Jon Sooy

Archive for the ‘Home Projects’ Category

HomeLink Mirror Mod – Adding Homelink to your Leased Vehicle

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What does an Inbound Marketer do on his day off? He makes a YouTube video documenting his latest act of geekery.

After leasing a 2014 Honda Civic, I discovered that the vehicle was not equipped with a programmable HomeLink transmitter. This is not my 2nd Homelink mod as I previously modified the center console in my 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman. See my website for that post.

Since this is a leased vehicle, I did not want to modify the car in any way that I could not undo. So, I purchased a used Gentex rear view mirror that has Homelink. Rather than hard wire the unit to the car, I decided to try and see if I could use a small 12 volt battery to power the unit.

Once complete, I programmed the remote and it works great!

Now once my lease is up, I can swap the HomeLink Mirror out for the original.

Programming HomeLink remote instructions are here: http://www.homelink.com/program

Music by: http://createdbybrett.com

Link to Mini Cooper Clubman HomeLink Mod: http://www.jonsooy.com/mini-cooper-homelink-universal-opener-mod/

Written by Jon Sooy

November 27th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Home Projects

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Stevia Lemonade / Cocktail Mixer

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I know what you are thinking. Is this a recipe on Jon’s website? Yep. I am no culinary genius, but life gave us lemons in the form of a monster lemon tree. It produces more lemons than we could ever consume, so I learned how to make lemonade! However, this created a conflict with my personal quest to dramatically reduce the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that I consume. Why am I trying to reduce the sugar and carbs? This doctor pretty much sums up my beliefs on the topic. So, back to the lemonade. My wife introduced me to Stevia; a natural herb that is a fantastic substitute for sugar. It is much more powerful than sugar so getting the right amount for lemonade was a bit of a challenge. Most ‘regular’ lemonade recipes use 1 to 2 cups of sugar! The recipe I have uses only 2.4 teaspoons of Stevia! This lemonade also makes a fantastic cocktail mixer!

Watch the video to see Chef Jon in action:


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 8 cups water
  • 2.5 teaspoons of liquid Stevia
  • optional: Vodka

Instructions: It’s simple… mix the above and drink!

Written by Jon Sooy

April 28th, 2012 at 7:15 am

Royally Geeked Out – Sooy Solar Air Space Heater

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These are the video chronicles of my experimental quest to heat a portion of our house using the sun. The idea came to me while driving down the highway: if I could capture heat from the sun in a collector, I could possibly send that heat into my house to help offset my heating bill. Like a lot of great ideas, I soon figured out that there are others already doing this! I found a great Yahoo Group called ‘Simply Solar’ and several web pages that had stories from guys like me trying to accomplish the same thing. One site worth noting is www.builditsolar.com. Thank you to all my new friends who helped me to accelerate this project with the personal accounts of their own projects.

In order to repay my debt to these solar pioneers, I have recorded my progress in 6 short videos. I hope these videos in turn will help others.

Video 1a and 1b: Introduction and basic over view of what I plan to do!

Video 2: Solar Heater Collector Construction

Video 3: About the Screen,Insulation

Video 4: Paint it Black and the Glazing

Video 5: It works!

I have some final tweaks to do but it works! Thanks again to my Yahoo Group and to builditsolar.com!

Shopping list for the electronics and some ducting (all Amazon… gotta love that Amazon Prime):
4″ Inline Blower – 235 CFM – 12 Volt – 1.3 lbs – 5 1/4″ (h) x 4 3/16″ (w) x 6″ (l)
Thermostat Switch – Circuit On At 100°F and Off At 85°F – Large Flange
Fantech RSK 4 Backdraft Damper 4″ Duct
Kintrex SPC0601 7 Amp 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Power Charge Controller With Digital LED Display
Moeller Injection-Molded Marine Battery Box (One 27, 30 or 31-Series Battery, 13.44″ x 7.75″ x 10.5″)
Everything else was from local home improvement stores.

Written by Jon Sooy

February 11th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Open Source Deep Fried Turkey Video

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Here is another experiment with video editing software. I purchased Camtasia Studio to do some video recording and editing for work. It works fantastic for capturing actions on the computer screen and for editing most regular video types (example here). However, I quickly discovered that it doesn’t recognize .3gp files (a la my Android camera). I found that I needed to convert the files from my phone to .avi or .wmv to get them into Camtasia. Well, that’s a bummer. So, I decided to experiment with a different editor. Because my laptop is running Ubuntu Linux, I tried an open source alternative to Camtasia called Openshot Video Editor. Great choice! Although it does lack many of the features of Camtasia and some of the special effects are a bit clunky to maneuver, I found it to be quite user friendly and let’s face it, you can’t beat the price! Plus, it had no trouble dealing with .3gp files. This has proven to be a great time saver and for my general video editing needs, I will likely use Openshot as my primary platform.

