The twittered catalog

Tonight, I managed to twitter enable our library catalog.   Now, if you find a book you want to recommend to your friends, just click the “tweet this!” link, and fill in your twitter username and password, and click “tweet”.  As if by magic, the item is tweeted, complete with a link to it in our catalog.    Yup, I’m a geek!   Twitter folks, try it out at:

So, what’s that wierd box for John?

A few months back I posted a picture of a strange looking box. I also asked people to guess what the box did. There were some good guess, but none that hit it 100%.

The box, contained a programmable micro controller board. It also contained a small circuit to interface with the “Try Me” button for an off the shelf Gargoyle I bought at Walgreens.

The box, combined with the gargoyle, some home brew LED spotlights, a hacked Dance Dance Revolution Mat, a plaster pedestal I painted to look like marble, and a nice alcove in a set of our bushes, creates my latest scene for Halloween.

The visitor walks past a set of bushes, when suddenly the alcove lights up, showing a gargoyle, the gargoyle opens his eyes, and begins to speak. When he is finished, he closes his eyes again, and the lights dim.

Just imagine the fun this will cause.

RF Remote Prop-1 interface

Today, I finished creating the Prop-1 to RC controller interface circuit. The schematic, for ExpressSCH is available here.

Interface Schematic
Interface Schematic

It works like a charm, all simple transistor logic, no relays, no nothing. Now, with a simple 3 lines of code in the Prop-1 program I can remotely trigger a prop ~30 feet away.

LOW Bkwd

Completed circuit
Completed circuit

One cool thing of note, I submitted the schematic to the support forum for the Prop-1. The head programmer / developer gave it his ok, and complimented me on part of the design.

More on the remote front

Well, I couldn’t stop at just the crow, and the flying ghoul. I found in my bins of stuff a screaming head I got from Target a few years ago. I never did set it out anywhere, but I took a look at it, and found it was indeed quite hackable. I dropped in the receiver board from another of the remote control cars. This time though, I had already used the Forward,and Reverse signals for other props, so had to do a little hacking to the receiver. Fortunately the chip in the car is capable of five separate actions, and the chipset is documented on the net, so I used one of the unused channels and linked it into the head. I then had to build a remote that had buttons for all five signals. I built that, finished the interfacing of the receiver and now have the ability to trigger the head from a remote. Tomorrow morning I’ll build a second transmitter for the Prop-1 to use to transmit.

Quote the raven… “Wireless”

Ok, so really it’s not a raven, it’s a crow…

A few years ago, when I got my first Prop-1 controller form EFX-TEK I set it up to control my popup jumper, and my squawking crow. Initially, the only way I could come up with a way to set off the crow was to insert a relay inline with the “try me” button on its bottom. This worked fine, except that it had the distinct disadvantage of requiring a cable leading from the crow to the controller. Later After I had that all working, I purchased a ghoul that “flew” down a rope and back. It too had a poor activation method, that I wanted to bypass. This time, due to the nature of the prop, I could NOT use any wired connection. This meant wireless. I looked online for some wireless transmitters and receivers, and found them to be cost prohibitive. This annoyed me greatly, until I was browsing the clearance isle at Wal-Mart and found a radio controlled car for $1. At that, an idea was born. I quickly snatched up the car, and dismantled it in the parking lot. I looked over the circuits to find they looked very simple, and easily modifiable. So I drove to radio shack, picked up a few parts and when I got home wired a buzzer up in place of one of the motors, and glued the receiver, and a separate power pack under the gouls cloak, and sure enough, when i pressed a button on the remote, the ghoul would hear the buzzer and start moving. I wasn’t thinking then, as I shoudl have went back and picked up 4 more of the RC cars to allow me to control up to 5 items (forward, reverse, left, right, turbo) from the one controller.
Flash forward to today, I recently went to the dollar store and picked up 5 cheap RC cars, all to my luck, having very tiny receiver boards. This morning, I sat down with the receiver board, and using my limited knowledge of electronics, wired it directly into my crows control circuitry. Now, the crow still functions as it did out of the box, but also sports a fully internal radio receiver. With the press of a button on the remote, or once I’m done, a signal from the micro-controller running the show, the crow will activate. Best part, there are NO wires, I can put the crow anywhere within a 15 ft radius of the transmitter and still have him work just fine. This should, in theory, also allow me to carry a controller with me where I can trigger him, and other props at will. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH

Down in a hole…

It is said, a friend will help you kill someone, but a real friend will help you bury the body.

