Friday, April 29, 2011

Size matters...

This is a MEMS Gyroscope

I don't have a solid plan for it, yet. I think I'd like to make a balancing two wheel robot with it. It boggles the mind that technology has progressed to the point we can mass produce something this small with moving parts (sort of).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Better Blogging.

I realize now that I should be using jumps in my blog posts. It's one of those features of other blogs I've appreciated for years without realizing it was happening. I added them to my existing posts, the only problem is that they weren't really authored with jumps in mind.

I also just discovered the "view" feature in Blogger. The "Sidebar" view (, I think, is actually a better way to view a blog than one monolithic page.Though, when I get better with the jumps that should help also.

Also, I tried manually making a "Page 1, Page 2", link-menu thing with related posts. I think a better idea is to use project tags for that...

In other news...
My Android app is coming along nicely, and I got permission from my employer to publish it. Time to start working on some posts about it.

My Homemade Touch Mechanism used in the Good Times timer generated some interest, I'll clean up the code and package it up. I definitely plan to use it again anyways, so it would be nice to make it general purpose. This probably wont happen until my game is out, so maybe sometime in early summer.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Word Clock, Part 1

This was probably my biggest, most ambitious electronics project I've done so far. (And also one of my first)
It was inspired by this:, which in turn was inspired by:  (I see that the guy who did the instructables clock has since done new version of it, it looks really nice.)

Anyway, here is mine:

My word clock. If I could have taken a picture that hid the flaws, I would have :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching programming to kids with Scratch

I think I grew up in a great in era in personal computing. My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20, the predecessor to the C-64. The manual centered on programming it in BASIC. Now, I cannot recall seeing a meaningful computer manual in 20 years. But computers then were so simple; from a 12-year-old's perspective, it was approachable, even if far less capable that what you get today. I've often wondered if I would have been put off by the complexity of todays machines, if I had been born later.

As long as I've been a father, I've anxiously waited until the day my kids were old enough that I could bring them into the enchanted realm.

I discovered Scratch last year, it's really a great visual programming environment for kids, especially ones who are just learning how to read.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


So my little experiment with blogging has been pretty rewarding so far. It's very nice to see blogger stats show traffic coming from all over the world. I'm very honored to see that Hackaday has twice featured my blog.

I have a few other projects I'd like to write up, as well as some more information, maybe some schematics and code, about the projects I've written about so far. Looking at other blogger blogs recently not for content, but presentation and aesthetics, I can see I have a lot of work to do, this one's pretty sad. I'll improve it over time.

My goal to to try and post something worthwhile, at least once a week(this post doesn't count :) ), to try not to be like 99% of blogs that start strong, then whither. Time will tell. Most posts will probably not be Hackaday worthy, but I hope to be able to share things that someone who likes what I like would find interesting and inspiring. I have a few older completed (mostly) projects that I want to write about, and a million project ideas I want to do one day.

I haven't done a lot with a soldering iron in a few months, I've been working on an Android app in my free time. I hope to be able to start writing about it soon. I also hope to publish it soon (within a month, but that's what I thought a month ago ). I did register with the Android market the other day, made a Facebook page, and have my eye on a web domain, that was pretty exciting, it felt official.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Build System Status Monitor

This is a project I did a while back.

"Indictron" (You might guess that I like to come up with goofy code names for my projects) is a device I use to monitor the status of the continuous integration servers for some projects I've worked on. It's a USB powered grid of LEDs run by an Atmel ATmega88 processor. The device is controlled by a Windows application that queries the build servers for the status of various projects and then sends commands over USB to the AVR chip.

I should take a moment here to say that I am not at liberty to say for what "build projects" I actually used this, so some details or pictures may be altered/redacted.

In full geek regalia:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good Times, Part 3.

Part 1   Part 2    Part 3 ]

Welcome to my 3rd and probably last post on the Good Times timer. I want to write about the pieces of flair I put into it.

This project was for my wife, and the timing of the project happened to be late November last year, so I decided I would make it Christmas gift, and I stopped showing her progress on it.

Of course, I had to add some Easter eggs to the project :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good Times, Part 2.

[ Part 1   Part 2    Part 3 ]

One of the most fun parts of making the timer was the capacitive touch buttons. So in this post, I'm going to touch on how I did it. I might even post a little code :) ( I'm still getting the hang of this blogger thing so bare with me as I play with formatting, etc). 

The inspiration.

I've worked with mechanical buttons on past projects, and I was always less than happy with how the buttons looked, or cost, or how much effort you had to put in to "getting it right". I've spent hours on mouser or digikey looking at buttons, only to discover the datasheets didn't really give you a good grip on the aesthetics or "feel" of the mechanics. Also, the physical chassis construction work, (my least favorite part of a project), seemed to consume a disproportionate amount of effort. Touch buttons, I thought, would be easy, cheap, and I had a lot of options for how to make them look nice. I was aware of the Atmel QTouch chips, but every time I went to tack some on to one of my hobby parts purchases, they were always out of stock. Then I came across this in an Arduino forum (I don't actually own an Arduindo, but a lot of people do some clever things with them):

That got me thinking, the low AVR microcontrollers are cheaper than most of the touch sensor controllers, and come in DIP form factor. It's such a simple idea, it's brilliant!. So with with a breadboard, my trusty AVR Dragon, and some aluminum foil, I experimented.

The implementation:

I didn't have this blog in mind when doing the project, so I neglected to get a good shot of the early experiments, but this one shows my test touch panel, as well as other parts of the project at various levels of completion.

My test touch panel. (also check out the finished display board, and my homemade  breadboard/6 pin isp adapter)