Ralph S Bacon

MicroControllers, Electronics and IOT

Things work out best for people who make the best out of the way things work out

It’s funny how things work out, despite all the plans we make to keep our lives in some semblance of order. “Man Plans, and God laughs” is the translation of the old Yiddish adage “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht”. Even Robbie Williams sang “I sit and talk to God, And he just laughs at my plans”.

All this leads up to the fact that I, along with several colleagues, were given notice of redundancy about 1 month ago, totally out of the blue.

There was the usual panic regarding bailiffs imminently appearing on our doorsteps taking away our houses, cars and first-borns as we failed to keep up our mortgage and HP payments. But things calmed down and, one by one, we found new, better positions in other companies. A stressful time, but one where good things came out of it.

I treated this as an opportunity to reassess my working life in Information Technology (as a computer developer) and decided to give it up and take up a part-time job in a well-known UK do-it-yourself store, something I’d always said I’d do “when I retire”. Well, the decision to “retire” was almost made for me. If I didn’t do it now, when was I ever going to do it? 🤔 Yes, I’m still relatively young, and yes, I was going to be severely impacted financially, but money is not everything. Quality of life is paramount.

So now I work just two days a week and spend the other 5 days pottering around my workshop, deciding on what to explore next. This new journey has only just begun. At the time of writing this, I’ve only completed one day at my new job!

Hopefully, I will get into the new routine and be able to deliver more videos on all things Arduino. And, as my YouTube poll shows, 73% of you would like more articles on Raspberry Pi related topics too. Just as well that I have a few lying around then, with one of them destined to become the hub of my workshop automation project. Have you not voted yet? Click that link and have your say!

It is now very important that my YouTube channel becomes totally self-financing. Some months I get nothing from the Google Ads. This must change. You can help me: spread the word about my channel via your own blogs and forums, don’t use an ad-blocker on YouTube and generally let others know about my channel!

So, do please keep the suggestions coming for future videos; I read and consider each one I get, and whilst I can’t promise to investigate them all I do make a list of them in case I ever get stuck for ideas.

Thanks for reading and “see you in the next video!”

Things work out best for people who make the best out of the way things work out

 

Categories:Uncategorized

34 replies

  1. All you guys seem to have IT in your background somewhere. Until I was unable to work any longer I was a registered nurse, specialising in Psychiatry. Electronics is a new serious hobby from the last year or so. I’ve know ohms law and some electronics since I was a young fella as music playing and recording have been a lifelong past time and extra job at various times.
    I’m learning so many new things through your channel Ralph so keep it going.

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    • BTW I’m another from ‘straya. I came from Germany with my family when I was 5 or so.

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      • It’s nice to have you with me on my journey. Electronics is a field as big as medicine, no-one can possibly know all areas. But we can learn enough for our own needs and that’s what makes it interesting for me, and for you too, I hope.

        Nice to hear from you, thanks for posting from all the way down under!

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  2. I just recently found your channel Ralph and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it. I really like the style you have, it completely resonates with me. I will make more of an effort to like/share on YouTube. I would also encourage you to set up a patreon. I make a point of supporting the channels I watch when they have a patreon account. I know it’s not a lot in $/person at $1/$2 a month but it’s a way I can show appreciation for what you do.

    As an aside, I would love to see your recording setup in terms of hardware and software (you may have converted it somewhere before but I haven’t watched everything yet). The way you have your pitcher-in-pitcher setup and transition from camera to camera for main view is very effective

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  3. Hey Ralph. I’m a programmer of many years who is now playing with Arduinos after a colleague suggestion. Many thanks for your videos which I encountered looking for tips on YouTube. I have become a big fan of yours in no time and really appreciate how you calmly and knowledgeably break down a problem into plain English. You remind me very much of an English friend of mind who I don’t get to see so much these days (I emigrated to Australia from Old South Wales). I think your lifestyle change is an awesome idea and wish you all the very best with it. If it means I get to watch you more, even better!

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    • Thank you, Marcus, nice to hear from Arduinites in ‘Straya’; it’s funny to think that my videos are being watched on the other side of the world. I’m glad you like them although, a bit like a duck swimming, they may appear calm on the surface but there is furious paddling going on under the water!

