Copyright and left

13.24.25 - Mark

I create content. I write content, I shoot video, I take photos, I program. I'm not the only one who does this, in some way in some shape, everyone creates something copyrightable. But from there, there's an interesting dichotomy to the content that we create. Society loves the partial Steward Brand quote "Information wants to be free" but sometimes we forget the whole quote:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other

Yes our information wants to be free, quotes true or false are passed around the internet, videos and music is passed from friend to friend, be it the high tech P2P networks to the sneaker net use of analog cassette taps and xerox copies. But that information is valuable. Hense organizations like RIAA and MPAA passing out lawsuits like Halloween candy and pushes for insane legislation.

As a content creator I'm aware of both sides. I have work I pass out for free, while it is valuable to me, it's a marginal amount, citations are nice, but sometimes a "Hey can I use this" is enough of a nod. Some content I don't even obfuscate or try to lock down. However, I also create work so valuable that dollars are involved. I've sold photos to be printed on tshirts, licences for use in promotional materials, and some sold as art.

Living in these two worlds - free and valuable, I'm aware of potential copyright violations. I've seen my photos used in newspapers credited to someone else, and I've run into situations where my work was used without permission in borderline commercial purposes. Last night however I ran across a youtube video on reusing wooden pallets. As I watched it I knew plenty of photos were being used without citations, without any credit to the projects being documented or the people behind the work. Some were common, some new to me, but right at 2 minutes, I saw one of my own photos from my Pallet wood coffee table.

Now that image both on my blog, and on my flickr account is under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license so I'm fine with it being used. The video is not commercial, but I'm not sure what I feel about the attribution. My ego isn't really craving the credit. It would like it of course, but it's not critical. Intellectually however, I think it is required. With dozens of photos collected from all over the interwebs, there are countless numbers of projects that people may want to explore further (and in the case of this video, we're talking over 600,000 people), and without credits that's a difficult task.

I honestly haven't decided how I'm going to approach the issue but it's an odd case I haven't had to deal with before.

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A DIY Disc Golf Basket

22.55.50 - Mark

A few years ago I really go into disc golf, it's fun and relaxing, but unless I want to bang the discs against trees it makes sense to go to an established course. The baskets are better targets than the trees, and usually you get some decent obstacles. Similar targets can be purchased, however as a being a frugal shopper and as someone who likes making things, I was always a bit drawn to building one myself. There are some people who sell plans online, blogs that post various kludges , as well as Instructables on baskets and youtube videos on how to make disc golf baskets. The two I linked to probably gave me the most information, and to quell my occasional urge to build something I started looking for low cost parts for my - as close to PDGA target standards as possible.

However I've learned some tricks well. The main pipe was to-be scrap when I took down an old fence, and thanks to the make your own basket video, parts of The Iron Giant, and a MAKE post on "Scrap-Fu" a few years ago, and I decided getting a couple of former fan guards from a scrapyard would be cheap and effective (it was). Walking though Lowes Hardware and I collected the 1/4" steel rods and some electrical conduit to act as a collet. The only remaining part, the chains, were the slowest to acquire, because metal chain is expensive. While I was hoping for 2/0 Single link chain, when I found 100 feet of 4/0 single link chain for $30 I ran with it.

Over time other tools need to be collected, a suitable hole saw and time with an angle grinder and a welder. While I know people and places where I can access that equipment, a mild bit of tool-mongering added to a bit of craigslist shopping. Bits and pieces started being assembled, but over Thanksgiving Weekend, I had enough time to put everything together.

All in all, it was a fun project (and with the left over parts may build a second) and while it may not have the quality of say Innova DISCatcher Pro, with its various hacks, a number of poor welds, and a few little flaws, my basket is fine at catching discs and at about $50 for materials I'm quite happy with my work.

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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.

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Relearning CAD

22.23.27 - Mark

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been knocking together a few tables. Nothing special, a few small workshop tables, a desk side table for a photo printer and scanner, and most recently a work bench for a local non-profit.

In a consumerist country, I absolutely could purchase all of those tables. Light weight, standard sizes, virtually no labor involved. However attractive folding tables are rare and subsequently tend to be expensive (if they’re even for sale) and the relatively weak commercial ones cost more than the lumber for a larger, stronger table that, if you have access to a few power tools, can be built in a few hours.

As someone who has a decent workshop, and a bit of a collection of nails, bolts, screws, and an assortment of other hardware my parents have amassed over a few decades, my only real costs was for lumber and my time.

