Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Posts Tagged ‘JeeDay’

Winding down

In Musings, News on Apr 22, 2013 at 00:01

The JeeDay 2013-04 event is over.

I would like to warmly thank the 40 or so people who attended on Friday and Saturday. It is clear to me from the kind follow-up emails that the event was appreciated by many of you and I really hope that everyone got something useful and stimulating out of this.

Allow me to also thank the “anonymous sponsor” at this point for funding the venue, the coffee and drinks, and Saturday’s lunch. I’ve passed on your and my appreciation, and it has gratefully been accepted. As several people have pointed out, this whole concept of an anonymous sponsor is really a contradiction in terms, so let’s all just cherish the fact that philanthropy (and mystery) still exists, even in today’s western societies.

This is probably the point where I’m expected to write sentences full of superlatives, self-congratulatory remarks, let’s-conquer-the-world type of pep-talk, congratulations for the speakers and their choice of interesting topics, all sorts of grandiose plans, and where I’d also describe how stimulating all the discussions on the side turned out to be.

I could, and it’d be true. But I won’t…

Instead, I’d like to give this a somewhat different (personal / philosophical) twist.

We’re focused on success. We crave rewards. We seek recognition. So when something good (for some definition of “good”) happens, we want to take it further.

Again. Better. More.

Yet to me, that’s not what JeeDay was about. Sure, we could do it again. In fact, I’d love to and I’ve even sort-of committed to organising another JeeDay a year from now. We’ll see.

But to me, JeeDay is not about the next step or some future trend. It’s about this event we just had. Some 10 talks from people describing what they like to do in their free time. That’s quite a special situation, when you stop and think about it: here we all are, a few dozen geeks with a common techie interest, and this what we choose to spend our time, our creative energies, and our money on. We could do anything, yet this is what we want to do. In. Our. Free. Time.

Now of course, everyone’s reasons will differ. But to me, it’s pretty amazing: there’s rarely a financial reward (heck, it usually costs money!). There’s often not much recognition. These are not TED talks, we’re not working on some high-visibility successful project and showing the world. We just tinker in private, we come up with stuff, we learn, and we like doing it.

In my view, this is about the top two tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

The basic idea being that you can’t really get to focus on the levels above before the levels underneath have more or less been covered.

This is – again, in my perception – not about success, and probably not even about peer recognition, but about the intrinsic fun of discovery, invention, creation, and problem-solving. And about finding out how others deal with this. It’s no accident that most of it happens as open source, either: open source (hardware + software) and sharing is what floats to the top when the intrinsic puzzles and their solutions dominate.

In a world where so much is about ownership, money, and time, I think that’s precious.

I hope JeeDay has helped you find and follow your passion. Everything else is secondary.

PS. The mystery topic in my presentation was JeeBoot – more to follow soon.

JeeDay next Fri+Sat

In News on Apr 16, 2013 at 00:01

(whoops, this went out one day earlier than planned… before it was ready)

Just as reminder, here’s the announcement (as you can see, I’m no graphics designer):

JeeDay flier

And this is the draft time schedule for the entire event:

JeeDay 2013-04

For more information, see the JeeDay wiki page.

PS – The is no pre-registration, everyone is welcome. The venue is large enough to accommodate some 25 people on Friday and about 35 on Saturday, which matches more or less the interest on the original list.

Energy savings…

In Musings, News on Mar 31, 2013 at 00:01

Here’s a view of the solar energy production earlier this week here at JeeLabs:

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 18.49.36

Best day so far … 19.3 kWh in one day: that’s some 2.5 x our average daily consumption!

This graph was made with HouseMon, which is still in the early stages but I’m viewing it on a daily basis – the Status and Graphs pages are already quite practical. Then again, it’s a constant reminder that the progress of this project is considerably slower than I had hoped when I started out. One reason for that is that I’m still hesitant to make some major design decisions – mostly because I don’t have enough experience and don’t feel confident enough with Node.js and CoffeeScript yet. So many things still feel awkward :(

Speaking of insufficient progress… it’s time to switch off:

wallpaper power symbol green

(image by TheBigDaveC, as found on this site)

I’m going to take a brief break, and interrupt this daily flow of weblog posts for a while.

It has happened before, and it will happen again: I want to clear my head and focus on some projects which take a bit more concentration than I seem to be finding these days.

But no worries: this daily weblog will resume before JeeDay (April 19 + 20), so there will still be enough time to get the latest info and news out to you.

Soooo… see you then, and more importantly: see you there !

