Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Blog about MAKE:Electronics

Found someone else who is blogging about their experience with the MAKE: Electronics book.   James Floyd Kelly has created a blog,  Hands On - Make:Electronics.

His blog will take you step-by-step through the whole book....or at least he has done this so far. He has lots of pictures and some videos of his progress through the book.  He also lists prices of items as he purchases them for the various projects.

He is much more detailed than I am in regards to the various experiments from the book.  Good blog to follow if you are interested in the book or want to see how someone else is doing while you work through the chapters yourself.

[Image captured from Hands On - Make:Electronics;]

Compatibility of iPad Books

Had some fun discussions with my multimedia students after the announcement of the iPad last Wednesday.  Earlier in the week I had challenged them to come up with their own tablet design.  Then we looked at the Apple product and and compared our features to the ones released in Cupertino. 

One of the discussion topics that came up was how compatible would a book you bought for the iPad be with say, a Kindle?  We couldn't quickly find an answer to this but I stumbled on this article by Steven Sanders on TUAW this weekend that answered a lot of our questions.  It's worth a read if you are interested.

My wife and I were talking about the iPad over dinner.  We both own iPods and own a lot of music.  We were never drawn to any of the music subscription schemes out there and always wanted to own what we bought.  I listen to songs over and over and over.   Not true for most books though.  I would willingly join a service that let me keep a book, read it and then go onto the next one.  For a monthly fee, I could read as many or as few books as I wanted.  Be curious to see where this technology ends up.

[Image captured from]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Make Electronics (4): New Tool Box

One little detour today in my study of electronics. I have been keeping all my stuff in a cardboard box. I don't really have a place to set up a permanent work bench at the current moment. So, I decided to go buy a big toolbox to hold everything neatly and let me stow it out of site in the garage when I wasn't messing around.

I figure this would be a useful addition and help maintain a healthy and happy marriage. My wife is patient but she does like to use the kitchen table for meals occasionally.

I headed down to a nearby Lowes to see what I could find. This toolbox caught my eye because it had the small parts bin built into the top of the box. That seemed like a good idea and would let me hold off on buying some small parts containers to hold all the components I am sure I will end up with eventually.

I also splurged and bought a better wire stripper than came with my kit for $8. The original is adjustable but you have to tighten/re-tighten a screw for the different gauges of wire. I decided to keep that one set up for 22 gauge wire and keep this one handy for other sizes. It may end up being a frivolous purchase....I'll let you know.

All the bigger tools fit into the main body of the toolbox. I may cut down a few small boxes to organize things a bit better in the bottom compartment, but for now it all works out nicely.

A feature that I didn't plan on was how the wire spools sit so nicely in the top compartment.

The parts bin works great with one possible problem. You have to be sure to close it tightly before opening the main box. If not, you could spill all your tiny little pieces all over the floor. I had looked at another box ($15 more expensive) that let you remove the small parts bin off the top. I think that may have been a better choice, but until I do a few projects, not really sure about my workflow.

Tool box and wire strippers cost: $27.08
Total cost up to this point: $193.76

Previous Posts:

[Images: Photographed by Al Gunn (CC: Attribution)]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Safe Drinking Water

Here is an invention that seems way past due.  A portable water filtration system that can filter out bacteria and virus.  Hand these out to folks who don't have access to clean water where they live or during a disaster and suddenly they aren't as dependent on rescue agencies delivering drinkable water.

It's called the Lifesaver Bottle and was invented by  Michael Pritchard.  Watch the TED video below and be amazed.

[Image Captured from the Lifesaver Web Site:]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Make Electronics (3): The Shack

Went down to my local Radio Shack to buy some of the parts I needed for my Make: Electronics experiments. It's been a while since I was in Radio Shack and the walls of electronic components have been reduced to a small corner of the store. They are more efficiently organized but you can no longer stand around looking at the various bits and pieces. Now you have to open a drawer labeled resisters or LEDs. Luckily, I had a list of things I needed and didn't feel intimidated. The bad news is they didn't have everything I was looking for and some of the items had to be purchased in different configurations than stated in the book.

For Example. The author recommended an assortment of resisters in a bulk pack that are usually cheaper when purchased this way. The Shack didn't have anything like this in their store and I ended buying three packages of specific resistors for 99 cents a package.

I will be doing most of my purchases online from this point on. The book lists several online vendors along with Radio Shack. They could have ordered the items for me at the store but once again, I wanted to get home to play. I didn't want to wait another couple of days before actually getting my hands dirty.

I bought:
  • (10)Mini Aligator Clips
  • (20)Assorted LEDs
  • (15) Resistors (three packages)
  • (2) Potentiometers
  • (5) 9volt battery clips (they didn't sell them individually)
  • (1) 4 AA battery holder
  • (1) Breadboard

Total cost: $42.68 with tax. The largest cost item was the breadboard which set me back $19. I could have bought a slightly cheaper one for $16, but instead opted for one that included terminals to hook up your power source. Seemed like a convenience that might come in handy. I'll let you know.

Total cost of initial kit and supplies up to this point: $166.68

Related Posts

[Image: Photos by Al Gunn (CC:Attribution)]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Presentation Zen

I stumbled across Garr Reynold's blog Presentation Zen about a year ago and then bought his book Presentation Zen when it came out at the beginning of 2008.  It's a good read and gave me lots of ideas for improving my own style in front of the classroom. 

