On Willful Ignorance [or Age of Unreason]

[We take a departure from open hardware to discuss a dangerous trend in society]

I’m confused.  How in the world did we get here?  The war on science, reason, and logic has not seen this much success since the dark ages.  Four in ten Americans reject evolution and many politicians deny climate change.  The relentless fusillade on expertise has taken its toll and it is now open season on observation itself.   Now we are told the truth doesn’t even matter.

oh… and by the way…. the Earth is flat (like your head).  I know this goes against what you’ve been taught, but let’s dig a little deeper and suppress the initial reaction to reject the claim immediately.  We can approach this scientifically and make observations that will either support or reject the claim.

In case you missed it, the Flat Earth Society suggests that the Earth is a flat disk with the North pole as its center and an ice wall near Antarctica preventing us from falling off.  According to this theory, the sun is about 35 miles across and is suspended 3000 miles above the disk, completing one revolution per day around a circle centered 3000 miles above the North Pole.  The seasons are caused by the changing radius of the circular path of the sun.

The image below shows in grey, the path the sun makes over the course of a year.  Black diamond shows my point of observation outside Washington D.C.

We now have a scientific test we can apply to the Flat Earth conjecture.  I’ve computed the elevation angle of the sun from my vantage point over the course of a year.  Elevation angle is the angle of an object made by the horizon, the observer, and the object in the vertical plane.  Below, the elevation angle is plotted vs azimuth.

They used to say “the sun never sets on the British Empire” well according to the Flat Earth society, the sun never sets on D.C. either!  According to this model, the sun should NEVER go beneath the horizon.  This contradicts the fact that we can observe the sun elevation angle reaching zero (when the sun sets). In fact, I should never witness the sun dip below 10 degrees elevation.  Indeed there is no place on earth where the sun sets according to the Flat Earth Society.  Can you please make an observation for me?  If you’ve seen a sunset in your life, can you please state the time and location in the comments?  Better yet, please post any photographic proof of your observation!  Its citizen science in action.

A cult is an organization that asks you to reject your own observations and adhere to another explanation on faith.  The Flat Earth Society is only one example.  Crowd size is anorther. Denying Russian collusion is another.  The question is why? and why now?  As with any cult, there is power in deception.  After the truth is cast out, a cult leader can fill the void with whatever he wants.

Science, not indignation, is the cure for ignorance: hypothesis, observe, conclude.

How people fall into believing the Flat Earth model.

Lada to the rescue!!

Something else I’ve been working on for a while, in collaboration with another far more talented hobbyist (Grahame Marsh – www.sgitheach.org.uk) are Open Source CRT clocks and a CRT Tester. When confronted with the job of making a nice case for the CRT Tester, it occurred to me to use the wonderful Lada idea from Justin (http://wyolum.com/lada-a-custom-project-box-system/). Grahame, took the idea further and tweaked the Lada to integrate PCB holding and case construction in one piece! Hence the following gadget became a reality…

For more details of the Lada modifications or if you’re interested in an Open Source CRT tester, or even a Scope Clock then check out Grahame’s website or feel free to contact me for more information!

Cheers,

Nick

C3Jr 3D Printed Stand

It’s been a while….

Having played with 3D printers for a bit now, I thought it would be a good idea to elevate my C3Jr clock a little and make a stand for it. I recently put together a Prusa i3 MK2 printer from a kit, and it’s Open Source at its best! To break it in, I used it to make the stand! This would help with not only keeping the clock more secure (if it’s a desktop clock) but also add a little flair to the C3Jr. It’s nothing too fancy, but I think it turned out OK. The print was a 50% honeycomb infill to give it some strength and the STL file will be available on our GitHub in the usual place. Enjoy! Any questions, then shoot us an email. 

VeloKey: A post mortem

VeloKey is a Keyboard for your bike.  I know.  I know what you are going to ask: “Why do you need a keyboard for your bike?”  Well, I guess you don’t.  This is the story of a failed project.  We break down why and how this project failed in hopes to learn from the experience.

First let me remind you why we thought VeloKey might have made a viable product.

Project goals:  Many people ride bikes indoors for hours at a time.  They use a computer to: run a training program (virtual world), watch videos, browse the web, and read email.  These activities could be made easier with a cycling specific computer interface.

A full QWERTY keyboard would be too cumbersome to operate while you are pumping out the Watts, so we simplified the interface to three scroll wheels, a display, and a few buttons.  If you need to author your manifesto, then by all means use a different interface.  VeloKey is meant for typing the first few characters of a web address, not a dissertation.

Features:

  • Wireless — you don’t want to be burdened with cords on the bike.  VeloKey uses the Bluetooth HID interface.
  • Full Keyboard — Letters, numbers, symbols, arrow keys
  • Full Mouse — Works like an etch-a-sketch, left/right clicks
  • Display — Select keys, change modes.
  • Magnetic handlebar mount — Allows rider to remove the VeloKey, and use with both hands.

Project design:

  • Open source hardware — Like all of our designs this was important to us.  We are empowered by open hardware, and we will always publish our designs in the hope that others find them useful.
  • Off the shelf open hardware components — This really sped up development time.
  • High quality scroll wheels — this subtle clicking of these wheels are addictive like popping bubble wrap.
  • Custom back plane — Anool whipped up the board that ties the circuit together.
  • 3D printed case — Snap together, magnetic base, Garmin quarter turn mount

Hardware:

The design is centered around the Feather M0.  This M0 has plenty of program memory if you are used to programming AVR 328s found in the Arduino Unos.  Its a fantastic little ship with multiple hardware serial ports, can act as an HID keyboard and mouse (which backs up the Bluetooth) and is well documented.

