Never loose my keys again!

These came in the mail today. Simple little units.  Takes 20 seconds to join them to your phone.  Never lose your keys again, right?  What did I do almost immediately, lost one!  Put one in my pocket to show a friend at dinner last night.  It must have come out of my pocket as I pulled out my specks.  The good news is – now I get to go back to my friend’s place and look for it!  In fact I am going to ask him to load the app and see if the global mesh network of apps finds it for me.

Time passes… the below will be written after I get over to my friends place.

[Currently intentionally left blank]


What could you possibly use 8 relays on a board for?

I’ll be honest, today is payday and, I’ve been thinking about improvements to existing projects, surf’n the web look’n to buy!  Then I thought of my binary christmas tree display.  I remember seeing an 8 relay board on the web a long time ago, and thinking what could I use THAT for?  I had to come up with an excuse to buy it of course.  I convinced myself I could build a holiday light display with a twist.  I decided I’d flash the lights in binary.  Check it out if you have not watched it yet.

Now that was a fun project.  How do I expand on that in the context of “the farm”.  There’s a solar array in the field  – ideas?

I can’t say I bought this one below – but they all look about the same.  When you are just having fun with an Arduino you can afford the 8 pins to drive these things.  I suspect some have a BCD to relay decoder chip built in.  That would reduce the number of pins you need to dedicate.  Or you can use a shift register (those are fun. Look em up if you have not considered them in your project yet).

5V Eight 8 Channel DC 5V Relay Switch Module for Arduino Raspberry Pi Arm AVR | eBay

So now you’ve got a project for yourself to figure out.  The code for an Arduino to do the above binary tree display was fairly simple.  You can get fancy if you want.  Where you’ll want to be careful is how you wire up the high voltage side of the system.  I took a lot of care modifying a power strip.  This had the advantage of 8 sockets ready to plug into.  Go for it – be safe.

The perfect way to actually get and be rich

I am a keen (if not recently) fan of saving money for the long haul. In the past my objective was to pass away with the most debt possible so as to maximize the present. A cheeky goal of course – not terribly practical. In fact, when I review, I’ve not been THAT good at accumulating the massive debt needed to “be rich”. While on a staycation this week I’ve put a lot more thought into what money is and what money does. I even read a few books. Here’s the simple answer, start saving now. You are not saving for a car, or a new this or that, you are saving for your life without chains. Savings are not a nest egg to spend later. They are invested to work for you when you no longer want to work. The sooner you start saving the sooner you can choose not to work. The horizon for that moment in time will seem very far away to some today. You may be thinking a savings plan is maybe for my kids, and it is, but you too can benefit from taking definitive action (either for yourself or your kids). I realise I have been saving for a long time by side effect (RRSP, 401k, ESPP and other work benefits). Now I am saving with intent. When you can quantify your goal you get far more value from the effort of saving. And it is an effort. Let’s make it automatic, a part of the cost of living today, and a habit.

This book got me started thinking in this direction. It may or may not help you. It may or may not be right. What it did do is open my thoughts to possibilities I had not considered. At the least I found it empowering to know that the amount of saving you need to retire is, in fact, quantifiable – hence goal worthy.

Once you’ve read the book – well now – bookmark this link (my personal invite to you) – it’s a simple site where you can start those investments now.

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon – if you don’t get it now put it on a wish list for later – reading it now is of course my personal recommendation.

The autonomous road

Let’s begin with today and see how full autonomy in vehicles might progress.  Today there are some auto driving cars, but we know they are still just safety features that help you avoid collision more than anything else.  Soon however these features will be able to take full control of the car and you can sit back and be just a passenger.   Once this point is reached there will be rapid changes in where and how driving is done.

Freeways will be split – not like HOV lanes are today, no.  Imagine all the Northbound lanes closed to all cars where a driver is in control.  The southbound lanes will be split down the middle and drivers will be using this as their new north south lanes.  Those northbound lanes will be only for fully autonomous cars.

