Back to life!

After three days of complaining about my computer and Windows, things are getting back on track. I’ve got to give a shoutout to Mike’s Computer Shop. This is my first order from them and it was literally shipped an hour after ordering. It arrived the next day (today) through free UPS shipping. The price for the hard drive was the cheapest I could find, though I think that may be because it might be open-box or refurbished as it did not come in official Western Digital packaging. It was still packed well, in an antistatic bag inside of a cardboard box. If I ever have the money to build a computer or something, I’ll definitely go back to them.IMG_20140527_112918

It was unexpected to have my hard drive crap out like it did, although it appears like five years is about the lifetime of a mechanical hard drive so I guess it was bound to happen shortly. The moral of the story is back up your data! Sign up for Dropbox, where I (luckily) have my latest EERef files stored.

Excuse me while I go through a gig of updates…


My laptop, which I do everything on, died on me. I suspect it is a hard drive failure so I just ordered the cheapest one from Mike’s Computer Shop. I read some reviews that the shipping was fast so that’s why I sort of rushed into it. I will let you know how it turns out for me. I have a bad habit of sitting around indecisively when I will eventually have purchased one anyway. I can’t afford to buy a new PC. With no income, I could barely afford this hard drive (it’s out of my small emergency funds).

So with my hard drive dead, I lost everything that was on it. My two biggest concerns were the files for my Electronics Engineering Reference and my NoLimits 2 game park files, because they’re the content I’ve been sharing on the internet recently. The Visual Studio files for the latest version of EERef is backed up in a cloud. I have a copy of my NoLimits 2 park saved on my external hard drive, but it’s from a few weeks ago so I don’t know what’s missing.

This is probably the biggest computer problem I’ve faced in a while. When I knew even less about computers back in the 2000’s when we had a shared family PC, we’d run into hard disk problems and major malfunctions like this very regularly. I don’t know if it’s because we purchased our computers from a sketchy place (MDG) or if it’s because we just weren’t ready for it, I’m just glad it’s not as common these days and that things can be backed up and ready to go again if you’re wise about it.

II find troubleshooting to be fun, even if it is frustrating and sometimes costly. Here’s hoping this new hard drive works out. Otherwise, I’m stuck with this netbook (running Fedora)…

Windows… I’d like to throw my PC out of one

My computer (a laptop) is coming up to its 5th birthday next month. I got it on my birthday in 2009 just before I started college. It has gone to and from downtown Toronto with me and I’ve upgraded from the pre-installed Vista to Windows 7 to Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 over the years. Where do we find ourselves now?IMG_1248I’m reinstalling Windows 7.

I think when Windows 8 is running well, it is my favorite of the bunch. I got used to the Start Screen and “missing” Start button. I thought finding things was more efficient and nicer looking compared to the classic menu. You can still have the same Start optimization on other versions but I liked this the best.

When I updated to 8.1, my PC absolutely hated it. My computer basically became unusable (15 minute boot times) so I went back to Windows 8. When the second 8.1 update came out, I decided to jump to it to see if it would work on my PC. It was even worse. So I went back to Windows 8.

Today, all of my programs started freezing up and eventually my screen blanked out when I tried to open the Task Manager, which always took forever to open in Windows 8 for some reason. I pulled the plug but my computer couldn’t boot back up after teasing me with a flash of the Windows 8 logo. Through a quick search, it appears to be an issue with the “fast boot” feature and doing a hard reset.

Luckily, I had a random 100GB partition on my hard drive so I’m installing Windows 7 there in hopes all of my files are still on the larger partition. I’d be incredibly sad if I lose my EERef stuff.

So that’s my Friday. I hope you’re having a better one.

