New Zealand 2016

Submitted by Matt on Thu, 03/03/2016 - 10:39

We took a trip to New Zealand in late February.

Weiheke Island
Weiheke Island Winery

We got a steal of a deal on some nonestop New Zealand Air tickets. We paid $1000 for two tickets round trip thanks to Cyber Monday in 2015. We had not been specifically looking for tickets to NZ. But we had been eager for a getaway after we got suckered out of our winter break due to work commitments. So when I saw the deal I pounced.

I had always heard NZ was a nice country to visit, but I had no idea what we were in store for. The place was literally magical, I can see why they chose to film lots of movies there.

Some of the more impressive photos are attached below:

Sailboat Pic
Evening Sail in Lake Taupo

 

Wellington Sunset
Wellington Sunset

 

Weiheke Beach House
Weiheke Beach House

 

Weiheke Island Grilling
Weiheke Island Grilling
Hobbiton
Hobbiton

 

Falcon 9 Has Landed

Submitted by Matt on Tue, 12/29/2015 - 14:17

SpaceX has successfully landed one of their first stage rocket boosters after putting a payload in orbit. This has never been done before.

Landing

For all space launches in history (except for this one), the first stage is jettisoned and destroyed during reentry.

The reason space exploration is so expensive for individuals corporations and even governments is the cost of launching mass into orbit. This is due in part to the expense of having to build and throw away the first stage for every launch.

A good analogy:

Imagine if commercial airlines had to throw away their Boeing 747s after every international flight. If this were the case, each trip would be so prohibitively expensive that no one except the richest people would be able to pay for it.

The Falcon 9 is the first rocket engineered from the ground up with reuse in mind. Hopefully we see many more Falcon 9 boosters recovered next year. If so, we could see the cost of launching something into orbit fall by as much as 80% by some highly optimistic estimations. This could mark the beginning of a new space age.

Launch and Landing

 

Pluto Footage From New Horizons

Submitted by Matt on Sun, 12/06/2015 - 20:54

NASA Just released recently received footage from the New Horizons probe

These images were taken a few months ago. But we are just now receiving them as they are transmitted back through the Deep Space Network.

Pretty crazy to think about how far away Pluto is. It receives about 1% of the sunlight that the earth receives.

Pluto

 

Pluto

 

Pluto


Pluto And Its Moons

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/images/index.html?id=374871

Testing Out This CMS

Submitted by Matt on Tue, 11/17/2015 - 13:56

My Drupal 7 install had some issues. Rather than fix the issues I am just going to go ahead and install Drupal 8.

Testing inline images

Earth Mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the new WYSIWYG editor

UPDATE: So far i think Drupal 8 is far superior to 7 so I will be sticking with it. I will be importing my old articles one by one.

Tags

Power Hour App

Submitted by Matt on Sat, 11/14/2015 - 15:07

I recently needed to write a quick power hour app for an event at my house.

Power hour screen shot

The app works with any music playing software. I personally like to use use Spotify. Be sure and have whatever player you are using open and the playlist queued up prior to pressing "Start/Resume." This app needs no special APIs to control the trackes. It uses the media forward button to do all the work. There is a siren on the transition to every song. Enjoy!

It was a quick and dirty implementation but it gets the job done. This was written in C# and runs on Windows. App and zipped source is attached for now. I will be opening a github or public git soon that has the code, so stay tuned!

I may add features and port it to Android/iOS later if there is need.

Finishing A Garage Apartment (Man Cave)

Submitted by Matt on Fri, 10/16/2015 - 21:05

I am in the process of finishing my garage room into a man cave. I used a CAD program on my Android tablet to design the floorplan. I had about 400 sq ft to work with. I wanted to fit a bathroom, as well as have an entertainment area and work bench.

CAD Design

Pre Drywall Mancave
Bathroom, bare studs

I am almost done, just have to install the bathroom fixtures and the baseboards.

Full view, floor in

The projector is set up. I have a 12 foot diagonal screen and 7.2 surround sound setup I have learned a lot about residential electrical, flooring, paint, tile, light fixtures, plumbing, and more throughout the process.

