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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.

Home entertainment 'make-do'.
Being single, I built a 'virtual girlfriend' out of the internet, my hand, and memories. It doesn't work very well though.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 19:01, 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)
Guatemalans like to do strange hacks.
When I was at the big market in Guatemala I noticed something that made me grin.

There was a building that had apparently been there for a long time. At some point there were telephone lines strung, and they didn't take adequate care when they installed them so one of the lines would slap against the building in the wind.

Their answer? They pushed it out away from the building with a broom and nailed the broom in place. Look for yourself.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 18:04, Reply)
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)
PlayStation 2 tinkering
A long long time ago my PlayStation 2 (the old 'fat' type) developed a strange fault in which the attached controllers would no longer vibrate. This was bizarre as the dualshock function of the controllers worked when they were hooked up to other PS2s.

For years I played without any force feedback; there was no rumble when shredding tyres in Gran Turismo 4 and in Metal Gear Solid 'Psycho Mantis' couldn't move my controller with his mind despite his insistence that he could, much to my amusement. However one day I decided I would fix this and after a quick trip to Google found it was a common fault - a fuse had blown on the motherboard.

With my laptop on hand displaying an online repair guide I wrenched apart the PS2, fought past years of dust and even the remains of a spider to unearth the motherboard. After using a current tester on various fuses to ensure I would be operating on the correct one I crudely soldered a short length of copper wire to either end as a bridge.

I followed the guide in reverse, fitted everything back together and turned it on. Success! Now I could mow somebody down in their own car in GTA and feel the impact on the bonnet in the palms of my hands!

I still ended up with one screw left over at the end though.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:45, Reply)
"This one time I hooked the lawnmower to my Nintendo, and now I get the high score every time!"
I'll have plenty of stories this week.

I used to drive a 1977 Toyota Corolla. It was a rust heap when I bought it, and the New York weather and the salt they put on the roads had done it no favors during the time I owned it.

One night I hit a deer with it- a story in itself- and the deer's head buckled the hood and cracked the radiator, and her body smashed in the passenger side door. Wearing gloves the next day I managed to straighten the door out enough to open it again and even got the hood to lay reasonably flat- but the radiator was another matter altogether. I had to replace it.

The auto parts store wanted $120 for a new one, which at the time was far outside of what I could afford. There was, however, a guy in town who had a number of old Corollas that he kept as parts cars to keep one of them running. He agreed to let me have a radiator for $20, if I took it out myself.

It turned out that the one I took it from had the fan mounted on the engine, where mine had an electric fan. I managed to get the fan mounted on the new radiator, but the sensor had nowhere to go.

I ran a wire inside the car and hooked it to a light switch that I attached to the dashboard. If the temperature gauge went up I switched it on.

It was still that way when I sold it...
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:43, 3 replies)
We invented
a time machine made of a yoghurt pot and ants. But Tim got drunk and sat on it and fucked it up.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:57, Reply)
Dream machine
Inspired by the hallucination inducing goggles with red LEDs inside them which were all the rage in the late 80s/early 90s, I wanted some sort of flashing light type setup in my room for use in situations where substances may have been smoked and/or dropped. I could have bought a strobe light but then being a poor student, this wasn't an option.

My first attempt required the following components: record player, candle, cardboard, scissors and selotape. I cut parallel slits in the cardboard then bent it into a tube shape and taped the ends together. I taped a circle of cardboard to cover one end of the slitty tube. I placed a candle firmly on the centre spindle of my record player, lit it then placed the slitty tube over it so that the light emanated in beams through the slits. Lastly, I turned the record player on at 45 rpm, sat back and accepted the funny looking cigarette that my mate offered me.

The home made dream machine was OK. It wasn't exactly a strobe but it made beams of light which wizzed around the walls of my otherwise unlit room. We sat probably listening to DJ Ace mixtapes from Camden market and smoked ourselves into a condition I believe the medical term for which is "monged".

I was aroused from this dream-like state by a smell of burning plastic and the sudden realisation that there was a foot high flame shooting out of the top of my box shaped shitty stereo system. "Shit!" I exclaimed, flung open the window, unplugged the stereo and carefully carried it over to the window and threw it into the garden.

