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Winter Break Projects 3: Portable Infrared Switch (Arduino powered)

I have a set of under cabinet lights procured from IKEA many years ago. I have them installed under a shelf above my bed, where they are perfect for reading. They are great in most respects, but the switch was one of those cheap plastic rotary lamp switches that's integral to the lamp cord. After several months of daily use, the switch began to crumble. Every day a new piece would fall off until there were no more pieces.

At first, I alligator clipped a switch onto the cord and figured I'd devise some clever switch for it someday. That day has come.


Winter Break Projects 2: Arduino sunTracker

My dad has had a solar panel at a semi remote camp for years. And for years, I've been thinking of building a sun tracking or device to move the panel with the sun. The panel was sitting in a tree, mostly stationary unless you wanted to move it manually. I wasn't smart enough then to tackle the idea, but I figured I had the skills now to at least attempt it.

The problem is that a stationary panel only receives maximum light for a potion of the day. To increase it's efficiency, it needs to receive direct sun for as long as the sun is visible. This can be achieved by moving the light, or by moving the panel. A heliostat is a system that moves a mirror to reflect the sun to a target. This can get tricky. It can take an array of mirrors to spread the light across a large panel. I find heliostats more useful for when the light needs to be concentrated to a smaller point, such as heating applications (solar ovens, steam generator, etc…). Heliostats also seem to be pretty complex as far as control software goes.

I wanted to be as simple as possible. I decided to devise a panel moving system. As with most of my ideas, I like to do my first prototype without reviewing other peoples designs. I could save myself a lot of time by reading about other peoples mistakes before I make them myself. However, I enjoy the brain exercise of the initial problem solving and concept development more than anything. Therefore, I like to see where I end up on my own first, warts and all.

Winter Break Projects 1: PC to Bench Power Supply

Every electronics tinkerer needs to do this. A bench power supply is an absolute necessity, and can be quite expensive. Building your own supply from scratch is possible, but time consuming and prone to errors for even one with experience. Even a small PC supply has more wattage than you'll need. If you're building something larger and more complex than a complete computer, you're probably sitting in a clean lab with a white coat, anti static booties, and a million $$ power supply. This project is not for you.


There are plenty of excellent full how-tos on the web for this project (check instructibles), so I won't go too crazy with steps and photos here.. I will simply point out some key issues you'll probably face, and mention a few specifics of my build. If you're savvy, you really don't need a how-to, It's a very simple project that is relatively universal, regardless of your actual PSU model.

Power Supply Instructable

Two Birds, One Stone.
I have been meaning (for LONG time) to write a Power Supply tutorial for this site. I've also been meaning to start writing for Instructables. I decided to suppress both needs in one shot. Here is the result:

Hobby Electronics Power Supplies Part 1: Wall Warts - More DIY How To Projects

Fixing my old iPod Nano

I got caught in a rainstorm many moons ago, during which my 1st Gen. iPod Nano started acting up. I figured it would be fine after it dried out. It turned out not to matter, because the very next day I got lucky. A generous friend, who had originally bought me the iPod as a birthday gift, got an iPhone. She offered me an extended loan of her 3rd Gen Nano, and my iPod sat on the desk for a while. The next time I picked up my old Nano, I realized the rain had done some permanent damage. It would not hold a charge, and it took several minutes after plugging it in before it had enough life for iTunes to even recognize it. I didn't care too much. I was rocking a new 8 gig. A few months ago, I moved out of Boston, and my extended loan ended. I was iPodless.

Comming soon, "Building Power Supplies" Tutorial


UP-UP-UPDATE!! Check THIS POST for the first of two (or more?) power supply tutorials I wrote for Instructables.

Every project needs power, and every hobbyist needs a variable bench power supply. It's a surprisingly easy item to build, either from scratch or scrap parts, and you'll get lots of mileage out of it.

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