Several years ago I was in a situation in which I desperately needed to get even with someone who had pulled a prank on me just before Christmas. I got one of those 4" clear plastic "photo cubes" and installed a little circuit board containg a phototransistor, a PIC12F675 microcontroller, a battery, and the piezo sounder from a smoke detector. I wrapped the thing in some tissue paper and put a label stating "Do not open until Christmas" on it.
The idea here is that the unsuspecting recipient of the gift will place it under their Christmas tree. After the photoransistor sees light for the first time it "arms" the microcontroller. Once the room lights are all off and sufficient time has elapsed so that the recipient is asleep, the microntroller sounds the smoke detector horn until it detects that the room lights have come back on. Then it goes back to sleep until the lights have been off for an hour.....and the process repeats until the battery is depleted or the device gets smashed to bits...whichever comes first.
While not a "meep" case, I heard a classic story about presents.
A couple of brothers had a friendly birthday present competition. The present was always the same - a pair of jeans they passed back and forth. The challenge was unwrapping it to pass it back the next time the other brother's birthday rolled around.
At the point I heard the tale, brother one had the jeans to give to brother two. He went to a junk yard and bought a junked car. He put the jeans on the back seat, then had the junkyard run the junker through the machine that converted the junked car to a crushed rectangular block suitable for resale to a scrap metal dealer to be melted down and recast.
He then had a truck deposit the block on his brother's lawn, with a Happy Birthday card attached.
Go ahead. Unwrap it. Pass the jeans back to me on my birthday. Bet you can't...
@Max: "Dare we ask what the prank was that your (ex) friend pulled on you?"
@DMcCunney: "He then had a truck deposit the block on his brother's lawn, with a Happy Birthday card attached."
That story is hauntingly familiar. Here's what happened to me to trigger my revenge.
A couple of weeks before Christmas that year a UPS freight truck with a liftgate pulled up at my house. They had a crate that "appeared" to be from Hewlett Packard. It had been sent priority overnight, freight collect. I was expecting a repaired laser printer ot be returned to me, but I wasn't expecting priority overnight shipping, and the crate was WAAY to big and heavy. Curiosity got the best of me, so I agreed to pay the shipping charges. I eagerly opened it after it was deposited in the carport, only to find a rusty V8 engine block in the crate.
Of course, this meant war. The perpitrator of this prank was unfortunate enough to receive "gifts" from me at Christmas over the next several years.
@RCurl: Of course, this meant war. The perpitrator of this prank was unfortunate enough to receive "gifts" from me at Christmas over the next several years.
Did you ever find out why the perpetrator pulled his prank?
Another classic car related prank was the story I heard about a chap who got a foreign import with high gas milage, and promptly proceeded to annoy everyone with his raving about his milage. So his co-workers decided to play with his head.
Each day, one of them would go out to the company lot and siphon gas into his tank. He went weeks without having to get a refill. He raved to the dealer he'd bought the car from about his wonderful milage. The dealer knew what he reported wasn't possible, but they weren't about to try to bust a very satisfied customer's balloon.
Then the co-workers reversed their strategy and starting siphoning gas out of his tank. His gas milage plummeted. He went to the dealer screaming that they had to fix the problem. Of course, there was nothing they could fix.
His co-workers finally took pity on him, stopped the rank, and told him what had been going on and why. Whether he learned from the experience was not reported,
@Max: @DMcCunney: Go ahead. Unwrap it. Pass the jeans back to me on my birthday. Bet you can't... Hmmm, I wonder what my brother would say if I did something like this to him.
Something not printable in a family publication like EETimes?
Do it and report back...
As it happens, though, I had a "meep" moment last night. Something meeped in my general area. Let's see, What was it? My main cell phone? Nope. My secondary cell phone? Nope. My PDA? Nope. My SO's primary cell phone? Nope. The desktop under my desk running Ubuntu? Couldn't be. That's turned off at the moment. My SO's secondary cell phone? Nope, she gave that to a worthy charity and hadn't mentioned it to me. The laptop she was using at the time? Nope. She would have noticed and it wasn't in my general area. The pre-owned Nook Tablet that recently joined the family? Nope. While I think it can meep, it's not yet configured to. We both prefer machines that don't speak until spoken to.
I finally muted the sound globally on the machine I'm on at the moment and things were quiet, but I still can't be sure just what was meeping...
Unmentioned in the article is that, at one point, one of the brothers-in-law was building a new house. The other man was prepared to bury the pants in the fireplace mantel (concrete), then tell his BIL where they were on Christmas. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the house-builder was also the giver of the "gift" that year, and the game continued.
Earlier this year, we moved into a new condo, where I discroved a number of equipment that meeps, beeps and talks.
Aside from our talking elevator (which I hate because it has this phony non-American accents), it was (and still is) a mystery to me for several months what the meep sound was all about in our kitchen.
I know our fridge speaks (don't ask me why), when the door is kept open for too long.
But there is this meep sound that occasionally comes up.
I first suspected that it was our fridge, but it is not consistent. It meeps once in a while but never at a constant interval.
Because it doesn't happen often enough, nor it lasts long enough, I could forget about it after five minutes... But i would sure like to know where that meep sound is coming from!
"It makes you wonder if there's a market for a 'meep detector' that could work out where the sound is coming from and guide you to it..."
