Sunday, June 3, 2018

Major LED Cube update

When I created my 8x8x8 LED cube about 8 years ago, I programmed some fairly basic "patterns" into it. I'm only a novice programmer and I was happy with the result but I always imagined I would go back at some point and spend some more time programming some really great patterns.

Then I had some kids and they actually love the cube, and more and more I've been itching to get back and spruce it up with some fancy patterns.

Then around my birthday a couple of months ago I learned a new Raspberry Pi was released and it occurred to me that this would be an awesome platform for a "cube pattern generator" and so I started doing some research and hacking. I investigated replacing the PIC32 all together with an RPi and it's maybe possible but I decided that it was best to leave the PIC32 driving the TLC led drivers, even if the Rpi could do it "as good", there's no way it was going to do it "better". So the alternative is to leave the PIC32 as the drawing device and just feed the "patterns" to it from the RPi.

Before tackling the task of interfacing the two devices, which I knew wasn't going to be a picnic; I decided to test out some things and blow some rust off the old programming skills by building an LED Cube simulator. So I got a raspberry pi pattern generator talking to a LED cube simulator on my PC, to test out that everything worked how I expected, and I thought it would be cool to make one since I did just look for something open source first but couldn't find anything. Now anyone can use the LED cube simulator to make patterns or just "learn" without having to have built a LED cube first. I am hosting it and the pattern generator on github

Fast forward about 4 weeks and I now have the RPi feeding patterns to my actual LED cube and the led cube simulator at the same time! and it's awesome, to see the hardware and software, both of which I created, running in unison is quite cool.

So, I haven't actually got to the part where I create the cool patterns, that will be the next bit after I take a little bit of a break from staring at configuration registers and bit translations!

Here's some media. I will put up some posts detailing some of the technical aspects in the future.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Steam punk clock - LONG overdue

I bought a nixie tube clock kit back in 2011 and for the most part since then it has been sitting collecting dust. I would come back to it every few months and spend some time thinking about it and trying a few different things, but it was one of those projects I just could not work out how to get quite right!

Well I finally decide to get it done and here is the result. Click the picture for a nicer view.

It's not quite how I imagined it originally, but I am extremely pleased with the results. It could do with some sides, but I could not find matching wood, so that's something i'll keep my eye out for in the future. I'll take some detail photos later for another post. 

If you are interested I bought the clock kit from very happy to see the site is still in the business.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

DIY Pantry light upgrade, fit for a king.

My pantry is in the corner of the kitchen and doesn't get a lot of light. I got tired of rummaging around the back shelves trying to read spice labels and ingredients of various packets. Adding some additional lighting has been on my mind for a while but I've never come across a solution which I completely liked, that is until I found LED strips on eBay. Cheap and easy and amazing!


Add LED strip

Some basic mounting and soldering

A micro switch to turn it off when the door closes


The LED strip was only $6 including shipping! I bought 5 meters and I've only used 1.8m. There is a "big brother" LED strip called the 5050, but honestly, it's almost too bright as it is. There are also fancy RGB led strips which are cool but I really only needed white light in my pantry.  I also bought a $9 power supply, 12v 5A, because I "thought" I might run the light up both sides and maybe on the top too, but it turns out that running up one side is more then enough, so here's the kicker: the whole thing burns about 7 watts! This means I can replace my 5A power supply with a 1A one for $5! 

Fortunately, to the immediate right of the pantry is a space where the microwave sits and it already had a double power socket, with the microwave using only 1. This meant all I had to do was drill a hole between the 2 cavities and plug the power point in behind the microwave. 

The last thing of expense was the tri quad, (the little triangle piece of wood you can see the strip is stuck to) I could have stuck the strip straight onto the inside of the pantry, but I thought it would be better if the light angled a bit into the pantry. Also when you stick your head in there, if the lights were just flush against the wall they would glare right into your eyes. So I bought a length of 8mm tri quad for about $6. So all up the project cost me $20 (I had the switch and wires already, that would have been an extra dollar or two.)

Overall, this project was a 10! If I do say so myself. Whipped it up in one afternoon and an absolutely amazing result. And I still have over 3m of LED strip left!  Now I just have to be careful I don't cover my whole house in LED strips:)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ze Frank

I found these videos a while ago and think they are great. 

This is the very 1st one I ever saw, but there are many now and they're all quite funny. If you like this, definitely check out Zefrank's channel for more.

Friday, December 30, 2011

LED Cube at the Melbourne Mini Maker Faire! 14th Jan 2012.

My LED Cube will be an exhibit at the first Melbourne Mini Maker Faire on 14th Jan 2012!

