Life tracking Jan 2014

This chart was generated with the help of Rescue Time. It looks like I’m more productive this month (58) than last month (53)

RescueTime_jan2014

 

Top used apps on PC and Phone

This month I started and completed Bioshock Infinite, a great game.

  1. Gmail
  2. sublime_text
  3. Bioshock Infinite
  4. Google Talk for Android
  5. irccloud.com
  6. Visual Studio
  7. Skype
  8. GMail for Android
  9. Putty

Movement tracking 

This chart of where I spend most of my time was generated withhttp://www.moves-export.com using the data provided by Moves app. A good week for steps should be 70,000. More steps then last month over all but I still had a bad week after new years.

Week Starting Home Work Other Places Travel Fitness Steps
1/26/2014 81 h 4 min 22 h 12 min 30 h 40 min 2 h 1 min 7 h 42 min 49165
1/19/2014 112 h 11 min 16 h 39 min 24 h 11 min 3 h 38 min 6 h 36 min 53805
1/12/2014 99 h 19 min 0 h 0 min 13 h 26 min 5 h 36 min 4 h 48 min 35835
1/5/2014 90 h 8 min 31 h 0 min 28 h 35 min 4 h 46 min 5 h 57 min 46085
12/29/2013 107 h 39 min 16 h 8 min 34 h 14 min 1 h 51 min 7 h 45 min 52190

The following map is generated by Google’s location history page. Since this map is automatically generated it contains many errors. I don’t find it as useful as the moves map above.

googlemap_jan2014

Search patterns

This image is generated from Google’s search history page. +400 searches then the previous month

googlewebsearch_jan2014

BC Hydro

This map was created by BC Hydro usage monitoring with a smart meter. I have been doing much better this month and I was able to stay under my energy goal.

bchydro_jan2014

Sleeping

Doing much worse on length of sleeping. Its more even than last month but its still not long enough.

Total sleep time: 195.6 hours
Average daily sleep: 7.2 hours
Avg. sleep/record: 7.2 hours

sleepbot_jan2014

Generated with the help of an android app called Sleep Bot

Laser cut 4 pack beer carrier

I created three of these 4pack beer carriers for a few friends of mine. I don’t really like the design as the “finger grooves” cut in to your skin when you are carrying 4 full bottles.

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Cut with 6mm  birch ply at VHS

Laser cut wooden TRex

I made this giant wooden laser cut T-Rex for my nephew xmas. I made a very larger version about 3 1/2 feet tall. It was a little unstable and I ended up creating a wooden base for it.

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Life tracking Dec 2013

Productivity tracking

This chart was generated with the help of Rescue Time

dec2013_rescuetime

 

Top used apps on PC and Phone

  1. Sublime_text
  2. Putty
  3. Gmail
  4. pidgin-portable
  5. Google Talk for Android
  6. GMail for Android
  7. Google Chrome
  8. Visual studios 2010

Movement tracking

This image shows my movement around Vancouver in December 2013. The image was created with processing using a script from MMapper based on data that was recorded with the Moves app on my cell phone.
dec2013

This chart of where I spend most of my time was generated with http://www.moves-export.com using the data provided by Moves app. A good week for steps should be 70,000

Week Home Work Other Places Travel Fitness Steps
Dec 29, 2013 to Jan 4, 2014 69 h 1 min 18 h 15 min 52 min 4 h 41 min 28,223
Dec 22, 2013 to Dec 28, 2013 139 h 33 min 4 h 48 min 15 h 24 min 2 h 38 min 5 h 34 min 38,249
Dec 15, 2013 to Dec 21, 2013 102 h 0 min 33 h 40 min 22 h 4 min 1 h 30 min 7 h 29 min 60,617
Dec 8, 2013 to Dec 14, 2013 99 h 5 min 26 h 13 min 23 h 5 min 3 h 43 min 6 h 22 min 50,506
Dec 1, 2013 to Dec 7, 2013 89 h 38 min 31 h 30 min 26 h 7 min 3 h 53 min 4 h 38 min 45,932

The following map is generated by Google’s location history page. Since this map is automatically generated it contains many errors. I don’t find it as useful as the moves map above.

dec2013_location

Search patterns

This image is generated from Google’s search history page.

dec2013_search

BC Hydro

This map was created by BC Hydro usage monitoring with a smart meter.

BC hydro Dec

House sensors

The temperature of my house, recorded with a 1wire temperature sensor and a Raspberry PI

dec2013_temp

Sleeping

Total sleep time: 207.2 hours
Average daily sleep: 8.3 hours
Avg. sleep/record: 6.9 hours

Dec 2014 sleeping

Generated with the help of an android app called Sleep Bot

Other

Gmail disk usage increase: 116mb

 

Laser cut Frabjous

I laser cut this object sesigned by George W. Hart as a gift for my mother for xmas this year.I got the original design from Thingiverse, made for 4mm ply wood. I modify the files to work with the 6mm birch wood that I had available at the space.

Helpful instructions on how to put it together at Evil Mad Scientist. This video that shows the entire build process in vimeo.

Solving the frabjous sculpture from Artifacture on Vimeo.

Goals for 2014

This has been a productive year but not a great one. I accomplished two of the seven goals that I set from last year.  This year I plan on spending more time focusing on personal development and less on my side projects.

I feel like this year I lost my spirituality. (not the same thing as a religion which I never had or want). I lost my ability to trust others and have faith that things will work out for the better with time.  The root cause of this is my conflict in my personal relationships that have long since ended but the effects are still lingering.

The conflicts causes me to hide away and work on my side projects with more intensity but less effectively. I feel like I accomplish a lot this year but I wasn’t happy doing it. During the conflict and the projects that I started since then. I never took any time to reflect on them and my past choices (A post mortem). Instead i just buried myself in more work to distract myself from thinking about it.

Goal 1: Meditate and reflect (A post mortem) on all projects and life events.

Mediate and reflection can be as simple as spending 5 mins afterwards to think about what just happened, what went right and what you can improve on next time.

Goal 2: Create a new post on abluestar.com every week

Documentation is important. Many of the projects that i have worked on over the past year were never documented, photographed or recorded in any way. I have the experience from doing the project but nothing to show off.

This can be as simple as uploading images with a sentence or two into a new post or doing a github submission of the source files.

Goal 3: More life tracking with follow up.

Life tracking this year has has some good results. Even the simple step counter app (moves) on my phone has helped me keep active daily. It reminds me if I don’t reach my daily 10k steps a gold each day. My plan is to add a weight, meal and sleep life trackers this year to help me stay healthy.

The problems with sending a lot of emails.

One of my side projects is a daily fiction magazines called EveryDayFiction.com. We take user submitted stories of 1000 words or less. Give feedback on every submitted story, select the best stories, and publish a new story each and every day. We even pay our authors! We have been operating since 2007 and we have published 2500+ stories.

We send a lot of emails 

We have 6,000+ email subscribers and we are growing by about ~100 new subscribers every month. Everyday we send all our subscribers a new story via email. On average we are sending ~2,190,000 email a month (6000 subscribers * 365 days = 2,190,000 emails) that is a lot of emails!

We are a good guy!

We make it hard to subscribe to our mailing list, and easy to unsubscribe. We do this to ensure that you actually want one of our stories in your inbox and to help reduce the amount of people that mark our emails as spam.

To subscribe you have to enter your email address into a clearly defined subscription box on our website. We send you an email to confirm that you actually want this email (double opt in) and to confirm your email address. This prevents someone from subscribing their friends and family on their behalf. At the bottom of every one of our email in NORMAL SIZE FONT is a link to unsubscribe. It only takes one click to unsubscribe.

Sending that much email is hard or expensive

To send the new stories to our email subscribers we have two options.

Send the email our selfs

We could send the emails our selfs from our own servers. This option is cheap as it just costs us bandwidth, but is has many draw backs.

If enough people mark our emails as spam in a short period then automatic spam prevention robots (more good guys) may black list our domain or server as a spammer. Once you are on the blacklist its very hard to get off that list, Many email clients (google, hotmail, outlook, etc…) use this list to help reduce spam. If you are on this list your email goes directly in to the spam folder or gets deleted unread.

