The haves and the have nots

I am talking about power and wealth more than anything else.

Last night, I watched a favourite movie, Rollerball. The original, mind you, not the ghastly remake.

Every time I watch Rollerball (about 6 times over the past 20 years) I realise how much the world is changing to be more like the world of Rollerball.

According to Rollerball, the future will see the end of nation states. At first corporations will take over and then 'The Majors', resource sectors such as food, energy and transport producers will govern.

The Rollerball world will be run by executives. The rest of us need do no more than consume resources to keep the executives in the style to which they are accustomed. In addition there are celebrities, such as Jonathan E (Rollerball star), to keep the masses entertained so the masses don't think about their enslavement.

Sounds familiar? Bland government suits talking in corporate-speak. Trashy TV to brainwash the masses. A globalised economy governed by supranational bodies. Democracy and police corrupted by the wealthy.

Recent news stories only reinforce my view that we now live in a corporate state.The mantras of economic growth and globalisation ring in our ears. Globalisation does away with the nation state, allowing the political and wealthy elite to transcend borders by moving wealth and labour without care for the masses and their well-being.

Here are a few news articles to concentrate your minds.

Corporates and police acting together to infiltrate anti-corporate protests.

Guardian - Why spy on peaceful protesters?

Guardian - G20 protesters 'offered cash' by police to spy on environmental groups

Government hypocrisy.

Governments may mention climate change, the environment or resource depletion but at no time will it be allowed to stand in the way of the corporates.

Guardian - Lord Mandelson has set up rival 'energy and climate change unit'

Avast! Pirates! The other side of the coin

What are we to do about those damned East African pirates? Well, we could listen to the other side of the story. Fisherman struggling to make a living as globalisation wrecks their fishing grounds.

Western media and governments talk only of ships prevented from reaching their western destinations. Are we not pirates pillaging the planet to keep us in the style to which we have become accustomed? Sending out our container pirate ships to bring back plunder to our shores.

BBC - 'It's a pirate's life for me'

A simple battery charger

This is a simple AA battery charger made from bits lying around in my electronics box. An old amorphous silicon photovoltaic cell that I've had for many years. Rated under load at 7.5V 50mA, stuck behind a north facing window with a piece of blutack, on a somewhat cloudy day.

You don't want your cell to be too large as the batteries will be damaged through overheating if charged too quickly with a large cell. Typically you want the cell's output in amps to be less than 10% of the Ah rating of the batteries (written on the side of the battery).

Cells can sometimes be picked up for nothing. Many people buy solar powered garden lights, which are very underpowered and often discarded.

The batteries are mounted in a 4x AA battery holder and some wire connects the cell to the batteries. The positive wire from the solar cell connects to the positive end of the battery box.

Often you will see a diode in the circuit for when the sun goes down. In darkness a solar cell will draw power from the batteries so a diode prevents this. I didn't bother with a diode as I was sure the batteries would be charged in less than a day. Indeed, the four batteries started off at 1.13V each and ended the day, fully charged, at 1.38V each.

By relying mostly on devices that use AA or AAA batteries I have reduced the need to use my 12V deep-cycle battery charged with the larger array.

Made me chuckle

Obama announces new "high-speed" rail for the US. Trains could reach as much as 100mph! Ewwwwwww.

How long have European trains been running at over 100mph? About 100 years? In France, Spain, Germany and Japan they travel at 200mph. In the UK they can do 125mph with a tail wind and no leaves on the track.

Ah James, be fair. The US has concentrated on cars. Unfortunately, US cars haven't progressed much further than the Model T in terms of mpg.

Must try harder.

Guardian - Barack Obama annouces high-speed rail plan for 10 busiest US routes

Converting an AT PC power supply into a bench supply

I needed a variable power supply for my projects. After a few days tinkering with an old PC power supply, I know have a power supply. The supply was originally inside a PC and had various coloured leads supplying 0V, +5V, -5V, +12V and -12V to the PC.

In the photo above we see the almost completed supply. The lid now has the addition of a potentiometer (variable resistor) for varying the voltage from 0 to almost 24V. The terminal posts on the right are for connecting the supply to a device requiring power. The switch hanging out of the front is a mains switch I added and will need to be installed in a rectangular hole to be made in the lid.

