One regular poster here has designed a microcontroller-based, networked ( (remotely accessible), whole-home climate control monitoring system (heating-AC/hot h2o/heat exchangers/the whole works). Others have modified their digital toaster (I'm not mentioning names... (c: )
How has your profession (or hobby) leaked into your everyday life? What customizations or applications have you put electronics to that makes your life easier and/or more fun?
About the only thing I've done lately is add a large, (can't remember size) capacitor to the input of my inverter. It enables it to hold the microwave oven I use it for, barely. I recently put a set of digital transceivers in the inlaws barn, about 4 miles from the house, so they could monitor the intrusion alarm.
Working with electronics all day, I want nothing to do with it in my time off. I want all my household appliances to be as simple, dumb, reliable, and analog as possible. I'm comfortable with simple, old-gen PC applications because they work and are predictable.
We push technology only in those places where it really pays off. If there's no big benefit, stick the the stuff that's known to work.
Like Long Ranger, I live off-grid, and anything at my place has to be low-wattage. I'm working right now on programming devices to (1) run my 12V beer cooler only when the voltage is above some safe setpoint, say 12.2; pump the water for my indoor garden when the sensor is dry; flash the (homemade LED) rope light to indicate my shebeen is open, stuff like that. I've got a Picstart 2 and Futurlec ATTINY2313 development boards, and an ARM board from Coridium on order, not sure which one will end up being the best choice. They're all way overkill, really, but they offer the possibility of remote access which is nice.
I rather like garage doors that don't have to be manually opened in the rain, a car that is warm to get into- first thing on a Winter's morning, to know what is in my huge freezer and what is reaching its "use by" date, to run a bath without standing over the taps and burning/freezing my hand and gets the temperature right and stays at that temperature, doorlocks that lock themselves at night - so I don't have to go and check in my jim jams, lights that switch on when needed and off when not, etc, etc...
I'd much rather spend a little bit of time once than have to put up with some thing as it is, year after year after year... YMMV.
Actually, I don't live "off-grid". I use the inverter in my service van to run the oven that heats my lunch, and dinner, if I'm out late. Van is too small for a decent sized generator, and I can't bring myself to eat fast food.....
Three "mandatories": Remote controlled motor driven window opener/closer for a window that is very difficult to reach, remote control for whole house fan, filters for supply to motion sensor light. (The damn thing, once installed, prevented my X-10 system from working, until I made the filter. Same thing happened when I plugged in a rechargeable tooth brush. Go figure. If you have one, drag an AM radio close to it while it's charging - lots of noise.)
Why do they call it man-datory when it's the wife that makes it so? :-)
I've always been in a bit of a split. On one hand I like things to be simple and elegant, I like older cars, basic appliances, that sort of thing, but on the other hand electronics, mechanics, engineering, etc is what I've always been most passionate about and I love to play with technology, new or old, and have always been attracted to fancy gadgets if only to marvel at the engineering. I can certainly do without things like cell phones, PDAs, and other junk that will be a distraction but I like modern conveniences, particularly if I've built them myself.
I'm with John on this. At home, things are very low tech.- easy to use, easy to fix. My Rolodex never needs battery replacement, erasable if entries are written in pencil, easy to add notes, and easy to install more "memory". My slide rule still works after 35 years, doesn't need batteries, and I can spill drinks on it without harming it. Much of my digital photo album stuff is manipulated by command line tools unless I need to touch-up images. Still use old DOS Orcad SDT at work because none of the GUI schematic programs are pleasant to use and SDT doesn't crash. Still use a compass, map, and occasionally an altimeter when going in the outback. Use my eyes to figure out where fish are. Technology is, many times, a PITA!
Goodness me- no "electronic toaster" for you. I bet that you still don't have a 4 HP. 120V,15A "electronic" lawnmower as well. You, sir, are not meeting the expectations of the modern advertising world.
Thanks- it is good to see common sense.--
Don Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org remove the X to answer
We do have a retro-look electronic toaster, and it often does stupid things, like refusing to stay down when it's in a weird state. The fix is to unplug it for 5 seconds or so to reset whatever bizarre state it's managed to get itself into. Mechanical toasters don't do that, and toast better too. DGMS on the states and menus of the new microwave. A proper appliance has two states: standing up, and lying on its side.
One of the things I like about San Francisco is the almost universal lack of lawns. And air conditioners. When I lived in New Orleans, if you didn't mow the grass twice a week, it would grow so tall the mower would bounce off. And after mowing the lawn for an hour in the sun, you *needed* the air conditioning.
It's weird that the prime use for billion-transistor chips and gigaflop processing turns out to be stupid, violent video games and watching NASCAR crashes on giant plasma displays.
A couple of years ago I got an electronic coffee maker as a gift. When it works right, it makes really good coffee in small amounts. However, I have had a couple of problems.
Soon after I got it, I dropped the water container while filling it (it lifts off so it can be filled at the sink or wherever your best source of water is). I broke off the little check valve at the bottom, so all the water woulr just run out at once.
After that was replaced, it became apparent that it is insane. There are two buttons on the device to allow a large cup or a small cup of coffee to be delivered. There is also a cleaning mode that empties the entire water container (to be activated when no coffee cartridge was in place). However, I could not be sure that the machine would do as asked, so I always had to have an extra-large joke coffee cup in the machine when making coffee.
The machine sits on a storage shelf now unused, and I buy pre-mixed bottles of Starbucks' Frappacino for my home coffee needs.