It’s that time of year again – you know, the time where it gets sodding hot and sunny. With sunny and hot comes thirsty and a desire for something cold. Iced coffee. Why not?
I don’t know why I got the itch for it, but something inspired me to make iced coffee. After looking around for decent recipes/mixes I’ve not really found one that seems perfect, you know? I quite like the idea of sweetened black iced coffee, but it’s hard to get right, and would most likely end in more failures than successes. Not that I won’t work on that, but that will come later. Instead I have a work in progress recipe for a nice white sweetened iced coffee. It will likely evolve but here it is right now:
For roughly two glasses:
600 ml regular strength coffee
30 ml vanilla syrup
60 ml sweetened condensed milk
Make the coffee as you usually would, i.e. percolator, cafetiere/french press etc. and allow it to cool, then stick it in the fridge. If you’re worrying about ice diluting regular strength coffee, don’t. There’s a secret weapon at the end of the post that you’ll like, if you’re that worried.
Once the coffee is nice and cold, get your favourite blender and pour in all your ingredients. Blend. It should mix up well and end up with a nice froth on the top. If it doesn’t… blend more.
Grab a glass and fill it with ice. Plenty of ice. Don’t be shy. Pour the coffee mix over the ice, and give it a good swill around to give it a chance to really get nice and cold.
Yep, you heard. Coffee ice. It’s a simple solution if you’re worried about the ice diluting down regular strength coffee. Most iced coffee recipes you see online talk about using double strength coffee, which is just plain silly. Most people will need to dilute double strength a good way before having a palatable drink. So regular it is. While you’re preparing your coffee, after letting it cool, but before putting it in the fridge, pour some of it into ice trays to put in the freezer. It’s that simple. I would highly recommend buying separate ice trays for this though, as the ice cubes go somewhat sticky and make a huge mess of the trays.
But yeah, that’s it. Secret weapon is ice cubes made of coffee that won’t dilute coffee. It’s really that simple. :D
This whole recipe is a work in progress, so I’ll update it if I figure out different measurements, or ingredients. Enjoy. Comment if you have any suggestions etc.
Update: I updated the post to mention using two 1N4001 or equivalent diodes instead of just one. Two diodes in series take the voltage down to almost exactly 3.3V, which is the required voltage for the RF board. I also added actual photos of the wiring now, as I’ve redone it (hence the messy wires from re-soldering Etc.)
Update 2: It seems that syncing is impossible directly from the RF module and PC, but if the wireless controller you use was already synced with the RF module, and hasn’t been re-synced with another Xbox since, it will work. However, I am working with another modification I found which adds LED and sync enable functions by means of a serial connection with a PIC16F628A μC. You can find the related forum post here: Link (and see how my thrown together version of it looks [here] and [here]. Messy, I know :P).
Update 3: Got the Arduino hooked up to the RF module instead for now. Working perfectly. Check it out. [link]
Update 4: Alternative means of syncing mentioned in the comments by George.
Update 5: Further testing on alternative syncing method shows how non-play & charge kit compatible peripherals can be synced -without- a microcontroller. Thanks, Pat.
Yesterday I had a thought – I don’t like having a wire to the Xbox360 controller I use for games on my PC. As I’m tight on cash right now I figured I’d have a quick look around to see if there was a way to use a wireless controller on the PC without going out and buying the official wireless transceiver. I was thinking that there may be some other RF transceiver that could be modified or adapted to work with it. As it happens, there -kind of- is.
Now if you’re like me, and have a spare wireless controller sitting around, it’s likely you have a dead red ringed Xbox 360 sitting in a cupboard. This is the key to getting the controller working with a PC. The wireless transceiver in the Xbox can be made to work with a little modification. Well, I say modification but I really mean little more than soldering a few wires and altering a .inf file. Let’s get on to it:
What you’ll need:
Dead/Red Ringed Xbox 360 you don’t mind cannibalising.
Any old USB cable you don’t mind cutting.
Two diodes – a couple of 1N4001 or equivalents will do. Basically it’s just there for a forward voltage drop WHICH IS VITAL (unless you don’t mind burning the board out and killing your USB controller).
Pro tip: Instead of a small plastic knife that they say to use to ping open the case, you can either buy a tool for it, make one out of an old CD/DVD spindle cover, or just rip the damn thing open with a screwdriver (after all, it’s dead right?).
