Monday, August 30, 2010

The Blinky Take-Out Box

Alright, so here's what I came up with. It's USB-attached, but only for power. Next step, make it read the serial port and do what a Processing app tells it. Meanwhile, it's happy to loop randomly.

The loop() is very simple. It flips a coin to decide whether or not to glow red, then waits between 0 and 1000 milliseconds. It flips a coin to decide whether or not to glow yellow, and then waits between 0 and 2000 milliseconds. Finally it picks a random number between 1 and 8, and blinks the green lights that many times.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Twenty-Four Hours of EL Wire

Now that I've got enough parts, and soldered the right ones to each other, I've got an Arduino controlling a few short lengths of EL Wire. I'll make a separate page for the complete saga, but the short story is this: I started with sparkfun's EL Escudo, soldered on header pins, used a transformer from, used EL wire from a starter kit, soldered JST connectors on the EL wire, attached to USB for power.

I keep zapping myself, reminding me that, "volts hurt, amps kill."  It's surprising when it gets you, but it hasn't done any permanent damage.  :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ninety-Nine Cent Laser

This cheap little keychain laser-pointer was marked down to ninety-nine cents, at Fry's. It's so cheap, the "gold" on the "metal" parts is flaking off from something that looks corrosive. Also, it "Exceeds FDA Standards" ... whatever that means. I bought two! Dunno what it's gonna be when it grows up, but I'll send one to my brother and see what he comes up with...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trouble with the EL Wire starter kit

I got out the EL Wire starter kit, but it's not entirely compatible with anything else I've got. The transformer makes a squeely sound when it's switched on, and the connectors aren't something standard. So I got parts delivered last week, and more parts on order for this week. By next weekend I should have everything to power it and control it from an Arduino.

Color me Kindlerlined

UPDATE: I've upgraded to a Kindle Fire.  The ability to automatically tweet the notes I take in books is either not available, or it's hidden.  Plenty of new and exciting social tie-ins, but nothing as simple as the old behavior.  The below-mentioned feed of tweets is now dormant.  (20120331)

Amazon recently added the ability to tweet the things you underline in your kindle.  So I set mine up.

And then I was thinking about my friend Andrew's flash app, where you tell it a keyword and it finds recent tweets that contain the keyword -- but then you tell it more sub-keywords and it colors the tweets in the original search if they include the sub-keywords.

Well, the amazon kindle tweets are easy to spot, because they all contain "" in 'em.  So here's what happens if you use Andrew's flash app to find all the kindle-posted tweets, and then run some sub-keyword coloring on it.

Borrowing Icons for Presentations

I got to present an introduction to virtualization, for the project management group at my work.  Putting it together (keynote on iPad, believe it or not) I needed some clear illustrations of computers and things.  I ended up using icons from the Gnome "tango" interface.  And I borrowed another one or two from KDE.  If you have do technical presentations to non-technical people, they're both great sources of art to borrow.

Oh, and since I'm the official "anti establishment on principle" guy on the team, I ended the presentation with Mark Goetz' awesome powerpoint public service announcement.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Toys

It's a really small VGA display!  I've been considering what it'd take to build a "KVM in a bag" for work and home.  You know, 'cause you only need to plug a monitor and keyboard into things, what, twice a year?  So why keep a fricken 21" wide-screen monitor and a full size USB keyboard in your closet all year?  I also got a power adapter. I'm gonna need a compact male-to-male VGA cable, tho. What is it about me and miniature crap?

Processing 1.2.1 on Ubuntu 10.04

Okay, so I've got my copy of Getting Started with Processing, and I'm also now signed up for Arduino and Processing in Tandem.  So I'd better get Processing 1.2.1 running on my netbook, which is running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx.

The trick is that when you untar the processing package, nothing that comes out of the archive is executable.  It's a sensible default, but means you gotta specifically make things executable.  If you know how linux works, just chmod the "processing" script 755, chmod everything in the included java/bin/ as 755 and run ./processing from its directory.

For the rest of you, here's how I did it, in extra-verbose detail, step-by-step:
  • Download Processing 1.2.1 for Linux.
  • Reveal the downloaded file in a directory window.
  • (In Chrome: click "Show all downloads," find processing, click "Show in Folder")
  • (in Firefox: the download manager lists your files, right click processing and click "Open Containing Folder")
  • Drag the processing tgz file onto your desktop.  (For this example, at least...)
  • Right-click the tgz file on the desktop and select "Extract Here"
  • Open a new Terminal window.
  • (it's in the main menu: Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal)
  • In the Terminal, change directory into Desktop, and into the extracted processing dir.
  • (in this example: type "cd Desktop/processing-1.2.1" in the terminal, but your version number might differ.)
  • Make the processing script executable by all users.
  • (for this example: type "chmod a+x processing" in the terminal)
  • The package includes a compatible version of java, which also needs to be made executable.
  • (for this example: type "chmod a+x java/bin/*" in the terminal)
  • And now you can get processing to open by running it from a Terminal.
  • (in this example: type "~/Desktop/processing-1.2.1/processing &" in a terminal
  • And that's it!  In the future, I just open a Terminal and type "~/Desktop/processing-1.2.1/processing &" again.
It took me a second to figure out, so hopefully this saves someone else a little trouble.  And of course it might save me some trouble the next time, when I've completely forgotten what I did.  Because that happens.  Often.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Shelving the Zipit Z2

    W00!  I've now got a million weekend projects queued up, so the Zipit Z2 is going on the shelf for a bit.  It tweeted SSIDs and base station MAC addresses from here to Las Vegas -- which I like to think is a sort of modern-day stellar cartography exercise.

    As soon as I need a cheap-ass, wifi-attached web/ssh server, it goes back into service. Meanwhile if anyone wants to borrow it ...

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Two-Conference Backlog

    And now I've got two conferences-worth of notes on the ipad, and no blog posts about either.  I've just wrapped up at Defcon 18, in Las Vegas.  I took my Zipit with me the whole time and scanned wifi SSIDs and base station MAC addrs occasionally.  One has a really wacky vendor ID on its mac addr.  Also, I attended the beginner lock picking presentation, and showed my financial support for, for which I received some hardware.  There was a bunch of fun info on how people hack games.  And a whole bunch of kindling to add to my dreams of opening a San Diego hackerspace.  Now I just gotta get posting!