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What was once will be again!
July 18, 2011 18:17
Fielding complaints from many users, both those who complain about all the stuff that used to be here that isn't anymore, and those who complain that there isn't anything (obvious) to play with except the lights, I have decided to resurrect, to the best of my ability, many of the past features of this site. However, this project will be met with some significant challenges. Here's a list of the things I plan to work on in the next couple of weeks.
That SHOULD be sufficient for the near future. If there are other projects people wish to get ressurected, please let me know. There is no point in mentioning any of the old (broken) RC cars, the Tank, or anything that was specific to any of the houses I used to live in, such as specific rooms, or the pool, or the water tower, etc.
July 17, 2011 03:56
Ok, we've actually been back for a week now. The trip was mostly a success. It was a good 2500 mile test of the in-car computer with cam and gps. I also learned that I can make the drive from here to Illinois nonstop (well, excepting bathroom and food breaks of course). Prior to this, the longest I've ever driven has been about 4 hours. The trip up there took 14. The trip BACK took 20, and I ALMOST made that one, although I had to hand over control to Gertie for the last hour as I was getting a little bit loopy on all that caffiene. One thing is for sure, I LOVE driving overnight. The brief portion of the trip spent driving in daylight seemed to take as long as the many more hours I was driving in the dark. No idea why.
As for the live cam, the results were mostly good, although there were some issues. The connection was decent all through oklahoma, but completely died once I hit Missouri, for about the first 5 miles. Then it immediately switched to 3G and stayed there through the rest of the state. The southern end of Illinois was pretty decent as well, but the last 40 miles of the trip I completely lost all cellphone coverage (or at least data coverage). The trip from Illinois to Ohio didn't fare as well. Things were fine until I hit Indiana, but then the coverage got spotty. If I got a connection at all, it was pretty lousy, and it remained that way pretty much all the way to Mt. Gilead, OH. There were, however a few good spots around the decently sized cities. The trip back was actually much better. The connection stayed active, solid, and fast all the way from the moment I hit highway 71 until I passed through Texarkana. The last stretch through northern Texas on 82 was pretty bad though, and I didn't get any decent coverage again until I hit 69.
I've since tweaked the settings a bit so the image size for the car's cam is reduced to about 4k instead of the 8k it was before. That allows for both a faster FPS and a better chance of receiving images, since most images can make it in 3 packets instead of 7, and packetloss is a much larger problem on cellphone wireless networks, especially G or E. While the GPS program which I wrote will automatically reconnect whenever it loses its connection (which happens quite often), the flash webcam streamer I'm using will not, and I've so far been unable to find a code hook to signal an event when the connection dies or times out so I can force a reconnect automatically. I will probably end up writing my own simple webcam streamer for this purpose, eventually.
Went to E's wedding, and that went well, even though it was hot and the bugs thought we were tasty. Then we went to visit some of Gertie's extended family. The truck made the trip with no incidents and it even did pretty good on the gas mileage when I was on the highway. It sure drank up the gas in the cities though.
Now, the next big question... was this a better deal than flying? I know I was personally far more comfortable driving it, but lets weigh all of the factors. First off, for this trip we weren't able to find any reasonably priced flights, so on cost alone, we beat it by driving hands down. Besides, a side trip to Ohio would have complicated matters if we flew up there, and we would have had to rent a car and still drive a significant distance from the airport, as we were more than an hour out of Chicago. Likewise, it's doubtful with a discount flight we would get a straight through trip, and would get at least one layover and we would have to be at the airport early, not to mention time spent driving to the airport in the first place. There are also luggage restrictions, on size, weight, and the specific contents you can take with you. And I don't fit very well into coach seats, as if that's any big surprise. I suspect, when all is said and done, the trip by car wasn't more than 3 hours longer than the trip by plane would have been, and I found the trip far more comfortable and worthwhile.
Re-examining our trip from last year, from Denison to St. Pete beach, FL, it would have taken about 19 hours to drive it. To fly, we left the house about 8 am and arrived at the hotel about 7:30 pm, so it would have taken about 5 hours longer to drive it than to fly. Of course, some of that flight time could have been adjusted. We COULD have shown up later to the airport, but security is always a crapshoot and you never know what you're going to have to deal with. We could have also gotten a straight through flight which would have been a lot faaster than the one we had with a layover, but that would have cost far more. As it stands, the cost to drive it and the cost to fly it would be about the same, so for THAT trip, flying probably made more sense, although I was quite uncomfortable on the flight back, and it would have been nice to not have to worry about the size of my deoderant can.
