Friday, June 27, 2014

A legacy of Making

Since last posting on this blog I've gotten very involved with a new Makerspace here in Mobile. This article is intricately related to "making" and what I expect the Makerspace to mean to myself and many others in my area.
Mobile Makerspace

A legacy of Making

My grandfather was a maker.
I went to my grandmother’s house this afternoon. I used to live there and never got a chance to move my workbench after I married. I’m hoping to move it and start using it again soon. I built it for versatility, hoping it would useful for metalworking and woodworking and lots of other tasks. It was built to last using 1 ½ inch steel angle.


My uncle helped me make it almost 10 years ago. He taught me how to prep and weld the angle, how to measure and make sure the angle was straight and right after tack welding it, how to manage the heat and warping. Welding requires a lot of processes, discipline and prep work to come out right. You can tack any old steel together (in general), but making it straight and right is the real trick. I fully believe the welds in my workbench are 100% fused and hitting the bench with a train wouldn’t break the welds (ok maybe my uncle’s are 100 and mine are 95).

Workbench in use. I was attempting to build a motor driven spotlight for a friend.
Workbench in use. I was attempting to build a motor driven spotlight for a friend.
My CRX engine resting on my bench as I installed the flywheel and clutch.
These four pics show a very ambitious woodworking project that involved bending wood. The bending setup resting on my workbench..

My uncle learned to weld from my grandfather.
My grandfather passed away when I was 11. I wish I could say I really knew him well, and that he taught me all these things. That wouldn’t be true.

Which brings me to what reminded me of him. In my grandmother’s yard my grandfather used to have a HUGE workbench. He had built and modified the workbench. It rested underneath a huge tree, one of the particularly large branches had a chain and winch block chained to it. It’s not there any more. My grandfather would spend all day out there mainly working on lawnmowers and doing odd welding jobs. He had a van that had tools and parts in it. He had a huge engine driven welder that was too powerful to use. He worked on his own cars, lawnmowers, Tvs, appliances.

Before he got injured he worked in the shipyard climbing the ranks of welding and pipe fitting like many men in Mobile, before that he had worked in factories. Before that he was a sniper in Italy in WWII helping American forces retake the Italian peninsula. He lost his little toe in the war, he would never talk about it. My grandmother loves to tell the story about when he was a kid, he and his brother took apart his mother’s sewing machine and put it back together successfully with no manuals or instruction. At the time a sewing machine was the most complex item in any given home.

In my childhood I was very inquisitive. Very very inquisitive, constant questions about everything, everybody hated this. Everyone still does. So I would go out to “work” with my grandfather, then get sent back inside because he “didn’t have time” to answer the continuous stream of questions. So I would go inside and make paper air planes and draw ships and engines and air planes and inventions. My grandmother being very patient while she worked on her sewing jobs. So I learned a lot more from my grandmother than from my grandfather.

All the same his genes passed down to me. I love to weld. Making a car work is something that I relish. Making and modifying tools is a continuous obsession for me.

“Making” and Makerspaces never existed during my grandfather’s life. I’m certain that given an opportunity he would have loved playing with CNC machines and arduinos and blinky LEDs. Having a makerspace would have meant getting into a shared shop with more tools (for that matter: a roof) than he could provide alone, and access to learning what other members know more about.


I looked at my bench for a few minutes working on it some with a wire brush. I came to find a lot of the rust was just surface rust stuck on top of the paint, a few strokes of the brush made it fall off and revealed the paint. The bench is not pitted badly or structurally compromised (if you see the pics, the bottom portion was made from crappy bed frame steel, I should probably rebuild that portion). I had big plans for this bench, and still do.
We also have big plans for Mobile Makerspace. Stay tuned.

If you are interested in learning more about our Makerspace please click the links below:
Mobile Makerspace
Mobile Makerspace Google+

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Secrets: Autostore Info and mysteries

We use a program at my work called Autostore, like most programs its not perfect and does some things well and some things in a ridiculous way.

Autostore operates on a printer/MFP and sends the documents straight to our file server.

I went through alot of trouble to locate where to find info about an upgrade...
So I will make it easier for you (faithful google searcher)

Here's Where you can find info about support and compatibility for your printer...arranged by brand..
First where I found this info.. NSi_AutoStore_FAQ

After you get to the site the "Sales Support" tab has a "Supported Devices" page. :)

Your Welcome!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Post #1 : Great Cleanup Project

Yesterday, I finally decided to try to fix my wife's Combo stereo (cd changer/tape/radio). It's an appliance she always loved. We put it out of use (and into my room) when the disk changer drawer wouldn't close.

