Itsy Bitsy with microphone
Friday, July 3 2020
July 4th is on a weekend this year, meaning I had today off from work. I decided to treat it like a Saturday, making the usual french presses of coffee. When Gretchen got up, she put the New York Times Spelling Bee on a large sheet of paper. Its panagram was "vanguard," a combination of letters that came just shy of producing some really amazing words.
Later, up in the laboratory, I tinkered with a Adafruit Itsy Bitsy Express M0, which has a powerful enough processor to play .wav files and enough storage to house about 44 seconds of audio. Such a device could be the basis for a self-contained autonomous Disturbatron. Equipped with a microphone, it could listen for loud sounds (such as gunfire) and then, on hearing such a sound, it could wait a random period of time and then produce its own sound, amplified through a megaphone. I have a number of microphones on tiny boards equipped with LM393 comparators. I could attach one of these to one of the Itsy Bitsy's digital pins, which a Python script on the Itsy Bitsy could monitor. On receiving a signal from the microphone, it could wait for a time and then play a sound, wait a little longer, make another sound, and so forth, following whatever algorithm I choose. Such a device would consumer very little power, since it would only power-up the megaphone when it needed to play a sound. It also wouldn't require any sort of network connectivity, since it would function autonomously. I could set it up in the forest above the bus turnaround (where the de-facto gun range is), only returning every couple of weeks or so to replace the 12 volt lawnmower battery powering it.
Today I experimented with just the microphone board and the Itsy Bitsy, easily making the Itsy Bitsy turn a light on whenever it heard a loud noise. That was enough proof-of-concept to tell me I could build an autonomous Disturbatron.
Later, I finally got around to putting together various pieces I'd ordered of Compaq Elitebook 2740ps, building the basis for a very tidy (not banged-up) example of that computer. I have five working 2740ps in total. It's a ten-year-old computer design, and is a bit clunky-looking acording to contemporary computer fashions. But, due to the stagnation of Moore's Law, they're perfectly good for any modern computing tasks. I like having so many interchangeable devices, allowing me to swap around parts to make working computers as needed.
Meanwhile Gretchen had been across the Hudson visiting Falafel Cathy, who recently broke the ball neck of her femur in a freak fall. She's since been given an artificial hip and is already hobbling around with crutches. The best part of all this was that Gretchen returned home this evening with three falafel sandwiches, made by Cathy's husband Roy. His lucrative career of flying large passenger jets for El Al is on indefinite hiatus as the coronavirus epidemic plays itself out.
Due to the threat of rain, Gretchen hadn't taken the dogs. We ended up having several thunderstorms, one of which dropped so much rain that there was some temporary flooding in the yard's several low spots. Among other good effects, the rain chased off some shooters down at the bus turnaround.
This evening Gretchen had me download the first season of Watchmen, a year-old HBO series. She thought maybe I'd want to watch it, so I sat through the first episode. It was clever and featured plenty of subversions of expectations (in terms of both gender and race), and plenty of it seemed like an uncanny foreshadowing of our present dystopic time period, but it really wasn't my kind of thing. It's derived from a comic book series, and absurd comic-book features of the plot and world-building just don't work with my sensibilities. Of course, it's also possible I'm insufficiently intelligent or open-minded to appreciate such cutting edge material. The fact that Gretchen loved it so much had me wondering if that was a real possibility.
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