It starts off with the central front LEDs lit up bright white, and pressing the button on the BlinkyTape switches between steads/left/right indicator modes.
The PowerMonkey is a simple little 5v rechargeable battery, with a variety of adaptors for charging various phones etc. It makes an ideal portable power source for the BlinkyTape.
Here’s a video of it in action.
And I’ve put the source code online too.
I’ve also been experimenting with using the BlinkyTape PatternPaint app to do some light painting.
Lots more fun to have here.
I finally found a way to make Secret less boring.
I spent a week posting and responding to comments using carefully selected quotes from Holden Caulfield.
I gave each one the same background (crimson denim) and I dropped the initial capital on each one in an effort to make the quotes slightly less formal.
Catcher in the Rye is a classic, and full of brilliant angst ridden quotes that are indistinguishable from most of what’s on Secret anyway.
Finding relevant quotes to use in replies was fun.
Sometimes it worked better than others.
Some that I expected to work really well didn’t get any replies at all. I expect I need more friends using Secret to make this work really well.
I gradually started to use more obvious quotes and eventually got spotted.
I had lots of replies from people who seemed to take them at face value though. And unless you knew the book well, why wouldn’t you?
One anonymous friend was horrified at Holden’s use of English.
Holden’s attitude to women and sex isn’t all that great, let’s be honest.
I’m glad someone called him on it in the comments.
Here’s my custom controller and display for Kerbal Space Program.
Last year, after seeing this custom controller, I was suitably inspired. I wanted to build a simple physical device to control launch/stage, throttle, landing gear, lights, and maybe some custom stages. I knocked up a quick hack just to get a feel for how well it worked, using cardboard, a handful of switches I already had lying around, and a Teensy development board which can act as a USB keyboard.
Using a simple controller with physical switches and buttons as alternatives to keyboard keys was fun to use, but I was soon annoyed every time my hands had to go across to the keyboard – and especially the mouse – when checking things like radar altimeter, periapsis, time to apoapsis etc.
I soon wanted not just switches but screens and dials I could glance at. I especially knew I needed a physical radar altimeter. (Landing safely is hard!) What I needed was a way to get the data out of KSP.
Ideally, I thought, someone would have written a KSP plugin to give me easy access to live data about velocity, altitude, fuel levels, periapsis apoapsis, time to periapsis and apoapsis, height from terrain, velocity, surface speed, vertical speed, sensor data etc. Ideally something simple, lightweight, readable by a hacky little program that could pass the data on through USB serial to the controller.
I was really looking for a CSV or JSON plugin for KSP. It took a bit of digging to find it, and I feared I might have to write it, but I was delighted to find the Telemachus plugin which adds a nice simple JSON API to KSP and has a fully featured web interface built on that API. I don’t use the web interface but the JSON API is great. Getting live data out of KSP and into Ruby was a nice moment.
Now I had an approach that I knew would work, I started putting together a wishlist of parts and putting together a simple paper prototype; a rough sketch of what components I wanted where.
Having seen various voltmeter clock projects I knew I wanted to use an analog output on an Arduino to have it display live data about altitude, fuel, velocity etc.
So I started playing with LCD screens and voltmeters to work out how to display different things simultaneously.
Next I went shopping for a good range of switches
A higher fidelity prototype came next, with holes punched in the cardboard where I thought the switches screens and meters needed to be. At this stage, I learned a lot about what felt comfortable, and moved a few things around.
Starting to put it all together.
The displays all go in to the base
Feels satisfying already
Testing the displays
Preparing to drill the holes
Drilled and Dremelled
Everything in place
- Teensy code for creating key presses from switches
- Simple Arduino code for controlling LCD screen and voltmeters
- Beginnings of a Ruby script for passing values from the Telemachus plugin to the Arduino
- Telemachus plugin – forum post and github page
- Teensy USB development board – the Teensy 3.0 is rather cute. Lots of helpful docs here. NB: uses 3.3v rather than 5v, making it unable to control the LCD screen or voltmeters I used. I ended up using both a Teensy and an Arduino but there are lots of alternative approaches.
