One regular poster here has designed a microcontroller-based, networked (
(remotely accessible), whole-home climate control monitoring system
(heating-AC/hot h2o/heat exchangers/the whole works). Others have modified
their digital toaster (I'm not mentioning names... (c: )
How has your profession (or hobby) leaked into your everyday life? What
customizations or applications have you put electronics to that makes your
life easier and/or more fun?
About the only thing I've done lately is add a large, (can't remember size)
capacitor to the input of my inverter. It enables it to hold the microwave
oven I use it for, barely. I recently put a set of digital transceivers in
the inlaws barn, about 4 miles from the house, so they could monitor the
Working with electronics all day, I want nothing to do with it in my
time off. I want all my household appliances to be as simple, dumb,
reliable, and analog as possible. I'm comfortable with simple, old-gen
PC applications because they work and are predictable.
We push technology only in those places where it really pays off. If
there's no big benefit, stick the the stuff that's known to work.
Like Long Ranger, I live off-grid, and anything at my place has to be
low-wattage. I'm working right now on programming devices to (1) run
my 12V beer cooler only when the voltage is above some safe setpoint,
say 12.2; pump the water for my indoor garden when the sensor is dry;
flash the (homemade LED) rope light to indicate my shebeen is open,
stuff like that. I've got a Picstart 2 and Futurlec ATTINY2313
development boards, and an ARM board from Coridium on order, not sure
which one will end up being the best choice. They're all way overkill,
really, but they offer the possibility of remote access which is nice.
I rather like garage doors that don't have to be manually opened in the
rain, a car that is warm to get into- first thing on a Winter's morning,
to know what is in my huge freezer and what is reaching its "use by"
date, to run a bath without standing over the taps and burning/freezing
my hand and gets the temperature right and stays at that temperature,
doorlocks that lock themselves at night - so I don't have to go and
check in my jim jams, lights that switch on when needed and off when
not, etc, etc...
I'd much rather spend a little bit of time once than have to put up with
some thing as it is, year after year after year... YMMV.
Actually, I don't live "off-grid". I use the inverter in my service van to
run the oven that heats my lunch, and dinner, if I'm out late. Van is too
small for a decent sized generator, and I can't bring myself to eat fast
I used to design and build (from components, not kits) my own audio
amplifiers, but I don't have time for it anymore.
The only thing I've done lately is add a "signal combiner" to my
whole-house video system.
This allows me to insert a different source of Channel 4 (from what
comes off the cable) into my distribution amplifier.
But it took TWO of the Tru-Spec SC-4's in series to get good signal
| |-----> TO DIGITAL CABLE BOX
CABLE >---| |
+-|IN | _____ _______
| |-----|IN | | |---->
| | | |-----| |---->
GND-TERM-|4____| | | | |---->
SC-4 +-|4____| | |---->
| SC-4 | |---->
| | |---->
| | |---->
CH4 FROM DIGITAL CABLE BOX >---+ |_______|---->
Remote controlled motor driven window opener/closer for a
window that is very difficult to reach, remote control for
whole house fan, filters for supply to motion sensor light.
(The damn thing, once installed, prevented my X-10 system
from working, until I made the filter. Same thing happened
when I plugged in a rechargeable tooth brush. Go figure.
If you have one, drag an AM radio close to it while it's
charging - lots of noise.)
Why do they call it man-datory when it's the wife that
makes it so? :-)
I've always been in a bit of a split. On one hand I like things to be
simple and elegant, I like older cars, basic appliances, that sort of
thing, but on the other hand electronics, mechanics, engineering, etc is
what I've always been most passionate about and I love to play with
technology, new or old, and have always been attracted to fancy gadgets
if only to marvel at the engineering. I can certainly do without things
like cell phones, PDAs, and other junk that will be a distraction but I
like modern conveniences, particularly if I've built them myself.
I'm with John on this. At home, things are very low tech.- easy to
use, easy to fix. My Rolodex never needs battery replacement, erasable
if entries are written in pencil, easy to add notes, and easy to
install more "memory". My slide rule still works after 35 years,
doesn't need batteries, and I can spill drinks on it without harming
it. Much of my digital photo album stuff is manipulated by command
line tools unless I need to touch-up images. Still use old DOS Orcad
SDT at work because none of the GUI schematic programs are pleasant to
use and SDT doesn't crash. Still use a compass, map, and occasionally
an altimeter when going in the outback. Use my eyes to figure out
where fish are. Technology is, many times, a PITA!
I designed a microcontroller-based, networked (remotely accessible),
whole-home climate control and monitoring system (heating, AC,
humidity, the whole works).
Oh wait, maybe that's me you're referring to? ;-)
Goodness me- no "electronic toaster" for you. I bet that you still don't
have a 4 HP. 120V,15A "electronic" lawnmower as well.
You, sir, are not meeting the expectations of the modern advertising world.
Thanks- it is good to see common sense.--
Don Kelly email@example.com
remove the X to answer
We do have a retro-look electronic toaster, and it often does stupid
things, like refusing to stay down when it's in a weird state. The fix
is to unplug it for 5 seconds or so to reset whatever bizarre state
it's managed to get itself into. Mechanical toasters don't do that,
and toast better too. DGMS on the states and menus of the new
microwave. A proper appliance has two states: standing up, and lying
on its side.
One of the things I like about San Francisco is the almost universal
lack of lawns. And air conditioners. When I lived in New Orleans, if
you didn't mow the grass twice a week, it would grow so tall the mower
would bounce off. And after mowing the lawn for an hour in the sun,
you *needed* the air conditioning.
It's weird that the prime use for billion-transistor chips and
gigaflop processing turns out to be stupid, violent video games and
watching NASCAR crashes on giant plasma displays.
Good, simple things endure. Like me!
A couple of years ago I got an electronic coffee maker as a gift.
When it works right, it makes really good coffee in small amounts.
However, I have had a couple of problems.
Soon after I got it, I dropped the water container while filling it
(it lifts off so it can be filled at the sink or wherever your best
source of water is). I broke off the little check valve at the
bottom, so all the water woulr just run out at once.
After that was replaced, it became apparent that it is insane. There
are two buttons on the device to allow a large cup or a small cup of
coffee to be delivered. There is also a cleaning mode that empties
the entire water container (to be activated when no coffee cartridge
was in place). However, I could not be sure that the machine would do
as asked, so I always had to have an extra-large joke coffee cup in
the machine when making coffee.
The machine sits on a storage shelf now unused, and I buy pre-mixed
bottles of Starbucks' Frappacino for my home coffee needs.