My mate just sat there, don't think he'd even noticed what was going on until I ushered him out of the room which was now filled with stinking plastic smoke. I think the centrifugal force had caused the wax to run away from the candle making it burn down really quickly and right through the flimsy plastic record deck. Didn't try that technique again not that I had a working record player with which to try it anymore.

The second attempt came about by chance after a visit to the furniture shop in which my aunt worked. We went out the back for a ciggie and I noticed a large plastic disc about four feet in diameter attached to a pyramid shaped base. The base housed a motor which made the disc turn and demonstrate the selection of colour co-ordinated curtain and wallpaper patterns. This wonderful gadget was waiting to go into a skip. She said I could have it and have it I did.

This time, I would use electric light in the form of a lamp minus its lampshade selotaped to the back of the base. I cut slits in the plastic wheel and covered the lamp in cardboard so that the light would only escape via the freshly cut slits. I ripped off the interior design samples and glued on my own psychedelic drawings/doodles in their place. I drew a big eye at the top of the pyramid and underneath wrote a phrase which I had seen subtitled in a late night Indian film on Channel 4 which happened to stick in my mind: "If dreams came true, what would happen to reality". Suitable hippy bollox.

This dream machine was more like a lighthouse than a strobe. The wheel turned so slowly that the beams of light just drifted along and as one beam faded into the corner, another appeared in the opposite corner and began to make its way across the room. Very "chillout". As the plastic disc turned, it also made the occasional creaking noise just like the rigging on a ship. Used to quite often find myself momentarily drifting across the ocean gazing up at the stars.

And it never caught fire which was a bonus.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:52, Reply)
...are dim at the best of times, truly dim!!

Why should they enjoy the benefits of a field for exercise while you're missing that re-run of "2 and a half men" on Paramount?

You need Scalextric my friend, oh yes!

It has to be the old, 80's stuff, the new stuff needs a closed circuit. Use all your straight sections and run them across the lounge floor for as great a distance as possible.

Place car on track, pull trigger, accelerate your Mighty Metro to the other side of the lounge at pace, hopefully with a Jack Russell in hot pursuit.

With any luck the dog will bring back the car allowing the game to start again.

Obviously be aware of dog drool on contacts issues, that never results in a good outcome, just a yelping dog.

Other options include running the track to the patio doors and firing the car out into the rear garden. This may have an adverse effect on the lifespan of the car. The dog'll love it though.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:52, Reply)
Back when I was a student I spent a year living with a mental engineering student named Ed who didn’t like the inconvenience of having to open the fridge to see if there were any cans of lager inside. One day I returned from lectures to find he’d taken an angle grinder to our beloved cooler-of-beer and made a little window so he could peer inside without having to open the door.

The fridge wheezed along for about a week, sort of doing a one-appliance rave in the corner of the kitchen before it gave up the will to live and died.

Scarily, Ed now services suspension bridges for a living throughout the UK.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:50, 2 replies)
Once, when we had lots of pallets at work that needed banding and strapping,
I invented a wonderful labour-saving device that enabled the bander/strapper to pass the end of the band underneath the pallet in a very confined space. It was a long bit of wood with notches sawed into the end - you threaded the end of the band into one of the notches, played out the band from its reel and hey presto, no more back-breaking acrobatics like trying to bend down in a tiny gap and retrieve the end of the band when it invariably ends up poking out of the sides instead of the other end.

Since most of you have probably spent your entire working life in offices and have never even gone near a warehouse, never mind worked in one, I've provided a nice explanatory diagram.
Step 1.                  Step 2.                          Step 3.                  Step 4.
Unravel band. Thread band into notch. Push bit of wood Retrieve wood, with attached band,
under pallet. and carry on banding the pallet.
wood + notches--- __ ___
| / \ / \ <- head literally expanding with joy
+---------+ <- wrapped +---------+ | \__/ +---------+ \___/ +---------+
| | pallet | | | /\ | | | | |
| | | | v / \ | | /|\ | |
| | reel | | / \ | | / | \ | |
| | | | | # \ | | / | \#- | |
| | band v | | # /\ | | / \ # \ | |
+---------+ | _ +---------+ # _/ \ +---------+ _ / \ # \ +---------+ _
| | | | | | v / \ | | | | | | # / \ \ | |#|#|#|#|#- / \ / \# -|-|-|-|-|-|- / \
+---------+ ___\_/ +---------+ #___\_/ \ +---------- \___\_/ / # +---------+ \___\_/

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:35, 10 replies)
Dubbing it
I'm in the process of converting a VW panel van into a cool campervan for my devon lifestyle.