Karl entrenched
Karl entrenched

Well, qualifies as a real friend. (Not that that was ever in doubt) Ok so there wasn’t actually a body, but I know very few people that would drive out here to help me dig a two foot deep trench, (26 to 28 inches in some places) to help me bury conduit to repair my yard light.

Eighteen years ago while planting a rose bush for my mother, I accidentally cut through the direct burial cable that ran to our yard light. This of course sucked badly, fortunately I was extremely lucky and was not harmed. So, with nothing more than a shoestring budget, I set out to repair the light. I made quite a few mistakes, but the end result had the wiring in conduit, and a little safer. It lasted for quite a few years. The past two years I started having trouble with it tripping the ground fault interrupter a lot, and I decided that I would need to replace it all again. Now that I have a full time job, and have paid off all my credit card debt, I could afford to do it right.

Burying Karl
Burying Karl

Today, at around 11:00, Karl arrived to find me digging the beginnings of the new trench for the conduit. After a few shovel fulls of dirt the larger shovel split its handle out, so we ran to go buy some better shovels for the job. After returning we trenched, by hand, a 30 foot long trench that ranged from 26″ to 28″ inches deep and ran from my house to the yard light. It took us a while, but we did it, and I am glad that the conduit is now the recommended dept. Previously when I did it myself at age 14, I was a lazy bum and the “trench” was no more than 6 inches below ground… I knew that was too shallow, but at 14, I didn’t care. Once the trench was dug, we set about laying the conduit. As we did I discovered, the outdoor outlet post I had purchased had an added surprise. It could be configured, through the use of an insert into a dual purpose, high and low voltage post. I couldn’t resist this opportunity so while I set about cleaning up the underground knock out hole in the lamp post Karl headed off to get more conduit so I could have a separate run of conduit for low voltage items, such as speaker wire, video, or data. Just imagine the possibilities if what I could do if my yard is wired for sound… MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA be afraid, be very afraid…

By the time Karl returned, I had ran the wire for the lamp post to the outlet post, and while he assembled the low voltage conduit run, I ran the wire from the outlet post back to the house. Once that was done, and all of the connections were made, we tested the circuit, and everything checked out. It’s important to note, that Karl changed the blown light bulb for me, the real reason the light was not working the past month… (Ok, simplest solution, I know….)

Now though, I feel 100% safe in the knowledge that the wiring to the yard, that I rely on heavily for Halloween, and Christmas displays is now safe, and water tight. Thank you Karl, Thank you Ladies at Ace Hardware who must have thought we were nuts… Oh, and thank you neighbors, who stopped to ask if I was working on my Halloween display… MUAHAHAHAH… Ya know… I should have ran a 3rd conduit while we were at it… one for Pneumatics… 🙂 Oh well, next time… 🙂 Hey Karl, what are you doing tomorrow? 😉

Geeky pirate

So what with this bein’ Talk Like A Pirate Day and all I discovered Facebook added “English (pirate)” as an option ya can be choosin’ fer language. Bloody thing don’t translate everythin though… So our library FB app was still landlubber speak. I have now added internationalization support and added pirate as a supported language so now iffn ye be addin’ our app and yer a good pirate you’ll get a piratical version of the app.


So, for quite a while the blog software I use has had avatar support. The thing that confused me about this support was that I could never find a place to upload my avatar.   This weekend in my free time I dismantled the blog software a bit and discovered that these avatars are actually coming from a site called “”.  This fact intrieuged me,  and so off I went.  From thier site:

A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites.

Cool concept, so I went ahead and signed up, and uploaded my pictures.   I then discovered I can also addon support for these gravitars to my email client.  It’s kinda cool.   It also has options to set defaults to randomly generated images for each user, currently I have it set for monsters. 🙂  

So, if you want your icon on my blog to switch from a silly looking monster to your real picture, go sign up. Do it, you know you want to!

I may see if I can add support for this to the software used by the BDB too, it might be nice to offload some of that file space / bandwith from Tom to a 3rd party company if he is interested.

All better

We stopped this morning to get a new phone card for Jon. I figured it might be with looking to see if they had chargers. Sure enough they had an iGo display and I picked up a travel kit. I can once again charge the iPod and phone. Happy day!