Lifelong Learning a blog of all the things I've learned about…

25Oct/100

Why every CEO should know who adafruit industries is.

adafruit industries logoI can only think of a few times in my life that I've had such an experience with a company that I felt driven to tell others about it.

I don't think I'm alone here, the internet is full of blog postings and even websites dedicated to those companies that fail their customers with such passion that the customer is motivated, no, driven to tell the world just how little they care for their customers and how easily they abandon and isolate them, all while spending millions convincing them to come back and buy more...

Ah but here's the catch, my experience isn't one of customer fail but rather one of customer success, time and time again. I bet if I asked you right now, you could think of half a dozen of those companies that have failed you countless times couldn't you? Now, if I ask you to name off just as many companies that are examples of what customer service should be? Bet you can't! I certainly know I can't.

But I know a company that would be at the top of my list for being the poster child of customer focused operations and service. I've had the opportunity, actually I'd say pleasure to be a customer of adafruit industries for just over a year now and with each business transaction they have exceeded my expectations in some manor or another.

Whether it was shipping my order within hours of my purchase, answering my stupid questions about one of their fabulous products within minutes and even generously providing me a few free plastic parts when one of those fabulous products was mangled by my overzealous need to tighten screws just that little bit too much. Yes, adafruit industries is definitely at the top of my list!

Often and maybe unfairly, I like to compare most companies to RIAA created bubblegum pop-stars who have forgotten that it's their customers (teenyboppers mostly, no offense to those of you who love Justin Bieber) that pay for that $200k dollar Bentley. It would be my dream that CEOs would take their focus off the stock holder and put it back where it belongs, on the customer. Happy customers make happy profits which make happy stock holders.

So all you CEOs out there, minimize that spreadsheet and take a look at a small company adafruit industries which is making a large impact in a small market and perhaps you might just learn about something that would actually have a positive impact to your bottom line...

Filed under: Electronics No Comments
25Oct/100

ATTiny13A Powered Jack-O-Lantern

2010 AVR Jack-O-Lnatern

This year's indoor AVR powered jack-o-lantern

So I was waiting for this time of year when I first built my "Fake-fire LED" boards last year and now it's finally here!

I've been running this jack-o-lantern for about 20 days now (this board is running off 3xAA alkaline batteries) and the LEDs seem to be doing just fine, the effect is fantastic and I couldn't be happier with the new power-saving firmware I put on the AVR to help with battery life. I keep this one indoors but I plan on putting another board in a real pumpkin I'm carving tonight and putting it outside, I think the effect will be even better with a carved pumpkin. Can't wait! I'll update this post with pictures of it when it's done!

I highly recommend this project, it's a fantastic way to get started with understanding AVRs and the possible power saving modes, I've learned so much from this project and it's super quick to put together on protoboard...

For next year's version, I'll be addressing that pesky constant current draw for the photocell to extend the battery life even more (recommendations are most welcomed). I've posted high-resolution schematics below but you can find all the source code and eagle files in the zip file attached to this post.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween everyone!

Close up of the tiny board and battery holder. Next year I plan on hiding this better.

Here I've just run the photocell out the back of the plastic jack-o-lantern.

Eagle Schematic for my board.
Jack-O-Latern
Title: Jack-O-Latern (505 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: jack-o-latern.zip
Size: 34 kB

Jack-O-Latern
Title: Jack-O-Latern (505 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: jack-o-latern.zip
Size: 34 kB

Filed under: AVR, Electronics No Comments
17Sep/100

My FreeNAS Build (Part 3 of 3)

So after a few months of using FreeNAS I've decided I can't live with the insanely slow transfer speeds. Unfortunately FreeNAS is built on FreeBSD and has a terrible port of SAMBA service. It's so slow it's painful!

I'm not bashing on the developers, they've done a fantastic job with the tools provided to them under FreeBSD, I just think the call to use FreeBSD was a bad one, especially when the software is supposed to be a NAS and has a known poor implementation of SAMBA.

At any rate, it's my opinion that anyone who is technical stay away from FreeNAS and just utilize Ubuntu server or the like. For those who are not technical, I'd suggest Microsoft's Home Server, it's performance on file transfers smokes FreeNAS and it's fairly moron-proof.