In the next photo, we see the lid raised. On the bottom of the lid you can see the potentiometer on the left and the terminal posts on the right. The blue lead is the -12V wire and the yellow one is the +12V wire. Together these leads provide the 0-24V range. However, with age only 0 to 23.83V is available.

Inside the case, and on the left, you can see a white oblong component. This is a 10 watt, 10 ohm power resistor I added. It is connected to the black 0V and red 5V leads and draws a current as soon as the power supply is switched on. This is necessary as PC power supplies need a load present to get the supply started. The resistor is mounted on a terminal block, which is then bolted to the side of the case. This allows the resistor to dissipate heat onto the case.

In the final photograph we see the power supply being used to power an experiment with some LEDs. A bench supply can cost as much as £100 to buy. This supply uses a discarded PC supply, a few components from my box of bits and about £10 of additional components bought at Maplins.

The eco-raids continue

Dozens of homes across the UK have been raided by the police. Many people have been arrested and banned from going anywhere near power stations.

Meanwhile hundreds of Islamists in the UK are ignored by the corporate security guards... I mean, the police... to get quietly on with bringing the nation to its knees.

What kind of a country is this?

Guardian - Police raid dozens of homes as climate change activists arrested

It makes my blood boil

I was in London, last April 1st, but not for to protest at the G20 summit. A friend needed a replacement computer and so I delivered an old laptop that I had repaired.

I am not a member of the Green Party and don't get involved in climate change demonstrations because of the number of left-wingers who use the protests for their own ends; namely their Internationalist ideology and pro-Palestinian lies. I am conservative with a small 'c' and green with a small 'g'.

However, the news brings constant images that anger me, images of anonymous policemen with balaclavas to cover their faces. ID numbers hidden by all-in-black riot gear and given a hint of benevolence with those ghastly yellow jackets.

These sinister officers of the law beating people who stand up for their right to protest. A bystander knocked to the ground, who had a heart attack and died. Surveillance and informants used to break up a meeting of climate change activists, who had yet to commit a crime but needed to be rounded up anyway for its propaganda effect.

Yes, it all makes my blood boil. Choose any science fiction movie of the past 30 years and you will find elements that have come to pass. Activists arrested for what, a pre-crime? Surveillance on a level that 1984 never envisaged. Corporate control that makes Blade Runner, Scanners, Lookers, Videodrome etc. look lame.

Wherever you go in the streets of the United Kingdom, hundreds of CCTV cameras are observing your every move. If people start to congregate then the police will want to know why. Officers are dispatched, one of whom will have a video camera, to record your face. If you point a camera at the police then you could well find yourself arrested under new terror legislation for obtaining information that might be useful to a terrorist organisation.

Go near a power station or any other area designated as sensitive by the government and, by the magic of new anti-terror legislation, you will be harassed by the police. "Why are you here? Move along or be arrested."

Where does all of this leave us, The Sheeple? Beaten down and controlled. "Do not protest, we have your best corporate interests at heart. Watch more television. Resist the urge of non-conformance. Watch these television programmes about how to spend your money frivolously. It is your duty to spend."

Where does that leave the police? Out in the cold. Politicised in the extreme. The police is no longer the servant of the people, it serves only the corporate will. The role of the police is now that of social engineering, not to arrest people for committing crimes but to ensure that people submit to a certain lifestyle conducive of corporate governance.

And what of the individual police officers? They are citizens too. Brainwashed with cash and a black uniform. "Imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." Better to wear that boot than have your face under it.

There will be furore for a short while but a TV reality show later and it will all be forgotten. Freedom eroded yet further.

The future? Well, in some ways it will get worse and in other ways it will get better. A police force needs money. Money to pay for all of this equipment and surveillance. Money to buy enforcers of the corporate will. Money that will need to be printed as it becomes scarce. A banking bailout followed by an enforcement bailout. Less money, less police. More crime or more community?

In many ways, the police are a victim of central government losing control. Fearful of a future without the magic of all that oil does for the modern world. The population keeps on increasing, resources keep dwindling, more police resources to control the mess we are in.

The corporate mantra of "economic growth" rings in the ears of the corporate will and so the world continues to fill with people and dwindle of resources. Thinking only of today's profit and loss column, the corporate will beats us down and thinks only of how much profit was made today. Tomorrow is another market place, send out the police to ensure its arrival.

