gmail notifier project (for dummies)

I’ve been really interested in doing J4mie’s Physical Gmail Notifier ever since it came out in February. I only recently dropped into the project and got to learn a lot about python, plists, and arduino auto-reset functionality. I’m going to share what I’ve learned because I think there are lots of other people out there struggling to make it work. This page doesn’t really offer much that J4mie didn’t already say – it just says it in a different way.

I’ll post the code below – one issue with the way J4mie posted his was that it appended line numbers to everything and messed with formatting. Python is _really_ picky about formatting! All of the files are zipped HERE. It consists of three documents –

1) one python script that logs into your gmail rss feed and checks your total number of new messages. It then sends either an ‘m’ or an ‘n’ to the serial port.

2) one arduino sketch that tells the arduino to turn on or off a light based on the serial input

3) one .plist file that tells your mac (sorry pcs!) to run the python script every 60 seconds. If you run windows or linux then I’m sure there is something you can do to schedule this. You could also just set it to loop until quit. (to quit a script in terminal hit control-c)

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2008 Arduino Holiday Gift Guide

My Wish List

In making my list annual of goodies I usually look for other people who have compiled “gift guides” aimed specifically at geeks like me. Usually they are written for the wrong kind of geek, and are full of things like star trek stuff, D&D, LEGO, or model airplane parts. All of those things are definitely geeky, but are not what I am looking for. Last year I bought and Arduino largely due to the 2007 arduino gift guide put out by MAKE mag

This year they have a $20 and under guide (no doubt influenced by the recession!) but no arduino-specific guide. I decided to put the things I have been pining over, as well as the things I have been really enjoying into a list. I will put a few of the tastier options below, but I decided to create an amazon list so that anyone interested can go to one spot and buy within a few clicks!

There are some tools in there, some shields, as well as some arduinos for newb and seasoned professionals.

The coolest thing I am excited about is Ladyada’s electronic toolbox. It is a TON of tools that she put together into one beginner kit. This is seriously everything that you would need to go very far with an arduino. It certainly is enough to get you well on your way!

From her site, the kit contains:
30W adjustable temperature soldering iron (Model XY258)
Soldering stand
Solder, rosin-core, 0.031″ diameter, 1/4 lb (100g) spool
Solder sucker<
Solder wick/braid 5ft spool
Panavise Jr
Basic multimeter (model MAS830)
Diagonal cutters
Wire strippers
Micro needle-nose pliers
Solid-core wire, 22AWG, 25ft spools
Half size solderless breadboard
5V power supply kit –
ALL FOR $100 Bucks!!

If your geek guy/gal has been in ‘the game’ for a while then they have probably grabbed most of these items already. It might be a good idea to look and purchase items separately to ‘fill in the gaps’ though. If you are shopping for a newbie, then you are in luck. With this tool kit and a few things to solder together they will be very happy come christmas!

As I reviewed previously, the book Making Things Talk
is a great book for figuring out communication into and out of an arduino. It has a lot of different examples in it from entry level to advanced.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that make things easier. When a mechanic has the right tool it can turn a 3 hour knucklebuster into a 5 minute breeze. Continue reading

DIY CNC router build update

It’s been quite a while since my router arrived in the mail. It came in mid winter and essentially stopped all cnc progress. It was much heavier than I had expected, and the gantry I had built wasn’t up to the task. The x and y axes were finished, but needed to be rebuilt stronger. The last few weeks has seen the end of summer weather and the return of my tinkering productivity. I have put in a ton of time thinking, cutting and swearing in my garage.

DIY CNC router as it stands

DIY CNC router as it stands

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Looking for more project blogs?

Yesterday I discovered that looking at the list of TGIBOEJ hopefuls is a great way to find new geeky-project blogs. There are a lot of flickr and twitter links, but there are also a lot of other interesting links. It’s good to hear that there are plenty of other people tinkering away in their basements and garages!

cb350 Wiring

cb350 Wiring

The Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronics Junk (or TGIMBOEJ to his friends)

I put myself on a list over at to try to get a big box of junk to show up at my door! I’m super excited about the idea, because it combines my love of looking at geeky stuff with a strict one in / one out policy. It’ll be cool to swap some stuff I don’t know how to use (but have still somehow acquired a few of) for something I’m more interested in learning.

Looking at all of the photos posted all over the nets it seems like there is a huge variety of stuff out there circulating in the 25(!) different boxes! I hope someone deems me suitable – I’d love to check one out!

macetechs photo of the GIMBOEJ

macetech's photo of the GIMBOEJ

Removing the auto reset in Bare Bones Board Arduino

I’m currently working on a project that requires the Arduino to accept serial input from my mac. This would ordinarily be fine, but the auto-reset function means that the arduino resets whenever I send it data, and then it forgets the data!

I emailed Paul at Modern Device company to ask if there was an easy way to remove the auto rest function. Luckily there is! He said that the capacitor closest to the reset button is the one responsible. To remove auto reset you can remove the cap, cut the trace above or below the cap, or even remove the dtr line from the ftdi cable!

Here is a shot showing the assembled board. The cap is the blue guy poking out from behind the reset button.

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Just a tease

Here’s my newest project. It’s not yet ready to drop, but I’ll give you a lil taste to see if you can figure it out.

Freeduino Bare Bones Board Build (w/Macro shots!)

Last night I built two Freeduino Bare Bones Boards. I had two kits. One was from Moderndevice, and one was from MAKE. They were essentially the same kit, but different versions. There was one resistor difference I believe. The first kit took me quite a while to put together – probably about an hour. The second kit took about half of that. They were really quite straightforward. Put the parts in in the order they suggest and solder them up. You could even put them in in the wrong order – it would just make holding them in the board while you flip it over harder.

There were two sticking points in the instructions – (1) they say you need 4 of the small caps and they give you 5. You really need all five. (2) for some reason I read the debugging instructions at the end to say “troubleshoot if the light doesn’t turn off” as opposed to “if the light doesn’t turn on”

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Print contact sheets / thumbnails from video footage

This is a task I don’t like doing, but it is certainly useful if you have a lot of footage to sort through and not everyone is very technically inclined. It allows you to print a contact sheet from every x frames/seconds/minutes of a video file. That helps when you are looking for a specific shot in a bunch of reels, and it helps to very quickly show an art director what the footage you have looks like.

You’ll need either Quicktime or FCP, and Photoshop for this.

1) open your video file

2a) in quicktime hit export / movie to image sequence. Select “advanced options” and put in a frames per second number. If you put in 1 then you will still end up with 60 frames per minute! Luckily Quicktime will let us deal with decimals here. A value of .016 will give you around one frame per minute and usually works out well.

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Nuclear Missile Silo

a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to go check out a nuclear missile silo in the area that had been decommissioned and converted into a private residence. The owner’s name is Alex and he’s nothing like what you would expect (considering he owns a nuclear missile silo.) His website is and is totally worth checking out. Below are my pix. I’m not overly into the military history of it all, but I was still really impressed by its gigantic scale! This guy takes the classic geek’s desire for big toys to a whole new level!

blast doors open, one ram almost installed.

blast doors open, one ram almost installed.

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