Arduino SONAR

After seeing this awesome Arduino RADAR project by Dejan Nedelkovski I simply had to build one myself. It’s actually a SONAR though as it utilizes sound for detection rather than radio waves. It was a fairly quick and easy build but it requires both the Arduino sketch as well as a separate one for Processing to draw the GUI. Here it is in action:

Logitech / Logicool G13 cleaning / washing

After knocking over a full pint of beer into my Belkin ergonomic keyboard and my much loved Logitech/Logicool G13 programmable gaming keyboard I had to find a way to save them from the garbage bin.

Unfortunately the Belkin was beyond repair. Pressing any of the keys would result in gibberish and washing out the beer with water didn’t improve things. The G13 however could be taken apart more easily and I was happy to see that it can be separated into two parts which makes the keys very easy to clean off without affecting the underlying circuit boards.

Note that although the G13 had most of the keys fused together by the dried beer it still seemed to function better than the Belkin keyboard. The underlying circuit boards appeared undamaged or unaffected.

If you want to try this, start off with a few tools. I used a razor-knife and a small pair of scissors as well as a Phillips screwdriver. You’ll also need a sponge, dish washing liquid and a hair dryer.

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Carefully peal off the protective rubber feet so they don’t break. The scissors were useful here as the razor knife risk cutting the feet while removing them. They don’t have to come all the way off but I removed them anyway to get full access to the screws underneath.

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There are six screws that need to be removed in total and each is hidden behind a rubber foot or, as is the case with the middle one, a thin plastic seal. Once the rubber covers are removed, unscrew the six screws which hold the keyboard together:

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Once the screws are removed, use the razor knife to gently split the keyboard apart at the seams. I started at the joystick side, worked my way down and around from there. Finally the upper part could also be loosened although the dried beer held it together fairly well.

After the key part has been removed from the base it’ll look like this:

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Now the upper part with the keys can be washed with dishwashing liquid and a sponge to remove the beer / sugar / etc depending on what was spilled into it in the first place.

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Rinse and dry thoroughly with a hairdryer to ensure there is no water left between the keys. After that it’s just a matter to snap the key section back on top of the base, screw in the screws and finally add the rubber covers / feet to the bottom of the keyboard. After the procedure the keyboard is good as new and works just fine when connected to the PC again.

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Raspberry Pi as Amazon S3 file uploader

Putting the Raspberry Pi to work uploading files to the Amazon S3 backup vault. Much more energy efficient compared to keeping the PC running for the same job.

Amazing how many uses this little SoC has . I’m ending up with a pile of microSD cards for all its identities 🙂

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Corsair Carbide Air 540 mod

The gaming PC at home had started getting a bit old and it was time to start overclocking. That way it’d be possible to squeeze a few more months out of the machine before the inevitable upgrade. Of course with a stock Intel CPU cooler it quickly overheated. It reached 98 degrees before I had a chance to power it down 🙂

So, a trip to Akihabara got me a fairly cheap Lepa AquaChanger240 but in my hurry to get a cooler I had underestimated the size of this monster. The thickness of the cooler with fans mounted is about 5.5cm – no way it would fit in the PC case, even though it’s a full tower.

As a result I found myself looking for a new case. Overclocking clearly has its consequences. Yet another trip to Akihabara resulted in the beautiful and spacious Corsair Carbide Air 540. Awesome to look at from both the outside and inside thanks to the ease of which cables can be kept hidden in the second chamber.

Since I wanted to go with green LEDs to light it up it made sense to give it a paint job at the same time. The normally black grilles on top and front are now a bright green. The case is extremely easy to disassemble which helped a lot in removing the parts for painting.

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Corsair Air 540 mod - The Hulk - 02    Corsair Air 540 mod - The Hulk - 03

The Lepa CPU cooler works fantastically well. The processor – an Intel i7 2600k, has been clocked from the base 3.4 up to it’s current 4.6 Ghz. Even under severe stress testing the temperature stays in the 50’s.

Cloud storage for photo backups

At home we have a 4-disk QNAP box as a file server which hosts photos dating back to the 1990s. Up to recently it was backed up over eSATA to external drives, but it was never a good solution. The QNAP box does offer cloud backup, but I don’t want to be dependent on somebody else’s proprietary way of copying data to the cloud. So, yesterday I finally got hacking on a Python script to back the whole thing up to a cloud provider.

After looking at Amazon S3, Google Cloud Platform and BLOB storage in Microsoft Azure (which I use frequently at work) I finally went with S3 as it has the option to automatically shift data to the ultra-low-cost Glacier service after a set time. There are good tutorials to get started for those who are interested here: http://boto.cloudhackers.com/en/latest/s3_tut.html

Amazon recommends splitting files larger than 100Mb prior to upload and Boto can be used with file splitting as well.

Prior to this it was necessary to encrypt all data to ensure it wasn’t easily accessible by any third party. Not that I expect anyone to have an interest in some family photos, but anyway. To make sure it would be possible even for my wife to decrypt the data I went with 7za since it simply creates zip files encrypted with AES. Encrypting is as easy as:

7za a EncryptedFile.zip FileToEncrypt -tzip -mem=AES256 -mx9 -pSomePassword

I may post the actual backup script here as well once it’s been through a few revisions, but it’s too rough for publication right now.