- Small volt panel meters – these ones are quite widely available, fairly cheap, and and are only 44mm2. Plus are compatible with this lovely blank faceplate template from Hipsterlogic.
- LCD screen – I went for this one from SainSmart and found these pointers rather helpful
- Large toggle switch with cover guard – there are a few out there, but I tried this one which has an LED in the switch and has a pleasingly chunky feel. It’s slightly counterintuitive to wire up though, and these comments on Sparkfun were really helpful.
- Key switch – this one is a bit flimsy. I’d like something a bit more satisfying. (Incidentally, I also badly want to build something War Games like with two that have to be turned simultaneously.)
- Switch with LED ring – these are rather cute. Two contacts closed when pushed, two contacts for the LED.
- Red mushroom emergency switch – I went for this fairly small one which I use to kill the throttle
- Coloured momentary push switches – I like these ones from Brimal available in a few colours
- Small momentary (on)-off-(on) toggle switches – these are ok
- One large momentary (on)-off-(on) toggle switch with waterproof boot
- WiiMote Nunchuck I had lying around
- This WiiChuck adaptor which works nicely on the 3.3v Teensy and apparently the Arduino too.
I’ve subsequently seen this astonishing mission control desk which I now very badly want to make for my son / self.
I’ve been using the Things app for a while for tracking projects and next actions with the goal of Getting Things Done. I wanted something to help me pay attention to the things I need to get done, and decided that a physical representation of daily progress would be an interesting thing to try.
The hardware build was really easy. More of a bodging together of components than anything. I dremelled out the back of the voltmeter to create a bit more room, fitted it to a small enclosure box, and squeezed the dev board into the remaining space, with the ground pin and an analog output connected to the voltmeter.
The code is pretty straightforward. The Teensy runs a small program that listens for lines of text via the USB serial port and simply sets the output of the voltmeter to whatever percentage value arrives. At this stage I’ve got a simple multi-purpose percentage meter controlled trivially over USB.
Next is a Ruby script that listens for changes to the Things app, works out how many of the tasks in the ‘Today’ screen have been marked as completed today, and sends that percentage to the USB serial port. It’s like a physical progress bar for things I want to get done today. A done dial for life.
I’m going to try it for a while and see how it works. There are probably lots of other things that a progress meter would help with too.
I made a thing.
We lose trust from our users if we write government ‘buzzwords’ and jargon. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We need to be specific, use plain English and be very clear about what we are doing.
While the guide is very helpful, and includes alternative suggestions for many of the words to avoid, I wanted to be able to spot jargon more easily on the web.
Although it just about works there are, or course, quite a few things wrong with it.
- It really doesn’t work very well on very busy pages with lots of links.
- The layout algorithm could be a bit smarter when deciding which margin to use (e.g. links on the right of the page should ideally prefer to be shown in the right margin, rather than blindly alternating).
(Oh, hello Boingboing!)
For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to make at least one thing every week. This week, while digging through my list of someday/maybe projects, I was delighted to find this little beauty: “website idea: a collection of things riding on other things. Videos of kittens riding on tortoises, etc”.
I had originally been expecting to build a whole thing from scratch; a gallery, a submissions engine, the lot. Crazy. Tumblr is custom built for things like this. So, may I humbly present Things Riding on Things, ‘a comprehensive collection’.
A consistent tagging structure was required, so I’ve gone for a simple system where all entries are tagged with
rider:ridee. Therefore, if you want to find entries in which a monkey is riding on a deer, you need thingsridingonthings.tumblr.com/tagged/monkey:deer. Easy.
Building further on that, I hacked together a quick script to generate a matrix of all the things riding on all the other things, to help visualise the various relationships between rider and ridee.
Contributions are already coming in thick and fast. Feel free to suggest your own.