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Blog » Miscellaneous

An Arduino digital LED controller

23 August 2018

Posted in Miscellaneous

Since building my current Hackintosh in 2012 I have made a number of changes to the hardware. After all, upgradability is one of the key benefits of a PC over a computer made by Apple. At this point the computer is down to just one harddrive in addition the system SSD, it is back to air-cooling for the CPU, and all components are very quiet. So, a couple of months ago I decided to get a new case, better matching the hardware in use now.

The trend in the PC industry to use more and more LED lighting hadn’t escaped me, and I feel that, in reasonable amounts, this can actually add to the look. What I had in mind was a single coloured fan on the front of the computer, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to buy one of the many, comparatively expensive, LED-lit fans on the market, because they are, in almost every aspect, worse than the fans I have. It was then that I discovered Phanteks’ Halos Digital RGB fan frames; basically very thin frames with LEDs that are inserted between the computer case and the fan.

Now my new problem, and opportunity, was that these fan frames contain 30 individually addressable RGB LEDs, i.e. each of the LEDs can have a different colour at any moment in time. My mainboard is obviously way too old to have RGB support so I decided to use an Arduino board instead.

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Three mysterious hardware problems

29 June 2015

Posted in Miscellaneous

PSULast month three completely unrelated, yet equally mysterious, hardware problems kept me entertained at home. Each did have an obvious explanation in the end. Getting from symptoms to diagnosis, though, required both, guesswork and luck. Sure, I'm more of a software guy but I thought that I had a decent understanding of “how stuff works”. Well, looks like things have gotten pretty complex now.

Problem #1: our trusty PS3. Symptoms: We had just bought a new TV. Excited to see how games would look like on it, I powered up the PlayStation, and was greeted with a big blank screen of nothing. The TV was definitely set to display the correct input source, but, still, there was no picture. Swapping the HDMI cable to a different port on the TV, with the PS3 running, fixed the problem. It definitely left an uneasy feeling, though.

Things got even more confusing when I tried to play again another day and was again greeted with a blank screen. Now swapping back to the HDMI port that I had originally used gave me a picture. How could that be?

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The limits of the MacBook Pro's cooling system

11 April 2015

Posted in Miscellaneous

Power Gadget ScreenshotMy work computer is a 15" MacBook Pro. Its performance is definitely good enough for serious software development, even if the Scala compiler and the IntelliJ indexer do push it at times. In fact, performance is so good that I have been wondering how Apple and Intel have managed to get that much CPU power, and the requisite cooling, into such a small machine. That is, small when compared to desktop or workstation computers.

In contrast, my Hackintosh at home now has about 800g of metal hanging off the mainboard to cool the CPU. Granted, it is overclocked, which requires disproportionally more cooling, and it is about 50% faster than the MacBook but, still, I found it surprising just how much less cooling the MacBook seems to need.

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On sabbatical leave

15 May 2013

Posted in Visualisation, Miscellaneous

Last August I completed my tenth year with ThoughtWorks, and we have a tradition to let people take a three-month long sabbatical leave after ten years. Mine got postponed a bit but now I'm off, until August.

During my leave I'll take it easy, spend more time with the family, but I'm also going to make some progress on the Softvis project that Jonathan McCracken and I started a long time ago. You can see the first steps here: softvis.github.io. More in three months. Hopefully.

If you are interested in writing up a visualisation and contributing it to the project, please get in touch! Maybe, if we get enough visualisations written up, we'll publish them in a book.

Travelcard Invader

29 October 2012

Posted in Miscellaneous

When I lived in London I used public transport a lot. Who doesn't? But for some reason, which I don't remember now, I started keeping my used travelcards in a box. I also asked Martina, my partner, for hers. As you can imagine, over the years we ended up with quite a collection. In fact, we had to buy travelcards until we moved to Clerkenwell late in 2006 because the station in Hackney, where we had lived before, didn't have Oyster card readers.

Stumbling across the box when we left London I had an idea: If there's post-it art, why not make travelcard art? I took a few years but now I've finally done it. The Travelcard Invader has arrived.

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