Two computers, one set of speakers

We have two windows computers in our kitchen. For a while now they have been set up so that you have to plug the one you sound in listen tabwant working right now into the external speakers. Today I finally looked into a better way. Turns out there is a free one, or free as long as you already have a male-to-male audio cable.
Plug one PC’s audio out into the second PC’s audio in. On the second PC (Windows 7), go into control panel, sound, recording, pick the plug you used, and click properties. Click the “listen” tab and check “listen to this device”. I had to set the levels way down to 5/100 to not get any distortion and just get a full volume output from the first PC.
No more plugging around!

Blackberry m4a audio files in Audacity software

I use use my Blackberry to record audio in meetings and such. It records as m4a.  I use Audacity to edit audio files.

Audacity doesn’t do M4A natively, and the error it gives just says that it can’t read the file.

Turns out they almost have it built in. I didn’t research the exact IP reason that forces them to do it, but the instructions how to finish setting up Audacity to be able to read your Blackberry sound recordings is here:
http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/faq_installation_and_plug_ins.html#ffdown

Link to Navigo to go to a specific destination

Winnipeg Transit’s Navigo generally won’t let you enter a destination unless you first enter a “from”. I wanted to be able to add a link to a web site that says “if  you want to come here, you can take the bus, click here”, like this link  which will open the Navigo page with Assentworks pre-populated as an address.

Asked 311/transit, and they explained:

The user needs to include the destination information in the link. The best way to do this is to plan a trip using the desired address as the destination, it can be any trip (random origin and time). From the results page, click ‘Modify Request’ in the sidebar. This takes you back to the trip planning page with pre-filled information. Copy the URL from this page, it will look something like:

http://winnipegtransit.com/en/navigo/submit_destination?authenticity_token=****************************&destinationKey=13&destinationName=Forks+Market+%281+Forks+Market+Road%29&destinationType=monument&method=post&originKey=3911&originName=MTS+Centre+%28300+Portage+Avenue%29&originType=monument&tripDate=0

Delete all the unwanted information from the URL (keep all parameters related to destination [destinationKey, destinationName, destinationType]). Then it will look like:

http://winnipegtransit.com/en/navigo/submit_destination?destinationKey=13&destinationName=Forks+Market+%281+Forks+Market+Road%29&destinationType=monument

Use this URL to link to Navigo.

 

HackRF One, SDR#, WSPR and virtual audio cable

I bought a HackRF One SDR recently. The first thing I wanted to do is to try WSPR, which checks for other WSPR beacons to help monitor propagation paths.

I set this up using the free SDR software SDR# and another software virtual audio cable to connect the two.

That much was easy enough, but I have not had a single connection, running it for a bit over a week. WSPR frequenctly says it’s decoding, but nothing pans out. I am using the antenna that comes with the HackRF, which isn’t great but I hear others have had success with it.

I probably have something set up wrong still. I think I need to use CW mode in SDR# for WSPR but have not actually found confirmation for this anywhere. Since it’s not working it’s likely wrong :-)

backpack light with remote switch

backpack in the light
backpack in the light
backpack in the dark
backpack in the dark

I ride my bike to work on main roads year around, so I need to be visible. In the winter that means lights. If I attach them to the bike, I have to remember to take them off, and they are relatively low to the road and less visible. I had them on my helmet for a while, but that was heavy. So, I have them on my backpack.

This has worked well for some time, but I usually put on my backpack and then remember that I did not turn them on. Then I have to take the pack back off and switch them on. So, I added a remote switch to the EL driver where its

EL driver with plug attached
EL driver with plug attached

internal switch is attached. Because I wanted to still be able to disconnect the driver, I wanted a plug connection. All I had flying around was an old USB port and plenty of USB cables to salvage, so that’s what I did. Ya, I labelled it “NOT USB”.

I made the remote switch by wiring a scavenged

switch soldered right onto the cable
switch soldered right onto the cable

momentary switch right into the end of the wire and putting heat shrink tubing around it. The tubing waterproofs the setup and is flexible enough to trigger the switch.