As for me, I'm installing Ubuntu Server 10.4 and never looking back. My goal was to evaluate FreeNAS and it's core purpose was file storage which means lots of file transfers and that's the one thing it sucks the most at...sorry FreeNAS, I've found another and I'll never look back.....

So if you've been following my FreeNAS posts, you know I gave FreeNAS a fair shot, if you haven't been following along, let me save you some time by saying don't waste your time with FreeNAS. If you are just in love with the idea of FreeNAS wait for OMV (Open Media Vault)....

1Aug/106

IKEA Lampan RGB LED Light

A few months ago, I saw this blog and video. The gentlemen had hacked a Lampan light from IKEA with LEDs, I was immediately enamored with the idea of building it and giving a few of them to my young nieces for Christmas. I figured they'd be far more excited about a one-of-a-kind light than a few more dolls in the 'ole toy box.

I also wanted to further my design knowledge of PCBs as well as better understand using PWM in AVRs, until this point I'd really only played with my Arduino and a few ATTiny13s. I quickly came up with the following design to suite my requirements.

My Requirements:
1. AVR with at least 3 PWM channels. (I used the ATTiny2313)
2. Super bright RGB LEDs.
3. Warm white light for normal use, not the normal blue hued white LEDs.
4. In-circuit programmable design.
5. Fit in the base of an IKEA Lampan.
6. UL approved power source.

First Version of my Lampan RGB LED PCB

Lampan RGB LED PCB

I used quite a few surface mounted components to get the size down.

The lamp uses a single momentary button to switch (you need special drill bits to drill the hole in this thin plastic, trust me, check Harbor Freight for them!) between the colors and the two color mixing modes (one, I jokingly refer to as "light switch rave" and the other a slow color changing mode). My wife absolutely hates the blue hue of normal LEDs, so I knew my design would have to incorporate a few warm white LEDs in addition to the RGB LEDs, thus the 3 warm white LEDs in the middle of the board.

I got the 5mm RGB LEDs from here, highly recommended! And yes, I did use a single resistor for each color, typically a no-no in design, but the trade-off was worth it for me. I wasn't overly concerned with exact color intensity from each LED.


Anyhow, this was a fun build and Christmas was a hit, the family loved them. I've attached the Eagle schematic and AVR Studio files to the post if anyone is more interested in the design.

Lampan RGB Firmware
Title: LampanRGBDriver (919 clicks)
Caption: Lampan RGB Firmware
Filename: lampanrgbdriver.zip
Size: 3 kB
Lampan Eagle Schematic and Board Files
Title: LampanRGBLedSchematic (851 clicks)
Caption: Lampan Eagle Schematic and Board Files
Filename: lampanrgbledschematic.zip
Size: 34 kB

Lampan Eagle Schematic and Board Files
Title: LampanRGBLedSchematic (851 clicks)
Caption: Lampan Eagle Schematic and Board Files
Filename: lampanrgbledschematic.zip
Size: 34 kB
Lampan RGB Firmware
Title: LampanRGBDriver (919 clicks)
Caption: Lampan RGB Firmware
Filename: lampanrgbdriver.zip
Size: 3 kB

30Jul/101

Nursery Room Temperature Monitor

Temperature Monitor Indicating it's too warm

Temperature Monitor Indicating it's too warm

Let me start by saying I found out a few weeks ago that I'm going to be a father. This is my first child and as you can imagine I'm filled with excitement and nervous energy. Both my wife and I both agreed that we wouldn't start actual preparations for the coming baby until the 12th week to ensure all was well (1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage). I just couldn't sit still and wait, I started reading about what to expect, how to care for a newborn, and so forth.

It was while I was reading about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) that I saw a few articles discussing the proper temperature for a nursery to help prevent the SIDS. The articles all agreed that cooler was better, ideally between 64 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was immediately struck by the idea of creating a visual indicator to allow both my wife and I to easily ensure the room was within this range! I grabbed up my Maker's Notebook and starting drawing what I was envisioning. What did it look like, you ask? Keep reading, you'll soon be rewarded with the answers you seek!

