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This is a question DIY Techno-hacks

Old hard drive platters make wonderfully good drinks coasters - they look dead smart and expensive and you've stopped people reading your old data into the bargain.

Have you taped all your remotes together, peep-show-style? Have you wired your doorbell to the toilet? What enterprising DIY have you done with technology?

Extra points for using sellotape rather than solder.

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 12:30)
Pages: Popular, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This question is now closed.

Wank alarm
When I was 11, I was into electronics. My best ever project was to install Maplin type pressure pads around the house under the carpet, and wire them all up to little light bulbs, attach all the bulbs to a wooden board, and label them with their locations. I did all of this when my parents were out, and for years, I could tell where people were in the house - roughly. As I became a teenager, this actually proved fantastically useful as a rudimentary wank alert, and allow me enough time to hide my tadger should anyone head toward my bedroom door.

I moved out of there 20 years ago, but bought the house off my parents about 5 years ago.

Funnily enough, the system is still there, and god bless, it mostly still works. As my old childrens bedroom is now my grown up office, it still performs the exact job it did all those years ago. Only it now warns me of my missus' approach. I'm never going to reveal it to her but I shall pass it on to my son one day.

Boys never change do they?
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:15, 14 replies)
My God!
This question was made for me!

To start with I made a quadrafilar double-helicoidal anttenna from a load of old coax and some drainpipe so that I could pick up the polar-orbit sats to predict my own weather as I couldn't rely on the TV - not that I had any special reason to predict the weather at all.

...but that wasn't enough.

I was always pissed off that I had a remote control to unlock my car doors all at once but not for my house....so.....when some pikeys smashed our remote-control barrier down at work to get to some scrap metal (to be honest, they could have just asked and they could have had it, it was a pain in the arse to get rid of most of the time!) I took the remote keys - they look exactly like car remotes.
I took out the slightly smashed electrics and bought a couple of magnetic door slots and little plastic box to host the electronics, a quick wiring in and voila! Home Central Locking. Comes in bloody handy when you're struggling with shopping etc...

However, the "Techno-DIY" bug had set in by then and this simply wasn't enough.

I'd been running a MythTV server for some time, so after buying a cheap network camera on ebay and mounting it in the ceiling in the porch, editing the menu xml files on the MythTV frontend, I could flip the TV picture to the porch when the doorbell rang and after shorting one of the remote controls and wiring it into a USB relay/switch I could open (or at least unlock) the front door by pressing a button on the TV remote.

Still, it seems my geekyness was not sated. I wired the lights into the USB relay (I'm making this sound more simple than it actually was and not being an electrician had to learn the hard way - many a bolt was had!) and the amplifier. Of course, there were lights on all three floors. Luckily, I have PCs everywhere and they are all networked. So a couple more relays and a quick TCP server written in Python and viola again! I could then control the lights, amps and TV's in all the rooms.

Shortly after that was completed, a couple of touch-screens had gone at work - they're used in a factory that gets quite dusty and as such they don't last all that long. They were in the skip. One would power up but had a milky white screen the other wouldn't start at all. One swapping of the internal psu, and wooohooo, one free touch screen.

I had an old 800mhz mini-itx board laying around so made a quick case for that, but for some reason my OS of choise would simply not install - funny chipset or some-such thing. So, Windows XP went on the bugger. I then wrote a nice looking front-end for it in C#, and so now I could simply touch buttons on the screen to turn everything on and off.

So, to cut a long story slightly shorter I then had a machine sitting idle for most of the time.....and a couple of omni-directional mics that had been aquired years ago from a relative that used to work for the BBC. Wired those buggers in, wrote some voice recognition stuff (using the MS Speech SDK, I'm not THAT geeky!) and then I could say "front room, lights, on" and on they would come, etc... Had to train the voice a fair bit to get it accurate, but it all bedded down properly in the end!

Still, the windows...I actually had to get off my arse and open them manually...and te curtains.

A quick trip to Homebase and 2x12v Handheld drills for 7 quid each and I now have 12v variable speed motors! Drilled the bay windows through, extracted the motors from the drills, and about 2 weeks later (lots of problems with getting that to work) I could open the top windows of the house via, either my mobile phone, my TV remote, by speaking - "Top window, left, close" or by touching the touch screen button. Still...that required human input...not geeky enough, STILL!

I seemed to remember I had an Arduino board laying around after some mis-guided project from a while back. Sure enough, a quick search turned it up...along with light sensors and humidity sensors. A quick C program in 'Wiring' and when it got dark, the windows would shut. Starting to rain, the windows are open and I'm at work? No problem, first hint of rain and the windows close, and then notify me that they've done so.

One night a few months after this, I discovered that despite all this crap, I'd forgotten my keys and couldn't get into the house. I finally managed to enter the place, but not until a lot of trouble had passed. So, the next day I installed "Asterisk@Home (trixbox)" on one of my machines that were running 24/7. I set up a free SIP (in) phone number and an extension number that only I knew. I set up the automated voice response that we've all become so familiar with, "press one for this, two for that, three to unlock all doors, etc...". So now, this can never happen again. If I forget my keys, I simply phone the house up, dial the extension number, then press the appropriate button that kicks of the script that talks to the pythin TCP server and the relay that is wired into the old remote control clicks and the door becomes unlocked!

To the chagrin of my misses, this 'DIY-project' still isn't finished...I don't think it ever will be.

I think she wants her dining room table back - currently, and for the last few months anything with electricity for blood has been taken to pieces and remains in the electric graveyard she used to call a dining room.

Still, the curtains are next.

PS. I think she's quite pleased with the air-con unit made from an old coolbox and old Dell server fans.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:34, 35 replies)
Somehow forgot this....
...I suppose we've got so used to it, it doesn't seem out of the ordinary any more.

I mentioned in my other post about the two touchscreens that I managed to make a good one from. It seems that the ailments they suffered are quite common in these models and as such, I found another three in the skip. The same problem as the last two, and the same resolution. I now have one in the kitchen.

