How have you customized your life -- electronically?

wrote:
[snip]


Klutz ?:-)

So you admit you're a non-technical person? I manage to use the two buttons to control five different mug sizes.
I love my Keurig coffee machine. My wife prefers tea and I prefer near-espresso-strength coffee. It serves us well.

Yeccch!
...Jim Thompson
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| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
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On Apr 21, 9:53 am, Jim Thompson <To-Email-Use-The-Envelope-I...@My- Web-Site.com> wrote:

Mine is not a Keurig. Maybe I'll look for one.
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wrote:

There's a newer version than mine, with _3_ cup size buttons.
Keurig is a "K-cup" cartridge-type of machine.
There are other brands that use paper-enclosed coffee inserts. These dry out quickly, losing flavor.
...Jim Thompson
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message

Senseo.
There's also Tassimo, which is closer to a K-Cup... they're also bar-coded so that the machine "knows" what it's making -- hence the Tassimo machines can make lattes and hot chocolate (with milk) besides the water-based drinks that the Keurig can.
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wrote:

We have a steel kettle, a cute yellow porcelain coffee pot (I collect coffee pots) and a ceramic drip cone. With a bag of Peet's coffee and the local Hetch Hetchy water, it makes as good a cuppa as you can get anywhere in the world, which is approximately 10 times better than you can get anywhere in Britain.
But there's a trick: before you put the Mellita filter into the drip cone, place a toothpick sideways in the bottom of the cone. That keeps the filter from plugging the outlet hole and it drips much faster, and faster dripping makes better coffee. After, we compost the used coffee, the filter, and the toothpick.
John
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On Thu, 19 Apr 2007 21:38:54 -0700, John Larkin
and composed:

I recently went shopping for a washing machine. I only saw one that didn't have a microcontroller. As an engineer I can appreciate the gadgetry, but as a tech I also understand the repair cost. No fancy electronics for me, thanks.
- Franc Zabkar
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Please remove one 'i' from my address when replying by email.

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In theory the electronic ones should be more reliable... the traditional washing machine timer, with a bazillion little detents pressing spring-leaf switches *will* fail, it's just a question of when.
In practice I wouldn't be surprised if the electronic ones weren't particularly more reliable. The fact that anyone can easily sit down and building a washing machine controller or similar in a matter of weeks now has unfortunately often made reliability something of a secondary concern to manufacturers, it would seem.
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On Sun, 22 Apr 2007, Joel Kolstad wrote:

Pretty much guaranteed that *every* washing machine will fail, given enough time, electronically-controlled or not, the prime cause of failure being vibration in the spin cycle inducing strain in the mechanical components, but electronic circuit boards are as susceptible, if not more so, to mechanical strain.
Personally, having kept our vintage (100% mechanical) washing machine going FAR past it's reasonably-expected lifespan by maintenance as-and-when, seems to me that the major causes of failure/stoppage are A) Blockage of the outlet impeller by items that slip between the inner and outer drums, ie. coins from pockets, safety pins, items of jewelery, etc., and B) component fracture, ie. inner drum mounting brackets, rubber glands, and/or fractures/disintegration in the concrete damping blocks.
The old cam-driven microswitch program controller has much to recommend it; it stands up to vibration reasonably well, is cheap, and the only thing that is likely to disrupt its program is contact failure (which is easily dealt with by a can of servisol/WD40) or, at an extreme, dismantling and going over the contacts with a nailfile/emeryboard. Any weak solder joint in the "electronic" equivalent, subject to the same mechanical forces, can produce an "intermittent" failure mode that can be an absolute bastard to track down, and result in many hours of fruitless investigation.
All-in-all, I'd side with the "appropriate-technology" camp. If it does what you want it to do, with the minimum of fuss, then it's the right product. The more "knobs-and-whistles" there are, the more there is to go wrong. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Cheers, Pete.
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Hi Pete,
I think you make a good case that, if you're stuck out in the boonies somewhere, electro-mechanical washers are probably the way to go, since when they do break you'll have a pretty good shot at being able to repair them yourself. :-) Electronically controlled machines... not so much (ok, maybe not at all...).

It just seems to me that with appropriate quality control and design (including isolation mounting, etc.), you should be able to design a washing machine controller board with an MTBF of, say, 100 years.