The site had a few issues while I was gone. The office cam died since the host computer decided to reboot for no apparent reason. The sign's computer also died, somewhat more permanantly, and I'm still working to set up a replacement. It's amazing how many empty shells of computers I have around here that DON'T work. Just... AMAZING.
June 13, 2011 23:52
Akon Pics are posted
Had lots of fun. Briefly met Spazi for the first time since 2003. I didn't have to spend quite as much time running around trying to keep track of everyone, so I had more time to attend the various panels. We got there a lot earlier, but a lot of that extra time was eaten up by standing in line, and attempting to park. Local parking is easy after 5 pm. Before that, not so much. However, once all of that drama was over, we had a delightful time.
May 27, 2011 22:45
Progress? Well, so much for new years resolutions. I have NOT made the progress I was hoping for, although I did at least get done most of what I laid out in the first few weeks of the years. I've also had some other accomplishments as well as a few setbacks.
Biggest accomplishment of all, I quit drinking Dr. Peppers. I actually quit drinking sodas entirely and I also cut out all caffiene except when absolutely ncessary. The reason I was able to do this (and it wasn't easy), was that I got REALLY sick in late January. I spent the better part of a week in bed, and apparently some side effect of the illness was that sodas tasted REALLY bad. So my last memory of a Dr. Pepper is that it tastes nasty, and as such, I was able to quit drinking them for a while. Now, I'm fully aware that if I tried one today, it'd probably taste fine, but I've at least been able to trick myself into avoiding them. Cutting out caffiene was a necessary fringe benefit, but the really annoying part of quitting the sodas. With the hours and schedule I work, it's very important that I get enough sleep. If I can't get enough sleep, it's very important that I find some other way to stay awake during the working hours AND be sure I can be awake enough to drive home, drive Kiko to school, and be able to wake up early enough to pick her up. This is pretty easy to do if I'm caffinated, but going cold turkey on that particular drug makes it very hard to stay awake. Of course, there are other options for caffiene, but none as appealing to me as sodas. I don't care for coffee, or tea, or energy drinks, and I'm not going to take pills. A Starbucks Frappachino is about the only thing I can manage, and it's too expensive to rely on for daily doping. However, were I to continue my caffiene dependancy, I would eventually grab some sodas as an emergency source of the drug, and immediately go back to my 12+ can per day habit. I've also made absolutely sure that the house is well stocked and stays well stocked, of juices and water, so when I get thirsty (and I'm always thirsty), there's always something to drink here. If I need a drink, I'll go to the gas station, and get the only thing there that I want... which will be Dr. Pepper. So it's vital that I avoid that contingency. So far, so good. Haven't had a Dr. Pepper in 4 months now.
As setbacks go, as a downside of my caffiene withdrawl, I accomplished practically nothing for about 6 weeks. It took that long to be able to do anything outside of work. What other time I didn't spend sleeping was spent in a half-awake zombie state, and needless to say, I didn't manage to get anything useful done. I also puchased and played a few video games that I'd been waiting on for a while, specifically Crysis 2 and Portal 2. I also have resumed working on the house, specifically trying to get the front hallway completed. All of these things have been time sinks.
However, I did implement the relay box to replace the X10 modules for most of the lamps, and that has greatly improved the reliability of the lamps. I also have spent a bit of time playing with visual studio, working with the serial port and networking, as part of the gps project. That currently has about half of the desired features functional. I've got the car fixed with a nice camera and gps tracking, and it displays realtime my speed and city, along with an updating google map. Some of those ideas and map work I'd poached from a previous project, but the behind the scenes coding is all original, as I've integrated it into the DMICMS database structure. I'm now researching a minimal computer setup that I can permanantly deploy in the vehicle. I'm considering a mini-itx system running linux. That would fit nicely under a seat or the center divider, and I would have it power up and interface all of the components automatically when the car starts. I'm also considering an in-dash touchscreen monitor, although that will up the expense quite a bit, but would allow for some nifty interfaces, especially with the radio/music playback. I'll also want to implement some more advanced work with google maps, to take advantage of realtime route predition, and other fun stuff. I'll also include an access point (hopefully one I can create virtually from a pci wireless card) so other people in the car (or nearby vehicles) can use laptops with wifi and share the same internet connection. This will make road trips more entertaining at least. More on all of that later.
