Monochron Clock Kit

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Monochron Clock BoardSome of my christmas money went towards purchasing a Monochron Clock kit from Adafruit.com.

It turned out to be an awesome build and I had lots of fun putting it together. I also chose it because it allows you to program your own clock “faces” for it. I’ve programmed a Space themed face for it that simulates the space station ground track. I’ve also programmed an autodim feature for the backlight because my preferred daylight brightness was too bright at night. The fact that I can customize it to fit my needs is an awesome thing. I wish there were more products like it.

I did encounter one problem when building the kit; the processor chip wasn’t working. However, Adafruit provides a forum on their website for support and they very promptly helped me isolate the problem and replaced the chip. The customer service is excellent.

My firmware for the SpaceChron clock face can be found at https://github.com/samckittrick/Scotts_Clocks/tree/SpaceChron

A video of the clock working is at http://youtu.be/YPtyn8xhsz4

 

Kindle Hacking

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My kindle with new screensaversShortly after I purchased my Kindle Keyboard, I decided to jailbreak it and apply the screensaver hack. Now I can have an infinite variety of interesting screensavers. I also have access to quite a few interesting hacks for the device.

Where I got the jailbreak files from: http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Kindle_Screen_Saver_Hack_for_all_2.x_and_3.x_Kindles

A list of hacks available for the Kindle: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=128704

 

Emergency Gingerbread Cookie Cutter

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My sister decided to make Gingerbread cookies for Christmas. This would have been great except that after she made the dough, we discovered a complete lack of any cookie cutters in the house and all the stores were closed as it was Christmas day.  So rather than give up, I made her a cookie cutter from some sheet brass I had laying around. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure made the cookies interesting. I got the idea from this Instructable. Check them out below:

 

Tornado Chamber

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This is a Tornado Chamber I built for one of our Science Saturday workshops. Air enters the box through the two slits in the side and exits through the hole in the top. The positioning of the slits sets up a clockwise vortex inside the box (the rotation of the air in the box should be in the same direction as the blades of the fan). The window is made of some extra lamination film and allows a view into the box while still keeping air out. When the dry ice is put in the cup of hot water, it creates fog which subsequently follows the circular path of the air, thus creating the tornado.

Dorian Gray Halloween Costume

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Me as Dorian GrayFor this past Halloween, I was Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

Choosing the character:

I have known the basic premise of Dorian Gray for years and it has always been rather fascinating to me. Sometime in June, I ran across the 2009 movie adaption of the novel. I’ve always liked the look of Victorian era clothing and the movie sparked the idea of making a costume in that style. In order to better understand the character, I read the actual novel (See the Project Gutenberg Entry). Suffice it to say, The Picture of Dorian Gray was one of the most boring books I have ever read, but the idea stuck with me and I asked my sister to help me make it (she did the majority since I have almost no sewing skills and she is a fashion design major).

The Costume

The costume is based on Victorian men’s fashion from the late 19th century. The parts that my sister and I made were the morning coat, ascot, and the vest. The shirt was a normal white button down shirt with the collar turned up. The pants and shoes were from my suit.

I drafted the slopers with my sister’s assistance and then she drafted the patterns based on drawings and pictures I provided.

I made the tie pin out of 3 small key rings soldered together and a beaded necklace found at Michael’s.

All in all, it was a pretty successful costume. I rather enjoyed wearing it and am considering incorporating some of it into my everyday wear.

Computer Fan Hovercraft

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A hovercraft made from a paper plate and a computer fanAir pressure. We experience it every day. For those of us living around sea level, we must endure 14.9 pounds pushing down on every square inch of our bodies. Of course, since the air is also pushing in every other direction, we don’t feel it at all.

Due to the fact that we experience air pressure on a daily basis, we at Thematic Attic decided it would be an excellent topic to cover in one of our Science Saturday workshops, specifically using hover craft.

One of the demonstrations that I came up with for the workshop was a paper plate hovercraft. I built it out of a large 12 volt computer fan that was placed over a hole in a paper plate. I happened to have a generic transformer that could deliver 12 volts and so, with a little soldering, I had a way to power the fan indefinately. Voila! A Hover Craft

In retrospect, I would consider going with a smaller fan since this one seemed to lose a lot of air straight up through the fan. However, it was able to force and keep enough air under the plate to lift the edges and allow it to float across the table.

