PIC-based solar engine (PICSE) 2007

My PrayBot project last year needed a “solar engine,” and the quickest thing I could come up with was based on a PIC instead of the more usual BEAM-style solutions. This year I wanted something more efficient. But it still ended up with a PIC, and it’s much more efficient than any of the BEAM designs I’ve tried. read more...

Troubleshooting Rule #2: Is it turned on?

While troubleshooting, another embarrassing discovery is that the thing in question isn’t working because you didn’t turn it on. This rule could come first, as in some sense it’s more basic than Rule #1, but for the simple AC-powered appliance, you have to plug it in before you can turn it on, so I list it second.

Again, there are lots more useful ways to think about whether you’ve turned something on. For instance: read more...

Troubleshooting Rule #1: Is it plugged in?

The first in my series of troubleshooting rules:

A surprising number of day-to-day problems are solved when you realize that the thing just isn’t plugged in. Oops.

The obvious sense of “plugged in” is “plugged into the mains supply” - the AC wall outlet.

But there are many other useful senses to look for: read more...

Clara's Remote

One day a few months ago, my three-year-old daughter Clara and I were sitting in the living room watching a movie. We needed to pause it for some reason. I was working on teaching her to use the remote, so she tried it. But there were so many buttons on our two remotes, she always had a hard time finding the right one. And when she did find it, there were some books on the table in the way, so the infrared signal didn’t get through. After I explained that, she picked it up and pointed it at the TV, from inches away. But the DVD player is near the floor, and the TV’s higher up, so the receiver still couldn’t see. On the next try, the door to the TV hutch, which we have to prop open, got closed, so the signal STILL couldn’t get through. Who knows whether she was still pressing the right button at this point.

So I said, “Hey… Would you like me to make you your own special remote control, that would have just the buttons you need, and that you wouldn’t have to point anywhere?” She said yes. read more...

A little fancy

[Clara is sick. Timothy wakes her up at night to give her medicine. She never fully awakens. But she says one last thing before closing her eyes.]

Clara: Dad?

Timothy: Yeah.

C: I put that… purple ribbon… on the… doorknob… so it’d be… little fancy.

T: Ah! I see.

C: [snore]

Winnie The Mondegreen

[Timothy and Katherine are discussing the next Star Trek movie, which is entering preproduction.]

Clara: Dad?

T: Yes?

C: I’m puzzled.

A mini-game: The Search

I wanted to learn a bit about RPG Maker XP, a role-playing game creation toolkit that my apprentice, Jake, is using for a project. So I made this little game with one puzzle and some combat. read more...

Preschool proof

The three-year-old logical process:

  1. According to Thomas The Tank Engine, trains have “drivers.”

  2. According to Busytown, trains have “engineers.”

DimBot dimming well

DimBot’s phase control is working well now, so our bedroom lights fade up over a period of ten minutes. Still got some glitches, but it wakes us up slowly as desired. And it’s… good! read more...

Front page above the fold again

The local paper doesn’t keep their archives available very long, but here it is.

Second time in three years! Small town, I guess.

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