Nowadays almost every laptop comes equipped with the camera that is sitting a little bit above the LCD screen, staring at you. Desktops are a different story since monitors with built in cameras are not that common. Unless you’re one of those fruitcakes and you own the Cinema Display. However getting a camera isn’t all that difficult and you will be overwhelmed by the offer. Cameras connected to computers are mostly called webcams and they come in various shapes, sizes and prices. Prices range from $10 up to $100 and there is a real difference between $10 camera and $100 one.
Looking up the sky – a week ago my wife announced that she saw a meteor. Since we were both semi-awake at the time and I must say that probably I glimpsed at it with the corner of my eye, nodded and went to sleep. Not much to do about it … or so I thought.
As it happens we saw one of the Orionids. This is another annual meteor shower, similar to Perseids which were described in this article. As other meteor showers they are named after their radiant, which is located near constellation Orion. Usually they last from 15-29 of October with the maximum between 20-22 of October and this year the peak will be seen on the 21 of October. On average the produce from 20-25 meteors per hour. But reports are claiming that this years activity could be similar to last years, which was around 60 meteors per hour. If you were to be looking for it the radiant is about 10 degrees north of Betelgeuse in the southeastern sky.
First observations of the Orionids were made by E.C. Herrick in the 1839-1840. First documented record was which produced accurate forecasts for the next year were made by the A.S. Herschel. It is now known that the Orionids are a by product of the well-known Halley’s Comet.
Time sure flies when you’re having fun and now we are about ten days from final release of Ubuntu 9.10 – Karmic Koala. What kind of stew did Ubuntu guys cook for us this time? Four days after the FinalFreeze stage in the Ubuntu development cycle means that what didn’t make it in the distribution will be left out and that we will get the Release Candidate in three days. I decided to install Kubuntu 9.10 which differs from Ubuntu regular in primary desktop environment and installation program. Instead of Gnome based desktop you will get KDE based desktop. Is KDE 4.3 up to the task? Let’s dig in and see how Koala tackles the legendary horned rabbit! ;)
It took some time, but the next batch of Linux Tips is ready. If you are following me on Twitter then you have already received all the tips. Now they are here again with some explanation just like previous time. All the feedback is appreciated and corrections are gladly accepted. ;) Obligatory ‘your computer might blow up’ disclaimer follows: All these commands were tested on my computer with my K/Ubuntu Linux installation. Before you actually use any of the commands that are published here, make sure you test them on your computer with your test files, not your actual data. I don’t want to be responsible for any tears and hair being pulled out.
A while ago I decided that as a geek I need to equip myself with binary clock or a digital clock made with Nixie tubes. Until now the idea was brewing. It was almost 15 years since I designed a circuit board by myself and it was a little less time ago when I was soldering something. I had to find an already made kit that didn’t require designing the circuitry from scratch. Pretty soon I ruled out the binary clock since they can be easily obtained in any geek store. Nixie tube clock is a completely different story altogether. Tubes are nowadays relatively rare and much harder to get. After some digging and my distrust to purchase a bunch of easily shattering glass tubes on e-bay, I found tubehobby.com which offered various nixies and complete clock kits. For a relatively low price of $99 I ordered complete nixie clock kit. Kit included all the electronic parts and the Nixie tubes. There was no power supply and casing. Power supplies are easy to get and you’ll be able to find one in your local radioshack store.
Kit from tubehobby.com had basic online instructions on how to assemble it, what kind of power source is required to drive the clock and few tips about setting up everything.
Assembly was fun and memory reviving experience. I do recommend that you use sockets for integrated circuits since they are more delicate and harder to replace if you damage them with too much heat at soldering. When you buy chip sockets make sure you double check what you’re buying or you’ll end up like me. With one wrong socket and a decision about waiting one more day with the assembly. Instructions were clear and easily understandable, but you’ll need a background in electronics and circuit design if you want to make this to work. If you never held a soldering iron in your hands I recommend that you get someone to help you.
Two things that gave me a little headache during the assembly. Setting the firing voltage for tubes – there is a small potentiometer on the board and a capacitor where you need to measure the output voltage of the driver. A slight, tiny move of the potentiometer changed the value by 10V or even more, so finding that 160V was quite a task. Second problem was more of a dexterity issue. See, the tubes have 13 long and bendable pins that need to go through 13 tiny holes that are very close together. It took me about 5 minutes to insert each tube. :)
Apart from one broken separator bulb, kit from tubehobby.com was perfect. I am not sure if separator bulb was broken during transport or if I fried it when I connected the clock for the first time. Separator bulbs can be set in three different modes. They can blink once per second, then can be used as an AM/PM indicator if you use 12h clock format, they can be constantly lit or you can switch them off. Only one bulb was working for me and I found the blinking highly annoying. I turned it off and I’ll probably remove both bulbs from the circuit board sometime in the future.
Of course, you need to see the video of nixie clock in action.