I am not green because I care about soft fluffy animals. I am selfishly green because I see a time when there won't be enough money to enforce the corporate will. I am green as a consequence of eking out my wealth to last the rest of my life. I have downsized, created a kitchen garden, gone off-grid as a matter of my selfish desire to survive. But I shall live life how I want to and not how the corporate will wishes me to.

Guardian - Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died

Guardian - Police arrest 114 people in pre-emptive strike against environmental protesters

Guardian - Don't let the police intimidate you

Guardian - The web reacts to power station protest arrests


And here is another article about how the authorities divide us so as to conquer us. If we had community then we would not be so fearful but our government and police force do nothing to make our society cohesive.

BBC - UK society 'increasingly fearful'

Super bright LEDs ordered

I have been researching various sources for super bright LEDs. The main constraint was price per unit brightness. When looking at advertisements you will see reference to brightness, measured in mcd (milli-candela - thousandths of candelas).

The candela is the SI unit for luminosity and is based on the old measurement of candles. A candela can therefore be thought of as roughly equivalent to the brightness of one candle. An LED giving off 5000 mcds is equal to 5 candles.

Imagine a power cut and how many candles you would need to adequately light a room. If that comes to 12 then you will need 12,000 mcds of LEDs. And when I say adequately light, I don't mean bathing those corners of the room with light when you have no intention of being in them. Unless you are a scaredy cat and don't like dark corners in your room.

You want to be getting as many thousands of mcds as you can whilst keeping in my mind how much you are spending. Divide the total number of mcds in the pack of LEDs by the cost to find the number of mcds per unit cost. I have just bought 100 x 10,000 mcd LEDs giving me a total luminosity of 1 million mcds for £5.99. That gives me 166,945 mcds per pound spent or 167 candelas per pound in SI units.

I could have bought 21,000 mcd LEDs but they were priced in pounds each rather than the 6p each I am paying for these LEDs. Remember to think only of the total number of mcds per pound spent.

The 100 LEDs I have bought will be more than adequate for constructing my own 12V light bulbs that will run off my solar-charged deep-cycle battery. My reason for buying LEDs is that I no longer use mains electricity and so I need a source of light other than my old 240V AC CFLs. Also, I am not keen on CFLs seeing as they all contain small amounts of mercury, a new hazard waiting for us, equal to leaded petrol, CFC laden fridges and cadmium filled batteries. When will we learn?

More battery experiments

Have you ever wondered what is inside a laptop battery pack? Well, I picked up one from a Freecycler when collecting something else so now's your chance to look inside a battery pack...

Disappointed? What were you expecting, dilithium crystals? Yes, it's full of batteries. These particular cells are US18650GR with a nominal voltage of 3.8V and a capacity of 2800mAh. The cells are larger than AA batteries.

A lot of people throw out old battery packs. Not a good idea, considering the cost of buying a new one. Quite often just one battery cell in the pack has failed and can be replaced. You also pay a lot for the packaging and the little controller board in the pack.

The cells are of no use to me as laptop batteries. However, as I am now building a recharger for my standard AA and AAA batteries then these larger cells may be of use.

My little magic box, with its photovoltaic (PV) panel and hand charger could hold these larger cells, so they can be charged up. The cells will then charge up my standard cells, mobile phones or power devices. There will be appropriate voltage regulators to ensure each battery or device gets just the amount of power required. Although this is using cells to charge other cells, at least they are free and avoid me having to use my deep-cycle battery.

I have an old 10V amorphous silicon photovoltaic cell and used it to charge up a US18650GR cell. In the next photo you see the PV cell blutacked to the window. (croc clips connected to a multimeter)

Yes, there was no diode protection to stop the battery dumping charge into the PV cell when the light drops but it was a managed daylight experiment so all was well. A couple of hours of overcast weather and the cells was up to 3.99V from 3.76V.

The following photo shows the old garden light charger by the window, charging a pair of AA batteries. The batteries started the day at 2.48V and not able to power a small shortwave pocket radio adequately enough. By 5pm the cells had been charged to 2.6V and were popped back into the radio.

I have a bag of broken PV cells that have been lying around for five years, looking for a project. I am going to make them into a panel just large enough to charge four AA cells.

Charging batteries by hand

The skies have been rather dark for the past couple of days, just when my deep-cycle battery could do with a top up. I have used about 18% of the battery's charge and I will want to charge it afore I have used 20% of the total charge. Deep-cycle batteries are best cycled between 10% and 20% of full-charge to ensure their longevity.

