Coffee Addiction

Things have been rough at work lately,  we are down one programmer and I am training a new one.  Plus we have the standard workload so I am pulling triple duty, to stay awake and peak performance I increased my Caffeine intake dramatically.   1 redbull plus 1 12 oz travel mug of coffee a day, to this last friday when my total consumption was 2 redbulls 48 oz of coffee and 2 16 ounce monster energy drinks.   I had to travel 250 miles work 12 hours and travel the 250 miles back.   My consumption had spiraled out of control to the point that I have another can of redbull in my work vehicle, "just in case".    So this weekend I decided to test my addiction and do a reboot.  I have not had anything more than decaf or green tea for the entire weekend.    I started with all of Saturday as drinking only water or only fruit juices.  by noon I had a pounding headache and felt like I had the flu.  By that evening I felt as if my brain stopped working and I could not focus on any task.   Yup, the addiction was strong in me.

Over the course of the past 4 weeks I have significantly abused myself to take on the additional workload.   Monday this stops,  I will miss deadlines, I will drop the ball, and I will do it happily.  I am not going to kill myself just to make a deadline promise that someone else made.  In 2014 I wanted to make some changes and increase the enjoyment out of life, I just did not realize how badly I was abusing myself with Caffeine.   Record your intake in a food diary over the course of a week, I only needed to see what I consumed in a single day and how I felt at the end oft hat day.   I was  yawning and feeling tired as I pulled into my driveway at 8:30pm....  Just a year previous I would have been bouncing off the walls for the next 10 hours with how much I consumed.

Look at your Intake and try a reset.  I am not kicking it out of my life, just trying to get it back down to sane levels.  1-2 cups in the morning only.  and something as an emergency if I need to stay awake driving home late at night.

Only 14 hours before I can have another cup....   And a search to find a decaf that doesnt taste bad.

Ebay china knockoff "Leonardo pro micro" and how to actually use them.

I bought 5 of these (pictures here from the seller I bought them from) off of ebay as I need a cheap micro duino for some wearable projects that are at a reasonable price.   I have bought the "legitimate" versions from sparkfun and other places but their $25.00 price point is simply way over the top.   The China knockoffs so far of the non USB types have been perfect.  But this USB one has some tricks to make it work.

First what I received has "spakerFun" silk screened on the underside, and the USB reports as a sparkfun device.  so in order to use this with the arduino programming software you need to go to sparkfun's github here to get the files you need to not only program and upload to it, but also get windows to actually identify it. (Windows USB drivers,  how lame that windows cant recognize a standard USB-RS232 device like OSX and linux can)  Follow the instructions and copy the files into your arduino install directory as the text file tells you.  I simply copied the contents to the /Program Files/Arduino/hardware/ directory as a folder names SF32u4_boards-master.  re-launch the arduino IDE.

To actually upload to it,   Under tools select board and then the "Sparkfun Pro Micro 5V16Mhz" and under programmer select "USBasp"

If you upload the standard "blink" sketch there is no led on the board to blink for you.  I was bummed by this as the non usb pro micros do.  Under windows this device will show up as 2 usb serial ports. 1 when in bootloader mode and 1 when running the program.  This is only obvious when you do the "double tap"  because it is too fast for you to notice when you do a normal upload.  

If you need more than 2 seconds for the bootloader, double tap reset to ground, you now have 8 seconds for the bootloader.

The End of 2013

I personally end 2013 puking and feeling like I am roadkill because of the nasty flu that is running around the midwest, so I have time to reflect on what I saw of the past year.  The world has not changed much,  technology and change remained pretty stagnant for this year.

No real breakthroughs in technology just rehashing of old ideas that are passed off as new, Although Google is getting some real consumer traction with the old "thin client" technology with their chrome book platform. It has went from a "quaint curiosity" to a "must have" status within a short 12 months. 

Most of the world has accepted streaming media as an acceptable alternative to physical media, although widespread power and internet outages in December reminded people why having that DVD of the little mermaid to keep the kids entertained during a snowstorm is a good idea.  For a 1st world country our electrical and internet delivery to homes is very 3rd world.  Most of it is poorly maintained and done as cheaply as possible in spite of the fact that these companies were paid with Tax dollars to install it.  The wires coming into my home  run in a bundle of wires from downtown that is from the 1950's and the tech that finally fixed my DSL admitted to me that I was on one of the trunks that floods every time it rains, and they have known about the problem for over 4 years.   They simply moved me to a different trunk that was not getting submerged when it rains after I called to complain every day it rained for nearly a year.

