Not Quite Normal

Archive of June 2009

Working Lunch June 29

When I first started working for SUSE as a student intern back in 2003, then a 21 year old with a full head of hair, I remember having KFC for lunch 21 (work) days in a row. 

Fast forward to 2006, when I lived with a foodie and started cooking from scratch.  Since then whenever I eat at home I cook from raw ingredients -  no ready meals, no crap but I found my work lunches were still lagging behind my other meals.  Lack of cooking facilities or just the amount of sandwich bars offering adjective laden items for just under a fiver, meant I bought lunch every day - and was usually hungry again come 4pm.

These days, with no trendy sandwich shops near by, I bring leftovers from home.  These started reasonably small - a pot of homemade soup, chilli or Jambalaya - getting gradually larger with the addition of bread or rice, until recently when, with the discovery of the awesome Sainsburys salad bar, they've become something of a feast.

Todays lunch.
Working lunch

Home made chilli, bread, and potato salad using our second early potatoes from our vegetable garden with a small salad from the Sainsburys salad bar.

Total cost - around £2.50 - a lot less than the cost of a KFC, something I wouldn't touch with a barge pole these days, and infinitely tastier.

Adding access control to CATaLOG June 24

In the past few weeks we've been having problems with another cat coming into the house. Rather than invest in a magnetic catflap for £30, I bought a standard RC servo from Heliguy (excellent service btw - free delivery and arrived the next day) for £7 and added it to CATaLOG.

The video below shows it in operation.

The servo is connected to pin 9 of the Arduino, one of two pins which are capable of PWM output without affecting other code, and uses the basic servo library to turn the servo 180 degrees, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back

In the video I push Tuffin's manual in/out button to trigger the servo - in the live code the servo only operates when it detects Bobbin or Tuffin via the RFID reader. The lights you see flashing are the ethernet interface activity lights attempting to send a tweet and update the status :)

It needs a few tweaks to make it completely reliable (don't want the cats getting locked out!), but once it is I'll add a section to the project pages with more details.

Vegetable garden June 22

Out first attempt at growing vegetables in our garden is starting to show signs of fruition (vegition?). After starting by digging over a big garden border over in January and planting seedlings as early as February in a heated propagator we've gradually moved things outside and into the ground.

We've planted lots of things, battled slugs, put up two mini greenhouses, and erected structures to support beans.

Here are the best bits of where we are today:




Broad Beans

Runner Beans




We've also got salad onions which are doing well and celery which isn't doing so well, as well as many pots of herbs.

We dug up the first second early potatoes last night - they were tasty. Still to come are courgettes, radishes, chilis and hopefully watermelons. :)

CATaLOG enclosure complete June 18

Finally finished machining the enclosure for CATaLOG. Here it is:

catalog-exterior  catalog-interior

The Arduino is mounted onto the stripboard with a simple velcro pad (hence it being at a slight angle) so it can be removed for working on / debugging or moved slightly when inserting the ethernet cable etc. 

The posts to support the lcd were made with the help of my Dad and his lathe.  I'll document the process over on the project pages when I get the chance.

Home brewing June 8

I've been busy lately making the equipment needed to start All Grain Brewing. 


On the left is the boiler (or kettle) which will be used to heat the 'liquor' for mashing and sparging as well as boiling the wort, in the middle is the mash tun and on the right is the wort chiller, used to cool the wort down after boiling so the yeast can be pitched.

I've created a new project page and have written up how I went about constructing each bit of equipment. I'll also be putting brewday reports on there in the near future :)