Speaking of road trips, I and some or all members of my immediate family will be taking several trips this summer and we will make an effort to keep the trips as integrated with the site as possible.
January 16, 2011 19:49
Took a short roadtrip this weekend to see Tif and the baby. Some of the projects were aimed toward that trip, so while their immediate priority is way down, I still want the gps and cam features avialable for future trips. Right now, I'm still focusing on the relaybox. At least THAT is almost done. Part of the issue is simply the fact that without having all of the components ready and available, I spend a great deal of time on busywork trying to gather components and tools, and not so much time actually doing the nuts and bolts of soldering. Even so, the actual construction time is taking longer than expected. I guess I'm just slow :). I DO expect my speed to improve as I do these things more often; I know my speed on constructing the sign improved the more I worked on it. I also know that MOST of my time spent revolves around not having pre-etched traces and requiring constant manipulation of the component leads. Still, with the purchase of one more part, I'm hoping I'll be able to finish THAT project in a day or so. That just leaves like 16 more. Ugh. Double Ugh.
Still, with hopes that I can eventually catch up, I'm going to trudge onward and keep adding to the daunting list by posting new projects. Here are a few more.
January 13, 2011 09:48
Needless to say, I'm 13 days into the year, and I'm still working on the first 4 projects I listed. I did obtain Eagle and I've started using it to construct schematics, so I'll at least be able to wrap up a couple of my pending projects using that. I've got half the soldering done on the relay box. One more board to go on that one, as well as finding another parallel cable to scavenge. I've cleaned out the remaining desk drawers, so my desk conversion process is close to completion as well, although I need to rearrange the placement of the monitors a bit. My primary monitor is sitting at about the middle of my desk (front to back), and as such, there is a LOT of wasted space behind it. Before I used LCD's, that space would have been utilized. now, however, it's just empty space that seems to accumulate dust and trash. I still need to get the cam lowered and get a few more parts to finish some of the first projects.
So... Now I intend to actually CATCH UP, so that I can still meet the requirements of my new years resolution. This means for the next say... 9 days, I need to crank out TWO projects daily. Yeah. Good luck with that, but here goes anyway.
So a few more projects I need to get to soon, weather permitting:
Keep in mind. I'm WAY behind on this. I've so far spent more time on the relay board than I had expected to. If I plan to construct a lot of circuits in the future I'm probably going to have to invest some money and time in an etching system so I can create my own circuit board with custom traces, which turns an 8 hour soldering job into a 1 hour soldering job. A drill press might also be useful.
I'm also having a heck of a time with shaft/wheel arrangements. I can find motors with several different output shaft sizes, as well as wheels with a variety of bore sizes. However, what I NEED are solid rubber wheels, such as colson wheels, something with a diameter between 4 and 6 inches. 5" being preferable. The problem is, I'm having a heck of a time finding a wheel with a bore size that will fit any given shaft size I have, and there don't seem to be a readily available supply of reduction hubs that will work for any given situation. What's particularly frustrating is many of the robotics sites for which you think they would provide exact solutions to this problem actually sell products that don't match up with each other. I've even gone to the extreme of attempting to design and build my own gearbox (and trust me, this would be a monumental undertaking of extraordinary tediousness), but even then, something as simple as the concept of fitting the axle to the wheel is a roadblock. I don't have the experience or the equipment to machine my own hubs, and I don't feel like investing several hundred dollars in equipment to build a part that created in quantity would cost less than $1. I'm going to try to find a local machine shop that could actually produce a few of these for me as a custom order. It'll probably be insanely expensive for what it is, but I don't really see much other option.
January 03, 2011 19:01
It's been 3 days now. So far, my success has been... partial. I can blame some of it on this workweek which has grown larger than expected, and I can blame other issues, such as not having all the components I need to complete all of the tasks.
First off, the marquee sign page is done, but needs more visial diagrams. That brings up the first issue. I need a good program (preferably free) that can create electronic schematic diagrams. I'd been using Xcircuit in the past, but its interface is annoying, it doesn't scale well, and image conversions are a pain. Better than nothing, but I'd prefer something else.