Corporations are still the same, caring more about next quarter profits than anything else.

We saw China soft land a robot on the moon, something that humanity has not done since 1976. I really hope that china re-kindles the fire of the space race as we have been underfunding NASA for far too long.

In February the Cosmos forced most of the world to pay attention by dropping meteor over Russia in a spectacular explosion.  For a brief time people actually cared about looking for killer asteroids,  but nobody really cares about that anymore.

the middle East is still at war, just like the last 3000 years.

Microsoft is still trying to convince people that the Windows Tablet is a good product, even though it's sales numbers are so low that they barely register.   And Windows 8 was given a half hearted fix with windows 8.1, the start button and access to all functions was still not returned, While apple upped the game by releasing their latest OSX update for free to everyone.   The OSX 10.9 is not anything special,  the tactic of not charging for the OS is going to cause some upset in the world of computing.  

Adobe decided that subscription based software was the way to go and no longer sells their software suite,  you "rent" it for $X a month.   I expect to see a lot more companies going this route as it's easier to get more money out of customers that find the older software works just fine for their uses.

The World of Home/Corperate/AV automation became a mess.   Crestron quality dropped significantly, same with Kramer and Extron.  Companies that used to sell reliable devices now are seeing far higher failure rates than ever seen before.   I personally think this is because these companies are chasing higher profit margins and are now outsourcing all their product to china for manufacture at the lowest possible rate.  Their firmware  and development suite quality also seems to have dropped significantly as if they are using offshore contracted programming for them as well.  This is all personal observation based on what I have seen with other companies that did the same thing.  TV and HDMI Device makers still ignore the CEC control standard making it completely useless unless you buy the same brand devices and TV sets.

Lastly  the affordable health care act launched with the best example of what NOT to do when designing a website for an entire country to use.  This is what happens when you hire the lowest bidder,  they spent 3X the amount to fix it rapidly in the last 2 months than what they spent in the previous 3 years to build it.


Ham Radio/SW quick super compact antenna - The Good old Broomstick Helical.




Recently I was able to get my hands on a 1980's era 180 meter to 10 meter ham radio transceiver. I have been a ham radio operator ever since my 17th birthday, and used to spend spare time in my youth working the worlds first world wide communications system. Getting married and having kids really eliminated that hobby from my life until now. I needed a quick easy and super compact antenna to at least get me listening to the ether again, so I decided to make an antenna that I remember the old timers back in my youth told us to make that will work well in a pinch and indoors, The broomstick helical.
This antenna is cheap and easy to make, Back then it was only $10, today it's closer to $40 and can be made from all parts you can find at the local "home center" or big box home improvement stores.

You need a standard stick of 3/4" PVC pipe. the heaviest they have, I used the standard white stuff for indoor use.A package of 1 1/2 long Brass screws
A package of 3/4 inch long brass screws
A package of brass nuts, and Brass washers
Spool of 100 feet solid copper 14 AWG wire (Mine is THHN but that dont matter)
A 4" ductwork T cap , 6 inch is better but 4" works just fine.
Start by stripping the end of the copper wire back 1 inch. This is a lot easier to do now than later.

