Monthly Archives: April 2006

LED PWM Lighting Module

Finally got my box from Mouser, and started building up a prototype lighting module for this project. You can see a picture of the module in the first photo. It's basically 12 super-bright LEDs (4 red, 4 green, 4 blue) arranged in a circle, with a ULN2003A, ballast resistors, and a six-pin header for connecting to the main board. I'm not planning to show you the bottom, as it was my first real soldering attempt and it ain't pretty. :) I still have to write some code to allow me to communicate with this thing via RS-232 so I can change the color settings on the fly - so I haven't really tested its color range at all. But I am finding that the colors don't blend particularly well (although it's hard to tell, because the only color I've tried so far is 'white' - i.e., all LEDs on at full intensity). I've seen other projects on the web that do this kind of blending, and most of them don't seem to be having this problem. I'm not sure, but I suspect it may be because these particular LEDs have a pretty narrow viewing angle, so the light doesn't really spread out much, which is limiting the blending. Hmmm.... will have to do some experimenting soon. The last picture is with all LEDs at full intensity, but it's a little misleading. The colors don't actually blend as well as it looks like in the photo.

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Happy Easter!

Sean got his first visit from the Easter Bunny! He got a huge superball, a new book, some sidewalk chalk, some chocolate, and it all came in a cute froggy basket. Right away, he knew it was for him. He carried the basket around for a while before he even took anything out of it - he was so excited. Yesterday, he got his picture taken with the Easter Bunny, and laughed and smiled the whole time. Lori was thrilled, because she was worried that he would scream - as babies are prone to do - when she stuck him on a 6-foot tall bunny's lap.

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World of Warcraft

Or as some call it, digital crack.

If anybody hasn't heard of it - which I doubt, if you're a gamer - it's a MMORPG (massive-multiplayer online role-playing game) made by Blzzard. Blazzard is the company that produced some of the best games ever made, like Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft. Actually, I would have to say that Blizzard is my all-time favorite game company. I don't think I've ever played a game they made that wasn't amazing. This game is kind of like online D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), where you get to explore the world, fight monsters, find treasure, cast spells, and all that sort of stuff. But the cool part is that you are playing in an enormous, persistent world with thousands of other people. So the cities are actually full of real people. You can group up with other players and take on stuff too tough to fight alone. I dig it. I've played with everyone from 11-year olds to grandmothers. In the game I play a Tauren warrior (which looks like a minotaur from Greek mythology). Currently, I'm level 32. Which probably means nothing to anyone reading this, but I'm pretty proud of it. What a geek! If anyone out there is also playing this game, or had been thinking of starting, I am on the Earthern Ring realm, and would love to play with friends.

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The Cuteness Quotient

This just a random assortment of cute pictures Lori has taken recently. Isn't he sweet? I love the one where we are laying on the couch together. He was winding down before bedtime, and when I picked him up to let him sit on the couch with me, he nestled right in.

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Scenes from Space #27

Is this not one of the coolest things you've even seen? This photo (taken by SOHO, which has a UNH instrument on it) shows an arch of ionized gas floating above the surface of the Sun. The crazy, twisted magnetic fields near the surface of the Sun can trap ionized gases in these huge, looping structures. The arches eventually break free of the Sun, and can lead to communications and power failures here on Earth, 93 million miles away.

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Curly Sue

Sean's finally getting enough hair for it to show up in photos. It's actually getting a bit shaggy in the back - but we're afraid to cut it. I think we're just going to leave it long until after our trip out to NH. It looks like he's getting his daddy's curls. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. :)

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Tales from the Hood

Ah, the amusing nature of small-town crime. We got a free copy of our town newspaper yesterday, which they hoped would entice us to subscribe. Hmm...tough decision. This 30-page paper includes seven full pages of ads (and lots of additional ads scattered among the 'news', as well), ten pages of classifieds, and two pages of 'letters to the editor'. The front page news was an article on the latest attempt by the town council to raise the wastewater rates. By $1.82 per month (for us, at least). Oh boy. The only redeeming quality of small-town papers is the police blotter. Those are usually gold. Here are a few gems from the Boerne paper - which I swear are reproduced here word for word:

Friday, March 24, 2:02 a.m. - One of two suspicious juveniles sitting in a van outside a complaintant's residence turned out to be her son.

Monday, March 27, 7:41 p.m. - A plastic egg left on a front porch inscribed with the words "Caution, open at own risk" contained animal excrement.

Saturday, April 1, 10:28 p.m. - A small campfire received a verbal warning and was extinguished.

Sunday, April 2, 9:13 p.m. - The ice cream man's cacophony gave the caller a headache, and he asked that the guy chill.

I think they speak for themselves, no?

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Scenes from Space #26

Astronomers are finding new planets outside of our own solar system all the time. One of the projects I am currently working on is called Kepler, and is a NASA-funded orbiting telescope designed specifically to find extrasolar planets. It's a pretty exciting project to be working on - this stuff is cutting-edge science. Hoepfully I'll get to go to the launch, which should be in a couple of years. This image is an artist's depiction of what an extrasolar planet orbiting a distant red dwarf star might look like, complete with a hypothetical moon.

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God of War

Has anyone else out there played God of War for the Playstation 2? I've been wanting to pick it up ever since it won "Console Game of the Year" in the gaming magazine I subscribe to - but it has been 50 bucks since it first came out. Well just this past week it got added to the PS2 "Greatest Hits" collection - which means it got marked down to $20. Aww yeah! This is a sweet game. Incredibly violent, with awesome level design and animation. The visuals are stunning. Just look at some of these screenshots. It looks even better in person. And there is just something about being a 6 foot tall guy taking on beasties that are as big as skyscrapers - and winning - that is pretty damn cool. Dig it!

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