In researching this project I saw several articles on how to make a ride-able hover craft out of some plywood and a leaf blower. Coincidentally enough, this showed up in my living room a couple days later…

Hermit Falls

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Lower Hermit Falls
One of my favorite hikes in this area is the trail from Chantry Flats to Sturdevant Falls. However, every time I go, I see the trail head for First Water trail to Hermit Falls. Last week some friends and I decided to check it out. I had read that it was a good place to go swimming, so we brought along swim suits. We started off around 2:30 in the afternoon, which would put the trail in the shade on the return trip. The hike is an upside down hike, so the return trip is harder. The trail is relatively well marked and maintained, and maintained and you can tell you’ve arrived at the falls when you reach the old gauging station (a rusty vertical metal cylinder).

The trail brings you to the top of the main falls and getting to the bottom involves climbing down some rocks. It was definitely worth the effort though, the falls are nice and the pool is cold and deep. Cliff Jumping at Hermit FallsPerfect for swimming. If you are a little more adventurous you can even jump off the cliff from the top off the falls into the water (we estimated a 50 ft drop based on the time it took to fall). The only draw back of Hermit Falls is the amount of trash. Its rather distressing to see just how much is there, especially compared to the very clean Sturdevant Falls.

All in all, it was a good hike. One I would visit again.

Links:

Snow Day at Baldy

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Amanda's Snowman Jerry

The recent storms brought a boatload of snow to the Angeles National Forest, so for New Years Day, I took Ana and her sisters to Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy) to play in the snow. Of course my motive was that I really wanted to get up to the snow, but it would be no fun to do alone. The area just below the ski resort parking lot is at roughly 6100 feet and had something like 36-48 inches of extremely dry powder with a couple inches of crust above it. The conditions were almost perfect, except for the fact that the snow didn’t pack into snow balls. We made up for it by throwing chunks of the more cohesive crust.

I have never actually been to the resort itself, but I can say that the area we stopped at was an excellent place to play and I highly recommend it. Its rather amazing how close a place like this actually is and how easy it is to get to. We left to go up there at around 8:00AM and got there at 8:45, we had the place almost to ourselves for an hour and a half before the crowds started to show up. I’m not sure how it is on non-holiday weekends, but it is definitely worth it to get up early. If you do go, don’t forget to buy an Adventure Pass. Mt. Baldy Rd is one of the forest’s fee areas. The passes though are worth the cost and the money goes directly to improving our national forests.

All in all, one of the best New Years Days ever.

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A Duct Tape Bullwhip

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Indiana JonesA couple weeks ago I made a bullwhip for my Halloween costume (Indiana Jones). I’ve never worked with leather before, and its a bit expensive for a Halloween costume, so i wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do until I came across an article online (found at Skip to my Lou about making a whip out of duct tape. The one on the site didn’t look half bad, but I wanted to get a little more realistic look, so I did some more research and learned how to do 4 and 8 strand round plaits. Then I spent a bunch of time putting it together.  In the end the whip was about 8 feet long. It had 3 layers, one computer cable core, one 4 strand layer and one 8 strand layer. The handle was a chunk of pvc pipe wrapped with more duct tape. I’m not entirely certain if it works (it could be that I’ve never cracked a whip before), but I think it looks good. In the future though, I would add a paper core or something since the whip feels kind of hollow. I wasn’t able to tighten the duct tape strands enough to get them to hug the cord.

This is the result:

Finished Bullwhip

Making the whip was fun, and I learned a lot in the process. It was definitely worth the time and effort. As a bonus, I got to try out some time lapse software that I had found online. See the video on my youtube account.

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When All Else Fails, Toss It in the Freezer!

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Saving a Hard DriveSo a couple months ago, my girlfriend accidentally dropped her laptop and corrupted the software to the point where it could no longer boot. The computer has a bios password that she didn’t know and so I couldn’t even get it to boot off a CD. So in order to recover her data so that it could be put on her new computer, I pulled the hard drive and attached it to my Linux computer. The response: The Click of Death. That sound a hard drive makes when something is totally out of place and it doesn’t want to work anymore.

I fiddled with it for quite a bit, and was about to throw my hands up in disgust when I remembered a last resort trick I had read on Lifehacker a while back; toss the hard drive in the freezer for a couple of hours and then try running it. The idea is that the cold might put things back in place. However, its a dangerous thing to do as it could very easily kill the drive; but if the drive isn’t working anyways, its can’t hurt to try. So I put the drive on top of the bucket of ice cream in my freezer and took a shower. When I came back I pulled it out and tried again. The platters wouldn’t spin up at first but once they thawed, they started spinning and ran without any major bouts of the Click of Death for the entire seven hours it took me to back up the data. It may still spin up again if I were to try it but I couldn’t say for sure since I managed to get all the data in one go.

So as a last resort, this trick does seem to work in some cases.

Save a Failed Hard Drive in Your Freezer