web analytics
 

Gadgets

...now browsing by category

All those toys we love.

 

Fixing a Broken Power Plug on the MicroDrone 2.0

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The Microdrone 2.0 is a pretty sweet little quadcopter. Surprisingly stable and cautiously responsive for its small size, it’s also able to whip around outdoors in a bit of a breeze, high in the sky.

The unit I have, however, has an overly tight socket union for the powercord to the battery. So tight that a while ago, I accidentally yanked the wires out of the plug on the quadcopter.

I’ve had this on my desk with intentions to fix it for some time, and finally found a few spare minutes this weekend to do so.

First, rather than just crimp the old plug back on (which seemed unlikely to work well), I had purchased a new power cord with the appropriate plug connector on it. This isn’t entirely straightforward — lipo batteries have a number of different connector types and it took  some internet sleuthing to feel somewhat confident about the one to order. When it arrived, I discovered the coloring of the wires is reverse that of the drone, something I decided to overlook.

Despite having a batch of new tools to test out as well from Dremel (Versa-Tip butane soldering iron), Craftsman (12-in-one multitool), plus my Vise-Grip wire strippers (these are the greatest), and a can of Bernz-o-matic butane, I still didn’t have the right tool to do a perfect fix — I was missing a desoldering iron to get the broken wires out entirely and put the new one in through the Microdrone’s PCB, to help give them a long-term solid connection. So instead, I currently have the new wires soldered to the board on the surface, a fast, dirty, and inelegant fix that nonetheless got me back in the air in minutes, rather than putting off the repair for more days while promptly getting too busy to track down my desoldering tool.

I did, however, make sure to doubly reinforce the new power cord with a dual layer of heat-shrink tube. This had an unintended consequence as it forces the wires to be very straight and stiff, but they still have enough give to connect to the battery.

After the quick soldering job, I plugged in the battery and watched the LEDs blink back to life. Then I took this guy outside and raced it around the street for the rest of the afternoon. Too much fun.

microdrone-repair4
microdrone-repair3
microdrone-repair5
microdrone-repair2
microdrone-repair6
microdrone_blinking

 

How to Shrink Cosmic Bodies into Virtual Scale Miniatures

Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Horsehead Nebula  Original image & credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Assembly and processing by Robert Gendler. http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/HH-HST-ESO.html

Horsehead Nebula Original image & credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Assembly and processing by Robert Gendler. http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/HH-HST-ESO.html

Galactic structures a billion, billion miles wide look like squirts of food coloring into a bowl of water with these tilt-shift photos.

Typically used for architectural purposes, tilt-shift (or perception-control) lenses move the plane of focus from being parallel to the cameras’s sensor or film, and instead places it at an angle by physically tilting the lens itself.

When applied to a landscape, the photographer can put a long, sweeping area into focus.

But when used the opposite way, the focal plane narrows down into a thin band, horizontally spanning one part of the sensor. The unfocused top and bottom part of the photo are thrown out of focus. It’s a similar look to that of a macro photo, when something small is taken at close proximity and is only in focus in a narrow plane, because of the way lenses tend to work (especially those left at wide apertures). And while the tilt-shift lenses are pricey, a similar result can be created with simple photoshop or smartphone app filters.

Pencil Nebula
Original image & credit: ESO http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1236a/

We’ve trained our our eyes and brain with these types of photos to the point that tilt-shifted images of large items, especially those taken from above at an angle, appear as though they are a macro photo of a small image. When done really well, the item shrinks from humungous size to that of a model miniature.

These shots of some of the most famous cosmic bodies — Horsehead Nebula, Andromeda, etc — made to look like something you could reach out and wrap your hand around rather than something that spans lightyears of distance, using a faux tilt-shift effect in Photoshop. They come courtesy Imgur user ScienceLlama, and are some of my favorites yet, although I think the top honor still remains with the tilt-shift video below.

Arduino Uno and Due Size Comparison (with Raspberry Pi and Fio, too)

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Earlier this week, the much anticipated Arduino Due microcontroller was released. Improved in almost every regard, the prototyping community is thrilled with the possibilities that it creates.

The new boards are already shipping, and Jon Gottfried sent me some photos that compare its size with the ever-popular Arduino Uno.

“Just got my Arduino Due from @adafruit — pretty neat, much larger than the Uno,” he tweeted, following up  that it “Looks like the layout is similar enough to fit old shields.”

Gottfried, a Developer Evangelist at Twilio, has put together a few interesting Arduino projects of his own, including setting up a home automation system that let him control his AC remotely.

He also sent photos of the new board with the Raspberry Pi and diminutive Arduino Fio for further size comparison.

