Like most of us the biggest project I’ve been working on during the last quarter of 2020 is surviving, but if found time to play with a few more things as well.
I’ve been fascinated with nuclear reactors most of my life, and I’ve always wanted to play with a nuclear power plant. I’ve seen a few software games/simulators over the years, so I thought it might be cool to build a physical one.
Creating a replica of an existing power plant control room is more than I have the resources to do, so instead I’m designing a control console for a reactor of my own design . Since I have to physically purchase and build the thing I’m keeping it as simple as possible (at least for the first version).
I want to make sure it works the way I want it to be for I start ordering parts, started by writing a Python module to simulate the reactor itself. Initially I created some automated tests and a simple text-mode interface to try the simulation out. It was hard to get a “feel” for the thing using these tools, so I decided to try creating a simple GUI to make it a little more realistic.
This gave me an excuse to try learning a GUI toolkit for Python again, and I settled on pyqt. I was even able to find a nice book that covered exactly what I needed and within an hour or so it was up and running.
With this test harness I was able to make the simulation much more “playable” and find a number of bugs as well. With any luck I’ll have all of the kinks out of the software side of the project and I can start building the physical interface in the next month or so.
This is another project I’ve thought about for years but never put to paper until recently.
At the end of 2020 I started seeing friends post their “most listened to tracks” from various streaming services and this reminded me of how sharing tapes with friends was how I discovered the music that has most influenced my life.
Playlists can provide some of this “functionality”, but for a number of reasons they fall far short from the “mix tape” of the 1980’s. My mixtape project is an effort to come up with something better.
I hacked-together a little “bad news gauge” as part of a number of experiments conducted with an unexpectedly good but cheap single-board computer “dev kit”.
It displays a daily summary of COVID-19 numbers for our county based on the code that Jamie and I developed to replace the county health department’s “dashboard” when they stopped sharing theirs on social media.
More Recon Sentinel Hacking
I picked up a couple of these kits and I’ve got a completely different project in mind for the second one. Here’s a few shots of the chassis: