Friday, 19 June 2009


I think that the following project by Johnny Lee from Carnegie Mellon University is fantastic and is really making waves in education, with makers, hackers, and general techies.
Latest: made a couple of infrared LED pens for my friend Jesper in Sonderborg (Denmark). It was fun to borrow some labspace at the university for an afternoon.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I have just finished watching: Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O 2009
I would like to see more use of google wave as a tool to create 'infospaces' in real-time. So I am going to attempt to tweak the platform to optimise the initial layout of a wave to help structure the contributions a bit and add some intelligent behaviour to facilitate the dynamic presentation of resources (such as links, talking and research points/focuses/ideas) during the session.
For example, I would love to see a dynamic delicious tag cloud as links are added during the session. This would be a fantastically productive way of holding a meeting? I will need some people to test this out with so please get in touch! It is my hope that this project will be the key to all of the others. I think that once you truly 'crack' real-time collaboration and combine it with brainstorming and discussion, you have a powerful design and research technique/process. I think this could help make rapid progress on all of the projects.

My original inspiration for this capability was a New Scientist article I read a few years back. This is the bit that really caught my attention:
We have our wireless computers augmented by video cameras, projectors, and conferencing to remote participants as necessary.

Whenever a topic emerges in the course of conversation, the students instantly google it and introduce any interesting results into the discussion. As we accumulate data, references, web links, ideas, sketches, computer-aided design models, and other relevant material, we record it in a blog-like website that represents our small community's evolving, intellectual capital. The blog is accessible to any of us, at any time, from anywhere in the world.

This sort of creative practice may not seem very disciplined. It may even horrify those who think of teaching as the structured, authoritative dispensation of knowledge. But it is thrillingly intense and it enables us to make astonishingly rapid progress. It works, and I bet that this style of collaborative teaching will catch on.

source: Higher learning, the Wi-Fi way

I am so tempted to call it: 'brainwave'? Is that really lame?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

LED Lighting for the home

I have recently been taking an interest in LED lighting. I am going to order some GU10 LED spotlights and evaluate them over the coming week. This is the kind of performance that can be expected:
In 2008, SSL technology advanced to the point that Sntry Equipment Corporation in Oconomowoc, Wis. was able to light its new factory almost entirely with LEDs, both interior and exterior. Although the initial cost was three times more than a traditional mixture of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, the extra cost will be repaid within two years from electricity savings, and the bulbs should not need replacement for 20 years.[1]


If it goes well I will look into getting LED lighting for the whole house!


Aim: A platform to allow gardeners to share data and knowledge about cropping times, local conditions etc in an attempt to monitor and optimise food cultivation processes and techniques.

Composting (green and brown waste)
Water Butt (n.b. modify design to allow draining --> prevent stagnation)
Veggie plot plant info packs per vegetable.
Freecycle element: i.e. give away free cuttings, clippings, excess cropped veg or fruit (Wanted, Offered etc.)
Surveying (trundle wheel, camera)
Google Sketchup

Here is an awesome email from Tasha which will really help kick started the garden project.

Ok so here it is!

This is pretty much as far as I can go with your garden. Below is a list of "beds" these "beds" are comprised of plants which get on well together. It is up to you where you place the beds in your garden. As general rules I would advise no straight lines/borders just create soft curved lines that allow the plants to be placed together and also so you can reach the middle of the bed at any given point. During the winter the only preparation I would do is clear that right hand corner a bit so you can use that raised bed and then cover all the areas you plan on using with mulch and cardboard to keep it warm and help kill off any weeds you don't want over winter. Then when you come to plant you just cut holes in the mulch/cardboard and work straight in. I've read that people are finding they get greater yields leaving the soil in tact for many reasons yet to be fully understood by modern science.

1. Nasturtium and Courgette; the nastrutium creeps and traps aphids, attracts predatory insects and helps curcurbits. (I think this would be good in the raised bed so the nasturtium dosn't get completely out of control (also you can eat all of the nasturtium plant)
2. Peppermint and Broccolli; the smell of peppermint repels cabbage fliesand slugs
3. Carrot, onion, lettuce and coriander; onion will deter carrot fly and repel slugs and corianders smell will help repel carrot fly
4. Potato, tomato, basil, parsley, oregano, mint; oregano provides ground cover, basil is said to make tomatoes taste better and mint repels slugs
5. Pea and Garlic; garlic deters rabbits, slugs, aphids, carrot fly and cabbage worms (sounds good)
6. Rosemary, sage, thyme and tarrago; sage deters cabbage fly, aromatic herbs deter slugs, spiky textures do as well (these could be put near the house for cooking convience or put at random in amongst the beds I guess)
7. Pakchoi, spinach, watercress and borage; borage is a magick bullet in companion planting it's said to improve any plant yield
Yarrow increases the essential oil production of some herbs and can be used as a compost enricher (plant all around the garden)
Marigold produces natural pesticidal in its roots and lasts for years in the soil even once the plant has died (again plant everywhere)

I would try to grow everything from seed in compost pots then put the pots straight in the ground when they are big ennough. Tell me what you think for some direction and we can go from there. We need to sort out how you will get mulch, composting, water supply. Also there are tonns of things we could do in the garden to help make the house more efficient. Oh, in terms of design I thought it would be nice if you made the arch trail with something and put a seat in it. I do have a very rough sketch of a plan but I don't have a scanner, so not much use sorry.

Tasha x

p.s. watercress likes water, thought of having a small water feature? If not you can always dig a small trough for it to be planted in so the water collects there.


Aim: achieve a basic level of home automation by having a low-power sub-system being able to switch more energy intensive systems on and off.

Development Milestones

1st: digitally controlled relay
2nd: serial port control
3rd: wireless control
4th: web interface


Aim: This project aims to pull together the requisite information, hardware and software to make a web-based intranet and information point for my home.


Weather: int / ext temperature, forecast, photovoltaic gain, wind speed, humidity int/ext
Time / Date
Calendar: public holidays, house calendar
News --> RSS
Events --> RSS
Power consumption monitoring: Reverse engineer an OWL system.
Local info: Shop opening hours/location, bus/train routes/times, taxi numbers

Good question...

In terms of the data and control structure, I currently see a subsumption layer architecture being appropriate.
There will be sensor inputs, a sequencing layer, a behaviour layer, actuator outputs- see digram "subsumption"