In my previous new arm post I banged out a quick ‘n dirty replacement arm to hold an LCD display on a RED camera using some 3D printed parts and a few nuts and bolts.
Version 1 worked, but I wasn’t totally happy with it. Iteration time! The beauty of digital fabrication using a 3D printer is that it’s easy to revise your design and try something new.
One of the issues I had with version 1 is that things spun around too much. Even with the tightening bolts, there was more spinning happening when less spinning was desired. I ended up adding a hex-shaped hole to hold the head of the bolt in place. This resulted in less spinning.
I then figured that if one hex hole was good, two were better! Sadly, while this worked well for the first corner piece, it didn’t work as well for the second corner piece that was held in place with the nut knob.
No problem! OpenSCAD makes it easy to comment out a piece of code and output a new STL file. I now have two (slightly) different versions of the connecting block. Oh, I also rounded the edges a bit, which resulted in a better print, and a better feel.
One thing to note here. Where I originally posted an image of the connector block (before I even printed it) I made a comment about milling it from Aluminum. (Though ultimately it was decided that a drill press and band saw might be all the tools needed.) Milling this new design would probably still be doable, but until I’m sure we like this version, what’s the point? I may end up revising again.
And then there was the knob… The knob I had previously been using was one of the first things I ever printed on my RepRap. I’m sure I grabbed it from Thingiverse, but I’ll be damned if I can find it now. It may have been removed. Nevertheless, I didn’t love it, so I designed a new one. This is version 1, which was ok…
This is version 2, with a nice hull operation to give it a more rounded feel, and (probably) make it a little bit stronger. This is my new 1/4″ nut knob from now on. (Unless I design a new one!)
So yeah, a few 3D printed parts, some nuts and bolts from the hardware store, and we’re in business.
Oh, there’s also a screw in place of a bolt on the main support, because attaching it to the camera will be ten times easier with this feature, and you may also notice a slightly smaller version of the knob on the lowest mount point. This is (probably) needed to allow clearance to tighten it. (I didn’t have the camera around to test with, but I’ll find out this week if it works.)
I cut a piece of foam with a stencil, and it turned out terrible! So I tried again, and it turned out better…
A member of Milwaukee Makerspace loaned me his Proxxon Hotwire Cutter Thermocut to cut some foam. If you remember one of my previous foam cutting experiences using a drill press, that worked ok, but I wanted to try another method, the hot wire foam cutter actually designed to cut foam.
I started with not one, but two stencils, with the idea being I’d put them on the top and bottom of the piece, lined up with each other.
Why two stencils? when I tried to just use a top stencil with the wire cutter, the wire flexed a bit and I got not-straight lines.
I attached the top of the “stencil placement guide” to the top of the foam with tape…
…and then attached the bottom to the bottom, lining them up with the corner so they’d be in alignment with each other.
I then spray glued the actual pieces I wanted to stick to the foam with spray glue (using our spray booth!) Note that one piece is flipped upside down and one isn’t, so they match each holder.
Here’s the top piece glued into place…
…and the bottom piece glued into place.
Once glued in place I remove the top stencil holder…
…and the bottom stencil holder. Now we can cut. Hot wire goes through foam so fast I didn’t even get a photo!
Here’s the helmet cut out of foam. Top view…
…and bottom view. Yes, there are some rough spots, but the wire stayed pretty well aligned thanks to the top and bottom stencils. You just need to glide the wire along the paper’s edge. Much easier than trying to freehand a line drawn on the foam, and better results too!
You may have noticed a hole show up in the helmet. The reason for that was to feed the wire through to cut out the middle, but I forgot the wire was on a spool, so… bigger hole!
I cut a hole just large enough to fit the spool through…
…and one it was through, reattached it to the cutter so I could cut out the middle piece.
The middle piece came out pretty good… Now that’s a helmet!
A few of the cuts are a bit rough, but some sandpaper makes light work of them.
Ahh, now here you can see the terrible results of only using a top stencil from my previous attempt. The wire tended to cut deeper into the bottom of the foam where there was no stencil to guide it.
Our new improved helmet cut with top and bottom guides is much better. And hey, now it’s ready to be cast in aluminum!
While the Proxxon is nice, there are a lot of DIY foam cutters that can be built with scrap materials. Ultimately though, I think a CNC cutter would be cool. Just add an XY table and away you go!
