Broadcast Engineer at BellMedia, Computer history buff, compulsive deprecated, disparate hardware hoarder, R/C, robots, arduino, RF, and everything in between.
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Easy Pulse Plugin, an Arduino pulse sensor

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Raj over at Embedded Lab has written an article detailing the new version of their Easy Pulse Sensor: the Easy Pulse Plugin, an Arduino and chipKIT compatible pulse sensor based on Photoplethysmography

Today we are happy to announce the release of a new addition to our Easy Pulse Sensor series named Easy Pulse Plugin. Like its predecessors, the original Easy Pulse and Easy Pulse V1.1, Easy Pulse Plugin also operates on the principle of Photoplethysmography, which is an optical technique of sensing blood volume changes in tissues by illuminating the skin surface with a light source and measuring the reflected or transmitted light using a photodetector. The photodetector output contains the cardiovascular pulse wave, which is synchronized with the beating of the heart. Easy Pulse Plugin provides all necessary instrumentation and amplification on board to detect the cardiovascular pulse signal from the fingertip. The most important characteristics of Easy Pulse Plugin is that it can be easily plugged into the left headers of Arduino Uno (or its compatible clone) board for easy interfacing, and the analog pulse signal can be fed to either A0 or A1 analog input through a 2-pin jumper selection.

Project info at Embedded Lab site.  It’s also up on Tindie.

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Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About History

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President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln. Image courtesy

At last, the war was over. While a formal declaration of peace would not be made for another month, and it would take another month and a half after that for the last Confederate general to give up, General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 was seen–then and now–as the end of the American Civil War.

Five days later, on April 14, 1865–150 years ago today–President Lincoln and his wife, along with Clara Harris and Major Henry Rathbone, attended a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater, a few blocks from the White House. During the play, at about 10:15 that night, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth entered the State Box where the Presidential party was seated and shot the President in the back of the head at near-point-blank range. While Booth escaped, the mortally wounded President would be taken across the street. He died at 7:22 the following morning.

My daughter was in second grade when she first learned of Lincoln’s assassination. She had a hard time understanding why anyone would want to kill the President. Of course she didn’t understand all of the complexities of the Civil War, but the idea that someone would hate someone else so much that they would murder someone–President or no–was a totally foreign concept that she just couldn’t wrap her head around.

But this confusion eventually turned to curiosity, first about Lincoln, but then about the Presidency in general. Over the next few months, she would become somewhat obsessed with the Presidents, eventually memorizing and being able to recite all of them–and their Vice Presidents–in order. When her grandparents offered to take her on a trip in the summer when she was eight, there was little surprise to any of us when she chose Washington, D.C.

Allied troops landing in Normandy on June 5, 1944

Allied troops landing in Normandy on June 5, 1944. Image courtesy

My son had a similar experience, but his interest was piqued by a very different event: the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly how he first heard about D-Day, his interest in it has led to him asking to go to museums, watching movies like The Longest Day with me, and even playing the board game Memoir ’44. And he also very much wants to visit France.

When done right, this is what history does: it inspires curiosity. It can raise questions that get our kids exploring new topics, reading new books and trying out new games. It can get them interested in visiting places they may never have imagined going to before.

April, as it turns out, is rich in historical anniversaries. April 2 marked 502 years since Ponce de Leon first sighted Florida. April 4 was the day on which, in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. On April 6, 1896, the first modern Olympics opened in Athens.

Apollo 13 lifts off on April 10, 1970.

Apollo 13 lifts off on April 10, 1970. Image courtesy

Just within the last few days, we’ve seen the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13. The explosion that crippled the spacecraft occurred April 12, which was also the 154th anniversary of the bombing of Fort Sumter that began the Civil War, and the 54th of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space. Exactly 20 years later, on April 12, 1981, the space shuttle program began with the first launch of Columbia.

Tomorrow–April 15–is 103 years since the Titanic sank, and on Thursday, April 16, we mark the 70th anniversary of the Trinity Test, the first-ever detonation of an atomic bomb. The Bay of Pigs occurred on April 17, 1961, while the devastating San Francisco earthquake struck on April 18, 1906. April 19, 1775, saw the “shot heard around the world” as American militiamen faced off against British troops in Lexington, starting the American Revolution. George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789.

