Wearable Displays

23.45.31 - Mark

Over 10 years ago I got a bit hooked on the idea of wearable computers. One handed keyboard+mouse devices, lightweight CPUs that work for hours, maybe with the speech recognition software, and a display that "floats" in front of the eye. Being in high school at the time I managed to scrounge together some pieces, with mixed degrees of success. I was given some semi-dead mac laptops and got some of them to work. Bought one of those one handed keyboards but never got it to work with my assorted Apple hardware, and even got a couple wearable displays.

While I gave up / sold / repurposed a lot of that stuff, the displays are about the closest I got to success. It was older gadgets, but I adapted it to take better, less expensive batteries, and when I got a second display I carefully took it apart and tried to convert it to a more discrete monocular version based on a few of the hacks I found online. While I managed to kludge together a "working" model, it was loosely assembled on a chopped up pair of sunglasses, a few pieces from an old erector set, scraps of plexiglass, and a zip tie or two. It showed me the amazing effect of monocular displays, but made me look like a massive idiot.

However with technology getting smaller, and these micro-displays getting less expensive and somewhat more common I'm playing around with the idea of getting one to hack. When I started taking another look at the commercially available ones, I found A Monocular Myvu hack. These Myvus, along with many of the other modern wearable displays, are geared for videos from iPods and other portable video players, and easily found for $100 or so. Not great resolutions for a computer, but could be a nice tool for some of my camera work or getting videos off my iPod.

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More is less

23.28.50 - Mark

Cost of 10 replacement bulbs for a stand of lights : $.97 at Walmart ($.097 per light)
Cost of a strand of 20 lights (plus some extra replacement bulbs) : $1.23 ($.062 per light)
Cost of a strand of 50 lights (plus some extra replacement bulbs) : $2.00 ($.04 per light)

I went with the strand of 20 over the replacement bulbs and transplanted them into the old long strand I was fixing up, but it feels weird from a Maker / Fix it point of view. I'm supporting a culture of throw away goods and the replace it over repair mindset in order to fix something.

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I'm on MAKE

18.28.34 - Mark

Clear Airport Basestation MAKE linked to one of my older hardware hacks today. Always cool to see a spike in traffic for a project page, especially the older ones. It looks like a number of the visiting Makers are exploring other pages too. Kind of wish I'd gotten around to updating those pages some. It's been a year or two since I really touched the homepage.mac.com/g3head stuff

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Blink on, Blink off

01.08.29 - Mark

3x3x3 LED cube powered by an Arduino board This afternoon / evening, after a great weekend of camping, I finished up the Arduino powered 3x3x3 LED Cube I started on last week. I ended up making a run out to the local Radio Shack to get some transistors since I was too lazy to try and re-purpose some from the junk pile, then ended up walking out of the store with a breadboard and a jumper wire kit. Spent more than I would have liked to but I think it will end up being a sanity preserver.

The way I ended up wiring it is each column of LEDs gets a connection to an output pin of the Arduino board, and each level shares a cathode connection. Each level has a transistor being used as a switch that controls if the circuit is closed.

Now I'm into the programming part of the project. I'm setting up simple animations and I'm slowly exploring the control structures. Arduino is C based, so I'm recognizing a lot of similar syntaxes to PHP, but I'm getting used to the forced camelCasing (which is something I hate)

As I get more ambitious with the programming I think I'm going to try and add some random functions to it and see about connecting a microphone to one of the analog inputs and make it more of a light organ. I want to get a few more animation sequences developed first.

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Enough electronics to be dangerous...

02.10.43 - Mark

I've been playing with my Arduino board this evening, and while I have gotten it to work with my Mac, I'm only slightly past the basic LED blinking stage. I need to crack down and read up on the Arduino language and syntax before I try and get into more advanced projects. Not having a lot of spare cash on hand after buying the replacement S3, I'm using materials on hand for my projects, which right now means lots of LEDs. A while back I bought a couple hundred blue LEDs off eBay and they've been sitting around collecting dust, but I pulled them out tonight and I've soldered together 5 LEDs for experimenting with persistence of vision and I'm in the process of finishing a 3x3x3 LED cube similar to this MAKE Weekend Project from a few weeks ago. Somehow I don't think programming it is going to be as easy as building the LED cube...

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00.53.58 - Mark

Cold opens suck, but I finally got around to buying a microcontoller, opting for an Arduino Diecimila. I've been wanting to play with microcontrollers for a while now, but I've never gotten to the point where I bought hardware to play with. I've been reading about Arduino boards though MAKE for a while now, and they seem really powerful. Given the cost ($37 shipped from adafruit) I figured it was time to bite the bullet and buy one.

Other than general experimenting, I'm probably going to try and connect it to the analog gauge I bought a couple weeks ago. I don't know what I'm going to measure, but I'll figure that out one it's in my hands and can experiment.