Drill a hole just big enough for the wire to poke inside the pipe, stick the end through about 2-3 inches worth. Now comes the hard part, Start wrapping helically around the pipe. Every time you stop tape the wire down tight in the direction that you are wrapping to help hold it tight. Right about now your hands are starting to hurt, by the time you are done they will hurt badly and ache for an hour afterwards. When I said this is the hard part I really mean it, this is only 100 feet so imagine how much this would hurt if you made a bigger one that would let you transmit nicely down at 160 meters as well. That would be about 500 feet around a 1 inch PVC pipe, so power through the pain stopping for breaks to rest your hands, you have about an hour of hand pain ahead oh you.Once you are done Tape it down tightly, we need to drill a hole for the big screw to electrically and mechanically attach the wire to. My end is messy, if you plan it right yours can exit the coil clean and wrap around the screw as if a professional did it. Take your time and it will look better than mine. I use two brass washers around the wire to make sure I get a LOT of contact. on the other side add a washer, two nuts, two washers and a last nut. This is where we will attach our feed line.On to the tophat, this is actually important to create a capacitance at the end of the antenna to eliminate static electricity noise. Trust me it really lowers the noise floor and increases the performance of the antenna, ideal would be 6" in diameter but all I could find was 4" on the shelves. You need to take some sandpaper and carefully sand the edge of this thing, it's a round razerblade right now and to be sure you dont cut your fingers off, sand the edge well until it feels smooth and soft. Now drill a hole in the center or as close as you can eyeball it. Install your 3/4 inch screw with a washer on the outside and inside, wrap the wire end around the screw, add another washer and nut, then tighten it down. You can now push it on the top stuffing the wire into the pipe. Comparing it to the 12 feet of speaker wire I was using as a test antenna it works fantastic. With a random chunk of wire I could not tune in WWWV time signal on 15Mhz. with this antenna it now comes in clearly with some light background static. This is in my office where it is 12 feet from 3 computers 10 networked devices and all other kinds of electrical noise. If you are interested in Shortwave listening or want to at least have an antenna that is small but functional to test the receiving

section of some ham gear, this is a great compact antenna to have around.


That's IT! your antenna is actually finished. cut the unused part off that you will not need. I left the blank part of the pipe long enough so that the top-hat sat at the top of my window frame in the room I was going to have my radio. If you want to use this outdoors and put it up in the air, you really need to protect it. the tape you used will release in the weather, so my recommendation is to get some good paint and spray the whole thing except for the feet wire connection. Then you can leave about 24" at the end to clamp to a mast so you can get it higher up in the air. Even 6 feet is enough to make a difference. A single wire feed line up to 9 feet long can be used with this, if you want to use a longer wire and possibly transmit with it, then run a twin lead and put some ground radials off the ground wire from the twin lead, you do need a good Antenna tuner to transmit from this antenna and only at low power levels.





Using the "broomstick" with resonant radials turns it into an excellent amateur radio antenna for a specific band... For example with 4 radials cut for the 15 meter amateur band and a 4 feet high broomstick. My design with only 100 feet of wire is not really enough for transmission on those lower bands, I strongly recommend adding a LOT more wire, 200 feet on 3/4 inch PVC is a good middle point for performance and size. I wanted to build mine from whatever I could find on the shelf on a sunday morning at my local home improvement store. If you want to make a perfect one I would go with a smaller 16 awg PVC coated solid wire and make sure you cover a full 5 feet of 3/4 PVC with very tight windings. Yes you can automate this and build a jig to wind the wire for you. and if you really want to experiment with these I strongly suggest going that route. make a way for a drill to spin the PVC while you build a sliding jig to hold the wire spool and feed the wire cleanly and close to the pipe so you can do it quickly and without pain. I have heard that commercial versions use enamel coated magnet/motor wire to get more wire on the antenna to make a more compact and higher performing antenna. and you can certainly do that as well. Bonus points if you can find some 1.25" Schedule 40 PVC to slide over the wound 3/4 to make a pvc casing and create a completely weatherproof version.

If you want to make a more optimized version, The helical distributed loading can be cleaned up a bit by winding it with different pitch.... starting with turns separated about 2 wire diameters at the base, going to one wire diameter separation at the middle, and ending with closely wound turns at the top of the antenna, were it connects to the top hat.The general rule to follow is to wind enough wire so that it makes a half wavelength at the lowest operating frequency you want the antenna to work at.   The easiest way to do this would be to try and measure out how long the stick will be tightly wound and mark at the 1/3 mark.  now mark the next third, but at a DOUBLE distance because you want the same number of windings, but they will have a 1 winding spacing making the distance double.    Finally the last third will be the full length of what a tightly wound pole will be (double thickness spacing).  You start to lose the "compact" size this way as you will end up with basically an antenna that is 3 time larger.


Ubuntu-Touch 13.10 and why Ubuntu on the phone is not here yet.



Ubuntu-Touch 13.10 was released yesterday with a lot of hype and promise.  And it had been a year since they released their tech preview so I gave it a whirl on my Google Galaxy Nexus,  one of the top phones supported by the new Ubuntu phone OS.  Which is a bit of a mis-labelling by the way,  Ubuntu-Touch is a linux on top of android,  Underneath everything it's a Cyanogenmod Android kernel and system.    I can live with that.