Then I fed it around the backpack straps.

remote switch on backpack strap
remote switch on backpack strap

 

No drip

Drip stop on coffee urn
Drip stop on coffee urn

Having a new HAM Radio license gets me a 1 year membership with  WARC. So, I checked out their monthly meeting this Monday. I got to meet a few interesting people and we chatted about some of the digital modes in HAM.

And, I saw the drip stop on the coffee urn. A pop bottle cut just so you could get your cup of coffee in there without problem, but drips were caught. It made me smile. It’s the kind of thing I might have come up with, and the kind of thing a lot of people would find horrible and impractical.

What is the difference between people who would embrace that and others who would mock it? I wonder if it is related to the difference between people who back into parking spots and people who don’t.

blockless

I keep hearing that Netflix has a much greater selection of content in the US than in Canada. To access US content Canadians need to pretend to Netflix that we are Americans ;-).

After talking to some friends I gave blockless.com a try – their first week is free. Easy to set up and works as advertised.

What I found is that this is a good way to demonstrate the ambiguity of great. The US version does have more shows, but it still didn’t have anything that made me want to extend blockless past its one week trial.

Edit: I wasn’t thinking outside the box… Blockless give access not only to US Netflix, but also to other regions’ Netflix and other services. Access to foreign language content. A way to keep the rust off my German.

Order in shop

Just picked up this rack for pliers at Princess Auto. Now my pliers are no longer in a puppy pile that comes tumbling out of the shelf when I pull one out.

It works well enough but the number of narrow vs wider slots isn’t quite optimal. That would be different for everyone, though, so can’t really be fixed without making it adjustable, and then it would risk becoming finicky. Even so, better than what I had before.

NFC automation: send SMSs and bedside mode more

I try to remember things. I am bad at it.NFC Tag

For example, I try to remember to text home when I leave work. And I try to remember to set my phone to night mode with alarm for next morning when I go to bed.

Enter NFC tags (eg. from dx) and the Smart Tags app for the blackberry. The Smart Tags app allows you to write tasks to the NFC tag, and your phone will then execute that task if you hold it near the tag.

So, I put some tags

  • on my backpack strap to launch a SMS home
    • this one never worked once I put it onto the tuck tape I used as an in-between to the fabric
  • on my night stand to turn my phone into bedside notification mode (sadly they don’t have a setting available for true bedside mode)
    • works, although of limited use since I still need to put it into proper bedside mode
  • on my laptop to turn notification normal and open phone screen
    • That sticker never worked after I applied it to my laptop. We were talking about antennas and all their fun properties in a HAM radio course I am taking right now, and it made me think. Sure enough, it turns out NFC stickers  don’t work well when applied to metal. You can buy special ones that do.
  • on my key chain to turn on the camera (I use my camera a lot, more to document than for snapshots)
    • Never did figure out a way to put it on the keychain, I don’t ahve anything on there big enough to fit the sticker. If I wanted this badly I’d need to get one of the keychain NFCs

So, only 1 in 4 worked, and I am now hesitant to use the last one. It appears functional, but I don’t know what broke the other two, so holding off for a bit.

Soft jaws

IMG_20150818_203651I have some soft jaws with rubber faces for my bench vise. They are great for holding more delicate things still while working on them.

The problem is that the magnets on the back are very weak, so the jaws don’t stay in place as you are adjusting stuff against them. I didn’t realize just how weak the magnets were until one fell out the other day. I don’t know if it could hold up 5 pieces of paper to my fridge.

soft jaw with original, weak magnet on the right and the replacement neodymium magnets on the left
soft jaw with original, weak magnet on the right and the replacement neodymium magnets on the left

So, since it had fallen out anyway I instead hot-glued in some 1/4″ neodymium magnets. What a difference! I think it will work much better this way, and I could always add a few more power magnets if this isn’t strong enough.