If you want to come along you do have to book a free ticket because space is limited. If you are a "maker", they still have spaces left for exhibits, talks, workshops, performances, whatever.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011)

There's a little Christopher Hitchens shaped hole in my life now that will be very hard to fill.

"Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated." - Christopher Hitchens.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tastes of the Caribbean: Chicken and rice.

I really enjoy cooking. I like experimenting a bit in the kitchen but recently I started to realize that I'm mostly returning to my several "tried and true" recipes. I cook mostly European and Asian, and among those mostly Italian, French and Chinese.

I thought it might be a great idea to expand a little, make some new recipes that I've never tried before, from cuisines that I'm not so familiar with. Expand the spice cupboard a bit and in the process try some new things.

My philosophy with this has been to look for recipes that don't go over the top. I have a full time job and these meals have to feed me and my partner, it's not a Saturday dinner party, it's dinner. So I'm looking for relatively quick and simple meals, the kind of stuff that gets eaten on a daily basis. That's the approach I want to take to learn about these cuisines.

I've done two so far and this is my third, it's only now occurred to me that this might be fun to blog. Don't worry, I'll post the 1st two when I make them again sooner or later.

So tonight I present, Caribbean: Chicken and rice.

I usually just search for "simple *pick a cuisine* recipes" and go from there. I found a few rice and bean recipes and a few chicken recipes and I took what I liked from each and made a bit of a mash up. 

This made about 3 portions. There are three elements to this dish: 

The Rice:
2 cups of rice. The recipe said basmati, but I buy big bags of jasmin, so that's what I used. 
1 tin of beans (black or red kidney beans)
1 clove or garlic crushed
some thyme
2/3 of a cup of coconut milk

The Chicken
600g skinless chicken thigs, it was about 6.
curry powder

The Dressing
1 Green chili, no seeds.
1 clove of garlic crushed
a lime - I couldn't get a lime so I used a lemon.
6 spring onions
The recipe called for some shallots but I didn't have any.

Trim and chop the thighs in half, rub them down with the curry powder and allspice. I was quite generous with both. Let them sit. 

Finely slice the spring onions and chili, (we like spicy but the big green chilies are actually very mild) mix it with the garlic and lime juice. Mix and let it sit too. 

Cook the rice in a rice cooker, and BBQ or grill the chicken.
I BBQ'd by moonlight tonight.

Fry up the garlic in a pan with a little bit of oil. Then add the beans and thyme and soon after the coconut milk.

Once it's reduced a bit, mix through the cooked rice and cook it just for a couple more minutes. 

Then put the chicken on the rice and spoon a good serve of the dressing on top. The recipe said to garnish with some lime zest right at the end but since I was using lemon I decided to leave it off. 

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. If I was going to change anything, I'd think about putting one more element into the rice, it has a sweetness to it which is nice but I thought it was just a bit bland. I can't quite work out what would go in there that wouldn't ruin the balance. Some obvious things I'd add to rice are onion or capsicum but I don't think that would work in this case. Actually having a bit more of a think about it, I bet corn kernels would do the trick! I'll definitely try that next time. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Angry Birds Episode 3 - Score Addict "real scores"

I had not got episode 3 score addict yet, but someone was very kind to take the time and post it for me. With this chart, I played for about 15 extra minutes on about 5 levels and got the achievement. That was the last score addict I needed. Thanks very much anonymous, who ever you are. :)

6-1 68480
6-2 79360
6-3 74580
6-4 94420
6-5 71540
6-6 80680
6-7 127860
6-8 97320
6-9 106350
6-10 102560
6-11 105700
6-12 109750
6-13 88630
6-14 98170
6-15 129340

7-1 126340
7-2 141930
7-3 70770
7-4 95760
7-5 94950
7-6 76430
7-7 106380
7-8 111910
7-9 141510
7-10 104920
7-11 116300
7-12 102660
7-13 65330
7-14 70530
7-15 163020

8-1 104180
8-2 64110
8-3 136400
8-4 104700
8-5 101070
8-6 116640
8-7 160080
8-8 123030
8-9 147880
8-10 126430
8-11 102270
8-12 110390
8-13 153940
8-14 85340
8-15 144450

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tawny Frogmouth skull

I found a tawny frogmouth carcass, so, well, to cut a long story short, after a few months and a few experiments, here's the result:

They are an absolutely incredible and beautiful bird. I'm particularly stunned by how much space in the skull is taken up by the eyes, I figured they'd be big, but they literally take up more volume then the rest of the head! I'm very pleased with the result. It doesn't look extremely clean, but the final step was to soak it in peroxide, so I'm confident it's fairly sterile. 

