Netbook OS: Mint + Lubuntu

Back in September last year, I posted about the operating system on my netbook. I thought it would be a good idea to make a post about the current state since things have changed over the months.

desktop 1_004My netbook is still used for web browsing mostly, but I started using it to take notes for my online course. No, it still doesn’t need to be fast, but using a laggy system gets to me. Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment is resource heavy so it wasn’t very fast. That’s when I get into these periods of experimentation where I end up jumping between Linux distributions until I settle on one.

I tried out Linux Mint with a bunch of desktop environments that just didn’t work quite right, but I liked the programs preinstalled. I installed the Lubuntu desktop environment and I’ve been satisfied with it since. While I wish it didn’t install another archive manager, terminal, etc again for me, it’s worked out to be the best combination. For some reason, I’ve been having issues installing any Ubuntu-based distro so this is the next best thing.

It’s actually quite snappy, but I’m sure I’ll start experimenting soon enough.

PS. This is my 75th blog post. I can’t believe I’ve kept at it for this long.

Featured Projects Page update + Light Timer debugging

I’ve updated the Featured Projects page with my most recent projects, with a couple more to be added. Eventually, all projects will have their own page like the Temperature and Humidity Monitor. The Featured Projects page also includes the current status of each project. Unless my projects are completely scrapped, they’re usually ongoing in some degree.

Anyways, you’ll notice for the Light Timer, I’ve listed it as in need of repair. I previously posted that it’s been working daily for us and I recently stripped it for parts. Since it lost the LCD, it didn’t need a menu anymore so I took all of that code out of the program. Since then, it’s been running fine except that it stays on after the PM off time. It also has issues with the real-time clock (RTC).

Today, I retaped the RTC circuit because I think something on the breadboard was coming loose, causing the errors. I also simplified the logic for the lights. It was a little more complicated because it had to figure out what the next action was to display on the LCD (the next time the lights were to turn on or off). At this point in the afternoon, the lights should be off anyway so I’ll have to wait until tonight to see if my modifications fixed the problem. I’ll be happy to change that status if all goes well.

Light Show 3: VB Control Panel

Last Friday, I posted pictures of the completed stage for the new light show. I wasn’t sure where to begin so I decided not to immediately jump into programming it to music but instead create a control panel in Visual Basic for it. I used the things I learned from the Temperature and Humidity Monitor project and applied it here.

It works the same way but on a larger scale. The VB program sends a 15 character string and the Arduino splits it up and stores the smaller segments into different variables. The stage is split into groups: servos, tower LEDs, breadboard LEDs, and spotlight LEDs. One digit is used to select the servo/LED you want to control, another digit is used to set a value to the LED (three digits for the servo position).  There is no feedback from the Arduino but since this is something only I’d use, I didn’t see the need for it. I’ll know if a command doesn’t work.

I will program the stage to music soon in the same way I always have through the Arduino IDE in C. When that’s done, the VB program will be able to start a show from the panel. Previously, I cued the music by using an LED to countdown to the start of the program. I’ll still do that while I program, but the final program will have the VB program counting down (or possibly playing the song itself, I haven’t tried that in VB yet).

Here’s a video demo of what the VB program can do so far:

Light Show 3: Build Complete!

The last two days were dedicated to building the new stage for the light show. I’ve gone back to basics, almost mirroring the first light show I made with servos. My last light shows weren’t very popular, and that’s probably because I tried to hard to use up all of the pins on my Arduino which made it harder to program. This one will be tough to program again, but there is less to worry about.1Building the towers to hold the servos went fairly well. This time around, the towers have white LEDs on them and are a little taller. Also, the materials are already white so I don’t have to cover them up at all.
2The bottom of the towers have the openings for the LED wiring to come out. All but one LED managed to stay wired after taping the towers closed. I cut a little hole to get behind that one LED and it turns out the LED itself was damaged, not the wiring as I first thought.1This is the final result. It really does look like an evolved version of the first light show project.2… I don’t want to deal with anymore than this.
3 So that’s it for now! Programming will start soon. Thanks for reading!

Light Timer project: Dumbed down

1It’s been almost three weeks with the light timer project sitting out in the hallway doing its thing. Since putting it there, I haven’t touched the menu once. As you saw in my last post, I’m trying to organize myself and figure out what projects I want to work on. I just started some real work on the new light show and I needed a breadboard. With that, I decided to strip down the Light Timer project to the bare minimum.

The LCD was taken out of the project so the menu features were no longer needed. It took me about 10 minutes to strip out the menu code from the program. To communicate any errors from the real time clock, the lights will blink forever. This came in handy immediately as, for some reason, the clock keeps losing the time when the Arduino is unpowered for more than a few minutes. It should be able to retain the time with the coin battery in there but it seems to only last maybe a minute or so now. Once the Arduino is powered with the plug, the clock is fine. The blinking is quite jarring, actually, and I’m now thinking I probably should have used pin 13, the on-board LED. Oh well.

So an update on the new light show will come soon. I’ve got a plan that’s working itself out right now. It’s familiar to the first light show project, but perhaps a little cleaner this time around (though time will tell to be certain on that).

Temperature and Humidity Monitor: Save your data


Version 1.1.1 of the Temperature and Humidity Monitor is up! This update includes ways to save your data. You can now export the two graphs individually as an image. I’ve also added a new log that records all values continuously (unless the log is cleared for whatever reason). You can export the log as a text file.

Get the new version on the Temperature and Humidity Monitor page!

Storage tour + Project statuses

I’ve been wanting to do a small tour of my electronics storage shelf for a while now and since I also want to organize myself with my projects, I thought I’d do it all in one post.

My electronics storage is a three drawer shelf on top of a metal shelf. At the very top, we start with my junk pile. They’re basically small components that I was too lazy to store in whatever other place on this shelf they would belong. The wooden box is my resistor index. The cardboard box is a broken Click PLC CPU module. The toolbox holds my soldering equipment like solder, wick, and sucker. It was more useful when I only used soldering iron pens that could fit in there. My other toolbox with my tools (wire cutter, screwdrivers, etc) would normally sit stacked on top.2The first drawer of the shelf is my wire drawer. I also keep all of my empty baggies in here.3The second drawer has my ICs and most of my components. The clear box has capacitors, inductors, potentiometers, and transistors. I have another clear box like that to hold all of my LEDs that would usually be here. The red things are normally-closed contact blocks for my PLC trainer buttons.4The last drawer is my parts bin. You can spot some familiar things from my past projects…5The shelf below is my cardboard stock and where I keep my soldering iron.6This is the project on my desk right now, with my box of LEDs.

The Temperature and Humidity Monitor project is still continuing on. There are a few things I want to add onto it before I put it aside. The other project is the new light show, but that hasn’t been going very well. For one, the Arduino has been in use for the Monitor project so I haven’t really been playing around with what I’ve got so far for the light show. I do have a stage layout in mind, but I feel unmotivated about it after my last light show that had less popularity than my first ones.

I’ve been thinking of stripping some stuff off of the Light Timer project as I haven’t found myself using my menu on it at all. It has been in use out in our hallway since the beginning of January. The Uno is trapped in there, so I wouldn’t mind trying to have a bare Arduino (just the chip on a breadboard) and free up the Uno and LCD for another robotics project. In any case, I plan on adding a dedicated page for this project soon.

I’ve still got some sorting out to do… BRB.