Sparky's Shocks

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pet Rock Finally Has a Purpose

On the 26th of January 2006, CNN reported that Russia had accused the British of conducting clandestine operations using a rock in a Moscow park. This is no cover-up article; the Russians had clearly found a “spy rock” posing as an innocent landscape article in Moscow. The fact that British Intelligence is far more skilled at the rock vs. paper game then the C.I.A. is a bit frightening.

"According to our experts' assessments, this device costs several tens of millions of pounds. You could only create this technological wonder in laboratory conditions."(Russian FSB)

It is imperative that the United States develop a landscape item capable of assisting our agents in the field. Perhaps our government is already using lawn items to probe our daily lives. Is that sprinkler-head spying on your joyful playground excursion? Are those tacky flamingos transmitting encrypted data to headquarters? For the sake of our national security I have assisted in the development of a system equivalent to those used by the British.

Meet Rock’nStix: it’s a work in progress, yet the possibilities are endless. At this moment the rock houses a Gumstix connex 200xm running at 200Mhz with 64Mb of ram and a NetCF expansion board. Gumstix computers are literally the size of a stick of gum, which makes them perfect for sticking in places where computers should never go. These little computers run Linux kernel 2.6.11 and are very versatile. The NetCF board attached to the gumstix adds real functionality with a Compact Flash slot and a full 10/100 Ethernet connection. Adding a 802.11g CF card would allow the rock to connect wirelessly to a network; imagine a “spy rock” mesh network. Gumstix are available with built-in Bluetooth for downloading all of those top secret blueprint photos from your camera phone. That feature alone rivals British infrared transfers. All of this fits inside a faux rock with plenty of room to spare. I’d like to see some padding and waterproofing added to the rock later on. Future versions might even include battery power, wireless technologies, audio, and maybe even a GPS. My rock can beat your scissors any day.

I used an Exo-Tera pet habitat rock and a piece of Plexiglas to create the housing. Three #4 machine bolts mount the electronics to the Plexiglas. A couple of screws hold the plexi to the rock and form the bottom of the housing. A Dremmel with a fiberglass reinforced cutoff wheel makes cutting the plexi fairly easy. Connections to the Gumstix are run through the little pet hole in the back/front of the rock.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I just started playing with PIC microcontrolers last month and I have to say I'm thrilled with the relatively easy learning process. These little chips are inexpensive and full of power. As with a new car you tend to start noticing who else is driving the same model, I've started to notice where PIC's are showing up in my life. I opened up a shopping cart wheel the other day and found that it was controlled by a PIC12C508A, more on that project to come. So far I've experimented with inputs and outputs. My attempts at implementing PWM were interesting. I'm using the PIC16F767 for my basic projects. I will, however, be moving up to the C programmable chips. While assembly is pretty simple I should learn a higher language. If anyone tends to drop by here and has some helpful info on PICs, let me know. Posted by Picasa