About Me

I've been taking things to bits, and making things ever since I can remember, starting with dismantling knackered alarm clocks and watches and helping my dad fix the car. Now I have a well-equipped workshop and have aquired lots of new skills, so I can make better stuff. When they first appeared, I became involved with personal computers, and these and developments in electronics have increased the scope of the things that I can do. Just recently retired, so O yes, now I can make all sorts of stuff.....

Thursday, 13 June 2013

June update

Loads been going on this month, a quick summary as follows.

First, the Whizzcopter.  I'm pleased to say that updating the fimware on the flight control board has made a massive difference to the flyability of the tricopter.  During this fine weather, I'm flying every couple of days or so, and havn't had a serious crash yet, although I managed to fly it completely out of the village playing field and dropped it gently into the farm field beyond.  The field turned out to be waist-high with nettles and other savage plants, and it took a while to find the machine - perched vertically on the edge of a ditch with around two feet of water in it.  Lucky or what?

I still havn't mastered flying it towards me, nor the execution of banked-turns-with-simultaneous-altering-of-throttle, and the dropping into the field escapade highlights the fact that when the beast is high and far away its impossible to tell height from distance. Its also surprising how much even a light wind can blow the thing about - changing the propellers for a smaller size made it better, but its still a handful in anything but almost still air. If the fine weather continues, I'll keep flying.

Then there's Sergei.  After last month's exciting news item of him piloting the whizzcopter, I've had a message and picture from Alexander Orlov from Meerkovo with some sad news.  The message reads as follows:-
Sergei RIP
"Am having to tell bad news about Sergei.  I know him all my life, and until recent he was in charging of IT department, but wanting more adventuring.  After much training (almost ten minute) he is put in charge of Meerkovo Airways first airplane.  However, flying performance was not good, mainly because he spend much time in cabin playing 'hide the sausage' with funky new stewardess Tanya instead of pulling stick at front.  After too many crash landing, we have suspend his fuzzy ass, and he taking this rejection much badly. Picture show how we find him in workshop. Still, he never good at IT, and worse at piloting, so no great loss.  Am more concern that new airplane can not be found, and Tanya so upset about Sergei that she have disappear too."

Grandfather clock wood pen holder
A few small things built this month.  The first is a pen holder for my desk, made from the remaining fragments of the ancient grandfather clock carcase.  Once all the woodworm, dry rot, nail holes and bullet wounds were cut out, there wasn't much wood left that was usable and this little item finishes off all that remained, while all of the left over unusable stuff has been given a chance to serve again by providing light and warmth in the fire pit.
The fire pit in action

I'm still doing some low-level background work on the Arduino to make it deliver information to a 'status screen' to be driven by a Raspberry Pi.  The Arduino has been working fine for a long time now, turning things on and off and monitoring the status of door locks, lights, and other stuff, but the temperature sensors I used never worked properly.  These were LM34s, bought to match some sample code that I found on the web, but only later did I discover that they read temperature in Fahrenheit which required the software to then convert readings into Centigrade. A bit more research, ordered a couple of TMP36s which read directly in Centigrade, hack the software about and bingo! she works. Well, sort of.  The original sensors gave readings that floated all over the place, and one of the new ones does the same.  Playing around with things leads me to the conclusion that the sensor works fine and that the fault is in the wiring somewhere, so the Arduino box has to come out of the rack to trace the dry joint or bad crimp.  This is a bit of a trial because of all the wiring in the engine room, so I'll do this next month.

Power supply from PC PSU
I've also made a general purpose power supply for the workshop out of an old PC power supply that I've had kicking around for a few years that I am never going to use for a PC.  This conversion is pretty easy to do, loads of information on the web on how to wire it up, and the hardest thing was trying to connect and bundle all of the hundreds of wires that need to be tidily crammed into the enclosure.  I managed it without any blinding flashes or other incident and the picture shows the end result - the only problem is that the blue LED is so bright that it nearly sets your hair alight if you get too close:  "don't look at the light, Mary..."  The box dishes up pretty tightly regulated voltages of 3.3v, 5v and 12v, and I've already used it a few times to test various things to see if they work.  Useful things made from junk again :-)
Table with umbrella

Last month I built the garden table which has been a big success, especially now that the plants are getting a grip and flowering.  Its also just the right height to put your feet on while sunning, excellent.  With the recent fine weather it seemed a good idea to add a stand for the umbrella that has been home to several generations of mice and spiders in the shed for the past couple of years, so a bit of work with a boring bit, some scrap wood, a few screws and my little hammer produced this result.  Looks good, works well, another successful junk conversion.
Workshop floor paint job
I've also just finished painting the workshop floor an attractive battleship grey.  It nearly killed my back and knees, but its much easier to sweep up the wreckage and it brightens the place up a bit as well, and it should also stop the rain from soaking into the concrete and creeping under the door.  Since I've had the paint for the best part of five years I thought it was about time I used it - of course, it ran out after around three quarters of the floor was finished, so I had to buy more, and you can only buy it in 2.5 litre cans even though I needed less than a litre.  Ah well, I've got some spare in case I need to paint some other floor some other time.

Last Sunday was race day, the first time I've raced the kart since last October.  Near-perfect weather conditions, and a track with plenty of grip should have made for a great days racing.  However, my driving was pretty poor, with whatever skills I possessed last year completely forgotten, and by the last race my neck muscles were so knackered that I couldn't control the flopping of the old bonce against the g-forces.  Good fun for all that, but I need to build up the muscles a bit before next month's outing - Jon says I need to tie lead weights on my helmet, but I'm pretty sure the scrutineers will have something to say about that.

Last, a health update.  Just had the third of the hormone injections and done loads of research on the best place to get the radio therapy - probably in London, and I suspect I will need to get the local wallahs in a Kytherian death grip to persuade them to refer me.  I'm currently waiting for an appointment with the local oncologist to kick off that discussion:  'round one, seconds out!'...  

Next month: I will have the Arduino home control box to bits and sort out the temperature sensors properly, and I'm working on some storage solutions for the various piles of metal and other important stuff in the workshop, as well as planning a clock for the garden (probably driven by an Arduino and  stepper motors).  I have also been thinking for some time about building a 'thousand year clock', o yes: more on this later.