Posts tagged electronics

Do-it-yourself Wake Up Light – A Dawn Simulator Light Alarm Clock

Do you often wake feeling tired? Does the sound of your alarm clock buzzing drive you crazy? What if there were a better way?

Some people believe that your body reacts better when you wake to light– with a natural dawn simulation — easing your body into the day the way the sun does naturally.

Here’s a fun project you can do in just a few minutes given the right supplies. You can make your own wake-up light with a few simple items you may already own. Of course you could always buy one of these:

But if you’d rather be handy and make your own dawn simulator, here’s what you’ll need:

A digital wall timer is recommended, because most now offer programming customizable for 7 days– this lets you set different on/off patterns for weekdays vs. weekends, etc.

Once you’ve assembled your parts, you’re ready to get going on the path to simulating natural wake up patterns with your wake up light. If you’ve opted for a full spectrum bulb (one that is closer to the sun’s own light frequencies) install the bulb in your lamp).

Important note: If you plan to use a dimmer with this project, you may want to choose an incandecent bulb — newer CFL and LED bulbs are often not compatible with standard dimmer switches.

Next, if you are using a dimmer switch, plug your lamp into the dimmer switch. Then plug into the wall timer. If not using a dimmer switch, plug directly into the wall timer.

Then, plug in the wall timer to your outlet and program your on/off patterns using the provided instructions– each timer is different, but most allow for multiple on/off times per day and per week.  Consider turning the light on before you plan to wake and leaving on for an hour or more to allow your body to adjust before you rise.

If you’ve installed a dimmer switch, test the brightness you’ve selected to ensure it is to your liking. Experiment with different settings until you find the level of light that helps you rise naturally without making you cringe.

There you have it, your very own wake up light – at a fraction of the cost of commercial dawn simulators.

Note, one advantage of the commercial models is the ability to integrate an alarm sound and to grow the light brighter over time — if you find difficulty getting brightness to your liking, consider a commercial model.



How to Make an AirPrint Print Server with a Raspberry Pi


So what exactly can you do with the $35 Raspberry Pi?

Well it turns out you can do lots of things! We’ll have more posts to follow, but the Raspberry Pi mini-computer is a low-power ARM-based microcomputer that can run alot of cool stuff through a linux distribution, including today’s project — an AirPrint Print Server.

So you have an Ipad, an Iphone, etc… and you noticed that ‘share’ option that says print — awesome right? Print right from my phone?

One catch, you don’t have an AirPrint compatibile printer and you like your current printer… no need to go out and buy an AirPrint printer.. Just turn you Raspberry Pi into an AirPrint Print server to relay your print jobs from Apple Ipad or iPhone to your existing printer.

Huge shout-out to Rohan for his original tutorial ( and tjfontaigne ( for the python script that makes it possible for noobs.

Since that tutorial was made, the process of turning your Raspberry Pi into a AirPrint printer go between has become even easier. The latest versions of CUPS has added mDNS support that makes the process more streamlined.

The basic process goes like this:

1) Obtain a Raspberry Pi  and a spare SD Card

2) Download WinImager32 (or your favorite image writer) and the raspbian linux distribution (

3) Write the linux image to your SD card and insert into your Pi. Boot and follow configuration menu… recommended to expand storage to fill card and change thee memory split to favor cpu usage ( GPU: 16Mb)

4) Update/upgrade your packages… you can do this by typing ‘sudo apt-get update’ and then ‘sudo apt-get upgrade’  — if you experience failures to any updates simply repeat until all installs are successful

5) Install CUPS (‘sudo apt-get install cups cups-pdf python-cups’); Then add your username to the lpadmin group to give access to manage the CUPS administration (‘sudo usermod -aG lpadmin yourusername’)

6) Next edit the configuration to allow yourself to manage CUPS from computers on your network outside of the Pi. (‘sudo nano /etc/cups/cupsd.conf’ will open it in an editor– Change “Listen localhost:631” –> “Port 631”; Add ‘ServerAlias *’ on the line following ‘DefaultAuthType Basic’; Add ‘Allow @Local’ under the server, admin and config files sections; Save changes.)

7) Add your printer using the CUPS web interface at the ip address of your Pi on port 631 – e.g. – Be sure to enable the option to share the printer you are adding.

8) Now that the Pi is configured to utilize your printer, it’s time to make it accessible as an Airprint server so your iOS devices will be able to print to your printer. Create a new directory /opt/airprint/; change to this directory (‘cd /opt/airprint/’) and download the script– ‘sudo wget -O –no-check-certificate’ –then run the script: ‘sudo python’ — This should have created a new file with the name of your printer some random characters and ending ‘.service’ – If this file was generated correctly you should be all set.

9) On your iOS device, go to share on any page you want to print and select ‘print’ then select printer, your device should detect an airprint printer on your raspberry pi. Your Raspberry Pi will relay the print job directly form your iPhone as an AirPrint printer.



Line-Following Mini Tank with Analog Circuits!


Today’s project comes from Chris over at – They’ve got a ton of awesome projects you can check out, but today’s highlight is a new take on a classic line following robot. a great design and great write-up, you can check out at and make your very own robot, and make it follow lines all over your house! I like the breadboard set up and the analog circuits, so you don’t even need a microcontoller. Amazing stuff! Now if we could get a light solar panel to recharge/replace the lipo battery, it could crawl lines each day for hours all on its own….

Best Place to Buy Cheap Electronic Components


A question I’m frequently asked: “I’d love to make this circuit or DIY electronic project i saw online– but, i went to radioshack and all the stuff costs so much!? Where can I get the components cheap?

Well, sadly as “The Shack” has transitioned away from radio building and into a cell phone kiosk, Radio Shack now charges REDICULOUS prices for simple components. I’m glad to say, with the internet now everywhere, you don’t have to go to the shack and pay these prices. But since online ordering can take some time, its a good idea to plan ahead and stock a parts bin, so you’ll have most of the common components on hand when you see that great DIY electronics project online.

Where do I shop? Well, my favorite for stocking a parts bin is, handsdown, Goldmine Electronics- it is definately the best place to buy cheap electronic components. Be sure to check their clearance and assortments, but definately do a search for “surprise” — nothing could be better for stocking a parts bin!

For around 8 dollars (pricing might have changed) the assortment in their large surprise box was more than enough resistors, capacitors, doohickeys, switches, knobs, for  many projects. Because every surprise box is different (though they seem to run in batches), I’d recommend adding one surprise box to your order whenever you find yourself back on their site for some specific parts.

Over the course of time, I’ve received everything from small cell phone lcd screens, to mostly complete cell phones, more snap-in 120v lamps and mono 3.5mm jacks than i could ever know what to do with and lots of other really neat stuff to tinker with.

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