You may remember my post about the Sir Like-A-Lot, which was a kiosk to show how many “Likes” your Facebook page has. I built it for an event that z2 Marketing had last fall. Well, with it being Raspberry Pi week over at Make Magazine, I was asked to write up a proper how-to, so there’s now a nice step-by-step description in the Project section titled Build a Raspberry Pi “Like” Tracker Kiosk.
It was a good challenge, as I ended up starting from scratch multiple times, as I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any steps. Typically, when I build something like this, it’s a bit unstructured, where you install things, configure things, and finally get it working, and then realize your notes are sorely lacking. I also wanted to make things as simple as possibly, and with Perl, that’s not always easy!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the Project, and hopefully I can contribute more in the future.
3D scanning isn’t exactly new, but it’s only going to get better in the future. It will become cheaper, faster, and available to more people. Those are all things that drive adoption of new technology.
I missed this video for the Go!SCAN 3D Handheld Scanner when it came out, but when I watched it I noticed something interesting. They actually call out “Reverse Engineering” as one of the applications of the device. Yes, they want you to reverse engineer things!
I think this is a big deal… Reverse engineering isn’t (or maybe wasn’t) typically something companies would promote. Intellectual property, lawsuits and litigation have often made reverse engineering something you don’t talk about, so it’s cool to see it mentioned directly as a feature of a product.
If anyone has a Go!SCAN 3D Handheld Scanner I’d encourage you to take it apart and reverse engineer it. :)
I’ve made elbows before, and while I should be making hands, I ended up working on a new arm this weekend. Rather than do all the work and just show the final thing, I thought I would do what I did with the MMPIS and post as I start a project so you can see all the steps involved.
As you can (sort of) see in the photo, the camera has an LCD display that is attached to an adjustable arm. You can even look at it while talking on the phone! The nice thing about the arm is that by twisting just one lever, you can adjust it to any angle, and then lock it down. The terrible thing about the arm.. is, well, everything else.
The arm held up to over 4 years of use (and abuse) but finally failed. Things wear out. It happens. I asked one of my camera rental guys about repairing it and he said “Can’t be done, just toss it.” So… Challenge Accepted!
I basically had the arm fixed, but then something else went wrong. It’s sort of a cascading effect with multiple points of failure. If one part doesn’t work, it affects all the parts, and nothing works. We fabricated a new rod, slightly longer than the original, to compensate for the wear on the original rod, but we had to remove a part to do so, and then that part wouldn’t stay secured when you tightened it. It became a vicious circle of fix it, watch it fall apart. Crap! (I still have one idea for fixing it, thanks to David Bryan. Once parts come in I’ll try that fix as well.)
Since I couldn’t reliably repair the arm in a timely manner, I decided to create a replacement. The nice thing about building camera accessories is that you get a lot of mileage out of existing off-the-shelf hardware like 1/4″ nuts and bolts.
I fired up OpenSCAD and started designing a connector block, with the idea that 1/4″ bolts would be the “arm parts” and the blocks would be the “elbows”. There’s a slot to allow for the block to flex when tightened. I’d also be using those little hex nut knobs I use all the time.
Once I had the parts printed, I used an X-ACTO knife to clean things up and trim things down. I also used a 1/4″ drill bit to clean up the holes a bit, and a vise to push the nuts into the knobs. All the metal and plastic bits in the photo probably adds up to less than $7 USD. (And there’s a lot of extra pieces here!)
Here’s the assembled arm holding up the LCD display on the camera. It does indeed work, but we’re going to call this ‘version 1′ as there is definitely room for improvement. Still, it’s a much more functional arm than the broken one held together with gaff tape.
I started making some notes on what worked, and more importantly, what didn’t work, for the next version. Again, the great thing about 3D printing is that it lets you go from an idea to a finished product very quickly, and then to iterate again very quickly. If I just count my time designing and assembling things (and not the time to print the parts) this is probably less than 90 minutes of work.
A few notes: Doing an Ignite talk requires a lot of practice. You’ve only got 5 minutes! I’ve given plenty of talks, and when you have a bunch of slides, and a bunch of time, and no specific timing to stick to, it’s a breeze. But, add in 20 slides changing every 15 seconds and it gets a bit more difficult.
I managed to go slightly off-track twice, but in the end, I think it turned out OK. I won’t be hitting the professional speaker’s circuit anytime soon, but I am glad I did it, because, as you’ll learn from my talk, learning, sharing and inspiring are the things that drive me to make.