UPDATE: Unfortuantely I dont think I will have room for my work bench.

 

After drywall
Right after the drywall job
Projector Plan
Dimensions of the screen and placement of the projector need to be planned in advance

 

Projector sample
Projector Screen

 

 

Infrared Decoder and Transmitter

Submitted by Matt on Thu, 10/15/2015 - 16:10

My man cave over the garage has a mini split installation. In case you are not familiar with mini splits the DOE has an article.

TLDR?

These AC units are common all over the world, except the USA where central air dominates. They are more efficient and easy to install (no ductwork) but tend to be more expensive per BTU.

Through a connection that my father in law has, I bought ading and dent unit for an eighth of the normal price. The unit is a Mitsubishi MSZ-FE18NA with 18k BTUs of cooling/heating capacity. I figured 18k BTUs was ample capacity to stave off the intense Texas summer heat.

Turns out it may have been a bad idea to get a unit this powerful. Apparently these mini split systems never “turn off”; they always run at a percentage of ther capacity so they can allegedly be more efficient by eliminating the powering on and off overhead. Don’t ask me how this ends up working out in the end! Once the set temperature is acheived the indoor radiator is always about the same temperature as the air. So there is hardly ever any condensation that forms on it. Even worse, any condensation that does form  quickly re evaporates. So my cave potentially has a humidity of +20% the outside since the temperature is usually cooler.
In Houston Texas this is bad news because the humidity is high enough!

I researched the issue online. Tons of people are having the same problem. One solution is to downgrade to a smaller unit. Well my unit is already installed, I would have to trade units with someone else and a reinstallation would not be cheap. I had to think outside the box. A temporary fix seemed to be turning the AC off and on manually. When the AC unit detects a significant temperature difference between the set temperature and room temperature it goes into a turbo mode where then the radiator part is significantly cooler and humidity is rapidly pulled out of the air.

Lemurs

Submitted by Matt on Sat, 06/13/2015 - 14:55

Two weeks ago we got to play with some Lemurs at a private Zoo on the way to Destin.

Lemur On Trainer
Lemurs are primates from Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. They are all greatly endangered in their homeland right now and most species are in danger of dying out over the next quarter-century.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33096260

Lemer and Kat
Lemurs are NOT monkeys, though they definitely bear somewhat of physical resemblance. Personally I like them a lot better than monkeys. They are not mean and how could you not like their eyes.

Lemer Chewing Finger

Lemur hanging


Baby Lemur

Autonomous Drone (Quad)

Submitted by Matt on Thu, 06/11/2015 - 17:05

I have built a semi autonomous drone out of parts ordered off the Internet.

When I was in school we wanted to make something like this for our senior design project. But we ran into difficulties in the early planning stages when we discovered there were very little off the shelf parts for doing stuff like this. You pretty much had to repurpose RC car/airplane parts, which in many ways was not ideal. Even if you could get a good build you had to design a flight control system which with a quad is notoriously difficult.

That was with a group of people. Now you can do it in a weekend or so singlehandedly with soldering skills and basic electrical sense.

Final (for now) version
Most recent configuration

Now flight controllers are basically commodities. You can get them for as cheap as around $10 (CC3D controller) or as expensive as a few hundred. The component parts have fallen in price so much as well.

In addition to all of this there are various vendors that will sell you a completely finished design (no assembly required, like buying a toy) for less than $300 or so at the time of writing this. But that is no fun! Basically the same logic as building your own computer applies. If you want full customization or performance and ability to tweak things without having to rely on official accessories you are still better off building your own. Also if you crash it, it is much more difficult to total your aircraft.

You can see the specs for the pixhawk here:

https://store.3drobotics.com/products/3dr-pixhawk 

This controller is capable of fully autonomous flight with a GPS module. The 915 MHz telemetry module allows for remote control functions beyond what your RC controller allows.  Assembly is a little more tricky since you have quite a few things to fit on a given frame.  I have mounted a camera below the drone (not pictured). So far I have been able to take some pretty cool photos.