Tuesday, 29 December 2009

When the power goes out...

A little while ago, one of my friends text me because the power had gone out in her building. She was wondering whether the power was out where I was. Fortunately for me, the power was just fine.

So I thought to myself, "I've got the power of the Internet to look into these things!" Off to Google, and it turns out it's pretty hard to find out about recent power outages. What came up was lots and lots of old news about previous outages that were already fixed. Now I'm pretty good with my Google-fu, so maybe it was just a minor outage and thus less (or no) news.

However, I did manage to find this little page. It's a map with the location of power outages and repairs in regions covered by HydroOne, the power distribution company for Ontario. Now this is how important services should be run. The information is available easily, and quickly. In fact, it's got its own link right on the front page. The one problem is, if you follow the blue line, you'll see that Toronto is excluded. That's because we have our own local power supply company here, Toronto Hydro. So I can't find out about my friend's problem from HydroOne.

What can I find on Toronto Hydro's website? Absolutely nothing. Well, actually, what I found was a lot of stuff I don't want. There are many pages about things I might be interested in if I were a customer. But the most important information, the availability of the service, is not there. It would be great if the power never went out, but let's face it, even with perfect equipment, someone's going to go drive into a transformer or something that's going to disrupt service. The closest thing I could find about service reliability on Toronto Hydro's site is to "Report a Streetlight out". While a broken streetlight is unsafe in certain locations, wouldn't the power being out be even worse? I guess they just figure that if the power's out in your area, you won't be able to look up the fact that the power's out or when it's going to be fixed.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Trees

So, I have this mini Christmas tree, with some fibre optics, that pulses red and white. A while back, it stopped working and I planned to fix it, but never got around to it. Until now!

I managed to cobble together a simple circuit based on a 555 timer. Here's a shot of the test on the breadboard. Basically, it's the 555 in astable mode, with a couple capacitors to smooth out the transitions.

The test had reds, but I put alternating red and yellow on the final circuit because yellow looked pretty good. Each side has a different size capacitor because it just pulses better that way. I managed to put this together on a little board. The wires on the right go to the LEDs.

With a little knife-work, I managed to size it up right. The wires are a little stiff, but a bit of jiggling got them in there.