Some time ago, I used to work for a large insurance company in London that needed a way of tracking documents throughout their building. To cut a long story short I wrote a program that used the barcodes on the document folder to update a database and as such the whereabouts of every document could be known with a click of a mouse. Whilst I was doing this, I was writing bits of it whilst working from home and as a consequence of this, I had a couple of barcode scanners at home. A few years later and I had left this employer, but I had accidently (and I mean accidently) forgotten to return the barcode scanners, and as such when I moved house I found them again.

This lead me to thinking....if only I could have a database of all the barcodes in the world (or commercial products), I could scan all my shopping into the fridge, larder etc... and I'd know exactly what I had at any one time.

And so it began.

Touchscreen duly screwed into the wall with newly-made wooden brackets, I set about finding an open-source database of UPC barcodes. This being the new-world of teh interweb, this didn't prove all that difficult to find (http://www.upcdatabase.com/ if anyone is interested). Luckily, that very generous chap has a download page where I could download (or indeed, setup a weekly cron job to run a script to download the latest and enter it into my database) all the barcodes.

...and this I did.

I then wrote a nice little frontend - VB.net this time, I don't know why, I suppose I wanted to see how it worked - in which each time a barcode was scanned it would search the database and if it didn't exist it would pop up a screen sking you what type it was - i.e. Meat, Tinned Peas, Tinned Spuds Fresh Peas, bog roll, toothpaste etc... and once pressed on the touch screen it would write it to the DB and remember for next time. Around 95% of the time the code was recognised.

The main screen had two "modes" - 'Add' and 'Remove'. You obviously click on Add when you come home with shopping and for the majority of the time the 'Remove' mode is set and the 'Remove' bar is flashing.

Take a beer from the Fridge? Press 'F' for fosters, then the fosters button. Use an onion, blah, blah....you get the idea. As this updates the database realtime, I can tell from my mobile phone (WAP or Web) exactly what we have in the house.

I took this to extremes: When you click the 'What's for dinner' button, it searches recipes.com in the background for the ingredients that you have in 'stock' and gives you a list of recipes that can be made with the ingredients you have. Press the button and up pops the ingredients and instructions.

This, the misses DOES like.

If we're running low on something it tells us, if we want a shopping list, I click the 'List' button and upstairs (bloody three floors away) the list prints out and off we go shopping.

Of course, this system is only as good as it's input. Sadly, we either frequently forget to tell it when we remove something and/or the kids tell it that something has been removed when it hasn't.

It's still good for around 80% of the time though!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:51, 21 replies)
Car alarms and toilets
My dad, working in car-electronics as he did, had plenty of opportunity to finetune his practical-joking skills with his colleagues over the years - making their long-suffering boss the butt of many pranks.

They started slow, leaving his car with the stereo fully cranked, AC on full, wipers and hazards left on, anything that would start the moment the car was turned on. This would result in a moment of frantic flurry as the poor victim tried to stop all the gadgets that had burst into life when all he wanted to do was drive to the offie for some cigs.

Then they moved on, hijacking the car alarm system to go off when the car was unlocked, then when someone sat in the driver's seat, then when it was started, then on a 30-second delay AFTER it was started and so on. Or wiring the electric sunroof to automatically retract when the car started - especially effective in the middle of a rainy winter.

When their boss finally got sick of this and started parking his car in a locked garage, they moved indoors and repeated the pranks, only this time with various items in his office, the chair, the door the desk. On any given day opening a certain drawer or sitting for more than 10 minutes in the main chair could set off a series of alarms, vibrating pads and noisemakers hidden all around the room. To be honest, I'm amazed that he put up with them for so long.

With fresh ideas for the office drying up, they moved on once more. To the toilet. Now, the boss also being the owner of the company, he had a habit of taking longer-than-strictly-necessary breaks, and was particularly noted for his after-lunch toilet break when he'd stride off, newspaper tucked firmly under one arm, and be gone for up to half an hour at a time [a fact exploited to every advantage in the setting up of the office pranks].

One of my dad's colleagues was an ex-plumber, and he concocted a simple but effective system of transparent plastic tube and pressure-sensor so that when the boss seated himself on his chosen porcelain throne, a powerful jet of water attempted to administer a surprise enema. The resulting squeal of surprise and following enraged shout of "you fucking bastards!" was often repeated round the office, to much lolarity.

Surely this must be the pinnacle of boss-baiting? There's not much that could top a cold squirt up the arse - or so my Canal Street friends tell me. No, they had one final game to play...

Now, due to Elf and Shafety, the company had recently had to upgrade its ancient cumbersome fire extinguishers for a more modern version that would actually stand a small chance of combating a fire, in such a situation. The old ones were supposed to be sent off for responsible disposal, but ended up shoved in the back of a cupboard and forgotten about.

Old foam extinguishers worked on the principle of a vial or packet of reactant suspended in a canister of water. Turning the extinguisher on broke the packet and allowed its contents to react with the water and the resulting pressure from the reaction spurted the foam out of the nozzle in waves of fire-quenching spunk. So. They dismantled a couple of these extinguishers and carefully retrieved the packet of reactant. I'm sure you can guess what they did with it.

First, the boss needed to be distracted. A customer's car, left to be fitted with a tow bar and electric windows contained one of those hamster starter kits, you know, a cage, wheel, a bag of sawdust, water bottle, food bowl and food. Everything except the hamster, in one convenient box. So they set up the cage, spreading out the sawdust and filling the bowl and water bottle and putting nesting material in the little house, the works. Then went inside and told the boss that the hamster had got out of the cage and was lost somewhere in the depths of the car. This got him conveniently out of the way, frantically searching for a non-existent hamster and leaving the coast clear for more toilet violations.

The packet of extinguisher reactant was carefully installed in the cistern, with the flush handle fitted with a large metal pin and set up to break it open when the toilet was flushed. They also disabled the mechanism to stop it filling, thus ensuring a constant supply of fresh water.

Once they'd told the boss [now in the later stages of advanced panic and just about to drive to the nearest pet shop to buy a fresh hamster to replace the 'lost' one] that his hour or so of searching had been for nothing, he stomped off to have his lunch - and his inevitable post-lunch poo.

There was quite a crowd lurking outside the toilets that afternoon, listening in. Creak of cubicle door. Slide of the bolt. Clink of belt-buckle on tiled floor. Rustle of newspaper. Rolling of toilet paper. Shuffling of feet - and then... the toilet flushed.