In a recent post he gave his recommendations for ten books that would help improve presentation skills.  Not one is a how-to book on using Powerpoint or Keynote.  They are all books on design or speaking. Since his book has been such a big influence on me, I will be checking out several of these titles.

So many books I want to read.  So many projects to grade.  Alas, no one pays me to read books.

[Image captured of]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Funny: March of the Emporers

The movie March of the Penguins was called March of the Emperors when it was released in France.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Make: Electronics (2)

My Deluxe Make Electronics Tool Kit arrived and at first glance I am very pleased. I spent a couple of hours this evening reading the first couple of chapters of the book and skimming the rest. The tools and parts that came with the kit are acceptable. I probably could have got most of the tools and items for about the same price, but it was nice to get them all at once as I wouldn't have known what to look for in some of the items. Hopefully this will help me skip some of the bumbling around that occurs when you start a new hobby.

My first complaint about the kit is that I don't have the parts I need to do the first couple of experiments. It's a minor thing, but I would have liked to have started tonight. This means I need to shlep on down to my local Radio Shack to pick up a few things tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted.

[Image: photographed by Al Gunn (creative commons: attribution)]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Making an Igloo

I've run across several posts about building igloos with all the snow we are getting this winter in various parts of the country. Cool Tools have reviewed several igloo making tools and  resources in the past.  Including the documentary on igloo building embedded below.

The Toy Report had a fun post recently about building an igloo as a family project.  They ended up using a plastic storage container to shape the blocks as they found the "toy" forms pretty much useless.  Their igloo is shown to the left.  One item I thought was interesting was that they discovered that they needed someone inside to build the walls stating:
"Do not attempt to get in or out of the igloo or build a doorway until the igloo is complete.  One person stays inside to place the blocks, the other makes the blocks."

If you watch the documentary below, that's exactly how the Eskimos built their igloos.  Including the last two pieces of the roof that were fitted from the inside out. 

[Image: Captured from Toy Report:]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

kangoos and barefoot running

Recently finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and in it there is a reference to Barefoot Ted buying a pair of Kangoos before he stumbled upon running barefoot (pg155).  I went online to Ted's website and found one reference to this event.

This got me to thinking about running in the Kangoos. When I first started running in them I tried to come down more on my heels.  That never did feel all that stable.  I finally started to come down more flatfooted and concentrated on lifting my feet off the ground rather than trying to push off.  The spring in the boots helps you to lift naturally and as it turns out I've since seen several references advocating this technique when you run.  Lift your foot off the ground.  Don't push off. (PACE and Chi Running).

When running barefoot, you land more on the ball of your foot which allows the arch  to act as a natural spring.  So now I am wondering if one of the reasons I can run without pain in my Kangoos is because it is forcing me to run correctly?  As soon as it warms up some, I'm going out to try some short barefoot runs to see how it feels.

No answers here only questions.  Not retiring my Kangoos as of yet.

[Image: Flickr: "Barefoot"; frigginacky: uploaded-July 7, 2008: / CC BY-NC 2.0]

Make: Electronics (1)

I bought an electronics book a couple of years ago with the idea that I'd teach myself enough so I could tinker around with simple projects in my free time. It was a failure and I never built that killer robot I had rolling around in my daydreams.

Make published a new book, Make: Electronics, just before Christmas and I thought, maybe it was time to try again. I committed all the way and bought their Deluxe Electronics Tool Kit so I would have most of the basic items I needed to get started. The kit included (along with the book):

(1) 30w adjustable soldering iron
(1) Deluxe Solder Stand & sponge
(1) 1/4 lb Spool of rosin core solder .031" (60/40)
(1) 5ft Solder wick
(1) Digital Multimeter
(1) Wire strippers
(1) Deluxe Wire cutters
(3) 25ft spools of solid core 22AWG wire
(1) Deluxe Needle nose pliers
(1) 5 piece miniature screwdrivers kit
(1) Desolder pump
(1) Panavise Jr for holding PCBs
(1) WeeBlinky Kit - Requires soldering
(1) Maker's Notebook

Total Cost: $124 (I got free shipping because of a promotion at the time)

This was my Christmas present to myself this year and am hoping that by this time next year, I will be on my way to building that world dominating robot.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

[Image from MakerShed:]

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have A Dream Speech

A great man.

A great speech.

[Image: Captured from National Archives: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.] on 08/28/1963; Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, 1961-1974; Records of the U.S. Information Agency; Record Group 306; National Archives - Still Picture Branch, College Park, MD(Local Identifier: NWDNS-306-SSM-4D(107)8;]

Instructables Ultimate Parts Storage

I don't have an office at work. I have a cubicle that is woefully too small for all the books and stuff I collect over a school year.  Being a technology teacher, I have all kinds of cables and connectors.  I don't have anyplace to really put these in an organized fashion, so they end up in a box or in the bottom of my  drawer.  Once there, they disappear until the end of year when I clean everything and say with joyful surprise when I find something I thought I had lost, "Hello little lost friend."

This Instructables "Ultimate Parts Storage" looks like a clever way to deal with some of these little bits and pieces I need to keep around.  Essentially, you buy zip lock binder pockets.  Then buy some smaller ziplock bags that can help you further organize your stuff into labeled organizational heaven rather than clutter stuff-falls-on-your-head hell.

I'll try it out and let you know.

[Image captured from Instructables: Ultimate Parts Storage:]