Modern Sandbenders

11.00.35 - Mark

"I like your computer," she said. "It looks like it was made by Indians or something."

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. "Coral," she said. "These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable."

"The rest is silver?"

"Aluminum," Chia said. "They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That's linen with this resin in it."

Years ago I read that bit of text in William Gibson's Idoru, and it's been an idea kicking around in my head ever since. I love the idea of casting a 3d circuit holding itself together in the air. The joy of functional art, from recleamed materials and repurposed parts.

It's not the sole reason I bought an Arduino to build a 3x3x3 LED cube, but the whole idea was rekindled by seeing an Arduino Skeleton [via HackADay]. While it's not the aluminum cast circuit Gibson talked about, a steel wire framed arduino is pretty close. I also like how there are some hints on how to make your own substrate less circuit. So tempting...

Link | 0 Comments |


My thought process

18.29.05 - Mark

Just a look at my own line of thought
My Cordless drill battery won’t charge.
Shoot, neither one works.
I guess I new replacement batteries.
(checks google shopping)
Wait, DeWalt ones are expensive.
(checks ebay)
They’re not cheap on ebay either.
How about recell the batteries?
Yep, there are businesses for that.
Is there a local one?
Better yet, could I do that?
There’s a youtube video for that.
That doesn't look too hard.
But how do weld batteries tabs?
OK, You need a spot welder.
Can I build one of those?
Yep, I even have the transformer for that!
(scans hack-a-day article)
Bookmark it and look at that idea later.
So what type of battery cells do I need for the battery pack?
No luck online.
Although they’ll see me the information.
Not paying $10 for that knowlege
(goes off an measures battery cells)
Where are my torx screwdrivers?
(finds them in tool box)
(take apart battery)
Should I peel the plastic off and see how are they wired?
No, let’s price the parts first.
What battery is about .873” diameter and 1.375” tall?
How much will they cost?
Err, I probably need that in millimeters
So about 22mm diameter and about 35mm height
(converts in google searches)
(digs on digikey)
Ouch $5 for a single 4/5 sub-C NiCad, too much.
No better, unless I order hundreds of them.
Google Shopping?
Still a little pricey.
How about on ebay?
Ok, that’s better, and they already have tabs
Darn, no need for a spot welder.
Hmm, no inexpensive battery suppliers in North America.
Several from Hong Kong / China.
Can I wait 3 weeks to 4 weeks?
Am I sure I can recover the parts from the batteries I have?
Do I recell one or two?

While I haven’t decided if I’ll try the rebuild battery route or not, but it occurred to me that our thoughts are processed as quickly as the evolution of a live conversation. The changes in pace, direction, focus, and more. We often realize that these changes happen (unless you have an extremely high tolerance for boring conversations), but we rarely look at the trails our minds blaze. For a “small” project like this it’s kind of interesting recording the sequence of ideas touched on, both distractions and propellents. I’ll admit there were a couple “ohhh shinny” moments I left out, but most of the related process is now written down. I doubt it holds any value to anyone else out there, but you might try this little exercise. It's a little enlightening.

Link | 0 Comments |


Old Meet Older

17.40.51 - Mark

StackedA couple weeks ago, I was bored and was taking another look at an old Kodak Jiffy Six-20, and was, for a while, looking for a way of acquiring some suitable 620 film and a way of getting it recycled. The 620 film is out there, but $10 for a single roll is a more than I'd care to pay for a camera made in the 1930s and certainly hasn't been used in at least 20. However a little side tracking on Google and I stumbled across a a little how to use 35mm film in a Holga 120 page, and posted that link here. Having read that 120 film and 620 film were extremely similar - particularly that 120 film can be re-spun for 620, the idea of cramming a 35mm roll of film into the old Jiffy appealed to me. It would be cheap, I could do it immediately, and, if I could somehow scan the image, could get some neat results.

So I quickly dug around the house and found some old expired, but unused roll that sure enough, could be jammed in. Another hunt for a plastic bound manual, electrical tape and a knife and soon enough I was ready to shoot some photos.

Four ColumnsThe question was where. At first I felt the yard would be sufficient, but soon chose to ride my bike out and revisit some of my preferred photo walking locations. Within an hour I had spent my roll and took it home. Once it was dark I cobbled together a "darkroom" and stumbled my way though opening the Jiffy, unbuilding my clicker, and re-spooling the film. The next day, I took it into a 1 hour photo lab.

Of all my mistakes, the lab was the biggest. I hadn't spent the time to not have them attempt to print it, nor did I request they did not cut the film into lengths. While I've trusted that lab with digital prints, I suppose it was too much to assume they would look at the exposures themselves. Their equipment was obviously geared for the traditional 35mm frame shots, not near panoramic exposures. The mistake was free however, with useless prints I was allowed to skip the prints and keep the negatives for free.

A week later I met up with a friend to see about using a higher quality film scanner he had acquired for digitizing his medium sized camera negatives. A little playing around, and I was able to "save" a few exposures from expired film, mangeled in processing, and all shot in an antique camera in the hands of a photographer who hasn't really shot film in over 5 years. The technique has some potential.

I think I'll be doing it again.

