Hello world!

The first words you wrote when learning a new programming tool, be it Arduino C, Micro-Python, VB6, C#, Python 3 or coding frameworks for any micro-contollers.

This is the first thing anyone writes when they are learning a new programming language and it is very gratifying when you try something for the first time and are able to write these simple two words. I can do that on many LCDs connected to micro-controllers or connected to better and more modern OLED displays driven by either a: Raspberry Pi, ESP32 or many of the Arduino boards. Some of the projects described on this blog started out with these simple words and have advanced to more information over time.

In addition, I thinks its always great to greet your audience and so I say “Hello World” to you and hope you enjoy what I share in my personal blog. It somehow doesn’t seem right to me, to do something and yet not share it with those interested therein, across the world!!

Rich Day, Poor Day and money can’t buy you common sense

Today I heard an awful screeching of tyres near my fence. I immediately jumped onto my AI CCTV footage and caught this hoon (a colloquial term for a road hooligan)…one day he is going to overcook it and come through my pool fence. I just hope and pray that nobody will be home swimming when he does. Point is, it is a very expensive car driven by somebody with very little common sense, see a screenshot from the video here:

A “Hoon” (a hooligan) doing “donuts” in a busy intersection – genius!

Notice the spin tracks after one revolution by this hoon caught on video.

As usual this got me thinking, this time about Robert Kyosaki’s book and the lesson in that book, which is that – rich people aren’t necessarily the brightest in society.

Take this fellow in the photo below he told me that he does “concreting” for a living, which requires a 6 month certificate to enable a person to do that in Australia. I consider myself a reasonably educated person, I am an Engineer with 2 master’s degrees and a Ph.D but I am not rich in the financial sense (a bit like Robert Kyosaki’s one father in his celebrated book entitled, Rich Dad, Poor Dad). This tradesman is clearly doing well and ‘good on him’ for that (no ill feeling from me – only respect for what he has accomplished in one area of life). However, the point is, never assume that somebody driving a brand new Ferrari is a brain surgeon or a high-powered invest banker, etc. Wealth thus has very little to do with ones intelligence or common sense. A good lesson to bear in mind.

‘Tradies’ (tradesmen) do very well in Australia

The most complex machine on earth, can you guess what it is?

A little bit of trivia for you…

Let’s see you might have guessed on of the following:

* Facebook’s artificial intelligence algorithm that feeds off people’s desires only to serve them a stronger dose of what they want. Watch The Social Dilemma Doco on Netflix to understand what I am referring to.

The Social Dilemma

* Space flight, the popularised “Rocket Science” which attribute those that practise this as geniuses.

* Robots performing brain implants, see Elon Musk’s brain implants device to fix medical conditions here:

Elon Musk’s brain-chip implant

Actually you would be completely mistaken it is actually the power network! You didn’t think of that as a first guess right. Well it is based on the mathematical models that describe it and the very complex interactions of everything that connects to it.

Just a small portion of the mathematics that describes the functioning of the power system

Dried Banana – make your own!

You may no doubt have been following all the food desiccator evolutions on this blog!

We started by putting a incandescent heat lamp and a desk fan in a plastic box with some holes drilled therein for ventilation, this was revision 1. The latest unit uses a bathroom venting fan and complimentary vent plus Arlec Bluetooth hub+temp&humidity sensor + switched plug socket. This all in a food grade plastic box with a basket that fits snuggly therein from which to hang the paper-clips. Recall these were bent into an S-shape for hanging up the meat to make either Biltong or Jerky.

The basket can have some aluminium fly-screen laid into it or shade-cloth laid into that basket and then fruit can be laid thereon to dry. I did that with a couple of sliced bananas and think this is my second most favourite snack, after biltong!

Whilst in process I check the temperature and humidity on my phone using Bluetooth, how cool is that!

The ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🍌

Buy this Bluetooth, secret-sauce controller which controls a plug socket.

The next iteration (revision 9) for making Jerky, Biltong or Dried Fruit at home

The next evolution of kit for building your own machine at home (available from your local hardware store)

Many folks are intimidated by the electrical aspect of making their own machine, rightly so it is a silent killer. This post is for such people. Get the fellows at the hardware store to fit a lamp holder with a plug socket as well as to the fan. All you need to do is cut a hole in the plastic box for those sockets to reach an external socket adaptor. Thus no wiring just a bit of assembly.

