Broadcast Engineer at BellMedia, Computer history buff, compulsive deprecated, disparate hardware hoarder, R/C, robots, arduino, RF, and everything in between.
4497 stories
·
4 followers

Interview with Scotty Allen, host of the Strange Parts Youtube channel

1 Share

My Cool Tools podcast guest this week is Scotty Allen. Scotty is a nomadic engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer and storyteller who orbits around San Francisco and Shenzhen, China. He runs a YouTube channel Strange Parts, a travel adventure show for geeks where he goes on adventures ranging from building his own iPhone in China to trying to make a manhole cover in India.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

1080P HDMI digital camera video microscope ($299)

“So one of the things that I have gotten an outsized amount of value from over the past year has been this microscope that I bought here in the electronics markets in China. It's a no-brand-name microscope that I got from a little tiny microscope booth in the market, and it's really been this incredibly high-leverage tool for me, and I didn't realize how much I was missing out until I bought it. It's been really great for doing detail work. And I use it for really small soldering work on iPhones and related circuit boards … It's a binocular microscope. It's not super high magnification, but because it's binocular you get depth of field, and so you can really see well. So you can look through the microscope and work underneath it with tweezers or a soldering iron or other tools and in great depth see what you're doing."

Frame.io

"Frame.io is an online tool that I use for collaborating on the videos I'm making. And it's a really simple tool ... The short version is that you can upload a video to it, and then you can share that video privately with other people, who can then go in and leave comments. You can even draw things on a specific frame of the video using some drawing tools. And then you can have threaded conversations on each of the comments you leave, and multiple people can leave comments, et cetera. And that, at face value, is super simple, but it really allows remote collaboration on videos in ways that there really aren't very many other good tools for. In fact, I don't think I've found any other good tools. I come from a software engineering background, and we have some great tools there now that have been built over the past 10 years for doing things like code review where you can do something similar, where you can go in and leave comments on a particular line of code on a change someone wants to make. And so I come from that. I come from running a remote software team prior to doing Strange Parts, and so I was really hungry for all of these tools that I'd used as a software engineer. And so Frame.io is one piece of that. It's sort of that feedback piece of, 'Hey, I did this thing. Can you give me feedback on it in a detailed way that's sort of context-based on the part you're talking about?'"

TV-B-Gone universal remote control ($25)

"The TV-B-Gone is a universal television remote with one button, and the button turns any TV off. So this is a cool thing made by a close friend of mine, Mitch Altman, who I know from Noisebridge hackerspace, and I actually owned one long before I knew Mitch. It was given to me as a stocking stuffer at Christmas one year, probably like 10 years ago, something like that. … for the first long while that I owned it, I didn't really use it very much, but now it has become indispensable because I'm traveling a lot more, and when you're jetlagged and you're in an airport on a layover in the middle of the night in Russia and there's a blaring TV in the corner that nobody's watching, the TV-B-Gone is a great way to solve that problem. So in short, you press the button, it takes up to 15 seconds, and it will cycle through all of the off codes that are programmed in it for all of the different televisions. So you just point it at the TV, and it's great for just sort of calming an otherwise unbearable airport lounge."

Shoe cover dispenser ($114)

"The one I have kind of looks like a suitcase. It's maybe two feet by one foot by like six inches tall, and it's that silver material, silver metal that they make briefcases in the movies for carrying large amount of cash in sort of look. It's got a handle. And on top, it's got an oval-shaped hole that is slightly larger than your average foot, or your average shoe, and the idea is that you stomp your foot down through the hole and it applies a shoe cover over your shoes automatically. You don't have to touch anything. You just step in it and then step out, and now you've got a shoe cover on your shoe. … I ran across it on a factory tour. I visit a lot of factories here in Shenzhen, and I was at an LED factory that was making LEDs. They were trying to keep dust down, and one of the ways they do that is by having everybody wear shoe covers. So there are a number of factories that will do this, and you can tell how fancy the factory is based on whether you have to bend down and put the shoe cover on yourself or whether you have one of these automatic shoe cover machines. And so this LED factory was the first time I'd seen this, and it blew my mind. It was a special purpose thing that was so clever and so well made."

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $342 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Read the whole story
tekvax
12 hours ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete

GDPR: Don't forget to bring a towel!

1 Share

(more…)
Read the whole story
tekvax
12 hours ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete

Bandai is manufacturing armored cats

2 Shares

Bandai created armored cats ("Nekobusou") as a jokey tweet whose unexpected popularity inspired the toymaker to go into production with a like of armored cat figurines ranging from $5-14 each. (more…)

Read the whole story
tekvax
7 days ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete

Blooper reel from Jim Henson's "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas"

1 Share

Enjoy these fun outtakes from Jim Henson's hour-long Christmas special from 1977, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. They give "drum roll" a whole new meaning.