GoPro Hero3 and Hero2 Width Comparison

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Keychain-sized, shoots 4k video. Photo: Mike Senese

In addition to amazing specs, an improved lens, and cool new connectivity options like wifi control (that seem to actually be arriving this time), the GoPro Hero3 shaves 30% from the already svelte body of the Hero2. It actually makes the older Hero look like an outdated, clunky dinosaur.

Check out this side-by-side pic for a comparison. This camera just popped onto the top of my “must have” list.

Never Shop at Harbor Freight Without a Coupon – Links to their best deals

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

More Harbor Freight online coupons, to save you a ton of money on their weirdly low tool prices – sometimes concerningly low (remember, “you get what you pay for”).

Take advantage by printing the best ones before you drive to your nearest location, or have stuff shipped if you don’t live near one of HF’s many stores.

So what’s the story? Harbor Freight sends out at least two coupon mailings each month – their general monthly specials, and a batch of coupons for members on their coupon mailing list (which seems to expire if you don’t use it often enough). Often times the coupons’ discounts are significantly deep, so this is a good list to be on for those with a penchant for dirt-cheap tools.

I had missed one of the big Harbor Freight sales last weekend, but needed some project supplies (at their prices, the tools are useful for repurposing into unrelated projects – palm sanders make great vibration tools for helping settle concrete). I checked the HF site to see what general specials they’re running this month, but wasn’t blown away; after being on the mailing list for a while you start to get an idea of what the real prices you should pay for these tools.

Still hungry to save some money, I did a searched online a bit and found something interesting: pages and pages of  printable coupons – the member’s stuff, the “Inside Track” stuff, and more. Each grouping I found has its own batch of items, and there were a variety of useful deals for most of the things on my list.

I didn’t want to print out each page’s full list of coupons (taking about 6 pages of regular printer paper per group), so I copied the coupons I needed and pasted the image of them into a Word document. Six coupons, two pages, and I was ready to shop. I spent $69 and got two bags of tools and supplies; I’ve got 90 days to think about how much I need them and decide if a return is needed.

These sections seem to be used and updated monthly for their common specials — if you’re going tool shopping, check these before you leave and print out what you need.

Digital Savings http://www.harborfreight.com/digitalsavings.html
Extra Savings http://www.harborfreight.com/extra-savings.html 
Clearance http://www.harborfreight.com/clearance 

They almost always have a 20% off coupon, in case the specific item you need doesn’t have a coupon that month – and make sure to bring the free flashlight coupon too.

Now, to just get them to stop requiring a print out. It’s wasteful, and most companies these days let customers scan the image from their smartphone.

Video Fun: V8 Engine Block Machined From Solid Aluminum on a 5-Axis CNC Mill

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Just a little something to fall asleep to tonight.

Best comment on the video:

9:46 wish i could get the wife to move like that

You’ll get it when you’re older.

And if you still want more, here’s another good one — 5-axis CNC milled aluminum motocross helmet:

These machines are awesome — and the ones you’re watching here are as expensive as a house. I can’t even bring myself to write how much the lower-cost “big” models are.

Fortunately, as my Wired Tormach 770 review revealed, the prices for smaller, serviceable CNC mills is starting to drop to attainable prices. Attainable for those who already bought their Sunday Porsche, perhaps, but still…

Darth Vader, Sans Cape and Helmet, Looks Like a Leather Gimp Slave From the Local Goth Club

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

What’s this? A beat-up old Star Wars toy

Why is it cool? It’s the large-size model (15″), not as common as the small figurines, and because of missing pieces it looks more like C3P0’s dad than Luke’s.

What’s the story? In 1977, people had no idea what a massive mark Star Wars would leave on their generation. Sci-fi was a bit of a niche area in film, and the concept of a summer blockbuster didn’t even exist yet. But the movie’s small, 32-theater opening created a massive buzz, and led to a nationwide unrolling. Crowds of people lined up to spend a couple hours in a galaxy far, far away — a tradition they’ve been doing at every theatrical release of the franchise ever since.

They also monetized every possible aspect of the film. Lunch boxes, pillowcases, storybook records, and toys. There’s no one alive today who isn’t familiar with the standard 3.75″ Star Wars figures. But when the movie came out, they made various other types of figures — including a ~12″ figure (the height varied depending on the character) that matched pretty closely with Barbie dolls in size and lack of articulation. All the major players were made — Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Storm Troopers, etc.

I was doing some Star Wars-related research based on my Gizmodo article (How To Make Ice Cubes Shaped Like Tiny Baby Heads) and found a Craigslist posting for this partially complete Darth Vader doll from 1978. Sans cape and top of mask, the tyrant has a less imposing look.

Click to continue »

17 Photos From Caine’s Arcade, his Cardboard Games and his $150,000 Cardboard Check

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

What is this? A genius-level DIY game arcade that will make you start hoarding cardboard boxes

Who made it? Nine year old Caine Monroy from East LA

Awesome element: The brilliance of the Fun Pass — a representation of a child’s game-play dreams, and a shrewd business move all in one.