It is important to find a basket or rack that fits snugly into the box for either resting the fruit on or hanging the meat from, as below.

A nice snug rack onto which some flyscreen can be placed for drying fruit

I recently found a ceramic bulb of 75 watt heating capacity. This works in high humidity environments. Note: The Grid Connect controlled socket – the one with “Smart Plug-in Socket” printed on the box within the above picture, is the one used for this heat source in this machine. The fan remains on during the duration of the process to vent out the moisture that is drawn out by the heat source – this is what the desiccation, or dehumidification is all about.

A very good heating source for the dehumidification process.

This just keeps getting better and better as technology advances! Now just to choose your spice from the websites by searching for “Crown Biltong Spice”.

Enjoy!!

Note: It’s probably a good idea to have your machine checked by an electrically qualified person, just to be safe.

A lifetime supply of these great goodies is what this machine will give you.

A few lessons I learnt to bear in mind when using this Arlec equipment:

1) The setup requires you to be near your Wifi router with Bluetooth enabled on your phone

2) The temperature set points (corresponding to the values read from the Arlec Bluetooth enabled temp and humidity sensor are in degrees Fahrenheit and not degrees Celsius). Conversion of ON and OFF set-points for the Arlec Smart Plug-in Socket are below:

Conversion from 40 degrees C to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
Conversion from 35 degrees C to 95 degrees Fahrenheit

3) The temp and humidity sensor update rate can be changed by pressing the little button on it and watching the frequency change from the default of 30 min down to 5 min.

Make sure the current frequency says 5 minutes

4) Most people struggle with getting the temp and humidity sensor to get registered with the App. It is important to press the button on this sensor for about 5 seconds until the red LED flashes rapidly and then to select Auto sync in the Smart Grid App on your phone.

A cool video of a great bunch of people who have a keen interest in building the machine using these exact parts is below. It actually is a heap of fun when you do this as a team, help each other out and treated it as bit of a “production line”:

A really nice South African actor that I watched growing up has now made some YouTube videos about the meat aspects of making biltong/beef jerky. He is an actor so will do the preparation better justice than me. I don’t use vinegar, as I don’t like the taste that it introduces into the final product. I only lay the raw meat in the biltong spice (Crown National – Safari Biltong Spice), which actually comprises: 1/3 part salt, 1/3 cracked brown pepper and 1/3 cracked dried coriander seeds. I lay it in a Pyrex dish, sprinkle half the spice over the one side of the meat, turn the meat over, sprinkle the other half of the spice on that side of the meat and then place that in the fridge for 24 hours with a cover of sandwich wrap (“Glad” wrap) to keep any other flavours within the fridge from permeating the meat – as he says “it isn’t rocket science”. Make sure that the “Glad” wrap doesn’t touch the meat and is pulled taut over the Pyrex dish. (Note: In Australia Jindurra steak costs only between AUD 13-20/kg depending on the cut and I have never had an issue with it: https://www.canstarblue.com.au/groceries/supermarket-meat-awards)

For dried fruit look at the following post, it is found under point numbered 17 in this post:

Alternatively, the ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🍌🥩🍴

Buy this Bluetooth, secret-sauce controller which controls a plug socket.

Equations that changed the world

As an engineer (electrical and electronic) mathematics is an integral part of what we do (pun intended 😀)

I find it so sad when young people choose comfort over logic when making subject choices at school. I hear things like ‘I don’t like maths or physics’! They then later discover that they have an interest in a field of work which requires these very subjects. The path is then incredibly difficult for them to reach their aspirations.

Make no mistake, either of these subjects can be hard, especially if you parents had no interest in them at school and you have a school teacher that is also ‘no good’ in this space – as I had in a maths teacher in High School. Actually my high school as a whole, was pretty much a disaster. So even if life deals you a tough hand of cards persevere and you will eventually prevail.

I always loved science and chemistry but didn’t love mathematics due to a “shaky” introduction to the subject in high school. I consider myself an average bloke but have prevailed in my academic goals and love mathematics now!!

Waste not, want not!

9 August 2020

I was so impressed recently when I found a mini hi-fi system that a neighbour was throwing out and came across the following video post that tells one how to trick a car’s cd-player into accepting an auxiliary input and thought that I could stream Spotify through this mini hi-fi system. (Note: always switch off the power and disconnect the plug socket before attempting this).