I took it apart and examined several things, never found the real problem. I think the drawer was just out of sync with the sensors.

I put it back together and it worked again (Yay! One item down!)

Here's a few pics of the inside...

The whole inside is empty space!!
This gives me several ideas..
It also looks like the brown wire bundles carry audio signals around. Could be super easy to hack in an auxiliary jack. But my wife probably doesn't want it modified, so I will leave it alone.
Btw, it's a Sanyo AWM-2800U

The Great Cleanup Project

This is my room...

That is ...
It's the room where I work on my computer and keep alot of things, that I own for some reason (mostly because I dont want to replace them if I need them again). But its a real problem to get at or use anything in this room. Currently only the top layer and anything in my IKEA drawers are the only things I can really use.

So it needs to be cleaned up! That could mean alot of things, some things need to be fixed (finally) and put into use or sold or given away. Some things need to inhabit a dumpster instead of our living space. Some things will be kept but they need to be in a usable arrangement.. so that I know where they are AND can get at them.

We need to add some type of organizational fixtures, shelves, desks, whatever.

I have plans to build a workstation that can serve double duty (at least).

We've been handed down the mandate not to attach things to walls, so most of my plans will have to be re-thought.

It's a project and I'm posting it here because maybe someone out there will find my progress interesting, or maybe just to prod myself into working on it knowing other people are watching and know about it...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Warning: Windows hates your data

If you install Windows 7 or 8 on a machine with multiple drives,
And those multiple drives have partitions that windows doesn't recognize,
Windows installer will do you the favor of writing a system partition over the start of your drive (aka: unpartitioned space) without asking. 

This will wreck your day!

You will wish to never see windows again!

Personally it makes me want to (physically) destroy some hard a few on the shelf...

Thursday, February 02, 2012

This and This... Cool New Tech and Old Movies

Ok not so Old...

"Sandia Labs engineers create 'self-guided' bullet"

Is REALLY cool!!... 
But it reminds me of this...

I just hope it kills its victims, can you imagine having circuit board shrapnel in your body...but I guess killing people is the point...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Motorola ATRIX 4G Lost Contacts

Many users of the Motorola Atrix 4g were blindsided when their phones updated to gingerbread without asking them very plainly if they wanted to. What *MUCH* worse is that most of their contacts were missing when the update had finished.

Thankfully this happened enough for Motorola to release a fix.(thanks to Mark at ) for the quote
To get the application, search the Android Market for an app called "Contacts Restoration for Atrix" or, push the application to your ATRIX from a computer using this Android Market link:
And here's the forum thread where he linked this program..
Motorola Support Forums

It restored 53 of my wife's contacts, and I get to be the hero :D

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hemispherical Omnidirectional Gimbaled (HOG) Wheel = FAST Robots!

This invention uses my favorite electromechanical component, the BLDC motor, Brushless Direct Current Motor. The motor is attached to a hemispherical wheel, this wheel's contact with the ground both propels and steers the vehicle.

The point is , the motor is a Airplane motor and it moves the car across the ground as fast as an airplane propeller rotates! I saw three or four websites embed this video and they just said "It's cool" but I wanna tell you what you'll see....IT'S Fast!

From: Engadget

New Fundamental Radio Technology

New radio technology (hopefully) coming soon, I also hope all these guys become billionaires, the implications are unfathomable..

*fast forward to 55minutes to hear about the radio*

Here's a Webpage with a little more explanation 

And Then some more

Link/Tab Dump

It has taken me alot more time than I expected every time I try to editorialize a post on this blog. So while there's tons of things I would like to share, the time taken to write about them is intention crushing...

And so today I bring you another post with many links and few words, I hope you see something interesting..

Huge and Hugely Impressive Modular Analog Synth Cabinet

Google Bids on Patents with Number Constants

I'll be honest I haven't read this yet, I guess i like my mouse too much!

These are little wheels designed to build camera motion rigs, they look incredibly smooth and easy, but pricey

This will show you how to build an alternative camera strap configuration

There are certainly alot more posts on this site about building and rigging for your camera and photo setups

This is how I want my tool drawers to be, I don't know if I want to buy in just now..

GPU's are revolutionizing the processing of anything that used to require supercomputers,2945.html

This seems like such a great idea...What took so long?!

This allows your Android device's camera to be used as a Webcam for your computer (be careful the first time I tried it it hard crashed my computer; then i tried it again and got it working)

This is a really cool bench power supply build..

