Hacks

2009-01-31 Never Forget

On January 31st, 2007, the Boston authorities completely lost their minds in a highly visible and ultimately humiliating way.

I am, of course, referring to the Mooninite Invasion.

For the first time in 8 years, we have the potential to live in a nation governed by the sane with policies grounded in reasoned thought.

But it is only potential.

We must remain vigilant and must never fail to ridicule figures of authority when they act like complete unreasoning jackasses!

Dining Table Lit by CFL Pendants (Including IKEA Ordning Lamps)

When we lived in New York City, we had these awesome cable lights with hand blown glass pendants and, in the middle in the picture left, an awesome little beaded center piece lamp over our living room table.
One goal of the remodel was to make sure that we had a place for the pendants to finally hang again after being in boxes for the past decade.
The glass pendants are hung above the bar between kitchen and living room and the bead shade was hung over the kitchen table.
But the shade was too small to hang by itself. Thus, we needed additional fixtures.
At first, I soldered a couple of stiff copper wires to the bottom of some 12v MR16 compact fluorescent lamps. Plenty of light, but obviously not terribly pleasant to look at a couple of random bare bulbs hanging about.
I have always been enamored by the cheese grater light fixtures in That 70s Show.
As we were heading to IKEA for other reasons, we decided to poke about the kitchen accessories area to see if anything Light Fixture-esque struck our fancy.
Christine found some ORDNING stainless steel cutlery caddies that seemed pretty close to ideal.
Cheap, too.

IKEA Ordning Based Lamps

So we grabbed a couple and I picked up some silver lamp cord from the local hardware store.
Assembly was trivial:

  • Solder ends of lamp cord to ends of lamp
  • Tie not in lamp cord just above lamp
  • Feed lamp cord through center bottom hole of ORDNING
  • Solder stiff copper wire to other end of lamp cord at desired height
  • Bend copper wire in a hook to hook over suspended power cables

The end result is clean, simple, and provides great light. Better yet, the interior of the ORDNING has wonderful concentric rings from the machining process.
The blue light at the top of the cabinets is from blue LED rope lights that extend across the top of all cabinets.

For Christmas and his birthday, I always try to find a couple of books that focus on stimulating the imagination and helping Roger to observe the world from a fresh perspective.
This year, I found two gems.

This book is a chock full of ideas that focus on looking at, cataloguing, and interacting with the world in new ways. Most of the ideas are presented in a single page with associated illustrations or examples.
About a third of the book has sample grid paper, tables for recording information or pages otherwise marked up to help gather information.
An example accompanied by a neat picture of plastic cups configured in an interesting structure:

Instant Sculpture
Consider that everything around you is a source for sculpture. Try making quick pieces using whater you have around you in the moment.

Simple. Well presented. And thought provoking.

The second book is actually a reprint of a relative handful of articles from the popular Instructables web site.
So why get the book?
The printed form really works in conjunction with the web site, not as a competitor or just simply a reprint.
First and foremost, the book can be flipped through to spark ideas. It has a certain solidity to it that just can’t be had from the web page.
Beyond that, the articles are well presented and seem more accessible than the web site. The photos seem clearer and everything is nicely indexed within.

chronochrome_3.jpg

Pictured at left is the “Chronochrome“.
Cool idea; use colors to represent numbers, thus creating a neat colorful clock. Like binary clocks (of which I built one of these as one of my first kits ages ago), it is a pleasant bit of blinky art to the uninformed and those given the “secret” can tell the time, further baffling the uninformed.
At first, the pink band made me think the designers were dumb. That instead of going with the standard resistor color codes, they invented some random color mapping.
Not the case.
It is the standard set of colors, just with pink substituted for brown.
I would rather have the brown, but would imagine it is exceedingly difficult to create a “brown” light that doesn’t look black or otherwise odd.
Of course, I full expect to see an AVR based RGB LED implementation of this within about 3 days…

MintyBoost Tucked Into Its Minty Box

At left is a “Minty Boost v2.0” that Roger and I put together over the course of a couple of evenings.
The Minty Boost is a tiny power supply designed to provide power or to charge most USB devices.
Including the iPhone 3G, which really wants somewhere around 500ma to charge. Normally, to achieve that level of current, the devices have to negotiate with each other.
The MintyBoost is a “dumb” USB power source in that it mimics the wall wart (very very tiny wall wart) style USB power supplies, providing enough bias on the data lines to make the device pull current without going into “negotiation” mode.

Atrium Cover & Lights

We do get weather in California. Beyond the 9 months of sun, we have 3 months of sun and rain. And, believe it or not, cold weather. It actually freezes quite a few times over the winter.
And when you live in a glass house with a gigantic hole in the middle, this can make for a few wet and chilly days.
To compound the issue, we are in the midst of a remodel and, thus, our kitchen is actually in our atrium. We cook, eat, and refrigerate in this open space.
In past years, I have tied a tarp over the hole. It worked, but was ugly and leaky.
Clearly, a better solution was in order.
Many of the Eichler’s in our neighborhood have covers, but most are permanent — intentional or otherwise due to the inconvenience of dealing with it.
When I searched for “eichler atrium cover“, the first non “network” hit was this beauty. Well engineered and stylish, but unintentionally permanent. Coincidentally, that cover was built by Robert Bowdidge, a rather smart fellow that I used to work with at Apple.
So, we took a wander about Home Depot to peruse all of the materials that might be suitable.
Off the bat, I chose Suntuf corrugated lexan panels as the actual covering material. It is lightweight, very strong, and reasonably priced. Suntuf blocks almost all UV radiation.