Those packets are designed to provide a LOT of foam in a very short space of time. There was an anguished scream as the toilet bowl filled up with thick white foam, then started to overflow. And still the foam was coming, now filling the cubicle. The boss struggled to pull his trousers up, grappling with the cubicle lock and that bolt that always stuck but he'd never bothered to fix it. And still the foam was coming out of the toilet, piling up and up and up in the confined space.

By the time he got out, the foam had nearly covered his head. It clung to him, sticky and white. He looked like the Michelin Man.

Faced with virtually his entire workforce pissing themselves laughing as he emerged from the toilet smothered in foam, he responded in the only decent way.
"Bastards." And stomped off to try to clean up.
(, Tue 25 Aug 2009, 17:03, 8 replies)
dead ringers
The joyful simplicity of I Have Ran Out Of Coke’s ‘Wank Alarm’ post reminded me of a tale of mischief from my youth derived from something as simple and mundane as bell wire. Mooching around in my room one day as a sullen teenager I must have been quite staggeringly bored – so bored I decided to pull back the carpet just inside the door of my room. There I spotted some bell wire running along the strip of wood that separated my bedroom from the rest of the known universe. Being an odd child it was only natural I had a chisel in my bedroom. With nothing better to occupy my curiosity I pushed the point of the chisel onto the newly found wire. I suppose I did get a bit of a start when the doorbell immediately rang. A few more tries and I had worked out the metal of the chisel was contacting with the wires, closing the circuit and ringing the doorbell. It was at this point I also noticed my mum’s footsteps along the hall. She opened the front door with me listening intently behind my bedroom door, after a brief pause and probably some head scratching the door closed. I gave her probably just enough time to get back to the sofa before I rang again – this time she shot along the hallway and flung the door open.

Fast forward an hour or so. Dads on point peeking out the window looking for ‘the wee bastards’ and Mum is alternately crouching behind the front door for 5 minutes at a stretch – each time she gave up her vigil and stomped back along the hallway I would ring again which would prompt another frantic dash along the hallway the front door being flung open. The hardest thing was trying to keep a straight face when she would charge into my bedroom asking if I had ‘heard them running away’. Soon enough my frantic parents were at each others throats, cursing each other for their inability to catch ‘them’. Fair ruined their Sunday afternoon.

I think it was the only time I have ever heard my Mum swear.

I kept this up on and off for months to come – just when my mum thought ‘they’ had left her alone another ‘campaign’ would begin. Any time my parents pissed me off, any time I stomped off to my room in a teenage strop: 'The Ringers' would return. Nasty little bastard i was.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 1:57, 6 replies)
Batteries not included...
My ex and I used to enjoy a fair bit of battery operated fun when we were at uni in Exeter. As you can imagine, horny students plus battery swallowing toys plus very limited spare change, (I was spending most of my money on my home cinema goodies and my 4x4 but thats for another post), meant that sooner or later the financial aspect would give us some pause for thought.

By this point we had built up a fair collection thanks to the Love Shack just off the main street. Great selection and the manager has a couple of really nice Kawazaki Z1300s there. I recommended it most heartily. Any way, we now had more toys than we were willing to fund and something had to be done about it.

"AHAR!!" says I, in fake piratey voice. "Maybe there's another way to shiver her timbers?"

So off I trotski to the Radioshack in the next street and pick up a mains transformer and a selection of mono head phone sockets and multiplugs... can you guess what it is yet?

Once I had assembled all my nefarious goodies I liberated a soldering iron from the Engineering block where I was studying and retired to my room for some serious Macgyvering in the pursuit of pleasuring the other half, (or 2/5ths as we calculated at one point).

Any way, after some time I emerge with...DEVASTATOR! Most powerful of all Shagobots, formed from the union of the Dildobots and capable of reducing a paving slab to gravel or a lusty student girl to squeals of joy in less than a second.

It basically consisted of an adjustable voltage transformer, adjustable from 3 to 15 volts with a single 3.5mm mono jack, like a headphone plug, as it's output. (Since most of our goodies ran at 3v to start with that gave us some extra power to really speed things up!)

That mono jack was then plugged into a four way adapter allowing a wide selection of the other toys that I had adapted to be run at the same time by soldering wires onto the motor terminals and then out of the casings and onto other headphone plugs!

WOOYAY!!! We now had almost limitless power and could run as many toys as we liked. Eggs, Butterflies, Dils, you name it. This earned me many brownie points for a while until we melted the motor on one of her toys.

Did I:

a: throw it in the bin and carry on with the others?
b: buy her another one as a present?
c: do what any self respecting engineer would do after blowing an engine and put a bigger one in instead?

It just so happened that our engineering set had just done a project on gyroscopes and balancing mechanisms and there were a couple of 15v R/C motors hanging about. R/C motors are the pumped up steroid versions of normal motors and are able to pump out stupid amounts of speed and torque without breaking a sweat....see where I'm going here?

It just so happened that one of those engines will **just** fit into the body of our newly deceased toy. With a new counter weight fitted, made of steel and profiled to give maximum weight and throw inside the body and with some padding inside to hold it all in position it was completed.

To lift a quote from the original movie:


Holy mother of all that is holy! Finally able to use the full 15v from the mains and with as much current as we liked this thing was truly animal. It sounded awesomely like a motorbike when at tickover or on full throttle. The howl it made when we cranked it up actually made my GF looked quite scared! She used it once and complained that a half speed it started hurting and at 3/4 speed actually left her bruised inside. I used it to bash a hole through a sheet of plaster board and we didn't really take it over a third of it's power after that. Like having a Bugatti Veyron though, it's not that you may ever use it's full power but it's nice to know it's there if you need it.

I miss those days...

Length: 10"
Width: 2"
Speed: 15,000rpm @15v
(, Sat 22 Aug 2009, 9:38, 7 replies)
Oh God...
...sory, but I have so many of these I thought it best to break them up a bit rather than one enormous post!

A reply to another post reminded me of my current 'project'.

This is still unfinished - a bit like the other projects, but this really is in it's infancy.