Most web hosts also have limits on the amount of emails that you can send from their hosts to also prevent spam. Dreamhost (one of our old hosts) has a limit of 100 emails per hour. If we wanted to send our subscribers the daily stories each morning it would take ~60 hrs (6000/100). Media temple (another old host) has a limit of 500 emails an hour or 12hrs. Other hosts have very similar limits.

We would also have to store all of our subscribers email address on our own server. This isn’t such a big deal until your server is hacked and someone steals your mailing list. Then they starts sending spam emails to all of your subscribers and your subscribers get mad at you for giving our their email address.

Send emails from a third party 

This is what we are currently doing. When you subscribe to our mailing list you are actually sending your email address to a trusted third party. (In this case Feedburner, aka Google) When we publish a new story we send a copy of this story to Feedburner and they send the story to all of the subscribers.

Feedburner and Mailchimp have a lot of experience and a relationship with the automatic spam prevention robots and email black lists providers. They ensure that their servers and domains do not get black listed, and do other good things to prevent your email from getting marked as spam.

Their servers are set up to send email and don’t have the same limits as dreamhost or other web hosts have. They also have dedicated staff to ensuring the security of your email subscription list. So you don’t have to worry about security as much.

But they are also very expensive and the free options are disappearing.

Feedburner while free, has many other problems with it and no support to turn to when things go wrong. They are also slowly shutting down their service leaving us without any good free options.

Sending ~6000 emails every morning from MailChimp, it would cost around ~$75 per month for 5,800-10,000 subscribers. This is a cost that we just can’t afford to pay at this moment. Other email services like MailChimp cost about the same amount or more.

Plea for help

How do you send a email to a large subscription base daily on the cheap?

Intro to Making Puppets workshop on Saturday, December 7, 2013

I’m running another puppet workshop at VHS

Intro to Making Puppets workshop on Saturday, December 7, 2013

VHS is running another Intro to Making Puppets workshop on Saturday, December 7, 2013!

Bring your imaginations, concept art and materials!

All puppet styles are welcome, from finger puppets to sock puppets to “muppet-style” puppets (whew, trademark lawsuit averted!). Even sock-monkeys are welcome at this artificial creature creation party.

VHS will try to have some supplies available, including enough polyfoam for the first 10 muppet-style puppets or so. But if you have your heart set on making something specific, we recommend bringing your own supplies.

In all cases, scissors, needles, and thread are a good idea.

For a finger puppet, we recommend felt in the colours you prefer, and embroidery floss of matching (or interestingly contrasting) colour.

For a “muppet-style” puppet, foam, and a skin material of either synthetic fur or fleece in the colour of your choice.

For a classic sock puppet, fur, fabric or fleece in the colour or style you prefer. A sock would also work.

For a sock monkey, you will need a pair of socks, in a pattern and texture that you believe would make an attractive (or appropriately hideous!) monkey. And poly-fill stuffing.

If you’d like to get prepared early, we will be posting some handy links leading up to the event:

Finger Puppets!
http://www.handmadecharlotte.com/diy-forest-friend-finger-puppets/

Sock Monkeys!
http://www.craftpassion.com/2012/04/how-to-sew-sock-monkey.html/

Dressew is a good place to get almost everything you will need, with a variety of affordable fur and fabric ends available at reasonable prices in their scrap bin. 337 West Hastings Street Vancouver, (604) 682-6196

If you plan on bringing your own foam, we recommend Discount Foam http://www.discountfoam.ca/ , at 6035 Fraser St., (604) 324-2927. The best foam for puppets is reticulated polyfoam in sheets of 1/2″ thick, and 2′ x 2′ would be enough to build one one standard-sized puppet.

When:
1 pm, Saturday 7th of December, 2013

Where:
VHS (270 1st Ave E, Vancouver)

Bottom liner: 
Steven Smethurst 

A response to Life tracking and Quantified Self movement.

