Archive for the ‘’ Category


Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I’ve been building little robots for quite a few years now, but my main focus has always been BEAM Robotics. Things have slowly been changing over the last year though. I started out by ordering some PIC microcontrollers, and while I managed to do a FEW things, I found myself hating them after a while. The problem with the PIC is that the only easy way to program it is through windows, and everything else is just annoying. Personal opinion maybe? In my defense, the programmer I had only allowed for a serial connection.

Everything changed though, at a recent Maker Faire. I picked up one of the new Arduino boards and a Getting Started book. After I got home, I was up and running within just a few minutes. It’s pretty amazing, actually. The Arduino guys have really done a great job in making a microcontroller that you can really use.

Anyway, back to the robots. I was recently at the local CVS and noticed a tracked, amphibious, R/C car. I bought two. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I show up with a shiny new toy and tell my son that it’s mine and I’m going to take it apart, it’s a little disappointing for him. So I took it apart pretty quickly and this thing is pretty cool on the inside. Everything has a rubber seal so that water can’t get in, and I really like the way it’s constructed. That being said, I had to open up BOTH of them to switch the motor wires… the factory managed to wire them in reverse. I guess that’s what you get for $14.99!

So I removed the top, and then went to work on getting rid of the excess electrics and plastic. I decided that there wouldn’t be enough room to mount everything I’d like, so I started modifying it to allow for a better top. But what top do I use? I looked at some hardware stores for the material that would work, and I figured I’d just build something custom out of balsa, when (tada!) I found an altogether amazing alternative. I have an old tupperware bowl that was meant for organizing or somesuch. The lid didn’t attach like a normal sealed container, but rocked back and forth. So without the lid, sitting upside down, it makes a great blue translucent cover. Sweet!

Next design move: I suddenly realized that I had an old NSLU2 sitting around that I don’t use anymore. The possibility of having a robot that actually runs Linux was almost too much for me! Whoa! Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as that. If I’m going to have Linux on board, I also want WiFi, and Python, and… a webcam, and… anything else I can cram in there!

SO… here’s the plan: I’m going to have an Arduino running as the interface for the motors and sensors, connected to the NSLU2 through USB. The NSLU2 will have Python running, which will act as the brains of the system. I’ll have a webcam and some sensors – I’ll probably start with just infrared range finders at each corner. Python will talk with the Arduino and make decisions based on sensor data, and will send movement commands to it. I’m thinking I’ll either setup an H-Bridge for the motors, or I’ll use some old servo boards that I have laying around.

The second phase will be to build out some software to all for getting telemetry and controlling the robot when it’s not running autonomously.

So much fun, right? I’ll update as I make progress!

Crazy-Cool Barcodes

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

These are the coolest barcodes ever. I wish I made a product that I could put these on.

my first instructable

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Those that know me know that I’m a bit obsessive about creating. I love to build things, and if I go through a week without flexing my creativity, I really feel like that week was wasted. I’ve always assumed I’m a bit odd in that respect, but I’m not really sure. Given the amount of interest I’ve seen in Make: Magazine and their wonderful Maker Faire, maybe everyone out there is just a closet creator.

Anyway, because of my love of creating, my projects tend to hover somewhere between concept and almost finished. I’ll start on one, and then move to another and another before it’s done. My workbench is as you would expect… covered with gadgets at various levels of completion. With one of my latest project though, I decided to push through until I was finally finished with it. Yesterday I decided to finally just call it good (and stop tweaking it) and post it on So without further explanation, here you go: my first instructable.

python regex

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I don’t know why, but I never knew about the grouping that was possible in Python’s re module. I’ve been using Python this long and suddenly realize it’s there… a true facepalm moment. Anyway, how’s this for cool? –

import re
string = “S03E12 – A random filename”
print re.match(r’.*S(?P\d+).*E(?P\d+)’, string).groupdict()

Homemade steadycam

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I really like what this guy did to build a camera stabilizer out of what he had lying around. Exactly my kind of handiwork. I might try to make one myself…

stupid OS X…

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I recently started using a shiny new Macbook Pro at work, and I’ve mostly been in love with it. So much so, that I really do prefer the thing over Gentoo now. It’s just that things are so much easier. And hey, the prettiness isn’t anything to cough at.

There remains two things that annoy me to no end, though:

1) The hideous, insidious, freakious (?) lack of mouse tracking. Yes, I’ve read all of the writeups on why it can’t be done, and I’ve tried a few of the programs that claim to make it work, but none of them are really good fixes. They’re just… so so. I really wish there was some way to make it work. :cries:

2) That you can only resize a window with a tiny little handle on the bottom left corner! I came to the Mac from the wonder that is Enlightenment. I could hold alt, middle click, and resize from any region of the window. Now I KNOW this isn’t a problem with the way Darwin works. There are no logic issues. There’s nothing stopping Apple from doing it, other than a lack of time or pressure.


One can still dream though.