Aug 28, 2011

The Portable Dog Killer

Ok, first off, this does NOT kill or harm dogs.  Just annoys them.  The device was created by Steve Gibson, one of my idols, when he was 12 or 14.  He is a computer security expert and programmer, host of the Security Now podcast from TWiT and developer of the hard drive repair program Spinrite as well as many other awesome stuff.
In short, the Portable Dog Killer, or PDK, was made to address a problem of a dog who would bark and scare people.  His solution was to make a focused sound generator set to the tune of 16 KHz.  Human hearing is 20 to 20,000 Hz, or 20 KHz.  The tone is low enough he to hear it to make sure it worked, but high and loud enough that it irritates the dog.  He succeeded to train the dog to stop charging the fence and scaring people.  Of course, being a middle-schooler, you can bet he took it to school to show his friends.
This is where the PDK catches my attention.  He and his friends at school would point the PDK at seagulls and fire!  The seagulls reaction, according to Steve, “what [PDK] did was it nearly knocked the seagulls out of the sky.”  Eventually the seagulls learned to stay away from the beach.  He talks some about how he built the device, including the most important part, the 555 timer.  Looking for the 555 timer has found me both how to wire the 555 timer in general to make a tone or flash lights, as well as full plans for the PDK.  More about that plan, the PDK 1.5 in the next post.
You can listen about it at here (21MB), or read the transcript at here.  The episode is 281.
From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

Aug 16, 2011

Mind Mapping the Seagull Mind

The other day I did the first step of the seagull simulator by making a mind map.  A mind map is a map of ideas using a hierarchy format.  It allows me to create ideas and list what goes with those ideas.
There are two maps I made; one is what variables and methods are going into each object (seagull, people, so on).  An object is something I just need to create once, then can create multiple objects of the same thing.  Its like saying I have a box with a default person in it.  Written on the outside of the box is what shirt they are wearing, age, personality values, their location, and so on.  Then I can use this base object and request 100 people, each given a random appearance and personality, and able to have their own location.  Same thing happens with seagulls.
The other map is the order of stuff I need to do to make the program work.  I am going to work from the furthest item to the center, and can only progress when everything below an item is done and made green.
Below is the mind map.  To view it in detail click the image.  Please remember I am not a seagull expert, I am a programmer.  Normally an expert would tell me what I need to know to make the program.  I have made estimations and guesses about numbers such as how long they remember.  If you are a seagull expert let me know if you have better numbers.  Or for anyone, if you think I am missing something or whatever, just leave a comment.
Oh, if you read it, after you click to go to the picture there is a zoom button on the top right of the picture.  That will allow you to see the original picture.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the seagull hunting camping lifeguard

