Winning at life — wrapping up the light project

The light instal­la­tion is com­plete, I put it in last Sat­ur­day. That means I’m no longer a fail­ure at life, well not a com­plete fail­ure just a 50% fail­ure. And if there’s one thing I learnt from my Engi­neer­ing degree, 50% is a pass, think about that next time you put your life in an Engineer’s hands (fly­ing in a plane, dri­ving a car, walk­ing over a bridge or switch­ing on a pow­er point).

The design worked a treat and the client was hap­py. I’m not sure what they were expect­ing but they seemed a lit­tle over­whelmed with a cus­tom solu­tion that per­fect­ly fixed all their prob­lems. It makes me won­der what they thought I was doing when I spent over an hour talk­ing to them about what the issues were and what they need­ed.

Even the instal­la­tion went fan­tas­ti­cal­ly even though there were a few lit­tle things I hadn’t ful­ly thought and maybe a vital tool I for­got. For­tu­nate­ly Kei­th agreed to come along and brought his ute full of tradie gear so I got away with it. With him tak­ing the lead on the install it even looked like a real­ly nice pro­fes­sion­al job. I know I can do most of the things an expe­ri­enced trades­man can do but it’s like the dif­fer­ence between me cook­ing out of a recipe book and a pro­fes­sion­al chef, both end prod­ucts could be described as food but only one bears any resem­blance to the pic­ture.

There was a bit of iron­ic excite­ment, I was there installing a light designed to pre­vent the quadraplegic client from burn­ing him­self. While at the same time he decid­ed to burn a let­ter and man­aged to set his foot on fire, I heard him call­ing out and looked out the win­dow to see flames climb­ing up his leg. I man­aged to stop him burn­ing with only a lit­tle dam­age to myself, main­ly due to the plas­tic fab­rics. Unfor­tu­nate­ly he end­ed up with a huge blis­ter cov­er­ing most of the top of the foot, at least he couldn’t feel it.

The only think I for­got to do was take some pic­tures. So this is anoth­er bor­ing lump of text, here, have a pup­py.

Box of a puppies milk, complete with a picture of the puppy it was stolen from

Milk for sadists, stolen from 100% organ­ic pup­pies

In praise of Bunnings

I want­ed a three bulb halo­gen light fit­ting, prefer­ably run­ning at 12V. Beyond that cheap­er was more impor­tant that pret­ty and — because I want­ed to play with the wiring — often bet­ter. I priced a few dif­fer­ent options:

  • $100 South­side Light­ing, Fysh­wick
  • $90 Project Light­ing, Tug­ger­a­nong (With spe­cial TADACT dis­count)
  • $52.70 Bun­nings, Fysh­wick (240V)

It end­ed up being a bit of a no brain­er. I under­stand it’s hard for a spe­cial­ist to com­pete with a mas­sive chain like Bun­nings and I agree with sup­port­ing bet­ter ser­vice. Frankly though I would have got­ten bet­ter ser­vice from an illus­trat­ed cat­a­log than I got from South­side Light­ing, maybe even some pret­ty mod­els too.

The dim­mers I used are designed for stand­ing lamps and came from South­side Light­ing. Mind you the prod­uct I was quot­ed wasn’t in stock, they did how­ev­er have an almost iden­ti­cal one that was $15 cheap­er. Cat­a­log wins again… if I had known about the cheap­er one I could have brought the quote down to $200.

To fin­ish this up and bring it back to Bun­nings. I also dis­cov­ered this week­end that it’s 1/3rd of the price to buy a cheap exten­sion cable than to buy wire and a plug. I love mass pro­duc­tion.

Wandering further off topic

I think we are going to see the end of most of these spe­cial­ist shops and I couldn’t be hap­pi­er. When a decent web­page can tell me every­thing I need to know with bet­ter ser­vice, they’re doing some­thing wrong. The costs are just far too high to jus­ti­fy in the mod­ern age, these are large shops and Project Light­ing had four staff work­ing when I last went in, for two cus­tomers (includ­ing me).

How long until some­one moves through and eats their 100% prof­it mar­gin with a local online ware­house. And why aren’t I doing it?

Maybe that could be October’s project.

Goal — Lighting for a quadraplegic man

My next project is a rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple light­ing instal­la­tion for a dis­abled man.

For a while now I have been involved with TADACT (Tech­ni­cal Aid for Dis­abled, Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­to­ry). Dis­abled peo­ple don’t come off assem­bly lines and have unique vari­ances with­in their broad dis­abil­i­ty cat­e­go­ry. The stan­dard equip­ment is tar­get­ed at the most com­mon issues but this often isn’t quite what they need. TADACT is a group of vol­un­teers that mod­i­fy or man­u­fac­ture spe­cial­ty equip­ment for dis­abled peo­ple where there isn’t an ade­quate com­mer­cial solu­tion.