Historical anniversaries are a frequent topic of conversation around our dinner table, and have often led to more questions and then explorations on the computer to get even more information, which in turn have led to library visits to look for age-appropriate books so that the kids can continue learning about the events in even more detail. In other words: talking to my kids about history–the good and the bad–has led to quality, fun family learning time.

Just keep in mind that despite what you might think from the way you were most likely taught history, it really isn’t about dates and dead white men. Those are good jumping off points, but where history is cool–where it leads to these great family discussions–is when you remember that it’s really just about story. And what kid doesn’t like a story … particularly when it turns out that it’s true?

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Commuter Gamer: ‘Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions’

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SWR-mainCommuter Gamer focuses on mobile games that can easily be played in bite-sized chunks. Please game responsibly and never while driving!

Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions is the latest mobile game set in the Star Wars universe. I haven’t been a big fan of most of the other mobile Star Wars games I’ve tried, so I was a little hesitant to give it a try, but Star Wars Rebels did not let me down. The game is available on iOS, Google, and Windows.

SWR-scrollYou start the game as Ezra, and, as you play through the tutorial, you learn the game mechanics and meet the cast of characters, all of whom will be familiar to Star Wars Rebels fans. One of the first things that struck me about the game is that the voice acting is really well done. One of the biggest turn offs on some of the other Star Wars games for me was poor voice casting for known characters.

GameplaySWR-basicgameplayThe core of the game is pretty easy and straightforward–you move Ezra through a side-scrolling world, jumping and shooting, and collecting Hope (think “coins”). The controls require two hands on your device and work very well–movement with your left thumb, jumping, aiming, and shooting with your right. Most of the enemies are droids and Stormtroopers of various flavors and increasing difficulty. As for target age, if you think your kids are old enough for Star Wars Rebels, then this game is appropriate for them.

Missions are broken up into fairly small chunks, which is great. You can complete a single mission in just a minute or two, perfect for quick gaming while still feeling like you’re making progression. For a gamer on the go, this is essential. As an added bonus, the entire game, with the exception of in-app purchases, works even without any signal at all. This is very rare these days and earns this game a huge gold star from me.

SWR-secretareaWhen travelling through missions, be on the look out for secret areas. They get you a bunch of Hope and are very reminiscent of the secret areas in many classic games like Super Mario Bros.

SWR-rewardsThere are several rewards earned when completing missions–Hope, spins, and buildings for Haven. Your goal is to build up Haven to 100% completion to shelter as many refugees as possible and to be a beacon against the Empire.

SWR-challengesLike many mobile games today, Star Wars Rebels also rewards the player by assigning challenges. By completing these challenges you earn more of the above types of rewards, or unlock characters and upgrades.

SWR-havenThe secondary gameplay takes place at Haven–your rebel base. This is where you interact with the other Star Wars Rebels characters. Each character has a different function which adds a little more flavor to the base than it just being a management menu. Zeb builds structures in Haven, Hera pilots Ghost to take you on missions, Kanan trains you to buff up your skills, Sabine decorates your base with graffiti, and Chopper is where you spin the prize wheel when you earn spins.

SWR-spendhopeHaven is also where you interact with refugees you have saved on missions. By spending Hope on your refugees, you help them with whatever difficulty they are having which then unlocks and improves your character’s skills. Calling it Hope instead of some sort of money is the tiniest bit cheesy, but it’s also nice to not have characters constantly throwing money at the problem. The fact that you can’t buy Hope with real-world money is also a big plus to me.

SWR-havencompletionThe game does a really great job of showing you where you are in the game and what else there is to do and collect. As a completionist and a data geek, these types of screens are really awesome and something I wish more mobile games did. The Haven status screen shows you how much of Haven is built, how many levels you’ve unlocked, your total Hope earned, Stormtrooper helmets collected (which unlock graffiti), secret areas found, and which NPCs you’ve discovered.