I have a really, really shite memory and for that reason am always losing my keys, USB sticks, mobile phone etc... you get the idea, we all do and it's the most infuriating thing ever! I've often thought of a solution to this but it seems somewhat crap. I thought, "I need radioactive cellotape and a gieger counter to narrow down my lost objects.

Of course, the levels of radioactivity needed to get that sort of performance would see my entire family - and quite probably everyone in my village - die of leukemia within about a week, so I had to think of another way. Some might say that the frustration of not being able to find keys etc... would make it worth it, but that would be disrespectful to genuine sufferers, but you get just how much this annoys me!

...and so, one day whilst browsing ebay for more random crap after a fair few down the local, I stumbled across what I hope is the answer.


I bought a kit with 10 RFID 'stickers' and a reader. You can probably guess the rest. The same machine I have powering the touchscreen also has the reader plugged into it. If one of my objects is lost, the moment it gets within range of the reader (about 2 metres) it updates the database with the location of the item.

Presently, all that tells me is that my bloody phone is not within 2 metres of my touchscreen.

However, with a reader on every machine (there are 5 that run 24/7) I should soon, at least be able to tell which floor and room any tagged object is, and hopefully which 'quadrent', by simply asking aloud.

I was thinking of tying this into the voice recognition so all I need do is simply ask aloud where my keys are and I'll hear a very odd, Stephen Hawkin type voice tell me where they are.

At least, that's the plan, and the initial 'test' seem to be going quite well so far.

I've also started on a Direct3D view of the house that will be (hopefully, I've never used DirectX/3D before) able to be dragged with a finger on the touchscreen and show up which quadrant the search for object is in in a different colour. Very Star-Tek I know - but who wouldn't love that!?
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:12, 15 replies)
quick one

Don't put the flour, milk and egg in a mixing bowl to make the batter. Put them in an empty plastic milk bottle, put the lid back on and give it a really good shake for a minute or so. Makes them perfectly, and you can just pour it into the pan.

Not really a techno hack, but it's a really easy way to make pancakes.

Mmmmm. Pancakes.
(, Tue 25 Aug 2009, 11:26, 15 replies)
My Best
Being a long-time uber-geek, I've done tons of hacks of varying quality. However one effort stands out in my mind for it's efficacy, simplicity, and overall genius:

I duct-taped a roll of duct tape to the dash of my car to make a cup holder.
(, Mon 24 Aug 2009, 17:20, 2 replies)
Muck-up day... plus fireworks
Muck-up day was a day at our school a couple of weeks before the end of the summer term where the year 11 students would have their last ever day at the school before having their leave before their exams and summer break.

Students would bring eggs and flour to school and generally wreak havoc for the day and go home under the premiss that you can't get expelled on your last day of school. (One of the more ingenious 'pranks' was a load of kids studying bricklaying bricked up all the entrances to the school the night before)
I alway frowned upon these folk as I deemed it vandalistic and thought the day should have more of a celebratory air to it.
I wanted to send our year off with a bang and decided that a fireworks display was in order. Getting caught though would of course lead to me not being aloud to sit my exams. I needed some sort of way of automating it.

So off the wall came the kitchen clock. The hour hand was wrapped in tinfoil. A butterfly pin was put 3/4 of the way between 1 and 2 o'clock (to insure it went off at the hight of lunch time). The butterfly pin was hooked up to a battery and an electric match and the match was put in a pile of toilet paper I had soaked in weed killer and dried to make a sort of 'flash paper'. This was put in the middle of an empty tin of roses surrounded with fireworks with all the fuses facing inwards, all held together with duct tape.
As it was all dependent on this kitchen clock it means i had to set it after 1:45am, so on the morning of muck up day I scrambled on to the roof of the school and set up, hiding it behind bricks.
Come 1:45ish I was nervously waiting to see if it would work, sitting in the playing field on a bank when the headteacher comes over to me to wish me good luck with my exams. As soon as he shakes my hand the roof of the school explodes into a wirlwind of screaming fireworks and thunder flashes.

Him talking to me when it went off was my best alibi until unbeknown to me somebody dobbed me in a few weeks later.

This is what was presented to me a few weeks later at prize giving in front of all the parents and governors. Click to see pic (60k)

Afterwards he told me that that was the most innovative 'prank' he had ever seen and said if i were to ever do it again just don't put it next to the gas main for the school... oops
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:57, 1 reply)
What’s the best way to say ‘I love you’? - Simple. Say it with sex aids.

Back when I started working as a travelling salesman I was living with my first serious girlfriend, a girl from Oldham named Gill. As I was going away for a fortnight and leaving her in our flat alone for the first time I thought I’d buy her something romantic, something to remember me by. So I got her a black mamba four-speed 12” vibrator (complete with realistic bulging veins and purple bell end). Gill opened the package, stared at it for a bit, then put it on her dresser.

I went off on my tour of duty, selling insurance policies to gimps, and rang Gill after I’d finished work everyday. On the fourth or fith day I remembered my spectacular gift of love and dedication (to Gill’s excellent and perfectly formed pudenda), and asked her if she’d got round to giving it a try. Gill, very matter-of-factly replied: “Ooh, yes, Spanky! I use it first thing in the morning and last thing at night! Its completely revolutionised my life!” I paused. I had the horrible feeling I was going to be dumped in favor of a 12” lump of plastic; lets face it, it probably had more of a personality than I had anyway.

Then, for the rest of my time away, Gill would explain how she’d been using the black mamba relegiously every morning and every fucking night. My wank bank was bursting at the seams at the thought of Gill laying back on our bed, ramming this prosphetic love dong up her scampy passage.

When I’d finished my sales bollocks I went home. I was horny as hell and Gill told me about what she’d been up to for the last two weeks, her job, how her mum was getting on. It took all my efforts not to say: “Fuck that, tell me about your AMAZING WANKS!!!” But I didn’t. After a few minutes I went off to the toilet for a piss. And there I found the offensive weapon, all black and glistening on the bathroom sink.

Gill had modified it.

It stood on its end, all 12” glorious penisy inches stretching into the sky like a pervy version of the Eiffel Tower – and Gill had sellotaped something to it. Wrapped loads and loads of tape round the length to secure something else to its length. Gill had sellotaped her toothbrush onto it.

