Monitoring batch jobs the Cylon way with Python and a parallel port

parallel-port-trigger

If you happen to do a lot of video encoding, you know that your computer can really drag while the process is carried out. Our own [Mike Szczys] transcodes videos at home fairly often, and because the process is automated, he doesn’t always know if a conversion is taking place in the background.

He has been tinkering with Larson Scanners recently and thought he could put everything he’s learned along the way to good use by using the scanner as a “busy” indicator for his PC. He hooked the scanner up to the computer’s parallel port, and took a few minutes to bang out some Python code that would alert him when his PC was busy.

He set his notifier script to launch along with FFMPEG, whenever his MythTV setup had something ready to convert. The Python script drives a pin on the parallel port high, triggering the Larson Scanner’s animation. Every minute, the script checks the status of FFMPEG and continues to hold the pin high until the application exits. Once the conversion is done, the scanner goes back to sleep, letting [Mike] know that the coast is clear.

Continue reading to see a video of his parallel port trigger in action.

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Toilet Buddy helps cover up bathroom noises

toilet-buddy

When it comes to bathroom etiquette, [Nick] and the crew at Gadget Gangster are nothing less than proper gentlemen. Inspired by a Japanese toilet that automatically plays a “courtesy flush” noise in an effort to conserve water while masking sounds, they created the Toilet Buddy.

While the Toilet Buddy does nothing to cover up any aromas, it does provide some sound cover for those louder times. Not only that, it also helps serve as a reminder for other bathroom courtesies as well. When mounted on the tank lid, the Toilet Buddy alerts the last occupant to put the seat down and shut off the lights before leaving the bathroom. Built with a Parallax Propeller board, it uses IR and ambient light sensors to determine the position of the toilet seat and the status of the bathroom lights, playing an audio notifier when necessary. Now if it only sprayed air freshener automatically!

[Nick] points out that the Toilet Buddy is not limited to bathroom duty, and can be used in a variety of projects where light/motion sensing is required. Be sure to check out his writeup for some usage suggestions if you’re thinking of building one.

In the meantime, continue reading to see a video of the Toilet Buddy in action.

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The Dish-o-Tron 6000 is back and better than ever

dish_o_tron_6000_extreme

When designing a circuit on the bench, sometimes things work far better than they do in real life. [Quinn Dunki] learned this lesson over the last few months as she struggled with one of her recent creations, the Dish-o-Tron 6000. We featured the Dish-o-Tron back in April, and at that point things seemed to be working out well for [Quinn]. As time passed however, she found the device to be an unreliable power hog. Aside from eating through a battery every few weeks, it kept spontaneously switching states from ‘Dirty’ to ‘Clean’ and back. It was time to take the Dish-o-Tron back to the bench for some debugging.

The random status flip from ‘Dirty’ to ‘Clean’ was a relatively easy fix, and required a small capacitor between the set pin and ground to eliminate the electrical noise that was tripping things up. She nailed down the spontaneous ‘Clean’ to ‘Dirty’ flip to a stuck tilt switch, which she swapped out for a mercury-based model, making things far more reliable. She solved her battery problems by wiring in a 12v wall wart, which might not be any more energy efficient, but it does save her from swapping out batteries all the time.

It’s always nice to see how projects evolve over time, and how the inevitable bugs are worked out of an initial design.

LAN-connected washing machine lets you know when your clothes are done

lan_connected_washing_machine_laundruino

[Micha’s] washing machine is equipped with a rather inaccurate timer, so it is always difficult to estimate when the load will be finished. Since it is located in his basement, he hated having to check on the machine continually to know when his clothes were done. Instead of hauling up and down the stairs over and over, he decided to hack in an “end of cycle” notifier of his own.

The washer has an LED that lights when it is finally done doing its thing, so [Micha] removed the LED and soldered in two wires, which he then connected to his Arduino. When the washer is finished and the LED should be lit, the Arduino senses that the input has been pulled low, signaling the end of the cycle. The Arduino was hooked into his home network via an Ethernet shield, enabling him to monitor the process from the comfort of the nearest web browser.

It’s a clever implementation, and it sure saves him a lot of time trudging up and down the stairs. Nice job!

Desktop email notification bell

email_notification_bell

Instructables user [meseta] wanted an audible notification whenever he received an email, but must have thought that his computer’s built-in sounds were lacking in some regard. To get the perfect sound that he desired, he built himself a USB-powered notification bell.

Using an off the shelf “front desk bell” and a hand made electromagnet, he constructed a bell that could be triggered whenever a message showed up in his desktop email client. The electromagnet can be triggered by a quick pulse from a microcontroller, and in [meseta’s] case, he used a Forebrain dev board. He created a filter in his email client that runs an executable each time a message is received. This executable in turn sends a message to his microcontroller via USB, triggering the bell.

While we think that the notifier could have been put together using a far less powerful microcontroller, it’s a neat idea regardless. People seem to love alternative notification systems, so we’re pretty sure this bell will appeal to many in that crowd.

Keep reading to see a short video demonstration of his email notifier in action.

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Simple household status system

The-Household-Informer

[BrianH] decided that he no longer wanted to venture outside on cold or rainy days just to check if the mail had come, so he built himself a notification system that would alert him if the postman had stopped by. Additionally, he admits to being forgetful on occasion and wanted a way to monitor whether or not he forgot to close the garage door. His Instructable details how he accomplished both of these tasks with the household monitor he built around an ATmega168. His project uses a mailbox mounted photoresistor to determine when the mailbox has been opened, and a reed switch that is triggered when the garage door has been opened. If either of these things occur, a beep is emitted from his notifier, and the appropriate status LED is lit. Simply monitoring whether the garage door has been opened is not all that helpful, so he programmed his notifier to beep persistently at 10-minute intervals if the garage has been left open for more than an hour.

His hack is pretty useful, but he does mention that there is an inordinate amount of wiring that needs to be laid, citing his driveway repaving as a great opportunity to do so.

Android meets Arduino

This new toolkit, called “Android” meets Arduino, allows you to connect an Arduino to your device and communicate back and forth. You could trigger external events at the Arduino end when an event happens on your phone, or even trigger things on your phone side when something happens at the Arduino.  We can’t wait to see the stuff people come up with beyond simple notifiers.

[via littlebirdceo]