You are currently browsing the April, 2011 archives.

Time for Tourism

Posted 2011.04.26 17.44 in Uncategorized by Stephanie

If you’re looking for somewhere interesting and off-the-beaten-track to visit, maybe consider touring scenic Pripyat?

Ok I’m being a little bit tongue-in-cheek but in actual fact, this is something I would probably enjoy seeing. There’s a lot of history there, frozen in time for the past 25 years.

Here’s a photo that was taken almost exactly 25 years ago, give or take a day. I don’t want to think about how much radiation the photographer absorbed in this fly-over. Even today, visits near the plant involve radiation dosimeters and close monitoring.

Still, it would be a fascinating place to visit.

Wreck of a Weekend

Posted 2011.04.25 9.23 in Aquaria, Sports, Uncategorized by Stephanie

What a miserable crappy long weekend. The weather wasn’t as bad as forcast, though it was still fairly dreary. That wasn’t the worst of it though.

Thursday night was supposed to be good but instead I had to watch first Montreal, then Vancouver lose their playoff games. One disappointment after the next.

Friday was marginally better, with a new Fringe episode – although I didn’t think it was that great an ep. Too much telling, not enough showing.

Then Saturday night Montreal lost yet again. Three losses in a row now.

And last night was Vancouver’s turn to drop their third in a row. They were up 3-nil in the series, now it’s on to game seven.

And through all of this, my beloved pet snails had been dying off. I don’t know what the hell happened exactly, because the fish and frog in the same tank have been doing fine. Just all the snails died. The last couple died on Sunday. Including Little Buddy, who had been with me for nearly two years. He was my little methusela snail, the one who wouldn’t die. Till yesterday.

RIP Little Buddy.

What a crappy weekend. Nothing good came out of it, just disappointment and sadness.

Weekend Weather

Posted 2011.04.21 8.37 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Looks like we’re in for an awesome long weekend!

Yay weather!

/sarcasm

Back in Business!

Posted 2011.04.18 21.25 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

The parts I needed arrived today, so it was just a matter of asembling a new ‘motherboard’ then wiring it into the thermostat enclosure.

The parts were mainly the circuit board and the ATMega328p chip, along with the sundry support electrics. To be honest, I’m using the SparkFun Serial LCD kit — for $25 it’s almost a complete self-contained mini-Arduino that piggybacks onto the back of a 16×2 LCD display. And it even includes the LCD!

If I knew how to use Eagle and if I had more time, I’d have made my own PCB design. I still might do that as I now have more LCD screens than boards to slap on the back of them. The SparkFun Serial LCD isn’t perfect, but it’s actually quite close.

So my DIY networked Thermostat is back up and running with a shiney new brain, my house is once again comfortable, I’m out of the stone age and back in the World of Tomorrow, and I’m a happy camper.

And just for kicks, I took the old dead board and tossed it in the dishwasher, ran a load on ‘heavy-duty pots-n-pans’ mode, and the darn thing is actually working again. Go figure! I won’t trust it in mission-critical use, but I can certainly use it for prototyping or making stuff that’s not, you know, directly wired into my friggin home.

Yep, once again all is right with the world.

Grumble Grumble

Posted 2011.04.16 13.45 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Well my parts order did not arrive Friday, so I won’t be able to get the thermostat rebuilt today. Grumble grumble grumble. Should be in on Monday though and I ought to be able to slap it back together Monday evening.

In the meantime I’ve torn apart the remains of the old one and I suspect I know what killed it. Grumble grumble grumble. A while back I learned about solder with water-soluble flux, and I thought I had ranted about how it screwed up a number of little projects. I can’t find that rant now but suffice to say, I detest that stuff.

Anyhow, so it turns out that the water soluble crap is still haunting me. The board that ended up being used as the brains of my thermostat was recycled from a previous kit, and that kit had been assembled before I learned about the perils of water-soluble flux. So it was doomed to failure before it even became a thermostat, I just didn’t realize it. Grumble grumble.

Staying positive, I’ve at least learned a few more things, and the thermostat will definitely be back, better than ever. And this time, with plugs and sockets, so I can easily pull the darn thing apart if needed.

Another nice thing is that although this little misadventure did piss me off, it hasn’t tipped me back towards depression or that sort of thing. I’m just rolling with the punches and moving on.

So just a couple more days living with the antique cave-man thermostat, but after that I’ll be back in the 21st century again.

Thermostat Failure

Posted 2011.04.14 16.51 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

After nearly a full month of flawless operation, my DIY ethernet thermostat suffered some kind of stroke yesterday evening, and this morning slipped into a coma.

I don’t know what cause the glitch but it appears that the microcontroller that runs the whole thing has been fatally befuddled. And while 98.2% of the time, I use a socket for any IC in any project, in this case for some stupid reason I did not.

Indeed, everything is soldered, hot-glued, and taped in there so well that I’m not sure it’s even worth-while attempting to debug & repair. I think this is a back-to-the-drawing-board moment. Or at least, back-to-the-assembly-line moment.

So, I have a couple replacement parts on order (and you can bet I’m re-stocking my IC stocket supply), and I suppose I’ll have to rebuild the darn thing over the weekend. It wouldn’t be such an issue if this had happened closer to the summer months, but for now I can’t leave the house unheated for days-on-end.

Hopefully the parts will arrive tomorrow and I’ll be able to get at it. Otherwise it’ll probably be a week before I can recover from this tragedy.

In the meantime, my home heating needs are being serviced by this neolithic thermostat that was recovered from an archaeological dig, and has been on display in a dusty old museum somewhere. Or quite possibly I found it on a shelf in the storage closet.

Chronodot Library for Arduino

Posted 2011.04.09 22.44 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

When I was working on my Thermostat project, I came across the Chronodot RTC (real time clock) and decided it would be the perfect choice. Not just because it’s incredibly accurate, but because it provided both time and temperature readings in a single package. I could have used another RTC such as the DS1307 which is less expensive, but then I would have had to use something else for reading the temperature.

The only thing about using the Chronodot to get temperature readings was that there wasn’t an Arduino library that could get me that information. The Chronodot communicates using the i2c protocol, and as I hadn’t used it before I was hoping to find some examples and a usable library. Fortunately it’s compatible with the DS1307, but of course that library has no reference to temperature as the ‘1307 doesn’t read the temp.

So using the ‘1307 library as a starting point, I expanded it by adding two new readings to it: temperature, in both farenheit and celcius.

The library includes an example sketch. If you’re familiar with using the DS1307 with an Arduino then the Chronodot library will be an easy drop-in replacement. The time features are unchanged, I’ve just added the two temperature readings so they’re available within your sketch.

Click here to download the library: Chronodot_Library.zip