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00.15.50 - Mark

Steampunkish 1 Milliamp DC analog gauge I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet, but I picked up this beautiful steampunk-ish gauge Saturday at the Shelby Hamfest. MAKE has had a few digital signal to analog meter projects in the past, so I'll likely draw some inspiration from them to rig this up.

The other stuff includes a pair of DC motors that will likely see some use in a bike generator or some form of robotics project, two ridiculously cheap (~$16 each) DVD burners, a $20 car stereo that I'm probably going to install in my Mom's car, and a complete with keyboard and mouse indigo iMac that cost a mere $30. I think it's safe to say I have a few projects to work on.

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Free clicking.

21.25.31 - Mark

Bring Back Free Clicking at the New York Times I ranted about the New York Times referance search popups a while back, and it still bugs me that there's no obvious way of disabling it via the site. Did they miss the memo about web2.0 being about user freedom? It doesn't take much to allow a user to disable a feature they don't like, but nope no way of disabling it. I'm not the only one, there's one comment on that rant, and when I checked his site he had a link to more disgruntled clickers, although they have a couple hacks to get it disabled. The easiest is this greasemonkey script, which works fine, buts it only works on one browser on one of my many regularly used computers. This really should be a user preference on their site, there's no good reason for it not to be.

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MacGyver CD repair

02.38.50 - Mark

I've heard for years that the best way to fix a scratched CD is to use toothpaste to polish the scratches out of the plastic. Thankfully I haven't actually had to test it out, but when working on an iMac I needed an Mac OS 9.1 CD. The bad part is that I only have one full OS 9.1 CD (plenty of 9.0) and I haven't taken the best possible care of it and its been scratched all to hell. So, out came the toothpaste, and after a couple passes, a couple minor scratches had come out, but not the major ones that were corrupting the disk. So, a quick google search and it turns out Brasso is the best CD scratch remover, so out it comes and after one pass it had done far more than the toothpaste.

I still had to do a couple more passes with the Brasso before the disc was usable (I don't have a photo, but this disc was seriously scratched) but its done the job and saved me $20 (going rate for a OS 9 cd on eBay)

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CVS Not So Disposable Camcorders

21.52.26 - Mark

While I'm not using it as much as my Canon SD300, I do like the CVS "Disposable" Camcorders, and have shot a few videos with it. Part of my facination with it is the sheer number of hacks being done to them, and I'm really tempted to grab another and do the night vision hack. I also might pick mine up a little more often since someone made an easy installer for the CVS Cam USB drive driver, as opposed to the original pureread app I have been using - I never could figure out how to install Ops for linux (which lets you have some more control over camera settings)

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Comics Code

00.56.11 - Mark

I like my comics, and with a not so great comics page in the local paper on top of my general avoidance of newspapers in general the web has kind of come to my rescue here. Thanks to some great RSS feeds like the ones listed (or created by) Tapestry Comics and other similar services like Comic Alert.com and Interglacial's RSS feeds Unfortunately to read all my comics I might need to open up one to two dozen tabs in whatever browser I'm using. Now add in the fact I haven't been checking all of my feeds daily.

So I'm working on a personal page generator that pulls up the images and none of the extra code around it. Some places this is trivial, because they use a standard Year/Month/Day scheme. ucomics (Universal Press Syndicate's Comic Site) is one of them, and most webcomics also follow that scheme (or at least something similar). Some webcomics use a sequential counter, which presents a slight challenge, but nothing impossible.

Unfortunately, a few of my favorite comics rest at United Media's comic site, Comics.com, which, likely because of others like me, doesn't use a regular numbering scheme for the comics (the URLs are a different matter) I think that's doable, but I'll need to learn about scraping webpages (which wouldn't be the worse thing). I'm much more frustrated with King Features, who have the strictest regulations for their comics, making you pay to access their site (DailyINK.com) or require the people publishing them to really lock up the pages displaying them (javascript and blocking offsite referrals.)

Anyways, I guess I need to figure out the numbering system or learn how to page scrape. I suppose the plus side is these self motivated programming projects are teaching me a lot more about programming and development that some of my classes have. Plus, its fun. Fun is good.

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Flipping the Switch

19.55.24 - Mark

When I started writing my own blogging engine a few months ago, I had three very clear goals.

Get off Blogger.
Keep my Content.
Keep the links working.

I met the first and second goals back in December when I flipped the switch here. The last goal has been sitting on the bench waiting to see if anything failed horribly here. Fortunately it hasn't, even if things need occasional fixing, so I just switched on my Blogger Redirect Engine.

Because I coded everything, it was really easy to set up a redirect engine by putting a HTML Refresh in my blogger template that points to the look up script. With the refering URL, it can instantly figure out where the user needs, no matter if it's my index page, an archive file, or a post and it moves them there. Nice and simple with no demand on the visitor.

It might have been possible with wordpress, but it would have been a lot more work, and I liked the challenge of coding my own blog engine. Control is good.

So long Blogger. You're great for beginners, but you gotta do something for your serious users.

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