Intel is working on Massively Parallel Chips! (Too bad the GPU guys are WAY Ahead of them)

Wow this is cool, many Android devices can also be gaming systems...

The future of software is very different from the past...

I wish I had the resources to try some of these SSD's the bandwidth seems amazing..

This Car looks tough...but zombies? I dunno..

Nevermind the desk (its amazing) look into the comments for Captain Picard

I hope the future looks (and works) like this software

Sometimes its crazy how simple the solutions to very tough (medical) problems are...

I always hoped the browser history would be like this..

What Fun...makes me wanna travel (and not be afraid of heights)

This Company builds a custom pc called the shift, it lets the heat go up out of the case like it wants to, they are geniuses

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to build the most powerful computer system: Pointers to Inferno OS and portability

 Image credit: Wikimedia

So this morning I got on a wikipedia wild hair.

It all started when I surfed to the AdaFruit blog and found this video about programming "pointers"

So then I searched for the pointers article from wikipedia. I've always wondered about pointers. Why do you want a variable that stores the memory location of a variable? Seems redundant to me cause then you have to store an additional variable that stores the location of the pointers location. Where does it end? I still don't understand fully, except that pointers can be changed by other programs/hardware/whatever outside of your program, as opposed to variables that can only be changed inside your program or through an interface of some kind.

Apparently though, not using pointers takes longer from a compiling/runtime perspective.

This lead me into all kinds of programming articles that I half read/understood.

Eventually that lead me to reading about Operating systems 

Where the names Oberon and Plan9 kept coming up...

These were developed experimentally by Bell Labs (later Lucent Technologies). With distributed operation, concurrency, and access to all of the computer's peripherals with one interface as the main focuses. (as far as I can tell).

Those experiments led ultimately to the release of Inferno.

This operating system is built on a virtual machine framework.
To handle the diversity of network environments it was intended to be used in, the designers decided a virtual machine was a necessary component of the system. This is the same conclusion of the Oak project that became Java, but arrived at independently. The Dis virtual machine is a register machine intended to closely match the architecture it runs on, as opposed to the stack machine of the Java Virtual Machine. An advantage of this approach is the relative simplicity of creating a just-in-time compiler for new architectures.
-Portability across processors: it currently runs on ARM, MIPS, PA-RISC, PowerPC, SPARC, and x86 architectures and is readily portable to others.
-Portability across environments: it runs as a stand-alone operating system on small terminals, and also as a user application under Plan 9, Windows NT,Windows 95, and Unix (Irix, Solaris, FreeBSD, GNU/Linux, AIX, HP-UX). In all of these environments, Inferno applications see an identical interface.
-Distributed design: the identical environment is established at the user's terminal and at the server, and each may import the resources (for example, the attached I/O devices or networks) of the other. Aided by the communications facilities of the run-time system, applications may be split easily (and even dynamically) between client and server.
-Minimal hardware requirements: it runs useful applications stand-alone on machines with as little as 1 MB of memory, and does not require memory-mapping hardware.
-Portable applications: Inferno applications are written in the type-safe language Limbo, whose binary representation is identical over all platforms.
-Dynamic adaptability: applications may, depending on the hardware or other resources available, load different program modules to perform a specific function. For example, a video player application might use any of several different decoder modules.

One more quote:
-Inferno can also be hosted by a plugin to Internet Explorer. According to Vita Nuova, plugins for others browsers are underway.[3]
-Inferno is also ported to Openmoko[4], Nintendo DS[5] and SheevaPlug[6].
So, it runs on nearly every platform, using a virtual machine, which masks the underlying hardware or even operating system or even as it were, web browser. That virtual machine runs identical code within all platforms and the OS is built so that interfaces for any hardware or files are identically accesible (no API's needed).

This makes me wonder if there is a bit of software that is more poweful. There are a lot of metrics used to measure software power. For example speed, or concurrent calculations (related to speed) or memory size or network speed capability. But maybe being able to run on multiple architectures like nothing has changed is the ultimate.

Remember this ridiculous plot point? From Independence day, where Jeff Goldblum uploads a virus to an alien ship of unknown origin.

What if....and this is a big one. You could somehow code a program that could (if you were really really clever) indepently explore the architechure of an unknown computer. (ok that is impossible)

But if you could....

Then you could (if you were also really clever but not necessarily as clever as the first miracle worker above) build a compiler/builder that could make the needed inferno virtual machine without your interaction. Then begin running inferno on that platform.

Then if you had a virus handy, you really could hang that alien computer system. Or if you had an AI handy you could have something much more sinister.

