Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dietz lanterns an economical alternative (+playlist)

This man, who goes by the name "Maine Prepper" on YouTube, has some good videos on homesteading, self sufficiency topics, etc. This one is a very interesting video on oil lamps.

Over the years I have used various types of oil lamps both during emergencies as well as occasionally for mood lighting. But I learned more about these "blizzard" lamps (I've always heard them referred to as hurricane lamps) during this short video than I knew from all the times I've used them.

A most enjoyable and informative few minutes spent that could end up being quite useful at some point.

A reminder - I have recently started my own YouTube channel where I plan on posting various 'how-to' and other types of videos I think my viewership might like.

Here's a couple links for getting one.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remote Monitoring and Control With Arduino

For many years, I have wanted to have my own device for remote monitoring and control via the Internet. With the advent of inexpensive embedded microcontrollers, and Arduinos specifically, this has become relatively easy and cheap. Indeed, IT people needing an inexpensive solution for monitoring server room conditions are turning to "rolling their own" Arduino-based environmental monitoring systems.

In the aftermath of the Japanese Fukushima disaster, scores of home hobbyists built their own Arduino-based radiation monitors and connected them to the Internet so others could view the collected data. Indeed, one can buy a complete Arduino-based Geiger counter kit for under $100.

A few months ago, I bought my first Arduino board for $39 at MicroCenter. It is the "Sparkfun" kit shown in the picture below. One also needs the USB data cable (sold SEPARATELY) to get started - I was MOST annoyed that the kit that supposedly came with "all you need to get started" LACKED this most essential item! Several days later, I made a special trip to MicroCenter (that's a 70 mile round-trip!) to get the cable; the one they sold me did NOT fit the connector on the board! Fortunately I later found another cable here in my lab that fits my Hitachi USB hard drive also fits the Arduino. If you want to work with Ethernet enabled code, you'll also want the Ethernet "shield" - a plug-in board which adds this functionality.

Next, one needs some basic information on how to get started building various types of sensors and designing code to make them work. I found the following FREE resources online:

Environmental Monitoring eBook

Atmospheric Monitoring eBook

Both of these books are also available in paperback format if you want to pay for them. I found them on eBay in the 9-12 US dollar price range.

As I find time to work with my board in my VERY busy schedule between working 3 part-time jobs, I'll post updates here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MIPS System Calls - References

A quick word on MIPS and QtSPIM is on order. In previous posts I linked to a MIPS assembly language command reference, but neglected to provide any links to system calls. I'm helping out some students with MIPS lab this semester and they don't seem to have the information they need on this subject. So, for anyone who needs it, here are a couple links for MIPS system calls:
This link's information is taken directly from Jim Larus's book "SPIM S20: A MIPS R2000 Simulator".
Contains more detailed information regarding MIPS in QtSPIM as well as for MARS (MIPS Assembler and Runtime Simulator).

MARS is another program that serves a similar purpose as QtSPIM.

Below are a couple links I reposted from one of my previous blog entries:
A list of MIPS registers and what they are used for.
A comprehensive MIPS command reference.

Hope these help someone.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Entitled "Me" Generation

This post has nothing to do with technology in any way, shape or form. It instead deals with something far more basic - and that is the consideration and regard we as humans should have - but more often than not, don't - for one another. What I'm about to say will no doubt ruffle a few feathers, but it still bears saying.

It has been said that, without some sort of intervention, what you are as a young person is what you will be as an older person. In other words, whatever tendencies a person has will simply become more hardened and more manifest as they grow older. My experiences over the course of my life tend to bear this out, and last night was no exception.

Those who regularly read this blog may remember that I work part time as a nurse's aide in a long-term care facility. And as we know the "baby-boom" generation are reaching an age when folks start needing nursing home care.

In the facility where I work, across the hall from each nurse's station there is a sitting area with a TV and a few recliners. These areas are enclosed by a low, 3-foot high wall and have an entrance that is about 2 wheelchair widths wide. Last night, late in my shift, one man in his 60s was sitting in his wheelchair - right smack-dab in the middle of the entrance to the sitting area. Another resident who was in the sitting area, needed me to take her to the restroom. After nicely asking him several times to please move, and being told "no", I pivoted his wheelchair a quarter turn so I could get past him and take the lady to the bathroom.
"G-ddammit! Don't push my chair around!!!!!", the man bellowed.
I calmly but sternly replied "sir, you were blocking the entrance so nobody else can get by you."
He snarled at almost ear-damaging volume "I don't give a SH*T about anyone else!"
I said "That is obvious, but your rights end where you start encroaching on somebody else's."
After putting up with nearly 7 continuous hours of residents' acting-out behavior (last night was especially bad, for whatever reason), I was thoroughly annoyed and that must have been apparent in the tone of my voice because the nurse said "hey - calm down and let it go." I replied "OK" and took the lady to the restroom and then got her ready for bed.

Upon returning to the nurse's station, I noticed the man had resumed his position blocking the entrance to the sitting area. In a low voice I commented to the nurse "that guy's attitude epitomizes what is wrong with that generation, and Modern America in general" - and repeated verbatim the exact phrase he said to me about "not giving a 's' about anybody". I added "People with THAT mentality are what bred and raised the current generation ... and that is in part why America is going down the cr@pper." She gave me an uncomfortable look but didn't say anything.

We have become a selfish, narcissistic society where our own corpreal pleasures are king - and to heck with the needs AND RIGHTS of those around us. A society where too many people feel entitled to take what does not belong to them - whether it be material goods, personal space, peace and quiet, whatever. That is why on a warm day one cannot be outdoors in the city or drive one's car without being assaulted by "boom car stereos". That is why criminals and drugs rule our streets. That is why corrupt politicians and Wall Street are robbing us blind while we sit watching Monday Night Football and "Dancing With the Stars." ALL of this, because as the Bible said in 2 Timothy 3:1-6 of the times in which we live, people "are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of righteousness."

Indeed, as Hollywood and certain other dominant forces have exported their "values", business practices, and definition of culture elsewhere, the problem is becoming world-wide.

And, yes, there was nothing about this post that is "politically correct", but "political correctness" is yet another form of lying - another way of avoiding dealing with the issues at hand.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Batteries - Potential Firebombs Lurking In Your Home And Business

Today I found this link on Twitter to a video about a man whose house caught fire due to a 9 volt battery he removed from his smoke alarm and placed in his recycle bin. Fortunately nobody - including the family pet - was hurt, but this is an object lesson for the wise.

This clearly is something to consider when storing any kind of batteries.