Archive for category Meta-Fyngyrz

Above-tank mounted sump design

There are few things that can benefit an aquarium, particularly a salt water aquarium, as much as a good sump. Sumps allow you to create an entire system separate from the main tank that contains all your water processing, heating, conditioning and so on without crowding or visually afflicting the main tank; they allow you to add chemicals and treatments to the water and have them pre-mixed with a large volume of water before they reach your aquarium’s inhabitants, and much more.

But traditional sumps require expensive main tanks with plumbing ports (you can’t add ports to your typical large, inexpensive aquarium, as they are inevitably built with tempered glass), and are mounted underneath the main aquarium where they require bending over to service. Both of these issues go away with this design. You can use any non-ported aquarium as your main tank, so that $500, 75-gallon aquarium with stand from Petsmart you’ve been eying is just fine, and the sump is above the tank, perhaps on a floor above, where you can actually get at it and maintain it.

Here’s my design. You are most welcome to use it.
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Colored reports for text and HTML in Python

One of the things that I face regularly is report generation. Often they’re free form, by which I mean not tables full of tabulated data.

Output from my htmlAnsii() class

Output from my .htmlAnsii() class

Just “is this ok, is that ok, 27 of the other happened”, that sort of thing. I like to use color — green if everything is ok, red if it isn’t and so on.

I’m often out where I want the report in a web browser. But then again, I’m often at my desk, signed in to a console and I want it there. The environments couldn’t be much more different; HTML tags on the one hand, within the wrapper of a page, and ANSII escape sequences on the other. And they’re both kind of annoying and error-prone to write out explicitly, especially when you’re doing it a lot.

What to do?
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SdrDx 2.14o for Windows and OS X Available

The 2.14o version of SdrDx for OS X ** and ** Windows is
now available and the online documentation has been updated
to reflect the changes that have been made.

SdrDx is free; it supports RFSPACE SDRs, both FunCubes,
the Andrus MK 1.5, and the AFEDRI.

The SoftRock/Peabody SDRs will also work, but it takes
some technical knowledge of scripting to make that happen.
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Cat Watering System

cdishSo. Watering cats is always an issue. They go to the dish with food still in their mouths which inevitably falls in, they clean themselves with their tongues, then drink with them, cat hair gets in there, and when you have several, as we do… well, it just gets worse. Then they can — and do — get sick. Mouth infections, general degradation of immune systems, passing bacteria and viruses from one to another… it’s not good at all.

This is my final solution. I cut an adequate hole in the floor to install a drain plus some extra room, then built a drain into a watering dish and “plumbed” it with some adapters and a garden hose that drains into a utility sink in the basement almost directly below.

Then I drilled the side of the dish, dropped the assembly into/over the hole in the floor, routed the hose to the sink, and inserted a small diameter pipe/hose into the bowl that connects back to our reverse osmosis system. The water flow from that pipe to the dish is gated by a 12 volt DC valve.

To control the valve, I bought a commercial infrared proximity sensor that has an AC outlet on it, plugged the 12 VDC power supply — just a run of the mill linear wall-wart — I use to activate the valve into it, and set the IR sensor for a one minute recycle.

So the way it works is, cat walks up, IR sensor sees them, AC turns on, 12 VDC power supply comes up, valve triggers, fresh water comes out of the pipe, they drink from the arc of water — almost never from the dish — which runs for one minute, and the dish drains immediately.

This way, the water doesn’t stand. Doubly important with an R/O system, as there is almost no chlorine left in the R/O water, so the water is less able to sit around in the first place without “things” growing in it.

The IR sensor, and therefore the valve power supply, is powered from a UPS in the basement. This was done so power outages, quite common in the summer here, won’t deny them the opportunity to drink. As the UPS only has this one load on it, and the power demand is extremely low as well as intermittent, the up time, that is, the amount of time the UPS can power the system without the AC returning is many, many hours, almost the same amount of time the UPS can run without any load at all other than its own internal workings. Due to the massive explosion of UPS designs for computers, the UPS itself was surprisingly inexpensive. It cost about what the dish, drain, valve, hoses and IR sensor driven AC outlet did all taken together, which let the entire project cost come in under $150.00 USD. I consider that a bargain.

This system works extremely well. The cats figured it out within just a few minutes, there was no significant adaptation period. This, or something like it, is something that can really benefit your cats health and well-being, which in turn will extend their lives, while saving you a ton of effort, time and attention that you can put into working so you can buy better quality cat food and more cat toys. That’s why we all work, after all!

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NewBurgersOk, here’s the deal. I was sitting around one day recently, contemplating having some hamburgers for dinner, and feeling kind of “meh” about it, because I never get them right. They’re too big, they’re too small, they aren’t cooked right in the center, or if they are, they’re overcooked on the outside, they’re too thick, too thin, they shrink too much (some burger is made by mixing shaved ice in during the grind down process in order to increase volume; if that’s been done, the burger will shrink quite a bit when cooked as the water evaporates out.) Anyway, it just never works out. Burgers have been my cooking downfall forever. And I really don’t like those frozen patties much, either. So I thinks to meself, see, “can this be gotten around?” Well, as it turns out, yes, I figured out a way.

The result is fabulous.
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What’s that Smell?

As they train to become a doctor, new interns are taught about many different diseases that produce various sets of otherwise similar symptoms. In conjunction with this new and complex knowledge, they are also taught this truism: “When you hear hoofprints, you must not initially assume a zebra is in the vicinity.” This pithy remark is meant to impart that, for instance, if a patient comes in bleeding from an orifice, one must not immediately assume that Ebola is in the building; more likely something much more common is in play, such as hemorrhoids or perhaps an unfortunate excess of enthusiasm coupled with a new, ahem, toy.

One of the clearer signs that I was becoming a competent programmer was that the problems in my code began, more and more often, to in fact, be zebras. Instead of a misplaced character or a missing clause or some kind of blatant conceptual error, the abject weirdnesses that were most often populating the realm of my final, demonstrably accurate diagnoses came to be things like operating system bugs, broken libraries, incomplete emulations and exotic compiler bugs. Zebras.
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Using the Pi as an aquarium pump controller

Just a short post to follow up on the how-to Raspberry Pi post. I went into detail on how to get one going, but I never really said what I was doing with the thing. So, in case anyone is curious:

First I installed all the software I wanted. I set the Pi up as a headless (no monitor, keyboard or mouse) network-controlled computer. I installed a wifi dongle so it became a headless, wireless network-controlled computer. And then…
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Cellphone Etiquette During Conversation

Wandering though life, I often encounter the occasional person who seems to have missed an etiquette class. Or several. In particular, I have noticed that a very large number of gaffes occur during face to face conversation. So as a gift, I provide the following guide to using your cellphone when in conversation with family, friends, co-workers, and friendly companions:

Rule #1: Don’t.

Rule #2: See Rule #1

If your phone rings, vibrates or plays an obnoxious ringtone (all ringtones are obnoxious) there is only one polite action: Turn it off or mute it, while apologizing: “I’m sorry, I forgot to turn my phone off. Fixed!” Slip it back in your pocket and deal with it later.

You may also benefit from my handy guide to Cellphone Etiquette at the Table.

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