My idea was to utilize a diffused RGB LED, an analog temperature sensor (really wanted to expand my working knowledge of the ADC on AVRs) and a frosted glass sphere to create a highly visible temperature indicator. I quickly sorted through my parts bins and found most of what I would need. A quick search on eBay and a short drive to Lowe's provided the rest.

Here's what you'll need to build one yourself:
1. Wooden base, use your imagination.
2. Frosted glass light shade.
3. LM335 Analog Temp Sensor
4. Atmel ATTiny45/85 micro and appropriate socket.
5. Common anode RGB LED (doesn't have to be diffused, you can do that yourself with sandpaper).
6. Two (82 ohm) , one (150 ohm), one (10k ohm) and one (2.2k) 1/4 watt resistors.
7. A 10k potentiometer.
8. One (.1uF) capacitor.
9. A power source. I used an old Netgear router power supply. 5V regulated output at 2.0A.
10. Some wire, heat shrink tubing, Velcro and appropriate soldering equipment.
11. Firmware and schematic.

I typically breadboard all my designs then move them to PCBs once I've worked out all the kinks, but I had recently purchased a mini drill-press and PCB development kit from Jameco and decided the simplicity of this design would allow me to go directly to a DIY PCB (it also gave me an excuse to try my newHad to calibrate the temp sensor using the 10k pot and my Fluke with attached thermocouple.

Once done, I sat down and wrote up the firmware using AVR Studio 4. After a few more hours, I was all set to try it out. And TADAAA! A fully functioning accurate temperature indicator for the new nursery. I'll paint the wooden base once we decide on colors for the nursery!

A few equations that made my life easier and an excellent article to extend your understanding of the ADC in any AVR:
AVR Freaks (ADC For Newbies)
Convert Kelvin to Fahrenheit

EagleSchematic
Title: EagleSchematic (510 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: eagleschematic.zip
Size: 22 kB
NuseryRoomTempMonitorFirmware
Title: NuseryRoomTempMonitorFirmware (465 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: nuseryroomtempmonitorfirmware.zip
Size: 3 kB

NuseryRoomTempMonitorFirmware
Title: NuseryRoomTempMonitorFirmware (465 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: nuseryroomtempmonitorfirmware.zip
Size: 3 kB
EagleSchematic
Title: EagleSchematic (510 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: eagleschematic.zip
Size: 22 kB

Filed under: AVR, Electronics 1 Comment
19Jul/100

Tasty Home Medicine

Today, I decided I would try my hand at a simple Irish home remedy that turned into a popular soft drink. GINGER ALE! Ginger ale was used some time ago to treat anything that ailed you but now thanks to John McLaughlin, it's more commonly associated with a refreshing soft drink.

Ginger has long been used to help settle upset stomachs and ease nausea, it's these proposed properties that really made me want to give it a try. My wife has been suffering from nausea quite badly lately and I thought this would be a fantastic solution (if it works). It's all natural and quite easy to make.

Here's my recipe for Ginger Soda:
• 2 Cups Fresh cut ginger (slice into about 1/8 inch slices)
• 2 Cups filtered water
• 2 Cups white sugar
• 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
• 2 tsp Dry Ginger Powder (not required but adds to the zippyness)

Combine the ginger, sugar and water and heat until simmering. You'll simmer the mix until the liquid has reduced to about 1/2. It'll be syrupy in consistency. Add the vanilla and dry ginger powder and stir well. Remove from heat and strain mixture. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and then add about 3 tablespoons syrup to 16 ounces soda water (this will vary on individual tastes), stir well and enjoy! If you want, you can add a bit of fresh Mint and a squeeze of lime to zest it up a bit!

But WAIT! Don't throw away that ginger! It will make a fantastic treat and here's how. Take the cooked ginger from the recipe above and mix it well with 1 cup white sugar. Make sure each slice is liberally coated with sugar.  Place the coated ginger slices on a cookie tray evenly spaced out and put in a preheated oven at 225F. Let them dry for about 3 hours in the oven, they should be dry but still chewy! Yum-O!

Ginger slices ready to simmer.
Ginger slices ready to simmer.
Ginger ready to go!

Ginger ready to go!

Candy ginger ready to dry

Candy ginger ready to dry

Candied Ginger

Candied Ginger

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