      Yes, my lifestyle change is not one I would have foreseen, but so far I’m enjoying every waking minute. I’ve discovered that whilst having sufficient money is important, it is not everything and quality of life (along with good health) are much more important. And yes, once the “can we please decorate the old office, darling?” project is out of the way (which, of course, is turning into decorating every square inch of the house whether it needs it or not), I will have much more time on my hands to do the really important things, like videos!

      Good to hear from you, thanks for the feedback and kind words.

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  4. Ralph,

    Further to your deep sleep power saving project: I have put together an automatic switch off circuit module for those applications where the arduino is only required to do one task and switches itself off when that task is completed. No, it’s not rocket science but it does save the battery.

    Scenario: My washing machine has a very useful feature: it makes a little beep sound when it has finished the wash cycle. However, my tumbler drier does not have a similar feature to indicate that the laundry is now dry.

    Solution: Well I didnt want to rip open my drier and alter the circuitry, so I glued a very small magnet on the timer dial. I then “dangled” a halls effect sensor from the top of the drier, such that when the timer reaches its zero (finished) position, it activates the sensor, causing the Arduino to beep periodically. It is not unknown for me to start the drier, forget all about it and leave my appartment. So, I wanted the arduino to switch itself off if I had not responded to the beep after, say, 4 minutes of beeping. Hence the module. When I say module I mean a snippet of a circuit that can be incorporated into a more functional curcuit. The arduino is started by pressing a button and the first line of the sketch makes a pin (D7 or physical pin 18 on my diagram but any digital pin will do) go high. this pin (and the start button) makes a FET conduct the GND pin of the arduino to the GND of the power supply. If the button is pressed long enough (less than a second) the arduino pin takes over and the button can be released. When the task is completed, the sketch makes the pin go low, switching off the FET and experiences sudden death. Never fear, pressing the button will revive it yet again.

    Example circuit attached.

    I am thoroughly enjoying both your YoutTube channel and this blog. I appreciate the time and effort you put into explaining the how your projects’ circuitry works. I have a reasonable knowledge of mcus and their applications; though, I am probably more comfortable with the firmware than the hardware. Back in the seventies, I did play around a lot with bipolar transistor circuits but FETs were exotic and expensive creatures at that time and every power supply had a transformer. Fortunately, my wife bought me a TRS80 model I computer as a birthday gift (I think she was sick of that childlike expression that came over my face every time we walked past a Tandy store) and I was lost to the registers of its Z80 CPU (I don’t think I switched a soldering iron on for years after that).

    So, I am thoroughly enjoying playing with various applications of AVR mcus. It is now such an inexpensive hobby and the availability of such a plethora of modules and sensors that just need to be soldered to the pin of a mcu make it almost limitless. Now, while your channel is targeted at the neophyte, and excellently it is to. Yet there is still plenty of content for an old duffer like me to learn something new in each and every video. E.G. It never entered my head that the watchdog timer could be used for anything other than monitoring hang ups (which reminds me, when used with deep sleep, my circuit would switch off the FET , so an older unenhanced FET that needed a pulse to cease conducting would be required). Your channel is a bit like having a pint with a pal who is equally obsessed with a hobby the features of which totally baffle the average human being. So thank you.

    Mild rant: I am not terribly impressed by LEDs, flashing or otherwise. Nevertheless, I can see how they offer a way of demonstrating the output of a pin or the the results of a couple of lines of code. They are the “Hello World” of embedded firmware. BUT, while youTube is littered with channels showing flashing LEDs, I have yet to see a channel that demonstrates the AVR ATmega’s ability to toggle a pin’s output (see ATmega48A/PA/88A/PA/168A/PA/328/P datasheet section 14, I/O-Ports page 75 on my edition).

    Quote:Three I/O memory address locations are allocated for each port, one each for the Data Register – PORTx, Data Direction Register – DDRx, and the Port Input Pins – PINx. The Port Input Pins I/O location is read only, while the Data Register and the Data Direction Register are read/write. However, *writing a logic one to a bit in the* *PINx Register, will result in a toggle in the corresponding bit in the Data Register.*

    This results in only needing one output command and one delay to get pin 13 flashing. Further than that: using AVR coding (including avr/io.h) and setting up a timer, one can perform the flashing sketch with a saving of 80% in the code size AND have an empty loop that can be used for any purpose.

    Please try and shoe horn this feature into one of your demonstrations.