Electronically controlled washers are typiclaly a lot more water and electiricity efficient than the old "fixed cycle" designs. This might not rise to the level of "broken," (although Jim's leftist weenie greenies would disagree :-) ) but it's close enough that newer machines can be considered "valid" improvements, IMO.
---Joel
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I have a Kenmore He3t front loader, which is identical internally to the Whirlpool Neptune that was the subject of numerous class-action suits. Despite having to redesign the drain mechanism to a gravity feed, I would not trade this washer for a top load. It is so superior to a top load, I won't even consider putting my clothes in one any more. The wash job is fantastic.
When it detects an unbalanced load during spin, it has a neat algorithm to spin at a low rpm which redistributes the load so it is balanced. When it spins up, you often cannot tell there is anything in the drum, it is so well balanced. When it cannot balance the load, it spins anyway. The resulting vibration shakes the floor and wakes up my neighbours, so I no can longer do laundry at night.
I agree an intermittent connection can be a huge waste of time. But in this case, if there were any weakness in the solder joints or connectors, they would have fallen off long ago. So they must have pretty good quality control to ship so many and have so few failures in the controller.
The forums are full of people taking about problems they are having with these machines, and I can see how a lot of them can occur. But they seem to have the connection problem solved.
Regards,
Mike Monett
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remove the X to answer ----------------------------
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[snip]

[snip]
In my poorer days I've been known to replace cam switch springs with appropriately trimmed safety pins... worked for two more years ;-)
...Jim Thompson
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| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
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Sure, but there's clearly a convenience factor involved in building a washer that can automatically balance itself.
I also imagine that you do some amount of automatic water level/wash time regulation based on simple electronics, but it seems to me that it should again become more reliable -- and potentially much more robust -- if you take some simple sensors and feed them to a microcontroller to chew on.
Another convenience example: In some non-U.S. countries, houses have multiple power hookups, where one's only active at night and is priced at a lower charge than the "regular" hookup. Most people have, e.g., their water heaters on it. For an electric dryer, it's trivial to build an electronic timer into a dryer so that it can also use that same hookup, whereas for a mechanical dryer you'd need something like a spring-wound timer that would set the delay before it started. I'd be quite surprised if the price or reliability of such a mechanical timer was better than that of an electronic version (you can literally use a $0.25 microcontroller and $0.25 LCD...).
I do agree that, in many cases, electronic control is used as a marketing tool to provide additional, largely superfluous, "bells and whistles" that allow manufacturers to obtain higher margins. This is no different than stainless steel or just colored enameled appliances also commanding a disproportionately larger price, the upcharge automobile manufacturers have for leather seats, etc.

There's a huge difference between what people know they "should" do and what they "really" do. Good engineering is giving people as few chances to screw up as possible, while not unduly limiting their choices.

I'm sure there are still plenty of crappy toasters out there, but I never met *any* some 20+ years ago that would reliably toast multiple slices one right after another without allowing the toaster to cool inbetween sets. This isn't surprising since they were just thermal switches to pop-up the toast, of course. Today there are electronically-controlled toasters that can easily perform this feat.

Yes, but there's a very wide range of "simple" when you'll selling to a large market. Look at MP3 players: Part of Apple's success with the iPod is that it is *very* simple to use, but this also makes it nowhere near as customizable/tweakable as various non-Apple MP3 players. Many people (myself included) think of the iPod as a toy meant for grade schoolers -- yet clearly a very large portion of the market doesn't see it this way at all.
Heck, remember that Joerg sees no value in upgrading to HDTV or even DVDs. :-)
---Joel
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snipped-for-privacy@Yahoo.Com says...

Electronically controlled appliances have had a long history of being zapped. Mechanical controls are more robust.
--
Keith

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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.
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wrote:

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 food.....
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The anaesthetic machine I made certainly made life easier. Not exactly an every day use thing though :)
NT
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DaveC wrote:

Three "mandatories": 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? :-)
Ed
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Mpffff... other than having a vintage radio and vintage stereo for every room in the house including the larger closets (not quite, but pretty close), not much.
Peter Wieck Wyncote, PA
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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? ;-)
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