But there won’t be any lanes.  Traffic will run swiftly in both directions on any side of the road that works for the flow of traffic.  You may be heading South at a full clip when the car needs to move over to the left (into oncoming traffic) and the cars will make a path – the car will float over to the left and exit as needed.  A bit like the video here but the water is northbound and the car is the swing.

Traffic signs will no longer be needed and perhaps digital markers will replace them.  Easier for the car to know about what’s up ahead if there are sudden changes beyond it’s ability.

Once the freeway is 100% autonomous then all old lanes in both directions will be used (again for any direction) and the median will be removed.  There probably won’t be any lines painted (waste of paint by now).

Autonomy also brings a freedom from congestion.  Your car could pick you up – drop your kids off at school, drop you off at work, go back hoe and be available for your spouse all day until it needs to grab you or the kids or both.  Schedule conflict? Uber like services or your friend’s car will fill in the gap.  With cars always doing work or being there for the person that needs it – you have fewer cars, less need for parking in a city.  If these cars are gas or electric they can go fill themselves up without wasting your time or more importantly encouraging the (now mythical) range anxiety.

Sure there’s trucks and busses and other large vehicles that will need to be developed too.

Old cars will still have a life – where you can use it on country roads and enjoy the top down or whatever.  Not forever, but don’t worry most of us will out live our non autonomous car and the nostalgia we have for them.

This is not tomorrow – this is the final destination. Well until these thing can fly of course.

Enjoy the future.


— Range anxiety:  I don’t have it.  When all electric cars have a 200+ mile range and (a big and) people charge their car @ home when they sleep, the anxiety effect will be gone.  Even better the fully autonomous car will always know its limits and will be sure to charge when necessary, and keep that in mind for longer trips.  Also lastly; battery swap we know is possible and fully automatic and autonomous battery swap is clearly within reach.

Stop with all the unnecessary lights!

Constellations Everything is turned off but… My fridge glows, my Stove glows, my TV glows, my hard drive glows, my bathroom outlet glows.  Everything glows.  This bombardment of light, from all the different things in my house, I’ve started to call it a constellation – my personal constellation.  It is light pollution people!  These products suck.  When they are OFF they should be invisible and silent in every way.  Sony thank you but a red led light on my TV or PS3 does nothing for me when your devices are supposed to be OFF.  The only godsend I’ve encountered is Tivo’s ability to select how annoying or not you want the LEDs to be (and very much OFF is an option).  All off THANK YOU!  The basic hard drive green flashing light is ill conceived when you can’t turn it OFF!  Who cares if the hard drive on a computer is doing stuff.  Really.  YOU don’t.

Yes I have a significant investment in BLACK tape to cover these things up.  I question this however from the simple perspective of perfection.  WWSJD!  What Would Steve Jobs Do!

Do you GET IT NOW!  We are subjected to these ever increasing constellations of light and they are all 100% unnecessary in our lives.  Unless I install a night light in a room – when the lights are off and the Sun is down – it should be DARK.

Do something like post this to FaceBook and ask all your friends to re-post it.  Personal constellations are not the where we need to be headed.

ConstallationsMr. McYork.

Your kids will love you this summer

There is a program in place that can help you and I get kids excited about Making.  Buy your kids a subscription to Make Magazine, via our link, and this summer there will be great projects you’ll find they are inspired by.  If you use our link here to buy your 1 year subscription 50% of that will be available to McYork to spend on electronic bits and bytes. These will ALL be given to kids and people who show an interest in electronics or projects that will incorporate them.  Use it or lose it rules apply – so the recipients of the parts will need to express what they plan to do with the various parts and show us the project working by summer’s end (we love youtube for that part).  If you and your kids build the fun projets in Make Magazine we’d also love to hear from you and or watch your youtube video of the fun you had.

The keyboard helper

I was talking with a friend who has a big problem.  His son can’t use a keyboard but loves to play computer games.  He can only use a mouse and only with his right hand.  He has very limited abilities in his left.  It became clear after our conversation that if we put our heads together we could make something that might enable him to play the different computer games with more ease and enjoyment.

New video link added at the end of this posting.

We imagined a joy stick that could be used to maybe send different keystrokes to the keyboard via some device.  I took this problem home and below is what became “the keyboard helper”.


The Leonardo has a great capability; It can emulate a keyboard and mouse.  Using this as the core of the new device I tested a number of code snippets   I was able to send words and keystrokes to Notepad, what fun!  The next thing was to read analog ports connected to a joystick.  There are a ton of examples on the web, I got this running quickly.  To wire up the joystick I needed to tie in some resistors.  I’ll try to explain why they are in the circuit later.  The last part was to add an LCD display for some visual feedback.  I thought it would be important and we found out after the fact that it ended up having a very different function than what I had first envisioned.  LCD displays can be hooked up in a few different ways the most common are parallel (all pins) or via some type of intermediate device that you to talk to via a serial or i2c interface.  I had an i2c to LCD kit from an old project and decided to re-use this (the link is to a more recent iteration).  The LCD display itself was pulled out of an old PBX phone, it had some odd pinouts but normal LCDs you find on the web will be simple to wire up.

On a 2 hr flight I crafted most of my notes on how I felt the “system” would work.


I’d present a grid on the 2 line display of the characters Q W E R.



Something like the above. When you tell the LCD to use a blinking cursor and then move to a position over top of a letter – it looks selected.  By moving the cursor over each letter as the joy stick moves – you can see what letter is available to be typed to the computer.  Great visual feedback.  In the above diagram suppose Q is high lighted.  The movement UP or LEFT on the joy stick would then send the letter Q to the keyboard.  A movement DOWN would select E but not send E.  Once on E a movement LEFT or DOWN would send E to the keyboard.  Scroll to the letter needed then move -off- the screen to send it to the computer.


That’s how the 1.0 version functioned. There was some immediate feedback as the game being played changed.  It would be preferred to hold the key down and not just type one letter.  Selecting the letters became less critical as now it was a matter of just holding down the key and there were only 4 to send.  Here is the resulting logic main loop of the program that shows this modified approach.

void loop()
 center = 1; 
 up = map(analogRead(0),0,1023,0,1);    // Q MoveTo(0,9); 
 left = map(analogRead(1),0,1023,0,1);  // E MoveTo(1,9); 
 down = map(analogRead(2),0,1023,0,1);  // R MoveTo(1,11);
 right = map(analogRead(3),0,1023,0,1); // W MoveTo(0,11);

 if (up) {'q');
 center = 0;
 if (left) {'e');
 center = 0;
 if (down) {'r');
 center = 0;
 if (right) {'w');
 center = 0;
 if (center) {

The letters are now being sent as lower case. What’s nice about this approach is the MAP function.  It has a lot of uses.  Here it converts the range 0 to 1023 into the range 0 to 1.  This enables the code to read both momentary switch type joysticks or analog potentiometer joy sticks (we’ve used both in our prototypes).

Mental Note: if two states are on at the same time does the keyboard function send both or does the last one sent win?  Think moving on a diagonal in a game and how the code above may or may not enable this.

I am working on a wiring diagram it is going to be a while until I either build a second version or I can borrow back the one I’ve built for a day to recall the exact details.  Like I said above – examples for each element of this are easy to find on the web – you should not have much trouble.

A working version of the code (assuming you use the right pins with your LCD and such) is here.  As my LCD and I2C are probably different from yours – there will need to be some adjustments in the commands sent to the LCD (maybe).

I liked this project for a number of reasons.

  1. Jerry is a much happier camper now. UPDATE BELOW
  2. I had no idea how great that would make me feel.
  3. Game control is vastly improved.
  4. The project was small in scope and I was clear on the goal.

Thank you for reading.  There is not too much more to say about this project at this time.  It will be a while but the circuit will be doodled up some day.

Go make stuff.

