If you’re a cat owner, you know that cats love to drink from the faucet!
Being a cat owner myself, I was pretty excited to learn about this Cat Faucet project by Sixerdoodle Electronics. I have often thought about building something similar myself, but I had never gotten around to it.

However, even though the design of the Sixerdoodle Cat Faucet is very elegant, I find it more complicated than necessary (mainly because they wanted to keep it low voltage, it turns out).

So I started wondering how to build the simplest possible cat faucet. This is what I came up with:

(Open above image, with notes, in a new window)

(Diva enjoying the running water)

The complete list of components:

  • a solenoid from an old dishwasher
  • a movement sensor (the kind usually used to light up a driveway)
  • a few bits of plumbing
  • a piece of gaffer tape to limit the area monitored by the sensor

(Solenoid from an old dishwasher)

(The movement sensor, pointed straight down)

That’s it. The flow of water is controlled simply by adjusting the position of the red valve that lets water into the system. The sensitivity and timeout of the sensor can be controlled with small knobs on the underside.

My wife put a little bowl underneath the faucet to allow the cats to drink from a surface of water as well as from the running water. Excess water simply spills down the drain below.

Contrary to the Sixerdoodle design, my cat faucet is not low voltage (it runs on 230V, our mains voltage in Denmark). However, because both components were designed to be safe and withstand pretty rough conditions, this does not worry me at all.

(The finished setup, tucked away under a small shelving unit)

(Obviously, it takes a little practice!)

As anyone who follows the virtualization business know by now, this has been a tough week for us at VMware.

CEO Diane Greene stepped back, effective immediately, and was replaced by ex-Microsoft employee Paul Maritz.

This event led to a brief discussion with one of my collegues, who is also a former MS employee, about whether or not Microsoft is an evil company.

(Photo: batmoo)

As he pointed out, MS has invested huge sums in research, and has hired some of the brightest people out there. These people come up with excellent ideas and they receive the funding to put those ideas into practice.

So what is the problem? One word: Windows.

(Photo: aralbalkan)

I am not at all a religious man, and I certaintly don’t want to be religious about this either. But the fact of the matter is, I find Windows completely ridiculous as a platform for anything but gaming. This is my honest opinion.

I was frustrated to read an article about Silverlight 2 in the August issue of DDJ. This is actually pretty cool stuff, but it is not for me. I know it runs on my Mac, but you need Windows to do any serious development.

John Lam – what a waste of talent (Photo: timheuer)

I don’t have the patience for running Windows, because it sucks terribly. This is hardly a controversial opinion. I tolerate it at work, because the job is otherwise great, but I wouldn’t dream of running it on my home computers. Over the last few years, I have come to realize that OSX is the only OS that doesn’t suck one way or the other. For a few years, I was running Ubuntu on my laptop, but I was never very happy with it. I was wasting far too much time fixing small problems and trying to get basic stuff like suspend/resume working.

On my MacBook Pro, everything works. I have been using it daily for a few years now, and the number of times is has crashed is still below ten. You would never get that kind of milage from a Windows box, probably not even if you left it idle.

So while I really like .NET, C#, LINQ and all that, I can’t use it, because I can’t stomach the OS that comes with it. I really don’t care very much about whether Microsoft is good or evil, but I’m sad to see so much talent go to waste. This is why I don’t like Microsoft.

MySpace sucks!

July 6, 2008

I have always suspected that MySpace sucked. More than once, a profile page has killed my browser or consumed all resources on my machine for half a minute. In fact, at the time of this writing, my Safari seems to have died.

However, I always thought that the MySpace users were to blame. I knew that you can add HTML and CSS to your profile, so I assumed that people just messed up their profiles.

While that may be true, the MySpace site itself is just absolutely bloody ridiculous.

My wife is a singer/songwriter, so she needed a MySpace profile to demo her work. Naturally, I volunteered to help her create one.

Now, for some reason a “MySpace Music” profile is different from a regular profile, which translates into additional punishment trying to figure out how the s*** works.

Alright, enough bitching. I believe the following facts speak for themselves:

1) From her public profile, she can click “My MySpace” to reach a personalized, dashboard-style page where she can check out her own “mood” and enjoy lots of colorful ads.

2) Clicking “My account” brings up a section where she can change her email-address etc.

3) Selecting “Profile” -> “Edit profile” allows her to change “Interests”, “Background”, “Education” etc. In short: Social networking metadata.

4) Surprise #1: None of the information entered in (3) are visible in her public profile!

5) Selecting “My account” -> “Edit profile” bring up an entirely different section, allowing her to edit information relevant to her music (add upcoming shows, upload songs etc).

6) The information entered in (5) is displayed on her profile.

So there you have it. Two completely different meanings of the link “Edit profile”, depending on where you find it. Usability people should be weeping by now. And this is just one example of the brokenness – I won’t bore you with details of how confusing the danish translation of the site is. Even on the all-US site, you will find typos and spelling errors.

I suspect MySpace has become insanely popular for the same reason that Microsoft did: Lack of competition.

As far as I know, MySpace was the first site to offer free MP3 hosting for amateur artists. And I certainly recognize that it has helped a lot of musicisians expose their music. This is good – we all benefit from this one way or the other.

But as in the Microsoft case, the inertia of beating the competition is truly scary. Both “MS’s” are clearly deficient compared to their competition. Only diehard fans will suggest otherwise. However, they both have huge market shares, so they remain the default choice. Come to think of it, this is the same mechanism that keeps IBM consultants in business.

I need to get some sleep now. This is just too depressing.