Oh need a time machine to develop that one.

I guess we are safe....for now.

In reality computers seem to always need our interaction and brainpower to do anything.

That's why my first rule of computers is: Computers ONLY do EXACTLY what they are told.

Whether you or some programmer somewhere, it is doing exactly what it was told to do. (Unless your running windows).. :P

(Edited for significant reformatting)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

USB SNES Gamepad

When I was a kid. I wanted an SNES just about as bad as anything. I loved playing Super Mario and F-Zero and Metroid and Contra3. My family would make trips to Walmart where they had a SNES kiosk. As long as there wasn't too long of a line I could play for hours on end. I would get a crick in my neck (staring at the CRT tube placed on a stand taller than me) and my thumbs and forefingers would be red and barely able to move.

This project could allow me to re-live my youth (at least the sore thumbs) on a modern computer.

It could also be a really fantastic first project for getting into microprocessors. The button presses are simply sent to the computer as keyboard presses and the accelerometer data sent over as mouse movements. Here is  a video of one of the authors playing Portal with it (that one made my fingertips and wrist sore).

Thanks Adafruit and Teensy. :)

See Here if you just want to buy an adapter board (for a wide variety of consoles :) )

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Low Buck Internet Radio

Makezine posted a video showing how to mate a USB sound card with a cheap WIFI router, a little open source software and this combination becomes a cheap and easy internet radio. No computer required (for the audio output).

Heck add a LCD and a few buttons and there would be no need for a computer anywhere in this setup. But I guess that would make it more like the cost of the radios he shows at the start of the video...

Anyone wanna donate the supplies so I can try this (to get my fix in the kitchen or outside for example)

3DTV Apparently down in the poles

Hardocp links to Rueters which says

Although 57 percent of viewers agreed that watching 3D television made them feel they were part of the action, 77 percent said they thought the technology was best suited for special events like sports or movies, rather than everyday viewing.
Here's my question, how easy is it to switch between 2D and 3D.

My ideal (or idea if no one else has thought of it) would be that the tv would automatically detect if the 3D headsets are being worn or not being worn. If no one is wearing them switch to showing 2D (in this case probably the left or the right side frame would work). If you have to actually pick up the remote and change a setting in a menu to make this switch happen, that's way too hard.

Do they already work that way? I'm sure I haven't tried it at all.

If not they should try it.

Polishing metal the easy way..

Lifehacker sent along a tip on how to make a non-toxic metal polish with stuff you almost certainly have in your kitchen (they are cheap and easy to get if you don't)...

Make a nontoxic metal polish from pantry staples

I generally avoid polishing metals because a. the elbow grease involved and b. what caustic nasty chemical to use.

I might actually give this a try though.

CNC Camera Scanner

Tormach has developed hardware/software to scan a part with high accuracy with your CNC milling machine..

Tormach is a company that makes on of the most prominent CAM software packages around, Mach3.

CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing. The CAM software is what sends the commands to a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine.

Tormach has built a milling machine attachment and a software package. At the end of the attachment is a microscope USB camera.

The CNC machine (commanded by the CAM software (Mach3)) moves the camera around over a part that you want scanned. While commanding the camera to take a series of pictures which are then stitched together and entered into another plugin that helps you to draw that part in your CAD software with a large amount of accuracy. Build Log claims accuracy down to a few thousands.

This is reverse engineering and copying to the N-th level.

Open Source WIFI Drivers

Broadcom recently announced releasing the drivers for their very common wireless chipsets.

This means suddenly the software to run WIFI in linux isn't such a hassle or a hack for anyone who is using (or might use) and Broadcom chipset.

It also means drivers and software will be included in Linux and other Open Source Operating systems, without any wonky licensing issues.

Way to go Broadcom!!

Check out their website..

News Via Hardocp and Here

Monday, September 13, 2010

A more refined ride

I previously posted about an industrial robot arm being repurposed to simulate motion and play video games

Well this time they wrapped a whole helicopter cockpit around the arm....

They are using this as a safe alternative to training new pilots. The arm provides 6 degrees of motion and allows a safe solo flight to be tried without risking a high dollar helicopter. 

Homemade Laser

Homemade Ultraviolet Lasers
Found on Make: and Hackaday 

Who knew lasers were so easy to build?..

I remember reading How the Laser Happened recently.
In it Charles Townes said it was amazing no one figured out just the right mix of known physics and conditions to make a laser 30yrs before him. (if I still had the book that would be a direct quote).

