What I'm doing to prepare for the zombie apocalypse


(Daniel Hollands) #1

The Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, written by Simon Monk (who I gather is quite well known within the maker community, having authored various books on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi), is a book which clearly knows how to motivate me.

Based around the idea that the zombie apocalypse is just around the corner, it uses that theme and setting to teach the basics of electronics, by showing you how to build a number of practical projects using components which will be readily salvageable after the dead have risen.

To ensure people are in the right mindset, the very first chapter does a bit of world building by explaining what life will be like when there is no more room in hell, and discusses the different types of zombie one may encounter.

This is quickly followed by the first practical project - that of building a rechargeable solar battery. The justification for this is that the national grid is one of the first things to fail, and seeing as we’ve become somewhat reliant upon electricity in our modern world, it would be nice not to have to do without (that, and the fact the rest of the projects in the book also require some form of electricity).

The rest of the projects are based around further enhancing your chances of survival by doing things like powering lighting, building a zombie detector, and a whole bunch of other fun things.

And this is exactly what I mean by being able to motivate me - if you tell me we’re going to build a rechargeable battery, and I’d have no interest - but tell me we’re going to build a rechargeable battery because the hordes of the undead are just around the corner, and I’m falling over myself ready to get started.

So that’s where I am now - getting ready to build a rechargeable battery. In fact I plan on making all the projects in the book, having set it as a long term goal for myself.

To make things a bit more interesting, I’m also trying to simulate the world of the apocalypse by only working with second hand components (where possible) - not only will this be more suited to the theme of the book, but I’m hoping it’ll make it a touch cheaper as well - so expect me to spend a lot of time in the coming months browsing eBay.

Anyway, I plan on keeping a blog of my progress with this project, so once that’s up, I’ll no doubt post a link to it from here.

(PS, If you’re quick, you can pick up a copy of the book, along with a bunch of other book based around hacking, in the latest Humble Bundle).


What side projects are you working on?
Learning electronics meetup - any interest?
I built an Infinity Mirror
My adventures with the Arduino Starter Kit
(Will Parker) #2

I brought the bundle after seeing your post and think I’m going to try and convince the office to work on some of them with me during our 10% time so I’ll let you know how we get on :slight_smile:


(Daniel Hollands) #3

For the past few days I’ve been looking at different platforms I could use for blog I plan on keeping in relation to this project.

I could just put the ontent I plan on writing on my existing blog at limeblast.co.uk (god knows it could do with some content), but I want to give it a bit more spectical than that, so I’m going to keep it seperate.

My immediate thought was a Jekyll blog hosting by GitHub Pages, which is still a possibility, but then I remember that for years now I’ve been looking for an excuse to use October CMS for something - and I think this project may just be that something.

To here I am, after about 2 years of ignoring PHP, choosing to go back in… :grimacing: :elephant:


(Daniel Hollands) #4

So, a quick update to the October CMS thing.

I spun up a Digital Ocean server, installed the software (which I did via a case of trial and error, rather than just reading the instructions, because man :man:), and had a look around.

Unfortunately for October CMS, it didn’t take me long to realise that it would be total overkill for what I wanted. It’s a very powerful CMS, and I think probably a very good WordPress replacement (that is, WordPress as a CMS, not WordPress as a blog), but not at all suitable for my purposes.

So right now it’s a toss up between Ghost and Jekyll. I think both have their pros and cons, which is making it really difficult for me to choose. Right now I have no desire to put too much effort into making a custom theme for the blog (beyond using this image somewhere), so it could well come down to which I can find a better pre-existing theme for.


(Daniel Hollands) #5

Right, my blog is up and running:

I went for Ghost in the end. I do like Jekyll, but it’s a little too hands on, and I wanted something that I could easily write content using.

I normally spend way too long writing blog posts, editing them to within an inch of their life, so I want the content for this to be more off the cuff. The idea, in addition to giving people a window into the project, is for it to be a reflective tool for self learning, and that’s not going to happen if I never actually get anything published.


(Marc Cooper) #6

Awesome! Shame you couldn’t find a local electronics shop to buy from; perhaps they no longer exist – I don’t wander around UK cities much these days.

