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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Monday, 28 September 2009

OK, I'll admit it - I really like LEDs.

I've long been a fierce advocate of LED technology - especially when it comes to replacing incandescent bulbs, since they are very low voltage, and far more efficient, even than the compact fluorescents that have mostly replaced them in domestic use.

One of the projects on which I embarked earlier in the summer was to create an LED house number light, so that delivery companies and emergency vehicles could easily identify the house by day and night. I'm sure I'm not the only person for whom finding a particular house on an unfamiliar road has been a challenge - who knows, maybe it could catch on! Since (for the first time in my life, I think!) I had to dial 999 for an emergency ambulance when Beth was rushed into hospital just a few weeks after the light was completed (see the video I made in an earlier blog entry) I like to think the sign helped them find the house quickly!

I'm also really pleased that another little challenge I set myself - to convert a cheap D cell torch (such as that available in Poundland) into a super-bright LED light (using the remaining LEDs from the house sign project) was successful. The 'mark 1' had twenty 14 candle-power LEDs, but its successor (the "Mark II Ubertorch") boasted twenty-five 20 candlepower LEDs, which is wonderfully bright (although not a patch on my current LED object of desire - the £210 LED Lenser X21) casts as strong a light as I've seen in a conventional torch.
In celebration of this success, I created my first Instructable.com builder's guide - for less than a tenner it should be possible to build an impressive torch. The bonus is, since the LED module is removable, if the cheaply build torch body gets damaged, it can easily be transplanted into another one.

Ubertorch LED Flashlight - before and after
Übertorch LED Flashlight: before and after

Once again, there were LEDs left after this project, so I used them to replace the failed fluorescent bulb in Christopher's bedside light - another inexpensive hangable lamp. Although the light is a lot bluer than the yellow cast by the traditional bulb, I think this was a success, as well. The only downside is that the main switch is on the light body, which is on the 'low voltage' end of the mains transformer. Therefore, when it was switched off, the power supply remained on - something definitely worth considering when a conversion of this sort is carried out. Here's a "before" and "after" image of the bedside light.

Fluorescent bedside lampReplacement LED bedside lamp
Bedside light conversion: before and after

Most of our domestic lights are the low-power compact fluorescent variety, including the main lounge 'candle bulbs' which were something of a white elephant, since they claimed to be dimmable using a conventional dimmer, but turned out to be flickery and noisy (and I would definitely like to replace them, but we've only had them for just under two years so that wouldn't be economical). However, almost all that remain are those low-voltage halogen bulbs, which are bright, but inefficient.

It's now possible to buy MR16 lamps (replacing those that we have here) containing three powerful Cree LED modules, but they are still very expensive (Electricity-Monitor.com has them at £25 each!) - I calculated that it would take nine years to save as much money as it would to replace a £1 50W halogen downlight that's on for two hours a day with a £25 4W LED, so it's not economically viable yet. I will certainly keep my eye on the prices, though, since they're bound to come down as LED technology is (hopefully!) more widely adopted.

Yup.. I definitely like LEDs!

Posted by james at 8:03 PM

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Normality (mainly) in autumn...

Life has slowly returned to something resembling normality since Beth returned from her stay in hospital - a month ago already! The children have returned to school, and Beth to work (two and a half hours a week, so she's not overdoing it!) and I have been trying to return to my normal pattern of work, which is definitely keeping me buys (mainly ahead of the clock change at the end of October), and home life, trying to be as productive and creative as I can be.

This last aspect has a bit of a challenge, though, especially since I discovered the delights of Mario Kart Wii - it's the on-line play that I enjoy most, because every race is different, with just the right amount - and type - of interaction to make it fun, without the novelty wearing off (yet!) That said, there are always those who take the game very seriously, making a race rather a dull affair, and last night I encountered someone who had clearly 'hacked' the software and was intent on causing nothing but trouble, by disrupting other players' enjoyment of the game - it's a bit of a shame.

For what it's worth, I race online (mainly) as "dad@syzygy" and my Friend Code is 5241-7201-3887... feel free to add me!

Lenni and a partially sanded door!But as you may have seen from the Twitpics that I've posted on the blog, I've been trying to spend some more time working on, and in, the studio. Lenni and I did some work on the door before summer came to an end, and my latest project has been to try and configure my ageing version of Logic (the last they made for PC) to communicate with the small collection of keyboards and rack-mounted synths. I still have a number of songs that I work on from time to time, but I need to get back into the habit of going down there after work, or at the weekends. It's quite fun to make the occasional jingle or voice-over for podcasts to which I listen, or just try out something based on a track I've heard, with no particular result in mind. I've been enjoying the Home Made Hit Show podcast - and will hopefully submit a completed composition to be played on it.

We have had some wonderful family weekends, too - yesterday, we drove to Oxfordshire to celebrate the birthdays of Luke and Amelie, our nephew and neice, and it was like a mini family reunion, since almost all the the cousins were together, enjoying a go-karting party. There are some photos below, and more in the gallery - with such wonderful weather, after a short drive to Cath & Martin's, the children enjoyed playing outside, too. In fact, now Beth's a little more mobile, we've very much enjoyed having some family outings, even to a nearby town or to the many parks in Luton. We're looking forward to a long weekend in Sussex during October, which will be somewhat compensation for missing out on our summer holiday to the Isle of Wight.

Luke in his go-kartAmelie and birthday cake
Chris in his go-kartEleanor, driving her go-kart
As the weekend draws to a close now, though, we've been enjoying a family afternoon watching some films (Spongebob Squarepants - The Movie, with a 'fight scene' in the most improbable location, and the amazing March Of The Penguins) and relaxing after all the travelling yesterday. The week ahead will be a fairly unusual one, because I am working late on Wednesday, while one of the main databases is shut down to allow some long awaited software updates to be installed, but I will - of course - be updating Twitter - and maybe even on a regular basis (which is more than can be said for this blog!)

Posted by james at 6:59 PM

Sunday, 13 September 2009

A photo from TwitPic

Three-quarters of the way through long-overdue sanding down of the studio door.. @superalora's been helping!

Three-quarters of the way through long-overdue sanding down o... on Twitpic
A photo from TwitPic - click it for a larger version.

Posted by james at 4:10 PM

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