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This is a question Eccentrics

We all know someone who's a little bit strange - Mum's UFO abduction secret, or the mad Uncle who isn't allowed within 400 yards of Noel Edmonds.

Tell us about your family eccentrics, or just those you've met but don't think you're related to.

(Suggested by sugar_tits)

(, Thu 30 Oct 2008, 19:08)
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Reading a few of these...
...I think maybe I am the eccentric one.

Over the years, I have made:

A helicoidal quadrafilar antenna for capturing APT (auto picture transmition) satelites pictures in real-time (still working as we speak).

An electronic catflap - it would open upon seeing any motion. It was attached to a laptop with servos attached (via a voltage regulator). It had a webcam (for the motion), and I actually wrote cat-face-recognition software for it (didn't work very well, although it did diferentiate human faces very well - it seems cat faces are very similar; who'd have guessed?).

A camera system for every room in the house and one on the front door so I don't have to climb down 4 flights of stairs to see who's just rung the bell. Not so bad in itself, but it also emails the pics to a hotmail account and/or notifies me directly at work (via a TCP listener) that there is someone at the door, in the kitchen, in the living room etc...

A hot air balloon made from a bin bag and coat hangers. Nearly burned the neighbours house down with that one. (surely everyone makes one of these at some point, no?)

A go-cart based on the inner workings of a Sinclair C5 (there is no way, despite Sinclair's claims at the time that it was run on a Washing machine motor - I could never get it working - 12v? 240v? Yeah! I think it speaks for itself!)

A program that changes my clock-in times in the database (of where I used to work), so that if I fancied staying down the pub at lunchtime longer than I should, I could simply use my mobile phone to tell it I had clocked in from where I was standing, rather than actually having to be at the clocking-in machine (gotta love those unsecured databases - yep, leave the installation to HR ;-) ).

A full sized arcade machine (based on Williams Defender) with kxMAME running inside. Should have seen the looks on people's faces when the estate agent was showing people around my house when they were confronted with 2 full sized 80's looking arcade boxes in the living room.

Am in the process of using my old servos (from the catflap - the cat, sadly is no longer alive) to control my telescope so that I can just tell it to point at a star system and it will move there automatically (if I stand near it, the resolution is such that even my weight moves it thousands of miles - I need to be *away* from it!) Thank God for Equatorial mounts!

EDIT: Forgot this; knocked a big hole in the side of my bedroom into my garage, which I then fitted fake beams and fake rocks to the walls, painted it all white, hung olde-worlde type things from hooks (parafin lamps, old knives, coins and trinkets), added a bar, fitted with pumps and turned the whole thing into a 17 century pub, complete with payphone and dartboard. Oddly, the misses didn't bat an eyelid (maybe she just got used to this sort of thing going on around her).

(still, with all this shit, I manage to get bored if I sit still for more than 4 minutes - is that a sign of being an eccentric?)

Mind you, reading this back, does it make me more devious and fun than eccentric?
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 13:25, 20 replies)
Your house sounds
AWESOME. I've built a small bar in the front room, but all that other crap sounds superb. Unfortunately I know little/nothing about computer programming.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 13:41, closed)
I like it
I've just finished making a MythTV box too, put 3 tuner cards in it, so I can record on two channels while watching another, set off recordings from my phone/over the web etc... and stream the live tv and/or recordings all over the house.

It does mean that there are now 4 TV antennas (and the double helicoidal) outside now though - the resteraunt next door are probably not too happy about living next door to what must look like GCHQ to them though!

(especially with all the network cables running around the front of the house - I didn't want to drill up through the floors so just ran them from window to window.)
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 13:48, closed)
i love
the idea of intercepting the satellite transmissions...What sort of stuff do you receive from your orbiting metal friends?
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:06, closed)
They're not brilliant (yet)...
...but considering I made the antenna myself out of bits of coax and drainage pipe, they are not so bad.

free image host

free image host

All the images (regardless of which sat I pick up) seem to have uniform lines across them, so I'm in the middle of writing some software to translate pager signals - these transmit on similar frequencies in the UK (137mhz range) - so that I can work out who/where the interference is coming from.

Mail me if you really want to do it, it's quite easy and not very expensive - I guess you can set this up for less than 80 quid, which to be honest, is less than a decent weekend down the pub.

Here's a few more:

free image host

free image host

free image host

When that storm hit (the swirly bit), I was so fucking smug - I could see it coming and everyone thought I was mad!
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:13, closed)
Is amazing. My geek hairs are on end.

How long did it take to build?

/ wants one.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:20, closed)
Not long...
Here's a pic of the antenna:

free image host

Took an afternoon to build (and that's with my crap soldering).
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:38, closed)
...did anyone notice the lid of the Nescafe jar on the top of the antenna?


Ok, I really am that sad.

(fit perfectly, in case anyone needs to find a cap for a load of bog pipes)
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 21:47, closed)
It can be friends
with the upside down nescafe bottle stading in for a light cover on one of my outside lights.

That also happened to fit perfectly.
(, Wed 5 Nov 2008, 5:20, closed)
Looks like
your receiver is as wide as a barn door if it's being desensed by pagers 20Mhz away. You could try building a simple band pass or low pass filter to notch them out. Or you could pull your finger out and build your own receiver dedicated to the band, not simply cobble together a scanner and a PC that's childs play.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 15:20, closed)
you're probably right - I'm only guessing at it being pagers.

