Unknown Domain

Tree – Christmas is laser cut…

This is my second post about laser cut Christmas designs. I came up with this idea after a friend, Jem asked me to design a centre piece for our Christmas lunch. I have recently been tinkering with corrugated cardboard a bit so decided to try making a slot together laser cut Christmas tree.

The design is perforated with different christmas designs, holly, angels, baubles, stars, hearts, crackers, snowflakes, bells, and stockings. Notable omissions such as presents and reindeer are because they are hard to cut as they are very intricate (although I realise now this may have looked better).
The design slots together and then I worked in 3D to simulate the design to ensure it would fit (above) and created a second design for a star that slots together, and then slots at a 45º angle on to the top of the tree.

Help! I want my old iTunes back!

So I know a few people have been after getting the old iTunes back, so I thought I would just show you how:

And then, boom:

QR Codes in an exhibition

A long time ago, myself, Olly and Luke has a idea to build a system for an exhibition where ever guest would receive a unique number. When you put on an exhibition you usually send out an invite to selected guests from a long mailing list of people you’ve ‘acquired’. The idea would be to populate a database of visitors with details about them, and assign them a unique number, encode this into a database and print out large address labels which fold around the edge of the invite such that on one side side it had the address for posting it, and on the other a QR Code with their custom ID.

The purpose of this QR Code is that the visitor brings it with them to the exhibition and flashes it to cameras next to each project in order to tag/like/favorite/bookmark the interesting work for later. This would then allow us to know who came, who liked what and make projections about flow through the space etc.. for some interesting data project.

The data would be live updated to a database so the user could potentially:

  • have an app on their phone visualising the data as it comes in
  • a display next to each project could visualise ‘likes’
  • a central projection could show live data
  • touch screen interface to browse their likes
  • an email after the event with a summary of their likes
  • a custom page for each visitor that populates with work they liked, and suggests projects they’d missed based on other visitor likes.
The data collected would be very useful for the gallery/exhibitors but also create a new level of depth in the experience for the user hopefully bringing them to the website after where flash would enable them to scan their barcode, or type the code manually.

Although I don’t have an exhibition for this, with the recent advances in cheap computing like the Raspberry Pi and it’s GPIO (suitable for driving a display) and a Camera on the way, it seems like this could finally allow a project such as ours to exist, using a Raspberry Pi per project to read the QR Codes presented and submit them to a central server.

I started tinkering about with the ZXing library for reading barcodes, and have developed a little project that can track the QR code on the screen like any other fiducial marker, I can extrapolate scale and rotation from the image as well as read the code, and potentially because I QR codes have 3 position markers and 1 alignment marker, I may be able to get the geometric DoF pose for 3D Augmented Reality using these codes. This is very complicated however, and I really only need rotation and scale for the purposes of a multitouch interface.

With this in mind to the side you can see a drawing I did to try to understand the relationship between the 4 markers that help with alignment and positioning. I wrote a program in processing to read the code, and detect the points, then draw around the video image…

Then using this I envisage an interface which works like sticks, and as you rotate the QR Code in relation to it’s original rotation it would scroll through the menu, and then you tap the item to navigate into it.

Tinker Tronics

Every month or two myself, and a few friends and myself meet up for a general electronics tinkering, today we have an absentee so we each worked on our own day projects.

In our last meeting myself and Olly worked to get a 7 segment display working using an Arduino  which we did just with Arduino pins, we decided to order some 74HC595 Shift Registers, which we to reduce the number of pins from 11 to 3.

I then developed this further using another two shift registers to control an 8×8 matrix display with just 3 pins, I got it to flick from one character to the next.

The last thing was working on the flip dot samples I got a while back for a project, we used a quad half h-bridge to control these.

I’ve just released my 5th WordPress plugin!

