Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Garlic Harvest 2011

Garlic Harvest 2011 by sumantamandal
Garlic Harvest 2011, a photo by sumantamandal on Flickr.

This was the first time I have grown garlic. Has a fairly successful harvest. The widest one is ~ 2inch in diameter. Learnt a lesson: The garlic was growing in backyard during April- May and there was not enough sun in the backyard so I moved them to front yard in late May. The lack of sun light during the earlier phase of its growth cycle stunted its growth a little bit.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Daze festival @ Bond Park, Cary NC

GEDC0362 by sumantamandal
GEDC0362, a photo by sumantamandal on Flickr.

It was a beautiful cool day in Cary today. Bond park was the perfect place for the festival. Besides the usual craft, arts, popcorn and live music, here is a couple of remarkable highlights from the event:

The Town of Cary's earth day celebration. It is structured around ten focus areas

  • Pre-treatement
  • Stormwater
  • Recycling
  • Horticulture
  • Greenways
  • Sustainability
  • Aquastar
  • Hemlock Bluffs
  • C-Tran (Public Transportation)
  • Water Conservation
I was excited to see town officials getting involved in some of the topics very close to my heart.
I had a very good conversation with the folks at sustainability booth. The conversation
was about the clothes drying rack. I'm thinking of following up with the town officials about my work.

Hemlock Bluffs sounds like another fun place for me to check-out. This could be a fun trail for running.

Natural Soap
I have been very focussed on food, shelter and energy aspects of self-sufficiency for last three years. Soap has been in the periphery. The ladies at Natural Soap Cauldron detailed out the ingredients of commercially available soaps and their products. Many medicines are applied as a patch, so prolonged exposure of chemicals on skin can lead to their infusion in blood stream. I do not want to highlight any specific company in this blog but few concepts which will drive our soap purchase decisions in future
* Natural component
* Home made/locally artisan made

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Scanner Improvements

The book scanner continues to evolve with passage of time.
Last week's work has been a great success.
The three improvement areas are:

  • Camera
  • Switched from regular camera to five year old Nikon D50 SLR.
  • This camera allows remote controlled operation. The remote allows a single operator to scan books. The operator does not have to physically touch any buttons on the camera to take a picture, the relative location of the camera to the page remains constant even after multiple shots.
  • The picture taken by the SLR camera is exactly the same as seen from the view finder. There is no offset and there is no need for guessing.
  • This camera allows fine control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO in the manual mode. It is possible to fine tune these parameters to get an awesome picture in normal room lighting conditions. Thus eliminating the need for any additional lighting.
  • Aperture - Lower aperture (high F stops) as the image does not have depth. This leads to a sharper image (F11)
  • Shutter speed - Lower shutter speed to compensate for poor room lighting conditions (1/2.5 seconds)
  • The lowest ISO number for the camera is 200.
  • Book Stop
  • The book stop prevents the book from sliding. This allows a fixed location of the camera to the book as the successive pages are flipped.
  • Software
  • Wrote an auto-numbering script last year in python. This script auto-numbers successive even/odd pages to the actual number of the page.
  • Photoshop allows batch operation. Once a picture is cropped, then the same cropping settings can be used for multiple images in an automated manner.
  • OCR software was able to convert image to text with a 6 Mega Pixel image resolution images.

It is now possible to get good quality images with minimal room lighting conditions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Apple Mac multi-user environment

Getting the most out of a machine is one of objectives.
When I purchased the Mac laptop last year, I was not aware of its multi-user capabilities.
Mac allows the creation multiple user account and provides a very helpful Parental control
capabilities. These two features are available user System Preferences.

It is possible to be logged in from multiple user account simultanesly. Example:
One can record TV shows from account while doing some other account at the same time.

Parental Control provides a very granular controlling mechanism:
  • Apps
  • Web
  • People
  • Time Limits
    • Weekday time limits
    • Weekend time limits
    • Bedtime
  • Other

Book Scanner Stabilizer

Book Scanner Stabilizer by sumantamandal
Book Scanner Stabilizer, a photo by sumantamandal on Flickr.

The book scanner platform has a tendency to move during the page flipping process.
The movement of the platform changes the orientation of the page relative to the camera. In order to prevent the movement of the platform, I took pieces of 2/4 wood and cut notches in them. The scanner platform legs are inserted in the notches. The 2/4 is anchored to the workbench using hold fast.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unlock Sony e-book reader PRS-500

When I reached home this evening, I found out that my younger son has turned on the lock feature of the Sony e-book reader. No one in my household knew the four digit code to unlock the device. This device is exclusively used in our household to store cooking recipes.

In a world loaded with processed food, cooking recipes play a vital role in our self-sufficiency goals.

Steps to unlock the device:
(1)Hold the reset button at the back of the device for more than 3 seconds.
(2)Slide the power switch to on position. The device will display 'Starting up'
(3) As the device is showing 'Starting up', press the + Volume button and the Mark button simultaneously. The Mark button is located at the bottom of the device near the big fat page circular button. The volume button is on the side.
(4) The device will ask you, if you are ok with deleting all the files. Press the '5' button to say Yes.
(5) All files get deleted from the device. Restart the device by sliding the power switch to on position.
(6) Plugin the USB cable to your computer to copy all files back to the device.

This task took about 5 minutes and all recipes are back on the e-book reader and ready for use!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Garlic Plant

Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
I planted garlic cloves 2" to 3" under the surface in 10" pots back in September-October. The warmth of last couple of weeks has done wonders. I can see green shoots in four out of the six garlic cloves that I planted. The sub-freezing temperatures of winter did not kill the garlic. I have read on the web that the cold of winter is needed to start the side buds. The side buds grow and swell become cloves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kindle DX Cover

Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
Kindle DX is the largest (9.7" Display) e-book reader in the market today with a good ecosystem of publishers. We received this device about a month back and since then it has become the most popular device in our household. Unlike other electronic reading devices like monitor, laptop, this device is meant to be held in hand for hours.

Human hand is not used to holding plastic devices for hours. We are more used to holding paper books sometimes with paper hard cover or sometimes with fabric. Fabric/paper has more natural feel to it than a shiny piece of plastic. A cover for the device also helps to protect it from daily wear and tear.

The covers available for this model of kindle are either too expensive (over $50) or not in stock.

I had some denim fabric lying around (about a yard of fabric). I went to the local fabric store and picked up 1" wide elastic to secure the kindle device to the back cover. The black elastic was stitched to the four corners of the back cover. Card board from the packaging material was inserted between fabric layers to provide the necessary stiffness.

It took me an hour to complete this project. This is relatively simple project for someone with average sewing skills on a sewing machine.

This cover has been in constant use for last 2 weeks and its still holding strong.

This kind of cover can be made for any e-book reader. Borders filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. It seems that book publishing business is moving away from paper as e-book readers and tablets get more adoption in the market.

You can get really creative with the type and color of fabric for this project. Please try and share your project images.