SWR-citizenstatsThe citizen stats shows you how many times you’ve helped a citizen against the Empire and which citizens you have rescued.

SWR-enemystatsThe enemy stats gives you counts of how many enemies you’ve defeated, your shot accuracy, bosses defeated, and the different types of enemies you’ve encountered.

SWR-booststatsThe last screen is the boost stats which show you what characters, boosts, and upgrades are available and which you’ve obtained. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate these screens that help provide the player with a guide. We’ve all come to expect these sorts of tracking screens from PC and console games, but they always seem to be left off of mobile games.

In-App Purchases
As I already mentioned, you can’t purchase Hope, the in-game currency, with real-world money and this makes me very happy. What that leaves for in-app purchases are some content packs and extras that are by no means required to enjoy the game; however, for fans who want to play all the characters and all the missions, purchases are required.

SWR-contentpacksThere are three content packs for the game. The Master Pack includes both Kanan and Sabine as playable characters and unlocks all 31 levels of the game for $4.99, the Jedi Pack only unlocks Kanan, his 15 levels, and the TIE Fighter boss for $2.99, and the Mandalorian Pack only unlocks Sabine, her 15 levels, and the TIE Bomber and AT-DP bosses. Obviously if you’re planning on wanting everything, the Master Pack is the better deal.

SWR-specialThere is also a current special available for a limited time (the game does not say how limited) for $4.99. The Founder’s Pack is essentially the same as the Master Pack with the addition of five unique graffiti stencils for Haven. Again, if you want to play the whole game, right now this is your best bet as you get a little extra above and beyond the Master Pack.

SWR-extrasThe last type of in-app purchases are the Extras. For $2.99 you can double the amount of Hope you collect. This feels a lot more reasonable to me than games where they ask up to $100 for in-game currency that doesn’t go very far. Then there are also boost packs for both Kanan and Sabine, but I’m not sure how much they cost or the details as they aren’t available unless you’ve unlocked those characters by purchasing the associated Content Pack.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, and especially if you’re a fan of Star Wars Rebels, I highly recommend downloading this game. It’s really fun, easy to play, and can be played in very small chunks anywhere you go.

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Lucasfilm Responds to 7-Year-Old’s Request to Let Jedi Marry

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Star Wars fan and aspiring Jedi Knight Colin really wants to get married and have little Padawans of his own one day, so he was greatly troubled at the Jedi notion that personal attachments can lead to the dark side. Dark Side. What is a young Jedi to do when two of his greatest desires conflict? Simple: ask the man in charge to change the rules.

Colin letter

And how do you respond what do you do when the antiquated rules of an ancient order in your fictional universe threaten the hopes and dreams of a young child?


The letter states:

Hello, Colin,

Thank you so much for writing to us with your question. It sounds like the Force is strong with you, and you are showing great wisdom by asking your question. To be a Jedi is to truly know the value of friendship, of compassion, and of loyalty, and these are values important in a marriage. The Sith think inward, only of themselves. When you find someone that you can connect to in a selfless way, then you are on the path of the light, and the dark side will not take hold of you. With this goodness in your heart, you can be married.

We enclosed a few gifts that we hope you enjoy. Thank you again for writing to us.

May the Force Be With You!


Your Friends at Lucasfilm

lucasfilm swag

Well done, Lucasfilm.

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The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can [Science Video]

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Bill Hammack (The Engineer Guy) details the engineering choices underlying the design of a beverage can He explains why it is cylindrical, outlines the manufacturing steps needed to created the can, notes why the can narrows near it lid, show close ups of the double-seam that hold the lid on, and details the complex operation of the tab that opens the can.


The post The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can [Science Video] appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

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Awesome Deadpool Fanmade Movie Poster

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A fantastic fanmade poster for the upcoming Deadpool movie by deviantart user and artist punmagneto. Ryan Reynolds himself tweeted about it this week saying that it should get an award!

[Source: punmagneto on Deviantart]

The post Awesome Deadpool Fanmade Movie Poster appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

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