I want to avoid using the deep-cycle battery to charge my AA and AAA cells with a mains charger for two reasons. The first being the aforementioned problem of not being able to use the deep-cycle battery when it is close to 20% discharge.

The second reason is that charging battery cells with a deep-cycle battery is inefficient. When charging batteries energy is lost in the form of heat and chemical reactions. It best just to charge one battery for the task ahead rather than using one battery to recharge others.

From now on, the deep-cycle battery will be used only to power 12V lights directly and to power inverters for running mains operated devices, other than mains AA and AAA battery cell chargers.

In a previous post I reported on using a discarded solar garden light to recharge batteries. Now, I am going to investigate using a discarded hand-cranked mobile phone charger. The reason being that if the sun isn't shining then an alternative method for recharging battery cells will be needed.

My intention is to build what I am going to call "The Magic Box",a combined solar and hand-cranked charger that can be used to power devices that run on batteries such as AAA, AA, C and D battery cells. The box will have a small solar panel, input from a hand-cranked charger and, maybe, some cells of its own so that it can power devices without the devices requiring their own batteries.

In the following photo we see a typical hand-cranked charger for mobile phones. The charger has a handle attached to a motor by way of gears. The gears permit the motor to turn more quickly that the operator can turn the handle thus relieving tiredness.

The motor inside the charger is used in reverse. Instead of using electricity to make it turn, the turning action from the handle creates electricity. This electricity is passed through a wire (via some circuitry) to a device.

Instead of dismantling the charger's little set of mobile phone connectors, I made a new cable to connect the charger to a battery cell pack. I found an old Nokia phone charger with the correct size connector and cut it with two feet of wire remaining.

In the next photo we see the hand charger connected to a four AA battery box and with a multimeter taking a reading of the voltage of the four cells. The charger had been cranked for a couple of minutes.

It would take a long time to recharge cells from empty to full so the hand charger is looked upon as merely a back up to get sufficient charge into a cell. As there are better things to be doing than worshipping electrical devices then that is not a bad thing.

Over the coming weeks, I hope to build the various elements of The Magic Box and then demonstrate it powering a few of my oft used devices. Keep tuned!

Ooops! It's April. No more eating, drinking, consuming for the rest of this year

April is the month when the UK goes into ecological debt. A nation unable to feed itself for a whole year. Nor provide enough energy to last a year.

If only the environment was a bank and the 20% of GDP coughed up by the government... I mean tax payers... for the bank bailout would be a lot better than the less than 1% to be spent by the government on environmental rescue.

Ah but the environment is a bank and we have been building up an over-draught of the planet's precious resources for far too long. We have borrowed money to pay for wasteful lifestyles and have seen where that has gotten us.

For the rest of the year, as you eat your way through thousands of food miles and drink water from some exotic Pacific island remember, there is no environmental IMF to get a loan to pay Mother Earth back her dues.

BBC - Ecological debt: no way back from bankrupt

Guardian - UK goes into ecological debt on Easter Sunday

Wombling free

Underground, Overground, Wombling Free,
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we.
Making good use of the things that we find,
Things that the everyday folks leave behind.

Today sees me putting to good use one of the things I Freecycled over the past week. In the following photograph we can see a solar powered garden light, which no longer works.

This solar garden light is slightly different to the ones we normally see. Rather than a solar cell powering a single LED, this one powers a string of 50. More of a decoration than anything else, with fifty 5V LEDs wired in parallel and inadequately powered by 2 AA batteries.

I have already cut up the string of LEDs for individual use. The charger is charging up the batteries but the batteries are not powering the LEDs when the light drops. After shielding the solar cell there is no voltage detected in the LED string. Either the circuit is damaged or the batteries are not taking sufficient charge to power the LED string.

In the next photo we can see the inside of the solar charger.

The batteries are non-standard. Slightly longer than retail AA batteries and giving 1.6V each rather than the more common 1.2V. Ordinary rechargeable AA batteries will sit loosely in the battery holder.

My intention is to use this charger solely to charge up batteries and use them in other devices. Most of my electrical devices are powered by rechargeable batteries and I find myself having to charge batteries everyday. Recharging batteries is not a problem for me but I do want to do it efficiently.

Currently, I am recharging batteries with a recharger connected to an inverter, which in turn is connected to my off-grid solar-charged deep-cycle battery. In effect I am converting sunlight into chemically stored energy twice and losing energy through the inverter. By charging AA and AAA batteries directly with this newly acquired charger I will save both time and energy.

In the above photo we see the charger on its stand. My intention is to leave the charger by a window, charging batteries for daily use. The LEDs will be given other tasks. If I can cut them out of their blue covers then I will use them in various electronic projects, otherwise I will cluster them altogether as some sort of solar lantern or night light.

I need a rest from Freecycling

A busy weekend, taking cast-offs from various people. The sight of their happy faces, knowing that someone was collecting what they no longer needed. "It still works!" they all said.

Well, not for much longer. I've ripped apart four microwave ovens, an old flat bed scanner and garden solar lights. None of what I have salvaged will ever be used for what it was intended. In that respect I feel a little guilty but then if I didn't take what was on offer it may have ended up in a landfill.

I have also been driving far too much. Driving is not something I live for, I'd rather walk. Those minor irritations. People attempting to make a race of moving off when a light turns green. Others taking a short cut to gain a place in a file of traffic. What is it all for, to get from A to B five seconds sooner? On some occasions it gets you into a graveyard earlier. At least, it drains your fuel tank more quickly.

More recycling

Another microwave oven collected and dismantled. Microwave ovens are awfully crude and I wouldn't be that certain they shield users from 100% of microwave radiation. If you drop one or it gets roughly handled when moving home then I would get it checked by someone with a microwave radiation meter. If it leaks then give it to me!

I now have two large step-up transformers to convert into step-down transformers for an arc welder. Some 10 gauge wire came in the post so I can rewind the secondary on one of the transformers and test it. However, I have noticed an advert on Craigslist for a complete arc welding set for £30.

Well, so far I have spent £5 on my welder. Another £5 will need to spent on more 10 gauge wire, plus more money to be spent on welding rods, a rod holder and a clamp. I could well end up spending £30 or more for something that might not work as well as the advertised £30 kit.

In addition to the transformers, I now have 4 magnets for a generator. With the wire I get out of the transformer secondaries I should be able to build an experimental generator.

I have also salvaged two AC motors for rotating the ovens' turntables. They can be used in reverse so instead of giving them 240V AC to turn at 5 revolutions per minute, you can turn them with a hand crank and get 100 or so volts out of them. An emergency hand operated generator perhaps.

On the way home from picking up the microwave oven, I dropped into a car breaker's yard and had a wander around. People seem to use dumping their car as an opportunity for dumping anything else from their house so you will often find non-car related junk in the cars. I was lucky enough to find a USB to parallel printer port interface on the floor of one car. Not much use to me so I shall either hack it or eBay it.

I found the car heater fan controller I need but, as usual, I brought every tool but the right one. I'll have to go back tomorrow when I am in that part of town picking up flower pots from another Freecycler.

Still tinkering

I have now blown two carbon film potentiometers whilst converting the old PC power supply into a bench supply. Sizzle, sizzle, ffft and the smell of a charred potentiometer fills the room.

At least the new drill press is working perfectly. I've drilled holes in the power supply's metal casing for terminal posts, an unbaked potentiometer and mains power switch. I regard my drill press as being a very sound investment, as it will permit me to be more productive and accurate in my work. The drill will allow me to make other tools and much off-grid equipment.

Earlier in the day, I took various weighty tools to the magnetron I salvaged last week. I now have two big magnets to play with. My mind is thinking of a wind powered generator. I will need more magnets and should have two more when I collect another microwave oven tomorrow.

To make a generator I will need magnets and enamelled wire to make coils for the magnetic flux to induce a current in. The step-up transformers I am getting out of the microwave ovens will be used to make an arc welder. The secondary coils in the transformers will be re-wound as step-down transformers with thicker wire. The wire currently in the transformers will provide wire for the generator coils.

My wood gas experiments continue. After connecting a car heater fan to my solar powered deep-cycle battery (and blowing another potentiometer - I am learning from my mistakes) I now realise that I am going to need a rheostat out of a car dashboard. The little dial you turn when you want the fan to blow harder is what I need. I'm not sure if there is something between the dial and the fan. We shall see. After collecting the microwave tomorrow I shall go to the local car breaker and rip something out of car.