As for the minor computer upgrades, I only got some of those accomplished. I need to find an inexpensive front panel module that can fit either a 3 1/2 or a 5.25 bay and include at least the front audio hookups and a few USB ports. I'd also like an integrated card reader for that, but I can live without it if necessary as I have one of those already (it just doesn't fit properly). I could possibly create my own audio hookups if I feel so inclined, but if I can find a cheap option, that'd be preferable. I don't feel much like spending $20 for an audio jack.
I flat ran out of time today but I started assembling components to build the relay board. I have the relays and diodes, along with a new work 4 gang outlet box to house it all in, along with the outlets themselves. What I'm needing is a sheet of perfboard to wire it up on, one that will fit in the enclosure. Either that, or I could mount the circuit on the outside of the outlet box and enclose the entire thing in a larger box, but it would be nice to be able to fit all of it in there. It would be ideal to built my own 12V power supply as well, which means I'll need to find a small transformer and a few other components. Also debating if I want to use a parallel port outlet or just scavenge another parallel cord. I certainly have plenty of them.
A future project along the same lines would be to construct a single enclosure for the computer interface, and use phone cable to connect to smaller (1 or 2) gang boxes with their own relays or triac circuits built within that can then be plugged in individually. This would be helpful for Xmas displays in the future, especially if they're outside.
January 01, 2011 17:12
Happy New Years to everyone. I typically don't make New Years resolutions, since I have a horrible time of actually keeping them. However, there ARE a lot of things I really would like to accomplish, and it would be nice to accomplish them sometime in the near future. Of course, big projects like "Redesign the entire site" or "build a new room on the house" tend to be expensive, month-long projects that are daunting to even attempt, and the motivation to get started on them is seriously lacking. So I'm not going to burden myself with any huge projects that will do nothing but overwhelm me and instead focus on small, few hour long projects that I will actually be able to accomplish in a single day, and do one of them every day this year. I DO have the time for these things, I'm just need to develop a habit for working on them and not get sidetracked with entertaining distractions.
Of course, to make this whole thing easier to keep track of, I'm going to get the project tracker going again. It has some annoying bugs, which is why I quit using it, but it'd be useful to update and check every day while I'm doing this, and let others track my progress as well. For now, I'll just list some pending projects in the news and update the news as I've completed them.
So, for now, a short list of things to get me started:
I SHOULD be able to accomplish that in 4 days, although it'll be pushing it. We'll see if it happens.
In other news, we got a LCD TV for Christmas. While it works great, there are some minor issues with my in-house broadcast network. For those of you who aren't aware, I've got a computer set up in the office for playing movies, which respond to a command from a web page that contains an organized list of all of the movies and shows I have available. Think MythTV but more primitive. The video and audio output of that computer is fed into a UHF modulator, diplexed into the cable stream, and broadcast to all TVs in my house on channel 90. This works wonderfully on all of the ancient CRT screens we have, none of which are widescreen. The new TV is. This presents a minor problem in that I have to zoom the image to display widescreen media to properly fit on the screen. That's great and all, but I'm sure I'm losing a lot of resolution, and if I play a show with a 4:3 aspect ratio, then I either get the sidebars or lose some of the top and bottom of the video. In addition to all of this, I know that going through the modulator loses a lot of resolution, which was just fine on the older TV sets, but the new screen can handle a decent resolution. So, I'd like to upgrade my little system a bit. Keeping channel 90 as it is, because we still have 2 other sets in the house that can still use it just fine, I see I have two choices. I can find a digital TV modulator and insert that into the stream as well, or I can move a computer into the living room and use the TV as a monitor (which I can), and forego any efforts to stream it over the cable network. Using it as a monitor will work fine as a short term solution, since I only have one TV that can really make use of it, but if I end up getting more of them in the future (and I'm sure I will eventually as the other ones die off), I'd like for all of them to be able to access the same stream, otherwise I'll need to dedicate computers for each of them, and that will increase the cost, space, and power consumption of each TV setup, not to mention add extra noise. Anyway, I'm looking for a relatively inexpensive product that can handle that. Please don't link me to "digital" UHF modulators. That's a regular analog output, and I already have one of those. The digital in that case only means that it has a 8 segment LED display to show you what channel you're broadcasting on. Thanks.