If nothing else, I’m glad I could help out the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Dane County by taking part in the event.
Oh, and check out the other presenters for the evening, they were all great! Thanks for the interesting evening, Madison!
Occasionally I have a conversation with someone about whether you should shoot JPEG or RAW with a DSLR. I almost always shoot RAW. There’s a time and place for JPEG, but I avoid those times and places when I can.
Here’s a great example of what you can get when shooting RAW. I was walking through our kitchen and saw these mourning doves through the window. Well, through two panes of slightly dirty glass, on an angle, uphill. I fired off a few shots, and this was the best one I got.
This photo is sort of terrible. I mean, the shot itself is useable, but we need to coax the awesome out of it, which you can do with a RAW image.
Here’s the results after tweaking the sliders in Photoshop. (You can view it larger on Flickr.)
From what appeared to be a terrible shot on the camera screen was transformed into a totally useable shot on the computer screen, through the magic of shooting RAW!
Shooting RAW is like shooting on film, which is why we say we have to “process” the image. Converting the RAW image is akin to developing film. (And yes, there are alternatives to Photoshop for processing RAW images, it’s just the one I tend to use the most.)
I received a GE reveal® LED Light Bulb and was asked to write about it. Besides being given the light bulb, I was not compensated in any other way. Also, I’m sort of a lighting nerd. I use lighting at work for photo and video production, and I’m very particular about much of the lighting in my home and office.
If you want to see some of the typical comparisons, check out the GE reveal® Lighting page. The info I’ll provide below is a bit different.
This is a standard compact florescent light bulb. I sort of hate CFL bulbs. I find the light they produce quite terrible, and the big clunky base of the bulb is annoying. From a design standpoint, I find the spiral ridiculous. I do like the energy saving potential of the CFL bulbs, and we do use some around the house, but overall I hate them.
This is a standard incandescent bulb. I love these bulbs. They tend to produce a nice quality light, and they are cheap, and the design is beautiful. When I think of a light bulb, this is what I picture. Of course, these are quickly becoming illegal (sort of) and being phased out. Sadly, at some point in the future, you won’t be able to buy incandescent bulbs in the United States anymore. Sadness!
This is the GE reveal Bulb, which, design-wise, is close to an incandescent bulb, which is nice, especially if you have shades that go directly on the bulb. (Yes, older lamp shades did have a metal clampy thing that went right on the bulb. I still have some of those lamp shades.) One of the benefits of this bulb is that it matches the physical shape and size of the old incandescent bulbs. That’s a big improvement over the CFL bulbs.
As for the quality of light, it’s a pretty nice light. I found it to be just a little cooler than the incandescent bulb… in a good way. I definitely like the light it produces. The LED bulb gives off a great light! Slightly better than the incandescent, and much better than the CFL.
One little annoying thing about the design is that you only get light from half of the bulb. I know this is due to having to shove all the electronics into the other half of the bulb, but I can see this causing issues in some situations where you actually do want light spilling out in every direction.
I decided to put the bulb into place in my painting room where I’ve been using an incandescent bulb. Now, our house is old, and the light sockets are old, and this old incandescent bulb has been doing the job fine, probably for years and years, but…
When I put in the GE reveal Bulb, it did not work. I tried a few times. I also pushed the bulb up against the fixture, and no luck. It’s worth noting that the socket is a bit wobbly, but the LED bulb just did not work. Maybe there are some sockets it won’t work in?
I should also note that I weighed the three bulbs, because I was curious about the weight. The compact fluorescent bulb (the largest I have in the house) weighed in at 6.4 ounces. The good old incandescent bulb was 0.99 ounces. (Yes, it was less than an ounce!) The GE reveal LED bulb was a whopping 7.3 ounces. That’s a heavy bulb! I can see this causing some issues if you’ve got a lamp that may already be top-heavy. I guess if we’re moving to a world were we have to convert high-voltage AC power to low-voltage DC power in every bulb, that may be the price we pay.
I moved the GE Reval bulb to another socket and it worked fine. This light also had a metal shade on it which would normally reflect light down, but since the GE reveal bulb doesn’t really shine light up due to the half-bulb design, the shade probably doesn’t do much. But hey, the bulb worked… that’s good!