Late last year I vis­it­ed a quad­ri­pleg­ic man and talked about installing a cus­tom light for him. Due to a vehi­cle acci­dent he has no con­trol below his chest and only crude move­ment of his arms and one thumb. He is also unable to exert any force with his arms.

He want­ed a light he could con­trol from his bed. The bed­side lamps he was using were dif­fi­cult for him to con­trol due to the small switch­es. He didn’t like sleep­ing in the dark at night so it had dim while he slept but be bright enough to read by. He also moves his arms around at night and there’s a risk he could seri­ous­ly burn him­self with the bed­side lamps, he had actu­al­ly burnt him­self just before I met him and received third degree burns again last week.

Tak­ing those require­ments (and a few more) I came up with a pro­pos­al. I would mount three halo­gen bulbs on the wall, one point­ed at the bed and two at the roof with each set inde­pen­dent­ly con­trol­lable. The wiring will be secured to the wall. There were two options pro­posed for the switch­ing, using two slid­ing foot dim­mers or jelly­bean switch­es and cus­tom con­trol cir­cuit­ry. The sec­ond option was con­sid­er­ably more expen­sive, the jelly­bean switch­es are spe­cial­ly designed for dis­abled pur­pos­es and cost over $100 for a switch with almost the same func­tion­al­i­ty as a $2 switch at Jay­car. The almost is of course the slight mod­i­fi­ca­tions that make them bet­ter for dis­abled peo­ple.

Ini­tial­ly they decid­ed that even the cheap option was too expen­sive. Yes­ter­day TADACT con­tact­ed me and said a local char­i­ty had pro­vid­ed fund­ing for the foot switch option. So this month’s project is to com­plete this for TADACT. The aim is to install it by the week­end of the first or sec­ond of May, prefer­ably the week­end before.

This prob­a­bly won’t take all of my time so I’ll use the rest to clean up some oth­er stuff I should have done a while ago, might even do last year’s tax return…

Tax Project March Wrap up

So I cheat­ed a bit and pushed the dead­line out a week. While much of the check­list is done the project over­all is nowhere near where I hoped it would be. The issue I think was that I assumed that I would be pro­duc­tive for the whole week­end but it turns out I actu­al­ly do do social stuff and reg­u­lar main­te­nance like clean­ing or iron­ing. Look­ing back I think I com­mit­ted about half the time I expect­ed to.

Tax website screenshot showing layout

Tax web­site screen­shot

Target features

  • Tem­plat­ing sys­tem

    Check. Using TT2 as described ear­li­er. The tem­plat­ing isn’t com­plete but I was
    always plan­ning on grow­ing it as I went. Sad­ly it doesn’t prop­er­ly imple­ment the
    pri­ma­tives I’m using but It’s good to start with a win, even if you steal it.

  • Basic lay­out

    Check. To start off with I had a ghast­ly colour scheme of dif­fer­ent shades of red and rough­ly the lay­out I end­ed up with. I read on one of those innu­mer­able web­site design blogs that colour schemes are impor­tant. All the clas­sic mood stuff, red is firey and aggre­sive, white is seri­ous, bor­ing and reli­able. Reli­able seems like a good mood for a tax web­site but black and white is a bit too hard for some­one as inept as I to pull off. So I went with a cream back­ground and a yellow/browny sec­ondary colour.

  • Func­tion­al data entry

    Check. This works pret­ty well actu­al­ly, change an input box and it’s imme­di­ate­ly pushed to the serv­er. Not per­fect (none of the code is), notably it’s not ful­ly back­ground­ed so you get a slight delay.

  • Javascript data check­ing

    Fail. I didn’t get around to try­ing this.

  • Server­side stor­age

    Check. I went with Mon­goDB and it’s going well so far. End­ed up hav­ing to write a very sim­ple PHP script to expose the DB to the Javascript, pri­mar­i­ly authen­ti­ca­tion wrap­ping.

  • Basic cal­cu­la­tions

    Par­tial. I have some cal­cu­la­tions work­ing but it’s not a reusable struc­ture.

  • Inde­pen­dent domain name

    Fail. The project isn’t far along enough to be use­ful yet so the domain isn’t impor­tant, so I’m mark­ing this as a fail but don’t care. I also couldn’t find a free name I liked.

  • Pub­lic source repos­i­to­ry


Maybe features

  • Client side encryp­tion

    Fail. Didn’t start on this.

  • User login sys­tem

    Check. Pret­ty easy to imple­ment with the DB lay­er in place. I don’t have user
    cre­ation work­ing yet but that is actu­al­ly a fair­ly small amount of work.

  • Basic per­son­al tax pack cov­ered

    Fail. I’m nowhere near achiev­ing this, it’s crazy how much they cram into a few pages.

  • Client side PDF gen­er­a­tion

    Fail. Didn’t start on this.

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