By the way, that's Frank Oz (AKA Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover and Yoda) puppeteering the increasingly-frustrated mother.

Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz and Jim Henson

image via Gribbaziggy

Read the whole story
tekvax
7 days ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete

Bite-Sized Linux: a zine collecting awesome *nix tutorial webtoons

1 Share

Julia Evans's Twitter feed is a treasure trove of her Bite-Size Linux comics that explain core concepts in Unix system use and administration in friendly, accessible graphic form. (more…)

Read the whole story
tekvax
15 days ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete

Retrotechtacular: Synchros Go to War (and Peace)

1 Share

Rotation. Motors rotate. Potentiometers and variable capacitors often rotate. It is a common task to have to rotate something remotely or measure the rotation of something. If I asked you today to rotate a volume control remotely, for example, you might offer up an open loop stepper motor or an RC-style servo. If you wanted to measure a rotation, you’d likely use some sort of optical or mechanical encoder. However, there’s a much older way to do those same tasks and one that still sees use in some equipment: a synchro.

The synchro dates back to the early 1900s when the Panama Canal used them to read and control valves and gates. These devices were very common in World War II equipment, too. In particular, they were often part of the mechanisms that set and read gun azimuth and elevation or — like the picture to the left — a position indication of a radar antenna. Even movie cameras used these devices for many years. Today, with more options, you don’t see them as much except in applications where their simplicity and ruggedness is necessary.

How Do They Work?

A synchro looks like a motor, but it is really a transformer optimized for specific applications. For example, it is common to see a synchro transmitter and a synchro receiver, although usually the devices can work as both. When wired together and excited with the proper AC voltage, turning one synchro shaft will turn the other the same amount. And one transmitter can drive multiple receivers. For example, an airplane cockpit may have an instrument that uses one transmitter and has two receivers, one for the pilot and another for the copilot.

A basic synchro is similar to a motor in that it has a rotor and a stator. However, each of these has a transformer winding. Some devices use single phase and others use three-phase. In addition, devices made for vehicles probably use 400 Hz AC instead of the 50 or 60 Hz common for stationary units. Usually, light-duty units made to drive indicators use single phase but synchros that transmit torque will use three-phase connections.

You can consider a synchro as a variable-coupling transformer. Rotating the shaft varies the magnitude of the magnetic coupling between the primary and secondary. That means the output voltage varies based on the shaft position. If you wire two synchros together, the circuit acts like a bridge. When the two devices are in the same position, the system is in balance — that is, putting out equal and opposing voltages. But if one shaft moves, the imbalance causes current to flow through the windings moving the other shaft to equilibrium. This configuration is sometimes known by the old General Electric name Selsyn. Other trade names included Teletorque and Autosyn, but you don’t hear those as often.

Variety and Power

There are many variations. Some synchros have brushes and others are brushless. Some are made for precision. In high precision applications, you may have a coarse transmitter slaved to a fine transmitter that rotates multiple times for each full rotation of the coarse shaft for reading a more precise value. You can think of this like a clock, where the big hand goes around twelve times for each rotation of the little hand. Usually, the gearing ratio is 36:1 or 72:1 so that each rotation of the fine shaft corresponds to five or ten degrees of the coarse transmitter.

Making a little handle turn a giant gun mount was problematic. At first, the receiver motor just told a human what to do using an indicator and then the human operated the gun. However, the development of the amplidyne made it possible to amplify the synchro outputs to directly drive larger loads.

The Amplidyne

The amplidyne has a superficial resemblance to a dynamotor — that is, a generator turned by a motor. However, in a dynamotor, you turn the generator to make a high voltage. In an amplidyne, the motor still turns the generator, but an input voltage is put on the generator’s field winding. The more current you apply, the higher the output voltage. This creates a very low-frequency amplifier that takes a current input and produces a voltage output.

Amplidynes found use in other applications, too. Elevators, locomotives, and even nuclear submarines. Of course, today, we have much better options for doing high power amplification, but there could be a few still hiding in some old building’s elevator, somewhere.

More Info

Because these were used extensively in the Navy, one of the best sources of information is an old Navy pamphlet (if you consider 166 pages a pamphlet; if it disappears, search for OP 1303). If you want something more modern, Moog (the aerospace company, not the synthesizer company, although the companies were founded by cousins) has an application guide and a handbook you might find interesting.

You won’t find too many of these interesting devices in use today, although there are companies that make modern encoders that specifically target traditional synchro applications. Of course, tubes made a comeback. Maybe that pile of World War II surplus synchros in the secret Hackaday bunker will be worth something one day.

Speaking of World War II, check out the 1944 instructional video below about airplanes that could move guns electrically using all these components.

Photo Credits:

Synchro by MGeek CC BY-SA-3.0











Read the whole story
tekvax
15 days ago
reply
Burlington, Ontario
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories