About junkcollector

It's my family that calls me the "junk collector" because of all the electronic stuff I've collected (tossed, donated, or sold on ebay) over the years. My goal is to share practical experience and observation of the digitalzoa with both the less technically inclined and those who share my fetish. Credentials? I started building stereos 30 years ago and I'm still chasing gadgetry - plus I have a brass rat.
Website: http://www.digitalzoa.com
junkcollector has written 16 articles so far, you can find them below.

Digital Toys Inside-Out

I’ve described a number of gadgets before, but we’ve typically looked at these from the outside – the consumer view of digitalzoa.  This article, however, is for anyone who loves taking apart electronics – it’s about a digital gadget that you play with from the inside-out – the Arduino.  The Arduino is a “cheaper-by-the-dozen” digital microcontroller, with a huge selection of plug-and-play add-on components.  It’s based originally on the ATmega328 microcontroller, but there’s now a variety of Arduino boards that range from $25 to $60, depending on which chip, capacity, or form you want.  Along with the hardware comes a straightforward programming language and free development environment that make it easy to write the code to run on your Arduino project.   

So what’s up with this – why is this a big deal?  Now you no longer have to be an Electrical Engineer working in a skunkworks in Silicon Valley to invent your own digitalzoa.  Really, you’re only limited by your imagination!  Artists, hobbyists, toymakers, and inventors – you can invent your own gadgets.  Wearable electronics, interactive art, home automation, industrial automation, measurement logging – these are just a few possibilities.  The Arduino is just one of a number of inexpensive, do-it-yourself gadget building blocks. Using the prefabricated boards and other components, you can prototype an idea, put a case around your project, and turn the prototype into a final product without any expensive manufacturing.

I have a couple of Arduino concepts that I am tinkering with – the first is for monitoring analog values, like outside temperature.  I put a WiFi shield on an Arduino board and created a web server that displays the analog values of its six inputs.  I have this plugged in and it just keeps running – I can open the IP address in a browser and it shows me the current values in a web page.  I just need to try different input sources.  Another project is a monitoring camera with two servo motors controlling the horizontal and vertical angle of the camera.  It seems that the less powerful ATmega328 chip cannot do video streaming, but the mega 2560 can, so I’m working on turning the CMOS camera memory into a video stream.  I could just put an IP camera on the rig and use the Arduino just as the position controller – so many possibilities.   Other possibilities: interactive game pieces (a controller in each) that interact using infrared LEDs and sensors; an infrared controller for home theater.

Some of the ideas may take more advanced programming skills, particularly for integration with other devices or systems, but the programming tool is easy to use.  The interactive development environment was derived from Processing IDE which is designed to promote software literacy and has its origins in the MIT Media Lab. 

If you ever wanted to try building your own electronic gadget that interacts with the physical world, give the Arduino a try – you might just get hooked.

2012 Video in Review

 My apologies, but I have just not been inspired to write about anything in this category this year.  The trends in digital video in 2012 has simply been more, cheaper, and better.  There have not been any disruptive technologies emerge (at least not that I have heard of), and the same cool TVs and gadgets […] Continue reading →

Apple Vs. DLNA – Remote Control

 I am continuing to experiment with DLNA controllers, now I’m looking at the video playback options and comparing them with proprietary ecosystems.  Apple has perhaps done the best job in this area with their Airplay technology, making it easy enough for the non-Geek to setup and use (that is, of course, Apple’s signature and strength).  […] Continue reading →

Sonos Vs. DLNA

 I’m experimenting with DLNA controllers and my question really is about “proprietary vs. standards” – are  there DLNA products able to accomplish what the proprietary ecosystems offers?  So let’s look at the Sonos home audio system as a case for or against DLNA… Now, my Sonos is getting a bit aged – the controller looks like […] Continue reading →

DLNA – Coming Soon To A TV Near You

 If you have been following the emergence of DLNA certified or compatible equipment, there is a bit of excitement brewing. The DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard really seems to be getting close to delivering a new world of media integration and control. Suddenly, so many devices – specifically TVs – are supporting DLNA playback. […] Continue reading →

When Disks Crash… Continued

 I thought I should provide the conclusion of the Terastation story.  I did finally receive and install the new WD 500GB hard disk, but sadly the RAID rebuild did not preserve my data.  I am still wondering if there was something I could have done differently to preserve the redundant data – if I had […] Continue reading →

When Disks Crash…

 There are many things to discuss on the subject of maintaining your aging digital zoo, but I will share about some recent struggles with aging data storage.  It’s just a fact of computer operations that hard disks crash.  I have associates who work in large datacenters and they forecast disk replacements by the month – […] Continue reading →

Wireless HDTV

 Everybody loves wireless, and a soon-to-be-hot item is the wireless HD display.  If we can have a wireless mouse, a wireless printer, and not to mention the unlimited Wi-Fi devices, then why can’t we have a wireless HD TV so we can put the huge TV anywhere we want, like on the wall over the […] Continue reading →