We used an arduino pro mini to provide guaranteed encoder readings.  Kevin did have some luck reading the encoders directly from the M0, but never all three at the same time and also not with background tasking.  Using the Pro-Mini was a quick and rely able way to implement the encoders.  The Pro-Mini is connected to the M0 via a serial link.

The EZKey module provides the Bluetooth HID interface so that VeloKey does not require any software modifications on the host computer.  The EZKey is connected to the M0 via a serial link.

Software:

The software was developed using Arduino.  Upon startup, VeloKey launches into a software defined default mode (typically mouse mode).  Scrolling the middle wheel allows you to change modes from mouse, to keyboard, to program, to movie.  Modes are defined in an extensible object oriented manor so that VeloKey will play nicely with community defined modes.  The Pro-Mini translates encoder events into serial events and sends them to the M0 where the events are handled.

The beginning of an extensible API was created to test VeloKey as a gaming platform.  A few basic sprites and widgets were defined and the API was used to create Pong and Asteroids.

Cause of death: Lack of interest.

The main reason VeloKey Failed was negative feedback from three sources.  First, the local bike shop said that “VeloKey” solved a non-existent problem.  A virtual training company rejected hardware in favor of their phone app. And finally, a beta tester said that it was too distracting.  Three strikes and VeloKey is out.

Contributing technical factors:

If it weren’t for these technical factors, we’d probably still pursue a crowd funding campaign.  After all we have a lot of effort invested in VeloKey.  Before we launched, we’d have to solve this technical issues and that would take more investment of time that we felt would not pay returns.

  1. Feather M0 lock-ups.  Frequently the M0 locks up especially when interfacing with the Bluetooth module.
  2. Flaky Bluetooth.  Several beta testers had trouble pairing the Bluetooth on Windows and Mac.
  3. Draining battery.  The Feather M0 has no way to shut off current completely.  This meant that VeloKey could not be left on the bike, but would need to stay on the charger between uses.

Other uses?

VeloKey or something like it may be useful as a mobile computer interface, or game platform.  We tested it out with Pong and Asteroids.  The update rate was a little on the slow side for any graphic intensive games.

Building A Guitar Tuner With The New Ultim8x8 LED Panel

With the introduction of the Ultim8x8 boards came a desire to build something with them, and after bouncing idea after idea off of Mr. Shaw, we finally decided to build a guitar tuner. However, while one may have just resolved to use a simple vibration sensor in order to get the readings from the guitar, we decided to take the software up a notch, and now I am in the process of coding my very first Fourier Transform.

Essentially, the idea of this guitar tuner is that the player will play a note, which is then picked up by the microphone. A Fourier Transform is run on the note (the code will take the frequency of the code and round it to the nearest frequency, for instance, if I want to play an A440, but my guitar is tuned to play an A450, the program will assume that the player is trying to play an A440, and will accordingly notify the player), and then the note is displayed on the LED Panel, only its color will be an indicator that the note is either exactly tuned or it is a little off.

The process of building this guitar tuner has not been an easy one, but it certainly has been nothing if not an educational and overall exciting experience. Through Mr. Shaw, I was able to receive 3 microphones, as well as capital for the necessary parts for this project, which included a set of calipers, an Adafruit M0 Basic Proto Feather Board, a 2000 mAh LiPoly battery, a slide switch, some extra wire, and a delightfully colorful pack of heat shrink tubing. Below is a list of the steps I have taken so far in building the tuner:

  1. I first tried designing a 3d printed mount for the LED panel in TinkerCAD. However, the design I made proved to be too small for the panel to fit. Plus, I hadn’t thought about how the placement of the panel would affect the sound made by the guitar. Since this was a problem that I could easily fix, I decided to move on to the more challenging part of this project, which was the software.
  2. However, in order to test the software, I needed to set up the proper hardware. I soldered one of the Ramsey Electronics Microphones into the prototyping area of the Feather Board in order to test its effectiveness in picking up sound.
    1. I pulled some sample code from the Adafruit website, who uses the same microphone in their microphone breakout boards, and tested to see if I was getting a reading out of the device. Sure enough, the microphone was wired correctly and reading the beautiful sound of my voice.
  3. After a fruitful meeting with Mr. Shaw, who kindly explained to my perplexed self the art of the Fourier Transform, I started writing the software for the microphone.
    1. The first draft of my code was marginally successful, meaning that it compiled and that was about it. After a few suggestions from Mr. Shaw, I was able to fix most of my errors, and am still today working on tweaking and improving the code.
  4. My next step in the hardware side of this project was to solder the DATA, CLOCK, GROUND, and POWER pins from the Ultim8x8 board to the Feather so as to test it.
    1. Similar to how I tested the microphone, I downloaded the Adafruit DOTSTAR library and ran one of the sample programs on the board. Sure enough, it lit up like a Christmas tree!

Thus I have relayed upon to you, the reader, my progress so far. My next steps in the project include designing a better mount for the panel, fixing my software (which mainly involves figuring out how to include the complex exponential (e^2 pi i f t ) into my code), and ultimately integrating the software with the microphone and the software with the panel together. After all that, I will hopefully have a badass guitar tuner in my hands.

Below is a photo of the tuner so far.

guitartuner

Below is a photo of the microphones I received. I am using the one on the left for this project

microphones

Finally, below is a photo of my first take at the 3d printed mount.

led_panel_first_try