A few days ago someone was asking about live tracking and productivity hacks this is my response to them.

I use timers on my phone, Google calendar, and a spread sheet. All portable tools that have there versions on just about every platform/system. (IOS, Outlook, etc)

First, everything goes in to my Google calendar, every appointment, every meet up, every time I go to VHS, every time I meet someone up for dinner, everything. I don’t trust my own ability to remember anything so I use Google calendar to help me remember. Google calendar also has the ability to add email/pop-up reminders, you can get an email a week out from the event or a popup on all your devices 1hr before. I believe the default is a pop up 10 mins before. This has been tremendously useful for far out deadlines, that are 6 months to a year out as I can email reminders every other month. With Google calendar you can also add in the location of events and my phone will auto map to these places and tell me when I need to leave to arrive on time.

At the end of the day or week I also back update my calendar with anything I randomly did that is not in my calendar. For example if I randomly met up with a friend on the street and went for dinner, I will update my calendar for this past events.

I been doing this for ~4 years now and because of it I rarely miss appointments with people and I have this beautiful log of everything I have been doing. I can tell you with a reasonable certainty where I was a year ago.(Dinner with my Sisters, where we talked about xmas gifts for my parents) or two years ago (Trip to Seattle for work) or three years ago (Dinner at Joeys Stake house, followed by a movie at Scotia Bank theater, then drinks afterwards). This is a beautiful data set of my life, and also a good alibi if I ever need one ;)

Next. I have two repeating alarms on my phone. Bed time 10pm Monday-Thursday and wake up time 8:30am Tuesday-Friday. (I don’t work Mondays) The 10pm bed time is just a reminder that I should be cleaning up and getting ready for bed, I rarely go to bed at 10pm but it helps me get started to thinking about it. You could do the same thing for dinner or lunch to make sure that you eat a regular intervals. (super important)

Last, The feed back loop, and self improvement. I use a spreadsheet to count points for doing good things. Along the top are columns for the date, and along the side rows are categories and things I want to track. When I brush my teeth AND FLOSS more then once a day I get a check mark in a column for that date. When I eat a vegetable, or go for a run or walk, or zero my inbox, or say something nice to my significant other, or read of an hour, cook something that is not box food, Filling out the self improvement chart, etc… I put add a check next to the date. I also put checks next to negative things, such as playing video games, watching TV/Netflix, or eating candy, etc… Each item is worth a different amount of points. The amount can be negative for bad things, negative for missing (like brushing teeth) or positive for good things. The amount can change per week as well as thing become more or less important in my life. At the bottom of the sheet there is a score for the day (total of all the points). With this score I can chart myself for each week or month so see if I am in a upwards trend or if I am in trouble. I did this for a year and my results where mixed. It was too much effort to fill in the spread sheet every day.

I tried to automate it but creating a jabber chat client that would ask me questions about my day near the end of the day (did you eat a vegetable today?) and recorded the answers in to a database for me but I also found that annoying (fuck you, your not ma Mom!). I gave up on my spread sheet after i built the app and when the app got annoying i never went back to the spread sheet. Regret

Anyways, I highly suggest that you NOT build a new system for this on the raspberry pi. Use existing tools that can be moved from one system to another. Don’t focus on the technology, focus on the results. Start by using the tools that are available right now and use it for a few months, after 3 months, reduce an refine the process and maybe automate some of it.

Also look in to the “Quantified self movement” where you will find a huge amount of research on this topic and tones of tools that other people are using.

Good luck.

How a Greyhound employee stole alcohol from my checked luggage.

See below the letter I sent to Greyhound. I will update this post if/when I get a response from Greyhound

Hello

Conformation number: #18325413
Seattle to Vancouver, BC 04:05PM Nov 11th 213

I arrived at the Seattle Grayhound station and checked in. My carry on and checked baggage was searched as was everyone else on the bus. They found 2x 12 year old bottles of scotch in my CHECKED baggage (costing a total of $120, Yes I have the recite) The baggage checker (Security?) told me that alcohol was not allowed on any Grayhound bus. I told him that this was my “check baggage” that was going UNDER the bus. He said that it didn’t matter, no alcohol on the bus. I told him that did not make any sense and he responded with “That’s our policy, you can have the alcohol or your bus ticket” I didn’t have any other choice and I left the alcohol with him before boarding the bus.