My inaugural project was a deep fried Turkey video:


Special thanks to Brett Juilly for the great background music! (createdbybrett.com)

Written by Jon Sooy

December 28th, 2011 at 9:44 am

Going Postal With Outdoor Speakers

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I am working hard on documenting some of the solutions and ideas that I come up with. I recently purchased Camtasia (great application) to help me put together videos. This is the first! More to come.


Written by Jon Sooy

December 11th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

XBMC for Ubuntu

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For several years now I have been tinkering around with media center PC’s. Without exception I have used old PCs that no longer have the power to handle my heavy usage. After beginning my experimentation with Ubuntu as a lighter weight alternative to Windows, I set out on a quest to build a media center PC on Ubuntu. I have experimented with Hulu, Boxee, GBPVR, Myth and a few others that are not worth mentioning. My first goals was to be able to watch and record TV. But having Dish Networks has made this sort of pointless. What I have decided to do is to build a machine that will easily handle the other great media in my life: internet media content, mp3 files, movies and family videos/photos. Boxee does work fine for this but now that I have installed XBMC on Ubuntu 10.10, it’s bye bye Boxee for me.

If you are new to Linux, I don’t recommend that you start a project like this until you have learned how to navigate Ubuntu’s Software Center and have some experience with using the terminal.  I won’t go into details but will provide the links you need in order to build your system. The great thing about Linux and XBMC, for that matter is that if you get stuck there are tons of people on the internet that will help you! Like I tell most people who come to me with technical questions… ‘Google it, and if you still can’t figure it out, call me.’

In a nutshell, XBMC is an open source media center application that enables you to use a home PC as a device to view internet content and your own private library of movies, music and photos. To learn more about XBMC, go to their website and check out the ‘about’ page.

To build my media center PC, I used an old Dell Latitude D610 Laptop rescued from destruction from my place of work. Rather than use Windows XP (I would have to purchase a license and deal with all the craziness that is Microsoft) I downloaded and installed Ubuntu (free Linux distro that is much less needy in terms of system resources). If you haven’t tried the newer flavors of Linux, I highly recommend that you do! My personal laptop is running Ubuntu along with 3 other computers at home and 1 at work. Quite simply: they rock. All of them are on older machines that most people would have tossed out due to how slow they are running Windows. Once Ubuntu was installed, I installed Samba (which enables the Ubuntu machine to easily connect with other computers on our home network). This will make it easy to transfer movies, music, pictures or whatever. Samba instructions here.

Next, I installed XBMC. Intructions are here. I ran a video cable and and audio cable from the TV to my component cabinet (I just used a regular computer monitor cable – if your computer has an HDMI port, I would use it). With the TV set up as a second monitor I was able to remove the laptop monitor. Not difficult to do if you are comfortable with taking things apart. Obviously one should be careful. I took the monitor off the laptop because I wanted the system to be as cool as possible and with it inside a cabinet, I didn’t want to have to close the laptop. A closed laptop that is running will tend to suffer in terms of cooling.

The final piece to the puzzle was setting up some sort of remote control. I used a Logitech diNovo Mini. It installed on the Ubuntu machine without any configuration at all. I just plugged in the USB dongle and it worked within 30 seconds. Again… Ubuntu rocks and so does this remote. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and a small mouse device integrated. It’s only about 5-6 inches wide and man does it work great.

That’s it! The expense for this project was only the price of the remote control. The laptop was one that was deemed too slow for use at my office and was to be discarded. All the software was free. The other great thing about XBMC is that it is highly customizable with tons of free skins and settings that you can tinker with. Now I can stream music through my surround sound system, watch movies from my collection that I have ripped and turned into .avi files (Highly recommend Handbrake for this – yes… it’s open source too). I can also play slideshows of family events and even watch my YouTube favorites. ALL from the comfort of my couch!