The good news is, the GE reveal bulb is suitable for damp locations, though it does warn that it is not for use in totally enclosed luminaires. This will limit where you can use this bulb. Even though incandescent bulbs can product a lot of heat, they can also stand a lot of heat, like inside your oven! The electronics used in an LED bulb are sensitive to heat, and may not survive being in an enclosed fixture. (And yeah, never use one in an oven!)
There’s one more feature of the GE reveal bulb I’m really excited about… it’s dimmable! Yes, there are dimmable CFL bulbs, but none of the ones I have are dimmable, and the ones that are seem to be pricey. Incandescent bulbs excel when it comes to dimming. I put the GE reveal bulb in our bathroom fixture and it did indeed dim. It did not go as dim as my incandescent bulbs, but hey, it did work. I then tested it in an X10 controlled lamp, and the results were much better, though there did seem to be a slight flicker at the lowest setting.
GE is marketing this bulb to people who want to have beautiful light in their home (or elsewhere) to “reveal” the decor and surroundings, and for that, I’d say this bulb does the job. It provides a lovely light, and is well designed. A quick search online revealed this bulb to cost about $20, which is ten times what you might pay for an incandescent bulb. Of course the LED bulb should be more energy efficient, and should last much longer. In theory.
So that’s my review of the GE reveal® Light Bulb. Pretty much everything in this review had to do with testing, evaluation, and my own opinion. Now that’s all of that is out of the way, I’ll put the bulb into place and give a real-world test for a while, and then if I have new insights, I’ll share those as well.
Recently I was working with an artist, I mean a real artist. Someone who can work on a giant canvas and create something from nothing. Well, from nothing but ideas, and maybe some imagery. There’s gesso, and pencils, and paint and brushes, and a heck of a lot of time involved, and at the end is this amazing piece of artwork that just makes you happy when you look at it.
Art is pretty amazing when it’s done by talented people…
I was busy shooting photographs and I mentioned to the artist that I really liked her work, and admired the talent and skill it takes to create it. She then said “Well, I wish I was technical” and by this she was referring to my skill set. It weird to hear that, because even though I’ve been using computers for over three decades, I tend to forget the amount of technical knowledge I have. I think there’s a few reasons why.
First, everyone uses a computer nowadays. Well, not everyone, but chances are everyone reading this does. I was using computers at home when most people were using Sony Walkmans because CD players weren’t around yet. Of course the vast majority of people just use computers, but don’t really know how they work, or how to program them, etc.
Second, since everyone uses computers, everyone uses the web. I helped build the World Wide Web. Nowadays every jackass with a Facebook account and a blog is a “Social Media Consultant” or something. Oh, and everyone can build a web site. I wrote all the code for a large corporate web site nearly 20 years ago. That seems weird, but it’s true.
Third, I tend to hang out with people who are like me, meaning, people who know a lot about computers, and who know how to build the web. I like most of these people, they’re awesome, but you tend to forget that you know stuff 90% of the population does know when you hang out with that other 10% of the people who also know the things you know. That’s a strange dilemma.
Maybe I’m just a frustrated artist? I have all these technical skills, and on occasion I can be creative, but I often feel that I’m lacking in artistic focus. It’s all very strange, but I’m finding ways to deal with it.
If you were to ask me today “Hey Pete, what 3D Printer should I get?” and you didn’t really provide me any more info on what you want to print, or what your budget is, I’d rattle off a bunch of my own 2 cents, or maybe even 4 cents. So that’s what I did below.
Consider this my opinion as of February 2014. Oh, I should also note that if you really want a ton more info, maybe too much info, check out what my pals at Make did with their Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 Edition. (Note: You might even see me on page 17.)
Printrbot – printrbot.com
Printrbot grew from a (very) successful Kickstarter campaign, and the original goal was to get more 3D Printers out into the world, and they’ve definitely done that. Their offerings include kits and fully assembled printers, ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $1,000. The Printrbot machines have been made with laser-cut wood, but they’ve just announced a new printer with a metal frame, which should help improve quality a bit. The default print volume of the Printrbot machines isn’t too big, but if you want cheap, Printrbot is an option.
Deezmaker – deezmaker.com
Deezmaker also grew from a Kickstarter campaign, and I’ll admit, much of my respect for Deezmaker comes from the super-smart Whosa whatsis and his involvement. If you’ve been around the 3D printing / RepRap community for the last few years, that name may mean something. Did I mention he’s super-smart? I totally trust Diego and Whosa to make high-quality printers and be awesome dudes when they do it. Prices range from $800 to $1,500, a bit more than Printrbot, but I think the price is warranted, as you get a better machine.