Once home I checked your website for the policy while writing a complaint.

https://www.greyhound.ca/en/ticketsandtravel/baggageinformation.aspx

And found that you DO accept alcohol in CHECKED luggage.
Your employee stole 2x bottles of 12 year old scotch from me by claiming it was against your policy to have liquor in your checked luggage.

It looks like I am not the only customer that this employee has taken liquor from. She was on the same bus as me.

You have two days (Thursday 14th, Nov, 2013) to respond before I report this to the local Seattle police department, Seattle and Vancouver local news papers, etc..

PLEASE RESPOND.

Introduction to Home automation with the Raspberry Pi – Sunday November 24th 2013

Who:
VHS members only, become a member and join us!
http://vancouver.hackspace.ca/wp/membership

Bottomed lined: Steven Smethurst

RVSP on Google+Facebook

Cost:
Free for VHS members

Where:
VHS 270 East 1st (The Bunker)

When:
Sunday November 24th 2013 1 pm till 5pm or when ever we are done.

What:
In this workshop we will be using a Raspberry PI to read sensors (inputs), store their vales in a database for historical trending and turn relays (outputs) on and off when a sensor value goes outside of a certain range. There will be a small amount of very basic python programming in this workshop. Example code will be provided and even if you have never programmed before you should be able to get the basic example running.

In this workshop you will be building a system that will turn on a light if the door is open or motion is detected in an area. We will be recording the current temperature to a database and if the temperature goes outside of a range a fan will be turned on to reduce the temperature.

Before this workshop you should have your Raspberry PI loaded with an OS and have the latest version of Adafruite WebIDE running. It will also help considerably if you record your Raspberry PI MAC address and HostName on a scrap of paper before the workshop.

Hardware is NOT provided by VHS!!!
All the hardware can be purchased locally at Lee’s Electronics  (4522 Main Street). Tell them your a VHS member to receive a small discount. Or you can order all the hardware from adafruit.com they also have many other interesting components. Note there are Raspberry PIs available in the VHS vending machine at the space. If you buy your components from DealExtream expect them to take 6 weeks to be delivered. If you are unable to source all the components join us anyways VHS can lend you some parts for the workshop.

Parts list

If you would like to get started early we will be following these tutorials provided by Adafruit in this workshop

BEWARE! ShareMouse, MaxiVista, Bartels Media == Crapwear

ShareMouseOne of the many things that I can’t stand about software is crap where. Crap wear lets you install it on your system saying its “100% free”. When you get it configured and use it to the features it disables its self and gives you a pay wall. I have no problem with paying for software but when the developers out right lie to you I get pissed off.

ShareMouse keyboard-and-mouse-sharing.com (no link love for you) and Bartels Media produce crapwear. Beware of them, they make the world a worse place. They are BAD PEOPLE.

I found this software on http://alternativeto.net/software/maxivista/. Now to spend the next few hours writing horrible reviews about this crap software on as many websites as I can find. Maybe I can outsource this task with virtual employee.

 

Getting started with your Raspberry PI

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools

A good place to start is the Raspberry PI quick start guide This will describe the different components on the board and what they can be used for.

Downloading, installing and perparing the Raspberry PI OS

The Raspberry PI will run several different specialty prepared versions of Linux that have been compiled specifically for the Raspberry PI. The Raspberry PI team have created a image of several different compatible Raspberry PI Operating systems that can fit on a 4gb SD card. They called this image New Out of Box Software (NOOBS) and it can be downloaded from the Raspberry PI main site. The NOOBS Image makes this whole process a lot easier.

  1. Format your SD card using the SD Card Association’s formatting tool. https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/ 
  2. Download the NOOBS image file
    http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads
  3. Unpack the NOOBS zip file onto the SD card (in to the root not a sub directory)
  4. Insert the SD card in to the Raspberry PI, Connect the monitor, keyboard and power.