While I didn’t dream up the plans on my own (I largely drew from The Wood Whisperer?s Outfeed Table video when I wasn’t reverse engineering an existing bench table) I did have to run out the math on my separate projects. Figure out the layout and assemble and figure out the cut list so I wouldn’t overstock myself.
Now, as much as I enjoy technology, on these projects I usually pick up a pad of Doane Paper (Grid + Line paper = Awesome) and draw out my plan. While I do take electronics into the work shop, next to a table saw or drill press, a good pencil and a pad of paper is both far safer and more user friendly than a laptop.

However after finishing the project, a couple people asked me about making more of them, and while I could redraw the plans or throw it on a copier, I decided to fire up SketchUp.

It’s been a few years since I last played with it, and what I remember about it was mostly not getting it to work well. 3D is nice, but my high school drafting class was basic 2D. However a few videos, a bit of playing, and a handful of restarts, I managed to draw out the plans. I doubt I’ll play with SketchUp enough to plan out masterpieces, but for the right job, it’s a decent (free) tool (once you figure out how to use it effectivly).

Parts List
Cut List

Hand drawn plans (JPG, 1910px x 1463px)
Rendered Plan (JPG, 1215px x 942px)
Table SketchUp File (67.9 kb)

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Intervalometer Version 1.3

16.44.40 - Mark

I've been working on my home made intervalometer on and off for well over a month now. I bought the parts for it in early April, bounced between building the original version based on it's schematic and reading up and learning how to actually use 555 ICs in mid April. Finally got the first working version packed into an Altoids sized tin in a frantic morning on April 20th (written inside the tin since I was pulling it off between going to a class then driving 6 hours to go camping for a weekend) About a week after finishing it I got around to putting together a semi-decent time lapse video.

Homemade Timelapse TriggerPart of the reason I had held off on the time lapse is because I wanted this to work as a wired remote for my camera, rather than having to carry around a couple candy tins with switches and cables attached. This however has been my big problem.

The original schematic calls for a NPN transistor to work as the switch for the shutter release. When it's base is getting power, the emitter and collector are bridged and the circuit for the shutter is closed. Since the manual switches are wired in parallel, they can't override a closed circuit and are blocked until the base looses power - be it the few moments the 555 drops power or when the battery is disconnected. If I had gone this way I probably wouldn't have had a problem using it as a wired remote, but it is mentioned as a glitch in the original write up.

In my build however I used a PNP transistor, originally for no reason other than I had a bunch more of them than NPNs and they worked in the breadboard prototype. It's emitter and collector are still the connections for the shutter release loop, but those points are only bridged when the base is grounded. Unfortunately this was a somewhat massive problem for me. It not only blocked me from using it as a wired remote when powered off, the second it was plugged into the camera was the second it would take the first exposure. I could jerry rig it into working in my favor, but I wanted full control all the time.

At that point I started thinking about how to get that control. I first thought of using multiple transistors, looking into Darlington transistors or Sziklai pair, even started thinking of Logic Gates and building them with transistors. All it needed to do would be isolate the transistor from the circuit when the power was off. As I got frustrated with the complex schemes of using transistors to control transistors, I started to rethink the simplest approach of isolating the key PNP transistor.

A quick test on the breadboarded version, and just unplugging the PNP's base made it work with the parallel switches when the power was off. While I could have wired in and mounted another switch, I preferred simplicity, and a DPST switch was purchased to replace the SPST power switch. One side still for power, the other between the 555 and the PNP base. It's a good fix, and I finally feel good documenting my version.

In addition to my use of a DPST switch and a PNP, there are a few other changes I made. The first is the different selection of resistors. While the potentiometer and paired 100k ohm resistors remain the same as the original, I changed the LED resistors to 10 ohm (I wanted some more light coming off the LEDs).

Since I wanted a time lapse mode faster than once every 30 seconds or so, the fastest given by the 220uF capacitor (up to about 4 and a half minutes as its slowest), so I used a SPDT switch and 22uF capacitor to add in a second mode that can shoot as fast as one exposure every 9 seconds (which goes up to ~30 seconds).

