Older blog entries for follower (starting at number 104)

The cake wasn't a lie

It was my birthday last month and my great friends organised a personalised cake—my favourite lemon meringue pie in fact—especially for me. It was a good evening and really appreciated.

Syndicated 2009-08-31 09:47:03 from follower

Bright Bunny Project

Meet the cute and cuddly Bright Bunny Pirate who has a secret...

...his heart lights up when you feed him his favourite food...a carrot!

I designed this project for a workshop I taught at the Christchurch Craft 2.0 fair in June 2009.

We had three women and two girls participate, they learned to solder and assemble the bunnies each ending up with their own personality. It was good to have Lucy from Felt and Dave on hand to lend assistance as we under-estimated the time a bit!

It's turned out the project is an ideal introduction to incorporating electronics into craft. As an added bonus you can download the Creative Commons licensed Bright Bunny pattern.

The video above was recorded at the Christchurch Creative Space and edited in Blender.

Syndicated 2009-08-14 10:50:00 from follower

Christchurch Girl Geek Dinner on Ada Lovelace Day 2009

As I write this post it is no longer Ada Lovelace Day in New Zealand but it is still so in many parts of the world. Don't know about ALD? Read more at Finding Ada.

In a happy coincidence Christchurch's first Girl Geek Dinner occurred on ALD so I decided I'd mention the work put in by the two organisers Anchen le Roux and Lucinda McCullough for my ALD post. :-)

Thanks to being the special guest of Lucy from Board of Design and Felt ("your online outlet dedicated to all things handmade") I was able to attend the event within "the rules".

The evening had a great turnout of around thirty people—in fact, I'm tempted to make the next The Valley in Christchurch monthly tech dinner have the same admission rules in an attempt to match attendence numbers. :-)

To me what is great is that Luci and Anchen care enough about the New Zealand tech industry and their place in it that they chose to invest their time and energy in making something happen. Organising a venue, sponsors, invitations, ticketing and promotion all takes an investment and we all benefit from a stronger industry as a result.

Of significance to me was one of the organisers was heard to remark something along the lines of "I want to be the [insert name of prominent woman from another New Zealand city known for organising tech events] of Christchurch". Just like Ada Lovelace Day aims to promote, role models really do matter.

I hope more people in the tech industry—female and male—will follow Anchen and Luci's lead in becoming more involved in developing the New Zealand tech community.

Thanks to Luci, Anchen and those who attended.

Syndicated 2009-03-24 11:40:00 from follower

Christchurch Creative / Project / Hacker / Maker Space

I would like to gauge the level of interest for a hacker / project / creative / maker space in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Update: Join us this Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 7:30pm for a planning/doing gathering. See the announcement for details.

I've been interested in the concept for quite a while but after spending some time in similar setups in Europe I'm even more convinced it would be a great addition to the city. While I could spout on about it having social, community, technical, educational and creative benefits I'm really only suggesting it because I want to be able to work on projects and hang out with interesting people at the same time.

If you're not familiar with the concept here are a couple of starting points for learning more:

Already I've talked about the concept with a number of people and had a positive response. There is also a possibility of an at least temporary location in the central city. I suspect we would probably start off with having gatherings one or two nights a week.

Please participate in the discussion forum / mailing list if you are interested in helping this get started or interested in participating once it's started:

I welcome suggestions for venues, funding, participants, equipment and interminable discussions about a suitably local-flavoured name.

Know someone who creates, hacks, crafts, makes or who might otherwise benefit from such a space? Please pass this Christchurch creative project space link along to them.

Syndicated 2009-03-15 12:11:00 from follower

Hardware Into Art: TVIC/Geekosystem Crossover

What will this become?

Come to The Valley in Christchurch this week (Tuesday!) and don't just find out, make IT/ART happen!

Here's some of the details, check out the event announcement for more details:

The Valley In Christchurch February dinner and hack events

When: 6:00pm Tuesday 19th February 2008
Where: The China Kitchen, on Hereford St, opposite the Flight Centre

And then join us post-dinner for a special TVIC-exclusive Geekosystem session:

When: ~7:00pm—10:00pm-ish
Where: The Physics Room, Second Floor, 209 Tuam Street, Christchurch

Rumour is that some pizza and beverages will be provided while you work on your hardware hacking masterpiece.

Thanks to Adam and the Physics Room for organising this special after-hours session for us!

The photo above (courtesy of Adam Hyde) shows some of the "raw materials" that will be on hand.

