Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday fun: Polar bears destroying a BBC nature show's spy cameras

GIZMODO recently posted this article on how some remote controlled spy cameras faired against some very curious polar bears. Below is the video from the article:

Here is the original BBC article on the polar bears vs. the cameras. I doubt any of my robotics projects, or Arduino weather station will encounter any polar bears, but the video does make me consider what my projects might face out in the real world.

Happy New Year everyone ~ Jim

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wayward - the road ahead

Recently the Wayward Coffeehouse which is one of my favorite haunts was shut down due to fire that occurred just before Thanksgiving. The one thing that I really like about the Wayward is that it appeals to the geek in me, and for some time now I have been posting weekly notices on behalf Wayward Coffeehouse over on the NWSFS News Blog that I help maintain.

The last few notices I have posted for the Wayward have of course been about the fire, the possibility of reopening the business, and of the efforts of the Seattle Browncoats and their Wayward Phoenix Fund. I really think what the Seattle Browncoats are doing on behalf of the Wayward is a great, and I want to help them with their cause in any way I can, so I thought it might help the cause if I reposted the latest notice here in hopes of getting the word out to more people.

Check out the posting below and if you feel inclined send a few bucks to Wayward Phoenix Fund.

Cheers ~ Jim

Greetings to all the friends of Wayward Coffeehouse. We miss you greatly and are wishing you all the magic of the season.

We have not sent out any recent updates as we had little new information to report and were waiting anxiously for word on when repairs would begin.

It is with great sadness that we must now report that we have been told that the property owners are refusing to repair the building. Although as far as we know the damage is well within the scope of repair we have no control over this decision.

But we believe in what we created with Wayward Coffeehouse and want fervently for it to continue. We have received your messages of support and encouragement and know that there is a need for Wayward Coffeehouse for the communities we embrace. We are reviewing our legal options in the matter and pursuing other means of reopening. But it is not an easy path.

Much of what still lies ahead is beyond the scope of our insurance and we are struggling to find the resources to move forward. Many friends and customers of Wayward have already made donations to the “Wayward Phoenix Fund” and we are immensely grateful for their support.

More help is needed as we face the continuing challenges of survival and reopening. If you would like to help us rise from the ashes, please go to: Wayward Phoenix Fund Donations ( and look for the Wayward logo to donate online or for information on donating by check. We again wish to thank SBCharities for their support and assistance.

We aim to keep flyin’ ...

Wayward Coffeehouse, it's better than a plan
Closed Until Further Notice
Twitter: WaywardCoffee
Facebook: Wayward Coffee House

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday fun: Ladybug plays with sprinkles!

A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted the video below of a ladybug playing with candy sprinkles, and it reminded me of the "Minuscule hyperactiv ladybug" video that I posted on this blog a while back:

As for Arduino news I received my copy of the "Practical Arduino" book today, and also I found a page on the Practical Arduino site for building your own Weather Station Receiver. Now if I only had as much energy as the ladybugs in the two videos I would be making a lot more progress on moving forward with my own Arduino based weather station.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday fun: Arduino Weather Station / Power Meter Receivers

Even before I purchased my Arduino I had decided to use it for a weather station project that I had been thinking of for some time. This video from PracticalArduino is definitely inspiration for me, and I hope it is for you too:

Here are the links for PracticalArduino web site, YouTube channel, and the book: PracticalArduino.

I know I am getting way ahead of myself here, but I am thinking it would be really cool if a bunch of Arduino enthusiasts got together to link their Arduino based weather stations together through some sort of service that offered virtual servers such as to analyze the data that all their stations gathered. To what end? Well maybe the data could be used with Google Earth or Google Maps to display the data for an amateur meteorological project. Students, DIY'ers, and geeks in general could contribute to the project regardless of their skill level or specialty.

Like I said I am getting ahead of myself, but it is food for thought. Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday fun: Homestar Runner - Techno (aka The System Is Down)

I have always been a fan of Homestar Runner and this is without a doubt my favorite Homestar Runner / Strongbad video:

To be honest it pretty much fits the way this day is going.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday fun: Underwriters Laboratories Turkey Fryer Demonstration

It's "Deep Fry Your Turkey" season, but instead of showing the usual video of someone torching their backyard I thought I would post this video from safetyathome. While it's not funny, it is informative:

I hope you had fun, and safe Thanksgiving ~ Jim

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday fun: What will your people do when the network does down?

Progress on the Arduino is null at the moment, and I really couldn't find anything for tonight's post. Then I came across this add from Cisco that does a pretty good job of explaining why network uptime important:

Have fun, and have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday fun: Arduino 101 Accelerometers

It was back in 1982 that I started working in the field of electronics. My first job in this field involved the testing of accelerometers for use in both military applications such as missiles, and for commercial applications such as oil exploration. I find it very interesting that as I am just starting to work with the Arduino that I come across this video from makemagazine on how to add an accelerometer to your Arduino project.

The accelerometer used in this project is the Memsic 2125 (.pdf) from Parallax, and it costs around $30.00 US which is pretty reasonable. As is discussed in the video accelerometers can be used in a wide range of projects, and given the cost I think some where down the road I will be picking up at least one.

