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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Da Vinci ain't got nothing on a Clute"

This is being reposted from my Facebook account for all to read. This post is a good introduction to what I hope to discuss and talk about as part of this blog.

Chuck, one of my bestest friends recently told me this in response to me saying that I had just cleaned out my garage to make room to do some projects. He, like many of my friends (my wife included), laughs a little harder every time I come to them and say "I have the best idea!!!" because they know that only about 1 in 10 of my ideas ever even get started, much less finished. So I figured I'd take this moment to show off a few of my more recent or grandious projects.

Theatre Room - A year ago I finally moved into a house, and it had a great room in the basement just screaming to be a Theatre room. And every good home theatre buff knows that you just gotta have a projecto..well, I'm a little cheap to buy a projector (being cheap is a running theme driving me to do many projects) and another friend of mine, Nathan, just so happened to have a projector that he was willing to give me because of how aweful it is. Well, I wanted to mount this sucker on the ceiling, however it was too old to do that, there was no flip function. So I just ripped it apart, got to the LCD in it, physically flipped it so it would natively show the image upside down, rewired it, put it back together, mounted it upside down to the ceiling and there we have it! Not too shabby, but at the end of the day it's still a crappy projector.

Picture Website - Around my profile you'll see me advertise my picture website to see more pictures (http://cluteweb.serveftp.com/pictures) Basically I built it from a similar implementation we had at my old employer Patti Engineering. It will create a new album everytime I dump a new folder of pictures onto a specific drive in the server. It's got a lot of cool little features added in too, like most pictures have Low res pictures you see so it loads fast, but if you want a high res pic it's there as well. You can also post comments to pictures you like much like on here, and eventually I'm working to allow you to go through the site and pick out pictures you like and you can add them to your "download basket". When you're done choosing, you hit "Download" and you get a single zip file with all of your pictures you chose. It would really help out those that are on dial up so they can set it and forget it. (My parents being the worst offenders of the dial up...)

Rebuild Saturn Engine - 2 years ago I was facing a second rebuild on my Saturn SL2. Being strapped for cash I had to figure out how to get the car running on the cheap, but yet I didn't want to have it half-assed. Therefore I decided to see what would happen if I did it myself. Ripped out the engine from the car, put it on the stand and went to work. Tore it all the way down to the point where I had the pistons on the bench next to the crankshaft. Made sure to get everything re-machined or replaced, and put it all back together. The result? About 200hrs and $700 later, it's now 30k since I did that and it's still purring along.

Filmaking - This one is kind of a joke, but I spent a bit of time during high school making some films. At first we just made some small clips of things, then we stepped it up and made a Conan O'Brian spoof where I hosted a talk show and had guests on, while bantering with my co-host. From there we stepped it up and decided that we should try to do a feature length movie. For those of you that might know...this is Bond Says No I'm talking about here. For those of you that never heard of this...basically we made a Bond movie from the other point of view. Basically you're looking at everything through the Villain's eyes, so you sort of feel like Bond is the villain after he keeps foiling your plans. It's kind of a neat concept wrapped into very inexperienced filmmakers along with horrendous acting. We made up for not being able to act by running a lot in the movie. Actually, there are a number of you that were in that movie, so I think I'll make a FB group for it..."I Was in Bond Says No"

Facebook - Well there are a number of things I want to do in this place...(see the aforementioned group I'll be creating shortly). Along with that, there are 3 apps I was thinking about writing as well. 1 is a silly one I mentioned in the last line of my previous note. The other 2 however I think hold some promise. The first is called "Timeline" where you'd get a new tab in your profile where you can build up your life's timeline. You can create entires directly on the timeline, or you can tag points of the timeline to notes, wall posts, and images in your galleries. Friends could even tag you in their timelines making your timeline even more dynamic. The second app I think might be neat although it'd be more number crunching and programming relationship analysis. It's called "Groups" or "Clusters". It would crawl through your friend lists and try to come up with how you're relationed with everybody on the list via mutual friends, networks, employers, schools....whatever connects you to everybody else. It would then show you a visual map of how you're connected to others. *shrug* not sure about that one, but I thought it sounded neat so I wrote it down one day.

Rebuild Ranger Transmission - I gained so much knowledge and confidence in doing the engine rebuild I've decided I'm going to try to take on a transmission. This one won't cost much to try,and if in the end it still doesn't work I won't be out much money, just time. I'm not planning to start this until next fall/winter, so when the time comes I plan to put together a very good picture tutorial for anybody in the future who is interested.