Photo Left: Stacked
Photo Right: Four Columns

Link | 0 Comments |


Carry This

00.18.12 - Mark

It's always fun seeing where the mind wanders, and last night it wandered into beer bottle carriers.
Three Bottle Carrier Patented in 1957
It started as a quick mental though to see how much those bottle carriers cost. Since I started home brewing beer about this time last year, and give out some to friends those bottle carriers are a decent thing to have. Six pack carriers are simple to get - go to store that sells glass bottles of beverages and chances are it comes in a cardboard carrier. However, as a home brewer we may not want another breweries logo wrapped around a distributable brew of your own. A bit of spray paint can solve that problem, or if you develop finer tastes a store that lets you mix and match a 6 pack may offer carriers that yes, has a logo, but not one of a brewer's. If you're allergic to brand names of all varieties À la Cayce Pollard (from William Gibson's Pattern Recognition) blank six pack carriers can be had for less than a dollar.

Now while I have uses for 6 pack carriers, if I'm giving friends home brew I'm not so sure about giving them a full six pack. Putting fewer in a carrier works but it feels a little cheap to be a gift.

The solution my mind targeted on was 4 pack carriers. While big name brewers seem to prefer multiples of 6, a microbrewery (and the ones that didn't forget that they were) may make something different enough that 4 packs make sense. The blanks versions also exist, but I wasn't finding luck in anything other than bulk. Per piece they're dirt cheap, but I don't brew enough to want a couple hundred carriers for nearly a thousand bottles.

So the next mind journey was a template for making one. Which is where the cool things started showing up. I didn't find digital templates to download and print, but got reminded that a reverse engineering approach would work in a pinch. Mostly suggested for those common 6 packs, but true too for a four pack.

The next little discovery was at one point in history a glorified cardboard box once was patented. Or rather multiple times. While I was googling around for a 4 pack template, Free Patents Online popped up with a patent for a collapsable four pack carrier that aims for minimal gluing and materials with a PDF of all it's diagrams and details. It also lists it's past resources, including other collapsable 4 packs, to older 6 pack designs, to a patent for a Three-bottle collapsible carrier - which as a geek I love. It appears unpurchasable, but it maybe worth making one for myself.

Link | 0 Comments |


Steal this idea.

00.49.39 - Mark

It's no secret that if you create something, it can and probably will be pirated. Doesn't matter if you're a bottom rung blogger getting ripped off by spamblogs or a major studio who had a work copy stolen and placed onto bittorrent. The bottom rung blogger most likely will never know that their content was ripped, but we all know the studios and record labels love suing the pants off everyone they can find.

The question becomes, what if you "pirate" this content, and then offer fair reimbursement directly to a studio. Would they accept it, or add your name to the defendants list on the next round of lawsuits?

Fair prices for digital content have already been established, $.99 for that song you can't get out of your head, $10 for the rare album with more than one track worth listening to, $2 for last night's episode of Heroes, $5 or so for each summer blockbuster you want to download - maybe $7 if it's still in theaters.

Now send off a check (or some other traceable form of payment) for that amount, plus maybe some for those copies you gifted your anonymous friends online (based on how much of the file you shared), and see if they cash the check.

If the studio takes your money, hurray, there's some merit to those incessant anti-piracy notices after all. If not, then we get to start asking why the networks falsely claim that they're concerned with the livelihood those who create the content, or why they don't want people paying for and enjoying the company's content in a way that benefits the consumer.

Link | 0 Comments |


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.

Link | 6 Comments |


Blogger Exile Progress

18.55.00 - Mark

I figured that I needed to make an update of sorts so here goes. I've moved all of my posts (give or take this one) into a database which was a royal pain in the ass (something like 4 or 5 long evenings). I then spent most of a night (all night) writing and running scripts to reformat what I pulled out of blogger to make everything ready for a custom blog engine, which after a few hours nap I managed start on. Right now I need to

1) Work out and write the code for all the archives (months and posts at least), once I figure out mod rewrite I think I might have it
2) Write RSS feed engine. I think this will be fairly simple since I've got the index working, its just a matter of fixing it.
3) Work in comments. I'd kind of like to try my hand at some AJAX like functionality here, but I'm not sure thats going to happen. Even if it doesn't I still need to add in the comment code
4) Beef up security and posting features. The scripts I wrote to move the database will help, but they are very, very crude, and certainlly not something I can post on a server
5) Work out the blogger redirect engine, this is low priority
6) Move the database and all the code over to the domain.
7) Build and expand. What's the point of custom coding a blogging engine if all you're going to do is write it and forget it?

I'd like to say I'll launch by the new year, but I had been telling myself that I'd be done by my birthday as well, and while that pushed me to finishing the DB and getting the main rendering code up and running, its since passed (aside: December birthdays generally suck, December birthdays within a week of xmas, really suck.)

We'll see. I'm out of school until the 5th, while I've got a pile of DVDs and video that almost rivals my podcast queue on top of whatever the 25th brings. If I decide to go to podcastercon (I'm up in the air about it), I'll really want to have something launched. This one feels a little ratty, and I feel a little cheap when I hand out the URL.

Link | 0 Comments |