Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lights, camera, and dogs?

One of the most important steps in building an ROV is getting a camera on the robot so we can see where we are driving the unit. It's also important because the camera is what we will be using to document each dive.

The lion and I have been looking all over the net trying to find a balance between cost of a good camera, size, ease of long cable transmission and something that could be recorded directly on a computer.

Up until yesterday we have been coming up rather flat; that is until we went to Menards for a rake and some spring yard cleaning supplies.

We were walking towards the plumbing department to check out some of the supplies we would be needing to build the modules that will house the camera(s) and lights need when I caught a glimpse of one of those do it your self security cameras. Blink, the light bulb turned on and I got an idea.

So I wander over to the security camera display and start looking at the five or so models they have. I'll be honest, for our purpose most of them totally sucked, but one stood out.

First the unit had near DVD quality resolution and then I discovered it had another very cool attribute... it also has built in infra-red. I kid you not I was darn near drooling.

At about that time the Lion came back to fetch me and we went over to the plumbing department where I started rummaging around to find parts for the ROV. Next time I look up... the Lion had wandered off.

So off I go looking around for a Lion at Menards and find her... and yep you guessed it.. at the security camera display.

To paraphrase Joan Rivers, we talked, and decided to give it a shot. (After I talked to customer service to make sure I could bring it back if it didn't meet our needs!)

So now we have the camera. As a test I hooked it up to our cheap TV and ran it around the house. (It comes with a 10 meter [30 foot] cable.) It worked better than either of us expected. Now here is the dog part.....

I moved the camera in real close to one of our dogs and low and behold (because the light was low for the subject matter) there on the screen was a very cute fur ball in infrared.(Black and white - like cheap night vision!) I was sold on the quality of the camera.

Next time I'll tell you how we found an simple solution on how to get the video onto one of our laptops.

Ta for now.... PG };8>

Friday, February 26, 2010

One step forward.....

Have you ever heard the term one foot forward, two steps back? Well in our case we are taking those two steps back and making the proverbial giant step forward. Let me tell you the story of just what happened.

The lion had to run out real early the other morning to give something of a demonstration of what environmental technicians do to a foundation member that gave her a grant. So they trudged through waist high snow drifts and took a water sample from the pond we were going to dive on.

As far as the demonstration is concerned, everything went fine. What wasn't fine was the results of the water test.

You see the water now has a high level of phosphorous in it, making it most likely to have a huge algae bloom and making it dangerous for us to dive the pond this year. That's our two steps back.

So we got brain storming and we came up with a feasible idea. Rather than dive, lets build a ROV. Yep you heard me right, an underwater remote operated vehicle. We are already researching various ROV designs and have several “build you own ROV” sites bookmarked.

The giant step forward is that we have not only the thumbs up from our academic adviser, but he seems even more gun ho on this idea. That's our giant step forward.

Anyway, it's late and I have to study for Psychology tomorrow and design yet another speech...

PG }:8>

Sunday, January 24, 2010



I've been worrying a lot about my school work lately. I've had a 100 question test in psychology (that was very difficult btw) as well as algebra homework over the weekend. To top it off I have to design and give a speech tomorrow.

This makes it hard to focus on the little pond that the lion and I are going to study, plus we don't even know if we can work on it; as their ripping down the little brown house this summer that is right next to the little pond.

I need to get both of us off our bottoms and get some information from the city, which owns the pond.

In other news the lion and I are planning on taking diving classes sometime in March. Although not actually part of our schooling, it's going to be very important for our goal of working on underwater archeological sites.

PG };8>

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If You Can Dodge a Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball

We've had the first wrench thrown in our research plans for the Third Avenue Pond; I found out today that the Upper Big Sioux Watershed Project is moving out of the Little Brown House in March. Not only that, but the Little Brown House is being torn down this summer. This causes a major interrupt in our plans, not only for the minor reasons (where the heck are we supposed to use the can now?) but also major reasons, the largest one being that they will likely be removing a leaking septic tank that lies right nest to the shoreline.

