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Portrait of Justin Nel

What is Cyber-Lane?

Cyber-Lane is a persona that I (Justin Nel) picked up when I moved from Jo'burg, South Africa to England back in 2001. The name was originally the name of a small Internet Cafe around the corner from where I lived. I have never been great with coming up with names for anything, and always liked the term “cyber” when it came to anything digital, so I kind of adopted the name as there was nothing over in the UK (nor anywhere else from what I could tell at the time) with the same name. I have been holding the name for a good number of years now, and it seems that there are now just two Cyber-Lanes, the Internet Cafe back in South Africa, and me.

So who is Justin Nel?

Well I have already mentioned where I am from in the previous paragraph, but for those of you who want to know. I am a software developer that is currently finding his way around making his own electronics. My mother was a punch card programmer (and worked at the company that invented the ATM), and got me into computers at an early age. I have been writing code since I was 6 years old, taught programming (among other subjects) as a College, sold an adventure game engine with tools that I wrote to a Japanese company at the age of 16. I have since done work with the UK military, a law firm in Barbados, big publishing companies, postal couriers and even Amazon. I have made printer drivers for warehouse label printers that out perform anything else on the market, software that can read and write to a custom file type with better error handling than the people who made it, single handedly ported a windows application into a multi-platform web based application that had more features and out performed the original application, among a number of other feats.

What are you doing now?

By day, I work for a company that makes Legal Cashier software (also sold as a service), working as a developer that works on the web stack, front and backend (Windows and Linux). In my spare time, I try to improve my understanding of electronics and run workshops to teach kids (and adults) how easy it is to solder, and hopefully over time some more advanced level electronics. I have always enjoyed teaching, but unfortunately it is a field that does not pay all that well unless you are a lecturer at a University and unfortunately I never had the patience to to obtain a degree when I was younger.

What projects are you working on?

I have a number of different projects on the go, and often they get put aside when I come up with something a bit more interesting. However, the year of 2013 I decided to change this as a new years resolution, which I have actually managed to keep. I decided to try and note down things more often, and concentrate on finishing some projects before I look too deeply into another. Hopefully this will continue and I will reach more goals as times goes by.

So here is a list of projects I have started, but not yet finished:

MP3 Player

I have been working on building my own MP3 player which will read files from an SD card (initially), and play them out, but trying to keep the component count down to a minimum along with a low cost.

Mobile Charger

I am working on a very simple and portable charging device, which will allow you to charge your iPod, or phone via USB while you’re on the go. All you need to do is give it some batteries (AA, AAA, PP3, LiPo), and it will deliver the charge to your device. Primarily this is for people who are on the go, and don’t have time to stop and charge their device. So people going hiking, music festivals, or just traveling. There is a similar device that you can buy from Adafruit Industries, called the MintyBoost. The main difference between my device and theirs is that theirs will only work with AA batteries and it simply performs a stable voltage boost. Mine will allow you to use a number of different batteries, and it will adjust the voltage up OR down, along with it’s own case which will make it easy to clip your batteries into place.

Headphone Amplifier

This is more of a personal project that has been ongoing for a while. Basically, modern devices (sold in the EU) have their volume limited, however I have hearing problems and this means that I do not get to properly enjoy my music. Wired headphones do not hold a limit, while wireless headphones do. So I have been playing around with different ideas for amplifiers which will allow me to boost volume (without distortion) with wired headphones, and perhaps modifying some other headphones to take the signal wirelessly and boosting it, as I really hate getting all these wires tangled up.

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