For this tutorial we will be using the Raspbian OS. Raspbian is an unofficial port of Debian Wheezy and has been specifically modified to work with the Raspberry PI. Its also part of the NOOBS image provided by the Raspberry PI team.

  1. On start up you will be asked what OS you want to boot to, Select the Raspbian OS
  2. After the Raspbian has been installed, Your Raspberry PI should restart and display the Rasppi-Configuration screen. Select “advanced options” from the menu and change the Host name to something unique. The new hostname will not come in to effect until you restart your device.
  3. Before restarting your Raspberry PI, write down its MAC address (HWaddr) and IP address (inet addr)
    1. From the terminal window type
      ifconfig

      ifconfig

  4. Restart your Raspberry PI

Connecting to your Raspberry PI with SSH (running headless) 

By default the Raspbian OS comes with SSH enabled. This allows us to run the Raspberry PI without a monitor or keyboard (headless) and connect to it from another computer (our laptops) remotely.

If you are on windows you can use Putty ( http://www.putty.org ) as your SSH client. MAC and Linux both have built in SSH clients.

The default username is pi and the password is raspberry

Installing the AdaFruit WebIDE

The instructions on AdaFruit’s website are straight forward with plenty of pictures.

http://learn.adafruit.com/webide/overview

Raspberry PI and the GPIO pins

More details: http://www.abluestar.com/blog/raspberry-pi-and-the-gpio-pins/

Hardware 

Home made Raspberry PI GPIO ribbon cableThe Raspberry PI has a 26pin mail connector that connects to its GPIO pins. These ribbon cables and breakout boards can be found on adafruit.com ($2.95) and Sparkfun ($2.95)

You can also make your own. Hardware lesson with Gert: make your own ribbon cable connector.

Source code 

Since I am using bitbucket all my source code is public. I created a few learning scripts to understand how the GPIO pins work on the Raspberry PI. The first script I made was a simple blinking LED, just like the arduino blinking LED script. Next was to read the current state of a switch and print the results to the screen.

This image was tremendously helpful in figuring out what pins go whereRaspberry-Pi-GPIO-Layout-Revision-1-e1347664808358

# Blinkly Script
# This script will blink a LED ON and OFF again.
#
# Created on Feb 2, 2013 by Steven Smethurst
# Version: 1.00
#
# Directions
# Connect a LED between Pin 6 ( Ground) and pin 12 (GPIO18)
#
from time import sleep
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
# print about info
print "Blinky script, v1.0"
GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BOARD)
GPIO.setup(12, GPIO.OUT )
while 1:
GPIO.output(12, GPIO.HIGH )
sleep(1)
GPIO.output(12, GPIO.LOW )
sleep(1)

Quick and easy word clock with a spare monitor and JavaScript

2013-09-04 22.36.28We where talking about Dougs Word Clock design at VHS this week trying to figure out the cheapest and lowest labor way of designing the clock. LED strips or shift registers, how about a relay board and an Arduino. After much discussion we came up with the idea of using a laser cut a sheet of wood that has all the different words cut out as a mask for a monitor. We placed the sheet of wood in front of the monitor and use JavaScript to illuminate certain parts of the screen to highlight words.

This hack took about two hours to complete as none of us knew JavaScript, and turned out pretty well.

Demo of the javascript application
Source code can be found on github javascript word clock

 

 

Getting started with Raspberry PI – Wednesday Sep 11th, 2013 @VHS

I am running another intro to Raspberry PI night at VHS this week.
Join us

The Blink sketch is the most basic sketch for most micro processors (Arduino, Launchpad, etc..).  Its a very simple sketch that just turns on and off an LED. You can do the same thing on the Raspberry Pi with the GPIO pins. Its a good start up tutorial for getting you started with your Raspberry PI, Adafruit WebIDE, and Python

What we will be doing

  1. Installing and Updating the OS working on your RPi
  2. Connecting and using SSH on your Raspberry PI
  3. Installing the WebIDE,
  4. Using Python and the GPIO pins to get an LED to blink.