    My kindest regards,

    Michael

    A PSYCHOLOGICAL TIP

    Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind, and you’re hampered by not having any, the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find, is simply by spinning a penny. No — not so that chance shall decide the affair while you’re passively standing there moping; but the moment the penny is up in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

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    • I like your dryer solution; my problem is that my washer does not make a sound when finished so maybe… well, it’s got me thinking anyway. Interesting too, how you moved away from hardware and into computing via a TRS80 – with me it was with an Amstrad 1650 (?) even though I was a professional programmer, the worlds of commercial computing and pre-Windows home computing were glaciers apart!

      How spooky that you have picked up on the PORT mechanism of bit switching pins. It was something I was going to cover in a (near) future video purely to show how much more quickly (and simultaneously) the pins would switch. In some cases, setting a pin high a few microseconds before another (using digitalWrite) can cause external equipment to get confused. It would involve some simple binary arithmetic so it’s not really something for the beginner but if I explain it right (and they haven’t now all read your comment above) I should be safe! Well, it seems your wish will be granted in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

      I’ve read (or heard of) that psychological tip before – the version I’ve seen is that when the penny comes up “heads” are you disappointed or relieved?

      Great to hear from you Michael, I’m supping an actual pint in the virtual pub with you right now, thanks for posting here.

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  5. Hi Ralph, yes that is a great analogy when I had my company my pocket was deep but then when you retire on a state pension all you have to do is cut your cloth to suit and just carry on it all works out in the end and sometimes it is better I am sure your channel will grow and grow and you will find other ways to make a buck or two.
    PS hope all is well with your dry cat now.

    All the very best Bob

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    • Benny 😺 does allow me access to his workshop, somewhat reluctantly, as it appears I interfere with this sleeping time! But during this heatwave in the UK the door is wide open and windows open too and it’s glorious. ☀️

      And, as you rightly say, I have certainly cut my cloth (even before I knew I was being made redundant, just to see if I could manage) and do you know what? Deep pockets are not everything; the time I now have just to pursue my interests is much more valuable. I hope your crystal ball is right about my channel, it certainly seems an uphill struggle to get those subscribers and views! But I enjoy doing them, researching and so on, so it’s all good.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement, Bob, I take heart from positive, anecdotal stories like yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Ralph, I’m 61 and about 20 years ago had to do a similar thing.
    I jumped from travelling tech engineer to factory tech engineer, although still electronics it involved a shift in electronic/electrical domains.
    It was the best thing I ever did apart from getting married at the same time. lol
    Many of my mates have done similar things, not necessarily getting married, but re-inventing themselves as they go.
    One went from being a Pharmacist to driving school buses.
    Good luck mate and I enjoy the videos.

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    • Well, Tom, if you read my reply to Daniel Quinn you will see I’ve had a varied life but always within an IT arena.

      Even now, on my YouTube channel, there’s a reasonable amount of coding. But it is different, a shift, like you went through. Which is good. I’m doing something I want to do, which in itself ensures I’ll put in the effort.

      Thanks for your kind wishes and I’m glad you like the videos, that’s for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Ralph,

    I can tell you from direct experience that changes are not always for the worst. I have never counted them, but in my working life I’ve spanned from working at a British Consulate in Italy, to developing software as a freelance, then working for an IT company selling optical disk archiveing systems, then as a temporary janitor at the European University, and then owning a pen shop in Florence, becoming a professional calligrapher on the side.
    In the latter function, I had the satisfaction to work for many well known fashion names (Ferragamo, Gucci, Benetton, etc) and personally meet Maestro Placido Domingo, to whom I presented a copy of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” wholly hand-written by me. Changes are opportunities and you have the skills and – most important – brains to handle the new situation.
    I wish you the best of luck

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! That puts my rather staid career in IT to shame it must be said, Daniel.

      I’ve been through several changes of company (takeovers, mergers, outsourcing), went freelance for about 5 years until my daughter was born, at which point I wanted a more stable home life and got a permanent developer’s position.

      I embraced the web culture and was the first person in my company to introduce web-based, homegrown apps and almost got made redundant because my team was “too good” – we offered a platinum service whereas the new owner company only wanted to pay for brass.