LulzBot – lulzbot.com
Moving on up, it’s the LulzBot folks! With the new TAZ 3 they’ve created a damn impressive printer. They’ve had impressive printers before as well, and they’ve had a program that included giving hackerspaces free/discounted printers, which is pretty cool. If you’re looking for a bit of a more established company, LulzBot (despite the name) may be a good choice. You’re now in the $2,200 price range though, and they really only have the one model, but from all I’ve heard, it’s a damn nice machine.
So the three companies mentioned so far all have one great thing in common, they’re open source. They’ve all made a commitment to release the files and documentation needed to build your own version of their printers. Without this sort of commitment you would not see 3D Printing being where it is today. The open sharing of knowledge, tools, software, and best practices is what got us here, and that’s important to remember, because…
Oh yeah, there’s also MakerBot!
MakerBot – makerbot.com
MakerBot was the poster child of 3D printing when I first got into it years ago. They did a lot to bring 3D printing to the people, and then they went closed source, and got acquired by Stratasys, a company which holds a lot of patents, and while they do some amazing things in the world of 3D printing, they also threaten to slow the growth of 3D printing through lawsuits, which I’m not a fan of. If your eyes glazed over reading that last bit, a MakerBot may be right for you. To be honest, they make pretty good machines, and you might consider them the “IBM” of 3D Printers. If you need one for work and you want support and a company to call/blame/etc. MakerBot might be right. You’ll probably spend $2,200 or more, though they did just announce a “mini” at $1,400.
So there ya go, my recommendation for buying a 3D Printer as of February 2014. Now, if you want to build a 3D Printer, that’s an entirely different story!
About eight months ago I mentioned the Robohand project, and said that 3D printers could change the world for the better, and not just be a way for people to make guns.
The future is now! No, really, it is! It’s February 2014, and through a series of events involving the group E-Nable (also see Google+ and Facebook) I had a small part to play in helping a Milwaukee-area girl get a prosthetic hand.
Nick from E-Nable contacted me because I’m a “3D printing guy” in Milwaukee, and asked for my help. I ended up asking everyone at Milwaukee Makerspace, and while many members jumped in to offer help (either with printing, or donating cash, or both) our pal Frankie Flood at UWM’s Digital Craft Research Lab took the project and ran with it. And yeah, he’s the best guy I know to take a project and run with it. The results have been amazing.
Shea just got the first version of her new hand. She met with Frankie at his studio to have a mold made of her hand, and to meet with Frankie and his colleague Adream and discuss the process. Frankie then spent a lot of time with other of the E-Nable members trading files, tweaking files, printing a lot of parts, and coming up with new ideas on how to design and assemble a prosthetic hand. It’s been amazing to watch it all unfold. You can get a taste of it by checking the out the prosthetic category on Frankie’s blog.
The next time someone asks you what you can do with a 3D printer, just casually mention that you can change someone’s life for the better.
It’s been quite some time since the last RepRap Report. I guess 2013 was pretty smooth as far as 3D printing goes. But don’t worry, things went wrong eventually, so here’s another update.
I hit a problem with extruding, as in, filament would not extrude, which was a new thing for me. I know a lot of other people with printers, either at Milwaukee Makerspace, or through the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup, and I hear stories of extruder jams that require taking everything apart, torching the nozzle, soaking things in acetone, etc. I managed to go over 18 months with no issue. And then I had an issue.
Filament would not extrude. I raised the temperature, and still no luck. I moved the RepRap to a warmer room, and still no luck. It looked like the thermistor on the nozzle was a bit loose, so I reattached it. Still no luck. Finally I decided a teardown was in order. I pulled things apart, and eventually cleared out the barrel and the nozzle with some help from a torch and some acetone. I made sure I could see light through the nozzle. All good, right? I put things back together and was about to push some filament through when… the high temperature wire that was embedded in the ceramic broke off. That was the end of that!
There was pretty much no way to reattach it. I asked around online and people were like “You’re still using a MakerGear hot-end!?” And yeah, I was, because it just worked. For 18 months it worked fine. People kept telling me to get an all-metal hot-end from E3D, I didn’t feel like plunking down
$75 nearly $100 USD for one, especially since I assumed it was really just a new heating element I needed.
