Monday 29 December 2014

Improving Photos with an Overhead Camera Jig

As part of my New Years Resolutions I'm am going to make steps to improve my camera work. I have a very limited or no Budget to improve my camera equipment I have a Compact Digital Camera my Laptops webcam and my Android phone,This I have to make best of what I have, So:

I made an over head camera Jig:

Lasercut from 6mm MDF 

My compact Digital Camera sit snugly at the top of the arch 

I have shared this design on Thingiverse please feel free to download and remix. Personally I'm looking to make a actuator for the shutter button and somewhere for lighting. 

Happy Hacking 

New Years Blogs and Resolutions

Hi folks,
Hope everyone has had a great Christmas just a quick post on some of the things happening on my Blog in the coming  year.

I am very much a believer in 'Don't Give Up Try Something New ' with this in mind.

This is my list of New Years Resolutions for this Blog as well as the Makers Calendar.
  • First of set specific posting days of the week I'll start with 2 post a week Monday and Thursday. 
  • Improve with a better layout maybe a move from Blogger to a more customisable CMS with artwork and more pictures.
  • Move the Makers Calendar to it's own site allowing more event details to be posted and some space for maker/hackspace events as well as the more national events with  more info about the organisations running them.
  • Share as many of my lasercut designs as possible. I draw designs for lasercutting on a very regular basis little tools, jigs and objects. Some of which are very useful some not so but you can have them anyway. All my published designs can be found at Thingiverse 
  • And a big one that I'm going to work on straight away is improve my photography. My camera work is a little ropey at the best of times especially during video work. Still learning, and this could lead to some nice Hacky solutions to this problem.

Here's some shots of some of the stuff I'm working on:

mmm Lasercutting

More stuff from China 

Kit reviews 

Kickstarter rewards

Have a Great New Year Folks


Thursday 11 December 2014

Cheap Breakout Boards From China (Are They Any Good) Part 2

This is part 2 of my series reviewing cheap tech from china, part one and more info can be found here.

Tiny 25 Point Bread Boards

So second little china post jiffy bag arrived on the 3/12/14. It contained 7 Teenie Tiny 25 point bread boards.

OK, I realise these are not breakout boards but when I saw them I had to give them a go, just look how cute they are.

Breadboards are an easy way to prototype circuits without the hassle of soldering ( In Truth I Love Soldering but normally prototype on breadboards)

These breadboards where 0.99GBP for all 7 making them less than 0.15GBP each this is not including 0.29GBP postage but that's not too bad.

 The Breadboards have 25 holes that wires or conponent leads are pushed into, the grip seems strong enough to gently hold the wire and make a good electrical connection.

The conductors inside the breadboards run in 5 lines this means that the that 5 lines of 5 holes are connected allowing you to build simple circuits. Unfortunately because there is no break in the middle they are not DIP compatible so no mini Punk Synth's never mind they are still good for all types for passive components and discreet semiconductors like transistors.    

In this photo you can also see that the bases are detachable from the breadboards on the base there are two pegs, I found out later that Seeed Studio sell a kit with 12 of these breadboards and a peg board base so you can fashion your circuits together.

So I decided to Laser cut my own base to it. I have uploaded it to ThingiVerse if you wish to have a go at cutting your own.

Here's my version I have inlaid Sugru into the lettering the power is where you can stick a battery pack.  The Sugru was slightly out of date but still good, Just goes to prove keep your out of date Sugru, your never to sure when it will be useful :)

In Conclusion:

These are some of the things that don't seem very useful until you need them. With a based board, mine or Seeed Studios I don't find them very useful. But as a single Tiny breadboard just when you want a single tac switch, transistor, led or even join some wires, when a mini breadboard feels too big or space in you project is a bit tight these work for me. 

They seem electrically sound for low level voltages, ie. 0 -12 Volts I wouldn't go much further then that. I also like the ability to remove the peg base and maybe use a double sided sticky pad, would recommend insulating tap on the exposed contacts beforehand, just to avoid and blue smoke related mishaps. ;)

I give these 4 Sparks useful would like to see some that are DIP compatible can't win them all,  but the build quality is not bad.