Bodged isn't the word.

It's got a landrover sunroof courtesy of a black and decker jigsaw and is insulated with offcuts of house insulation I found on a building site. I've used kitchen cupboard lights in the roof, they make a bad smell when I drive fast...
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:26, Reply)
remember the old key fobs which
when you whistled they emitted an alarm so you could tell where your misplaced keys were?

I used to sellotape them to the tv and video remote controls.

Then we were burgled. The bastard took the TV and the remote for the vcr.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:19, 2 replies)
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)
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)
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)
The tronifier
When I was about 16 and spending most of the money I earned in Tandy, I had one of the first laser pointers. It ran of 3 N cells and was rather chunky and hexagonal. Eventually I got annoyed at locating the wierd batteries for it and wired in a power socket. Later on I decided to add a second one to the push button switch as this was starting to get a bit flakey. As there was now a load of unused space in the casing I then decided to saw the battery compartment off and tidy it up with the end cap.

I had a retractable headphone extender that had a circuit board inside with two brushes on it allowing the drum to turn but still keeping the headphones connected. One day I was messing around with the laser, decided to wire it up to this and stuck an old tape deck motor on it to make it turn. I had hoped to make some kind of cool laser display but then noticed it turned much faster than I thought it would and effectively drew a line on the wall. I thought "hey this is neat it makes stuff look a bit like tron when I turn the lights out.

I think I also had this thing in a plastic drum on the front of my bike at one point while riding down dark alleyways so I could do the light cycle thing.

A few years later I notice they now sell the same thing in DIY shops with a spirit level on it so you can hang pictures all in a line. I kinda wish i'd patented the damn thing...
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:45, Reply)
Batteries killed the radio star
Back in the days or old I had one of those big chunky cassette walkmans, however I grew tired of the weedy AA size batteries dying after only a couple of hours, hardly enough tape time to get through the average school day.

I then discovered in the garage Dad had a stash of much beefier looking D cell batteries. So I set about modifying my walkman with some serious battery life. I wired up a dozen of the batteries in 6 parallel circuits of 2 batteries. OK so the battery pack was twice the size of the walkman but it would be great!

It played about 22 hours of music before the wiring inside the walkman melted.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:38, 3 replies)
My entire fucking house is one giant kludge
The guy who owned our house before us was an electric engineer with a PhD and everything, so he fancied himself a brilliant electrician. Now any electrician can tell you those are two different animals.
David did a ton of DIY in the house and as we remodel, we are finding all the little fucked up boobytraps he left.

EDIT: unrelated to chthonic's David

1. Instead of connecting the dishwasher outlet to the house water with a stopcock, he soldered them together! The only way to disconnect the DW to replace it was to lie on your back on the kitchen floor and hacksaw the fucker apart. Insane twat.

2. Part of the bathroom floor was covered by the vanity (in an awkward place, naturally) so why bother to lay a floor no one will ever see? Until you want to move that awkwardly placed vanity. The tiles have been discontinued, so now we need to replace the entire floor for a missing 4x4 inches of tile. Lazy twat.

3. The window wells in the basement were filled in when he fixed the walls there. Oh whoops, no they weren't, he just papered over the glass! This of course led to a huge flood the first time it rained. The basement still smells of mildew 8 years later. Dirty twat.

4.In addition, David re-banked the soil in the back yard, creating a lovely little berm effect. A berm that that trapped and drained gallons of rainwater into the house. Stupid twat.

5. Every single outlet in the house has a grounding plug. However, not ONE of them is grounded, leaving us open to fire. Pyro twat. But wait, there's more:

6. Most of the places where there should be a junction box are missing one. The wires are just twisted together inside the walls without any containment whatsoever. The wires aren't even taped or Scotch-locked, just free to spark and burn the fucking house down. Dangerous bloody murdering twat.

We call these little surprises "Davids" after the previous owner. As in "How many davids did you find today, dear?"
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:36, 8 replies)
Pimp my pump
My other half almost killed me the night I knocked the breast pump off the shelf and it stopped working. The prospect of having to feed small person personally all night was too much at a very stressful time in our lives. So I took it apart to see what had gone wrong.