Magnetic Levitator

This is a DIY magnetic levitator project.
The amazing thing about this project is the extremely low parts count, including no microprocessor. 
Plus: Lego==Awesome

Portable/Consolidated Workbenches

Make: Ran a picture of a portable electronics workbench recently and previously an instructive piece on how to build a handy bench/toolbox.

I can't decide if I'd rather have my tools and supplies all in the same place or have a separate tool storage and supplies storage. Right now mine are segregated Tools/Supplies. I've been moving my stuff into my house and shed the last couple of weeks. Soon I will be finally unloading all the hardware and parts and bits I have into some drawers/storage. When I get around to it....

Essay about Machining and Making things

Mikey turned in an excellent essay about how he ended up knowing how to machine and what satisfaction is in it for him.

Honest - all I ever wanted to do was make some stuff ...
I didn’t set out to be a machinist, hobby or any other kind.  I simply had a whole slew of other interests that I was involved with and machining was supposed to be a supporting activity.  I realized that it was a major advantage to be able to repair almost anything, make something that is difficult to find or doesn’t even exist, or improve something that could be made better.  So rather than make do, I decided to make parts.
It's a great story and effectively explains while many DIYer's do what we do.

I also perused the blog/website that posted this.

Machinist's Blog 

It looks to be an excellent source of machining information.

Btw, I got there via Make: (as usual)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blowing away the mess

Dust is a recurring problem for anyone willing to open a computer case. No matter how careful you are with your computer's environment or conditions modern air cooled systems are eventually going to need the dust cleared out.

The normal route for this hassle is to take a can of compressed air and spray the computer out. These cans are $3.50 per can and you might get 3 cleanings out of a can, if things aren't too dirty and you dont try to actually really eradicate the dust. But I like to really clean things, so I would be lucky to get 2 cleanings. That gets expensive fast.

Two common solutions that I've personally used are Vacuums and Air Compressors. Unfortunately vacuum cleaners can build up static and air compressors often spray water or oil instead of just air....Internet proof here.. Of course with my experience working in a shop I've seen water spray out of the air system plenty of times.. Dunno about the vacuum=static thing. I love my shopvac, better not to risk it though.

So what to do?

This would work great. It's portable and from what I understand the same hookup as a paintball CO2 can. So you can avoid the big box price for a new can. You can get these cans here and I've heard refills at a paintball store are only a couple of dollars (more internet proof). I had always hoped if I could work out the right set of adapters and regulators I could get under lowes' $90 price but in looking into it tonight it looks like a regulator is about $40 and the can is $10 and add in more fittings/adapters and it could easily reach Lowes' price.

Although this instructable is an interesting setup. But less portable than I would like for blowing out computers.

SO that brings me to what brought this whole blog post on...
Hardocp is urging everyone to clean their PCs this weekend. I was gonna post in the comments that I just did last week before I finally got my desktop installed in my house. In the comments I found a reference to the ED-500.

The ED-500 is a 500W electric blower designed for blowing out electronics. Looks like the best way to go. Glad to finally have that resolved. :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

My living room (construction zone)

This is my living room this evening...

This is a shelf I'm building. The tan colored pieces are reclaimed from a pine twin size bed, the brown piece in the middle is one of the shelves.

I modeled the design in sketchup..

I didn't design it really, it designed itself. This was the best way to arrange the pieces of wood that I had. To get the maximum shelf.

I was concerned about the size and other furniture getting moved into our living I modeled that too...(I tell myself it was good practice since I couldn't build the shelf saturday because it was raining...)

I made the walls transparent because I kept getting stuck in them. :)

It looks like it fits in this picture, but in real life, in the room (being assembled) it looks Massive!

We are really looking forward to this new arrangement and having more shelving.

I was really hoping to be done tonight, but the rain fouled up my plans again.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simplified Mechanical System Part 4

There is one more important component.

What to bolt the brackets to?
How about a standardized grid of holes, of specified diameter...

Like this...

There is one more component I came up with early on. 
A cam arm. Cams are used to do lots of things and it seemed like it would be easy to model so...

So there you have it. The Simplified Mechanical System... 

I will soon send these models to Google's 3d Warehouse, and also post them here as well. 

I would love to build some of these components, but I haven't gotten a chance yet. 

This system would be particularly useful if you wanted to prototype something (much like the arduino). You could prototype in wood or plastic, then for final assembly build it in metal. 

It shares alot in common with Makerbeam and Contraptor and MicroRax and Vex and of course where I got my start mechanically... Lego Technics

Simplified Mechanical System Part 3

This is where it gets interesting. :)

We now have a shaft we can mount a bearing to and hold the bearing in place. Without any custom machining. But what holds the bearing? This does..