Apparently she’d always wanted an electric toothbrush, one of those vibrating jobbies, but had never got round to buying one. And she told me later that since she’d been using this homemade bodge-job every morning and every night her teeth had never felt so clean, apparently. Gill asked if I wanted to see her use it. "No, not really," I said.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 9:23, 7 replies)
Sex with a rotting corpse. Wanking over photos of your six year old nieces’ camel toe as she frolicks in the surf off Brighton beach. Marmite. Simon Cowell. - Some things are just too fucking terrible to contemplate.

Add to this list my last attempt at cooking that fancy French food for my girlfriend.

I’d been seeing Liz for about a month – we were moving past the initial shag-each-other-ragged then pop out for a bacon sandwich and a tube of Pringles before another cock-slamming-kidneys-encounter stage, and it was time to impress her with something other than the red raw contents of my pants (good job really; my testicles had shrunk to the size of acorns from all the two-backed-beast monkey rubbing we’d been up to).

So I decided to cook Liz a meal. I sauntered down to Sainsburys, returned, and commandeered the kitchen in the shared house I was living in. Chicken breasts, cream, white wine, shitloads of salad (in an attempt to make Liz think I was in someway healthy and more virile than a horny wilderbeast who’s stumbled across an errant shipment of viagra and Spansh fly), and also loads of posh-sounding herbs and shit.

I started my culinary creation the best way possible – I sat down and watched The Simpsons on Channel 4 and had a glass of wine. Then I had another one. And another. Then I ripped the chicken breasts from the packet and slapped them in a frying pan, poured over the wine and the cream, and after a few minutes standing there wondering why nothing was happening, turned the cooker on. Then I had another glass of wine. Then I made a bit of a salad with all the skill and grace of Freddy Kruger attacking a virgin’s nether regions.

After about fifteen minutes of standing round, perving over the girls on Hollyoaks, I recalled something I’d seen on telly a while back. I remembered that setting fire to food makes it taste better; I decided to flambe the fuck out of this meal – that would, quite simply, impress the panties off Liz. So I got out my lighter and tried to set fire to the bubbling chicken tits lying in the frying pan. No joy. It wouldn’t light. So I had a scout round the kitchen, found a half empty bottle of vodka, and poured a bit in. This lit, but not too well. I wanted Terminator-style explosions, a flame a pyromaniac would’ve ejaculated over.

And this is where the techno-hack bit comes into play...
I recalled when I was a kid the endless hours of fun to be had lobbing aerosol cans onto naked flames. I also remembered the time my best mate Greg scorched off his own eyebrows doing something cool and amazing with a can of Lynx and a box of Swan Vesta. So I went down to my room and routed round for something to go WOOOOSSSHHHH!!! No joy, I use roll on deoderant. Fuck. So I went to the bathroom and ‘borrowed’ one of my housemates cans of hairspray. One of those big bastard Elnett cans with the sexy 80’s girlie on the front.

Returning to the kitchen, I reasoned if I directed the flame in such a way I could get a nice spray of fire over the chicken, just enough to give it that crispy flambe feel. Then, realising I’d run out of wine, I had a glass of vodka. Then I poured a little more vodka into the frying pan for luck.

After this I reached for my lighter, angled the Elnett can at the cooker, and –


It was like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. The improvised flame thrower spewed out buring hot fire and engulfed the cooker, scorched the counter next to the cooker, set fire to the curtains above the cooker, and – somehow – managed to scorch the ceiling. I dropped the can and ran as the wine and vodka-drenched chicken breasts went up like an improvised explosive device – Taliban eat your fucking heart out.

After I’d composed myself, I legged it back into the kitchen, slammed right into the corner of the kitchen table lodging my bollocks deep into my abdomen, fell over and landed conveniently on my face. After a few seconds whimpering I managed to scramble up, fill a saucepan with water, and chuck it on the flaming meal and smoldering curtains. The kitchen stank like Satan’s hairdressers. My creation, alas, had withered and shrunk and turned black – eight quids worth of premium chicken breast resembled a set of old man’s knackers.

With only a few minutes before Liz was due to come round, I quickly cleaned up as best I could and went out for a Chinese. By the time I got back Liz was waiting outside. She looked at me quizzically as I started mumbling a greeting. Liz said: “Where’s your eyebrows???” I stopped mumbling... Reached up, yep, where my eyebrows should’ve been was balder than a monk who uses Gilette. “And you’ve got soot on you...”

I felt a bit foolish – sort of explained the funny looks I was getting strolling down Camden Road.

But I learned a valuable lesson – don’t use improvised weapons in the pursuit of culinary excellence... Think I might ask for a blow tourch for Christmas...
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 13:43, 15 replies)
The ZX Spectrum Laptop

I love making pointless electronic and mechanical devices. I did the souped-up toaster in newsletter 324, and above is the one I'm most pleased with so far, a Frankenstein-style combination of a Libretto and a ZX Spectrum. I haven't got around to loading a Spectrum emulator onto it yet but it will come.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 22:04, 7 replies)
when i was 10 i desperately wanted a tv in my own room but was not allowed by my parents.
however there was an old black and white set in the spare room connected to a very old Acorn Electron as the monitor, which i decided to have.

My cunning plan had 2 parts. First of all i started putting a small sheet over the set, complaining that i was sick of the dust settling on the screen between uses.

A week or so later, i swapped the TV for a large shoebox and a four litre ice cream tub.

my wardrobe at the time had shelves inside at one end. In one of those i subtly taped together a collection of junk with a duct tape hinge at the bottom at the edge of the shelf so it could be hinged up or down. The TV went behind this. The rabbit ears were on top of the wardrobe behind other crap, connected with a thin wire. a piece of string connected the taped crap to a tiny curtain in front of the TV.

If i heard my parents approaching i could flip the fake pile of junk up on it's hinge, lowering the curtains, hiding the TV and looking like a perfectly normal shelf of crap.

It was genius, pure bond secret agent hiding place.

Eventually after several months, my dad wanted to use the computer and discovered that the computer monitor consisted of 2 boxes under a sheet and forced me to 'fess up.