Guitar Hero - About a year ago I was introduced to Guitar Hero. I immediatley loved it since I've long since been bored with the classic "play with your thumbs" games. To feel like you're actually doing something with your brain was verycool, and I can almost guarantee you that if I get a Wii anytime in the next while I'm not sure ANY of these projects will get done. So I quickly became bored with the songs that were on the game itself and went looking for an alternative. There are a number PC based GH clones that are on the market and I chose one that seemed to make the most sense and seemed to have a good gameplay model. While playing this game and participating in the community, I've done a few projects specifically for this, but 2 I'm particularly proud of are my Super Mario Mod and my Song Difficulty Tester. The Mario Mod basically made the GH game look like it was Super Mario Guitar Hero. Complete with bricks as normal notes and ? marks as starpower notes. The Song Difficulty App basically took different metrics about songs and tried to weight them to give a total "Song Difficulty". It was deemed a failure at the end but I may be able to go back and see what i did wrong. There isn't much motivation as our little grouop is missing it's main programmer who just up and left one day, and those of us that are left aren't enough to motivate the masses.

Multi-Zone Audio - I really like the idea of having my digital music library available throughout the whole house. To do this I figure that I'll have a single computer with multiple audio cards. Each audio card will be responsible for a room. Then the speakers would go from the audio card into an amp, then into the room. Also in each room would be a control panel in the wall that could control the music about which playlist can be played, the volume, and play/pause/fast forward controls. This would be a small module based on a microcontroller sitting on Ethernet on the home network sending commands to the music server.

Weather Wallpaper Changer - This is an application that would run in the background of your computer. You would setup certain filters based on Date, Weather, Time, and whatnot and when one of the scenarios happened it would automatically change your background image to a configurable image. I just started working on this and I think this will be my first cnet submission.

Cookbook Stand - I started building a cookbook stand for Lori so it would stand up on the counter while she's cooking yet be covered with plexi-glass so that she doesnt' get it dirty. She said that it woudl take up too much counter space so I'm either going to give it to Don or my MIL.

Sleep - I've been trying to battle this beast for a number of years now. Can you imagine a life where you didn't have to sleep? Oh the stuff you could get done!!

Bike Stand - I don't currently have a way to travel with bikes in the Explorer. I was going to buy a hitch rack, however what happens when I want to travel with the trailer and the bikes? I have to do some research but my Dad and I think that we might be able to just build the whole thing ourselves to have an integrated hitch. Just started mulling this over today so we'll see where it goes.

Well, I think that accurately scrapes the surface. Keep in mind I get new ideas almost daily so keeping it straight and deciding which ones to do are probably the hardest. It's pretty funny when somebody askes me if I've done something and I can say...no but I've researched it pretty good and here is a general cost structure and the brands you want to look for.


  1. Looking forward to reading about it Nick! I've been working on this "skunkworks" project at work called JMP Power Tools (http://www.jmppowertools.com/) and the first "test" feature is called a "Glowing Dashboard". Similar to your Weather Wallpaper Changer, it has a colored glow in the bottom right corner of your screen, and you can use plug-ins to control the color. One of the plug-ins that it ships with is a Weather one. Check it out, and if you think it's relevant to what you are looking to do, I'll grab a couple code snippets of the weather stuff for you (it looks up the current weather from a Yahoo web service).

  2. Very cool Scott. I subscribed to your feed and look forward to seeing your progress. Regarding my Weather Wallpaper Changer I believe the last time I left that I had the function written to change the wallpaper and it would read/write new "filters" to the xml file. I already have some sample code to read the RSS feed from some weather site so it was just a matter of integrating the two. The idea of a skunkworks project is pretty neat. I've run a few of those myself at TURCK without having the vocab to describe it. :)

  3. Hey Nick! I look forward to reading your super cool new blog, and don't sell yourself short man... who cares if they don't get finished... one day that one idea that's going to make you millions is going to pop in your head and you won't have a choice but to finish it! Hope everything is going well!

  4. Hey Tom! Actually I'll definately be posting some of the ideas that could make millions. The biggest problem I've found out recently is that you have to have money to make money, in which it requires much more than just an idea to make money. Of course, if there are any Venture Capitalists out there looking to make some money, let me know and let's talk! Oh, and I heard that you got married! Congrats man!