Aug 15, 2011

Seagull Hunting

Seagull Hunting
Back between my junior and senior year, I spent about 10 days at a camp called Lead America. I took the engineering camp, and we had a lead instructor who is a physics professor who went to MIT.  One day he told us about an underground group he was in at MIT, which performed pranks on campus.  Multiple pranks involved disassembling cars and reassembling them in offices and on top of buildings (even running, and in the case of the police car, warm donuts).
One prank that he and his friends did was to go out every morning to a football field.  They all would wear referee shirts and take with them a bag of popcorn.  The would feed the seagulls, and the birds would flock to eat the popcorn.  Over the corse of a few weeks, the seagulls learned.  They knew that whenever someone in a referee’s shirt appears, food is on the way.  During some home games, there would be so many birds in the stadium and field they had to stop the game for a while.
Here at the beach, we have seagull problems already.  People feed them and they get to a point where they attack kids for food.  Their poop, when washed from the ground and pilings they sit on, can raise the e-coli levels to a level where it is unsafe and we have to close the beach (also when the nearby creek that runs thru the city gets a lot of water and makes things worse at the beach).  This happened already this summer after a heavy rain; we had to close shore, but apparently it was fine to go off the diving board.  Made for a very boring lifeguarding day.
Normally we have to tell people to stop feeding the seagulls.  Today I got to work and saw someone feeding seagulls.  I asked her to stop feeding them, then I went hunting!  I don’t know why, I just did.
I am not a gun person besides nerf guns, but I came to work on my bike, and being a lifeguard, I had my whistle.  So I hopped on my bike, whistle in mouth, and tried to run them down on my bike, blowing my whistle the entire time.  After a few passes, about a dozen, most of the seagulls left the area.  On my break I did it again as another group of people were feeding the seagulls.
I am hoping over time the seagulls will learn to stay away for good.  I doubt that will happen, but at minimum they will learn that crazy people on a bike wearing red with a whistle is something to avoid.  What would really be great is instead being any time a biker goes by OR wearing red OR blows a whistle, then they will flee instead of bike AND red AND whistle.
If my cousins are reading this, they know what is coming because of OR and AND, but for the rest of you, well I just can’t leave enough alone.  Yes, I am already brainstorming a program to write where each seagull and person is an object.  Have hundreds of seagulls and hundreds of people, and on a given day most of the seagull objects and dozens of people objects with come into play on the “beach”.  Each person is either walking, biking, or driving by, some people with group with other people to make “families” with different bonding levels.  Each person might pass thru, stop, eat, swim.  Those who stop and eat are most likly to feed the seagulls.  Kids each have random excitment level, and the more excitable, the more likly to chase of seagulls.  Each person also will have described color of shirt, pants, hat, glasses, whistle, and transportation (bike, skateboard, or car (which can’t leave the parking lot)).  There will be special people (lifeguards) which stop any and all feeding of seagulls then scare them.
The seagull objects will keep track of when they are scared off people and what they are wearing or on.  When scared, they will remember that they have been scared by those properties of the people.  They won’t have the best memory, maybe three or four scares, depending on the health of the bird, and if they don’t get scared by say someone with a red shirt for 4 scares, they forget that they were scared by a red shirt.  Every time they get scared by a red shirt after the first one, the memory countdown is reset, and they keep track of how many time they have been scared by a red shirt since they first started keeping track.  The more often a seagull is scared by people, no matter what they are wearing, the more distance they keep from people.  On the other hand, you can domesticate seagulls by feeding them, resulting them in being less likely to be scared.  Where seagulls go, home to perch or to the beach to eat, or even elsewhere, depends how hungry the seagull is, and also other seagulls feel about that gull.  Over time all seagulls like each other but if a seagull takes food from other another seagull or gets something good (fish from the lake) and other gulls are not able to get the food from them.
Where, what, and how much seagulls eat depends on the number of people in other areas (eat on beach or at Pamida), water temperature (fish), wind (strong wind makes it harder to hunt).  Number of people and what they are doing is based on air temperature (amount of swimmers), wind speed and direction (water temperature), day of week (weekends have more travelers), and if there is a special event.
Oviously there is a lot there, and I plan to take it in small parts, and I have higher priorities, but this here is enough for me to remember what I want to do.
From the guy with his eye on the sky,  Travis...the seagull hunting camping lifeguard

Lets go Hunting

Last week or so, the beach I lifeguard at, Bayview Beach in Ashland, Wi, was closed due to high e-coli levels.  Part of the reason the e-coli levels were so high was due to seagulls and their poop.  When it rains, their poop, and everything that is in it gets washed into Lake Superior and can raise the e-coli.
They tend to hang out near Bayview Beach as we have wood pilings that they can sit on to rest and a beach and two grocery stores to get free food from.  People also like to feed them, which trains them to come over more.  In the next post, Seagull Hunting, I talk about seagull training.
Since I went hunting, I have gotten a bit obsessed with shooing seagulls, I am going to break off this topic from The Camping Lifeguard.  This blog is going to be all about repelling seagulls, including a Seagull-People interaction simulator, and hopefully building the “Portable Dog Killer”.
One last thing.  During all of this I do not condone the harm or killing of seagulls. Anything I say or do or suggest is only for repelling seagulls.  If any harm does come to a seagull its either by not moving out of the way of my bike, or having a heart attack from being scared too much.
From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the seagull hunting camping lifeguard