Sunday, September 18, 2022

What's happening at CDL? Sept/2022

Hmm, looks like the API broke so I'm doing this manually in the Blog editor. (OMG! ;-) )

Unusual summer in that most are quiet around CDL. We're usually spending a lot of time with our families, around the house and vacationing. This year we've done a few things in the lab also! We have a few new members and they've been visiting all summer. We've spent time getting the Lulzbot 3D printer working. Still need to get some glass and buildtac to address the huge scratch in the bed. We do have a few other 3D printers we're working on (Monoprice Mini, Tarantula, a delta and a home made RepRap clone we're going to run Klipper). The CNC machine has been a bit neglected but I'm hoping to resolve that later in the fall. We've been doing a lot of work on the InfoAge network. Improving Internet access and WiFi. Work on Security (cameras) and most exciting the CDL Meade LX200 12 " Telescope. We've improved how we move it about and we have a "crash cart" for the telescope. We're going to get a large battery (LFP) so we can power the scope and support longer. I'll be working on documenting what we've done and post pictures a bit later. Of course, More to come!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Let there be light - 2022-02-14

... so it started with I couldn't get the gate open. The lock box wouldn't budge so I couldn't get the key to open the gate. Fortunately Joe Wilkes showed up to unlock the gate. Since he's no longer on the CDL board he gave me the keys. I can now get in much easier, yea!

So once inside Joe, Pat and I were shooting the breeze. I remembered that someone donated a few fluorescent bulbs so I attempted to replace the dead bulbs. We now have a bit more lights working. I need at least 4 more T8 bulbs then all the light fixtures will have working lights.

While I futzed with the bulbs Pat was busy with the telescope. He did done some searching online and noted that we seemed to be missing a part but not an important part. While disassembling the transmission he discovered that our scope had a bearing that popped out which allowed the axle to flop around inside the transmission. He put the bearing back and gave it a quick test. Huge improvement, this time I got it on video. After some more adjustments Pat thinks he has it working as well as can be expected. There's a kit online that may be able to improve it's operation some more so we'll probably invest in that. Next week we might be able to take the scope outside and give it a go.

After the telescope Joe and Pat were asking questions about the 3D printers. Where to start, what software etc. That turned into a bit of a discussion on everything 3D. We closed up shop a bit earlier this week (10PM instead of 11PM). Pat will share with me his photos, Joe will send me his CNC Notes and I'll work on the 3D Printer Notes. I'll also work on a set of PI, Arduino and RP2040 notes. The makerspace is coming together quite well. Now it's time to bring up dues. We have to have a way of paying for this stuff.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Man on the moon ...

Just a quick note that CDL will be attending the VCF Swap Meet at Infoage on Saturday, February 26th, InfoAge's Maker's Day on March 26th, and we'll have our Learn to Solder at VCF East on Saturday and Sunday, April 23rd & 24th.

Last week (2/7) the CDL crew spent part of the night working on the 3D printer. So far we've managed to clean it up some (a ton of saw dust covers it). The heating bed has a scratch in it. Might cover it with some glass. We ran a few quick tests and found it needs bed leveling. And then we got distracted by the Meade LX200GPS Telescope. This is a monster telescope that we decide to clean up and test. Testing went well but we ran into a snag. The horizontal drive skips when the scope rotates and the weight gets out of balance. We found some notes on the scope that suggest it needs to be balanced but we found that it seems to skip at the slightest touch. So we're looking into that issue.

Tonight I'll be preparing for the VCF Swap Meet and testing the voltage on the DIY 3D printers as I have a new power supply to replace the PC power supply. Dan Jacobs spent part of the last week cleaning up the lab. Martin, Jeff, Doug and myself worked on more network infrastructure for Infoage.

Monday, February 7, 2022

CDL and MicroPython

As if I needed an excuse to play with different technologies (twist my pinky) ... A new person has asked if he can join the Computer Deconstruction Lab and learn about Python, HTML, CSS, Javascript and Linux. I said "Yes", basically this is one of our missions, teaching technology. We have an intro class for Python from Linux, Mac or Windows. But I also picked up a couple of RP2040's and a Adafruit Feather RP2040. The Feather already has MicroPython. I intend to use it to teach that programming and MicroPython isn't always in a resource rich environment like a desktop, laptop or Pi computer. It also looks like another member is interested in a Python class. So I'll work one up based on Joe Wilkes excellent class. I really should add some new classes, Joe did an Arduino (C/C++) class but we also need a Linux basics class. Additionally an HTML/CSS/JS class, that's a hard one as I'll need to get DOM straight in my head.