There were however a few problems when I tried this with my newly “acquired” hi-fi unit:

  • The CD player on this unit was clearly the reason it was thrown out in the first place, even though the radio still worked, it was older an Analog Radio, not the newer Digital Radio, which is abbreviated as DAB+. This older form of radio can be scratchy depending on reception etc.
  • The unit had a tape player which have long since become obsolete.

I thus set about finding the “service manual” on the internet by looking for the model number which is usually found on the back “nameplate” of the unit and then searching for that name and service manual on the internet. You can see this nameplate in the first image on this post. You have got to love the internet and what is available on it!

I then had to look for the CD signals on the circuit diagram for the left and right channels on the various connectors, on this hi-fi unit these were marked C/R-in, C/L-in and D-GND. I bought a good quality auxiliary cable and cut it in half. I exposed the red (right channel) the white (left channel) and the shield / signal ground (“earth”). I then soldered these three conductors from the auxiliary cable to the purple-coloured points (shown on the diagram below) to the nearest solder points on the printed circuit board (PCB) by tracing them from the connector numbered CNP303 using a multimeter on the “buzzer” setting (continuity tester). The CD player had an issue so the sound that came from connecting to these connection points was way too feint. I then decided I’ll rather connect to the more generic signals which come from either the CD or the Cassette Player (abbreviated as “CASS” on the circuit diagram) or the Radio (abbreviated “RAD”). These are thus the yellow-coloured points on the circuit diagram named L-OUT and R-OUT, below:

As per the instructions in the Youtube video if you use the CD-player you have to “play” a blank CD in the CD player. When using the cassette player you just have to push the Play button and Viola, it works! High quality digital music using the amplifier and great speakers from a hif-fi that would end up on the landfill. I gave it a new lease on life! Sustainability at its best….

There was a bonus. Spotify allows one to have an old mobile phone connected to the same Wifi as your usual mobile phone and then allow you to direct that phone to play your music. I thus used my old mobile, connected to the same Wifi router as my current phone and then with the Auxiliary cable plugged into this old phone I am now able to stream great music to this old phone. Sorry but that was such a great revelation for me. I also now have a great use for old mobile phones, I can literally find an old radio/cassette player/CD player connect that via an auxiliary cable (as above) to an old phone in every room in the house and with these connected to the same Wifi network. I thus have a museum of old technology serving a new purpose – bespoke music in every room with guests connecting to my Guest Wifi network, then able to stream their own choice of music in whichever room they find themselves. This is truly not wasting older technology, I am just repurposing it…..I love it, I hope you do too?!

Old museum-piece: CD-player/Tape cassette player and Analog radio, repurposed to work with Spotify streaming and have any guest send their choice of music to this old Wifi-connected mobile phone

This was one of the more gratifying projects for me, as I feel it improves people’s comfort levels using technology and simultaneously saves the planet at the same time, without costing a cent!

My old Samsung mobile phone is called SM-G9201 and is the device in my study which can be connected via Spotify by anybody on my guest Wifi network or even by me using my current mobile phone

Also, look for the iHeartRadio App in the relevant app store for the operating system on your phone and then you have great local Australia radio stations to listen to 👍

iHeartRadio App

I loved this project so much that I took an old car radio, the Sony CDX-S2210S and “hacked” the output CD signals so that I could use this in my pool box as an entertainment area, sound system for around the pool. Again I found an old mobile phone and installed Spotify whilst including this phone within my family group. It obviously is connected to my guest wi-fi network.

Downloaded the Sony CDX-S2210S service manual and found these three points on the printed circuit board to solder my auxiliary cable to.

A bit of a trick with this CD player is that it generates an error signal if you place a blank CD in the player. In this instance you actually have to use a playable music CD. The radio then attenuates the output from the actual CD player in favour of the hacked Aux. input signal. My wife had a coniption when the auxiliary cable disengaged out of the cellphone due to its cover messing with the seating of the connector and it played the CD rather than the Spotify signal. I may actually superglue the auxiliary cable into the mobile phone headphone port to prevent this from happening again 😜.

The auxillary cable soldered to the respective points on the PCB board (I again used the continuity tester to “buzz” the pins from the connector to the best solder points)

Just being able to repair any old machine using Arduino controllers is a great way to save the planet and save heaps of money, just read how a business card machine was repaired using a Arduino Mega 2560…so cool:

Figure machine with $200 of kit

3-in-1 automatic, household sweeping robot – scammers list

These sellers claim things about the product which simply aren’t true. It is just a child’s toy and only worth about $5, nothing more. I have bought and tested them.

