Yesterday, after she’d finished doing some ‘outreach’ work at a local school, Diane picked me up and we went off on a massive shopping spree.

From B&Q in Darnall, we bought two sets of low-voltage outdoor lighting, comprising four low-wattage lamps in each.  These are all 12 volts, so will ‘interface’ with our power system quite nicely.  They’re also low-power in that each lamp is only 20 Watts.  Now, 20 Watts from a ‘normal’ incandescent lamp is pretty dim, but in the 12 Volt dichroics that we use, pretty bright, and certainly a much better ‘colour’ of light.

This will give us a total of eight lamps with which to light our three gazebos a fortnight from tonight.  They’re special ‘rain-proof’ models that will hang quite nicely from just inside the tops of the gazebos, and I think they’ll look pretty good.

We also went to Bardwell’s on Abbeydale Road in Sheffield, the ‘Home of Electronics’.  There we purchased 12 solar panels.

These are smaller than the original ones planned, but this is no real bother, and it means they are small enough to move in and out of the sheds on sunny days.  This also means that we don’t need planning permission to mount them on the roof of either shed.  This will save us quite a lot of money in ‘planning permission’, and we’ve heard that the law may be changed pretty soon, meaning that we can mount them wherever we want, without fear of The Council’s ‘Big Fellas’ coming round, with grim, yet somehow ‘gleeful’ expressions on their faces.

So I’ve certainly got my work cut out, electronics and programming-wise!

I’ve now got to wire up the eight lamps with long cables and in-line switches with weather-proof plugs and sockets on them, then I’ve got to knock up another box for the second battery and electronics.

I’ve also got to re-design the boxes in that they will need plenty of flashing LED’s of various colours (…yes, blue will be in there…).  ‘Junior Plotters’ have requested this, and I think its a good idea.  Maybe not quite as many as the new ‘Enterprise’ (…Thats ‘Star Trek’ to the uninitiated…), but certainly along the same lines.  Oh, and the lights have to mean something, rather than just flashing at random.  Also, ‘Star Trek’-style touch-screens may be a little beyond this first demonstration, I feel.

We’ll see!

Joking aside though, I will put extra circuitry in the boxes to allow them to be plugged straight into the ‘new’ laptop to program them directly rather than having to keep taking them apart to get at the PIC processors.  It only needs five more transistors and a handful of diodes and resistors (…and an LED!..), and will make my job much easier.

It would look quite good on-site as well, being sat there with the boxes hooked up to the laptop, but maybe thats just the Big Kid in me wanting to ‘play’?!