The part you’re looking for:
It’s the board on the front of the machine where the ring and power button are. It’s held on by 3 screws, so be sure to pop the little plastic part off to find the third screw. Don’t go trying to pry it off like I almost did. Once the screws are out it just unplugs. And that’s your part.
The soldering part:
As you’re reading this and have an interest in it I’ll assume you know how to cut, strip, and tin your wires, so I’ll not bother with that part. Instead I’ll assume you’re sitting there with an RF board, a USB cable ready for soldering, a diode, and a hot soldering iron. Basically, follow the picture (click for bigger image):
And make it look like this:
Beginner’s mistake/brain fart moment warning: Make sure the diode is the right way around.
I chose to cut the diode legs down a fair bit and soldered it off to the left of pin 1, along the bottom edge of the RF module. You might like that idea, you might not. It’s up to you how you solder it. I could have been neater, but I honestly didn’t see much point. I’m not going to make a project box for it or anything, and it’ll be hidden away somewhere so practicality > looks.
I will mention again that the diodes are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The whole board runs on 3.3V while USB standard is 5V. The diodes that you put in series on the power line will lower the voltage to tolerable levels for the board – almost exactly 3.3V, to be honest (my multimeter is showing 3.34V). From what I’ve read in comments in various places the RF board likes to burn out quite spectacularly without a diode in place, taking the USB controller it’s connected to with it. I was paranoid enough about it to actually test the unit on my old Macbook (that I neither care about nor use) before trusting it on my main machines.
Once you have that all soldered up, you have yourself a wireless dongle for your Xbox 360 wireless controller, something like this:
Congratulations. Now for the software.
The software part:
This bit isn’t all that scary. You just need to modify the .inf file that comes with the official Microsoft drivers to allow for the different PID of the RF controller of the Xbox 360. First, if you don’t have it already, download the Xbox 360 Accessories Software for your operating system from the Microsoft gaming software download site, and install it. Now, before plugging the RF module in, you need to do that modifying I mentioned. Head over to c:\Program Files\Microsoft Xbox 360 Accessories\ (or wherever you installed it to) and make a backup of Xusb21.inf before opening it in your favourite text editor (Notepad++ is nice for it’s ini support with collapsing headers etc).
The parts you’re going to modify are under the headers [MSFT.NTx86.6.0], [MSFT.NTamd64.6.0], [MSFT.NTx86], and [MSFT.NTamd64].
After you’ve saved the changes, go ahead and plug in the RF module. Chances are it will complain that drivers can’t be found. Cancel out of the hardware wizard and head over to the device manager and find the Unknown USB Device, or whatever it is your flavour of Windows has decided to call it. You’ll know which one it is by the yellow !triangle! (and if you don’t have a clue what I’m on about, what are you doing trying to hack an Xbox component on to a PC in the first place?). Give the device a right click and update it’s drivers, but tell it you have a disk and navigate to the Xusb21.inf you modified. It might complain about unsigned drivers, it might not, but if it does just tell it to continue. At the end of it all you’ll have an Xbox 360 Controller for Windows device with a Hardware Id of USB\VID_045E&PID_0291 in your Device Manager. If not, reboot.
After all that, try syncing your Wireless controller with the unit. With any luck you should have a controller showing in your gaming devices. Give it a quick test with the diagnostics, maybe calibrate it etc.
And you’re done. On to wireless gaming. (o/
Any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Just a short quickie one really. I haven’t really been up to much other than this and that. Work has been canceled more often than I’d like it to have been, but it’s at least given me time to work on learning some more. Not that I’ve gotten that far. I did, however, acquire a few bits and bobs to help me continue along the lines I originally wanted to go when I first started with this electronics gubbins.
A few bits and bobs.
What we have here is my new (simplified) version of my LED matrix project. I’ve cut it down to two shift registers for now until I actually figure out how to use them right. Or rather, I know how to use them, just not how to code the rest of what I want to do. Then there’s the figuring out of PWM and then serial control etc. Other things you see there are my second Arduino (blue thing center bottom) so that I can start on my RF stuff (needed a microcontroller for both transmitter and receiver), a servo for learning to use (and for use eventually in my RC car control circuits, for which I’m already starting on things like H-bridge for motor control etc), two 16×2 LCDs (for use in the RF experiments, amongst other things), and a space ATmega326 with the Arduino bootloader on it (in case I want to make something into a pseudo permanent project).
For starters I’d like to say that I apologize for any really poor blog titles I come up with. Yes they’re all bad, and no I can’t think of anything better. Sad but true. Maybe I’ll gain the ability to come up with better ones in due time.
