The Lightbulb Audit – Ver. 1.2.2

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything substantial, so I’m glad to finally be able to announce an update on The Lightbulb Audit.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Lightbulb Audit is an app designed to help you take stock of not only the types of light fittings in your house, but also what type of bulbs you have installed. This will hopefully assist you in reducing your electricity consumption (through being able to audit your usage and demonstrating potential energy savings). It will also hopefully ensure that you know what type of bulb you actually need, the next time you’re trying to replace that blown light that you have been putting off because you can never remember whether it’s a screw or bayonette type, and how bright does it need to be, besides, going to the toilet in the dark isn’t THAT bad, right?

Refer to my original post if you want a more rambling details: The Lightbulb Audit – original post

To get the App (android only, and I’m not going to apologise for that): The Lightbulb Audit – via Google Play Store

Updates in this post include:

  • Finally implimented a Sort function (sort by room, type, power, or order added to list)
  • Import function (import from .csv in the same format as the export .csv, including header row. this is for importing from the excel version of the-lightbulb-audit)
  • Minor formatting and usability update
  • (Minor bug fix from versions 1.2.0 and 1.2.1 which I released in rapid succession last night… oops!)

As I’ve said before, two very important points:

  • I’m not a professional developer, so if you have any negative feedback, comments or questions, please leave them as comments HERE, rather than trashing the App’s review score
  • I’ve posted the App for free, but there is a small ad banner in the app. The only way I’ll ever make any money off this app is if you CLICK ON THE BANNER when you see an ad for something that might interest you. I’d never encourage you to click on ads just to get me a few cents, but if you’re in the app, and you see an ad for something that tweaks your interest, check it out!

Thanks for your time, I hope you find my app useful!

Graph of the day 2 – Why it’s impossible to clean a child

Unless you are willing take the “Stop it, or I’m turning the hose on you!” approach to parenting (which I think should be open to discussion, but my wife informs me is not, in fact, an option), it is foolish to think that you can actually get your child completely clean once they have eaten a meal. This is demonstrated in the following chart which, I believe, doesn’t require any further explaining.

2 - Why it's impossible to get a child 100% clean, post-meal

 

For those who do feel the need for further explanation…

I’m sure any parent will be familiar with this phenomenon. Your young child finishes a meal… covered in drink, food, and… other stuff that you are just praying is food. So you grab a baby wipe and wipe their face. Then, as you are attempting to wipe one of their flailing hands, the other sneaky appendage reaches up to smear a fresh (although slightly diluted) layer of food onto their face. So you pick whichever bodily part looks the dirtiest, and wipe that… meanwhile, the child rubs the remaining bit of dirt onto the “fresh canvas”.

If this continued, the child would never, theoretically, be 100% clean. I’ve found, however, that it normally ends when you reach the point of “Fine! Whatever buddy, daddy needs to eat HIS dinner”.

Yeah. Being a parent is largely about lowering your standards on what’s an acceptable level of hygiene.

Graph of the day 1 – Parking vs. Mood

Every time I’m having a bad week, and I’m just a bit over it, life smacks me in the face by making me drive around for 15 minutes looking for a parking space. All that effort, just so that I can be somewhere that I’d rather I weren’t.

But life has a way of balancing things out. In this case, I got a nice graph out of it. Silver linings.

The Lightbulb Audit

For the past few months, I’ve been devoting a fair chunk of my “free time” (which is to say, very little time at all… I have a baby and a toddler, neither of whom sleep) to learning a bit of Java. Specifically, Java for Android. This has been… less fulfilling than expected. I’ve learnt a fair bit since the middle of the year, but not as much as I’d hoped. I do a little recreational programming in a few different languages, mostly Visual Basic and C++ derivatives, and while all languages and coding environments have their challenges, none of them compare the the peculiarities of android app development. I won’t wax poetic here, because this post isn’t actually about Java; this post is about results.

Finally, I have got my first Android app ready for public consumption (which is to say, I lowered my standards until they matched where my app was at). I think it’s pretty reasonable, in terms of presentation, but the important thing is that it’s useful. And that pretty much sums up my standards for anything.

The app is a light bulb tracking program, which I affectionately call The Lightbulb Audit. This app is designed to be a list of every light fitting in your house, and every bulb installed in those fittings, which can be carried in your pocket. That way, the next time you see LED lightbulbs on sale, instead of thinking to yourself: “Gee, that seems cheap. I wonder if I actually need more lightbulbs?”, you will check your phone and say “Wow, I actually have three blown lightbulbs that I haven’t replaced yet, no spares, that one dim bulb in the bathroom that really needs to be replaced with something more powerful, and most of my bulbs are ye-olde incandescent lightbulbs. What are we savages? time to upgrade!”… or something very much along those lines.