I ended up finding the MG Plus HotEnd on Thingiverse, and just ordered the Heater Block Assembly from the ebay shop of RP One Labs for about $20. I managed to do a minimal amount of damage getting it installed but… it worked! I was extruding again! (After I had to solder together the thermistor wires I accidentally sniped. Oops!)
Once everything was back together in it’s proper place, I was ready to print, except that the z-axis then decided to have a mind of its own. Telling z to home made it go up. Then down. Then up. Then up and down. Hmmm. I ended up swapping the x and z axis Pololu drivers. The z axis was back to normal then. Test print. Hmmm. The x axis was missing steps, and I got the old problem of your entire print shifting to the left (or right) mid-print. A bit of Pololu pot adjusting and eventually all was good. (Come to think of it, it took a bit of adjust on the z axis driver as well. Things seem dialed in now, and I can print.)
I secured the RAMPs board down, and… wait, nope. Crazy stuff again. I thought perhaps a noise issue? Hmmm, it seems perhaps the connector that plugs the z motors into the RAMPs board is a little wiggly, so for now the RAMPs board is just hanging there. Sigh… I’ll fix that connector. Eventually.
The important thing is, I can print again. One of the reasons I leaned towards building my own printer was that I figured I would be familiar enough with the machine that I could easily repair it when the time came. That’s seemed to prove true so far.
I’ve spent the weekend calibrating things again. I’m still using Slic3r and Pronterface. I know there are lots of other (and newer) options out there, and I should explore them a bit, but for now, there are things to print!
The previous owners of our house did a number of “upgrades” over the years, and one of them was to install a tankless water heater. If you’re not familiar with tankless heaters, it’s basically a water heater that doesn’t keep hot water sitting around, but heats it on demand. The idea makes sense, I mean, why keep 40 gallons of water hot all the time when you don’t need it all the time?
Tankless heaters also have the advantage of not running out of hot water. In theory, you can take a shower for 6 hours and never run out of hot water! After your 6 hour shower, you can run the dishwater and do some laundry. Nice! There may be some concerns about how much hot water a tankless heater can deliver at the same time, so taking a shower while washing the dishes and doing laundry may result in warm water rather than hot water if the system can’t keep up.
Well, we managed to get eight months of usage from the tankless water heater. We moved in back in June, it was warm, and sunny, and all was good with the world. Then came winter. It was cold, and bleak, and everything sucked.
I woke up one morning, and turned on the shower so the water could warm up (oh yes, it typically takes a bit longer to get hot water from the faucet from the tankless. At least in the winter months) and it was nothing but cold cold cold water. I went to the basement to see what was up, thinking perhaps the circuit the heater was on had tripped, and I was greeted by water pouring out of every orifice of the tankless water heater. Fun! I was now standing in freezing cold water trying to solve the problem. Luckily all the water was going right down the basement drain, and not really flooding the basement. Score!
It seems that it got so cold (and yeah, this is the coldest Wisconsin winter on record for quite some time) that the water in the tiny tubes of the tankless water heater froze, and the the tiny tubes cracked, and then the water came out.
So I learned a few things:
- Tankless water heaters don’t work when the power is out. No power equals no hot water. None. At. All.
- Supposedly we could have prevented this if we had left the hot water running all night. Yes. Seriously, that was the advice of a plumber. If it’s cold, leave the hot water running.
- Don’t mount your tankless water heater on an uninsulated exterior wall. If the heater had been located somewhere else, or there had been more insulation between it and the concrete wall, it may not have froze.
- Home warranties are sometimes useless. Wasn’t covered, so we were on the hook for repair/replacement.
- Having more than one heating vent in the basement might be useful. I know the basement is mainly storage/laundry/workshop, but the only heating vent is on the opposite side of the basement that the water heater was on. Cold!
- We’re not ready for tankless.
Tankless heaters might be fine for some people. The idea is a good one, but there are a few factors that can cause problems. (Obviously!)
Tankless water heaters are also expensive. Of course you may recoup the costs over X number of years. (X may be 10 years, so you’d need to still have the same tankless heater for 10 years. It’s a gamble.)
In the end, we decided to replace the tankless water heater with an old fashioned tank water heater. It ended up being about half the price after purchasing it, and paying a plumber and electrician to install it. We also opted for an electric heater instead of gas. I’m still not 100% sure that was the best idea, but hey, the deal is done. We now use electricity to heat our water and store it in a big-ass tank for when we need it. Hooray.
