Getting Raspberry Pi ready for winter

Since mid October, i had to stick a tiny fan at each window, to keep it free from condensation. Thanks to Daniel Rüd for the idea. I got both 12V ball bearing fans by taking apart an old HDD case. And to get them going, i found two old AC to DC 8V power supplies by Siemens, from an ancient time when they sold mobile phones, next to Ericsson and Nokia. This way the window in front of the Raspberry Pi Camera stays clear, even at cold days with humid air indoors. FYI, from my experience, sleeve bearing fans are less noisy, especially if the ball bearing counterpart had to sustain a shock at some point.
To get my Pi Zero Ws even more stable, i have lowered the resolution to 1920x1442, which is the size i use to archive my time-lapses anyway. And to compensate for less data, i slightly bumped up the JPEG quality. Since some months, i save all output to external 32GB USB thumb drives. Now the microSD cards are dedicated only for running OS and applications, and relieved from the heavy read and write loads. Otherwise the flash memory may slow down everything by becoming a bottleneck, and eventually crashing. This way the wear and tear is no longer directly happening at the system storage, possibly extending the lifetime too.

A handful of games i remember

I was never a "gamer", but i liked playing particular titles. I started to get my hands on Tetris, because my Mom was great at it, around 1992. Sometime later, i was racing cars on the "Game Boy", since i was not into Mario and Luigi that much. I almost did get every new model, mostly just changes in size or color of the handheld console. My last one was a Game Boy "Color" in blue. Later, i had some fun with the Nintendo DS series too. I got my first PC games from CD's on printed computer magazines, starting at 1998. Back then, games were quite expensive, since they needed to be pressed on physical media, packaged in glossy boxes, and put on shelves.
This is why i focused on titles like Tomb Raider, SimCity, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and Half-Life with Counter Strike. I also loved racing and flight simulations. I had a Force Feedback Joystick and a Precision Racing Wheel with Pedals by Microsoft Sidewinder. I stopped playing for some time, because i tried to be an adult, and probably failed. For example, i discovered the Dolphin Emulator to play "Mario Kart" on a larger screen. In February 2016, i bought on GOG a DRM-free copy of Pro Pinball Timeshock, and some weeks ago, even Pro Pinball Fantastic Journey. Both titles are around two decades old, but still fun, especially with "AntiMicro" and a USB gamepad.

Sunrise and sunset for Raspberry Pi

I now have two time-lapse "shootings" running at the same time. One is pointing at west and the other at north. After months, i added another Raspberry Pi Zero W to my arsenal, since i developed a reliable setup for this kind of long-term operation. I also got it to work as wireless access point, to make it independent from a router, but still have the option to connect to it. And i made further improvements. For example, i let them automatically adjust the settings according to sunrise and sunset. This way the slow shutter speed is only active if needed, depending on the Earth's position to the Sun, which changes during the year.
The city lights dominate, but compared to earlier, i have with a dynamic timeframe a better chance to catch more stars at night. I let my shell script call engine "rhino" to execute a JavaScript file and do some calculations for when sunrise and sunset take place. Thank you to Matt Kane for his interpretation of Kevin Boone's SunTimes Java implementation of the US Naval Observatory's algorithm. I also got another version to work based on Perl, but installing the module "DateTime::Event::Sunrise" via cpanm takes too long on the Zero W. It only needs to be done once for each Raspberry Pi, but that's not worth it, since there is no gain in speed.

Automating workflows

Since some years, i'm looking more for CLI options of the software i use, to a point where i learned to enjoy "command-line interfaces". This way i can create scripts and automate repetitive tasks. Even after two decades of typing characters into computers, it still feels like breathing life into all these things to me. Maybe like giving birth to Minions, despite being relatively simple, they are helpful and fun. Although i don't mind using or building a GUI, since i sit on both sides.
Creating rules and throwing "input" against it, to see how the program reacts, is a bit like playing with Lego "Technic" from my childhood. But the difference is that i can now make the parts myself, just by adding lines of code into a text editor. Connecting all these pieces, written by others or me, is a jigsaw puzzle without a real end, but certainly with the goal to get the job done.
Here i'm listing a few free apps i use regularly through a graphical user interface: 7Zip, AllDup, Audacity, "Everything" by David Carpenter, FileZilla, Notepad by Don Ho, TrayBackup, and WinMerge. Last but not least some icing on the cake: Dolphin Emulator with "Mario Kart Wii" via RomUlation. FYI, i got my first copy of Adobe Photoshop from an internship in June 2001.

Mastering the Raspberry Pi Zero W

After my latest adjustments, including the use of "lock files" to make all transitions seamless, my time-lapse photography with a Raspberry Pi is basically as good as it can get, especially considering the limited resources of the "Zero W" and the workload i let it have. The size of the whole setup makes it possible to mount it almost everywhere, since the power requirements are manageable. The "Camera Module v2" delivers enough quality for the purpose, without to degrade, even after six months of constant use, while being exposed to the sun at the window.
My custom UPS for the "headless" Raspberry Pi has not let me down either. As of now, i built four of these uninterruptible power supplies: Two are in use, and the rest is waiting for a mission. The Zero W is now reliably providing me with RSS updates from 200+ blogs daily and making 9k+ photos for my time-lapse videos weekly. It is also checking for new content in Cantonese by the BBC for my parents, and at the same time, offering me another place to do some "high-level" programming via Apache server and Unix shell. With the Raspberry Pi great things can come in tiny packages, literally and metaphorically. Thanks to smart people like Eben Upton, the United Kingdom will be just fine after leaving the EU.
Remotely related, after i successfully deployed my "geo-blocking" mechanism at another site one month ago, i now use the same technology for this blog. Visitors from certain countries will be denied access, and all they get is a "Error 403" HTTP status code with "This site is not available in your country" as HTML response. Essentially a noise reduction for a better signal, to be honest.
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