I did blog about my first WordPress plugin (Broadcast MU) quite some time ago, however I quietly canned it when some other people came along with theirs. Since I have released several other small plugins, and now I am re-releasing Broadcast MU 2.0 and a new plugin, links below:

I also have written other plugins for GDNM.org, they just aren’t suitable for release, they include:

  • Workshops
    Allows staff to post a custom post type which works just like a normal post but has additional fields for staff name, location, start and end of workshop, number of places, and a custom taxonomy for which course the workshop is open to. The plugin then allows logged in users to signup up to the place limit, it also allows students to cancel up until the cutoff time to prevent last minute cancellations and emails students a confirmation message. Staff can print out a list of all the students, or compose an email to them all with one click
  • Tutorials
    Tutorials takes the Workshops plugin a stage further allowing staff to enter time ranges and tutorial lengths and have the plugin calculate timings for every workshop time inbetween, for example giving a working day of 10:30-12:00,12:00-16:30 and tutorials of 15 minutes it would offer slots at 10:30,10:45,11:00… and it allows for multiple students per slot for group tutorials.
  • Profile Fields
    Profile Fields adds additional fields during signup to require a full name, year and group to be completed which greatly improves the Workshops and Tutorials plugins which display the full name, rather than the username of their internet handle. Also by capturing a course and group (year) we can produce a directory of students.
  • Signup Code
    This plugin also adds additional an additional field in the signup screen which acts like an invite code allowing us to avoid spam while also allowing any email address to work, we keep the site spam free by only providing the invite code to students face to face.

I also have an idea for a rework on someone else’s plugin however due to the legacy of old code in the WordPress Dashboard code it isn’t currently possible:

Signup Manager (name tbc)
This plugin builds on the ideas of WPMU New Blog Defaults which allows use to set the default parameters of new blogs registered on a multisite installation. The plugin implements this feature in a more modern way and additionally allows the network administrator disable this plugin from further changes, or disable it and hide it entirely. This is useful as there are many options in Dashboard under the Settings menu like Timezone, and permalinks that you don’t want the blogger changing.

Science Museum – Google Web Lab

In the past month I have visited the Science Museum three times, taking students and my father to see the Google Web Lab exhibit. The implementation and design of the exhibition were fantastic, however the content was very lacking, the experiments were the main focus and small video installations around the edge tried to convey the meaning of the installation. I have said this many times, but I find the content of the Science Museum shallow and lacking.

We also visited the Alan Turing installation, which featured confusing installations about programming and seemed to dwell on his sexuality like some kind of celebrity gossip magazine which providing little to no information about how his machines worked. I was stunned that myself a and my father (who is a professional programmer of probably 35 years experience) couldn’t figure out how to operate the three installations demonstrating three key principals of programming, the loop one being the most baffling.

Overall the museum was worth visiting but I don’t know why a museum of science provides such little depth and focuses on too much on kids.

The falsitude of the RepRap promise

The RepRap 3D printer is a community home brew project, started by makers to design and manufacture a self replicating machine. A machine that is capable of manufacturing all of it’s constituent parts and assembling them, the definition on Wikipedia even states that the machine should be capable of gathering it’s own resources such as energy and materials to manufacture from.

A lot of people get carried away with the idea that a RepRap 3D printer is every going to be capable of even assisted total self replication. What we are talking about here is the idea that the 3D printer can not only produce it’s own plastic brackets, fastenings, fixings, and other structural parts, something it is pretty much capable of doing right now. But also a machine that can print all the flexible, and heat resistant parts too.

It gets even more ludicrous when you expand this idea to the motors made of metal, wires and even the electronic circuit boards. It is not that there aren’t machines capable of doing each of these tasks but that it might ever be possible for a machine to make these parts by it’s self. The next level of ludicrosity is the idea that it could assemble it’s self, the final nail in the coffin for this idea is that it could gather all it’s own resources and be a device that would be useful at doing other things than making more of it’s self.