I didn't really get in trouble as i think the ingenuity impressed him more (he's an engineer)

I did have to give the TV back though :(
(, Tue 25 Aug 2009, 18:17, 1 reply)
Things I have learnt through trying to fix my motorcycle
1. Once you disconnect the fuel line, switching the valve to 'on' does cover you in petrol.

2. Regardless of the deadly current/voltage involved, insulation tape will always do.

3. Engine oil tastes horrible.

4. Once you take most of the engine out, the rear wheel locks. So if you give up halfway through the job, you have to pick up the bike by its arse end and carry it into the garage.

5. You can get hernias from:
a. Using your thigh to push a spanner on a really stubborn bolt
b. Using your thigh to stop the bike falling on you
c. Using your thigh to kick the bike to 'teach the bloody thing a lesson'

6. If you want to 'know what that button does', refer to the Haynes manual first, rather than pressing it.

7. Fixing a bike is so ludicrously manly that for every hour of fixing a bike, you can take 20 minutes to mince around the house in a tutu singing "I'm a little teapot" and nobody can call you a shirt-lifter. Any longer and you probably like the cock

I never apologise for length. After all, the longer it is, the more torque I can get out of it.
(, Mon 24 Aug 2009, 10:05, 5 replies)
Unfortunately, this is all too true.
I spent years trying to shag my housemate (female) on and off. I was utterly, besotted, in love, and she liked me, but never really fancied me. She had exotic, interesting boyfriend's, whose intricate deaths I plotted. I spent many, many nights in my room trying not to hear them shagging. Every few weeks, we'd get drunk and she'd let me frig her but never shag or touch me in any sexual way. She would let me wank whilst lying next to her - thats how bad it was. This went on in a cycle of self loathing and hate really, for years, for both of us.

It only ever, ever happened when drunk. Combining alcohol, a lot of self pity, and the repression of those 'she is only letting me do this out of pity' thoughts had the side effect of generally making little Coke remain little, and coming for me was very difficult, if I could get it up at all. It was, I had long since realised, utterly, utterly pathetic. But I was in love.

One day, the gods were smiling. She was lying in bed, smoking, with a look on her face somewhere between disdain and disgust at me and herself. I had just made her come, with my fingers, and I was idly sucking her nipples as she liked that. I was enjoying feeling a rare hardon, pressed up against her hip.

Are you hard? She asked suddenly. I wore my best shit eating grin. Nothing makes me harder than hearing a girl say that. It says oh so much more.

Do you want to fuck me? she said, between drags, the smoke curling out of her mouth as she stared.

She stubbed out her fag, and rolled over on to her front, and motioned for me to get behind. Oh fucking YES.

Shit. I went soft. Nothing. Nada. I think I was basically terrified. My stomach dropped. Think. I tugged away frantically

"What the fuck are you doing? Just fuck me. This wont happen again."

Only one possible course of action remained open to me. I would have to improvise. I made an excuse to change position and grabbed her one and only dildo which I knew was in her bedside table. I held it between my legs and thrust into her. She groaned. Not surpsingly because it wass shitload bigger than me. She reached under and grabbed my balls and fucked my 'cock' until she came.

Sated, she told me to pull out and finish myself. I pretended to come in the dark. I chucked the dildo under the bed. Eventually i got up and went to 'clean up' in the bathroom. I think I probably cried.

So, basically, I hacked my own erection, and DIY'd.

I am honestly, not that guy anymore!!!
(, Thu 27 Aug 2009, 12:13, 14 replies)
Confunded by kettles and Geordies
My Mother, bless her, has always been a bit confounded by technology and such simple things as email, manual gear shifts. But I thought she could at least manage with a kettle!

She's recently moved up to Newcastle with her partner, and is having a bit of difficulty settling down, partly because her new job sucks, and partly because her thoroughly RP ears have a lot of difficulty deciphering some of the natives.

I went up for a stay recently: fair play to her, she's landed a lovely house, except they'd found the hot water tank was slightly leaky. Never mind, a chap was coming around at 9 o'clock tomorrow to fix that.

Promptly at 11:30, the British Working Man stood on the doorstep:


Apparently, he'd come to fix the boiler.

My frightfully refined mother showed him up to the hot water system, where in a startling display of industriousness, he whipped off his tool belt and got straight down to it.


Apparently this was an enquiry as to whether I thought Newcastle would be promoted this year. As a Scunthorpe fan, I expressed the thought that there were a lot of strong teams in the division.


I shut up.

"Gorrablindinthirs, mind"

I gathered he'd probably want a drink, so I toddled down to the kitchen to make him a cuppa.

Now, I'd already received training in my mother's kettle. She doesn't have the regulation type with an element at the bottom, oh no. She has one of these water-filter jobs that actually heats the water on demand. So, quick as a flash, I was back with chummy's tea, and I left him too it.

Ten minutes later I heard a small roar from upstairs.


Wandering back upstairs, I noted that our poor plumber's tea was indeed a bit shite. There was a grisly purple skin on top, almost a bit like gravy. Only purple. Now I've made a few cuppas in my time, and none have ever turned out like this, so we went to inspect the kettle. There we saw testament to my mother's genius with technology.

Apparently the entire button-push mechanism had dropped off this morning, and rather than doing something sensible like - say - boiling water in a pan, my mother had attempted to fix it. With plasticine.

Bearing in mind that the push button and very powerful heating element were connected, this was less of a success than she might have imagined. Upon pressing the button, the element had sprung to life, the plasticine had liquidised and slowly dribbled down the nozzle, mixing with the freshly filtered water. Very shortly, some solidification had taken place, and an unpleasant waxy topping formed on the water.

Apologising gratuitously to the fuming Geordie next to me, I offered to bring him a replacement. "Or would you rather have coffee?"

He shook his head and quipped.

"Tea, why-aye, ah tek' no wax!"

Good to get it out of your system from time to time, isn't it?
(, Mon 24 Aug 2009, 10:02, 11 replies)
I made this
well, actually, I bought the cabinet for fifty quid on ebay, renovated and refurbished it, and made it into this:

It glows in the dark, has over 3000 games, and is a magnet for the array of beer swilling animals who call themselves my friends (the top surface makes an ace pint shelf)

It's my new hobby, and it's great fun.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 16:37, 8 replies)
The radio-controlled cat-flap-cat-box-cat-containeration device
We've got a kitten. He's a loon. He's also not yet safe to go out without experiencing instant death under the wheels of cars. He's a nippy little bugger so we'd have great difficulty getting out of the house without him racing through the door at the last minute, resulting in an hour or two chasing him about trying to get him back inside.