I'm squeezing the bandwidth down to 40Mhz as NOAA sats expect, but I'm still getting that interference - I have gone as far as 15 but then it's just too narrow to get anything. I can hear it clearly in the upper side band, but then I get the doppler effect (as you'd expect from something pissing past you at 4km per second) as it's far too narrow.

I have a nuclear power station near by (and the associated army camp next to it as you get with all power stations of that kind), a major port, a coastguard and a major TV broadcaster - all within 20 miles of me, so I'm thinking there just might be too much going on for me to get a decent signal.

Suggestions as to what those big lines are would be very welcomed!

I'm thinking it could be a neighbours wireless router or something - I don't know if there is any spill from those into that range or not, but the noise seems to get a little better if I turn mine off when a sat comes into range.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 16:30, closed)
I thought the NOAA birds on 137Mhz were narrowband slow scan type things?

How long does it take to receive a pic - I'm guessing it takes seconds/minute or so. In which case the bands across the picture look like the duration it takes to send a pager burst and also the amount of bursts and randomness you'd expect.

Near by transmitters on adjacent frequency bands can overload your receiver and cause it to lose the signal from the satellite, hense you get bands of static across the picture as it loses signal then gets it back again as when the pager signal drops all the while your PC/Terminal scrolls out the image.

The antenna certainly looks like it's built for 137MHz band. Pagers are on 157MHz and the transmitters are pretty high power. It's not inconcievable that they are causing de-sensitisation of a 137Mhz receiver but would indicate either it's a pretty shoddy one or a wide band scanner type which is designed to tune to 157Mhz as well.

I don't get any desensing even up on 145Mhz here and the pagers are very very loud round here, but that's on high end amateur receiver(transceiver)

What make/model is your receiver?
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 18:27, closed)
I have an ICOM PCR1000 which I am running using QPcr1k under Debian.

The NOAA sats are meant to be WFM at around 50, yet people say (not NOAA) that 40 is the optimum, I have tried all sorts. Oddly, the clearest I can hear them is in the USB, but the doppler effect completely screws the picture.

I must admit, I was in the New Forest with a hand scanner and NOAA15 sounded as clear as a bell (and that was a shite Tandy job too - about 230 Mhz).

The moment I get back here with the antenna and a decent(ish) scanner I get shite pictures once again.

The reason I thought it was a pager is for the exact reasons you describe.

The start of the scan to the end is about 15-20 minutes dependent on the atmosphere. If it's raining I am f*cked.

I am desperate for help with this one!
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 20:18, closed)

I'd ditch that and go for a dedicated rig for NOAA. I run an Icom on HF which is the bees knees but the PCR1000 is a dirty old goose. OK for general larking about but no good for spot frequencies or serious work. It's a (very) wide band receiver using a PC for demodulation and decoding which is the worst in both worlds.

Have a look at:
for recomendations on a dedicated kit you can build yourself
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 23:27, closed)
Nice! I think I can feel my next project coming on. So to speak.
(, Wed 5 Nov 2008, 11:40, closed)
I want all of this!
Your setup sounds brilliant - in an engineering genius kind of way, which I guess could be seen as a tad eccentric, but who cares?

Great effort.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:13, closed)
Thing is...
...I can't stop.

I'm constantly having to make this kind of stuff - my kids love it, although I'm sure they don't understand the eccentricity of it all, they just like using the results.

When people say, "if I didn't work, I'd get bored" I can't believe it - work just gets in the way of all this stuff for me.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:16, closed)
Damn, if I didn't have to work I'd be busy all day every day making goofy things...
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:19, closed)
I still
have to work as well sadly, I just have to find time to do this crap as well.

The more I think about it, the more eccentric stuff I've done.

The other day, some shite software had fucked up, it was bought from some odd firm, so we didn't have the code. I thought nothing of using SoftIce (yes, I had to use fucking Windows! Why, why!?!?!) - No, not syser (for those that know ;-) ) - this company isn't THAT up to date!) to debug the whole lot and find out where the fuck they had gone wrong in hex.

I actually quite enjoyed it, and thought very little of it, until the engineers that were using it started saying "Christ! How the fuck did you do that?" etc...

I think I must be mad. Mind you, I used to take the copy protection out of Cubase just to see if I could do it (hint: it doesn't just look for the dongle when you start it up ;-) ) ..and write "pokes" for things like Jetpac (infinite lives) and Green Beret for the speccy when I was younger.

(I used to write a load too for those sorts of machines (Z80 - mainly Speccy and CPC464 and oddly (in retrospect) the TI994a)), but I ain't saying which companies or which games.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:58, closed)
the next step
is to become a fully fledged 'james bond villain'

Fluffeh cat, the lot!

Robotic fluffeh cat of course, high def cameras for eyes, shits titanium pellets that it then eats for 'fuel'. Completely maintenance free.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 14:29, closed)
I (used to) have the fluffy cat
until she was run over (and I don't mind admitting that I slunk off to the bog to have a cry on my own when that happened, and I'm a 35 year old fat bloke), however, I did attempt to use bigger servos to make a hoover (I had to break the fuckers to make them turn 360) that would do it all by itself (Iknow you can buy these now, but this was some years ago) - it was a disaster. I am not going to say much more about it as it was a complete fuckup.

I might resurrect it one day. It's much more fun to make these things than just pay money for one.
(, Tue 4 Nov 2008, 20:36, closed)

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