Category: Life

Chicken Cam: Incubator Edition

March 4, 2018 » Geek, Life

It’s been over a year since we’ve had chickens and we’ve missed them, so this Christmas we got Lizzy and Charlotte an incubator so that we could try hatching some this spring.

When we went to purchase eggs, we found that you could most easily get them 10 at a time from the hatchery we have used in the past, Murray McMurray. Since the incubator we got the girls could only hold seven, we would need something for the other three. Some searching found that you could use a styrofoam cooler and a lamp to create a makeshift incubator, so I planned on that.

Once I had a plan to create an incubator, I knew I would have to overcomplicate things. Four years ago I built a webcam for our chicks so I figured I would do that this time too. Also, just setting a lamp and thermometer in and hoping for the best seemed like a potential waste of good eggs, so I wanted to monitor the temperature and humidity, and regulate them.

My initial design was a Raspberry Pi connected to a cheap DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor, controlling a relay that could turn the light on and off. All of it would be hooked up through a PID controller to keep the temperatures right where we want them. Eventually, I added a thermocouple with a MAX6675 for more accurate temperature readings.

Raspberry Pi, Relay and a mess of wires.

The server side would be designed similarly to the previous chicken cam, except written in Go. The stats would be tracked in InfluxDB and Grafana would be used for viewing them.

After I got all the parts I did a little testing, then soldered things up and tested it to see how it ran.

Initially I wrote everything in Go, but the DHT11 reading was very spotty. Sometimes it would respond once every few seconds, and sometimes it would go a minute or more failing to read. I wired on a second DHT11 and tried reading from both, but I didn’t get that much better performance.

Eventually I tried them from the Adafruit Python library and had much better luck, so I decided to just read those from Python and send them to my main Go application for consumption. I still have trouble with the DHT11’s, but I suspect it’s my fault more than the sensors fault.

My next issue was that it was extremely jittery, the readings would vary by degrees one second to another, so I collected readings in batches of 5 seconds then averaged them. That smoothed it out enough that graphs looked reasonable.

On. Off. On. Off. On. Off.

Temperature was now well regulated, but the air wasn’t humid enough. I switched to a sponge and found I could manage it much easier that way. I briefly tried a 40W bulb thinking I could spend more time with the lamp off, but temperatures still plunged at the same rate when the light was off, so I mostly just created quicker cycles.

After putting the 25W bulb back in, I still wanted a longer, smoother cycle, so I wrapped up a brick (for cleanliness) and stuck that in there. That got me longer cycles with better recovery at the bottom, it didn’t get too cold before the lamp came back on. Some slight improvements to the seal of my lid helped as well. I had trouble with condensation and too much humidity, but some vent holes and better water management took care of that.

Before the brick.

After the brick.

For the server side, I mostly duplicated the code from the previous Chicken cam, but in Go. Then I used the InfluxDB library to get the most recent temperature and humidity readings for display.

At this point, I felt ready for the eggs, which was good because they had arrived! We placed them in the incubator and we’re just waiting now. On day 8 we candled them with a homebuilt lamp i.e. a cardboard box with a hole cut in it.

Candling

Things seem to be progressing well so far, so here’s hoping something hatches!

Password Generator Alfred Workflow

October 9, 2014 » Geek, Life

I love pwgen for passwords. They are simple and strong, pharmacy but it can be a pain to kick over to the terminal whenever I need one.

So, mind I made a super simple Alfred Workflow for this.

Basically, you type in “pw”, “pwgen” or “password” and it will generate and copy a 40 character password into your clipboard/open app.

You can use the “secure” option to generate stronger, less memorable passwords, and you can pass a length option as well.

Download it here: pwgen.alfredworkflow

Goodbye Omaha (April Fools 2013)

April 1, 2013 » Geek, Life

Rick Astley

This year I decided to pull a tiny April fools joke. I decided this at four in the afternoon, on the day of, so I didn’t have time to prepare.

I cashed in on John Henry Müller’s recent departure from the Omaha area to pretend I was leaving too.

I quickly threw up a page on my blog that would redirect to a Rick Roll, then I realized that various Twitter clients follow HTTP redirects and unwrap links to get the “real” URL and page title. I’ve been burned by that before, so I changed my tactic slightly to move the redirect into JavaScript. That let me put a sliver of believable content onto the page so that Facebook shares would work too.