Light Automation Revision

The old Light Timer/Automation project has been running well for the past few months. It was some time after, I played around with Attiny85 microcontrollers which have less pins. Since the project only uses two (now three) pins, I decided to do another revision of the project, swapping out the Atmega328 with an Attiny85.IMG_1243 (Custom)It started out with some prototying on a breadboard with the Uno. The potentiometer is a dimmer for the lights. One of the issues I had was that the lights were a bit too bright so I wanted an option to make them dimmer. The potentiometer allows me to do that without having to reprogram the chip, although in hindsight, I probably should have put one for the sensor sensitivity. I have to go through a few nights to see how it reacts as I wrote up new code but used the existing photoresistor.
IMG_1244 (Custom)This was the perfboard layout, though there were some mistakes and things missing that I fixed along the way.IMG_1245 (Custom)This is the old board. It feels good to strip it down even further…IMG_1247 (Custom)This is the new board. It’s a lot smaller and with a new enclosure (food container). The old one still had unwired buttons from the original light automation system with the LCD menu.IMG_1246 (Custom)When I swapped out the board for the new one, it wasn’t working properly. Sometimes it would function fine, but I’d come back to it to see it dead. After some poking around with my multimeter, I realized it was the power supply connector. It connects to the board using a 9v battery connector. This particular power supply has a bunch of other jacks which I tested and were still working fine. I decided to just chop off of the connectors which I didn’t like floating around anyway, and have this power supply dedicated to this project. I quickly soldered the supply wires to the board and it works just fine now.

Hopefully it’ll look good tonight. Thanks for reading!

EERef Version 2.1 now available!

I think I’m rushing updates too much so I think I’m going to take a break from EERef…

Anyways, I’ve added two new tabs: Arduino and Pinouts. They’re both reference material that I think is handy to have for quick offline access. I tried to make it so that you get the information you most likely need without having to scroll through pages of a datasheet.

The other “new” thing is that there will be an update notification when the program starts if there is an update available. It’s a little more aggressive now because I feel it’s more important to get updates out with the new pinout material. (Yes, I know people don’t care much about this program to even think it has something like update notifications, but let me play a little.)

Get it now!


Updates on EERef and other stuff

I feel like I have been neglecting this blog and I really don’t want it to see the way of my past blogs where they just disappear. This is easily the longest running blog I’ve ever had. The blog will celebrate a year at the end of July.

I’ve been in a lull when it comes to planning new projects. I don’t have any money to spend for new parts so all I can do right now is work with what I have. That’s why I’ve been enjoying my time in Visual Studio with my Electronics Engineering Reference program, because VS is free. I’m currently working on a minor build update (2.1) that will have a couple new sections, including one that has the pinouts to common parts like microcontroller chips and voltage regulators. I hope to have that done by the end of the week.

In case you missed my recent light show “performance”, it’s up on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. As with every light show version I make, I go weeks without touching it… so I’d expect the next show in a month’s time…

Finally, I’ve been thinking of doing another revisit to the Light Timer/Automation project. The system only uses two I/O pins so the Attiny85 would be perfect for it. It’s been running for months now and the only issue I have with it is that the lights could be slightly dimmer, which is easy to fix in the programming. Hopefully I’ll get on this project soon enough. Right now, I have a lot of focus on my EERef program.

Thanks for visiting!

EERef Version 2.0 now available!

compareI am happy to announce a major update release of my Electronics Engineering Reference Windows program! The past few minor updates have been focused on the design but I felt like I was going in the wrong direction. Version 2 is a shift to a completely new design and layout. It’s a lot more polished this time around.

new1Each section now has a dedicated window with everything, including the tutorials. Pretty much everything is contained in the main program window so there’s no reason to open a bunch of other smaller windows. Removing those windows actually shaved off a third of the program’s file size.

The new design allows for the program window to be resized and maximized. There are just a couple sections that will stretch with it, but the ones that don’t really don’t need to.
new2I was going for that “flat” UI that’s trending these days. There’s a lot of Segoe UI font in there so hopefully you have it installed on your PC.

Besides the new design, a new feature is the Essential Formulas section which is just a quick reference to basic formulas. I hope to continue building on it to make it larger and to include calculators. I also fixed a bug in the number systems calculator that told you there was an overflow error if the result was 1.

Download it now!