Our charter for this service may be found here:

Our charter

The list of scammers thus far:

https://keithlilly.com

https://www.lcukshop.com/products/the-latest-ai-in-europe-and-the-us-in-2020-3-in-1-automatic-household-sweeping-robot

https://inssale.shop/products/sweepingrobot

https://mobexperter.com/products/automatic-household-sweeping-robot-3-in-1

https://www.myethne.com/products/3in1

https://inssquare.com/products/3in1

https://www.chpeal.com/products/3-in-1-automatic-household-sweeping-robotbuy-2-free-shipping

https://bungiesting.com/collections/electronics/products/3-in-1-automatic-household-sweeping-robot

To compare the above prices of between $25 to $45 to the quality products from your local Bunnings/Home Depot is the first sign that all is not well with what these scammers are offering:

What these devices should cost from a wholesale seller

The Charter

This institutes charter is about providing a service to the general public around electronic product claims and whether these are distorting the truth or not. We simply buy goods, test them and then express our opinions (based on our experience) of whether they are either worse then their claims, match their stated claims or exceed these. These reviews provides a level of protection to the consumer. We reserve the right to only review technologies that are of interest to us as we have a limited membership and thus limited resources to review products. We are however orientated towards rooting our unethical electronic product ‘dropshippers’.

Not all robots are equal

20 June 2020

You definitely pay for what you get with automation. I bought a 3-in-1 mop/vacuum/broom which was supposed to be all of that and have LIDAR and be able to self-dock and recharge. Well the fellas at:

https://keithlily.com

These folks are in the business of scamming people and caught me out. You will see the video on their site which advertises their product as having all these features and yet it has Velcro tags on the bottom to which very thin soft cloths are attached and these are then dragged across the floor. It came with about 30 of these replacement cloths. It does have a piezoelectric sensor in its “nose” that detects it bumping into something and then has a randomising algorithm which causes it to change direction, quite successfully. This algorithm and owing to its small dimensions, allows it to get-in under tables and chairs and cabinets and attracts “dust bunnies” to that cloth. A human would need to get down on all fours with a conventional vacuum machine and a fine nozzle to reach those places.

The concept is worth about $AUD 5-$10 and I would pay that for it, provided it didn’t get it self struck on anything that doesn’t activate the sensor. That would be things less than, 5mm in height. It even gets itself caught out in grouting grooves on tiles when there is a lot of water on the bathroom floor. The fellows at keithlily (whom I later discovered our out of Azerbaijan, have a great marketing and delivery businesses model but just aren’t honest with their product). They will no doubt, not be a sustainable organization. They will constantly have to change their cover to keep duping people like me by over promising whilst also under delivering.

It did however get me thinking about what is now know as general purpose technology (GPT) and the specific version of this that is robotics. ABB have incredible robots that can do amazing things in a production line, even allowing for full customisation of each product manufactured. Boston Dynamics have created robots, with a level of realism, that defies what many thought possible just a few years ago. There are also amazing autonomous vehicles like the various Tesla models and the list goes on. On an affordability scale though, only the flight controller is at a scale of sophistication and cost that can be considered GPT, that is the flight controllers in drones. In pondering why that is, I realised that the more expensive automatic vacuum machines are only slightly better than my $USD 29.95 excluding shipping, light-touch, kiddies toy “robotic” broom. We had one from Roomba back in 2012 costing $AUD 350 and it kept getting itself stuck. I have no doubt that these have improved substantially since then, but still think that the performance versus price is still not compelling. This design needs a rethink. The flight controllers in drones are however GPT and have the right price versus performance proposition as I explain in the video below:

YouTube Video

The link to the scammers site:

https://keithlily.com

If you like my efforts, either buy one of the affiliate product kits or buy me a coffee, it keeps me going!

https://ko-fi.com/ianboake

So this got me thinking that with me knowledge and experience I could evaluate technologies (ostensibly items that aren’t branded and are sold in online states). This is thus a public service to help protect scammers. I call this service: “The workbench critic”. I will start with these 3-in-1 robotic cleaners.

So along this theme I came across this post and thought it very humourous: