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.

Using ATtiny Chips for Arduino-Like Projects

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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

microwave-rasberrypi

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?

2013-01-09-140601

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.

Translated,

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 Sánchez Ramos. This fact does not invalid the research, but shows that we have absolutely no … Read the rest

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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.… Read the rest

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Do You Believe in Conspiracies?

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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?… Read the rest

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Roll Your Own Image Recognition App

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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?… Read the rest

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How to Get a Good Cheap 10 inch Android Tablet

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I have been wanting a 10″ Android tablet, but they have always been too expensive. Sure, there have always been cheap Chinese knockoffs, but they have always been pretty junky affairs – until now.

My family recently bought me a . While this manufacturer does cut some corners, amazingly it didn’t cut the ones that count. It sports stereo speakers that sound better than the original Kindle Fire and has more memory as well. It even has a front facing camera and an HDMI output jack. Speed is decent and WiFi works just fine. It lacks the sensors of high end tablets and cell phones, but does have a microphone and accelerometer. It is perfect for viewing movies, PDF files, web browsing and Skype – typical tablet stuff. It also has USB input so you can easily attach a keyboard as well. You can also charge it via USB as well as using the supplied fast charger.

As for the downsides, there are remarkably few. Its ARM-based processor is only single core, and battery life is a tad less than the Kindle Fire, but decent. The biggest issue with this tablet is the lack of the Google Play store. Polaroid … Read the rest

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Statistics on the Arduino (also Pic or any microcontroller)

Normal Distribution Curve

When collecting any data on the Arduino, it won’t be very long before you need to calculate some statistics on that data. While statistics can be a pretty intense mathematical field, some very basic statistics such as calculating the mean and standard deviation can be invaluable for many applications.

Fortunately, it is not only easy to make these calculations, but its usefulness can extend beyond just statistics. Many times data from a sensor may not be stable. Touch sensing is a good example. Each individual value (data point) can vary quite a bit, making it difficult to make an accurate determination. By averaging these values, a better decision can be made.

In a similar vein, by calculating the standard deviation, you can assess the quality of the values obtained. A large deviation from the mean can indicate problems with your sensor.

Design Challenges

Because statistics often require some extensive data collection, normal methods can be too memory intensive for small microcontrollers like the Arduino or ATtiny based designs. Normally each value is stored and, when all the data is collected, various calculations such as the mean and standard deviation are calculated on the data set. Storing this much data can … Read the rest

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Getting Started with Arduino

Arduino

If you have any interest in either electronic circuits or micro-controllers, you have probably heard of the Arduino. Unless you have actually worked with the Arduino, you may only have a vague idea of what all the excitement is all about. If you are one of those who have wondered what the Arduino is, would like to know more about it, this article will answer most of your questions and give you a good grasp of the concepts.

Since this article is geared toward those with no or little prior knowledge of the Arduino platform, you may be inclined to skip it if you are more experienced. There is however, some useful information for the more experienced. You may often find yourself at a loss for words when describing the Arduino or your Arduino based projects to your family and friends. In that case, you might find this tutorial provides a good framework for improving your communication.

What is an Arduino?

The Arduino is a microcontroller based platform. It is not a microcontroller, but is an entire development/engineering environment and eco-system based on a family of microcontrollers from the Atmel corporation.

There are many microcontrollers from various corporations available, and … Read the rest

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