By the way, here is the Arduino tutorial for the Memsic 2124 accelerometer:

Well, that is it for now. Have fun, and have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday fun: Arduino 101 - The Button

My Arduino microcontroller board arrived late this week, so I didn't get a much of a chance to play with it. This next Arduino 101 video from makemagazine adds a proto-board and a button. It's a long video, so hang in there:

You can find out even more information this Arduino project at:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday fun: Arduino 101 - The LED

Well my curiosity got the better of me and I finally decided to order an Arduino microcontroller board. It should arrive some time next week. If you are not familiar with the Arduino the take a look at this introduction video from makemagazine:

You can find out even more information about the Arduino at:

While looking for Arduino videos I came across another introductory video, "Intro to the Arduino", but it was just a little too goofy even for a Friday Fun post though you may want to check it out.

I guess I am going to have to brush up on my C programming, and that's a good thing. I will also be checking out the Processing language too. I'll try to post more as I make progress with the board, and hopefully I'll post more than once a week.

That's it for now. Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday fun: Mysterious Lightbulb Hack

Here's a great project from Kip Kay that's perfect for all you Uncle Fester wanna-bees - The Mysterious Lightbulb Hack:

For more great projects check out Kip Kay's Youtube page:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday fun: Evil Mouse Prank

So you have an old ball (analog) mouse, a pager motor, and coworker who's in need of some serious pranking? Well makemagazine has a great project for you - The Evil Mouse Prank :

Check out the PDF for this project at the URL below:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday fun: Ghost Phone

Friday fun for this week is another great weekend project from makemagazine that is ideal for this upcoming Halloween - The Ghost Phone:

Build one of these and you'll have lot's of fun, even when it's not Halloween. You can find the PDF for this project at the URL below:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, October 07, 2010

CircuitCellar: Sci-Fi Inspirations

Just a quick note that the latest issue of CircuitCellar arrived in the mail a few days ago, and as always it was loaded with lots of geek goodies! One of the treasures in this issue is the PRIORITY INTERRUPT column by Steve Ciarcia entitled "Sci-Fi Inspirations" where he writes about how the original Star Trek influenced many technologies that we take for granted today. Some good examples are the Cell Phone, the PDA, and Large-View Screen.

Give the column a read, and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Cheers ~ Jim

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday fun: USB Motion Detector

This week's Friday Fun features a USB Motion Detector project from makemagazine that with a little extra tweaking and coding could be put to use this coming Halloween:

You can find the schematic and other information here:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday fun: Klingon Opera

For this weeks Friday Fun video I present "Klingon Opera" which is something best viewed with nothing in your mouth (otherwise you may blow it out your nose):

I told you so, but you didn't listen to me and now you have soda and/or Cheetos all over your monitor! :-)

If you want to find out more about Klingon opera then I suggest you start here:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday fun: Wireless Covert Listening Device

Here's a great weekend project from makemagazine for all you snoops out there - A Wireless Covert Listening Device:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Road trip to Yakima via Chinook Pass

Pick Quick Drive In, Fife, WashingtonChinook Pass, Washington. USAThorp Hwy Exit on I90 West of Ellensburg, WA.

Last week I took some time off to celebrate my birthday, and while I didn't get to take as many road trips as I would have liked to I was did get one good trip. After a somewhat slow morning on Friday, Sept 10th, I decided to just get out of the house and go. Not really having a plan I grabbed my GPS, camera, and cell phone, and took off to parts somewhat unknown.

I left the house around 10:30 in the morning and my first stop was the Pick Quick Drive In located in Fife Washington where I had a great burger. While there I found out that after 61 years Pick Quick is finally going to open another restaurant. Here's a link to the article from The News Tribune

From Fife I headed East to Enumclaw and from there I continued on Highway 410 over Chinook Pass to Yakima. Once in Yakima I stopped at Miners Drive In for another great burger. Yeah I know, but what the Hell, I had to have a reason to go to Yakima and Miner's is as good a reason as any.

On the map I created for this trip I use Charlie's Cafe as a reference point since there are about 15 different ways to get to that section of Highway 410 from where I live, or at least that is what my GPS kept telling me. I haven't eaten at Charlies, but the reviews I came across for the place seem to indicate it's a great place for breakfast.

Along the way to Yakima I saw some really beautiful scenery, and I glad I took my camera along to capture some of it. Here is the link to the photos that are now up on my Picasa album. I hope you enjoy them. I wasn't very creative with the captions for each photo, but there's enough there to tell you where the shot was taken. One thing that helped with taking the shots on this trip was a monopod that I purchased as a birthday present for myself just a few days before I took the trip. It really helped steady the camera, so there are fewer blurry images this time around.

Well that's it for now. I hope you enjoy the photos and find the map informative. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Cheers ~ Jim Cox

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday fun: National Lampoon's Vacation Trailer

For the last seven days I have been on vacation, and this trailer for "National Lampoon's Vacation" seemed appropriate for this weeks Friday Fun:

It is especially appropriate given the road trip I took today. I will post about the trip later.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday fun: Make a Jam Jar Jet

Here is an oldie but goodie from makemagazine! Check out the Triple-J or the Jam Jar Jet:

This project is a lot more interesting than the CD/DVD parts container that I posted last week, but it is also a lot more dangerous. Be smart, be careful, and don't be stupid. Do not attempt this unless you know what you are doing and understand the risks to yourself and others.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday fun: Weekend Project - CD/DVD Parts Container