Simples... the plastic clips holding the pump together had snapped. Crap design anyway as half the effort of the pump was lost as the clips moved about. So I inserted a bit of wood from the garden to jam the pump housing in place. Lo! the pump not only worked, but was way, way, way more efficient.

And way, way, way more painful, apparently. You can't win.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:23, 3 replies)
You'll love this one.
During my student days I bought one of those wall-mounted singing fish that b3ta is so enamoured of. It was only a fiver. I went at it with a screwdriver and wired the doorbell to the "Sing!" button and hung it up on the back of the front door. Sometimes the Jehova's Witnesses would bring a child along for effect, and the little buggers absolutely loved it. So much so that sometimes they even neglected to bring up the subject of my immortal soul at all. Result!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:20, Reply)
three hacks, two mine and one from Joel Veitch
* My son used to turn off my PC as a toddler - it had a big flashing button that he couldn't resist pushing - irritating even disastrous when I was working. So I stuck an old memory card over it with sellotape - it was about the right size. Worked wonderfully well.

* Also I used to keep a pair of headphones handy under the bed to jack into the laptop to stop the boot up noise from waking up my wife.

* But mostly I'm impressed with one I saw Joel Veitch do the other day. The train on his sons trainset was having trouble getting up the hill bit and kept slipping down - Veitch cut small strips of sandpaper and stuck them on the wooden hill to get more grip, and gosh it works as well.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:12, 6 replies)
Used to run old diesel vans, for which KitKat wrappers came in handy.
The engines'd vibrate so much that the battery terminals'd loosen and eventually ping off. A section of carefully-folded silver foil wrapped around the battery lug would ensure a snug fit for the terminal until I could do a proper repair.

My kids loved this problem as they got to eat the KitKats. Everbody won.

These days of course, KitKats come in flimsy wrappers and are of no mechanical use at all.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:56, 4 replies)
Field trip trouble
Back when i was around ten we had a class field trip to the local police station to see how they operated (mainly because the teachers couldn't be bothered to teach us).

The local chief police man guy was a fat lazy waste of a man and didn't really deserve to be a cop so i thought it would be a good idea to get all the megaphones together and shout down the end of it.

Turns out this is a bad idea as everyone suffered from ringing in their ears and i got sent to the military camp
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:40, 6 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)
Camera tazer
At the pub one night there was a deal on guinness where if you brought 4 pints you got a disposable camera so my mate decided to take all the pictures then took the camera apart and hooked up a tazer with the battery and the flash.
Que 5 pissed blokes daring each other to touch the button to get a shock, all fine and well until they got my other mate involved who was very drunk and got convinced to stick his tongue on to it.
So he did and got a shock, we all thought it was funny until his mouth started to bleed, it turns out that the shock heated up his tongue bar and made it swell. So we decided that that was the end to that game.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:31, Reply)
My friend David has a huge country house*
So that he'd know if people were coming down the drive, he got an old traffic counter off the council - you know the ones with the black rubber tube across the road.

He wired up the counter to his phone line and now the phones ring every time a car comes in or out (with a different ring for each).

BT complained about the voltage he was leaking into their system, so he stuck in a relay so that the ringer circuit was disconnected from BT before the ring current was sent.

And now the phone drops every time a car comes in the drive. This was 10 years ago, and it's still like that. He doesn't seem to mind. Just rings you back with, "sorry, that was the postman."

*he bought it derelict and has spent most of his adult life doing it up, starting with putting in a roof and then floors. It was cheap.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:28, 2 replies)
I've forgotten the number of things I've kludged on my old car
like electrics with the foil from a KitKat, or connectors held in place by wooden clothes pegs.

I gave it all up when I tried to make a CarPC. I managed to blow several fuses in the car and decides not to mess about with things like that again. Two days later I had cooked my new* Athlon processor with accompanying fizzing and smoke. Technology and me don't mix; especially when it includes electricity.

Now plumbing. That's something I'm actually good at.

*for then.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:28, Reply)
I combined a technic lego set with a smashed radio-control car
to create a Frankenstein radio control car. I used to do this sort of shit all the time when I was little.

I replaced the screen on my Gameboy and fixed a Walkman I found in the bin when I was about 10.

I am less inclined to do so these days. Maybe because technology has passed the point where I understand it now.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:26, Reply)

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