Completed Kitchen Cabinet Compound Miter Saw Work Table

Let me be frank: Circular saws scare the bejeezus out of me. Always have. Rotating blades of doom ready to swallow a finger in barely a heart beat, technology be damned (very very cool technology).
As we are in the midst of a remodel where the goal is to recycle as much as possible, it was high time for me to get over this silly fear and get a damned chop saw.
One of our goals is to recycle whatever we can. In particular, recycling he kitchen cabinetry and turn them into cabinets in the garage.
Now, garage floors slope. And garages typically have a 4″ to 6″ sill of concrete on the outside walls. Both of which would require cutting various 2x4s to the right sizes/lengths to build new legs for the cabinets to have them be both level and flush with the wall.
And there is about a zillion other little projects around the house that will require custom bits of framing. Shelves. A cover for our atrium. Repairing the Big Green Egg table.
So, I picked up a basic Craftsman Compound Miter Saw. But it required a table. Initial use indicated that screwing it down to a plank on top of a kitchen cabinet works great, so why not turn one of the recycled kitchen cabinets into a roll-around saw table with built in storage?
Easy enough. That is exactly what I did. Better yet, only the 24″x48″ work surface is new. Everything else is recycled.

Update:
The circuit discussed below is really only acceptable for low power LEDs, such as those in the night light. It will also drive the 10MM LEDs found in a Peggy quite nicely, too.
However, it is completely unacceptable for driving the 100ma+ super bright LEDs that are available these days. For that, you need a proper power supply to achieve any kind of efficiency or longevity.
I think I’ll explore such beasts next.


120VAC LED NightLight Lit

Recently, I have noticed an increasing number of LED based lighting products on the market. One that caught my eye were these tiny night-light lamps that contained 3 LEDs.
Looking through the clear plastic envelope, a handful of discrete components were visible.
Curiosity piqued, I picked up a package of 2 for less than $5 to see if I couldn’t figure out how they worked.
This is not without ulterior motive. We are in the midst of remodeling part of our house and our submitted plans specify that we will not use any incandescent or halogen in the kitchen.
Now, LED technology has been moving quite rapidly and the latest, most efficient, surprisingly cheap, chips haven’t made it into standard lamps.
The question at hand: Can I put together a circuit small enough to drive 2 or 3 super bright LEDs in a GU10 lamp (relatively small, bi-pin, bayonet base, 120VAC, lamp)?

For mother’s day, one of my wonderful wife’s requests was to have a bit of a Ms. PacMan marathon.
So, out came the ghetto arcade controller and, a bit longer than expected later, a Ms. PacMan marathon she had! (A bit longer because a nasty latency bug has cropped up in MAME OS X somewhere along the way. I found a workaround. But, yuck.)
Now, MAME is full screen and pausing the game just to deal with iTunes shuffle play song selection suckage (since iTunes on the MAME machine sends tunage to the garage workspace) is not considered good gaming etiquette.
Clearly, I need a shell script to control iTunes. Remote Buddy is cool, but it is too slow, requires too much configuration, and, after much use, has proven a bit flaky. A simple, straightforward, shell script is sufficient and, certainly, I cannot have been the first too think of this.
I wasn’t! I found this ancient hint on MacOSXHints.com.
David Schlosnagle — who seems to have disappeared — wrote a very useful little shell script that can play, pause, go to the next track, and set the output volume. The script, as posted, doesn’t quite work all the time due to (I presume) shell changes between 10.0(?) and Leopard.
So, I grabbed a copy of the script, dropped it in my hacques repository, and have updated it for Leopard. I also added the ability to set ratings from the command line (and the status command will show the currently playing track’s rating). Minor changes, really.
The latest version can always be had at http://svn.red-bean.com/bbum/trunk/hacques/itunes.sh.
Thanks to David for doing this in the first place!!

Red 7 Segment Displays

Over the weekend, I received one (1) box of electronic junk. Not just any box of electronic junk (as I have many of those, as it is), but one Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronic Junk.
As per the TGIMBOEJ rules, I took some junk treasures and replaced it with a bunch of my own junk stuff.
And, as per the rules, I took a handful of photos of some of the stuff I pulled out. Not all.
I did not take photos of the stuff I put in. That is for the next person on the list to discover fully. Some vague clues, though: I added some antique semiconductors, some power management related componentry, some completely random small bits of goodness, a working caseless gigabit switch, and a purely mechanical device that is gloriously elegant in its implementation. And some other stuff, too.
More TGIMBOEJ pr0n on the click through….