Have you ever wondered what to do with all the empty CD/DVD containers you have accumulated over the years? Well this video from makemagazine offers one good suggestion:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday fun: 'It Came From Outer Space' Trailer

Sorry I wasn't able to post last Friday, but I was on the road all day and got just home too late to post. Right now I am watching 'It Came From Outer Space' featuring Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, and Russell Johnson, and that's the inspiration for tonight's Friday Fun post:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday fun: 'The Goonies' Trailer

Believe it or not it has been 25 years since the 'The Goonies' was released. Take a trip back in time and check out this trailer featuring the adventures of Mikey, Brand, Chunk, Mouth, and Data:

So where are they now? Well Mikey became a Hobbit, Brand became Jonah Hex, Chunk is now a lawyer in LA, Mouth lived the "The Surreal Life", and Data is now working as a stunt coordinator.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday fun: 'Zombieland' Trailer

For this weeks Friday fun I thought I would post the trailer for Zombieland featuring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. A nerd, a redneck, lots of zombies, and even more laughs. What else can I say except I love this movie

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday fun: The Last Starfighter Theatrical Trailer

It's Summer movie time, and I thought you might enjoy this trailer from another one of my favorite 80's movies, "The Last Starfighter" featuring Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart:

If you haven't seen this movie before, then check it out. It's a great flick!

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday fun: MythBusters - Diet Coke & Mentos

Personally I think dropping a Mentos in to a bottle of Diet Coke is a waste, but then again I am a Diet Coke addict. If fizzing geysers are your thing then check out this clip from the MythBusters:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday fun: H.A.L.E. - High Altitude LEGO Extravaganza

Earlier this week I came across the site for the High Altitude LEGO Extravaganza or H.A.L.E., and was just blown away as to how these people took their LEGO NXTs to new heights:

For more information check out the H.A.L.E. site at:

Have a great & safe weekend ~ Jim

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday fun part deux: Fireball Shooter

OK, OK, I can take a hint! Apparently some of you think the previous "Compressed Air Rocket" project is a little too tame for the 4th of July. So for all you pyromaniacs out there here's another project from makemagazine that should make your Fourth:

Disclaimer: Be safe and smart, not reckless and stupid. Don't fire this thing at any person including yourself or any other animal. Nor do you want to point this thing in the direction of a fireworks stand, redneck with a shotgun, or a pile of black powder kegs stacked on top of a bunch of plutonium rods In short, use some common sense! (Hopefully that will keep everyone safe and any lawyers off my back)

Have a great & safe weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Friday fun: Compressed Air Rocket

Since this weekend is the 4th of July I thought this "Compressed Air Rocket" project from makemagazine would make a nice Firday Fun post:

Here are links to pdfs for the article and the template for the rocket. If those links don't work then go here:

Have a great & safe weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Friday fun: Retro Wireless Handset

Are you tired of your Bluetooth headset, and you want to have a little fun? If the answer is yes, and you happen to have a spare handset from an old phone then try this hack from makemagazine:

One of the fun things I can see someone doing with this is walking around a supermarket late at night while talking to a friend on the other end. I wonder what the other shoppers would think?

You can find more information here:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friday fun: LNE - LEGO PackBot

brdavis5 built a really cool all-terrain vehicle based on the Lego NXT system called the LNE. Check out this video of the LNE as it goes through various obstacles and storm troopers:

You can find more images at:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Friday fun rerun: Max Headroom - Paranoimia

I posted this Max Headroom clip a little over a year ago, and I decided to repost it to celebrate the upcoming release of "Max Headroom: The Complete Series" DVD set on August 10th, which is just two months away:

Another reason why I am reposting this clip is that I just like the song.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Friday fun: Lego printer fun!

I know this video of a Lego printer has been featured on Digg, PCWorld, and Geekosystem, but this is so cool I just had to post it here again. Depending on your tastes the music may be a little too loud so adjust your speakers accordingly:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friday fun: BigDog Beta

I thought I would finish off my binge of BigDog robot videos with this video from pantlessknights showing an early BigDog prototype (read parody)

I wonder what the BigDog left on that beach in Thailand?

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

BigDog Beach'n

Here's another video from BostonDynamics featuring the BigDog robot. This time the BigDog is strutting his stuff on a beach in Thailand:

Imagine working on a robot such as BigDog and then going to some exotic beach to test it out. Talk about dream jobs! Cheers ~ Jim

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Friday fun: Boston Dynamics BIGDOG Robot

If you are in any way interested in robotics then you have to check out this video from boingboingvideo of Boston Dynamics BIGDOG Robot:

The BIGDOG is designed for military use and is one of the most advanced quadruped robots out there. It's a pretty interesting concept, and the Boston Dynamics and BIGDOG links provide a lot more information.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Friday fun: Portable computer commercial from 1977

This week's Friday Fun may be a little redundant in that I already posted this video on my 8-Bit Retro Computing blog, but I just get a kick out of this classic commercial for the IBM 5100 Portable Computer courtesy of MrClassicAds:

The commercial is from 1977 which happens to be the same year that I graduated from high school. I guess back then that a computer weighing about 50 pounds really could be considered a portable. By comparison my netbook is about 1/50th of the weight of the 5100, and orders of magnitude more powerful. It's incredible to see how technology has progressed over the years.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Friday fun: Evasive Beeping Thing

Here is another weekend project from makemagazine. I am quite certain that those of you who enjoy playing pranks on your coworkers will enjoy building the Evasive Beeping Thing:

If you plan to build this little beastie then you should check out this link at the makemagazine site which includes errata, user comments, and further links including one for the updated schematic.