Even though their beak does have a bit of a point to it, they are not raptorial. Which means they don't hunt on the wing, or catch prey with their talons, rather they eat things like slugs, moths and small lizards more by foraging then hunting. 

Here is a photo I managed to take of one near my house a little while ago, it was an opportunity snap with my phone so it's not the best quality.

If it needs to be said, the bird I found was already expired and I would never intentionally harm wildlife, unless it was about to eat a person, and then only if I didn't think they were a dick.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Angry Birds Episode 2 - Score Addict "real scores"

As promised here are my scores for episode 2.

Episode 2 - Score Addict - 3 300 000
World 4
World 5
  1 - 80790 
  1 - 57130 
  2 - 57440 
  2 - 51840 
  3 - 57290 
  3 - 82510
  4 - 60920 
  4 - 70880
  5 - 96420 
  5 - 79550
  6 - 57230
  6 - 88620
  7 - 83350 
  7 - 87770
  8 - 51870 
  8 - 86260
  9 - 43550 
  9 - 76510
  10 - 54900
  10 - 50020
  11 - 80790
  11 - 69860
  12 - 95970
  12 - 79340
  13 - 77440
  13 - 67300
  14 - 95860
  14 - 60570
  15 - 91740
  15 - 65530
  16 - 82040
  16 - 118150
  17 - 31510
  17 - 103320
  18 - 83860
  18 - 118430
  19 - 51680
  19 - 125290
  20 - 116190
  20 - 97390
  21 - 87460
  21 - 179730
Total - 3 341 210
May your birds fly true and your pigs be well smashed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Should the west ban the burka?

France just recently enacted a law which bans wearing full face covering in public. With the specific intent of preventing practising Muslim women from wearing full face religious veils such as the burka.

This is a very hot topic at the moment and I have to say that leading up to this point I was quite undecided on which side I stood. Both sides have some valid and strong points and I'm really not sure there is a clearly right or wrong answer. In the end, while I agree it completely sets off all my “anti-xenophobic" alarms, I have to say I support the ban of face covering in public, especially as a display of religious affiliation. 

Here is why. 

The bottom line is the burka and similar outfits are a backwards custom which symbolises oppression and inequality, subjugates women and promotes an unwillingness to assimilate or partake in free society.

 The main issue seems to be that even if it is all those things, shouldn't Muslims be free to do this in our so called free society? Banning anything just because we don't like it is undemocratic; it reduces freedom not increases it. It is argued that some, maybe many, Muslim women wear a veil completely of their own free will. They don't think it is oppressive or discriminatory, they believe it is part of their religious duty which they undertake, even with pleasure. 

Especially in America there really seems to be a culture of aversion regarding ANY laws which can be interpreted to intrude on freedoms in any way, indeed it seems that there is quite a lot of opposition to this law coming from the States. But I think it is too easily forgotten that the freedoms we enjoy today were often hard fought and won by people in the face of opposition, not just the result of "people being free to do whatever they want". The fact is, like it or not, our society already legislates things to conserve a certain level of fundamental cultural norms. Our free and equal culture is not some sort of default that would be reached if everyone did whatever they pleased. People left to their own devices would most certainly not result in a free and equal society for everyone.

There are such things as laws that protect our freedoms, as well as protect certain norms that we consider decent and valuable in society. There's a spectrum of laws which try to obtain a balance, It's not always (or even often) clear cut or black and white, but we do our best, slowly improving on the norms of the past. I'm not claiming every step is in the right direction, but over all progress is undeniably being made. Western cultures have fought for freedoms and rights that we now enjoy and mostly take for granted, some of those freedoms which Muslim cultures have not yet achieved. I'm thinking specifically of movements such the sexual revolution and the woman's rights and more recently gay rights movements. Each of these have had massive impacts on our culture and what we consider to be normal, equal and fair. These are some of the reasons why why we wouldn't imagine creating a culture where one gender is expected to never show so much as a wrist in public, let alone their nose or hair. These are movements which do not have analogues in any Muslim society and I think most of us these days take that for granted. 

Do people now assume that anyone growing up in a different culture is just going to come to a democratic western society and automatically "get it"? They'll see our way of life and it'll be like a veil falling from their eyes? Pardon the pun, but that's some of the sentiment that seems to be coming from the people who oppose this ban. As if we got to this point without any effort and as if our society is so obviously “better” that resistance to assimilation is futile. All we have to do is let them see and they'll be converted, but I don't think that is at all necessarily the case. I think it's predominately a numbers game and I think the burka is the very embodiment of opposition to the free democratic western way of life. 