So, here is a link to my app on the Google Play store (sorry Apple users, after the experience I just had learning to program for Android, it’s unlikely I’ll get to you any time soon. Also, I don’t have an iPhone to test on. Also: *sound of me blowing a raspberry at you*):

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=teslaandi.wordpress.com.lightbulbaudit

(Please see “important” note below!)

I appreciate feedback, comments, suggestions, and bug reports, so please feel free to leave comment on this blog post to let me know what’s on your mind (regarding the app).

But! Because I’m such a nice guy, I’ve also put up a copy of my Lightbulb Audit spreadsheet (which is how this thing originally started life). Not only can non-android users access this, but you can also export a CSV file from the app and paste it into this spreadsheet:

the-lightbulb-audit

Please, feel free to modify the spreadsheet, add colourful graphs, add features, etc. And please share your updated version if you do! Sharing is caring.

IMPORTANT!!!! – Because I’m such a nice guy and put my app up for free, I don’t make money off it just from you downloading and using it. Where I can make a few cents is from you clicking on the ad banner at the bottom of the app (which I’ve tried to make as unobtrusive as possible, because the afore mentioned niceness). So, if you see any ads that are even vaguely interesting: please, click on it. At the time of writing, my revenue is up to about $2.06… sigh… Oh well, I do it because I enjoy it, not to make money. Also because I’m just such a nice guy and want to help you and your lightbulb situation… Which is a mess, right? Be honest.

ALSO IMPORTANT!!!! – Please don’t leave poor reviews. Any comments, questions, queries, or suggestions: Please leave a comment here, and I’ll do my darndest to look after you…

…On account of being such a nice guy.

If people just designed things right to begin with… #2

I am normally relatively compassionate. Well, I am if you haven’t done anything that displeases me. So I prefer not to harm anything unless I have to. For example, if I can step over a trail of ants to avoid hurting them, I will. However if you’re a little ant bastard who is crawling all over my chicken wing just because I put down my plate at the picnic for half a second, you can expect a pretty stern talking to.
So when we moved into our house, I did my best to remain mouse-free without having to get nasty: keep food in sealed containers, don’t leave any friendly hiding places, etc. In fact, when I first started seeing signs of mice (chewed packets, and poo, all the poo), I just tried to hide the food chase them out. When this failed, and the mouse poo started spreading into more areas, and I started hearing mice scratching around in the pantry… while I slept… well, the mice were no longer on my christmas card list.
I didn’t want to put down poison, because then I have poisoned mouse corpses laying around (I have kids and dogs, and there is plenty of native wildlife outside my house which may like to eat a slow moving mouse if they ventured outside the house). Also, poisoning sounds slow and painful; a trap is quick, over before the mouse knows what’s happening.

So I went for traps. However, the traps didn’t work! I kept finding mousetraps with no bait on them. I tried a number of attractants, none of them caught the mouse. They all got eaten, but the trap didn’t trigger. I tried:

  • Cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Ham
  • Raspberry liquorice
  • Mouse attractant paste from Bunnings

The baits got eaten, but the trap didn’t trigger, the mouse wasn’t pushing on the lever hard enough while eating. That’s why I tried the liquorice, I could wedge it under the catch on the lever (this worked once, but that’s it). I straightened the retaining rod, and even used some PTFE sleeve to reduce friction. The problem is that in order to get the required activation force so low that the mouse would trigger it, the trap because so sensitive that I couldn’t set it. It’s a very fine line to walk.

So what’s the solution? If the activation force needs to be above a certain threshold to be useful, then the mouse needs to push harder. How do we convince the mouse to push harder? Well, have a look at this:

I designed an 3D printed small cages that slide onto the trigger plate, into which you place some cheese. If you’re feeling keen, also smear some attractant paste into the gaps in the cage.

This meant that the mouse tried to squeeze it’s nose through the bars of the cage, triggering it. These worked really well, and after just half a dozen uses, we appear to be mouse free! I can see why the original traps weren’t working, because our mice were tiny, so small I could barely feel the weight of it in my hand.

I don’t feel good about killing the mice, but they had to go.

The design for the cage is here, and should fit most standard 50 cent mouse traps (the design opening is to fit 10 mm wide x 1mm thick mousetrap levers):

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1720799

I hope this helps your rodent problems!

Salt and Pepper Chickenwings

image

Here’s a tasty recipe for chicken wings, based on a tasty salt and pepper squid recipe. Let’s face it, you could do this to any meat and it would be great.