And if you have a moment please check out the Geeks Who Care blog, and drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any suggestions.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Friday fun: Bohemian Rhapsody Remix

While last weeks clip on reusing Zip Drives was good, I have to say it pales in comparison to this weeks video clip on creative ways of reusing old technology. Check out bd594's fantastic "Queen Bohemian Rhapsody Old School Computer Remix" below:

Pretty cool huh? By the way I have been meaning to write a post about a project I worked on recently with my friend Chuck Goolsbee, but due to a case of toxic pizza I have just been too sick to write anything. I am feeling better now, so I will get something up soon. In the mean time swing on over to Chuck's blog and read his account of the tachometer mod I helped him with for his E-Type Jaguar.

Also if you have a second then please swing by my Geeks Who Care blog, and take a look. It's a blog set up to help coordinate efforts between geeks and groups who need their services, but it's doesn't seem to be getting too much interest. Please drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Friday fun: New Life For Old Zip Drives

Thanks to this video from makemagazine I have some ideas for those old Zip Drives I have lying around:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Friday fun: 2-Mile Camera Remote

More than likely I am about the 976th person to repost this video from makemagazine, but the video is of a cool project and it's worth reposting:

If I ever have time I am going to try this mod on an old Canon digital camera I picked up cheap. Here are the links for both the Make Magazine site, and the article that the video refers to.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Friday fun: Catapult grasshopper

Once again Minuscule comes up with another great video. Chalk another one up for the Ladybug:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Friday fun: Internet-Enabled Cat Feeder

Earlier this week there was an article on Digg about a Internet enabled cat feeder that I found really interesting and thought would be a good follow up to the "Maker Workshop - VCR Cat Feeder" post I made a few weeks ago.

The article "Web-Enabled Cat Feeder w/ Video Feed" is from Catster's Cats and Kittens Blog and inlcudes a link to inventor Mathew Newton's site and the video below:

Mathew's site now features a newer version of the cat feeder that uses the Linksys WRT54GL Router. The use of the versatile WRT54GL router makes this an even more interesting project, and gives me some project ideas for my own WRT54GL router. Another cool thing featured on Mathew's site is the microchip-enabled catflap for his two cats Frankie and Elmo.

If you are in to cats and technology then you have check out Mathew Newton's site, and be sure to give Catster's Cats and Kittens Blog a peek too.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday fun: Cats, Robots and Vacuums, Oh My!

This video from poutamo has been around for a couple of years, but it's still cool to see a cat riding a Roomba:

Now if you could only get the cat to drive the Roomba and chase after a dot from a laser pointer.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friday fun: Lego NXT 2.0 - Ballcannon w. Joystik

So what can you do with the Lego NXT 2.0? Check out this video from lasselauesen for one really cool idea:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Friday fun: Maker Workshop - VCR Cat Feeder

Here's an "interesting" project from makemagazine involving cats, cat food, an old VCR, and some pulleys. Rube Goldberg would be proud:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim
PS: If you are of an inventive nature then check out

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Friday fun: An Engineer's Guide to Cat Yodeling (with Cat Polka)

Here is here is another hilarious video by klusmanp. This one is on the fine art of cat yodeling:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Monday, March 01, 2010

GPS: A back seat driver with an Off button

For the last few days I have been testing out (read: playing around with) my Garmin Nuvi 265WT GPS that I recently purchased. The unit I purchased was a refurbished system that was available at well below the price listed on the Garmin site. My primary reason for purchasing this particular model was primarily due to the price since I was looking for something just to experiment with. I am more interested in getting the actual coordinates of where I have been on my road trips, and using those coordinates for my Google Maps projects, than having a device provide directions to those locations.

On my first time out with the Garmin Nuvi 265WT I decided to just go out blind without reading the manual. I packed the GPS along when I went on a work related trip, and used it on for the return trip home. This would not have been the smartest thing to do if I were relying solely on the GPS to get me home, but because I knew the way home this was not an issue. The first thing I immediately found annoying was the female voice that was selected by default and was constantly being drowned out by the road noise inside my truck. Even when the the noise was low, the voice was at a frequency where my tin ears could barely make it out. I decided that once I got home I would change the voice to something which I could hear (and which I have since done). Also the GPS was apparently configured for a destination point located near Tacoma, and the device kept trying to steer me back to Tacoma as I drove on to my home in Bellevue. Having this device constantly tell me to take a turn even when I didn't want to reminded me of having a really annoying back seat driver in the truck Fortunately for me this back seat driver has a volume control, and an Off button.

I read the manual prior to my second time out with the GPS, and this time I found the device (with the new voice) more useful. Having programmed the device with my home address I took off for a short trip to Snoqualmie Pass. Once I reached the pass I took an exit, and turned around to head home. Prior to getting back on the freeway I stopped and took a reading with the GPS and then set it to guide me back home. The device worked pretty well though at 70 MPH some points of reference seemed to come up a little too fast for it to alert me in time. The one major problem I encountered was when I decided not to take the exit the GPS had determined I should take and instead stayed on the freeway to an alternate exit. As it turns out the exit that the GPS originally selected for me runs parallel with the freeway for some distance, and because of the accuracy of the device it continued to provide me directions as if I had taken the exit even though I hadn't. It wasn't until I was passed the exit that the GPS determined I was still on the freeway and recalculated the new route.