December 08, 2010 08:02
Well, Xmas is upon us. I've started to put together the Christmas display in the living room (running a bit late, I know). In the next day or two though, I'll have everything set up and running. I'll probably set up a second cam in there so the Christmas village will be more visible.
I've set up some new shelves on the back wall and immediately filled them up, with no obvious evidence that they have helped clear up any mess. I've got one more smaller shelf to add for the electronic component trays which will sit right above the top of the table. The black shelves that I used to have there have now been moved over next to Gertie's desk and she's got them filled up with pictures and other nicknacks.
Over the last few months I've been purchasing parts for a new computer and last night the final component showed up. It's a Athlon II X3 running Windows 7, with 4 gigs of ram and a GeForce GTX 460 video card. That will become my primary workstation/gaming machine. My next step is to determine what to do with my current system. Even though it's 3 years old, it's still quite adequate for practically everything I do, and I have may set up a third monitor on the desk and move it to the other side. That computer can then be used for playing movies/tv shows when we're in here so I don't have to give up using my computer when we do that. It's also been suggested that we get a medium sized LCD TV and hang it on the wall in front of us so we can watch our shows on that instead. All to be determined in the near future.
My X10 modules have been giving me trouble lately. I've swapped out tranceivers and that seems to temporarily clear things up, but after a day of operation, the lamps quit working and I have to reset the module to get everything working again. Considering that I purchased all of these about 10 years ago, and they have withstood operating conditions that likely far exceeded the recommended specs, I'm not really surprised. While I still like X10, and the fact that it's cheap, simple to use, and very easy to interface with, I will likely switch to using a relay or triac based custom solution. I forsee a controller circuit in a project box with 6 conductor phone cable being used to communicate with 2-gang outlet boxes, each of the 4 plugs being an individually controlled circuit. Since the lamps are typically near each other, this would be feasible without creating a lot of wiring ratsnests, which is always a concern with ANYTHING I do.
And for a project for everyone else: I'm looking for inspiration for a futuristic bridge type console. Something like you would see in the more recent Star Trek shows, but I'd want to do something different. The thing is, while I'm able to find PLENTY of examples of LCARS displays, designs, etc, I'm not really able to find anything else. There are other science fiction shows, certainly, but for some reason, the Internet isn't being helpful in finding me good examples of the workstations. I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with this, if anything. I have a notion to build some type of futuristic looking desk or workstation, or work area, either for practicality, or just because it looks cool. Need some ideas though.
October 28, 2010 23:23
Of course, the next BIG project will be the Xmas display. I had a modest setup last year, but I'm going to ramp it up a bit this time. I had some signal issues with the X10 modules, so I'm going to go with strictly a relay or triac setup this year. I'm also wanting to integrate the music with the lights. I'm currently doing this with Vixen and a 8 port relay board, but I want to expand that, and also make the lights work from either the site OR the music syncing, AND allow people to control the light sequences from the site, and even submit their own. It all depends on how much time I have, of course. If I run out of time, I'll just stick with the turning on and off. I'll add an extra cam or two though.
I also have some database issues I need to take care of. The visitor and cam databases need their id's reindexed and I need to add code to prevent anything from screwing up those fields. I also need to prevent people from setting the id to 0, and there are a few other security issues I need to address, although I think I have those mostly solved. I also want to consider getting the image database working as well. I fear my design might have been far too grand. I was envisioning a system that could easily scale to handle 1 trillion images, and while that's a noble goal, and not terribly unrealistic (popular photo websites boast more than several billion images already), the simple fact is, I'm not going to become strictly a photo sharing site like those are, I just want the feature contained within my site to avoid the diluting effect I've been witnessing lately.
And more on that. My pagerank has dropped recently. That can have a lot to do with overall popularity, which granted is less than it was years ago, but it also has a lot to do with the diluting of content. Names, descriptions, and discussions about the site that are also mirrored elsewhere mean that there are less search combinations that lead exclusively to this site. Searching for "Restil" used to have this site as one of the first links on the front page, and now, I give up before I even find a link to the site, several pages later. It's still there of course, but since DMI is a diluted authority on all of those subjects now, it ranks lower on ALL searches that might otherwise lead people here. Of course, I can't really prove much of this, I only have past research information on how pagerank works overall, and there are many other factors involved as well. But it would still make sense for the future to keep all DMI related content ON the site itself and not have endless reposting and repeating of that content elsewhere.