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Long Weekend Update

Posted 2012.06.30 10.33 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

It’s a long weekend! Yay!

Tomorrow is Canada Day, which is about the only time of the year I do any entertaining. So rather than relaxing and slacking off for the long weekend, I’m really busy getting ready for tomorrow – got some family and friends coming, gotta make sure the house, the yard, and the food, are all just right.

In other (aka electronics) news, I’m waiting for my ISEB6-MkII boards to come back from the fabricator. I’ve heard that the boards have been made, they just have to be separated and mailed. So probably another 10 to 14 days to go.

In the meantime I’ve got most (but not all) of the components onhand now. I did my Digi-Key order last week, and in my haste forgot a few things (and made a few typos, doh!) When the boards do arrive, I’ll start populating one, and get the last of the parts in.

The waiting is really frustrating though, and I have to continually remind myself not to go back into Eagle and keep tinkering with the design!

Apart from that, we’re in another little ‘heat wave’ again. Temps in the high 80’s outside, flirting with 80’s inside. I do have A/C but I’m too frugal to turn it on. It’s more fun to tough it out. And if it does feel too hot, I just have to remember February. Any February.

Having my front door freeze shut so I have to chip my way out of the house, then shovel the walk, then scrape ice off the car… I’ll take a heat-wave any time thanks.

Anyways it’s not nearly as ‘bad’ as the heatwave last week – at night it’s still dropping into the 60’s, so I just open the windows wide at night to let the cool in. Then mostly-close them during the day to keep the heat out.

Oh and last thing, I finally found my instant coffee, but they’re still messing with me. They’ve changed the packaging from 150g to 100g. It was ‘on sale’ when I got it, but I’m skeptically waiting to see what the ‘not on sale’ price will be. If they sell it at the old price, that’s basically a 35% price hike.

Coffee != Werthers Original

Posted 2012.06.26 23.59 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

When it comes to coffee, I have pretty simple tastes. I’m happy with instant coffee, but only one kind. I like Nescafé Columbian. Glass jar, blue label. That’s it. All the other instant coffees just don’t do it for me. Other instant coffees… something about them smells off.

Anyhow, for the last 2 weeks, my grocery store has been out. It’s been on sale, and the whole time it’s been on sale, they haven’t had any. It wasn’t so much about not getting it on sale, it was about not having any coffee!

So in desperation, I took the next nearest one – Nescafé French Vanilla. Glass jar, purple label. I’m not so much into vanilla, but what caught my eye was that it said Rich on the label. I like rich coffee. So this morning, I try it out.

One heaping scoop of the instant coffee powder. Two pouches of sweetener. Boiling water. A big pour of light cream.

It’s a good start – it doesn’t smell bad, though it doesn’t smell like my coffee.

It doesn’t taste like coffee, but it doesn’t taste horrible.

It tastes like something familiar.

I’ve had this before.

I know this taste.

What is it?

Oh Gods – it’s Werther’s Original hard candy!

I don’t want a big hot cup of werther’s original in the morning.

I just want coffee.

Sigh.

Tomorrow I will try a different grocery store.

Eagle Eagle Eagle Eagle

Posted 2012.06.22 9.25 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies by Stephanie

You know how when you get hooked on something new, it’s all you can think about? Like drawing schematics and routing traces on a circuit board? For the past week that’s almost the only thing in my head.

When I close my eyes I see a maze of red and blue lines, green dots, and skinny beige criss-cross lines. For those who aren’t familiar, that’s basically the default colours in Eagle for top traces, bottom traces, vias, and unrouted connections.

The freaky thing is, routing traces is fun! Like solving maze puzzles. You need to get this signal from here to over here. But you can’t cross any of the two dozen lines in between. And you can’t go outside the borders. And you can’t touch any lines – you can’t even get too close to any other lines.

So you snake up and down and left and right in between the lines, and when you’re completely blocked you dive down to the underside and weave around the lines on the bottom, then you pop back up again when the bottom is blocked, and finally you get to where you need to be!

And then you do that a hundred more times! And each time is harder than the last, because each time you route a trace, that’s one more trace that the next one has to avoid, and less overall space remaining available on the board.

So when the game finally ended, I had routed all my required signals, then I routed some extra pins, then I routed every last available pin on the microcontroller – even the ones that I had thought were totally trapped, I was able to find ways to break them out too.

This was all done by Tuesday – at that point there was nothing left to route, nothing left to tweak. So I spent another couple days just looking at it – admiring the patterns, and trying to find any flaws or mistakes.

Last night I finally submitted the designs for fabrication – using OSH Park’s service. They even gave me a rendering of what the board’s expected to look like:

Component Side

Solder Side

The lower part of the board with the buttons and battery connector is designed to be cut off – so it’s really two boards in one. This allows me to test it all in one-piece on the workbench, then separate the two parts for mounting on the leather bracer.