As I said at the beginning of this post my primary reason for getting a GPS was to provide coordinates for locations I list on my Google Maps, and not for finding my way. I can see certain situations arising where I may have need of the GPS to provide a point of reference before I break out the maps, but for me at least I can never see a GPS replacing common sense, a good map, and the occasional getting out of the car and asking for directions which given the person you are asking can make road trips all the more interesting. I don't believe this line of thinking qualifies me as a Luddite because I do embrace technology; it's just I don't want technology smothering my sense of adventure and discovery by doing all my thinking for me.

One thing I need to do more research on is how can I readily transfer coordinates from the GPS to my computer. So far there doesn't appear to be a way to transfer the data via the USB cable that came with the GPS to my computer. Also I have yet to get an Flash card to store data with, and even if I do I am not sure I can sneakerware the data over to my computer. Maybe this can be a future project of mine?

Speaking of projects, I have decided that Python should be the language I should focus on learning at the moment. It appears to be relatively easy to learn, and I can use it to develop applications for many of my projects. I will also be starting up my studies in HTML and CSS again, and incorporate both in to my projects as well. Maybe I can use all three to build interfaces for my weather station, and robotics projects? I've been pricing equipment for the weather station, and also looking at how I can deploy it without brining down the wrath of my home-owners association. I don't expect to be moving as fast with the weather station project as I will with the robotics project. Speaking of the robotics project, it got a little sidetracked over the weekend due to my playing with the GPS, but I am hoping to have some more pictures of it in a week or two. If I can use my camera to take some video of it moving around, then I may finally have something to put on my YouTube channel.

Yes, I have a lot on my plate and I expect I won't get as much done as I want to, but I have to keep plugging at it and keep learning.

Cheers ~ Jim

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friday fun: An Engineer's Guide to Cats

If you are a cat fan like me then you will enjoy "An Engineer's Guide to Cats" by klusmanp. It's purr-fect way to start your weekend with a laugh:

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

PS: After posting the trailer for the movie The Straight Story in last week's "Friday fun" I went ahead and ordered the DVD which arrived today. I just finished watching the movie for the first time in years and I have to say it's still a great movie.

PPS: Sorry for the "purr-fect" bit. I just couldn't help myself :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday fun: Movie Trailer - The Straight Story

While it may not be the fastest road trip movie ever made, The Straight Story directed by David Lynch is still an excellent movie and I recommend you give it a watch if you haven't already. The movie which features the late Richard Farnsworth is based on the real life story of Alvin Striaght who drove his lawn mover from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin so he could visit his ailing brother:

Because of health issues Alvin was unable to drive and he did not want to take the bus, so instead he decided to drive his lawn mower for a trip that took a total of six weeks. As I said above it's an excellent movie with a great story and interesting characters, which is something that all good road trip movies have so check it out.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Monday, February 15, 2010

Robots, Rockets, and Road Trips.

NOTE: This post is long and may ramble a bit. My primary reason for this post is because I need to put my thoughts down about my interests and hobbies, and the projects involving them. I believe this blog is as good a place as any to put my thoughts down, since I can readily access it to help stay focused. Also I am hoping that those who have similar interests or experiences will comment back and share their thoughts with me about the projects I now plan to work on. OK, so here I go.

Like many geeks, I have a lot of projects involving my interests, and hobbies that either never get started or are now stalled. Because of this I started thinking of creating a single project that will link all of my interests and hobbies, and I really haven't come up with anything aside from blogging about those interests and hobbies, and even then I will be posting on several different blogs. I can say though that after all my brainstorming I do have a short(er) list of projects that will help me stay focused on my goals and help me to continue to improve my skill sets.

Besides computers and networking technologies, embedded systems and robotics, I also have interests in sciences such as astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, and geology. On top of all that I have to add my newfound sense of wanderlust and I have to throw in the occasional road trip. With all that to work with I just cannot see a single all encompassing project, but who knows, maybe some day something will click.