The redirect page.

Finally, I tweeted it out, and started trapping suckers!

The Tweet.

The reaction.

I didn’t get Google Analytics on immediately, so I might have missed some folks, but I got 30 uniques on it that day from Facebook and Twitter.

The Tweet.

Not bad at all. SPN even wrote about it!

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Vegetarian Chili

December 15, 2012 » Life

This Thursday was the first Mastercraft Chili Cook Off put together by the crew at Big Ink. I made a chili on behalf of the What Cheer team, and Becca made corn bread. We didn’t win (Big Ink’s delicious chili did) but we were the best vegetarian chili! Also the only one.

I based my recipe off of the Ultimate Vegan Chili from Vegetarian Times, but made a few tweaks. Here is my rendition.

My Chili

Ingredients

Spice Mix

  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ¾ tsp. celery salt
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. ancho pepper powder
  • 2 chile de árbol, seeded and minced

Chili

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ~2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, drained and minced
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 12-oz. pkgs. soy ground, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, partially drained
  • 1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans, partially drained
  • 1 15-oz. can dark red kidney beans, partially drained
  • 1 15-oz. can pinto beans, partially drained
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion, and sauté 7 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

Add garlic, chipotle chile, and mushrooms, cook 5 minutes until softened.

Add soy ground, tomato paste, spice mix and 1 cup water; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans, carrots, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

Cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer 1 hour, or until carrots are tender.

Serve with crumbled Queso Blanco on top.

What I will do differently next time.

My chili was too thick, so next time I will greatly reduce the amount I drain from my beans, and I may add stock at the end if it still looks to thick.

I’d like to increase the amount of ancho chili, I love that smoky flavor. I’d also like to try adding in a bit of dark chocolate and cinnamon, something that the Big Ink team did to great success.

I really enjoyed the toothiness of the carrots, so next time I might add in a stalk or two of celery as well. The Burns & McDonnell chili had celery in it, and I liked that.

Lastly, this chili needed more heat. I like the back end burn of cayenne, so I think I’ll add more of that. Another chile de árbol couldn’t hurt either.

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Black Bean Chorizo Soup

November 4, 2012 » Life

For a soup party at the Gates’ house I made a black bean chorizo soup. I wanted to make this because of a soup I had at The Drover, and I loved it.

My Soup!

I didn’t find an exact recipe to use, but I found one I thought would be a good starting point and went from there.

Here is the version I made, and at the end I’ll add some comments about what I will be trying next time.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (4-ounce) fresh, raw Mexican Chorizo
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 dried Chile de árbol, seeded
  • 1 dried Poblano chile (chile ancho), seeded
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans
  • 1 canned chipotle chile, diced
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese, for serving
  • Sliced green onions, for serving

Make a few small cuts in the chorizo with a knife. Place in your soup pot over high heat in 1/2 an inch of water.

Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and lower head to medium-low. When sausages are firm (about 10 minutes) uncover and raise the heat to medium.

While they are boiling, place the chile de árbol and chile ancho in a food processor and break them up. They don’t have to turn to powder, but you don’t want any large chunks.

Let the water boil off, then brown the sausages a bit in their own oil. Remove the sausages and set aside.

Pour in a very little water, maybe a 1/4 of a cup to deglaze the pan, then add the olive oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the garlic, ground up dried peppers, and half of the onions.

Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. At the same time, cut your chorizo into 1/2″ slices, then halve those slices and add to the onions as you go.

Add the black beans, diced chipotle pepper and broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend half the soup as smooth as you can, then stir in the other half of the onions and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Dish it up, top with the cheddar and sliced green onions.

What I will do differently next time.

For texture, it came out thinner than I envisioned, so I would cut the chicken stock in half and replace it with equivalent puréed black beans. I might also consider adding some heavy cream to it, but I’m not sure.

I don’t think I would add the canned chipotle chile next time. I’m not sure that flavor was right for where I wanted to go with the soup.

Also, I might only use half of a chile de árbol, since it came out pretty spicy and Darcy can’t handle the heat.