The LCD took on an unexpected use:  It happens that the joystick needs to be positioned just right.  Exactly right.  Such that the limited motion of the left hand can move in the 4 directions.  It takes some time to get this center point just right.  The LCD will be highlighting the direction of the “problem” and my friend can use this as visual feedback until he gets both the joystick and hand centered.

UPDATE. The fine film crew at work put together this video of the project’s impact.




Chip programmer with a twist

I am working on 1000 projects all the time.  You may already know that of me.  This one will be a fun adventure.  I’ve started by this is a site where they show you how to build a bare bones Arduino.  I went and ordered the part for 4 kits via the electronics seller it was under $30 for all the parts I needed.  I did not get boards as I plan to design my own at a later phase. Shrimp + SPI to 8 pin chip  Here’s the shrimp built with an 8 pin chip holder where it can be used to program the little chip.  This is an Atmel ATTiny 85 ready to be programed.

Now the hard part.  Let’s say I want to program a lot of these little chips.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Arduino held in memory all the code and capabilities to program the chip without an attached USB link to a computer?  That’s goal #2.

random blickers

Here is an ATTiny 85 running code that was pushed through the Arduino in the traditional manner (Goal #1).  What I like about the Tiny line of chips is there is little to no supporting hardware required to have them run.  This makes them a lot of fun for all kinds of little builds.  They will even run off three or 4 AAA batteries and for quite some time.

I’ll tell you the future – it’s a no brainer

Today I thought of EvRA; “Electric Vehicle Range Anxiety”.  I made this up (maybe someone else has already). Honestly I had this on day one.  The very first day.  It did continue to linger for a while but it never seems to really enter my thoughts now.  What was it like way back in the day when there was no such thing as a Gas station.  I guess you could always get a tow from a horse right?  Those crazy horseless carriages! Well it’s not so crazy anymore.  We have electricity in more places than we have cell phone service.  Think about it.  We have electricity in many more places than we have gas stations.

Ok allright – you still need to plan your day or your trip if you will be exceeding your range. Charging an EV takes time [but maybe not – keep reading].  Some are not yet suitable for long trips at all.  We know this, it’s not a surprise to anyone.  If you only drive on a road trip once in a while you can borrow or rent a vehicle with a greater range – someday a larger electric and for now probably a gas or hybrid vehicle.  I don’t see the big deal.  If your driving habits don’t fit within the range or time paramaters that an electric vehicle can offer then you are not in a position to find them very practical at this time.  That’s a no brainer choice today.

What about a two car family  Here the second car could easily be a gas, hybrid or some longer range variation.  I am not a huge fan of this suggestion but it will help increase the EV population and there was probably two cars in the driveway already anyhow (in such situations).  [full disclosure – no I did not sell my other car when I bought the EV and we don’t have a hybrid either.  Three cars, with the two gas ones mostly unused – I can sleep at night.]

Charge iT!

Tesla is building a future.  The one where the time to charge is very much a practical rest stop on a long trip.  They’ve produced a car that does not really need a charge up durring the day (for most people’s habits).  The supercharger stations take care of the long haul trips.  If they execute on plan the entire populated region of the US will probably be available to you without EvRA.  Others are trying to take EvRA completely out of the equation too.  I just can’t get enough of this company and how it is executing on an amazing promise – unlimited range:  My only wish is that an American car company would step up to the plate here (Ford are you listening?).  It looks in the pictures like the battery _may_ be or I hope becomes swappable.  These are non conflicting ideas – fast charging and battery swapping.

Some day, in the future, you will find it more and more difficult to find a gas station.  At some point long distance trips in a gas car will require a significant amount of planning.

Some day, in the future, the same EV I have today will get a new battery with 4x the range it has today.

Someday in the future you will find this blog posting and sigh “those were the days of gas cars kids”.

Kabam Acquires Exploding Barrel Games, Build Outs Presence In Vancouver

Exploding Barrel Games1778

Kabam, a midcore mobile and social developer that ended last year with about $160 million in revenue, just bought Exploding Barrel Games and is expanding its presence out in the Vancouver area. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

via [TechCrunch](