The SEAN3000 raffle drum!

2011-02-21 Finished Product

Each year Grace Cooperative Preschool hosts a pancake breakfast with copious prizes raffled off. We have the fortunate problem of having sold too many raffle tickets to comfortably fit into the raffle drum that we normally rent. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to build a new one!

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T1 A/B Switch – Arduino Rocks!

The Problem

TAG T1 AB Switch

In our organization, we have an Asterisk based phone system. Because we are a 24X7 365 operation, and because our business must react quickly to customer demands, we actually have a completely redundant Asterisk system idling in standby mode. When we have to transfer over to the redundant system most of the operation takes only seconds, with one exception. Some of our inbound and outbound call traffic is carried over old school, plain ol’ telephone service (POTS) via physical T1 data circuits. In order to move these T1 circuits to the failover server, one of our engineers had to physically move the patch cables from one server to another.

Our engineers have tried a number of failover options, including converting the T1s into VoIP traffic so we could just change the packet routing when we needed to swing the calls to the failover system. However, the hardware and the software we’ve found, so far, does not meet our quality of service needs.

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Collapsible Work Tables

Multi-function, collapsable work tables

No matter what I’m working on, there never seems to be enough layout space. And, since I’m quite limited on space, I thought I’d build a couple of short, boxy tables that are both sturdy and easy to collapse. I designed these to be the same height as my table saw so that they can act as run-off tables. They are also small enough (largest collapsed piece is 24″ x 48″) that I can can put them in the back seat of my VW and take them on the road.

Equipment furniture for our new office

12U rolling server cabinet for our office

A new stand for the invoice folding machine at my office

In late December my company moved its corporate office to a new larger location. However, our mailroom shrunk a bit as we planned to actually have a conference room instead of a conference/mail room. With that in mind, we needed to house a ginormous letter folding machine as well as some networking equipment into a medium sized storage room. I built these two pieces of furniture to help make that happen. The 2′ x 4′ table will be the new home to the folding machine, and the cubby looking box will become a rolling server cabinet that should fit nicely underneath the telecom wiring harness for our office.

Security Camera Ceiling Mount

Hanging security camera mount

One of our network engineers came to me with a problem. A security camera in one of our warehouses had been knocked down and the mount destroyed. The manufacturer doesn’t make the mounts any more, so we came up with a DIY solution to remount the camera from the ceiling with full swivel and tilt capability. Currently pictured upside down and with a spare point and shoot camera. When installed, the actual video camera will hang from the ceiling.

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Man Cave Server Cabinet

Man Cave Server Cabinet

Dust really sucks!  I didn’t realize just how much so, until we moved and my office and my workshop merged into one multi-purpose man-cave.  In order to keep some of my sensitive electronics from getting gunked up by sawdust and dryer lint (also in the man-cave, but not part of Man-Cave proper), I decided to build a vented cabinet for a few servers I run constantly.

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Making Your MagSafe MacBook Road Trip Worthy

I have joined in with a chorus of geeks who wish they could use and recharge their MacBooks while they were in the car or boat. But Apple only makes a DC adapter that is compatible with airplane power ports and not with 12V car (cigarette lighter) ports. Since the MagSafe connector is patented, and they have yet to license it to third parties, there just aren’t any commercial solutions to-date. Sure you could use a power inverter to plug your normal power brick in to your car, but the conversion from DC to AC and then back to DC is extremely inefficient, and I’ve found most devices to be rather noisy and hot. I was looking for a DC-DC conversion solution, and I figured I would have to take matters into my own hands.

MagSafe Pinouts

I am a decent maker/hacker and I love playing with electricity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve electrocuted myself in this lifetime… all in the name of science and discovery of course. Nevertheless, I am out of practice, and when I looked at the four or five pins at the end of of the MagSafe adapter, I assumed that there was some complexity to the voltage and polarity, and I had neither the time, nor the drive to figure it out. Plus, my MacBook Pro is now my primary business asset. If I mess it up by shorting it out somehow, this experiment gets very expensive very quickly. So, I put this project on the bottom of my to-do list as I waited for something better to come along.

About a week ago, I came across this link (via RubyHead) to Mike (MikeGyver) Lee’s website where he sells both turn-key solutions as well as instructions to build your own DC-DC power adapter for the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. The great thing is that I already owned one of the third party power adapters that he recommends, so all I needed was about $7.00 worth of radio shack parts. Awesome! So, I bought the do-it-yourself instructions from Mike Lee, and gave it a go last night. So far it works great!


It turns out that the polarity and the pinouts on the MagSafe Adapter are really no big deal. I won’t give away the details in this post. So if you are interested in doing it yourself, or even buying a turn-key solution, please check out Mike Lee‘s information. I advise you to visit this site sooner rather than later as Apple has away of making cool and helpful things like this disappear through cease and desist orders. Anyway, I now have a road-trip worthy MacBook Pro.

[UPDATE: 2007-06-25 10:30 AM PST]

Yes, this configuration does charge the MacBook’s battery, unlike the Apple Airline adapter which just powers the laptop. It’s hard to see, but the indicator light on the MagSafe plug in the picture above is indeed orange.

Programable Status Board


UPDATE: Please see this safety recall for important information on some of the components related to this project!

In September, I read a post on one of my favorite blogs about these Triklits programmable LED light strings and I instantly fell in love with them. I ordered two strands as well as the USB interface card and had a ball making these things come to life. After fiddling with them for a couple of weeks, I began to build this automated statusboard to help me monitor systems for me and my clients.

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