The Mark II version of the ISEB6 will have a whole lotta upgrades by the way… totally different uC, more sensors, more functions and features. It’s going to be awesome. So awesome that the PCB will be purple.

Yeah, that’s how awesome it will be!

Thermostat V3 Schematic

Posted 2012.06.19 9.45 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies by Stephanie

Here is a schematic for my Thermostat V3. It’s something of a ‘block diagram’ as I did for the ISEB6 layout, as it is another project that was mostly assembled from off the shelf modules.

You can download the PDF version here.

I have omitted the lux / luminosity sensor in the above schematic, because it’s not working very well and I find it’s fairly pointless. I’ll likley remove it from my thermostat next time I’m doing work on it.

For something of a BOM and assembly instructions, please download the zip file that was linked in the original Thermostat post.

Cheers!

Pow! Schematics!

Posted 2012.06.14 17.32 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies by Stephanie

Ok so Eagle is tough and the learning curve starts off very, very steep. But it seems like if you can get past the first 2 hours, it suddenly tapers off after that.

(Or click here for PDF version)

To get the above schematic to come out, not only did I need to figure out how to make a schematic in Eagle, but I had to make my own parts library and create four devices – the Pro Micro itself (as a discrete device rather than its own board and schematic), the OLED board, the compass module, and the Lilypad LED boards.

The reason I did this rather than laying out all those individual components was that I’ve assembled the ISEB6 out of these boards. That’s what it is. So it didn’t make sense to chart out the separate bits that go into each board – just get the boards. Or if you want to look at their schematics, get them from the source (Adafruit, Sparkfun.)

Note that 3 modifications were made to the Pro Micro board directly: the diode D2 was removed, which cuts the connection between UVCC and RAW. This prevents the LiPo from being exposed to 5vdc when a USB cable is connected. The Amber and Green LEDs were removed and hookup wire soldered to them, to connect to the two Lilypad LED panels. Oh and I removed the red power LED since it wasn’t needed. 4 modifications, then.

So if you’re looking to reproduce the ISEB6 yourself, hopefully the schematic alongside the build notes and the code (available here) should be enough.

Finally – I am already working on a Mark 2 version of the ISEB6 which in fact will do away with the Pro Micro board, and will have its own PCB (hopefully) allowing me to make it all neat and tidy and eliminate the rats-nest of hookup wire that forms the backbone of the current ISEB6.

Ok, Gonna Try Learning Eagle…

Posted 2012.06.13 13.35 in Hobbies by Stephanie

I’m going to have another shot at learning this Eagle thing. I’ve tried twice before and both times it made me want to cry (why does it have to be so difficult!) but enough people are using it that it seems to be the standard when it comes to schematics and pcb layouts.

Still, what ever happened to hastily-drawn pencil sketches on the backs of napkins?

Anyways, it would really, really be nice to get my own custom PCBs made now and then, for some of these projects. And it would be equally nice to be able to have a schematic to share.

If anyone can suggest a good tutorial, please let me know! I know there’s dozens of tutorials but I don’t know which ones are any good and which ones are crap.

 If I do manage to figure this beast out, then I’ll give myself two rewards – first, I get an Eagle badge from Adafruit! And second, I’ll get a custom PCB made for my ISEB-6 Mark II which will be loads of fun to assemble.

No deadline for any of this – maybe ‘end of summer’ but maybe not.

 

A Rant or Two

Posted 2012.06.11 9.53 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Today I’m going to digress from my normal tech / electronics / photography / whatever content, and bitch and moan about some stuff that pisses me off.

First off: There’s this public service ad campaign that’s been running on the TV for the past couple months. It basically goes on about how some teenage girl died because she used her friend’s mom’s perscription medication to try and get high. The message, supposedly, is “perscription drugs can kill you so don’t use them to get you high.”

My reaction: What else is there for kids to get high on these days?

If the politicians in charge would just legalize something relatively safe and innocuous like weed, then these kids would not have to kill themselves with wierd-ass shit in order to get high. Seriously – what are kids supposed to do, when they want to get high? There’s nothing out there to safely get wasted on, so of course they’re gonna take whatever they can get their hands on.

FFS, just legalize pot, tax it, sell it through some controlled venue like the LCBO and let people get on with their life. Instead of pissing away gods-know-how much money to ‘fight’ drugs, turn it into a revenue stream by taxing it, and at the same time  make it safer for anyone who wants to partake.

I mean, just look back at prohibition, and tell me how well that worked out. Make booze illegal, and everyone stopped drinking right? Duh. People kept drinking but under threat of legal persecution, while at the same time the crooks and gangsters made money like crazy. Same thing today. The pot dealers are very grateful for the government artificially inflating the retail-price of their product.

Seriously. You can’t legislate human behavior. Some people are always gonna wanna get fucked up. Let ’em, tax ’em, and move on.

Second: I thought I had something else I was going to rant about but it’s completely slipped my mind. I think it had something to do with alcohol and depression.