Aside: Any idea why your page is long polling /rss/<incrementing counter> every second (which is also 404ing)?

After the Arduino hacking, I saw this and thought of how many days I could lose playing with it. I hope it comes with a most excellent signal processing library.


(Daniel Hollands) #7

We have a Maplin in the city centre (as well as a few other dotted about), but they’re far too expensive. I was hoping to pick up some of the bits on Monday to have a headstart, but even if the cost wasn’t an issue, the solar panels they had were underpowered. I’m sure I’ll be frequenting Maplin more as time goes on, because I would like to support them as a business, but I have a feeling it’ll be for the smaller things, rather than the bigger ones.

I noticed that last night, and no, I don’t have a clue. The theme I’m using for the site was built for an older version of Ghost, so maybe the API has changed and it’s trying to use a feature which is nolonger available. I’ve not had a chance to fix it yet, but I shall :slight_smile:

OOhhh, that looks like fun. I’d imagine it’s the same technology as the Leap Motion and the Skywriter HAT for the Pi, the latter of which I’d be more interested in playing with, even if only for the support provided by Pimoroni.


(Daniel Hollands) #8

For anyone that’s interested in this project I’ve published some more on the site:

Along with an outline of my project objectives (and a copy/paste of the first post in this thread in an about the book page).

I would happily welcome any feedback, good or bad, and especially anything which points out any errors I’ve made.


(Marc Cooper) #9

Damnit, Daniel, you’re getting me interested again. That solar panel is fascinating. Before the Arduino exercise, they were just items to feed the grid. Not so much any more.

This electronics thing is a bit moreish.

Since you trashed C and claimed Python is all in RPi-land, here’s a talk from the recent ElixirConf on Nerves. That’s the route I’m following atm.

Great stuff. Really looking forward to following your progress.


(Daniel Hollands) #10

I got about 17 minutes into it before I realised the things he had started talking about were a little over my head - but the Nerves project looks cool.

Minor update: I got some cable delivered today. Not only is it 3 core (which I knew when I ordered it), but it’s a fair chunk heavier than I expected. My reasoning was it’s more important to get cable which I knew matched the spec (specifically that it could handle the 7Amp stated in the book), even if it did have one extra core…

…although now, looking at it, I’m worried it might be a bit unwieldy.

I think a trip to Maplin will be in order.


(Daniel Hollands) #11

After a bit of detective work to track down the incorrectly delivered items (they were delivered to the security office of the student accommodation over the road), I should now have everything I need for the first project.

Unfortunately, with the way the next week is shaping up, I’m not going to have any time to assemble it until the weekend :frowning2:


(Daniel Hollands) #12

A post was split to a new topic: Solar power in Birmingham


(Daniel Hollands) #13

I have a couple of new posts on the blog:


(Daniel Hollands) #14

When I have a garden or something, I’ll need to build myself one of these:


(Andy Wootton) #15

I’m interested in solar tracking too. It’s a tricky problem I think because you are using up the energy that’s generated. How often do you move, so by what increment vs inefficiency of being at wrong angle vs heating effect reducing generation?


(Steve Jalim) #16

How much does tracking boost efficiency/generation?


(Daniel Hollands) #17

Honestly, I have no idea, but seeing how much difference things like the angle and shadows can make, I think it’ll be a largely positive gain.

I watched this interesting video about finding true south and solar noon:

Alas, it’s all moot for me, as my balcony causes too much shadow for the majority of the day.


(Colin Smith) #18

when I briefly fiddled with Arduino I quite fancied doing a solar tracker like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_EWelQoZBg or this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATnnMFO60y8
I only got as far as making the LED flash though :slight_smile:


(Daniel Hollands) #19

It’s not much of an update, but I’ve added a progress page to the blog.


(Andy Wootton) #20

I’ll share an idea from the book of random ideas I’ve been plotting:

Use a square panel mounted at a 45° angle, with rotation around horizontal & vertical axes, to reduce the energy required to move the panel, for very obvious reasons. :slight_smile:

My recent moving of square paving slabs has reinforced my confidence in this idea.