How to add the Start button back in Windows 8

If you haven’t already heard Windows 8 has done away with the “Start” button. To add it back, I highly recommend Classic Shell. You will not only get the start button back, you can also choose which version of Windows to style your Start menu after. It will also restore some of the classic UI functionality that has been lost in new versions of Windows including the classic Windows explorer tool bar as well as the classic copy dialog.

Classic Shell Screenshot

Review: Adafruit ARDX Experimentation Kit for Arduino

5 out of 5 stars

My dad got me an ARDX Experimentation Kit for Arduino for my birthday. I just finished all the 13 experiments and I have to say it is a pretty awesome kit and a good introduction to the Arduino. The kit comes with a variety of input and output components/devices including:

  • 10x Red and 10x Green LEDs
  • 10mm Blue LED
  • 5mm RGB LED
  • Force Sensor
  • DC Motor
  • Hobby Servo
  • Shift Register
  • Piezo Element
  • Pushbuttons
  • Variable Resister/Potentiometer
  • Photo Resister
  • Temp Sensor
  • Relay

Also included are some transistors, resistors, diodes, etc. After you finish going through the experiments this gives you a good head start once you decide to build your own project.

Another bonus to the kit is that is comes with a custom cut piece of clear acrylic to mount the included Arduino and a bread board. There are wiring sheets you can cut out and overlay on the bread board but I didn’t find these necessary.

Code for most of the projects can be found online at the URLs mentioned in the instructions with the exception of the last two experiments. For the RGB LED experiment I could not find the code online and I had trouble with the code printed in the manual. I had to make the color arrays regular variables instead of constants to get the code to work for me. I could not find the force sensor code online either but the code printed in the manual worked and was pretty trivial to enter.

Overall I have to say this is a great kit for someone that would like to learn how to use Arduino to interface with real world devices.

TreeBot

For Christmas 2011 Pictometry had a holiday “Throwdown” challenge. Each department was given box of miscellaneous items that had to be incorporated into some sort of creation. The box was handed off from one engineer to the next. Everyone was too busy. Finally, with two days left before the judging, it was time to take action. With much help from my fellow engineers I built TreeBot, a remote control Christmas Tree with all the trimmings and wireless video for remote operation.

It consists of my old Duratrax Evader RC car with a Christmas Tree mounted to it, Christmas lights on a power inverter, an iPod Shuffle playing Christmas tunes on an amplified speaker and a 2.4 Ghz video transmitter for remote operation. It is decorated with various items we had to use in our creation. We came in second place behind Finance who did a Christmas Carol play using the items as props but I feel it was a good entry representative of engineering given the time constraints.

Here is a video of the TreeBot in operation.

I took some pictures of TreeBot as I took it apart in case we decide to build something similar next year:

PHP/Apache running on Linux won’t connect to a PostgreSQL server

SELinux will block PHP/Apache from connecting to PostgreSQL (and probably any other DB) by default on some Linux distributions. If you are trying to get PHP to connect to a PostreSQL DB on a linux box for the first time and you are sure your pg_hba.conf on the target box is setup correctly then try this:

setsebool -P httpd_can_network_connect 1

This should configure SELinux to allow Apache/PHP to connect to other hosts.