Now as I previously stated I have narrowed down my list of projects, and here are my thoughts so far:
  • Blogging and web sites: Not only will I be posting updates about my projects on various blogs of mine, but I will also be working to improve my HTML programming and other web related skills including content management to not only improve my skill set, but also improve my web sites which are in sorry shape at the moment. Once I improve my HTML skills I should be able to create web interfaces for some of my projects so I can display data from meteorological instruments or other networked sensor arrays. I also hope that my writing and editing skills will benefit from my blogging. I have even gone so far as to pick up a copy of English Grammar For Dummies because over the last 30 to 40 years my grammar skills have really slipped. Lastly I will continue to post photos on my blog and sites, and hopefully my photography skills will improve and my photos will be more interesting and less off-kilter.
  • Computers and networking: This is not a project, but a fact of life. If I am going to move forward with any of my projects I have to broaden my knowledge of computers and networking. Not only do I need to maintain and sharpen my Windows skills, I also need to ramp up my understanding and use of Linux and UNIX (BSD) because some solutions will require the use of those operating systems. As for networking I need to better understand how to design and manage networks to handle data from various projects, and this must include a better understanding of wireless technologies.
  • Embedded systems: I have two primary areas of interest here. One is networked sensor arrays, and the other is network appliances for managing data from those sensor arrays. The projects I am thinking of here will also involve my interests in meteorology, oceanography, and geology. I thought of ways to involve my interest in astronomy, and the only thing that came to mind would involve CCD imagery and that is just too expensive for me at this time. I do have some prior experience with sensors (accelerometers, and thermal switches) and that will be helpful in moving forward with my work with sensors. The first area of interest I want to design and build a sensor array for will be meteorology. Basically I plan to design and build my own weather station. Why a weather station? Well for starters there are plenty of resources available for me to start off relatively cheaply and with a minimal learning curve. Not only will the station be gathering meteorological data, but it will also present that information to the Internet. Yes, I know this has been done many times over, but to me this is a fun and interesting project, so that is why I am doing it. After the weather station is up and running I will then take what I learned and apply it to designing and building monitoring platforms for collecting oceanographic and geological data. These will be more long term projects though, so I am not outlining them here. Along the way I may end up working on a few side projects such as getting my Ethenut board up and running or modding a Linksys NSLU2. While the latter is only a mod, it's a cool mod that I have been wanting to do for some time. Finally I will need to improve my C programming experience to effectively develop the embedded systems I am planning, and for me that is definitely a good thing. Some may say that some of what I am doing here does not really qualify as embedded systems, but to my understanding these projects are embedded systems or at least involve embedded systems so that is why I am listing them here.
  • Robotics: I have been wanting to work (play) with robotics for some time now, an now that I have a LEGO NXT kit and I need to get cracking. There are plenty of resources and books for the NXT, so just like the weather station I should be able to get moving fast. Once I have a decent foundation in robotics with the NXT I can then move forward with other more complex robotics kits or even develop my own robot. Who knows, I may even incorporate the data gathered from the sensor arrays I develop in to my robotics projects or vice versa.
  • Astronomy: For over 40 years now I have had an interest in astronomy, but never really pursued it. I finally decided now is the time for me to get off my duff and actually follow through and start pursuing my interest in earnest. I created the Cloudymidnights site and blog to not only keep my interest in astronomy when I am climatically challenged (which happens a lot in the Seattle area), but also to convey information to others interested in astronomy including the visually impaired and disabled who may want to pursue an interest in astronomy. I also have my Colas For The Cosmos project where I trade in Coke Rewards points to get telescopes or binoculars to give to disadvantaged children. I have gotten in a few viewing sessions with other people's telescopes, and I am hoping that in the near future I can purchase a decent telescope to get in some viewing on my own time. I also want to explore some low end radio astronomy projects, but those are down the road a bit.
  • Road Trips: OK, I don't plan to go ripping around the countryside like Barry Newman did in Vanishing Point, but I do plan to get out and see the country more, and in the process go to places that are linked in some way or another to all of my interests. I may head off to museums such as the American Museum of Radio and Electricity in Bellingham, or the Museum of Flight or Pacific Science Center in Seattle, and other local and not so local museums or facility of interest to a geek like me. I can also visit local aquariums such as the Seattle Aquarium, and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, and maybe, just maybe drive down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in CA. And then there is the observatory road trip I have been planning for years, but never been able to to take. For practical reasons I may have to break the trip up in to smaller legs, but I do want to visit observatories such as the one at Goldendale, Washington, as well as the observatories at Mount Wilson, Palomar and Griffith Park in California. There's also the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson Arizona, and complex of observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, though the latter really can't qualify as a road trip until I get to Hawaii and then make my way up the mountain. There are many other sites of interest that I can visit and have not listed, and those of you reading this post are welcome to make suggestions if you want. Needless to say there is a lot to see out there, and while I may not be able to see everything, I sure am going to try and have fun while doing so. And to add even more geekiness to the road trips I picked up a copy of Hacking Google Maps and Google Earth, and I plan to incorporate even more maps in to my blogs. The book requires that I be familiar with HTML, and Javascript, and that it would be beneficial to have experience with scripting languages such as Pearl, and SQL databases such as MySQL, and this all fits in perfectly with my other projects. Also I recently picked up a refurbished GPS unit, and I plan to list the exact coordinates of many of the remote places I visit, so others can find them too. Many of the locations I listed for photos on my previous road trips were best guesses, but now I will have exact coordinates to use for the locations.

OK, so there it is. It is more of an outline than an actual list of clearly defined projects, and it is definitely long and rambles a bit, but for me this post is helping me move towards some long term and cherished goals. Several things I will need to consider will be the cost of doing all this and time involved. I am going to have to do all of this on the cheap and in my free time, and while that does present limitations it will also present opportunities to improvise and work around those limitations. I may be starting late, but I am at least starting and moving forward.

Feel free to post a comment if you want.

Cheers ~ Jim

PS: One footnote to the Road Trips section: I am happily reading John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley - In Search of America", and I have to say it is a great read.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Friday fun: Simon's Cat 'Snow Business

Given the weather in other parts of the US I thought this new clip from simonscat would be appropriate for this week's Friday Fun post :

Have a great weekend, stay warm, and be safe ~ Jim

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Friday fun: Lady Bug vs. Dragon Flies!

Here is another great video from Minuscule featuring that hyperactive and irreverent Lady Bug taking on a bunch of Dragon Flies that sound a lot like Huey Cobras:

I wish I had that Lady Bug's energy, so I could finish a couple of articles I have been planning to post. Hopefully I will have something original posted here soon.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday fun: Yeah Toast! The most important part of breakfast!

