Category Archives: Project Updates

New Toy: Chumby!! (open source hardware!)

I get to play with a Chumby!  Chumby is an open source hardware “Window to the Internet”, or ambient information display, meaning it scrolls through a variety of information sources and presents the data for you to check out at a glance.  It does wi-fi, audio, photos, and videos, and has a touchscreen and an accelerometer.  I met Open Source Hardware superstars Bunnie Huang and Steve Tomlin at Foo Camp, and am getting to try one out via them.   Yesterday, it arrived in the mail, and I’m psyched make stuff on it!

 

chumby

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Electronics Update: My New Workbench

I’ve finally arrived in Cambridge: I built myself a work bench to do electronics on. That means I’ve finally arrived here!

I think it’s pretty sweet. Here are Star’s essentials:

star's new electronics workbench!

Stuff on the desk: my awesome weller soldering iron (I missed you while I was gone!), the world’s smallest/cutest single channel scope, AVR programmer, board etching stuff & copper clad FR4, toaster oven, The Art of Electronics, a couple of projects I’m working on: an OLPC that I need to make boot, a Meggy Jr to play with & program, some experiments with DIY plastic forming, and some various stuff on breadboards!

I’m looking for new Weller tips if anyone has any == I have an EC1002.  Also, feel free to come over and play!

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Designing the UI for a Firefox Extension

Has anyone ever sent you a link to a big directory of photos? “Hi, I took 9,000 pictures on my recent trip. They’re each 5MB, and there might be a good one of you in there somewhere. Check it out!!!”

You click on the name of an image. Then you click back to the directory. Click. Back. This process is hella inconvenient! But I’ve done it often enough that I think I deserves a Special Tool, something Better. So I wrote a Firefox Extension! It auto-increments the URL of a photo (DSC_0001.JPG => DSC_0002.JPG) with just a click, so you can effectively just scroll through a huge pile of images very quickly and efficiently.

That’s all jolly good, and was kind of fun to make, until I started trying to figure out how to change the UI from what I’d made just-for-testing-it-out, to something that anyone else could use. I’m actually kind of stumped trying to figure out what sort of controls this should have, so I’m polling for your thoughts: How should I arrange things (buttons? clicks? icons? arrows?) that would make sense for this?

If you just want to try it out, you can see what I have so far:
http://mit.edu/stars/www/imgPeruse.xpi

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Tire Wear

About a month ago, Tim gave me four or five really gorgeous bike tires that someone else was going to throw out.  I finally borrowed some of Geo’s leathercrafting hardware, and made two of them into stylish belts:

IMG_0206
IMG_0208
IMG_0200

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Sound Sleep on a Long Flight

I’ve made the six hour flight from the US Mainland to Hawaii many times, and I usually try to sleep through as much of it as possible.  I have never slept so well on an airplane as this time, or been so comfortable on a layover.   By empirical evidence, I have created the world’s best travel pillow.

All it took was a stroke of inspiration and some children’s “water wings”.  I took the inflatable pool toys to Rachel’s craft-hacking group, and created some sheaths for them in under 30 minutes with a scrapped t-shirt and Rachel’s primo sewing machine.  Then, to my long flight home, for testing.

awesome travel pillow 1

awesome travel pillow 2

awesome travel pillow 3

I am massively pleased with the results.  It’s amazing how much more wonderful life when you wake up feeling actually rested!  Also, they’re super-light and they pack up tiny.

One unexpected added benefit was discovering that these keep my hands were really warm — much nicer than finding various limbs asleep, or joints crimped into awkwardness and discomfort — which is how I think of all prior airplane and travel sleep.

I am absolutely packing these first on all future travels.

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Snella Time

I just finished making the Michael J Snella honorary clock/screen saver, for fun, after discovering a photo set by Bilal Ghalib of Snella apparently breakdancing on the roof of tEp.

He’s shown here in the “7 PM” position — the screensaver rocks him around the clock, delightfully showing you what time it is in Snella.

Get the screensaver here!

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Hack Tragedy!

In classic pre-deadline efficiency, I’ve spent the last two days finishing EVERYTHING before I travel home and can’t work on this stuff anymore. This push culminated, tonight, in my determined wiring up of the motor controller for what would be my electric Roman Chariot.  For now, it’s still just the electric roman chariot Project, and after tonight, it’s even further from getting done.

After two hours of careful soldering with the World’s Most Broken soldering iron, and only a few inches of solder to work with, I had it finished, everything connected as it ought to, and with that gleaming spark in my eye, I plugged in the last few connections and lightly brushed the +36V cable against the contact.  Now a real spark could be seen in my eye, reflected for a split second from the battery terminal.  I mean the batteries sparked, a whole lot at that brief connection, way more spark than I expected.  That meant a lot more current was flowing than I expected, and should have been a warning signal to me that my circuit was off.  

But after two days of COMPLETION I forged boldly forward because I had to see if the throttle worked.  This time I plugged the motor in fully, and twisted the throttle, and.. the motor didn’t change speed at all, but the throttle, in my hand, started smoking.  Not just a little, a whole hell of a lot.

I took several moments to observe my throttle, still smoking, in silence.  When something dies so spectacularly, it’s clear: there’s no going back.  My throttle is toast.

 I will have to wait a whole week until I get back and until I can find another throttle for this scooter, to make any more progress on this.  eit!!

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