All this aside the RepRap printer once assembled and tweaked is fully capable of manufacturing the plastic parts of it’s self, and with some clever design you can avoid a lot of the metal parts and use plastic ones, even possibly using printed fixings, however it is no where near capable of producing circuit boards, although some people have modified the machine to work like a milling machine to mill the PCB designs out of copper boards.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea, nor that I don’t recognise that the definition and goals are different but that the hype around this OSHW project makes it sound like we’re on the verge of machines that can print everything bar the kitchen sink and in their spare time they just print out spare 3D printers.

Image credits: RepRap ‘Pythagoras’ – Zach Hoeken, RepRap – Mini Mendel – John Abella, I’m finally getting some good quality on my RepRap now that I finally switched to skeinforge – Tony BuserMakerGear Prusa Mendel RepRap (In Progress) – Pete Prodoehl

p.s. I am fully aware that both falsitude and ludicrosity are not words, but I am fairly sure people can figure out what they mean if they were ‘official’ words.

Yet more reverse engineered split-flap displays…

Today yet another split-flap display project hit the blogs, Stephen Brown (aka BozNZ) worked with his client Indevin who recently bought 20 old surplus Solari flip units and wanted to get them working. Stephen got to work over three days reverse engineering the existing circuitry and creating a multi-drop interface board for the multi-pin connector on the back of the units, and then daisy chaining ribbon cable from unit to unit he placed a master controller on one end and had a basic ethernet setup.

It’s heartening to see that a more experienced and knowledgeable engineer is doing the same kind of things with his work as those that I have landed on.

Checkout Stephens project here!

Source: Hack A Day

Who is a Maker?

As part of my prep for my meeting with my RCA tutors I have been trying to familiarise myself with the concept of a Maker, even though I consider myself such a person, I wanted to see how others describe it to ensure I know how best to convey it.

I found a great description on a blog called K4ICY:

“A Maker in the contemporary definition: is anyone that loves to tinker with things of a mechanical or electrical nature, generally by hand.
An inventors and artists are Makers…

The products made by a Maker can either be functional or aesthetic, or both. Ordinary items can be “re-invented”. Necessity can bring about something new.
Artists can invent whole worlds, creating (pretend) objects of fantasy like costumes and ray-guns.”

– Mike Maynard, K4ICY

There is also a short, is somewhat inaccurate description on Wikipedia too.

A TED talk by Dale Dougherty, co-founder of O’Reilly and head of O’Reilly’s Maker Media division, here he shows how everyone is a maker in some way:

There are also a couple of great videos by Ryan Varga on his Vimeo profile:

Summary

A Maker is a person who is part of a community of people who have a passion for applying practical skills to creative ends. Makers are defined as a subculture of people, but it is a subculture that is growing fast with boundaries that are fuzzy and undefined as Makers experiment around with new technologies and methods of making often resulting in a blending of skills across a variety of areas.

500

This is my 500th blog post on this blog, so I wanted to celebrate with a look back at 5 things from the past, one for each centenary:

1: This is an image I posted to Flickr and submitted to Digg, the image has had over 61,000 hits, Ubuntu Cola, what ever next? A burger called Mac? A wall apertures called Windows?

Ubuntu coke

2: This photograph I took is my favorite, ever. It was taken by me on a day trip out to London with my Dad when I was at college studying a two year photography A level.

.porfolio

3: Brownies, these were some brownies I we baked during my third year of Univeristy…

Brownies

4: My earliest living memory, and incidentally, one of my happiest child hood memories and the only clear memory of my Grandfather is of use walking to / or from the Science Museum, London through the underpass from South Kensington tube station. My Grandfather on my left holding my left hand, my Father on my right holding my right hand. I only remember that I was very tired from all the walking and I was very young, perhaps 4 or 5 at most. My dad remembers the day out too and says he was amazed how good I was as it was a long walk and I was very small.

Exhibition Road tunnel

5: My first blog post (that I was able to recover from the Internet Archive) from 2005 – BCOT Fashion Show

BCOT Fashion Show - Festival Place Basingstoke - Image 26