There would be some cultures which would like to import customs like genital mutilation or stoning but we already have "umbrella" laws about causing direct physical harm to others, so those customs have to be left behind, no matter how pious they are to the adherents. We also have other laws about direct sexual discrimination which don't cause immediate physical harm, but we still legislate them because they contribute to our free society. However we've never had "umbrella" laws about burkas purely because our society never had that kind of issue to deal with before. This I think is a very important point. Just because we never had a law regarding what we can and can't wear, doesn't mean that such a law would be automatically undemocratic or unfair. But of course we DO already have some laws regarding what people can and can't wear in public.
I think part of the difficulty is that people in free western societies are prone to judge other cultures through their own “filter”, as if all cultures are equally progressive and we should display equal tolerance to all of them. If I think I should have the right to wear a burka if I want, then why should that right be denied anyone else? This seems like the politically correct thing to do. In my opinion however the problem with this argument is the difference in “intention”.

I offer a quote: 

"President, Bazm-E-Khwateen, Begum Shahnaz Sidrat stated that burqa or veil in any form cannot be termed as a sign of backwardness. "It is a means for women to remain modest while they are venturing out for work or other purposes. The females of western countries do not use veil and are thus promoting indecency rather than development," 

For many Muslims the burka is not just a symbol, but indeed a physical shield to prevent inadvertent “westernisation”.

If we tolerate or harbour these backwards customs, we are in effect giving a "free pass" for some to ignore the freedoms our society has fought to establish. Give out too many free passes and we might find our societies literally divided between those who want freedom and democracy and those who want everyone to obey ancient barbaric customs from centuries ago. If it's not politically incorrect to demand that backwards customs like FGM and stoning be checked in at the border, I really don't see why some people are finding it so outrageous that we could expect the same of a custom so oppressive and overtly sexist as the burka.

However like I said, I do think it's a numbers game. I don't believe every western society all of a sudden needs to ban the burka. In most countries, isolation and alienation play a strong enough part in seeing these kinds of customs disappear, even if it takes a generation. However in countries like France that have large potentially self sustaining communities of Muslims, a law like the one they've introduced might give it that extra needed push. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Project: Steam punk clock.

So I've started a new project. Not nearly as ambitious as the LED cube, but I'm quite excited by it nonetheless.

I bought an awesome vacuum tube display clock from the uk:

Currently it's the clock on their front page, if that changes in the future, I got the IN-8 & IN-8-2 Clock Kit.

This thing is really amazing, I've been eying off tube clocks for a while and for the price point (about $100) this clock was my favorite by far. I'm not planning to use the bottom illuminating blue LEDs, I might trial amber LEDs, or UV, or I'll probably just leave them off, it looks great without them.
The question obviously is what to do with it. I spent a few weeks around trash and treasure markets trying to find the perfect "something" to stick it in. I think at week 3 I found a guy who has some old telephone parts, I mean "OLD". This is what I picked up for a measly $15!

Bargain. So I've build the clock:

And I've started taking the phone "thing" apart to clean it up and reassemble it in a more aesthetic manner.

This is a very rough mock up of what it's going to look like when it's done, I think i'll somehow try to incorporate the above terminal strip into the design of the front because it just looks so cool.

One thing I'm really happy with is the switches actually still work! So I will wire them to the switches on the clock so they'll actually control the clock! That will be awesome.

Anyway, there's lots of fiddly work that will need to go into this. I'm planning to sand and re-varnish the wood. There will be some cutting of the heavy chassis that will need to be done, that's maybe the most daunting part because the clock PCB is actually about 1cm wider then the chassis, so i'll need to work out how to fit and mount it. Also the terminal strip will need some shaping and i'm not sure how i'll do that yet because it looks like it's actually made out of black perspex or something, i think it must be not an original part. Anyway, just thought I'd throw this up here as a starting point. Will post some more when I make more progress.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My cube project on hack-a-day!

One thing I've been procrastinating about for a while is submitting my project to hack-a-day. I've been following that site for years now, so exposing my project on it to scrutiny from a hack crowd was a little bit nerve wracking. That plus it really still feels like I need to work on it some more, but I'll probably be saying that the rest of my life! Well I'm very pleased to say that I finally straightened things up a little and bit the bullet and the kind folks at HaD featured me today!

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments that have been left already, It's really made my day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Higher quality youtube clip of 8x8x8 RGB LED Cube/

I've had this clip up on youtube for a while but I think i forgot to link it here.

So here it is:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Leaf bug

Found this cute little leaf bug, was only about 10mm long.

EDIT 08/07/2011 I've worked it out, it is in fact a planthopper, specifically Acanalonia conica. It is in a separate order then Katydids. Leafhoppers are Hemiptera which are known as "True Bugs", where as katydids are Orthoptera which includes grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

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