Welcome to Provide Your Own - Tech

As we all know, we live in a highly technological society. While that very technology provides many blessings, it is also enslaving. We are constantly at the mercy of manufacturers, and the bulk of them overseas. We cannot build anything ourselves, nor can we even repair the things we own. What is worse is their inherent short product lifetimes, forcing us into a constant purchase cycle.
Here at ProvideYourOwn, we want to improve on this sorry state of affairs. Our goal is to pioneer techniques of building and repair for these technological marvels. As we progress together, we will gain the knowledge and tools to build, hack and repair own stuff. Manufacturing will likely never return home in the way it was. However, we can change things at a personal and local level by manufacturing ourselves.

Monitoring Tools for your Website/Server

sitemonitoring_snapshotDo you have a website hosted on a server somewhere – either in your home or in the cloud? Has it ever gone down and you didn’t know about it for hours? I have, and it has happened to me too many times.

As a result, I have often wanted/needed a way to verify that the server which is hosting my websites is up and running properly. While many fine graphical tools exist such as Munin for this purpose, I wanted a simple set of utilities that could return just the parameters I needed and how I needed them.

What’s Needed

There are two different ways in which I want to get my metrics. The first is a command-line utility that I can run from my local computer to test the parameter needed. The second is a set of python functions that deliver the same metrics that I can then use to create a custom webpage.

This webpage (a future project) would run on a local server such as a Raspberry Pi, which could then display all my metrics on a tablet display in a convenient location. A quick glance could then show that everything was running smoothly or … Read the rest

Posted in Tech | Tagged , , , | Section: | 1 Response

Neat low cost storage idea

Having a place for everything is key to a productive workbench.We want to make stuff, not look for stuff! :-)While we could make the cabinet out of wood, as long as your the parts are not too heavy, foam core is strong enough, inexpensive, and quicker to make than a wooden cabinet. Plus, no one has ever gotten splinters from foam core! :-)

Source: Instructables.com

What a great idea for storing small parts like electronics, screws, buttons, etc. I like the idea of using foam core and hot glue. There are a lot of storage needs that can be met with foam core or cardboard instead of wood. Also, hot glue works great for these materials as well as wood. I made a silverware drawer divider from Luan plywood and hot glue years ago, that is still going strong.


Please add your own ideas in the comments.


Also posted in Household | Tagged | Section: | 1 Response

Why You Should Switch to Linux


With the loss of updates for Windows XP and Microsoft’s floundering on Windows 8/10, many have started to consider alternatives. The MacOS is of course an option, but I believe Linux to be an even better one. Not only is Linux a good alternative to Windows, but for makers, hackers, tinkerers and homeschoolers especially, Linux is really the only operating system (OS) worth considering.



Without a doubt, Linux is the ultimate low-cost operating system. It is absolutely free. How many times have you had a computer where the OS needs to be reinstalled? With Windows systems so vulnerable to malware infections, it is a regular occurrence. When you do need to reinstall, do you still have the original disks? Can they still be read?

What about upgrades? If you get a new computer (without an OS), and you want to install your latest version, do you have the full version, or just an upgrade version? If it is just an upgrade version, do you have the original version disks? If not, Microsoft’s DRM will not allow the installation.

Have you ever thought about building your own computer, but are stymied by the prospect of having to shell out … Read the rest

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Using ATtiny Chips for Arduino-Like Projects


The Arduino platform is great for prototyping. Its easy-to-use shield architecture, readily identifiable pin numbering scheme, and beginner friendly IDE and software library has created a large and loyal following. In the life of many projects, however, there comes a time when the project is to be permanently deployed. When that time comes, leaving a precious Arduino in the field is often not the best option. Instead, a specialized board with either an ATmega chip or even an ATtiny chip is the best choice.

When cost or space is a factor an ATtiny chip is an attractive alternative to the ATmega for simpler projects. Thanks to the Arduino-Tiny project, an ATtiny can be used as a drop-in replacement for most Arduino projects. This initiative provides ATtiny chip configurations as upload board choices in the standard Arduino IDE. By following the instructions described in my previous article – Program an ATtiny Using an Arduino – your Arduino sketch can be uploaded as easily to an ATtiny board as it can be to an Arduino one.

More recently, the ATtiny has gained semi-official support given the variants posted by David Mellis on Github. Please note that this new firmware specification … Read the rest

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A Maker’s Microwave


How many microwaves have you thrown out because they get flaky after a few months? The thrift stores are full of these rejects. How many times have you wondered who designed the user interface for these things? What planet were they from? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a microwave that isn’t flaky and has a sensible interface?