I also changed the .1uF with 33k Ohm resistor to a 10uF capacitor and 470k resistor. The original design didn't allow my Canon XSi enough time to run the shutter. This my change is a particularly long break for the shutter trigger, about a full second. While I originally only changed the resistor for a sufficient delay, I realized that the SPDT switch with the key capacitors, really had three positions.
Intravolimeter Schematic
This switch happens to have ON - OFF - ON positions. While I only cared about being able to switch the 2 key capacitors, when testing it I accidentally had it on the off position. When I powered it on it started running the shutter faster than once a second. While I may not be getting this right, when the one of the 2 larger capacitors are connected the circuit is monostable, a quick burst for the transistor, then starts over. When neither large capacitor is connected however, it starts running as a bistable, or flip-flow, circuit, opening the shutter loop for a second, then closing it for a second, with it's pace set by the small capacitor and resistor. While I have yet to find a real reason for this feature, I decided to take advantage of it and added the 10uF capacitor. So, if you follow this design, this gives the camera shutter a full second or so to run when it's in Monostable mode, and get an exposure every 2 seconds or so when in Bistable mode.

While I'm sure there are other changes that could be made, I think I'm done with this one (with the possible exception of designing a real circuit board for it). Between arduinos boards and the parts for building a Camera Axe, I think this will suit me well for a carry around wired remote and intervalometer.

If you want to build one for yourself, feel free to work off my schematic (image above, enlarged, or EAGLE Schematic) put it's still a good idea to refer to the article I worked from in Make Volume 15 or the extremely useful discusion thread on it's Instructables page.

The components are all from Mouser, but I got the perf board from Radio Shack. You can get all the parts there as well (in theory) but they charge a lot for the things they do stock, and sadly my local Radio Shack's component area is a sad disorganized mess. Of course Digikey is on par with Mouser (just a bit harder to navigate) and in this case everything you need (including perfboards) can be purchased at All Electronics (which just takes a good bit of hunting) It's worth nothing however that you can scrounge together a lot of these parts from old electronics.

555 Timer IC Based Intervalometer Part List
Part DescriptionPrice Per Part
11M Ohm Potentiometer$.80
1DPST Toggle Switch$1.24
1SPDT Slide Switch$.75
2Tactile Switches$.31
2Tactile Square Caps$.15
1220uf Capacitor$.14
122uf Capacitor$.10
110uf Capacitor$.06
1555 IC$.31
1PNP Transistor$.11
210ohm Resistor$.10
2100k ohm Resistors$.10
1470k Ohm Resistor$.10
12.5mm Stereo Plug$1.55
19v Battery Snap$.38
1Multipurpose PC Board$1.99
Hookup wire
Solder (you should have it)
Enclosure (I used an altoids sized tin)
Total:  $9.01 + taxes and shipping

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Bluecheese Burgers and 555 ICs

16.55.08 - Mark

Ah, the combination of technology and food.

Well sortof. After dusting off my Canon S3is for it's timelapse feature for Inkinga few weeks ago, and then in the same post complaining about not getting anything faster than 1 shot a minute out of it, I decided to try and make the 555 IC based camera trigger.
Homemade Timelapse Trigger
The version I build was covered in MAKE Magazine Issue 15, as well as a bit more detailed on it's Instructables page. When I described it as "crude" in the Inking rant, I was surprisingly accurate.

While I tried to follow the schematics exactly the first two attempts (the first soldering, the second by breadboarding) I still wasn't getting a working device. Perhaps by my mistakes, but perhaps by design flaws. However after going over it's comments on instructables, I managed to hack together a working solution as well as a couple upgrades to the original design. While it's a bit tempting to document my changes, I'll hold off until I either debug it or create another version.

However, after assembling the components, and shoehorning it into an altoids-esqe case, I wanted to use it. While I've come close to using it a few times over the last week or so, I finally used it last night when I made some Bluecheese Burgers.

The photo rate was about 1 exposure every 9 seconds, Canon XSi camera on tripod, lens set on manual focus but camera shooting in Program mode. I turned off the trigger a couple times (like when the burgers were on the grill) but the whole series works pretty well. And since it's food, written ingredients and instructions are included (both here and in the video)

Bluecheese Burgers

2 lbs Hamburger (85/15 lean or better)
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cayenne Red Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled Black Pepper
2-3 oz. Crumbled Bluecheese
Hot Grill
(All measurements approximate - Cook to your taste, not mine)

Mix all spices and hamburger together.
Divide hamburger and form 8 thin paddies.
Put crumbled blue cheese onto 4 paddies, leaving open space on the edges.
Place remaining paddies onto the blue cheese piles and "seal" the edges of the two paddies together.
Cook burgers on the grill to taste. Roughly 7-8 minutes per side for Medium

Bluecheese Burgers are great on their own, but I prefer them with some Red Onion, slice of Tomato, some Lettus, and a bit of Mayo, but enjoy it however you want to.