Written by Jon Sooy

April 23rd, 2011 at 7:07 am

Worlds Collide

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As the worlds of television and the personal computer slowly merge (in case you haven’t been paying attention), I can’t help but wonder who will be the king of this new world.  Several years ago a movement began that included TV tuner cards for your PC and as many of my fellow nerds began this trek, I don’t think any of us imagined the full possibilities.  I have now built several PVR systems and have tinkered with Hauppage products, AverMedia products as I tried to force the two worlds into what I wanted this new world to be.  GBPVR, WinTV, SAGE, Freevo and others certainly led the way into the new frontier but what will happen to these incredible innovators as the new players emerge:  Boxee, Neuros, AppleTV (did I miss any?).  I was very intrigued by GBPVR for quite some time.  I enjoyed the incredible flexibility and range of possibilities but found myself constantly having to mess with settings.  Now, as these new players emerge it has become less about recording TV (like a TiVo) and more about streaming content from the internet.

Currently I am a enjoying Boxee.  At home, I have two systems set up.  In both cases I have taken old laptops, removed the monitors, hooked them up to my LCD Televisions (one in the family room and one in the bedroom).  Using inexpensive PC remote controls (yes, I know I could go Media Center or even Boxee remotes), I can control the Boxee system from afar (like any true American would require).  On the system in the family room, I even managed to use my Logitech Harmony remote learning feature to program it to navigate the Boxee interface.  Both systems are running a stripped down version of XP (thanks to nLite) that is set up to boot and automatically load Boxee.  I have tried the Linux version of Boxee but struggled a bit to get it working right.  I am confident that the Linux set up will become easier as more people figure out how to make it work.  On my Boxee, I have everything from YouTube to Hulu, Digg to NetFlix and one of my favorites, Pandora is now all in one cool interface on my TV.  While my wife is not too keen on watching the videos from Geek.com or the Digg Reel, she does appreciate the ability to  play her favorite Pandora station through our surround sound system.  For me, being able to watch the Daily Show, 30Rock or the Colbert Report whenever I like is also a major plus!  One of the best features of all, one that all of the above mentioned systems possess, is the ability to access your own personal library of photos, videos, DVD’s right from the couch!

As TV’s become internet ready, BlueRay players add the ability to stream NetFlix, Pandora and other content providers, it is only a matter of time before it’s all going to be available in one place, on one machine.  All of the systems mentioned here are all pointed in the same direction.  These worlds will collide and I’m loving it!

Written by Jon Sooy

January 24th, 2010 at 9:39 am

Posted in Home Projects

The Cabana

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One of my unplanned projects for 2009 was ‘The Cabana.”  It all started with posts and railings that I found on Craig’s List.  Apparantly the posts and railings are from a demolition project at a winery in Napa (not sure which one).  The contractor saved the pieces and had intended on building a structure in his backyard and then changed his mind.  Lucky me!

The platform for the structure was is a 12′ x 12′ deck that I built a few years ago.  I had erected an 11′ x 11’ tent-like structure that worked well for us during what we call the Party Summer (although, I think all summers could be classified as party summers).  In 2007 we had the Golden Pacific company barbecue here, complete with Sonoma based rock band, BackTrax and catering by Cattlemens Restaurants (a client).

Anyway, once I found the posts, I started off as I do with many of my home improvement projects… I skipped making a plan and started building!  The posts and railings went up first, and then the back wall. During the construction I decided that it would be a cool feature to have solar panels that would generate electricity for the structure. This gave me enough foresight to install junction boxes and conduit within the back wall to receive the wiring. Having never built a roof let alone a hip roof before, it took me a while to figure out all the angle cuts. My father gave me some sage advice:  ‘Jon, buy a few extra boards, just in case.’  He was right!

I finished off the roof with comp material (again a Craig’s List score) and installed two 65 watt solar panels from Harbor Freight Tools. The kit came with the panels, all the wiring and the charge controller.  The solar panels charge a marine battery that operates a 12 volt ceiling fan (from Backwoods Solar) and provides outlets for other 12  volt accessories (MP3 player, etc).

Still to be installed is the counter/cabinet along the back wall that will hide the solar wiring and battery and will also provide a place to install a small sink.  I also need to finish off the soffits and install some vents.

Written by Jon Sooy

December 27th, 2009 at 10:37 am

Posted in Home Projects

Putting Green Project… Mission Accomplished!

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She’s all done!  Still more to do on the yard, and concrete stairs to build but the putting green is fully operational.

Click here to see all the pics!