(Pssst… in case you haven’t seen this… let that nano stuff inspire you… pretty amazing!)

Frequency sweep

In Hardware on Mar 9, 2013 at 00:01

This is the continuation of yesterday’s post about decoupling capacitors. As promised, some more information now about a test setup which can visualise some interesting – and quite surprising – effects.

The first part of the idea is to generate a “sweep” across a frequency range, i.e. a signal which increases in frequency from 1 kHz to 1 MHz within 10 seconds, and then repeats:

sweep-gen

Such a signal can be generated with a “frequency generator”, in my case this AWG.

The second part is to inject this signal into the “Device Under Test” – i.e. a 0.1 µF ceramic capacitor in our case – and let an oscilloscope “sweep” across in lock-step with that signal:

sweep-scope

Since the frequency increases with time, we end up with a display of the frequency on the X axis versus the signal amplitude on the Y axis:

SCR36

The scope was set to display in peak-detection mode, to make the display “fill” with a band of the oscillating signal. The second signal is used to trigger each scan, which takes 10 seconds to complete (plus one second on each side for the previous and next sweeps).

As you can see, the amplitude of what gets through the cap decreases. Decreases? – yes, well, I simplified things a bit. There’s a resistor in series and the setup is actually measuring the voltage over the cap. As its impedance decreases, it shorts out the signal more and more. I’m deliberately skimming over some details to keep things short for this weblog post.

Looks like all is peachy, right? Not so fast…

First, let’s change the way things get measured a bit. Instead of linearly increasing the frequency from 1 kHz to 1 MHz, I’m going to switch to a logarithmic scale. This means that every 3.33 seconds, the frequency gets increased by a factor of ten by the AWG. So while the previous image had the frequency increase by some 100 kHz per division, now we have 33.3 KHz in the middle of the screen instead of 500 KHz:

SCR35

It’s exactly the same result, but it doesn’t emphasise the higher frequencies as much. Note that we’re not really interested in the exact values, more in the shape of these curves – so I’ll omit the on-screen info from now on.

So why is that frequency response flattening out in such a clear way? Stay tuned…

Update – All arrangements have been made: JeeDay will be held in Houten, with excellent train access, on Friday evening April 19th and Saturday all-day April 20th.

JeeDay => April 20

In Musings on Feb 24, 2013 at 00:01

It’s been four and a half years of fun since I had this crazy idea to start JeeLabs, and it’s been four years also since the JeeNode was born. An excellent reason to celebrate, eh?

Coming April 19th and 20th (Friday evening and Saturday), I’m going to kick off JeeDay:

Meet face-to-face with fellow PhysComp / WSN / JeeStuff enthusiasts and JC + Martyn. Get the latest news, share your ideas and show off your project (or pictures of it). Discussions, presentations, hands-on sessions – it’s all possible, if we organise ourselves and our time appropriately!

The topics we could cover include things like:

  • Wireless Sensor Networks
  • Ultra-low power nodes in the Arduino world
  • Home monitoring and home automation
  • JeeLabs products Q & A
  • Solutions for dealing with AC mains
  • Funky sensors and clever displays
  • How to lower your energy bill
  • Soldering and measurement techniques
  • Hands-on with an oscilloscope
  • Designing and manufacturing PCBs
  • Enclosures, laser-cutting, 3D printing
  • Hack sessions? Debug sessions?
  • Bring and show your projects, especially if in-progress
  • Ideas for future projects and products
  • Presentations, presentations, presentations

Whoa, that list could go on forever… a huge set of topics!

The location will be in Utrecht or in Houten (5 min by train from Utrecht), which is located in the middle of the Netherlands. There are lots of accommodation nearby for those who want to stay overnight. Come and visit the Netherlands, you’ll enjoy it!

We can extend this to Sunday, if I can find a suitable venue and if there is enough interest, although perhaps that’s a bit too ambitious for such a first event.

Fees would be just to cover costs, drinks, etc. Also some sandwiches or pizza to get us through the day. Should all be doable for €15 .. €25.

I have no idea yet how many people would be interested and might be able to come, so I’ve set up a meeting scheduler – if you’re considering participating, please, please, please do add your name and indicate the time range – 10? 20? 50? 100? people – Let’s find out!

Further details will be added to the JeeDay 13.04 wiki page, as preparations progress. The sooner you respond, the more chances that I can figure out a proper venue and how to make it all happen. And… if you have any tips or suggestions, please get in touch now!

It’ll be great to meet face-to-face, it can be informative for all, and it’ll definitely be fun! :)