So what makes a perfect breakfast? For me it's crispy bacon, eggs over hard, hash browns, and of course TOAST! YEAH TOAST!

Thank you Heywood Banks, champion of toast!

Feel free to leave a comment about what you think makes a perfect breakfast, but please don't post any spam unless it's fried nice and crispy.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday fun: A mini road trip, and two movie trailers.

I am going to try a little something different for this weeks Friday Fun, so I hope you enjoy it.

I'm still stoked from last week's road trip out to Cape Flattery (see previous post), so I thought it would fun to post some pictures from another little road trip I took later in the week as well as include the trailers from two movies that help inspire my sense of wanderlust and road tripping.

First off here are some shots I took on a short jaunt on Chuckanut Drive (Bellingham to Burlington).

Chuckanut DriveChuckanut DriveChuckanut Drive

(Here are the links to the rest of the album and to a map of the route I took)

Next is a trailer from 1971's Two-Lane Blacktop featuring James Taylor, Warren Oates, and Dennis Wilson:

Finally there is this trailer from Vanishing Point which is also from 1971, and features Barry Newman as "Kowalski". Even though I consider the clip fairly tame you may want to consider it Not Safe For Work:

Please don't get the impression I drive anything like that shown in these clips because if I did drive that fast and furious then I would miss all the great scenery.

Have a great weekend ~ Jim

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Road Trip to Cape Flattery

Port Angeles Lake Crescent Cape Flattery

For years now I have been wanting to drive out to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, and after my recently trip to the end of Hwy. 109 I was even more determined to finally make the trip. Since I had some time off this week I decided to not only drive out to Cape Flattery, but also drive Hwy. 101 as far around the Olympic Peninsula as I could in a single day. Even though it turned out to be a long day I had a blast!

I was originally going to take the trip on Monday, but held off until Tuesday due to a storm that came through the area and from the looks of things I made the right call. I left Bellevue just before 5:00 AM and headed South to Tacoma where I would head over the Tacoma Narrows bridge to Sequim and to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery for the first leg of the trip. Click this link to see the map of the first leg of my trip.

I had originally intended to drive all of Hwy. 112 from Port Angeles to Neah Bay, but when I stopped in Sequim at just after 7:00 AM to top off my tank and told the clerk at the station about my trip they advised me that it would be best to take an alternate route. Apparently Hwy. 112 has a lot more twists and turns than is shown on the maps, and given the time of year and recent storm it would turn out to be a very long drive. The clerk suggested that I continue on Hwy 101 to Sappho WA, and then turn off on to Hwy. 113 and head North until Hwy. 113 intersected with Hwy. 112 and then continue on Hwy 112 to Neah Bay. Even though this route is 10 miles longer than my original route, according to the clerk and others I spoke to later, it is actually is a half hour shorter then my original route is on a good day. Besides saving time another plus to this route is I that I ended up driving along the Southern shore of Lake Crescent which as absolutely beautiful in the early morning light with the fog wisping all around.

Along the way I stopped off at a vantage point in Port Angeles to take the first pictures of the trip. Unfortunately I was still in the AM fog when I snapped those shots, so there is only one decent picture of Port Angeles in my Picasa Web Album. I was out of the mental fog and in to the real fog when I took the pictures at Lake Crescent, so those turned out a little better than the first shot.

I reached Neah bay around 9:45 which is actually good time when you consider the stops I made along Lake Crescent to take pictures. When entering Neah Bay I noticed a sign stating that visitors must obtain a Recreational Use Permit when entering the Makah Nation, so I stopped at the Makah Mini Mart and picked one up for $10.00. The permit is good for an entire year, and fees helps maintain the roads and trails used for recreational purposes. I am going to hold on to my permit just in case I decide to visit Neah Bay again this year, and maybe then I will drive all of Hwy. 112. Just a note to all of you using Google Maps, the address on the Makah Mini Mart web site is listed as 931 Bay View Ave., Neah Bay, WA., yet Google maps lists it as 931 Holden Creek Ave., Neah Bay, WA. Go figure?

I drove the six or seven miles from Neah Bay out to Cape Flattery at a leisurely pace. Once I reached the end of the road I parked my truck and walked about a half mile or so to the Cape. The trail is a mix of gravel or dirt (mud on this day), and boardwalks. While I didn't have any trouble with it, the sign at the beginning of the trail does note that it is moderately exerting, and if I were to do it again I would wear something other than my tennis shoes and maybe even bring a walking stick.

The only other people out at the Cape at the time were a young couple who were busy taking pictures, and I passed them along the way to the observation point. When I reached the observation point I was just blown away with the view, and went crazy taking pictures of the sea stacks, wind swept trees, and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. About half way through my photo frenzy it dawned on me that I was the only person at the Northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States. Wow!, that can really twist your mental nipple if you think about.

For about 15 to 20 minutes I was all alone, just taking in the scenic beauty and snapping photos with my Canon A630 . Take a look at my web album to experience my photo frenzy, and when you do take in to account those are only half the pictures I took. I don't profess to be even a marginally good photographer, but I had a blast taking the photos and I hope that you enjoy the few good ones I took. I believe anyone with a camera would have a great time at the Cape, so bring lots of film, or if you have gone digital then bring lots of batteries and memory cards.