Installation is actually easiest from ubuntu linux.  But those of you that want to try it from windows, it's just as easy if you have the latest android tools installed.  All you really need is the correct adb.exe and fastboot.exe and their libraries in a folder.

First go to http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-touch/daily-preinstalled/current/ and grab the files for your phone  AND the saucy-preinstalled-touch-armhf.zip at the bottom, something that several guides leave out.

Now boot into fastboot, typically by holding down volume up, down, and power all at once.  Now install the img files in order...

adb reboot fastboot
fastboot flash recovery saucy-preinstalled-recovery-armel+grouper.img
fastboot flash boot saucy-preinstalled-boot-armhf+grouper.img
fastboot flash system saucy-preinstalled-system-armel+grouper.img
  • Boot your device into recovery mode
adb reboot recovery
  • Copy the zip file to the /sdcard/ directory naming it "autodeploy.zip" on the device using adb
adb push /path/to/your/downloaded/saucy-preinstalled-touch-armel+grouper.zip /sdcard/autodeploy.zip
  • Reboot into recovery mode
(This will install the file you copied in the previous step)
adb reboot recovery
  • Make sure you are in recovery mode again for the second step
  • Get the saucy-preinstalled-touch-armhf.zip file
  • Copy the zip file to the /sdcard/ directory naming it "autodeploy.zip" on the device using adb
adb push /path/to/your/downloaded/saucy-preinstalled-touch-armhf.zip /sdcard/autodeploy.zip
  • Reboot into recovery mode
(This will install the file you copied in the previous step)
adb reboot recovery

  • The device should automatically reboot into the Ubuntu Touch UI
Now I am betting you had a failure when you rebooted after the first adb push.  This is because you need to format the media in the phone.  I used the menuing on the recovery mode to format the media section and then format /sdcard.   I then issued the adb reboot fastboot and started over.  This time it worked just fine.

Now you have Ubuntu-Touch on your phone,   If you want to have your google contact on it,  that is going to be tricky. but still possible.  you need to use adb once again after the phone is booted. and follow the instructions at http://sergiusens.github.io/posts/google-contacts-on-ubuntu-touch.html to get the contacts synced to your phone.   Note it will only do it from the command line for right now.   I tried going through the GUI on the phone setting up accounts but contacts never arrived from google.  Using the command line I was able to get what I needed.

I experienced several problems right away.   First any internet access over Wifi or Cellular data was like using a 28.8 modem.  All of it incredibly slow and very very laggy.   Even google.com took over 35 seconds to load the front page.  Facebook never actually loaded it's mobile site (the facebook app icon on the desktop is just a shortcut to the website)   Changing or setting your ringtone or wallpaper does not work from the GUI and I noticed that button push events either had to be held or touched several times.   The whole OS will go out to lunch for a few seconds while you are typing a username or password.   Same for the browser,  typing a url would just hang from time to time.

What was a major failure was the phone operation.  Making phone calls worked every time,   hanging them up is another matter.  Nearly 50% of the test phone calls I made (10 of them) failed to either hang up or actually dial.   And incoming calls had a 25% failure rate of actually ringing the phone.  One it went almost 6 rings before I had the "incoming call" pop up on the phone.   It is as if there is not interrupts at all being used.  Hanging up the call should fire an interrupt and force all other tasks to wait while it ended the call.

Data also had it's own issues.   It kept asking for the wifi password on a WPA2 access point.   I would give it the correct password, it would successfully connect and  data transfers would work.  Suddenly it would drop the wifi connection and then ask for the password again.  Cellular data was so slow that I could not complete any tests at all.   the exact same phone running Android 4.3 has 1.2mbps at this exact spot, and after restoring the phone I regained the speeds so it was Ubuntu and internal problems keeping cellular data incredibly slow.  

They say that Ubuntu -Touch is not ready for users,  but I see that it's not even ready for developers.  If I was to try and test my app in that unstable of an environment I would lose the last of the hair I currently have.   Nothing is worse that chasing a failure that is not even in your software.  For users that are curious,  I say go ahead but be sure to back up the phone first.  Installing this will completely wipe your phone, so don't be surprised when everything is gone.  Honestly you will come to the same conclusion and restore your phone back to Android within an hour like I did.  I really wanted it to be useable even just having the phone side useable would have been acceptable to me for a day.  But it is not even ready for that.    It's ready to demo to a board room full of executives that don't know better, and that is pretty much it for now.  Here is hoping that next year they make significant progress and fix the problems that make it very slow and unstable.