Monday 8 December 2014

A morning out with the Sheffield Hardware Hackers at The Portland Works

I'm involved with a group in Sheffield called the Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers. As a group we have been using various maker spaces around Sheffield, but now an opportunity has risen for us to investigate the possibility of having a space of our own. So at 10.30am on a chilly Sunday morning we had a look at The Portland Works

 The Portland works was built in 1877 and is an old Sheffield institution and arguably the birth of stainless steel. It was build as a hive of workshops and factories based around a single engine house powering the various businesses through belt drives and traditional overhead pulleys.

In 2009 while still housing several small business it was being threaten by being converted into flats. At his point a social enterprise was formed from 500 members of the community that pool funds buy the site.

The Businesses that operate on the site work together for the benefit of the site and all help in the active restoration of The Portland Works.

The Motley crew being given a quick insiders tour by James Wallbank of Infinite Crypt makers of high quality affordable model scenery.     

Makers on a Roof getting the overview of the whole site

Some lovely old kit knocking around the yard waiting for restoration by members of the site love the look of this lathes peg-board programming panel 

Entering to have a look at the available space.

Sorry about the picture quality down to my shaky hands. This is the main room of the space it was used by a band as a practice room previously with some discarded kit but a nice flight case in the corner. Having a long talk with Colin the landlord who was very receptive to what we need as a group.

The space had a smaller room next to the main area and up in the roof an original pulley from the Victorian drive system.   

Then it was off to The Harland Cafe for a long chat about our thoughts and options


Sunday 7 December 2014

Cheap Breakouts from China (Are They Any Good!) Part 1

This is the first in a series or reviewing cheap imported Chinese breakout boards mostly found on Ebay. I wan't to know are they any good  especially for a maker on a budget. I'll be looking at build quality, functionality, ease of use and value for money.

All the Modules ordered on the 21st November

I'm going to review these as they arrive and first off the mark is:

HMC5883L 3-axis Digital compass

Odered 21st November arrived 1st December a really fast delivery time a week an a half on the whole scheme of things that is fast.

For an imported device it is very well packaged in a bubble jiffy bag and the device was heat sealed into a generic ESD bag (non branded and no ESD makings ) in my experience the non branded bag are sufficient.   

Nice Sharp silk screen with well marked pads even a Data Ready connection that allows you to run the device as fast as possible.  

Hot Tip: when soldering use a bread board to hold the the strip headed in place while soldering it to the breakout board. I you want it to be perfect the prop the other end with a small blob of blue tac.

 Hot Tip: Read the datasheet for the device before hooking it up to any power. I found the datasheet here  first thing to note is the supply voltage 3.6V Max this means the the chip will got POP if you go too far over that rating. This will also be try for any Logic voltage that you are going to attach.
Bearing this in mind its worth looking at the top of the board there  is a SOT23 package (black rectangle)  on the board a look at the where it is connected between VCC pin and the main chip on the VCC pin it quite safe to assume that it is some sort of voltage regulation. And in fact went I looked back at the sellers page it says it can run on a 3-5V supply. Its worth looking for pull-up resistors and whether they are connected to the chip side or pin side  of  the voltage regulator. I this case it is connected to the chip side.     

Connected to an Arduino and found a Library with example to run it. With A big thanks to Adafruit be careful to check that the Arduino's internal Pull-up's are disabled in the I2C lines before connecting to the device. 

It worked straight out of the box. I was getting nice tangible data  

Hooked it with an Adafruit Neopixel Ring that I had knocking around and made a quick e-compass. hope fully tutorial coming at a later date.

I was very impressed with the HMC8553L Breakout seems to work well with an Ardunio Leonardo, it should work very well with a Raspberry Pi as that is 3.3V logic. The build quality is excellent and trying to keep in mind that it only cost £0.99 shipped!

I Award The Cheap Chinese HMC8553L Breakout  5 Sparks Top Marks