MIT Swapmeet was rad!

Two weeks ago I went down to MIT to check out their once-monthly swap. I wandered around and was impressed by everyone else’s high level of wizardry, as well as their piles of cool stuff. I didn’t end up buying much, but I got a ton of new ideas! The pics below show all of the stuff I acquired in beantown, a few gauges, some stepping motors, and four vacuum pumps. They were giving out the vacuum pumps on newbury street for free. I’m sure I’ll find a use for them some day, if nothing else, each one comes with 6 AA batteries!

Oh yeah, I also ran into Star Simpson (of the logan airport bomb scare ordeal) down there. Ok, more honestly I saw her / asked her which way to the bathroom, and then thought about telling her “I saw you on the internets!” then I went on my way. My mom would be so proud…

Crystalfonts cfah-634 update

Here is a pic of the back of the lcd. It shows that the JPE and JPB pads have been soldered closed. Those correspond with (0 to +5v) and inverted.

jumper settings for crystalfontz cfah 634 serial lcd display

Here is the code I used to test it. I got my start by changing code from djmatic.

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Lego NXT vs Arduino

battle of the microcontrollersI have always been interested in Lego NXT. It seems like a really easy way to get into robotics, and programming. I have never really figured out how functional it is in the “real world” (whatever that means)
The other day a coworker was really pushing the idea on me telling me I needed to buy a kit because it was so easy to build things. Now I really struggle with the arduino most of the time, but I enjoy the struggle, and I know that if I ultimately build something then I can replicate it fairly cheaply. That is my issue with NXT. It is REALLY expensive. It is expensive for legos, it is expensive for a microprocessor, and it is expensive for the peripherals. I think I’m past the target age of these things, but regardless, I priced out how much it would cost for me to “replicate” an NXT kit with and arduino.

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ModernDevice Company is the best!

Sometimes I get bummed out about how much of the internet is negative.

Here’s my chance to say thanks for someone doing something positive. I’d like to give a lil’ shout out to Modern Device Company for having really good customer service. I placed an order and included a few questions along with it.

The owner, Paul Badger (and probably sole employee) sent me a quick reply, and ultimately was very generous in finding a solution that fit my needs. It didn’t probably cost him much more than the dollar-menu would, but it was the effort that went into it that earned my appreciation and future business.

Thanks Paul!

PS – I grabbed a bunch of female and male headers and a few lcd117 kits. I have only had male headers for a while now, and without getting into locker room humor – it didn’t work with just the males.


I’m pretty happy I FINALLY got the arduino to hook up correctly with two different hd44780 displays. I used the arduino example found here. I had done this before, but I found out that the Liquid crystal library is kind of broken. It needs to have a few lines swapped out in order to load properly in arduino 11.

After that I dug out my crystalfontz cfah-634 serial LCD and tinkered with it for a bit. I’ll update this with pics and more details later on, but there needs to be two jumpers closed on the back of the 634. I think the two jumpers are for “inverted” and “0 to 5v” The display seems kind of twitchy right now. That might be because I have it at 9600 baud, and it might be because I have all of the wires coiled into bundles. That could probably set up some weird ghost signals on the serial line.

One thing that I am having trouble with is that it seems like the display won’t behave properly if the “serial.Print()” code is in a subroutine. That’s fine for now, but it certainly makes things tougher down the line.

All of the mess and wiring trouble I had hooking up the 8 bit display has really made me want to dig out the phanderson serial backpack I have and build it.

Sheesh… Sorry I haven’t called! It’s been a while!

so in the last lil’ bit I have not been blogging at all. Happily that has been because I’ve been swamped with projects, vacation, and work. Now I’ve got a big old backlog of updates on everything. Here we go!

Grow your own shiitake mushroom log
Shitake mushrom box
My beautiful girlfriend gave me a kit two years ago that I finally got around to working on. The ‘kit’ is a log impregnated with mushroom spores. The directions say to soak it under water for 24 hours, “Thump both ends on the floor”, and then to let it sit in a shallow pan of water till the buds start poppin!
Shitake mushrom log
I did all of those steps and it kind of looks like I have a moldy log to show for it. Now I’m no mycelologist (best guess at that one!) but I guess mold and mushrooms could be distant relatives. The directions say that buds should appear within 2-5 days. Well, i guess that stretches the definition of buds, but I’ll roll with it.
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