After I soaked in enough scenery, and rain, I headed back up the trail to my truck to start the second leg of my trip (click for map). Heading back up the trail I passed the young couple and told them they just had to go to the observation point. I think they heeded my advise because I looked back and they were headed that way.

I got in my truck and headed back towards Neah Bay where I took a few photos, and then on to parts unknown (at least for me). While retracing my route back on Hwy. 112 to Hwy. 113, and finally to Hwy.101, I stopped at a vantage point in Sekiu to take some more snap shots, and then continued up the road a couple of miles and stopped at another gas station in Clallam Bay to top off my tank. It was Noon and at this point in my trip I had driven 269 miles. While paying for my gas I started up a conversation about my trip with the clerk. It turns out that the clerk, Sandi, is a wealth of information and she gladly offered up a bag full of brochures about the area as well as a lot of good information. If you ever find yourself driving Hwy. 112 to or from Neah Bay and need some gas then stop by the Clallam Bay Shell, and strike up a conversation with Sandi and get all the free maps and brochures you need to enjoy your trip.

With a bag full of goodies including a Diet Coke and some munchies I continued on my away towards Forks. I had intended to stop off in Forks for lunch, but Sandi told me about a great place to eat farther down the road. Since I had some munchies to tide me over for a bit I drove through Forks without even stopping to gawk at the Twilight This, and the Twilight That. Maybe some day I will come back to Forks and take a look around. There actually does seem to be a lot of stuff to take in, so if you have the time park your car at Forks and take a look around.

After about another hour I ended up near where Sandi said there would be a restaurant and store, and though she couldn't remember the name, I believe she was referring to the Kalalock Lodge which is where I stopped and had an excellent meal. It was off-season so there weren't many people at the lodge, and this made the stop even more relaxing for me. I had the Fish and Chips, which was really good. The fish was prepared in big chunks, with a very light breading (panko I think), and the fries (chips for you traditionalists) and slaw were good too. After my meal I walked around and took some pictures of the creek running past the lodge, and of the shoreline. If I ever needed a place to get away for a while, the Kalalock Lodge is going to be my destination, especially in the off-season.

I left the Kalalock area at 2:15 PM and headed South on Hwy. 101 to Hoquiam. The trip to Hoquiam seemed a little lackluster when compared to the trip out to Cape Flattery. This is in part due to the fact that rest of the trip Hwy. 101 went inland and not along the coast so the scenery got a little boring. The scenery was nice when Hwy. 101 skirted the Olympic National Park, but if I had it to do over again, and I had more time, I would take Copalis Crossing Road to Copalis Beach and then head South on Hwy 109 to Ocean Shores before heading to Hoquiam.

I hit Hoquiam at 4:00 PM and topped off my truck once again. It was here that took a moment or two and thought about the next leg of my journey. Do I head South on Hwy. 101 to Long Beach and then head home, or do bag it and I head home now so I get in at a somewhat decent time? At this point I had driven 402 miles in just over 11 hours. If I drove to Long Beach I would get there after dark, and there really wouldn't be much to see (just my opinion). Given that logic I decided to end the expedition and head home, but I was going make a little detour along the way.

So off I went towards Olympia, and then to Enumclaw to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants; T-Bonz Steak and Prime Rib House. The only glitch I had with the the "detour" was that I got a little lost in downtown Puyallup, and in the process of trying to get to Hwy 410 and then to Enumclaw, I became so distracted by an unmarked police car pulling out of a parking lot with no lights on and almost hitting me that I found myself out in the middle of an intersection on a red light. (I think the car belonged to the WSP, but I am not sure.) Any ways, there I was in the middle of an intersection on a red light, and with no where else to go I just continued on through hoping that one of Puyallip's infamous traffic cameras wouldn't snap a photo of my truck. I didn't see a flash from a camera, but when I took a look in my rear view mirror I did see a Puyallup police car two cars behind me in the next lane over and I thought I was had. To my surprise the police car just pulled over, parked and turned off their lights. Next time I take a detour I will plan ahead and make sure I know my Highway or Freeway destinations ahead of time, so don't end up getting lost in a town I am not all that familiar with.

Eventually I made my way to Hwy. 410, and got to T-Bonz around 6:30. Gary and Sarina were fantastic hosts as always, and the meal was perfect. After a great meal and some chatting with Gary and Sarina I headed home finally making it back to my starting point at 8:30 PM. All-in-all I drove 553 miles in 15.5 hours. Not a badroad trip in my opinion.

If I were to do it again though I would definitely take more than one day. It might be nice to get hotel room in Port Angeles and head up to Victoria BC for a day. Port Angeles is in a good location to use as a base of operations while seeing the general area including Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, along with Lake Crescent. There is plenty to do there and it would be worth spending a day there just to see the town. After Port Angeles I would either stay at in Forks, or at the Kalalock Lodge. From there I would head down to Long Beach, or even Astoria, OR to see some more sites.

Well that's it, my big road trip to Cape Flattery, and around the Olympic Peninsula on Hwy 101. Below are the links for each leg of the trip, and to my web album:
Coincidently, after trimming down all the photos I took I ended up with 101 photos in the web album for this trip. Sort of fitting for a trip on Hwy 101 huh? Hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to leave a comment if you want.

Cheers ~ Jim Cox