Turning a gas bottle into a log burner

With the nights drawing in, sitting in the garden without some form of heater in the evening is starting to become less appealing. Combined with an abundance of wood as a result of the several trees I felled this summer, building a log burner seemed like an excellent idea. I decided to base it on an old 7kg gas bottle that was lying around; it’s a nice size and shape, and made of thick, good quality steel that won’t burn through easily. Continue reading

Updating my youtube music player

Recently the youtube search results page changed slightly; this caused my youtube music player to stop working properly. I’ve rewritten parts of it; not only to work with the new youtube search, but I’ve also taken the opportunity to improve a few other areas.

The biggest change is the integration of an automatic pause feature based on bluetooth proximity sensing. If a bluetooth device’s MAC address is entered, the music will automatically pause when that device leaves visible range; once it returns, the music will resume automatically. I have also added the ability to use 3 basic commands at the search prompt: /skip /pause and /play; they do exactly what you’d expect. Continue reading

Making a mains adapter for a Canon Powershot A800

I recently bought a new camera; it’s a Canon Powershot A800. Although it’s only a basic compact camera, I specifically chose one that can run CHDK; this is a replacement firmware that allows access to just about every feature imaginable. One thing I wanted to try was to take regular shots over the course of a night so that I could combine them to create a photo of star trails. I quickly realised that powering the camera with batteries limited shooting to a couple of hours and the cost of batteries was going to start mounting up. With canon wanting about £50 for an official mains adaptor it was time to make my own. This is what I came up with:
The AC adapter and the completed camera lead Continue reading

Pausing Banshee using bluetooth proximity

In my continued efforts to control everything with bluetooth proximity, I’ve successfully nailed another target: Banshee media player. Banshee is the default media player supplied with Ubuntu and has some surprisingly useful command line arguments that allow it to be controlled from ruby scripts. I’ve written one that pauses banshee if I leave the room while something is playing and then resumes where it left off as I re-enter the room. Continue reading

Improving the aerial on a mini bluetooth dongle

I, like many people, have a soft spot for the online purveyor of tat that is ebay. When I wanted to add bluetooth connectivity to my desktop I went bought myself a miniature bluetooth dongle for about £1.50.
The miniature bluetooth dongle
It certainly manages being miniature and providing bluetooth connectivity, although the advertised 10m range is a little optimistic. After having troubles with proximity mains control due to a couple of dead spots, I got thinking about ways to improve the signal. Quite quickly I realised that the aerial was a good place to look. Continue reading

Revisiting parallell port mains control

Since my last post on this topic, there has been quite a lot of interest; this post is to cover some slight tweaks to the box itself and to include some extra details. I’ve added a second parallel socket to the side of the box and connected each pin to the corresponding pin on the other socket. This allows one socket to be connected to the computer and the other connected to further parallel devices. I plan to build several more similar boxes, which will be able to be controlled simultaneously from a single parallel port.

The socket box with the faceplate off to one side in order to show the connections. Continue reading

Using text to speech to announce new emails on arrival home

I’ve done some more tinkering with bluetooth proximity detection and have succeeded in making my life slightly more like a science fiction film. When I arrive home, my computer uses text to speech to greet me and tell me if I’ve got any new emails. This reuses the code from last week to detect the presence of my phone via bluetooth, with the slight alteration of tracking what the previous state was. We only want to trigger the announcement when the phone returns to the room, not the whole time the phone is in the room. Continue reading

Controlling the mains with bluetooth proximity

I’ve found another use for my parallel port controlled socket box; by using it in conjunction with a bluetooth dongle, I can detect when I have wandered out of the room. I can turn off a load of peripherals, then turn them all back on when I return to the room seamlessly. I’ve simply plugged the extension leads which power my monitors, speakers, kettle, lamps and fan into the parallel controlled socket then let a ruby script act as the brains of the operation. Continue reading

Building an arc welder from microwave oven transformers

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks building an arc welder by winding new secondaries onto two microwave oven transformers (MOTs). The one important lesson to learn from all of this is that high power transformers are not a place where the “fuck it that’ll do” method works; I wrecked a couple of primaries so ended up having to find fresh MOTs and start again. Continue reading