Bluecheese Burger Timelapse (2MB 320 x 480 H.264 Quicktime)

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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Inked all over

23.27.32 - Mark

Last week I posted Inking, part of it my history with screen printing shirts, part as attempting a short timelapse video of preparing the negatives for a few screens on some vellum paper. Aside from my own screw ups, the the DIY Screen Printing Instructable was a good resource I used though the entire project. However if it's your first attempt, don't start with your favorite project.

The first of the four screens I did ended up with a lot of pinholes in the screen's mask after washing it up after exposure. I was also stupid enough to ignore the pinholes and do a test print.

Pinholes in Screen Print MaskTest print with pinholes in screen print mask

A small art-style paint brush and more of the photo emulsion goo I was more or less able to remove the pinholes with a couple passes. Once it was done I started preparing the other three screens. However these I either spread on the wrong amount of goo and fell though, or the goo had been partially processed with light and didn't expose. In either case I only noticed it after I checked the dried screens, and the holes were too great to bother repairing, so they all got a heavy bleach water wash and a fresh round of photo sensitive emulsion (this sort of screw up and I was extremely pleased with using the homemade mix of Potassium Dichromate and Elmer's Glue instead of buying commercial products.)

The second batch worked and I applied the art, then set off to printing, and learned another lesson (or three).

First don't print them by yourself. In the past, I didn't print more than one or two on my own. I either paid for a company to do the prints or worked with a friend to make the prints. In this case I did 36 prints (9 of each screen), and it would have gone a lot faster if I had an extra set of hands to handle either the fabric or manage the screen and ink.

The other lessons would be a good workplace with good tools. Since I didn't have a table that could be used, and raining like crazy outside, I made the prints on the floor. Works well enough for small runs, but as many prints as I did it wasn't comfortable. Same sort of goes with tools. While the kit I had / made was fine, I needed the ink to dry before I could stack it. Without suitable shelves the "solution" I should have worked on setting up a drying rack or a heat treating system. C'est la vie.

Despite all these problems and lessons, and a couple mistakes on the flags I was printing, all 36 are good enough to use, since the friend who asked me to do all this work was half expecting to loose 5 or 6.
Most of the 36 prints made in this project

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20.34.11 - Mark

A few years ago, one of my brothers bought a screen printing kit, the two of us figured out how to print some t-shirts, and planned on doing more with screen printing. Didn't quite happen. The parts have been reused to projects, but screen printing fell off to the side. The cloth prints since then were either one-off with freezer paper stencils and spray paint (similar to this project), experiments for other techniques, to simply being large enough that a professional lab felt more practical than an attempt at DIY printing on a short time table. However, about two weeks ago a friend asked me about printing some flags.

He'd used professional printers before, but the low number and small size meant it would have been pretty pricy, and while at first I figured stencils and spray paint would work (and it would) the numbers are enough that DIY screen printing would be easier. So I started working on the kit.

Unfortunately parts of it didn't age well. The screen, ink, and tools are in good enough shape, although quite probably not enough, and the photo sensitive emulsion chemicals were either missing, or used. I was also missing the manual. I know, oft ignored, but if you're playing with chemicals its wise to do your research. In this case I turned to Instructables, and landed on the true DIYers screen printing project. While it isn't the most precise article, it's a great guideline, both for people doing it themselves and those who want to save money.

So while I was waiting for the Potassium Dichromate / Elmer's glue photo emulsion to dry onto the screen, I started working on the art. In the past I'd dig up a piece of transparency sheet and use that for the mask, but finding any, and not liking the price I deiced to try vellum paper (in large part due to the DIY screen printer instructable). Which gets me to this video.

Since I'm working off a vector art piece, I wanted to print it on to the vellum. However my printers don't run on cheap ink, so I only printed out the outline, and would fill it in by hand. Right before I started filling it in I pulled out my old point and shoot and set it up for time-lapse.