My solution was (not) simple:

Get one plastic cat box (the kind you take the cat to the vet's in).
Replace the little door with one of those catflaps that only open if your cat has an infra-red transmitter on it's collar.
Replace the electronics for the catflap's infra red receiver with the gubbins from a car remote central locking radio device.

Put kitten in box (the catflap will open inwards but not outwards).
Leave house.
Close door.
Press button on central locking remote key fob.
Catflap then opens both ways.
Kitten gets out through catflap and runs up to window to shake paw at you through the glass.

Sadly, we've not managed to come up with any way of putting him back in the catbox prior to us coming back in, but usually he's too slow when we return.

Here is peanut, looking evil:

(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 16:29, 1 reply)
In my second year of University we did not have a working doorbell. We decided to wire up one of the free rape alarms we got from the Freshers fair to it. Unsurprisingly the sound was utterly horrific but we had it for the whole year. Whenever I hear a rape alarm now it takes me back to the good ol' days of uni.
(, Sat 22 Aug 2009, 11:08, 6 replies)
The secret telephone switch
Our house apparently has this. It's a rather complicated piece of apparatus, you have to admire the genius at work.

It seems to be wired to the the telephone and activated when you are alone in the house and enter the bathroom. The very instant you you immerse your body in the shower, or place your buttocks on the lavatory seat for some quiet contemplation your peace will be shattered by sound of the telephone ringing.

However - and this is the clever bit - it manages to ring in such a manner as to convince you that a family member or friend is calling you to pass on the sad news of a loved one's sudden departing.

You're given twenty seconds to haphazardly pat dry your soapy self or complete the necessary paperwork before risking life and limb racing downstairs to find the handset, all the time repeating the mantra "ohfuckohfuck" and dodging the many hazards along the way.





"Hello, please. Can I please be speaking to Mr PJM? Would you be interested in having conservatory extension Mr PJM?"

"You cunt!"

*click, brrrrrrr......*

I'd love to know how else the telemarketing companies conspire to achieve this every fucking Sunday morning?
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 13:00, 8 replies)
Improvised Etch-a-sketch

- several GPS satellites in geo-synchronos orbit
- one GPS unit that displays where you have been
- an 8 metre Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB)
- twin 50hp Mariner outboard motors
- three bored blokes

and, most importantly,

- Plymouth Sound on a calm day.

With all this kit, you too can draw a rudimentary cock and balls on the GPS screen at 35 knots.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 15:01, 3 replies)
A story further down reminded me of this.
A good few years ago now, my fiance at the time and I went on a daytrip to blackpool. We did all the usual things, strolled along the beachfront, went to the pleasure beach and saw the sights. As the day wore on, we began to make our way back towards the bus and stopped in a few of the tat.... sorry "souvenir" shops. I bought the usual..... one of those little glass cases full of water and coloured sand that makes a new photo each time it's flipped, a mucky postcard and so on, then came across an item which I knew I had to buy, not for myself but for my cousin.

My cousin was a one-off. He's sadly no longer with us, having passed away at only 20, but when he was younger he had the craziest sense of humour I think I've ever come across. He found almost everything hugely hilarious and when I saw this thing there in front of me, I knew it would cause him to wet himself with glee (a feat which I managed to make happen once when he was about 10 by repeating his name over and over in a funny voice).

There it was. It was a small plastic figure, about eight inches high, of a man bent over goatse style. On his face was a cheeky grin, and between the cheeks of his little plastic bum was a perfect rendering of a ringpiece which was big enough to fit a finger in if that's your thing. It had on it a motion sensor which caused a massive fart noise to fly from the bumhole whenever someone passed in front of, or should I say behind it.

When my ex had picked me off the floor and calmed me down, I held in my immature guffawing long enough to pay for the item and we went back to the bus.

Suffice to say he loved his present, even if his mum was horrified at the monstrosity which I handed him through howls of laughter. He was around eleven at the time, and shortly after that I lost touch with him as he went off to high school, met new friends and stopped visiting.

Several years later, we got jobs working with each other and I discovered to my joy his sense of humour hadn't changed at all. One day I mentioned the old present I'd got him all those years ago and he immediately began thanking me for it, saying it was one of the most useful things he'd ever had. Useful? It was a farting model! How could it be "useful"?

As it turned out, shortly after I lost touch with him, he discovered the joy of wanking, but quickly found that the lack of creaky floorboards outside his room led to a few near misses as his mum would burst in unannounced to find him scrambling for the remote in his pants. So, being the resourceful little bugger he was, he began placing the farting man at his door, ring pointing towards the stairs, giving him an amusing warning of his mum's approach with the added bonus of disgusting his mum every time.

Class act all the way :)
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 20:33, 2 replies)
Some moons ago....
I was doing some work for a company that needed face recognition software written from scratch. Their language of choice was Microsofts Visual Basic, and whilst it's quite nice (especially since the advent of .net), it was not really the right tool for the job; however, I was but a mere programmer and the tools of my trade at that time were not my choice to make.

I basically started by chopping up pictures of faces into triangles and to cut a long and extremely boring and mathmatical explanation short, I used pythagorus to determine a recognition pattern and had an internal 'score'. If the 'score' was over a certain number, then in all likelyhood the person you were looking for was the person in the picure. This has given me an idea for a new application, but that's not for here.

At the time and at home, I had two cats.

I had trouble with other cats in the neighbourhood coming into my back porch and eating my cats food. Of course, I could simply have moved their bowls into the kitchen and let the (our) cats in and out when they needed feeding; but...that wouldn't have been anywhere near techie enough now would it?

At the firm I was doing the work for I had a colleague who was heavily into robotics. Indeed, his house would be the winner of this QoTW hands down, however, he gave me a voltage regulator and a serial controller at some point as I was making a 'pan and tilt' camera mount. The cat problem however, had given me a new use for the servos and donated equipment:

Yes. An electronic cat flap.