What’s the story? Caine Monroy is a nine year old with a passion for carnival-style games so deep that he built his own arcade using the resources around him: cardboard boxes from his dad’s used auto parts business. Set in a tougher part of Los Angeles, his fully-operational/fully-adorable arcade got no customers until the day Nirvan Mullick stopped by while looking for a car part and spotted the genius that this kid radiates. Nirvan subsequently produced a 10 minute documentary about Caine and  his arcade, and built a website to help raise funds for Caine’s college tuition fund. A very warmly told tale, the story made the news on every major outlet by the end fo the week it was launched. I highly recommend you watch his video if you haven’t yet.

The scenes in the video looked familiar to me, and for good reason — it turns out that Caine’s Arcade is seven miles from where I live, on a street I’ve cut through various times as a shortcut to Union Station. The arcade is only open on the weekends (don’t forget, Caine is in school), so I headed there on the Saturday after the film was released. Here are my photos and notes from that experience.

It seemed that everyone in LA (and even some from over 7 hours away) had come to check out the cleverly devised arcade. Downside: no parking -- we found a spot a few blocks away and hiked to the store, crossing the intersection of Interstates 10 and 101.

The line of people waiting in front of "Smart Parts," Caine's dad's used auto parts store.

Click to continue »

DIY Motorized Router Table Lift Mechanism and Two Other Innovative Router Tables

Monday, April 9th, 2012

A router is a versatile and useful tool, although a pretty crazy one too. It’s a compact, high-powered motor that holds a narrow cylindrical blade (“bit”), spinning at ultra-high speeds with massive force. Routers are used for ornamental design work (look at the recessed borders cut into your cabinet doors — that’s routed) and cutting material. A variety of bit shapes allow for different contours of cuts — straight, angled, curved, curved with a protruding angle, etc.

Most commonly, routers are handheld with the bit extending downwards into the material being carved out. They’re guided over a piece of material to make freehand cuts, or with a guide to help ensure straight lines. The gyroscopic effect makes them a bit funky to control, and the power of the motor can send some serious fragments flying — including the router or user if things get hung up.

Sometimes, however, the router will be flipped upside-down and mounted underneath a table, with the bit extending upwards — combined like this, it’s called a router table. Keeping the router stable and moving just the material allows for more precise control of the cuts, especially if combined with a fence to guide straight movement.

One downside of the router table setup is that the router controls are not as accessible once placed in a cabinet space under the work surface — this is especially true for bit depth adjustments, a very crucial part of routing. Some manufacturers have devised a through-the-table screw adjustment that lets you move things up and down, but this can still be hard to do if you’re in the middle of a project or cut.

This video shows a very innovative approach to this situation–a mechanized router lift built by workshop mastermind Bill Price. Using a car window motor and a few very innovative ideas, he’s got a system that allows for easy access adjustments on the fly. And he’s even incorporated a system that allows for automatic height measurement and adjustment based on the item you’re routing. Awesome.

Here are two other router table systems that incorporate novel solutions — the first, a highly configurable router table that uses simple folding components and a bungee strap for the elastic resistance needed. The video is mesmerizing in its lack of vocalized description, instead relying on a very effective demonstration of the table’s various setups, while set in what appears to be an abandoned industrial workshop somewhere in Russia.

The second is Matthias Wendel’s wooden-geared router table mechanism. Matthias, of the site woodgears.ca, builds some mind blowing projects entirely from wood (I’ll post about his homemade all-wood bandsaw soon). This lift, like all his projects, is super accurate and extremely useful.

The thought of building one of these for yourself can be a bit daunting; fortunately there are plenty of commercial options available (although usually without the innovations seen here — I suspect they’ll get added soon though). Check out this Bosch router table for something that is compact but affordable, and includes a wide range of options.

These two great books will also get you up to speed on routing and router tables: “Taunton’s Complete Guide to Routers” and “Bill Hylton’s Ultimate Guide to the Router Table

Six of the Geekiest RC Quadrotor and Flying Designs: “Back to the Future” Flying DeLorean, X-Wing Fighter, and More

Monday, March 12th, 2012

RC quadrotors (or quadcopters) have so much awesome potential because they are basically stable, powerful floating platforms, capable of a variety flight-enabled projects. You can mount a camera on one to capture amazing aerial video, or create a menacing autonomous surveillance system. Or — on the far end of geekiness — you can dress one up in costume, and fly your nerdiest world of fandom through the sky for all to see, like these following guys have done:

“Back to the Future” flying DeLorean (check out the blue, glowing LED lights under the wheels):

Click to continue »

css.php