As I recently mentioned, I will be speaking at Ignite Madison on February 12th, 2014, and since the organizers are smart people and want everything to go smoothly, they had all the presenters meet to go over their progress in preparing for the event. This is a really good idea, because it lets everyone meet each other before the event, and get a glimpse at what each person’s presentation looks like, even if they are still in-progress, and pretty much all of them were. (But hey, we still have a week!)
When it was my turn to practice, I said that I had to do quite a bit of yak shaving before I could work on my slides, and since no one was familiar with the term, I had to explain it. I basically said “It’s the work you need to do before you can do the work you need to do.” I cited one of the participants who said that before he built something, he had to build a workbench. (Obviously! Any yak shaver would agree.) As for me, before I could get my slides started I had to find an Ignite slide template, and then I had to find an Ignite Madison logo, and scale it down, and clean it up, and drop it into the template, and once that was all done I could totally start my slides.
So anyway, these best definition(s) I found for yak shaving were on the Wikitionary:
- Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem.
- I was doing a bit of yak shaving this morning, and it looks like it might have paid off.
- A less useful activity done to consciously or unconsciously procrastinate about a larger but more useful task.
- I looked at a reference manual for my car just to answer one question, but I spent the whole afternoon with my nose buried in it, just yak shaving, and got no work done on the car itself.
So yeah… yak shaving. There’s a few interesting citations for the term as well. And even more interesting is Joi Ito’s realization that yak shaving is pretty much his job. Damn! I guess I should add “yak shaving” to the old resume, eh?
Hmmm, now where was I? Oh yes! Come hear 10 makers talk about making, and help out some kids in need. It’s a win-win-win situation! You can buy tickets to the event and all proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Dane County.
It seems like just a week ago I mentioned a book, and it was, but here’s my confession: being a contributing photographer to a book is pretty simple. At least it has been in my experience. Writing a book is a huge beast, and while I did not take on such a herculean task, John Baichtal did, and somehow he convinced me to serve as the Technical Editor, and the result is Arduino for Beginners: Essential Skills Every Maker Needs.
The project took nearly a year, and my part consisted of getting chapters from John and checking everything for technical accuracy, and then passing them on to Rick at Pearson. Reading a book is one thing, but reading a book and closely examining everything in it for anything that may not be technically correct is another. I was also instructed to ignore any grammatical errors, which was hard for me, as I was only supposed to edit technical information. (Yes, there were a few typos. Just a few. ;)
My name is in print. I know, we’re in the future now, and dead trees are dead and what not, but I still like the fact that there’s ink on paper in a book and it’s got my name in it. Did I mention the entire process took about a year?
If you think this book would be useful for you or someone you know who is getting into using Arduinos, grab a copy from Amazon.
(Oh, and shortly after the book came out I was contacted about another book project, this one involving me writing the book, which I sadly declined. There’s just no way I’d have the time to do it right, and I didn’t want to give a partial effort to such a large project.)
Since I still think Inkscape is the best open source vector editing application for the platforms I use, that means I need an X Window System running on my Macs. With the upgrade to Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) Apple has done away with their X11 release, but luckily XQuartz is there to help out.
And once you’ve got XQuartz installed, you’ll want to go into the preferences and change it from this:
to something much more reasonable, like this:
Yes, deselect that “Updated Pasteboard when CLIPBOARD changes”, because if you don’t, copy/paste will be all screwed up in Inkscape on Mac OS X.
(I’m hoping this post will help future me fix the problem much faster next time someone asks me about it.)
(There might also be useful info on Inkscape.org.)
I recently got my copy of The Art of Tinkering and I must say, it is a beautiful book. It just looks amazing. It’s full of ideas and images and makers and artists.
I’ve only read bits and pieces so far, though I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over the images and admiring the layout.
And yes, I know you kids with your “e-books” don’t care about “dead tree editions” but I still love books made with ink and paper. They just have a certain quality a digital copy will never have. (And yes, you can hack the book! It’s got conductive ink right on the cover which you can build a circuit with.)
If you’re at all interested in creating things, or perhaps you just need some inspiration from others grab a copy of The Art of Tinkering.
Back in 2009 I took this photo of myself with EXPERT written on the whiteboard behind me. I had no grandiose scheme when I took the photo. It was taken at the office of z2 Marketing, in the conference room. I’ll admit, part of the reason I took the “EXPERT” photo had to do with a (slight) jab at people who were declaring themselves “experts” at the time. The photo gets used a lot when someone posts an article and needs a photo that depicts an expert or expertise.
