The Ultimate Open Source

Safely tucked away in every manned spacecraft that leaves Earth for other places should be a very important book. A book that will tell people how to go from pounding stones to building their own spacecraft. Every step and option in between will be covered. A how-to of all that humanity has done since it first started using its individual brains. No known technique, procedure, or method can be left out. Anything considered propriety on Earth might be perilous not to know for a person out of reach of Earth. All things known to humanity down to the finest detail will need to be in this book. When we send people to the stars, let them have the most power we can possibly give them: knowledge. The freely-accessed collected sum of all knowledge will be the Ultimate Open Source.

Extruder Feedback

I was just thinking about FDM extruders and how mine occasionally strips out the filament. When it happens, the usual set of words are uttered and I go and cancel the print. It would be nice to have a quadrature encoder attached to the idler wheel. But when a strip occurs, the idler wheel just flaps around in the breeze, and will probably not give a decent speed to feedback for feedrates if and when I upgrade to a stepper motor extruder. So I got to thinking about different ways of ensuring the feedrate is properly measured.
At first I thought that it would be neat to paint stripes on the filament as it was fed into the extruder. After the extruder gear there would be an optical sensor that would detect stripe/not stripe. It would be a mess and add another consumable, not to mention making speckled prints if a visible ink or paint was used.
Then I thought: “Wait! The extruder is already marking the filament!” Just place another extruder gear below the extruder such that it is turned by the filament. Attach a rotary encoder to this gear, and then firmware will be able to detect if a strip has occurred and how fast the filament is being fed. What do you think?


It’s Been A While

Sorry it’s been so long without an update.

I’ve got a few Adafruit projects in the pipeline that should be announced sometime in the future. I do not like to perpetuate vaporware, so I will not be going into any more detail.

Last weekend was Global Dance Festival. First night left me feeling really disappointed in the audience. Too many drugs and not enough dancing; too many consumers, not enough contributors. The second night was really great. Got to hang out with a decent set of folks that helped each-other keep their dancing spots from the MDMA-brain-pickled pretty lights watchers that just wanted to stand around. I think BT should have gone after the local DJ Dragon, as I missed part of BT’s set before I came in. You’d think the head DJ of Triad Dragons would be kind to a fellow, guest DJ and warm up the crowd for BT.

Well, after GDF, I feel inspired to make an LED suit that would process foot position (ball, heel, flat, and none), sound, and maybe thumb-finger contact. The default, sound-visualizing mode would pulse from toe to head to heel like Clarke and Lee’s Octospiders. I’m thinking this suit would have at least one RGB led per square inch with more at the fingers. This is probably a ways off, as I do not have the resources to pull it off.

A Song that is Never Played Enough

Reflekt with Delline Bass made this incredible tune called “Need To Feel Loved.” This is one of those songs that makes you turn the volume up to 11, and lean your head back as waves of euphoria course through your body.

I first heard this probably listening to Discover Trance Radio when it was It was only after I finally got to see “It’s All Gone Pete Tong” did I really get addicted to this song. The song’s placement in the movie really cast a place for the song in my trancy head.

Anyways, the song appears to be difficult to find in media you can physically purchase, so I listen to this YouTube video a lot:

Neon Lamps as Sensors

I have no idea how I found them. I remember browsing the Mouser catalog. At some point between finding screw terminal blocks and supercapacitors, they just caught my attention. Neon Lamps! They just grabbed my attention.

It’s coming back to me now. I was looking at gas discharge tubes for some pretty straight-forward oscillators. With a gas discharge tube, the voltage will reach a certain point before the tube starts to conduct. The GDTs at Mouser were too expensive for just a single-use application. This is where Neon lamps come in.

Neon lamps are a type of gas discharge tube. Two electrodes enclosed in a glass tube filled with a low-pressure Neon gas.

Now, this is where it gets really interesting. It might be possible to use these lamps as photon sensors. Depending on the material of the electrodes, a photon of a high enough frequency striking the cathode (the electrode of negative DC potential) of the tube would cause it to loose some electrons. This is called the Photoelectric Effect. These electrons then add to the electrons already on the cathode. When enough electrons form, they will cause a breakdown in the gas between the electrodes and the gas will glow. To make the lamp a detector, one should be able to hold the voltage between the electrodes just below the lamp’s DC breakdown voltage. Once a photon of high enough frequency strikes the lamp’s cathode and contributes enough electrons to make the voltage between the electrodes high enough, the gas inside the lamp will breakdown, glow, and conduct larger amounts of current, lowering the voltage between the electrodes. When the lamp is glowing, it will not be able to detect photons, so the detection circuitry will need to see the drop in voltage/increase in current of the lamp and shut it off, and then bring it back to the pre-breakdown voltage.

I wish I had more than the time I have spent writing this entry to try this out. I would be curious if anyone knows if have made any wrong assumptions or if they have tried this. This method of photon detection would not be very good compared to semiconductor methods, but it would be pretty cool to see two arrays of neon lamps, one a detector, the other a display of what the detector detected.

Google PowerMeter

I will be working a project to integrate a device with the Google PowerMeter service. It is going to involve a lot of Python and learning HTTPS. I have worked with some HTTP before with SparkFun’s Kegerator. Even then, I had not even scratched the surface of HTTP.

I will continue to post about things I learn about throughout the project, so check back here often.

Projects I am Working On

I have to put this down somewhere. I need a list of things that I want to be working on. Some of these are in various stages of completeness.

  • Heat Transfer Project controller. One of my old DemoSAT buddies needs me to put together a controller for his heat transfer project that is going up in, you got it, another balloon.
  • Whatever tutorial Adafruit throws my way.
  • LED ring light for my Canon PC1354. I will arrange white LEDs around the lens of the camera. They will be mounted on something that I will probably print with my MakerBot. Look for the thing on Thingiverse.
  • SSH in DD-WRT on my WRT54GL.
  • Build another Linux box around an Atom processor. This time with an Intel BOXD510MO motherboard. I hear an old employer may be needing more network storage, and they will be needing a large upgrade. I might be able to make them a solution.
  • Arduino Ethernet-based VoIP.
  • Arduino Ethenet-based sound mixer.
  • Parametric 3D-Printable Model Rocket made in OpenSCAD.
  • Some kind of DIY speaker enclosure, I am thinking either oak plywood, 3D-printed ABS or concrete. I have the plywood on hand.

That felt good to get things out in the open. I am now going to get back to work on the Heat Transfer Project. It actually has a deadline.

My Own Blog

Alright, here it is, my very own blog. I have written for Hack a Day, but this is my very own, just for and about me blog. I expect to be writing about my electronics work, my MakerBot operations, my thoughts, the music I listen to, and life.

I have this blog setup on my own domain through DreamHost. I used the advanced setup and it was very easy.