Anyway, it’s snowing. A fair bit. Fun stuff. We were prevented from leaving the yard at work a few days ago because of snow. Pansies, the lot of them. I’ve driven a truck in snow before, it’s easy, provided you take it gentle. It’s common sense and care, that’s all. If a corner is covered in snow and/or slush, you take it easy. Pfft. But no, all the managers at work were umming and aahing about it for a good few hours before finally deciding that we wouldn’t be working that day, yet they sent us out today with road conditions no better than they were when we couldn’t work. It’s sad really. I rather enjoy playing with my 26 ton vehicle in the snow. :D
Yesterday I made progress with little learning experiments with electronics and such. I’ve now managed to successfully hook up a small RF receiver to my Arduino nano with a serial connection and gotten data streamed from it. Garbage data, mind, as I didn’t have anything transmitting anything to it, but data all the same. I’ve ordered a few more bits and pieces today that’ll let me get on with learning some more. Only a short list, but it’s enough to give me a kick in the right direction. Another Arduino, a servo, an ATMega326 uC with the Arduino bootloader, and two 16×2 LCDs. I have a cunning plan for them all. The servo is for the RC car idea, of course (steering servo), the second Arduino and two LCDs are for learning wireless communication, as well as displaying things on LCDs, of course. But then further to that, there’s the further possible application of using it to wirelessly transmit stuff to an LED scrolling board etc. Ah the possibilities are endless. Kinda. I just need to learn how to do it all first. :P Slowly getting there in small baby steps.
Today I made a breakthrough in social etiquette – I called someone back after I missed their call. Not much, I know, but it’s not something I would have probably done before. At most I’d send them a text, if anything. Way I’ve always seen it is that if it was important they’d call back. If not, I’ll probably see them tomorrow anyway. But yeah I called back, and actually had a conversation, rather than just finding out what it was, and then making an excuse to hang up (“Sorry, gotta go. The dog just set the TV on fire”, or something like that).
Hmm. Once again yet another boring post, but I’ve really got to try to keep up the habit. Never know, I might write something interesting one day.
Ok, so I knew it would happen – I went ages without blogging. This is exactly what I had wanted to avoid, but lets see if I can do better in this stint. Although, to be honest, for a couple of days I was sleeping. As in, I would get home, and crash for the day. No idea why, I was just tired. :/
I actually just got done being disappointed. I’m trying to get back into electronics again after starting on it, getting interested, and kinda getting distracted away from it again. So I’m back at it. Now, I’m trying to find a project to do that I find fun, or with a final purpose. If I have a goal of something I’m more likely to try to get it done. So so far I have an 8×8 RGB LED matrix that I need to hook up with 74HC595 Shift Registers and control with an Arduino, a small Joule Thief circuit that works (but in essence is entirely useless for now), an idea, and specifications needed, for a remote shutter release for my Canon G7 (which is a potential commercial product, at least on Ebay, maybe… ok not likely but it’s nice to think it), and now an idea to redesign my own control circuits for an old RC car i have. I already have an AM-RT4-433/AM-HRR3-433 matched transmitter/receiver pair, which is also intended for the remote shutter release jobbie, but can be repurposed for this project no problems. They can be driven directly from microcontrollers, or encoder chips. In my case microcontrollers. On one end, for now, the Arduino, and on the other end (hopefully) a PIC16F627 (if I get my act together and learn assembly) or, if not, I’ll possibly invest in some AVR chips somewhere along the line, along with a programmer for them. Seems there are more AVR friendly projects around anyway, so I might switch to them for now.
But anyway, on to the disappointing thing. While I was taking the old car apart to see the control circuits to see if I could salvage any of it (a few components is about all) I figured I’d get the steering servo out while I was at it and have a fiddle around with it with the Arduino. Annoyingly I discovered that it’s not really much of a servo at all. Just a gearbox with a cutout switch of sorts. Essentially a software controlled gearbox with either full left, full right, or center positions. I want a pulse controlled servo, so it also looks like I’ll have to invest in a couple of those too as I don’t -really- want to be taking them out of my helicopter. Starting to think I might end up just making my own car (the drive motor isn’t up to much either). xD
Ah well, at least for now I guess I can piddle with the shift registers while I scrounge for parts.
