuntu installation which met the requirements without any further hassle.

A first Arduino Experiment - flashing LED

Arduino flashing a LED

I started with the first example – to make a LED blink – and discovered how case sensitive the sketch seems to be – but it was easy to work out where I was wrong from the way it debugged during the compile and highlighted the offending line.
A very quick upload later and the LED was blinking merrily away. So easy to change the mark/space ratio by altering the delays in the loop and uploading again. How easy is that?
I see much time to be spent playing and learning how to get the best from this. Very satsifying indeed.

Arduino Kit on the Way

Saturday, February 6th, 2010
Arduino Starter Kit from Oomlout

Starter Kit

I’ve finally broken, and splashed out in a Starter Kit for the Arduino.  I’ve ordered the kit from as it seems to have lots of bits along with a decent size breadboard and natty holder to fix the board and the Arduino unit itself together which should make it more stable.  It also has a servo motor which I’ve never used before, although the rest of the components are pretty familiar, and which I’m looking forward to getting to grips with.  The only problem is there are just too  many possible projects I’d like to construct!

In other news it seems Paul and Clare are to marry in the Summer.  Invite arived today so that day’s already been set aside in our diary.  We’re very much looking forward to the event, and finally meeting the lady herself – all previous attempts have failed through severe diary congestion.

Possible Arduino Projects

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

This is really just a short note to file away for the future.  Having recently discovered the Arduino, and seem many of the things it’s been made to do, I wanted to jot down a few ideas I might follow up myself one day.  Real Work seems to get in the  way most of the time, but with a long history of dabbling in radio and electronics and having built many gadgets, radios, remote controls and so forth, the Arduino looks like a fab  way to interface with mechanicals.

So the first idea is a way to play some little bells to make tunes.  I have a couple of sets of mini bells from B&Q some years ago which play a fixed set of Christmas tunes, controlled from a small box and a 12v supply.  If I can interface each bell line to the Arduino using a (reed) relay [or even directly, perhaps?] I’d have an eight note one octave player.  A quick look on the ‘net shows someone has made a similar bell tower from hand bells, however I’d like to be able to play more than one note at a time.  Input from a text file of some sort – I’ve seen a form of music notation that might do the trick, but this needs more investigation.  Ultimately I could build a multi-octave machine like a player piano or adapt a harmonium.

Second Idea: Temperature sensors on the heating system to measure use and efficiency – and combine with a gas meter reader to complete the energy consumption records  via Pachube (i.e. to add the the electric consumption data).

Third idea: Talking parrot, an adaptation of an ambient orb.  I have a USB parrot which only works on Win and has no recent drivers or apparent way to use in Linux/OSX – so I’m going to keep it for possible hacking in the future.  Flap wings or nod head , open beak etc to relay data values of some sort.  The higher the home energy use, the more the little bird will fidget.