I strongly suspect there is. Nearly everyone who has smoke detectors at home has experienced the late night meeping of those things, and now we have so many other devices that want to complain about something in the same annoying manner -- refrigerator door open, microwave oven done cooking, etc.
You should draw up a business plan, Max, and Kickstarter this thing!
Musical greeting cards are a cheap way to get into the game, especially the cards that play annoying tunes like "Happy Birthday". If you choose the location carefully, room reflections make them difficult to find. The trick is to avoid direct sound so that the sound seems louder as you move away from it. The top of a bookcase, near the ceiling is good. Point the "speaker" at another wall. The direct sound goes over the head and seems to be coming from the wall.
After reading your 'Meep' blog, I cannot stop thinking in a chapter of the Simpsons -- yes, I know I've a problem... I watch too much TV!!
In a chapter called "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace", Homer tries to emulate Thomas A. Edison and develops some crazy inventions. One of them is an alarm that beeps every three seconds when everything is alright... so maybe this can solve the isolated 'meeps' in the night issue ;-)
@Caleb: I've actualy seen a device that will give you a nice little "meep" at random intervals. It is meant to be hidden as a prank and since it is somewhat random it is very hard to locate
It's the Anoy-a-tron from Think Geek -- it really is diabolical, you can attach it to a the back of a filing cabinet via its magnet -- thereby making it louder and even harder to find. A bargain at only $9.99
Hmm. The Annoy-a-tron 2.0 does not seem to support automatic volume adjustment. (I imagine that such would make locating the source more difficult and perhaps even give an impression of movement [which might be especially appropriate for the cricket sound].)
(The supported alternating between all the sounds might be somewhat bewildering, but even a slightly more intelligent selection of sounds and timing of their use might be even more effective.)
It was always a male voice and it sounded like someone talking on a CB radio. I could only understand a word every now and then. It was like hearing and recognizing a voice, but not understanding what was being said. Must be my age and diminishing hearing.
@MKolb ...it sounded like someone talking on a CB radio...
It probably WAS someone talking on a CB or HAM radio. Do you have any neigbors who are into CB or HAM? The reason that you can't understand what they are saying is probably that they are using SSB and your speakers are picking it up as AM.
@elizabethsimon: It probably WAS someone talking on a CB or HAM radio.
I get that occasionally here. The languages aren't English. They are something like Hindi, Tamil, or Gujerati, and the culprits are taxi and limo drivers talking to their dispatcher or their fellows. (I am a block above one of the NYC areas called Little India, and taxi/limo driver is a popular occupation for Indian immigrants.)
It's made more striking by the doppler effect as the vehicle causing it drives by outside.
I don't have the smoke alarm problem as my alarms are powered by the mains but this blog did remind me of an incident back when I was still at school.
My class had recently been on a class trip where we all received one of those 'key finder' devices. The way they worked was that you attach it to your keys and when you can't find them, you whistle. The device would then light up and start bleeping away.
Obviously, the next day, everyone had one attached to their key's which resulted in our teachers ordering us to leave our bags out of the class room because they all kept going off at our teachers voices.
As an ex fire alarm engineer I seem to have spen half my life looking for errant meeps and other noises. Once while duty engineer I was called out by a client complaining that our fire alarm was keeping her awake, finally traced the noise to a vibrating toy (adult ) in a bedside table. Lady did not know what to say.
On another track, I have been spending the past week rewiring my Sons house electrical supplies. Even thought the neutral and live supply wires were isolated and shorted out to earth, I still jump and drop what I am working on when my had brushes something or a strand of copper wire gives me a poke.
@Crusty..... "I still jump and drop what I am working on when my had brushes something or a strand of copper wire gives me a poke."
Years ago I was tidying up the underfloor cabling in a server room. There were a lot of mains cables that went to underfloor sockets in a part of the floor I could not get to, but had been disconnected from the distribution board and were not live. So I coiled them neatly for further work later.
A couple of days later I was running some data cables in the same part of the floor. The data boss saw the mains cables and got fairly upset. "How can someone leave live cables under the floor?" "Oh, I don't think they're live", I said, "but I better check". And got one of the bare ends and popped it in my mouth. Data guy nearly fainted. I'll never forget his expression....
And I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when you found the "fire alarm" for the lady.....
I just received an email from someone who spake as follows:
Hello Max, Years ago I worked for BBC radio in Broadcasting house, London.
We too had such a device to annoy people who were sleeping over in their offices. Ours sounded exactly like one of the corporation phone pagers and bleeped just long enough to wake to victim, who'd "have to" respond to being paged, but stopped before they could get out of bed. I think it went off every 20 minutes to ensure sleep deprivation. I don't believe anyone ever found it and plainly we didn't have enough to do back in those days.
I had my own "meep" experience. Years later I slept over in a church hall in a dodgy part of Leicester. Already I'd opened a fire door and smashed some poor kid on the head who was crouching down spray painting obscenities on the outside, so I was a little jumpy. Half way through the night this wee-oo-oo-eee sound quietly starts.
No obvious source.. eventually I woke up an event organiser who unlocked a store room, inside which the brownies or some such had left their Halloween stuff buried amongst everything else and a toy "musical" lantern's battery had picked that moment to decay far enough that the electronic "off" switch circuit malfunctioned and started operating.... It didn't stay that way for long at 3AM.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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