      Luckily I found a new role in Investment Accounting as the End User Computing manager which, after about 5 years and another redundancy, convinced me to go for a full-blown web application developer role. Which, after some 5 years has now also come to an end. Sigh. I’ve no regrets, really, apart from not having accumulated untold wealth! Or not having won the lottery.

      I’m more fortunate than many at this present time and I count my blessings. I hope to make a success out of my interests on my YouTube channel, and, hopefully, all that IT work will put me in a good starting position.

      Thanks for your kind wishes, I’m sure we will e-meet again on my channel!

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  8. I got made redundant when the place I worked at closed down. Went self employed and really enjoyed it. Got so busy I had the ability to choose the best clients. Turned out as a blessing in disguise. It even led to me getting my teaching qualifications, so I ended up with two revenue streams.
    I’d still be doing it now if an illness hadn’t left me disabled.
    Good luck with the new job. You can do it…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You, Maxx B, among many, have all told me that sometimes things that look bad at the time actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Which is how I’m looking at this new chapter in my life. And I’m currently in reasonably good health, so I count my blessing there too, and I’m sorry that you were not so lucky. So thank you for the encouragement, and I will put my heart and soul into my new endeavours!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Looking at one of your comments above it looks like you might appeal to an older group. I got my BSEE in 1971 so I am up there too. Hopefully as your channel gets more popular young people will take advantage of the valuable things to be learned here.

    I really like your channel. I’m afraid that one thing I like about it is your limited membership. The more popular channels seem to get a lot of silly comments–and those appear to be the majority. The comments left here have some thought behind them.

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    • Yes, I know exactly what you mean. But there is nothing to stop the channel owners deleting comments that are silly or offensive or just asking for an argument. You are certainly right in that comments here have thought behind them (I’ve deleted maybe half a dozen since I started), and are constructive. I don’t want to become a victim of my own success but generating a little more income is now important to me so we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for posting George.

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  10. I was made redundant (from Thames TV) 25 years ago. It was a bit scary to start with, but I soon started to pick up freelance work until it got so busy that I had to put the brakes on it. I would never have been brave enough to jump into the freelance world without a push, but it really suited me. Good luck with everything you do, and please continue to educate us with all things Arduino and RPi.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And you are another positive story on how things actually improved after getting the elbow, so maybe this might be the opportunity I need to grow my channel – Arduino and RaspPi. Thanks for posting Andy, always good to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. How about Patrion?

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    • You’re the third person today to suggest this, Asger, and I must admit that I considered it briefly but I’m concerned with the amount Patreon take from the smaller donations. But we shall see, you never know!

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      • Do set up the Patreon account.

        Rather than being concerned about how much they take from it, consider that what they don’t take is income you don’t currently have.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I like this reply – the “glass half full” response if ever I saw one! But I have to admit that letting my potential Patrons give 20% of their $1 to Patreon just rankles a bit. However, you are correct, cdntinker, I should look at the positive not dwell on the negative, thanks for that.

          Liked by 1 person

      • And I pay 25% tax of the 1$ on top of it.. But I gladly pay it anyway, it is a matter of encouragement as well!
        Most of the one I patreon gives 1,2,5,10,20..$ steps.
        Only two is given 1$ in my petreon (out off 14 petreons)…

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        • I had forgotten about the tax, it would be 20% in the UK. Sigh. As Benjamin Franklin said, death and taxes, you can escape neither. I must admit, Asger, I’m not sure I would get the response I am looking for (certainly more than 14 patrons). I shall think about this some more! Thanks for highlighting the tax aspect.

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  12. Sorry to hear your ‘news’. Also in IT I’ve been in that position (a number of times) but good things happen – my last full-time job after being made redundant in 2007 was the best ever – great environment, the greatest job satisfaction I ever had, and the relatively low salary didn’t matter.
    All the best.

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    • So many people have said much the same as you, David; if they hadn’t been pushed they would never have jumped. Well, let’s see how my channel fares over the next few months! Thanks for your kind words, nice to hear from you.

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  13. Hi Ralph, I’m really sorry that you’ve had a difficult time but I’m heartened by your stoic approach. Very best wishes for your next chapter. Robert

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Good luck on your new journey. I have learned a great deal from your videos. I’m in my seventh decade and have found a new interest in electronics which you have made interesting and entertaining. I’m trying to get my grandson interested as well so we can learn and do projects together.

    Liked by 2 people

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