infrared makes it easy
Saturday, April 16 2011
Today was a rainy one, and this was exciting because it was the first rain since I'd installed by brownhouse faucet. Using that faucet, I'd drained about ten gallons from the 30 (or is it 40?) gallon overhead cistern in order to fill the lower sink (the one that gets any nasty cleansing assignments). So I was curious how quickly the roughly 20 square foot roof would be able to replenish this lost water. When the rain fell at a moderate rate, water merely dripped into the cistern at its refill inlet (though that dripping could be quite brisk). During stronger downpours, it came in at a trickle. Though the strongest rains of this storm would be coming tonight, the ten gallons were easily replaced by early this evening. This gives me confidence that, unless I drain it to protect it from freezing, there will always be water available from the brownhouse faucet.
While my Arduino-based solar controller is now capable of all sorts of incredible behaviors, configuring it requires that I send commands to it via its serial line using a computer that can, at the very minimum, act as a dumb serial terminal. But there are occasions when I want to be able to control it from the basement without having to drag a computer down there to do it. As you may recall, before leaving for Virginia, I hacked together a form of input that relied on the fact that a hot water tank temperature of less than 75 degrees automatically switches the system to summer mode. This would have allowed me to easily tell Gretchen over the phone how to switch the system to summer mode had the weather taken a turn for the warm (which it failed to do). So today I started examining old telephone keypads using a multimeter to determine how I might scan them using a simple Arduino algorithm, perhaps using a dedicated AtmegaXXX. But none of the keypads I had seemed to be working very well. Maybe, I thought, I could just use an infrared receiver to interpret codes from some spare device remote (I have a bunch of those, many of which claim to be universal remotes). That would only require a single Arduino pin (as opposed to the array of pins necessary to do an actual keyboard scan) and would potentially give me dozens of buttons to work with. But first I had to see if anyone had written any Arduino infrared receiving libraries. I wasn't even sure the Arduino had the horsepower for the job.
It turns out that lots of people have been writing Arduino IR code, both for transmission and reception. I tried some of this code and couldn't get it to do anything other than acknowledge that an IR signal was being received. Obviously this is going to require more tinkering.
This evening I watched the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary entitled I'm Still Here, wherein our celebrity hero retires from acting, gives up on grooming, and attempts to pursue a career as a rap musician. The movie owes a lot to the various capers of Sacha Baron Cohen, "reality teevee," and cinéma vérité. Joaquin Phoenix spent a year in character as the movie was filmed, famously appearing on Letterman in something approaching a daze and causing people to wonder if he'd lost his mind. But what makes I'm Still Here seem so real in how unfunny it is (despite its many attempts to be otherwise). It does contain one joke that is pretty good, though it eventually beats it to death. I thought I'd never get tired of scenes of a white man rapping badly, but by the end of I'm Still Here, I'd had enough.
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