Completed build of 3D tank

Finished the build of the 3D tank.  It took longer than I thought but here it is.

The main differences between this tank and a previously PS3 controlled tank are:  Its body was fashioned from CAD designed 3D parts giving it a more completed look, the headlights do not require their own circuit board (the ground and positive of the LEDS are plugged into the signal pin and ground on the ServoHAT which has built in resistors for each of the 3V channels, and the video provided by the on board camera did away with the Linux Motion app in favor of “ffplay”.  ffplay provided for a simpler integration/configuration with less latency as seen in this video.  Also ffplay is started with this application.  There is a gotcha however.  If you want a larger “TankEye”  change the window size in the application code which triggers ffplay.  If you size on the go it locks up the video feed.

You can see more of the 3D build here if you wish.

Pi2–Tank/Crawler build

Received my tank/crawler chassis from China yesterday.  Err, sort of:  IMG_0296

No instructions but should be straight forward.  The is no lynch-pin in either track so the track must be mounted before the last wheel is installed.  Hmm, but which wheel?  The motors are heavy, 12 volt DC with transmission attached.  Should be a high torque/low speed crawler. 

Alton Brown plant pot smoker redux

I tried this about 8 years ago and while it seemed like a good idea I, like so many others, had problems with regulating the temperature at the cooking grate.  The heat build up around the hot plate sitting in the bottom of the pot cause the bi-metalic strip to trip (open) and remain that way causing a precipitous drop in temperature at the cooking grate.  I abandoned this configuration and decided that I would revisit the design at a later date.  It was never my intention to wait 8 years.  I am currently in the process of assembling the smoker utilizing a new approach to temperature control.  You can see it here:  here

Starting hydroponics – 2015

Preparing for this years’ forray into hydroponics.  Will have two Dutch buckets, two vertical stacks, and two DWC lettuce trays.  To simplify I am using a 20-18-38 granular fertilizer recommended by the “MHP gardener” on Youtube.  This fertilizer is available in premixed 2lb. packages on Amazon if you wish to simplify your life.  In the past I had purchased various liquid products with varying results.  This granular stuff is much cheaper and the results obtained by the “MHP gardener” are quite good.  Stay tuned. 

Started tomatoes, lettuce, bok choy, and green peppers from seed.  I am hoping that the weather holds for the remainder of “winter”.  It has been quite mild so far. 

Tiananmen Square–6/4/89 True Courage

Two heroes stand out for me in this image:  the guy that stopped a column of tanks with a sack of groceries and the driver of the lead tank that refused to run over his countryman.  I wonder what happened to both of them.  The tank driver’s radio must have been screaming for him to run over the guy with the groceries, but he did not do it. 

Insulation “blanket” for Brinkman smoker

The first time I used the Brinkman electric smoker with a PID (thermostat control) I could not raise the temp above 219 due to ambient air temp and wind.  The constant wind just sucks the heat out of these units because of the thin steel used to make them.  Solution:  a thermal blanket using “Reflectix”:  A two sided aluminum insulator with “bubble” wrap sandwiched in between the aluminum sheets.  But Reflectix is rated for a max of 180 degrees.  But you can still use it.  See the side bar under “How to make a Reflectix smoker blanket”. 

Server upgrade

Upgraded the FC 17 server to Ubuntu.  FC 17 was “way out” of current Fedora release and Fedora changes too often.  Ubuntu is a more stable “release” platform and should continue on until 2017 with ongoing support.

Ubuntu’s implementation of some servers is quite a bit different from a configuration perspective when compared to Fedora.  This required some additional re-training during installation of these servers.  Two days after the bulk of the effort was complete I noted that I had loaded the “wrong” database for the website forcing me to locate and reload the latest one (this one).

You really “forget” how much is involved in moving servers.  You make every effort to save all configuration files but there are always “some” that fall through.  Also servers are implemented differently across some distributions.  Apache is one example in moving from Fedora to Ubuntu.


First Bloom–pond Lilies


Well it seems that the secret to growing water Lilies is “calm water”.  I had read that they do not like to be in moving water and the waterfall setup and pump I had been using caused a lot of water movement.  With a redesign of the water fall and a restrictor valve on the pump output there is only gentle movement of water now and only for one hour per day.  The small filter pump in the middle picture does not seem to cause a problem for the lilies.  Later this afternoon I am hoping that the two buds in the bottom picture will open.  I have no idea what the color will be.  But does it really matter? 