The UI changes feel right, but at times the swipe up from the bottom to bring in the "back button" did not work making me wonder how to go back or did it just not see my swipe again.   Will I try it again on the next release?   you bet.   I am very interested in seeing where this will end up.  It  has the potential to be the ultimate linux techie Phone OS if they can get the critical problems fixed.



OSX quickie... How to make a program install anyways when it says you should delete it.

OSX 10.8 has a nasty bug called Gatekeeper.   It's designed to stop you from installing software outside of the blessed list.  Well even turning it off will not actually turn it off.   Many apps come signed that have a revoked cert because they were for 10.7.  to fix this problem issue the following command in a terminal

"xattr -c "

This will fix the problem for you.  I suggest saving the fixed installer and getting rid of the old one so you dont have the problems later when you need to re-install.



Advanced Audio podcasting: Episode 3 - Microphones

Your microphone is a massively important part of your studio, some will say it's the single most important part and to not skimp on it,   I tend to disagree based on experience.   I have a very expensive recording studio condenser microphone that captures a persons voice almost perfectly, It cost me close to $400 used and does a fantastic job of picking up my voice accurately,  it also picks up all the other noise in the room accurately.   Condenser Microphones are the best you can get for accurate recording,  but in pod casting we don't want accurate,  we want to sound good and reject the noise in the horrible recording environment we have.  So what you need to look for is what most radio stations use, that is the Shure SM58.  It is a workhorse of stage and radio and has been a standard for over 4 decades....  but you dont have to pay the $100 for it.   I actually broke the rule and bought a cheap knock off that sounds incredibly close to the Shure SM58..   the Pyle-Pro PDMIC58 I was able to find for $15.00 on amazon.com as a spare second microphone and set it up for a guest to use in my studio on a second mic.    The results were startling.   His Mic sounded better than my high end one on a shock mount with a Pop filter.  his was clear, had warm bass to his voice and NO room ambiance.  While mine in comparison sounded like I was podcasting from the bathroom.  My condenser mic was picking up everything while the cheap dynamic was rejecting almost all of the room noise.  The
Moral of the story,   Expensive does not equal better.    Unless you have sound treated your entire studio do NOT buy an expensive microphone,  get a cheap old SM58 or one of the budget knock offs and end up with far better audio and more money to spend elsewhere in your studio.

Mic Technique

I admit I have a problem with this due to my desk layout and forgetting to pay attention during the podcast, I will back away from the microphone and start to sound thin and quieter, this is bad microphone technique and only ruins your audio.  You end up quieter than your guests and if you bring the gain up so you can be a foot or more away from the mic, you start to record the room sounds.  

 Proper Mic Technique is that you need to be right up on the microphone,  some say 2-3 inches from it,  I say EAT the microphone.   your lips touching the windscreen is a little too close, but almost touching is about perfect.  What this does it allows you to bring the microphone gain down so less room noise and ambiance is getting into your recording, the disadvantage is you MUST remember to get back into position every time you talk.  if you turn your head to look at your show notes, before you talk again you have to get right back up there and face the microphone and talk into it.  Not across it but into it.  You need to repeat that position every single time to get the best sound.   The other big advantage is that you can turn your head and lean away for a light cough or clearing your throat and it will be so low in volume that if a guest is talking nobody will hear it on the recording.

You can get some microphone accessories such as a pop filter,  but a foam windscreen is far more important.  a real SM58 comes with one,  the knock offs do not.    You also really need a good stand you can use a floor stand with a boom arm, but remember to buy a couple of mouse pads to set the stand on to help isolate it a bit from the floor.  A lot of low frequencies can couple into the microphone through that mic stand and a little of rubber isolation will reduce it significantly.   I recommend against a desk stand  because you will be using your desk, and if you hit it or set something down it can couple right into the microphone.   One accessory I strongly suggest if you do not use a DSP that allows you to wire up a mute button is a Microphone cough button or mute button.  The switch on your mic is not what you want as they are noisy. you want a separate  momentary Mic mute that is silent and will not make any clicks or pops in your audio.  this allows you to hit that button and make noises that do not get recorded like a cough or  sneeze.  Rolls makes a nice affordable one that also works with phantom powered microphones.