Now, this may seem misguided, but it worked...kind of.

I rigged up a large wheel that I made from ply as a gearing for the cat flap. I had a small carbon rod that was attached to the top of the gear wheel and the other end to a servo. The wheel would turn and in turn pull another rod (well two rods) over the top of a pivot and the cat flap would lift. Once motion was detected on the inside, the servo would receive a signal through the serial port and close the flap, just so I knew the cat was inside and I wasn't about to attempt to cut it in half.

An old (although it wasn't old at the time) Tosh laptop was the controller for this and I made a shelf for it in the porch connected wirelessly to a hub - remember this was long ago, wireless was not only expensive but far worse than it is now, but it worked most of the time.

I had two cameras at the time, as my ISP had a 'special' on the old logitec cam - 45 quid for one! You find them at boot fairs now for around 20p. Getting two idential webcams setup in Windows 95 was no mean feat I can tell you. Conflicts? Let me tell you about conflicts.....(no, I'll spare you)

I figured that if I could only get the cat to look directly into the web cam I could use the same software I'd written for the firm I was working for and get it to recognise my cats only. To do this, I had a little flashing LED next to the camera which started when the cam (or the program) detected motion, and thus attracting the cats attention.

I told you this was misguided.

Suprisingly, it did actually work, and I have an old handycam vid of it in practice somewhere. The only problem was that even if I could get the cat to look at the camera for long enough...all bloody cats look the same. Or at least they have the same symetrical features to their faces!

I took the bowls indoors in the end and simply let the cats in to eat.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 21:35, 2 replies)
I have a video projector
OHP plus some bits from an LCD monitor gaffer taped to it.

Image Hosting by imagefra.meCFSB
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 18:50, 11 replies)
At college...
I was so fed-up with wise-guys messing with my motorbike (hilariously turning-off the fuel tap, putting it in gear, taking the cable off the spark-plug etc. every...damned...day) that I decided to build a "deterrent".

I was doing Electronics at the time - one of those silly subjects they make you do because 3 x A-levels isn't enough (this was back when A-levels were difficult :p) so I thought I'd put my limited knowledge to good use and create some form of zapping device.

I secretly created my zap-o-thon but didn't have the balls to test it (it discharged rather a large shock from 2x 9v batteries) so for some reason, still a mystery to me to this day why, I rigged it up to a metal rod and put that on the teacher's desk on top of the register.
The minute I sat back down, I realised what I'd done and was about to undo it when he walked in. Ooops.

Morning class...
He let out a noise, the likes of which I haven't heard since, no matter how many cats I've sat on.

The room went silent while he traced the wires to my little project, patiently opened the box and examined the circuitry inside and calmly asked "Who did this?"

Knowing I'd crossed that line (again) I stood up.

He disarmed the device, picked it up and walked over and placed it on my desk.
"McFlimby... Right now, I should be shouting at you, or marching you out of this building, but, did you design this... contraption?"
"I'm impressed"

He made it quite clear that I wasn't to do anything similar again, but that was it! A total let-off!

Anyhooo, we had a fun week watching from a hidden window as the jokers zapped themselves one by one (it looked a thoroughly unpleasant experience) until I was warned by a sensible friend that if a little old lady brushed past my motorbike and fibrillated her old heart or the zap-o-thon caused a spark in the fuel tank, I would be in big trouble so I binned it but, I never had any more problems with twatty wiseguys messing with my bike again.
Gawd bless you technology!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 13:27, 5 replies)
Concealed handfun
Back in the depths of pre-history, when Mrs Rosy Palm and her five lovely daughters were my bestest friends and the world wide wank had yet to be invented, I found myself in search of a good place to hide my extensive collection of gentleman's literature. Then I noticed one day that the door to the airing cupboard -- which was in my bedroom -- was hollow, and open along the bottom edge. If I rolled my jazz mags up really tight and stuffed them up the gap, they would wedge themselves tightly and stay there.

Genius, I tell you.

The only problem was that this made the door -- which was only made of very light plywood -- about twice as heavy, which would've been rather suspicious. So undaunted, I rigged up a pulley (lord alone knows where I found such a thing lying about) with a piece of string and a weight, as a makeshift auto-door-closing-device. I told my parents I was pissed off about the door being left open and my room getting too hot, and this way it would never happen. The addition of the extra weight/friction masked the increased weight of the door itself.

Double genius.

I was rather chuffed with this arrangement and it persisted for several of my masturbation-filled teen years.

I'd all but forgotten about it until the time, well over a decade later, that I brought my ultimately-to-be-wife to meet my family. And my mother chose to reveal over dinner that one day during that time she'd gone to the airing cupboard, opened the door, and been startled when something dropped onto her foot, seemingly from nowhere. And even more startled when it turned out to be a rather filthy pornographic magazine.

Spotting my cunning ruse, she decided to stuff the thing back where it had come from and say nothing about it. She concluded the revelation by saying:

"Frankly, I was just happy to know you weren't gay."

Thanks mum.
(, Tue 25 Aug 2009, 15:43, Reply)
I had a forum question
which kept overloading with nerdy electronics stories. So I diverted a current of pure cuteness through it.

(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 20:13, 1 reply)
Oh, I just remembered...
while reminiscing about my old electronics class down there v v v, one of the first things we learnt to make was a bell (exciting huh?)

While faffing on with my crappy electronic bell ringer in the next class (while waiting for the teacher to arrive - it was in one of the "audio visual presentation rooms" because we were going to watch some boring educational film because the teacher was too lazy to teach) I noticed it completely shagged the picture on the telly.

Oh the fun we had. Every time he sat back down at the back of the room *muffled buzz from my bag* + fucked tv picture until he returned to fiddling with the cables at the back of the telly.
By timing these bursts, I convinced him the only way we could watch the film was if he stood at a stupid angle at the back of the TV with one hand on the aerial and the other in the air.

I'm beginning to understand why I failed these classes.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 13:35, Reply)
my creativity knows no bounds
I made this for my girlfriend:

but she left it at mine and we've split up now. My plan is to wait til I've met someone new then after a few months give it to her pretending I've just made it :) I'm well crafty.
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 17:04, 10 replies)

This question is now closed.

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