Nathan did exactly that. He took a broken microwave and put in his own smarts via a Raspberry PI. It has a beautiful control panel, accepts voice commands and provides voice synthesized feedback. It even scans a product bar code to fetch cooking instructions. It is so smart, that you don’t have to babysit the thing to stop it to stir. With the bar code powered instructions, it will stop at the right time, tell you to stir, and start up again to finish the cooking. He even did a tablet interface.

The key to a project like this is a microwave with an intact magnetron, which is the tube which does the cooking. As already mentioned, most of the time these tubes are fine. It is the sorry electronics that flake out. Take inspiration from this guy. You don’t have … Read the rest

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Can LED Lighting Cause Blindess?


Here at Provide Your Own, we are a big fan of LED lighting. Recent research has raised the alarm that LED lighting can cause retina damage. Is there any truth to this assertion? Can LEDs really be bad for your eyes, even causing blindness?

Fortunately for LED lovers, the answer is a resounding NO. When the facts are examined, if LEDs are bad for your eyes, then sunlight is at least ten times worse. Let’s first look at the basis for the assertion.

The Research Study

According to a sole news account:

The study found that LED radiation caused significant damage to human retinal pigment epithelial cells in vitro.


We irradiated naked retinal cells with intense light from LEDs in a petri dish and they didn’t do so well.

Keep in mind that damage would be done with any high intensity light. Have you stared into the sun lately? How about staring into lasers or high intensity LED flashlights? Think you might have some retina damage?

This research has not been peer reviewed, but is simply an account given by Dr Celia S√°nchez Ramos. This fact does not invalid the research, but shows that we have absolutely no … Read the rest

Also posted in Health | Tagged | Section: | 2 Responses

DIY Power Over Ethernet (PoE)

Ethernet (your computer network) only uses 2 pairs of wires. Cat5 cable provides 4 pairs, leaving 2 pairs leftover. You can use those two extra pairs to transmit power (in small amounts) to power remote equipment such as another router, switch or a bridge.

This additional capability is not provided by default. This article provides clear instruction on setting up your own Power Over Ethernet (PoE) network, including making custom adapters for injecting & extracting the power.

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Do You Believe in Conspiracies?


Conspiracies abound – there is no doubt about it. The media propaganda delights in lampooning anyone who believes that men would conspire together to further their interest (at least men in government; everyone else is fair game). While I am very skeptical of anything coming from either the mainstream media, the pharma industry or government agencies, I don’t throw everything out either. Two examples come to mind – free energy inventions (including 100+ mpg carburetors) and the Apollo moon landing.

In the case of free energy inventions, when they clearly violate the known laws of physics, they must be viewed very skeptically. It doesn’t matter who believes in them, what fantastic story is told about how the auto manufacturers strong-armed them out of business (or the oil companies), or how realistic it appears, it is very, very, very likely to be a hoax. Human gullibility knows no bounds, nor does human ingenuity to fool and exploit it.

Houdini spent years debunking séances. James Randi does the same with charlatans today. By all means keep an open mind, but when something sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

In the case of the moon landing, just because the government … Read the rest

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Can you Top a Tree with an Ax?

Topping a Tree

This fascinating video shows how lumber was harvested from giant redwood trees before the chainsaw.

Nowadays, some people get smug about how advanced we are. We might have some high-tech gadgets, but are we better for them, or worse? Looking at these fellows scaling a tree almost as fast as one can walk, and then to chop it down with an ax while suspended from its trunk is absolutely amazing.

Modern technology has not made us any better. In most cases, it simply removes the requirement of skill. Anyone can fell a tree with a chainsaw, but how many can fell in with a foot or two of precision as these guys could?

If we are to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on corporations and experts, we must learn new skills. Avoiding technology is not an advantage as some may think. What is important is not avoiding technology, but rather avoiding learning useful skills and relying on technology as a crutch.

We must be the master of technology, not its slave. Thoughts anyone?

Also posted in Skills | Tagged | Section: | Leave a comment

Roll Your Own Image Recognition App


Have you ever wondered how digital cameras detect faces? If you thought that computer vision was rocket science and too difficult, that notion is no longer true.

There is this wonderful open source library called OpenCV that runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android and now RaspberryPi. Sophisticated visual algorithms are no longer limited to only high performance desktop computers. Using either your smartphone or a RaspberryPi, you can embed image detection in everyday life.

To get started, download the software needed for your device. Here are some nice tutorials to get you up to speed on using it.

Anyone using OpenCV? What are you doing with it?

Posted in Tech | Tagged | Section: | 1 Response