Nice short and simple video, in many ways very similar to the Pennies video I. [wow, over 4 years ago!] The slight difference is I had the camera set on time lapse, in one shot a minute factory issued mode, so this ends up being choppier than I'd prefer. I'm not sure if I want to blame my lack of (good) camcorder, better knowledge of the CHDK hack for my point and shoots, or the extended lack of a intervalometer controller for my DSLR (be it commercial product, graphing calculator, arduino based project, or a crude but simple 555 electronic circuit)

In any case

Inking (4.4MB 320 x 240 H.264 Quicktime)

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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Scrapheap Table

23.54.02 - Mark

The 'Scrapheap' Table I converted a shipping pallet intoWhile scraps of this post once made it into my facebook accoun, it feels more like a time to write up a real post. More than a year ago I saw a DIY table project link on MAKE that caught my attention. The Pallet Coffee Table article offers some good advice on converting the shipping pallet with some cheap wood and a bit of concrete.

I thought about it for a couple weeks, but since I needed another table then, already had a couple unused shipping pallets, some unused concrete mix, and enough time to play with it, I decided to attempt it. Unfortunately I didn't take work in progress photos, so this isn't a great instructions page. I didn't keep a log book either, and this project, which started sometime in December 2008, still isn't really "finished" yet (I need to find a decent looking stain for the drawers I made for it)

The basics start with the pallet I choose. The smallest one I owned had boards extending past the main rails on both sides. Works when used for shipping stuff, but not so much for a table so the first step was to trim then down with a jig saw, then sand down all the visible parts well. In the inspiring article they didn't sand it much, but since my primary pallet was well covered with old paint and I was loosely aiming for an unstained, unpainted finish I sanded them until they were smooth (excluding the assorted damage it had taken)

Once sanded down, I cut and attached strips of 1/8" board in the empty spaces on top of the pallet. These were a little shorter than the entire pallet since I wanted them to be hidden in the concrete. I also added larger pieces of 1/8" in between the 1" x 4" rails under the top boards to increase the strength of the strip boards I added, as well as limit the amount of concrete falling though a few remaining gaps (I'll point out however, that I have a tendency to over engineer)
Results of the first attempt at putting concrete into the empty spaces
While it was ready for concrete I decided to add legs first. I tore apart the other pallet I had to use it's 1" x 4" rails to make four legs and two cross beams. Sanding them down and sawed them to size, then used a router to round off the corners. The tops of the legs were then trimmed to fit into gaps between boards on the bottom of the pallet. Since I'm not a great woodworker, a few angle brackets were all I needed to keep them in place.

About that time I started reconsidering the finished look of the table. While I would have been wine with the bare wood alone, adding harker grey concrete wouldn't look so nice, so I browsed though the unused stains I had access to, and settled on an orange stain. As best as I can remember I didn't want to accidentally paint or stain the concrete, so choose to stain the wood before adding the concrete. This works, but you need to make it a point to clean up that concrete as fast as possible when adding it.

One of my favorite spots on the table topOnce it was all stained it was time to add the concrete. I use a couple table clamps some of the scraps from the other dissected pallet to cap the sides of the empty spaces, mixed up some concrete, and then packed it in.

The concrete was a little challenging. While I've worked with it some before, I needed to use a good amount of pressure to make it wasn't leaving air pockets and in there enough that it wouldn't come out when I smoothed it. Even with my best attempts at smoothing it out, some of the concrete I applied is still a little rough, not enough than I feel like redoing yet again, but it may be worth looking into mixing your own mortar than using a bag of quickcrete for this kind of project.

With the concrete added I just left the table alone for a couple weeks, letting the concrete cure as best as possible. Off to the side I used some more 1/8" board and square dowels to make some drawers that fit where the fork spacers.

When I was about to call it finished (minus the drawers) it was suggested to put a few coats of polyurethane. On wood alone it seals and protects it, but since the cement, even in it's best places, still felt a little rough, we tested it some (away from the table) and decided it would help smooth the table top. A few coats and it at least dissipated the worst places and blends the appearance with wood a little.

Overall it's a worthwhile project. Keep some stuff out of the junk yards, learn some new building techniques, come away with a one of a kind table you enjoy. I'm even playing with the idea of making a couple more furniture items out of wooden pallets and assorted leftovers.

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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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Trying not to kill electrons

00.25.22 - Mark

So in addition to reacclaimating myself to the real world, I've been dealing with broken electronic devices.

Two weeks ago I somehow managed to kill my camera. While it chose a good day to die on me (last day of camp) it's well established that I'm a lot happier when I have a working digital camera. On the plus side Canon's customer service is amazing. I called last Friday and after not arguing with the [knowledgeable] phone monkey, I had the camera packed up and shipped within 90 minutes of looking up the Canon Support Phone number. I've never had that sort of thing happen when calling tech support. Assuming they don't take forever to fix my camera, I've got another reason to love Canon.

