Skew-T Meteorologist in Kansas City

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Termux

Screenshot of Termux
Screenshot of Termux

Termux is an Android app that provides a terminal emulator and Debian-like Linux environment. Smartphone screens are relatively small compared to a laptop or full computer monitor but screens continue to improve making terminal use increasingly viable. My Google Pixel XL has a 5.5 inch screen running at 2560x1440, the same resolution as one of my desktop 27 inch monitors.

Vertically the terminal is restricted to 57 columns but is surprisingly usable with the on screen keyboard. Held horizontally and paired with the Logitech K380 Bluetooth keyboard, it is an excellent text terminal. Features abound, from an API exposing hardware remotely via ssh, to style support including Powerline fonts.

GPS Clock

For some time I had sought out the ideal clock for the bedroom. Like many I've switched to using my smart phone as an alarm, but I still have the need for a clock to quickly find out the current time. While I've had clock radios that worked well, it proved difficult to find the ideal combination of features. Specifically I was seeking an LED display of twenty four hour time that set itself, eliminating the need to adjust for daylight saving and making the power outages I was experiencing a non-issue. The latter feature of automatic time setting proved especially difficult, as I was living in Fairbanks, Alaska at the time, outside of the signal range of the inexpensively received WWVB atomic clock backed time signal.

Peak signal coverage estimated for WWVB time signal
Peak signal coverage estimated for WWVB time signal

Already interested in the growing microcontroller hobbyist market, I looked into what time keeping parts might be possible. I had thought of perhaps having a NTP backed Ethernet or wifi connected device but at the time few components were available offering network interfaces and they required significant work to implement. I ended up going with a GPS receiver, something more frequently used for position information. The GPS system relies on very accurate time keeping, something a small receiver can take advantage of as well. Connected to an Arduino and a large digit display through a breadboard, the clock proved a very useful project that continues to work well to this day.

GPS Clock
GPS Clock

GPS devices have improved over time and the chip in the clock I ultimately created is able to display accurate, 24 hour time within seconds after being plugged in. I never have gotten around to enclosing the device so it continues to look like a science experiment, many years after it was first put together.

Arduino powering the clock
Arduino powering the clock

DIY DVR

HDHomeRun Extend
HDHomeRun Extend

A few months ago I changed my cable plan to eliminate television service as I found myself taking advantage of the service less and less frequently. I now primarily watch online services such as Netflix or Blu-Ray but also take advantage of free over-the-air broadcast television (which funnily enough has better picture quality over-the-air). On the latter I was perhaps most interested in still watching Jeopardy, which unfortunately airs locally at a time I am rarely able to watch, so the TWC furnished DVR was to be sorely missed.

As I was researching devices compatible with MythTV, for building an open source DVR computer, I came across the HDHomerun Extend, a standalone network device with dual ATSC tuners. The Extend works with HTTP and DLNA offering flexibility in streaming to computers and TVs anywhere on the network. It proved an opportune time to purchase the device as a new version was about to be released, with a new silent case design replacing a reportedly noisy fan.

Plex for Android
Plex for Android

A simple shell script called via cron is all that is needed to record a program to a shared folder on a NAS. The folder is watched by a media scanner in Plex, quickly making it available by show and episode on Plex apps available for smart TVs, computers, phones, and more. The key line of code is a simple curl call:

curl -o "/mnt/video/tv/$SHOW/$EPISODE.mp4" "http://192.168.0.209:5004/auto/v$CHANNEL?duration=$DURATION"

Mechanical Bluetooth Keyboard

Qwerkywriter
Qwerkywriter

I've been using my new Surface tablet more to avoid being at a desk, but the typing experience of any laptop cannot compete with the Coolermaster keyboard that sits atop that work surface. So I was looking for what I wasn't sure possible, a Bluetooth mechanical board. At random I came across a Facebook post to a friend who enjoys retro styling, linking to a crowd funded project called Querkywriter, a mechanical keyboard designed to mimic a mechanical typewriter, complete with carriage return lever. It's not perfect, like the angle of the tray that holds a tablet upright is far too steep, but battery life is excellent and it feels very solid.