In other news, amazingly I’ve actually said yes after being invited out for social drinks and such tomorrow night. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ll be socializing with these people, and the first time socializing with some of the others. I’m told they’re quite fun, so we’ll see. Me being social, who’d ‘ave thunk it?
From a further discussion I had today, it appears that it is in my best interests to learn. I know, shocking isn’t it?
Now, when I say learn, I mean really learn. Everything. There are some people who spend their entire lives studying books, coming up with new theories, pushing the boundaries of science, etc. None of that is what I’m talking about. I need to learn life, and the art of living it. As it stands right now I have a tendency to get bored of things pretty damned fast. I’ll start a new hobby or interest with full enthusiasm with the aim and goal of working through it until the end and mastering it. In reality I’ll probably poke at it half-assed for a few hours and give up soon after when I reach the first hurdle, or I’ll just get bored of it after the initial excitement has worn off. This is something that needs to change. So not only do I need to take up some of my half baked attempts at hobbies again, and actually work at them, I also need more. New ones. One of these things is a social life.
Ok so a social life isn’t exactly a hobby, but it’s something I lack. To many, including myself, there is the belief that this is just find an dandy, and that a social life is surplus to requirement in the grand scheme of things. Doesn’t seem like it’s true though. A healthy social life helps with the ability to relate to people, and in return helps them relate to you. Personally I lack the ability to read people correctly. It’s not down to any syndrome or mental condition afflicting me, it’s just down to inexperience and, to be entirely honest, lack of interest. I’ve never really put much thought into reading people.
One thing is that I’ve never really liked the idea of mixing work with social life, but I kind of have with a couple of people. At work we’re all very guarded. We don’t speak our minds openly, or show vunerability, and we cover most of what we say in a thick layer of humour or sarcasm. As a result I’m told I’m a joker and can’t be taken seriously. The thing is that where I only ever really socialise with the people from work I still act the same way around them as I would at work. It’s a habit of the last 9 years of working at that place. Not so easy to break. What I need to do is find non-work people to learn from. Here lies one of my biggest problems – I have no idea how to socialise. Not a clue. If I walked alone into a room full of strangers and was told I couldn’t come out for a day I can guarantee that I’d walk out having not spoken to any of them unless they tried talking to me first. I just don’t have the first idea of how to approach people, or a situation in which it’s ok to try striking up conversation.
Social situations either confuse me or annoy me. A few examples:
Private parties – These are situations where most other people know each other, and I’ll likely have a single point of contact who I’ll cling to mercilessly for the entire night. To me, the others are already there having a good time with each other and can share private jokes or already have background information on whatever subject they’re talking about. Often they’re more intimate affairs too, with only a few people so there’s more chance of being looked at as the slightly odd one out being quiet or shy or not really knowing what’s going on etc. Far too much opportunity for scrutiny. This makes me uncomfortable, regardless of how much of it is only in my head. A stigma I need to get over.
Pubs – People go to pubs with mates for drinks. See, they already have their group. A guy walking into a pub alone and trying to mingle isn’t going to be welcomed with open arms into a gaggle of friends who are out together for a quiet drink and a natter. It doesn’t seem like an appropriate place to try to meet people, unless you’re introduced to people. So again it kinda requires you to be in a social circle already.
Clubs – Nightmares. Can’t stand them. Loud boomy music at volumes high enough to make it hard for you to hear yourself yelling so hard you feel the back of your throat will literally rip itself out, stand in front of you, and punch you in the face for even thinking about trying to talk. These are places for drunk people to pay over the odds to get more drunk, flail their limbs about in a fashion they’re sure looks good but in reality resembles a dying monkey having an epileptic fit, and horny people to find desperate people to get laid. They are not places to make new friends.
Coffee shops – Now I know the cliché of sitting in a coffee shop with a drink and a book and watching the world go by is nice and all, but I really don’t get it. If someone is sitting there, alone, reading a book, does that not say that they kinda want to be alone, drinking coffee, and reading a book? I’ve been told that sometimes people will do that because they’re just waiting for someone to come and talk to them. But how do you tell? Is there a sign that someone is waiting? Maybe they’re just waiting for a friend to turn up, that’s why they keep looking up now and then. And what do you say? Ask them what book they’re reading? It’s on the cover. If it’s a book you’ve never heard of, what then? Act interested and ask what it’s about? How can you tell if they don’t want to be asked? No idea.
End of the day, I really don’t have a clue. But I guess it’s something I need to learn eventually. So, anyone have any clues as to how I should even start?