On the lines of Micropython (and C++, perhaps Rust) and the RP2040 boards, WIZnet invited me to a contest for their Raspberry Pi Pico or RP2040 based projects along with WIZnet’s hardwired TCP/IP technology boards. With all the projects I have TCF, CDL, and family, I'm going to be quite busy for some time so I decided to buy some boards rather than register for the contest. I'll now be able to play with the boards when I get some time. I have 2 Ethernet Hats for my 2 RP2040s and 2 WIZnet W5100S-EVB-Pico (Pico and Ethernet on one board). I also have a PIC32 Fubarino with the W5500 board (Temperature & Humidity sensing traffic light). A quick look at the reference project and I see that they have projects using MicroPython. Very cool!

Monday, December 27, 2021

CDL Microcontroller Monday - 2021-12-27

2021/2022

In a lot of ways I'm glad to see 2021 leave and I'm hoping 2022 is better. We'll see but I still have many projects to work on and here are a few.

AI

I recently picked up a Jetson Nano and a camera so I can begin to learn about AI and ML. I have a AI project on Edge Impulse and I'm hoping to learn as much as I can. So far I've followed their guide and I think I've compiled the whole edge-impulse-linux package. But I was reading up on another web page and got completely lost in the terminology. This isn't going to be simple. I did find some good news. It appears that the EPS32 has been added to TensorFlow lite (Announcing TensorFlow Lite Micro ESP32). I'm hoping I can turn the inexpensive ESP32 camera into a cheap presence sensor that won't be triggered by my dogs.

This interesting article on a USB microphone based on a Pi-Pico take the AI/ML to an interesting step further (AI on the USB microphone for the wake word). Another link for TinyML-Audio-for-everyone. This is used to detect a fire alarm but it could be the base for a tea kettle whistle. That interests me. But the point is learning how to use the AI/ML to build something useful and that will get you experience with AI/ML.

Smart Home

Tonight (Dec 27th) I'll keep things simple and just attempt to reprogram the Sonoff ZigBee bridge with Tasmota firmware. I'd like to add this to my demo board and my home so I can add various sensors such as temperature, humidity, motion and light. I've also found an interesting XBee 24 thermostat (RCS TZ20. I've played with these before and they claim compatibility with ZigBee but I have my doubts. Either way I know how to make them work so I can add them to the Demo board and make them work with a faux-HVAC system. So I might add them to the 2022 TCF presentation

Pfsense

My old Ubiquiti ER-LITE has been my working FW for the last few years and I've found it to be flexible and reliable. But it's time to replace it as I need a router that can handle more bandwidth (>1Gbps). So I've picked up a SuperMicro X10SLH-N6-ST031 1U server. I'll load it up with enough memory and a 120G SSD and then use Pfsense as the FW software. I've read a lot of good things about pfsense and a few bad things. But I think it can provide the needed flexibility and power I tend to need. The learning begin sometime next week.

Vintage Computers

For 2022 I have a number of vintage computer projects to work on. I think the first will be my Sardis Technology ST2900. It's a 6809 computer that could run Level I OS-9 or 6809 Flex. I don't have Flex but I do still have the OS-9 disks and I can boot the ST2900 up with NitrOS9. This would be a pretty cool start of the year.

Odds and Ends

I still have a lot of things I have in the back of my mind. Such as a WiFi capacitive touch sensitive switch. I'd like to have that with a dimmer capability. I've already mentioned the ESP32 cameras above. And I have a number of LED 'Bus displays'. These displays would typically have the route information for the bus. I've taken one apart and while not the easiest reverse engineering project it's still quite doable. I might swap out the 8031 for a AVR 89C chip or maybe a PIC32 or ESP32. I'll need to see how complicated the charlie-plexing of the display is. It would be an interesting display for the CDL.

Monday, December 13, 2021

More Smart Home

Tonight (12/13), I'll again be bringing my Smart Home Demo Board to CDL. I'm still fighting with getting Ethernet 0 to lease an IP address (and fall back if it doesn't). Also the Bluetooth serial is driving me crazy! The raspi-config doesn't turn it off. It just enables the 'serial' port (which is Bluetooth). I'm now trying to decide if I can use the Bluetooth port as a serial port. I'll also bring the Sonoff ZigBee to WiFi bridge in hopes of installing the Tasmota firmware. And if I can find the dremel I might be able to cut some crude traces into a spare copper board for my EPS32 touch sensors. I have some on order but I'm interesting in how hard it is to make my won also. I do know about using chemical etch but I'm playing around with the dremel for quick and dirty prototyping. Just a learning experience. Let's face it it's almost as quick to order ready made or DIY a proto board and have it made by a PCB maker. Still good to know the levels of difficulty.

Friday, December 10, 2021

VCF and 2021 Festivus, Yea!

Today the members of VCF will be at InfoAge in Wall Township, NJ (home to the VCF Museum and the Computer Deconstruction Lab) celebrating Festivus! It's our annual event. We'll spend the day eating, drinking, talk vintage computers, repairing them and playing computer games and talking the entire weekend away. I can't wait. :-)

What's happening at CDL? Sept/2022

Hmm, looks like the API broke so I'm doing this manually in the Blog editor. (OMG! ;-) ) Unusual summer in that most are quiet around ...