DIY Copper End Table

At some point, I volunteered to make us some end tables for the house. It turns out that I really don’t like end tables…everything I came across was either way to big or too flimsy to take any kid abuse. The main level in our house is basically wide open, so keeping foot traffic lanes open is key. Long story short, I ended up in the copper area of Lowes and came up with a solution…


Maybe this is brilliant, or maybe my brain automatically looks for reasons to use my torch and Dremel. Probably the later.


Emma was willing to help with the stress test, but unwilling to put down the GBA…


End result:


This actually turned out fairly decent, especially considering the fact I did all of the woodworking on that chunk of poplar with a Dremel Multi-Max. My soldering skills are more tuned to electronics, so I burned the shit out of the bulkier joints due to lack of flux. Adds character, I guess.

I have another stick of 3/4″ copper, so plan on doing round two as a winter project. I keep thinking that some sort of electrolysis setup would be awesome for the copper cleaning phase, which could be a project in itself. This project would be a lot more intense with a car battery and a whole bunch of wire.

Custom LED Matrix Project

I stumbled across something potentially amazing…cheap Chinese LED modules:
For $35USD, I now have everything I need to assemble a 64×64 LED matrix, provided I stay off the coffee long enough to knock out a billion solder joints.

This should be fun, and potentially challenging. I’m guessing these were initially spec-ed out for a consumer with something pretty specific in mind, but going about this DIY is going in blind. There are no libraries to leverage, so the software will have to be written from the ground up.

Time to blow the dust off of the Arduino…

Lab Weather

My small lab assistant and I have our anti-cabin fever project figured out…
Phase 1) Assemble as is
Phase 2) Go nuts for a while
Phase 3) Sever wires / attach to breadboard
Phase 4) Automate with Arduino

I forgot Phase 0, which is a refresher course on ‘soldering irons being very hot: “ouch”‘ As long as there are screwdrivers and wires involved, Emma will be into it. Could be very fun…

How to Code

I snapped a picture of a coworker’s “script” he is working on utilizing the object libraries we develop. Apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong.
How to code
1) PrtScn a bunch of stuff
2) Paste into MSPaint
3) Add giant headers for reference
4) Print
5) Highlight the shit out of stuff
6) Strike-out any redundancies stemming from poor MSPaint-ing
7) Break out the pink highlighter
8) Locate someone to do your job for you
9) Ship it

Ubuntu 13.4

It has been a busy several days. I decided to upgrade the fleet to Ubuntu 13.4…and everything that a non-long-term-supported distro involves.

Step 1_: backup data
Step 1a: reevaluate backup regimine
Step 1b: realize backup system is non-sustainable
Step 1c: implement cloud storage solution
step 1d: place eggs in cloud basket
Step 2_: upgrade machines
Step 3_: fix a whole bunch of junk
Step 3*: junk fixing

Step three got ugly. Canonical blacklisted a whole bunch of stuff that ran and runs well. Thumbs down.

post storm calm

post storm calm

The upgrades to my machines were simple, but significant issues arose in updating from 12.04 to 12.10 and from 12.10 to 13.4. The former was mainly in ‘not compiling video card drivers’ and the later was primarily pertaining to neglecting Dell’s primary Wi-Fi drivers. I went manual and had boxes that were mostly functional, but decided to roll the dice on fresh installs…which, predictably, worked well. That gut feeling in doing something of that nature is very Window-y, and I don’t like it one bit.

In short, poorly played by Ubuntu. It might be time to get some real QA going on these upgrades…I spent enough time researching this stuff to be upset, and I debug issues similar to this professionally. There was a ton of noise on forums, so it is safe to assume the user base was significantly disheartened by this process.

On the flip side, 13.04 is slick…Unity is improved a ton…all of that. The marketing is not cool, and I’d be better off with pure Debian if this wasn’t one of my hobbies. Worst upgrade of all time, but still something I look forward to and will likely do again.


Encabulating Photon Emission Interface

My small lab assistant and I tossed our hats in the ring and were invited to compete in the 2013 Red Bull Creation competition. In short, it was great. Team swan tron didn’t make it to the finals, (this year, suckers) but had a great time and learned a ton. Dual hats off to the six teams heading to NY for the last phase…you all earned it.

Team swan tron entered for consideration an Encabulating Photon Emission Interface.

team swan tron

team swan tron

Red Bull’s concept was simple and brilliant…the accepted applicants were given custom Arduino shields, a whole bunch of LEDs, and a path to a git repo containing a library with which to make them crank. That, about four weeks, and a nudge to do something awesome with lights. We did this…

We used all of the PWM channels at our disposal to handle the colors on our Encabulating Interface, and tossed in some analog stuff for good measure. Our software utilized the Encabulator’s accelerometer values as the interface’s interfacing variables, which is nice. Most of the board’s function was exercised, as was my brain, Emma’s brain, and Emma in general. She liked the feedback in a belly laugh way…so that is that. Pretty sure she and I both came out ahead on this effort.

Here’s to 2014…look out for team swan tron.


Quick update on the Red Bull Creation status.

tur bull encabulation

grnd efx 2k13

We’re turbull encabulating…

I’m lacking a sufficient power source to push a ton of these LEDs simultaneously, so that is that for now. Power brick and a back-up strip are in the mail, so ambition will dictate how bright we go with this. The physical stuff is largely roughed-out, so now the challenge lies in refining the UI to this thing. Well, the secondary user’s interface is the thing that needs attention. My user is ready to roll.

Time is running short…tune in soon.

*** **PROTIP** ~burn the shit out of the copper contact tabs if you chop a RBG LED strip…the remnant rubber is a solder contact’s worst nightmare~ ***

Red Bull Project Update

Yesterday was fruitful. We are mostly done with the non-electronic portion of the build. I have a very tired jigsaw and a new-but-already-stress tested Dremel Multimax cooling off on the bench.

Oh yeah…and there was spray paint. A lot of spray paint…

small assistant

two at a time, eh

No Red Bulls for the small assistant. She’s good to go.

Heating up the soldering iron during the next nap. On to the next phase.