When the photo is used, people who know me tend to tell me about it, which is nice, as it’s fun to track the usage of the photo. Of course I really do like to get credit for my work, so if you use it, please credit it properly, because I am also an expert in Creative Commons.
The most recent use is in an article titled The Death Of Expertise. (It’s an interesting article, go read it!)
Now, as far as being an expert, I like to say “You are an expert at your own experience”. This goes back to 2006, when we had one of the first meetings about BarCampMilwaukee. We were discussion session topics and someone said “Well, I’ve installed Linux a few times, but I’m no expert at it.” I then pointed out to the person the fact that he was an expert to anyone who had never installed Linux, and that sharing your own personal experience is an important part of teaching and learning.
Through the years of helping make unconferences happen, and getting involved in Milwaukee Makerspace, and in publishing this blog, I’ve come to understand just how important it is to recognize that you need be willing to share the things you know, even if you don’t think you know enough, and you also need to be accepting of others when they don’t know everything, because really, no one does. No one is an expert in all things.
Through the open sharing of knowledge, and the willingness to accept that no one is a expert (while we are also all experts) we can all end up learning more than we ever would on our own.
Mark your calendars for February 12th, 2014 and head to Madison where I’ll be speaking at Ignite Madison!
Ignite is an event where presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes. My talk is titled “Making Without A Choice” and will cover… well, you can guess from the title. Also, I don’t want to give it all away.
(And if you miss it, there’s a good chance a video will show up online.)
We’ve been using the RED ONE a lot in the past few months over at z2 and while we’ve had the matte box for a year now, we never managed to get top or bottom flags for it, so I finally got around to solving that problem.
Camera accessories are notoriously expensive. For some things, that makes sense, and for others, I’m not sure it does. The top/bottom flag for a RED Matte Box is $90 USD. Well, hey, it’s carbon fiber. Yeah, that stuff is pricey! But, don’t worry…
There’s an aluminum version of the top/bottom flag for just $40USD. Hey, you could get two of the aluminum flags for less than the price of one carbon fiber flag!
While I was perusing the RED store, admiring their well done photography, I noticed that the large version of the photo was clean. Really clean, and at the perfect angle, straight on! So… I engaged in what I now like to call “R3Dverse Engineering”. (That’s “reverse engineering” of RED stuff, if that was too subtle.)
I grabbed the image from the web site, opened it in Photoshop, and started to clean it up.
I got rid of the shadow, added a white layer below so I could see things a bit better, and selected the object…
I then filled the whole thing with black so I had a high contrast image…
Once this was done, I saved the file as a PNG and imported it into Inkscape, where I used the ‘Trace Bitmap’ feature to create vector lines defining the image.
The next step involved a lot of precise measurements with the digital calipers on the part of the matte box where the flag mounts. There were many guide lines added.
The lines helped me determine centering of the slots and how wide the slots/tabs needed to be.
I did a few revisions, and here’s the final cleaned up version. with most of the guide lines removed.
Here’s a visual diff to show the tweaks between the original trace of the image I imported, and how much I ended up adjusting the lines a bit for a better fit. (The reddish hue shows the final. I mainly had to add a bit more space around the larger tab.)
I should mention that with each revision, I was printing out a sample on tabloid size paper and cutting it up to test the fit.
Once my paper prototype was good enough to consider “final”, I ended up sitting on this project for a bit trying to determine what material to use, and how to cut it.
I’m still thinking about it… I’d prefer to go CNC versus trying to cut it by hand. Perhaps using the CNC Router at Milwaukee Makerspace would work. A very thin sheet of aluminum perhaps? I thought about laser cutting something, but didn’t think acrylic or wood would be a good option. I’ll need to keep thinking about materials…
Meanwhile, we have lots of black board at work, so I stuck my paper prototype onto a piece and hand cut it with an X-ACTO blade. (I did not round the corners.)
The tabs and slots are a little messier than I’d like, but again, I’ll call this part of the prototyping stage.
But it also totally works… and is probably less than 1/100 the cost of the carbon fiber version. It may not hold up as long, but then again, I can easily make a bunch of these for next to nothing. (I can also just laser cut the black board instead of sliding an X-ACTO around to do it.)