Broadcast Engineer at BellMedia, Computer history buff, compulsive deprecated, disparate hardware hoarder, R/C, robots, arduino, RF, and everything in between.
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – A graphic novel of Philip K. Dick’s original story that inspired Blade Runner

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This will take some ‘splaining. This is a series of 6 graphic novels based on the novel by Philip K. Dick that became the seminal movie Blade Runner.

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Big ISPs' efforts to squeeze Netflix lead to slow connectivity for you

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Over at Backchannel, Susan Crawford digs into how the crap Internet speeds everyday people get from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T is mostly due to those companies trying to punish their competitor Netflix into paying them, not technology limitations. Read the rest

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Koch Brothers buy ads on Daily Show, Jon Stewart mercilessly skewers them

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Reading between the lines, I'm guessing Viacom's sales force got eleventy-nine metric fucktons of money from Koch to run ads against TDS, and Stewart decided to show them who was boss. (more…)

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Opsec, Snowden style

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Micah Lee, the former EFF staffer whom Edward Snowden reached out to in order to establish secure connections to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, shares the methodology he and Snowden employed to stay secure and secret in the face of overwhelming risk and scrutiny. Read the rest

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This Home-Made 6-Axis Robotic Arm is Quite the Looker

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armfinalWith a background in software engineering, [Kris Temmerman] decided to make a physical demonstration of his knowledge in the form of a six axis robotic arm… the final product is a delicious display of mechanical eye candy.

Built from mostly aluminum stock, [Kris] machined the bulk of his parts with a CNC mill which he picked up for cheap from China. These custom pieces coupled with some hefty stepper motors ensure the arm’s accuracy as it twists freely and slides along the gantry it’s mounted to. Though the majority of the arm is metal, the hand at the end of his robot was built with 3D printed parts and can be switched out with the future attachments [Kris] plans to design. This classic gripper piece is driven separately with its own Arduino brain controlling the individual servos in the fingers. loadcels

Each finger includes some load bearing sensors which [Kris] harvested from an old scale so that the gripper can tell whether or not it has a hold of an object without crushing it. To orchestrate the robot’s movement, he wrote some nice looking software in C++ which visualizes the inverse kinematics at work in each point of articulation. For the sake of demonstrating his creation in action, he whipped up a basic demo that can locate and move colored blocks laid at random on a surface. A small camera mounted on the hand determines the orientation of the blocks relative to the machine so that the wrist can rotate itself in the proper alignment in order to pick them up.

[Kris] documented the build of his robot in a fascinating speed video which includes footage of the finished arm in action at the end:


Filed under: robots hacks
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Water Softener Level Detector Keeps You Out Of Trouble With Wife

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Water Softener Monitor

Some households have water supplies that contain higher than desired levels of minerals. This condition is called hard water. There is nothing harmful about hard water but it does leave mineral deposits on pipes and appliances and makes cleaning a little bit more difficult. The solution is to have a water softener system which is basically a tank filled with salt that the household water passes through. This tank has to be refilled about every month and [David] was catching a little flak from his wife because he kept forgetting to fill it. He then set out to do what any great husband would do and built a Water Softener Monitor that reports the quantity of salt in the basement tank up to the living quarters.

[David] started thinking that he should test the salinity of the water to determine if salt needed to be added but after thinking about it for a while decided against it because any metal in that salty water would surely corrode. A non-contact approach would be to use an IR distance sensor mounted to the top of the tank and measure the distance to the pile of salt that slowly lowers as it dissolves into the water. In this case, he used a Sharp GP2D12 that can measure accurately from 10 to 80cm.

By itself, the distance sensor wouldn’t do much so [David] made his own PCB Board to hold all the necessary circuit components. The brains behind the operation is an Atmel ATtiny861 20 pin microcontroller. He’s got a lot going on and needed a micro controller with enough pins for all his bells and whistles. Besides sensing the height of the salt pile, the micro controller also outputs the salt quantity level via a 10 LED bar graph which is mounted in a wall plate. At first glance the wall plate looks like a standard light switch cover but it was actually custom cut on a CNC Milling Machine specifically for this project to ensure a perfect fit. Right below the LED bar graph is a photocell. The microcontroller only lights up the LEDs when there is a change in ambient light in the room, whether from a light turning on or a passerby casting a temporary shadow over the sensor. The LEDs will turn off after 3 minutes of non-activity.


Filed under: home hacks
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