This is a bracket with a bearing placed in it. 

Here are two brackets capturing a bearing..

You then can hold the brackets with a stationary bracket..

But there's another type of bracket that is useful...
The axle bracket.

This bracket has the 8mm D-profile cut into the middle. This bracket can either hold a shaft stationary to your assembly. Or it can engage a shaft that is made to rotate smoothly by riding in a set of bearings..

Such as here in my trebuchet model. 

But either of these brackets can be used for yet another purpose. Given any gear or pulley. If you can center it up properly and drill your holes right. You can bolt any gear or pulley or sprocket to one of these brackets. 

The possibilities are endless. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Simplified Mechanical System Part 2

Secondly we need a shaft/axle that will work for the following functions (as mentioned previously)..

1. They hold components where they need to be.  But they also need to be held in place on the shaft.
2. Shafts give various components a common rotational axis.
3. Shafts transmit motion from one component to another

Let's tackle number three first.

A D-profile shaft will allow components to spin on the shaft, as well as being able to transmit power. Also its easier to go from a store bought shaft to a d-profile, than it is to put a key slot into the shaft. 

But this still doesn't place a component somewhere along the length. 

This is where standards come in again. If your components could be a certain thickness, then maybe we can avoid making a custom shaft, a common design will do for many different setups. 

We can cut concentric slots in the axle of specified width with specific spacing, then we can make our component thickness match those measurements. 

Like this..

Then E-clips hold the components in place along the shaft. 
Kinda like this..

Simplified Mechanical System Part 1

I had an idea. 

I was talking to my brother and as I talked I was frustrated at how hard it was to build things. The biggest problem in my opinion is. Everytime I want to build something, it pretty much always involves some kind of shafts. 

Shafts have several functions: 
1. They hold components where they need to be.  But they also need to be held in place on the shaft.
2. Shafts give various components a common rotational axis. 
3. Shafts transmit motion from one component to another 

If you want to place a component on a shaft and have it perform reliably, it needs to be held in place on the shaft. If you want a component to spin smoothly, then you need a bearing placed on your shaft. The bearing needs to have the same inner diameter as the shaft's outer diameter, within a few thousandths, if not things will vibrate and wobble and all kinds of problems. Most shafts get stacked on with a different diameter for each component. Thats alot of custom machining. 
Borrow from: Wikipedia
I don't have the resources to machine custom shafts each time I have an idea, and I'm not alone in not having them.

Bearings are the next big problem. Some things need to free-spin on shafts and some things need to be engaged on the shaft. Again with each component needing a different inner and outer diameter. 

What's needed is a standard, a system. 

Kinda like the Arduino. Standard shields fit standard sockets with standard pinouts. It works for electronics, it works with Personal computers, PCI cards fit in PCI slots. Serial ATA drives plug into Serial ATA cables. Standards make building things (relatively) simple. (USB has got to be the best example Ever!) 

Then I realized. I've used skate bearings in several things. Skate bearings  are ubiquitous and standardized. Here you can get 100 for $35, $0.35 a piece! 

They have an exactly 8mm inner diameter and 22mm outer diameter, they are 7mm thick. But they don't come with any mounting help, no flange, no bearing block...

So an 8mm shaft will mesh up into a skate bearing exactly. 
Skate bearings are perfect for a simplified mechanical system...

Three Tips To Try From Lifehacker

Here's three tips from lifehacker, I want to share them in case anyone else needs them, and maybe try them myself one day..

I keep almost every chord I acquire, just because it sucks SO BAD to buy them. You buy a $10 network card and it comes with a 12ft Cat-6 cable. Goto bestbuy looking for the same cable $17 (IIRC). It's insane to buy cables...

My wife loves coffee so I have as many coffee grounds as I could need...

I will be trying this one sooner rather than later. It always annoyed me to actually have to install TweakUI

There that frees up 3 more maybe my computer can actually run from the ram rather than the virtual memory ('s windows it can't do that)

I'm dreaming right?

This can't be real...
The jetpack is finally becoming a reality...
This is just amazing..
Martin Jetpack Final Testing

Gotta say it looks pretty good too...
I hope next time I goto an airshow someone will be demonstrating one of these. :)

Another Video Game Replica

These replica guys really know how to make things look fantastic. This time its a Mass Effect assault rifle...