This means that we will need to talk to the town and the Watershed Project VERY quickly, to find out what sort of permissions we will actually be able to obtain for research there in 2010. It's not going to do us much good to go there saying we are prepared with dive certs and underwater viewing equipment if we're not allowed in or on the water, after all. We could, however, monitor the pond for contamination during the deconstruction project, if that is all we can get to.

Fun times ahead, and a lot more legwork. Unfortunately it will have to wait until tomorrow, as I have microbiology lab tonight.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's only TUESDAY?

It never fails, the first couple of weeks of school seem as if they take up 32 hours a day, 12 days a week. PG had some issues with his financial aid so that took up a good deal of yesterday, and today between our jumping schedules and helping out other students with various things, and then trying to get my own computer working properly (I'm really liking Windows 7, I love my HP Touchsmart, but Hewlet Packard, your proprietary upgrade from Vista to 7 for your customers is one of the worst I have ever seen and is really making me question if I would purchase your products again), there's no way we're going to make it to Mick's tomorrow. Hopefully we can get there this weekend.

I had my first classes of the Dreaded Two: Organic Chemistry and Microbiology. Actually I think they are going to be very easy for me, but PG may have some trouble with them when he gets into it. He's more of the mathematical, problem-solving type with what is directly in front of him; I am a more long-term learner of broader concepts and have no problem with remembering obscure definitions and general applications. But that's what makes us such a good team, our learning and retention strengths back each other up perfectly.

This one will be short as I'm still working on the software issues the upgrade to 7 is continuously throwing at me. Now yet again my internet connection is running horribly slow and on top of that, Adobe Reader tells me it can only be installed as an administrator (when, of course, I'm operating as exactly that).

Happy happy, joy joy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Laptop

Well jeepers, I finally got another laptop, thanks to the Lion, and yea (grudge) It runs winblows.

I am a little surprised by windows 7... but it's not my old favorite Linux. None the less for a couple hundred bucks as compared to about eight hundred, I'm not complaining. It'll work for now, and I can always upgrade it to Linux in the future.

Tomorrow or the next day I have to take this little thing down to the TI department at LATI and fork out the 25$ to have it hooked up to their network..... Yea.. but such is life.

So far I'm looking forward to my psycology class tomorrow; a group of us are about to choose a research topic for the class.

Anyway, Ta for now.... PG };8>

Saturday, January 9, 2010

With Thanks for Student Loans

PG and I were able to go out and do some much-needed school shopping today. He got a little netbook that he was surprised to be VERY happy with, considering it's just a cheap little e-machine. I tried to convince him to get a Macbook, but he made the very good point that he only needed it to keep notes on and if necessary, he can always borrow my notebook (I have a maxxed-out HP tablet). My new toy was a Leatherman Wave, which is going to be extremely handy in the field.

We also found out the dates for the SCUBA cert training, which will be in March. It's more affordable than we thought at $150 a person as opposed to the $250 we thought it would be, which will save us a good chunk. Hopefully on Wednesday after class we will be visiting the scuba shop that is offering the certification (Micks is located in Moorhead, MN, but he comes down to train in Watertown a few times a year).

In addition, we also got the dates for the NOAA weather spotter class for this year. I have tried to take it every year since my days on the radio, though I missed last year's class. This will be PG's first time through it. I really wish he had my interest in storm chasing/observation, but hey, we can't all be perfect, can we? *chuckle*

Other costs/purchases that we need to take care of with the student loans:
  • Fix Galileo, one of the "research vehicles", who is still sitting in our garage after saving my life in an accident. We'll need her for hauling equipment.
  • Get roof rack for Bubo, "research vehicle" No. 2, so we can carry the canoe.
  • Get more warm gear for working outside. We are in severe need of long underwear.
  • Get underwater camera, preferably one we can hook up to the laptop to record video directly to the HD. Or, if I don't want to ruin my computer, one that has its own storage capacity.
  • Snorkels, fins, masks, etc.
  • And soooo much other little stuff. But at least with the above we can get started. There's a lot of things like GPS systems and testing equipment that we can borrow from the school.

It's looking like next week we will be out of the deep freeze and getting a little bit of a thaw; it'll be nice to get above 0 for a few days. Maybe I can even get out and do some animal tracking around the pond. Without snowshoes, right now it would be near impossible because of the steep grades through the Crazy Hills.