old blog

These are some posts from the old Meat and Networking blog. They're archived here for posterity, for random search traffic that might come rolling by.

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Where are the 3D Printable Games?
August 8, 2012

This year, I had the good fortune to visit GenCon after a 2 year hiatus. Not much has changed, although I was surprised at the number of KickStarted projects on the show floor. There were a lot of really interesting independently funded games, including a few print-and-play games. Print-and-play has been around forever, but with the advent of the MakerBot, and the rising popularity of 3D printing, both at home and for contract, I am surprised at the lack of 3D-print-and-play games.

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Mind Over Melon!
August 8, 2012

Chris and I finally finished Mind Over Melon! For anyone who hasn’t heard us talk about this, this is a device that allows the user to explode watermelons with his/her mind! We took it out to Bernheim Forest for Bernheim CONNECT, and let 40 people blow up 40 melons. It was immensely popular! Special thanks to Bernheim for fronting the cost of the melons. 40 melons is a whole lot to fit in the back of a small hatchback!

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Hacking at the Light Strike Laser Tag Game
August 8, 2012

My friend Jon has been working on Laser Taser tag, modifying perfectly ordinary toy laser guns to provide an electric shock when you get hit. As he was working on this game for Makerfaire Detroit 2012, I noticed that these guns are really freaking cool****. 10 years ago, I paid good teenage summer job money to play laser tag, and it wasn’t as good as this. You can now buy a $30 toy that rivals the fanciest laser tag equipment of the previous decade.

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ARM Cortex-Mx Quickstart
August 8, 2012

By now, almost everyone’s managed to acquire a bajillion cheap ARM dev boards, and there are always more coming. As these chips get cheaper, and available in more hacker-friendly packages, they’re going to overtake chips and boards like the AVR and the Arduino, it’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately, the ARM ecosystem isn’t as simple to work with as the AVR or PIC ecosystem. With both of these 8-bitters, you’re working in the manufacturer’s walled garden.

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Introducing: Arduino Simple Task Scheduler
July 7, 2012

Get the code here: https://github.com/Zuph/AVRQueue Introducing the Arduino Simple Task Scheduler. This is part of the balloon flight computer code I wrote for White Star, with some more polish. This library allows you to create a schedule queue of functions to be executed at specified times, on specified intervals. For example, say you’re trying to log some sensor data and update a display in the same program. With the task scheduler, you can simply write a function to gather sensor data, write a function to update the display, add them to your queue, and let the library handle the rest.

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How to fly across an ocean
May 5, 2012

This post is cross-posted from the White Star Balloon Blog Flying across the ocean is no small feat. It takes the concerted efforts of dozens of people, working hard at lots of difficult problems, from modeling balloon volume and flight dynamics, to planning interactions with air traffic control. The diagram above gives a little bit of an idea of the effort involved in getting across the ocean. Any single block represents tens to many hundreds of man-hours worth of effort.

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White Star Balloon Tracking Page
May 5, 2012

Lately, most of my free time has been devoted to the White Star Balloon project.  One of the parts of the project I have become involved with is the tracking page.  This was a major portion of the project a year ago, when we still had lots of buzz and momentum going.  Unfortunately, it was a huge disaster, and we had to cobble something terrible together at the very last moment. Since then, a lot has changed. We’ve become more skilled, new technologies have matured, and new hosting solutions have become cheaper.

White Star’s tracking needs are somewhat unique among the amateur balloon community. Most balloons end up using sites like aprs.fi and spacenear.us.  These sites are great, and the guys working on them are better web programmers than I’ll ever be.  Unfortunately, they don’t meet our needs.  aprs.fi is designed to used with devices carrying APRS transmitters (which we cannot use over the ocean), and spacenear.us is designed to be used with a distributed network of receivers, which doesn’t fit our model very well.  We also wanted to plan for a contingency of getting a large number of visitors very suddenly, in case we hit CNN or Reddit.

This year’s tracking page is run entirely on the client side.  All telemetry processing is done by the client, and displayed on maps, gauges and graphs. This allows us to use static hosting for everything. I used the following resources to make this happen:

  • Twitter Bootstrap – A super quick and easy CSS framework.  Looks good out of box, if a little cookie-cutter.  Don’t have the time or the design skill to go further, though.
  • OpenLayers – More fully-featured than anything from Google. Switched to this when we thought Google was going to price us out of GMaps. One downside: It’s huge!
  • HighCharts – Very pretty, easy to use charts.
  • jsgauge – The best JavaScript gauge I could find.  There aren’t a lot out there, and most suck pretty hard.  This one isn’t great, but it gets the job done.
  • JQuery
  • Amazon S3 – Used to store all static files.
  • PubNub – Push data provider with javascript client.  Super easy to use, super nice company that really helped us out.
  • Crockford’s “JavaScript: The Good Parts” – An alarmingly thin, amazingly effective JavaScript book.

Everything is up on GitHub, and ready for inspection and shed painting. More about the specifics below.

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A SOPA you can get behind
January 1, 2012

Introducing a useful SOPA- The Stop Online Productivity Avoidance box.

After having an extremely productive day on January 18th, I had a thought: What if every day were January 18th? Well, at the push of a button, now it can!

The button, switch, and display are wired to an Arduino.  The Arduino communicates with a python script running on the router, which controls a Squid3 proxy blacklist.  In SOPA mode, the whole of the internet is my oyster.  In NOPA mode, however, distracting websites like reddit, hacker news, and hackaday are blocked.  This isn’t very useful without a great deal of self control, however.  In weaker instances, nuclear mode must be employed.  Turn the key switch and press the button and all distracting sites are blocked for one hour.  The only recourse is to restart the router, but the router requires 15 minutes to restart, blocking the entirety of the web for the duration.  Overriding nuclear mode is not appealing.

All code is posted online at https://github.com/Zuph/SOPA-Box

A video demonstration and more pictures of construction lie below the break.

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Creating SVG files for solder paste stencil stencils from KiCad
December 12, 2011

Eventually, hand soldering surface mount components becomes a pain, especially if you’re doing small manufacturing runs. It’s much easier to work with solder paste and a hotplate. Joints are higher quality, and you can manufacture more boards at once. If it was good enough to get Sparkfun started, it’s certainly good enough for us! Working with solder paste does require a stencil, though. The stencil contains precisely sized holes which allow solder paste to be precision applied to the metal pads on your PCB.

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A Cavalcade of KiCad Resources
November 11, 2011

This list will be kept up to date on the wiki: http://meatandnetworking.com/w/Kicad_Resources KiCad is an Electronic Design tool, similar to EagleCAD. KiCad is free, open source software, and runs on OSX, Linux and Windows. KiCad is unrestricted. All features may be used for hobbyist or commercial works. Here are some features of KiCad that might appeal to the hobbyist: No restrictions on board size No restrictions on number of layers On-the-fly DRC test Nested schematic sheets No restrictions on commercial use Completely open source

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