The other dead electronics I've dealt with this week is my 91 Honda Accord's stereo, which has been dead for so long most people who get in it have become accustomed to not even trying to coax it into speaking. Rather than trying to fix the factory head unit I opted to install a new Sony stereo that has an iPod dock connector. I probably had about half a dozen people tell me to get it professionally installed, but in reality all it required was splicing together a dozen wires (I used crimp connectors, but if I was doing it over would solder and heat shrink it) then put it in place of the old stereo. Cosmetically it could look better, but I'd rather have a few cosmetic blemishes than fork over $75 (or more) and have it look a little nicer. Besides, installing it boosted my confidence on working on cars. While I've got no problem ripping into delicate electronics like laptops and iPods, cracking into my car was a little more daunting. Might be the fact that I don't place my life at risk when I use my computer...

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Taken Out

10.56.07 - Mark

Camp has taken a lot out of me (I've been up there for about a month, a solid two weeks more than most people). While I had every intention of making periodic posts here, the time involved with finding something to write about, writing it, lugging the laptop to a place it can connect to the internet, and then posting it is a slightly higher price than I'd like to pay. Instead, I'm enjoying camp as best I can, dealing with tons (~100 in my regular sessions) of bored scouts, making sure the staff I'm responsible for doesn't mess up, taking every opportunity to take photos, and of course, finding every opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest.

One thing I am working on in my little spare time however is making prints of the Panoramic photo I took from the Knob. There's been a near universally positive response to the image, and many of the people who have seen the image want to own a copy.

Anyways, it's about time to go back to camp...

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Stuff I didn't pick up in Math class

22.56.01 - Mark

The web toy I'm building is all of a sudden becoming a pain in the ass. The design is more or less done, and most of the important features work, so tonight I set up a couple dozen fake users and a script to populate it with "answers" using random numbers, almost completely forgetting that all I would get would be a perfect real world example of the law of averages. D'oh!

I don't know that that's actually going to be a major concern, the test showed me that the scripts can handle the load, but I think some of the math powering the thing isn't what it should be, and I probably need to pull out the math books I've got floating around and read up on statistics. More importantly, I should probably be developing more social tools like implementing groups. That and test it with humans instead of random numbers.

Still, would have been nice to launch the site tomorrow. April 1st is an easy birthday to remember.

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Coding mode.

23.50.15 - Mark

Funny how time disappears when you're working on a project. I'm juggling a couple small site designs and a renewed effort towards one of my own web 2.0-ish side project. I want to think I'm getting close to opening it up, but there are a few things that still need ironed out (which is important) and an unending list of features I'd like to add. Fortunately it's a web app and I can constantly release upgrades :)

My secret web project

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Making iPod Accessories

15.23.47 - Mark

iPod Stand I saw this iPod stand on the web somewhere last week (the link with it was to a German forum), and since then I've been playing with the idea of doing sometime similar. I might try and do a charge/sync dock since it's possible to buy iPod conectors in small quantities. The brain storming begins...

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Through the looking glass

00.14.30 - Mark

I'm starting to bang away at the hardware hacker's recipie box idea, and as I start writing some scripts for it, it occurs to me at how complex the content management problem really is. Much more than this blog engine, where I know the sole user better than anyone else on earth and can design and code according to what's intuitive.

With this bulked up system, there are far more questions to ask and answer. How do we get the user to enter data correctly? What type of entry form is more user friendly - and whats the best way to impliment it? How do we error check all that information? How do we divide that information up? Where it is stored? Does that database scheme make sense? Will I reuse that code? How much, and what will change between calls?

Fun challenge, but it seems like I've fallen though a looking glass, and there's a pair of questions for every answer.

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So what's in it?

22.04.05 - Mark

There's a Google hack out there called "Google Cooking" where you punch in everything you've got to cook with, and Google spits out a recipe. As a mild food geek in a house where there's never everything I need to make what I want, I've resorted to Google cooking more than once, and usually to decent results.

Recently I've been thinking about a way to document recipes that I like while being able to use the idea of Google Cooking. A quick easy way to sort recipes I like by what I have.

Like all good ideas, it seems like I'm not the only one thinking along these lines. Dave Slusher tossed out essentially the same idea for discussion on the uplifter blog, but for MAKE and DIY projects.

Coding a single user blog engine is one thing, Building a community driven site is another, but then again, I didn't know anything more than some elementary BASIC 9 months ago...

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