Ingredients:
   1.5kg chicken wings
   Plain flour for coating
   2 tsp ginger powder
   2 tsp salt
   2 tsp chicken stock
   2 tsp ground celery seeds
   2 tsp chinese five spice
   Oil for shallow frying (I used rice bran oil)

Method:
   Cut chicken wings in half (separating at the elbow joint), to get lower wings and drumettes.
   Coat wings in flour.
   Heat oil in pan over a high heat (enough to shallow fry, a few millimeters deep).
   Fry chicken wings until golden brown and cooked through.
   Place wings in a bowl, sprinkle with seasoning to taste (you shouldn’t need all of the spice mix), and toss to mix through.
   Serve and eat.

Portions listed serve one (if you are doing it right!)… or appetizers for a dozen people.

VR Box 2.0 – QR code and vague review

Before christmas I bought myself a smartphone VR viewer (a la Google Cardboard, just fabricated out of plastic instead of cardboard). I spent ages pondering whether I should buy one or not, since I didn’t actually NEED one, and it would just open up a world of new projects that I don’t have time for. In the end I did it, because the $30 or so that it cost would be offset by not being drawn to eBay and Aliexpress all weekend trying to find the best deal and then talking myself out of it. I bought the VR Box 2.0:

vr box 2.0 image

The reasons I picked this unit were fairly simple:

  • No particularly bad reviews
  • Adjustable lens position for both pupillary distance (distance between the centre of your eyes) and focus (distance from lens to eye)
  • Low cost
  • Moderate specs, enough for my purposes
  • Sliding panel for exposing camera
  • Openings for power and headphones

Overall it functions, and you can get a reasonably good VR experience. Some people will complain about the cheaper VR sets not having an immersive enough experience, but I don’t think that a few degrees extra Field Of Vision will really fix that.

Yes, the headset can get a little heavy on the nose, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by adjusting the straps or adding a little extra padding.

This headset doesn’t have the built in magnet switch for interactive with applications, so I made up a little dongle with a small rare earth magnet inside. When I bought the headset, it also came with a miniature bluetooth gamepad, and while many apps don’t accept gamepad inputs (for some bizarre and stupid reason), quite a few do.

In fact, the main issue I had with this purchase was dealing with the seller on Aliexpress. See, when the VR Box 2.0 arrived in the mail, I had a look at the sparse documentation, and it didn’t have a QR code for calibrating the Google Cardboard apps to the headset. There was a shrunk down image of a QR code in the pamphlet (which in itself looked like it had been photocopied onto glossy paper, so the image was blurry), but it wasn’t readable by the phone. Naturally I contacted the seller, asking if they could send me a copy of the QR code required. After a several responses along the lines of “the QR code is in the documentation” (which is wasn’t), and “please see the manufacturer’s website” (which could not be found, nor would the seller give me the URL), I told them that I’d have to leave a negative feedback if they didn’t help. They didn’t, so I did.

In the end, I used the Google Cardboard QR Generator: https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/viewerprofilegenerator/

I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (which has a 145mm screen), and set up the QR code to suit my lens position, so your inputs relating to screen and lens position might be a little different, but the rest should be okay. Here are the values I used:

Primary button type: Magnet

Screen to lens distance: 44 mm

inter-lens distance: 61 mm

Screen vertical alignment: Centre

Distortion coefficients – k1: 0.1

Distortion coefficients – k2: 0.02

Field of View angles: all 50°

Note: if setting up your own QR code for this or another viewer, the fiddliest bit is getting the distortion coefficients set up correctly. These coefficients determine the adjustments for distortion, and need to be set up to ensure that vertical and horizontal lines stay straight, and don’t curve in or out at the edge of the screen. There isn’t a written description of these coefficient, but if you increase/decrease the values significantly you’ll see what they do in the little diagram on the right. k1 I believe sets the distortion for the 2nd power, and k2 sets the distortion coefficient for the 3rd power. For you, this means that if you look at the vertical lines in the VR grid preview (while setting up the QR code parameters), and they are curving in or out, adjust the k1 input until they look pretty straight, particularly in the centre 2/3 of the screen. Then, if the lines are still distorted near the edge of the viewing field, adjust the k2 coefficient in the same direction. If the ends of the lines have distorted too far, just take k2 back the opposite direction instead.

Here’s the QR code that I came up with, and it looks significantly better than the one I used just to test out the headset:

qr_viewer_profile take 2

Overall, I’m happy with it! but… Now I have to figure out how to write a VR app… Yet another project. Sigh.

If you found this blog post useful at all, I encourage you to check out my first android app: The Lightbulb Audit . As I said, it’s my first app, so please leave positive reviews. If you have any criticisms, comments, bugs or suggestions, please leave them as a comment on my corresponding post on this blog: here.