Things you will need

  • A Raspberry PI
  • A power supply (>= 750 mA) and Mico USB cable for your Raspberry PI (Note: Power supplies are available in the vending machine)
  • A keyboard and mouse, (VHS has a very limited amount of spare keyboards)
  • A laptop (VHS has spare laptops)

Where: 
VHS (270 East 1st, Vancouver, BC, Canada)

When:
7:30 pm Wednesday Sep 11th, 2013

Who: 
Anyone that is interested in the Raspberry PI no matter what your skill level.
Steven Smethurst (funvill) will be running the night.

Why: 
Because the Raspberry PI are awesome and this will be a good prep night for another upcoming raspberry PI night on Sunday
Sunday September 15th, 13:00-19:00: C/C++ on Raspberry PI @VHS

 

GeoGramOne – GPS tracker to Google maps

GeogramOneTop2A few weeks ago I ordered a GeoGramOne board from DSScircuits. Its a Open source GPS tracker that was succefuly funded on Kickstarter. The board combines a GPS, GSM Modem (cellphone), Arduino (Atmega328p),  lipo fuel gauge, and 6 axis digital accelerometer.

With the default firmware you could send a SMS message to the device and it would reply with a SMS with its current location. It had a few other interesting features that used SMS as the transport layer for the GPS coordinates.

The board design and the firmware are all open source. This means that I can edit the firmware to do what I want it to do. Getting the GPS coordinates via SMS is great when you want to actively know where the GPS is at that exact moment. But I wanted to use this board to actively track and records the location of the GPS as it travels around. Preferably I wanted it to ping my web server with a HTTP Post every 30 secs or so.

I found the the DSSCircuits forum that some people have edited the firmware to send UDP packets to a server to get real time updates of the GSP’s location using a website called GPS-Trace Orange.

UDP is much smaller of a payload then the HTTP POST message that I want to use, but I can’t set up a UDP server on a cheap web host. It also makes it harder for other people to use the code that I make.

I made a bunch of posts on DSSCircuits and electronics.stackexchange.com and was able to update the code to send HTTP post messages to my web server and automatically generate a Google map of the path of the GPS over time.

The updated version of my source code can be found in my github account. If you run the code as is from my github your GPS will send its coordinates to my web server and your device will show up on this map.

geogramone

 

The Giant Claw Game! – Post Mortem

Things didn’t go as planed, the claw broke with the very first kid. I added min and max limit switch to the claw to tell when the claw was fully open or fully closed. The problem is that the claw does not know it has picked up a toy or not. So the first kid picked up 5 toys at once and started closing on the toys and squeezed and squeezed trying to hit its min limit switch and rip it self apart.

I quickly changed the claw to a magnet on the end of a string and added metal things to all the toys in the ball pit. Instead of a claw, they picked up the toys by connecting the magnet to a bit of metal on the toy and winding it in. Defiantly not what I planed but it actually worked better then the claw ever did.

The next problem was the little battery that I brought ran out juice faster then I could recharge it. I had to borrow a car battery from a friend and exchange it for the smaller battery that I had. The bigger battery with the charger lasted the entire weekend.

Next problem was I had a really hard time saying no to kids that wanted to play more then once. I didn’t have enough toys for everyone so if I let a kid play more then once that would mean another kid couldn’t play.

People would not accept that I was giving toys away for free. People would ask how much it costs and when I told them it was free they would give me a puzzled look. Some people just left money on the table. Over the weekend I collected $25 from people that refused to accept that it was free. I donated this money to VHS.

Kids that didn’t want the toy that they got could exchange it for candy (sugar free, no nuts, etc..) Most of the time the kids would want the toy but the parents would rather them have the candy. Less things to clutter up their house, I guess. Some kids got so upset that they didn’t get the toy that they wanted that they would scream at me, call me names and throw things at me… I didn’t have too much trouble sending these kids packing without a prize.

Over all I had a really good time, I don’t think I would ever do it again. It was a stressful, expensive, exercise that took its toll on me. Next year I plan to do something simple that does not require my full attention.