Found via: Hardocp

Rustic Mallet How-To

We recently stayed in a very rustic log cabin for our vacation. It was great. But I don't necessarily really  "Get" the rustic thing, the mindset. Doesn't particularly appeal to me, in and of itself.
This does though..

This mallet is a pretty cool little project that I would like to undertake..

Problem is logs of these hardwoods aren't just laying around everywhere in lower alabama like they are most places. Here everything EVERYTHING is Pine. I think my best bet would be to find some hardwood pallets and carve some mallets out of that material. I think I will get some branches/logs and stow them in the top of my shed to let them dry then maybe attempt this....

Found Via Make:Online

I also found another neat little workshop project on her site. Non-skid boosters..

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CNC Hacking

Thats hacking, as in building things...

Peter who works with Reprap has had two blog posts come across my screen lately...

First his entirely laser cut rack and pinion cnc axis.

Although having something cut with a laser cutter or cnc'd is still out of my reach (not by much). This does lower the bar for making a repeatable cnc machine significantly..

But there are still cheaper/easier options... And thats what his more recent post shows..

Reciprocating Laser Cutter

There's two innovations here. The use of Optical disk drive carriages makes for a low power and small scale axis. This uses three. 

Secondly he's using a low power (for a cutter) laser. It's a 1watt unit. He's reciprocating the laser on the Z axis to move the focal point through the material. Giving just enough heat to melt some plastic and cut a part. 

If Peter gets a chance to read this. I'd just like him to know I'm impressed and I have plenty of old cd-roms if he needs more. 

Robot Arm Turned Into F1 Ferrari Simulator

Robot Arm F1 Simulator
Via: Hackedgadgets

This is a very complicated hack, looking into simulating the extreme acceleration of an F1 car. Looks like the ULTIMATE video game console to me!

My cousin was designing his own motion sim but somehow I dont think a KUKA robot arm would fit in his budget (or his garage). But I do think this one has the heave axis covered. :)

Hidden Home Theater Computers

A while back I was reading Computer Power User (I think) and they had a little sideboard about Orange Amps. An old company from the UK that makes guitar amps. They had a new product that meshed a computer into the back of a guitar amp. Here look, it's genius...
Orange Amps PC division website
This is a really really good idea. My friends in production tell me its pretty hard to get a computer hardy enough to meet the demands of stage and recording. Even after you've picked a PC then it needs a case that is ok with being kicked and generally abused. Most choose the hardened but limited choice of using a laptop.

So the orange amps pc is a great solution.

This got me to thinking...they are just putting a PC in a big speaker box. What if I did the same. Maybe I could get an old busted amp and place a PC inside. It would look better than most other solutions for the living room or what not.

Which made me think of an even better idea...

Home theaters need subwoofers. Subwoofers are usually in big wooden boxes and made to look good for the living room/media room. What about getting an old sub and using the box. With smaller computers you could even place another..smaller sub inside the old sub box and have a Sub+HTPC.

Well...of course, before I could get all this written down and posted (or built then posted would have been even better) someone built almost the same thing..!

Hidden Home Theater PC from Lifehacker

This is a really good implementation.

I would like build something a little more space efficient, and in a subwoofer day... 

Sketchup Ruby Scripts

I've been designing some things in sketchup...
It's been a struggle at times.

Today my friend Ben told me how he was getting a ruby script to add-on to sketchup.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through the trouble.. Then I find this..

The Engineering Toolbox

This plugin adds standard and custom parametric components that you can add to your sketchup models. Things like piping, I-beams, standard bulding lumber and so on...

I found that plugin Via Ruby Library Depot. Which literally has hundreds of sketchup ruby plugins...

Two of note to me are Tomatoes and Woodwork both of which should make designing cabinets and desks and other such furniture and fixtures MUCH easier in sketchup. :)

Fallout 3 replica weapons

Fallout 3 replica weapons

These video game replica guns look fantastic! Now if they only worked.

Via Make:Online

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What does it Do!?

A while back I had an idea for greatly simplifying mechanical design, but everyone I told about it (with 2 exceptions) just said "What does it do though?" to which I said "Anything!". Which didn't make sense. So then I set out to draw this idea in sketchup and to make an assembly that can "do" something.

I finally completed that model.

Here's a pic.

Come to think of it, it was December when I had the idea. 8months is WAY too long for something like this.

I will be detailing the how's what's and why's of this system here in my blog in coming weeks.

Stay Tuned...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

R/C Wipeout

As usual this is something I've often wanted to build. But someone beat me to it with a couple of really cool twists.

I've always wanted to build an remote control car with a camera mounted on top. But I never thought to build a cardboard clone of a Wipeout (video racing game) track to race the car on. And I never thought to hook up the controls to an arcade style cockpit and drivers seat. This is genius!

Make sure you don't miss the video! (love the music)

I think maybe I should find an art grant somewhere and really start building things...

Monday, August 02, 2010

You can now actually build a UAV!

This is a incredible project, maybe even a little scary.

Its a processor and peripheral board that can control a remote control plane. Same as the military has. But this board and its software are open source and available for a rather low price (for what it is).

Also: I've bought some things from Sparkfun before, their service was really good!

Open Source Graphing Calculator

Really less of a dedicated calculator platform and more of a handheld linux computer with a touchscreen interface.

This graphing calculator is built using a beagle board a particularly well apportioned open-source single board computing platform.

I personally wish for a calculator with gigahertz class processing (like the beagle board) and easy to use software (like the ti-89).

Not that a format like a kindle or i-pad wouldn't work just fin. It's simply a matter of the software.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This is Amazing

A few days ago I read an article (on Make: then by the builder: Achim Sack )
Detailing how to build the world's smallest intervalometer.
In that article he used a microprocessor from MicroChip the Pic10F222 in a 6-Pin SOT-23 package.

Look at this picture..

This is a picture I staged for size comparison. The little graphic next to the arrow is the same size as the SOT-23 package from MicroChip!!! The vertical line next to the chip diagram is one inch in length. (sketchup wouldn't let me scale it properly so the chip is actually 0.008mm smaller than it should be :P)

Now lets look at some specs for this chip this is so amazing (to me)!

Clock Maximum Frequency of Operation (MHz) 8
Memory Flash Program Memory 512
Data Memory (bytes) 23
Peripherals Timer Module(s) TMR0
Analog inputs 2
Features I/O Pins 3
Input Only Pins 1
In-Circuit Serial Programming™ Yes
Packages 6-pin SOT-23,
Operating Voltage Range (V)• Operating Current:- <>
Note 1: The PIC10F222 devices have Power-on Reset, selectable Watchdog Timer, selectable code-protect, high I/O
(copied from Microchip's datasheet(pdf) )

Yes...8mhz!! From a chip that you could reasonably accidentally swallow (without being TOO painful).

Additionally, this chip executes all instructions (except program branches) in a single cycle. So it can achieve up to 2MIPS (reference).

Furthermore it can run at 4mhz on 2volts and 170 microvolts!! That's 0.000170volts !! Standby adds three more zeros!!

I went digging around the internet to find out what the old school equivalent would be in terms of math ability.

I found the venerable Intel 286 chip can also achieve about 2MIPS (depending on clock speed). I haven't been able to find size specifications, but I remember the 286 being about an inch square. I did manage to find the power specs though. 3.3 watts at 5volts so current draw of about 660milliamps. Or about 66 MILLION times the current the microchip part draws.

The 286 was state of the art in 1982. I knew we had made progress but this is a real eye opener.

The cost is also interesting. Microchip describes the Pic10f222 as being "So inexpensive its practically disposable". It's available for less than 50 cents.

When I see spy gear on movies and tv. My mind usually responds with "they cant really do that" but I had no idea such a capable chip was available down at this size. Some of the spy gear is possible. Without even building custom chips for everything. This chip was available to the general public in 2008 and I'm sure there are things in development and secret that are even more miniaturized now.

I showed this to one friend this week and he said "You'd have to be a magician to solder that". I would say you would have to be a robot. I can barely see it.

I know what your thinking...what can you do with it. Well you can make an intervalometer (camera timer) like the guy who turned me on to it. Or you could do one of the projects on this page, or you could use it to blink leds, like so many people use their Arduinos for, the pic would be MUCH smaller and use alot less power too. Or you could use it for embedding intelligence in far flung systems (I'm thinking car door actuators and switches or similar applications). It would also be good or running servos or steppers (through an amplifier circuit). I would like to build a remote receiver/motor to turn the volume up and down on my stereo (or maybe use a digital resistor chip hacked in place of the volume knob). The 222 should be just right for that...

I also took a look at some other options in very small/cheap/low power processors while preparing for this.

I like the Texas Instruments MSP430. The usb part of the stick is the programmer. You enter your program in the IDE and send it to that little stick. It programs the very end piece. The processor is 16mhz and there are 14 user assignable pins. The great thing is the programmer (usb stick) is only $20 and then the target boards are only $3 a piece. The programmer for the PIC processors is $70. Not quite as easy to write programs for as an arduino but much more economical.