These pics were taken on 6/27




IMG_0436Wow!!!! This one opened the next day.  This lily’s pads and flowers are larger than the other one. 



And two days later we have these pics.  WOW!!!!





Reworked pond waterfall.

Never did like the original pond waterfall.  I did it towards the end of digging in the pond and just wanted to be done with it.  I had used “pinkish” colored landscape blocks to contain the built up area and formed the “falls” within these blocks.  It did not look right – pink blocks with gray/orange stone work.  So after two years of living with it I disassembled it and came up with a single fall on a smaller scale.  While not finished – some detail work remains along with additional plants, the main structure is complete.  See it under “ponding” in the right sidebar at the bottom of that thread.

Prepping for spring.

We really have not had a winter this year.  The coldest evenings have been in the high 40s so now in the middle of February everything is in flower, especially the mango trees.  A cold snap now would cause quite a bit of damage.

This is a pic of the pond with some newly potted plants and an orchid.  What I did discover is that orchids are “encouraged” to bloom when the temps get down to around 50 at night. 

More pictures here .

GPU (NVIDIA) installation on Fedora 17

This took a while.  There were so many online guides and each had different results, not all positive.  I tried Fedora 17, Centos 6, and Ubuntu 12.04LTS.  Centos 6 was the easiest from a driver installation but the downside was that Centos does not supply BOINC in their distribution.  BOINC from the BOINC website would not install because it had been compiled against a different distro using different library structures.  You do have the option of downloading BOINC source code and installing on Centos and this would fix the problem.  But ….

Using a combination of procedural steps from both the Fedora and Centos  installtion readmes I came across I was able to get the NVIDIA drivers installed on FC 17.  See the side bar:  “Seti@home, Fedora 17, BOINC…” for detailed installation instructions on Fedora 17.  This is my attempt to identify exactly was is needed for a successful installation and how to get there.

These procedures might also apply to other Linux distros, but the file naming convention and file locations are different on Fedora 17 so that will require adjustments.  But the basic step/procedures I think would apply.

None of what I provide is original but taken/borrowed from multiple websites.  I have posted most of these websites in a “USEFUL LINKS” section of the detailed install.   You will be visiting some of these sites to download various components and will encounter much of what you read here and  in the detailed procedure on those sites.

Upgrade to Fedora 17 from 14

Upgrading is NOT possible.  Tried but was told too many revisions had passed so I tried an incremental 14 to 15 – told the same thing.  You know what this means – New Install. 

This was a challenge because:  standard routines had their names changed, firewall enabled, etc. …

See side bar for more info, including installing “LAMP” (Linux:  Apache, MySql, Php), wordpress, postfix, etc.  The “LAMP” components are all required to support a webserver, especially “WordPress”.

SETI – phone home

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  See “SETI” in the sidebar if you want to help the effort.

SETI@home and Astropulse distributed computing projects put forward by the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley use the Arecibo Observatory to collect data, package it, and send it off to those willing to participate in “crunching” its data. 

You can “visit” the the Arecibo Observatory by using Google Earth.  Enter these coordinates (18.34451155689389 -66.75278061249723) into the “Fly to” window then hitting “enter”.  It will look like a “grey circle” but zoom in to see greater definition.

You can “visit” the Alan Telescope Array (ATA) by using Google Earth.  Enter these coordinates (40.81736075033203 -121.4697841971901) into the “Fly to” window and hit the “magnifier”.  You will be taken to ATA at an altitude of about 9976 feet so “zoom in” for a closer look.        seti@home

Hardware upgrade

I moved to new server hardware which required an install of a 64 bit OS and a resinstall/configuration/compile of most of the software I run.  I am still finding “missed” requirements and address them as they occur.  You too might find issues like broken links.  Not all the webpages have been restored but I am working it.

I have also upgraded the blog software and added a new look (theme) as well as reworked the way pages display in this blog.  Before, all posts were logged to the default page (the page you are currently looking at).  Now only the last post with a “previous entry” link for others in this default category will be displayed.  All others posts now display only under their assigned categories listed in the right sidebar.