Tending Networks: The 5th Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium

As it happens, the Geekosystem coincides with the The 5th Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium produced by The ADA Digital Arts Network.

Self-described as "New Zealand/Aotearoa's only digital artists' network. ADA was born of the observation that although new media artists were often highly networked in terms of both their own practice and their professional relationships, there was no national organization drawing together those with a common interest in digital art."

The symposium is an opportunity for New Zealand's digital/new media artists to meet face to face. Check out the upcoming weekend's programme.

I've actually been invited to present a brief overview of some of my Arduino hacking to the group during their "lightning talk" session on Saturday afternoon. A pleasant parallel to the symposium topic is my most recent project has been an ethernet expansion shield for the Arduino. I must write some more on that.

Foo Fruition

Speaking of needing to write more... My presentation at the ADA Symposium and the TVIC/Geekosystem crossover are a direct result of my attendence earlier this month at Kiwi Foo Camp 2008 (a.k.a. Baa Camp) and some people I met there. I must write some more on that. :-)

Syndicated 2008-02-17 17:12:07 from follower

That tall transmitter tower in San Francisco

Ever since I saw it, I'd wondered about the tall transmitter tower in San Francisco. Turns out it's the "Sutro Tower" and supports radio and television antenna. It can seem quite a menacing structure as it towers over the hill.

Further Sutro Tower details can be found—unfortunately it seems no live web cam views now exist. The view from the top must be pretty awesome and somewhat freaky, I would imagine. It is possible to find some links to "satellite" views of the structure on various mapping sites.

Actually, I also just found a construction photograph: (Yay for libraries! :-) )

It's all very Triffid/Tripod-ish...

Kite Photographs

I happened to be looking for the Sutro Tower after I found a reference to this famous picture of San Francisco damage after the 1906 earthquake—apparently taken from a kite-mounted camera:

I'd been intending to track down the photographs after I read of their existence in Adventures from the Technology Underground but then they were featured on Digg.com which saved me the trouble of looking for them.

Syndicated 2008-02-12 15:30:00 from follower

Belated Ponoko Update

In case you were wondering, no, i haven't been waiting for my Ponoko package since December. The package arrived within the estimated time—I think it was about a week, but I can't recall exactly now. My blog post delivery has just taken a bit longer.

Here's the puzzle design:

(The reflection in the puzzle pieces is because I took the photos outside.)

And here is the bracket for the WIZ810MJ with a RJ45 in place:

For thoses interested, check out more Ponoko "unboxing" pictures.

Overall I think this has been a successful experiment and hope to be able to use Ponoko again in the future—I think the "personal manufacturing" revolution is only just beginning...

Syndicated 2008-02-11 01:00:00 from follower

Summer hacking

Last week I caught up with Marek and the elusive Phillip (finally!) and showed off my Arduino connecting to IRC:

It turned out jandals and shorts weren't actually the best wear for the weather on the day but still good to catch up.

Syndicated 2008-01-09 22:10:00 from follower

Playing Geppetto at Ponoko

A couple of nights ago I placed my first order at Ponoko to take advantage of their free shipping in November offer:

Since I originally didn't have anything specific in mind to produce I thought I'd try my hand at designing a simple 2D "fit the pieces together" puzzle. I created the design in Inkscape and the final puzzle version (the piece on the left) can be seen in Inkscape's outline mode here:

The smaller "P" will be a "Heavy Raster" etch while the other lines in the design will be cut through. (Feel free to assume the "P" stands for Philip or Ponoko... :-) ) Here's a sample of the "Heavy Raster" effect on the black acrylic the puzzle will be produced from:

I ended up selecting 4.5mm thick acrylic but it would have been around 25% cheaper in the 3mm thick variety—because I'm not sure of the rigidity of the material I decided to try the thicker option.

The rest of the order is made up with some mostly test designs, including the piece on the right which is designed to make a 3D "L" shaped object that includes a slot to hold the RJ45 adapter from a WIZnet WIZ810MJ module.


According to the Ponoko Manufacturing FAQ the turnaround time is "between 5 to 10 days" with shipping time on top. We'll see what happens!

The free shipping was the major motivator for trying this now, though it meant I probably spent more on cutting/materials than I would have...

My overall impression of Ponoko is it has a lot of promise but is still rough around the edges. While the site graphic design is impressively slick the design/price/order process doesn't flow very easily. If you're price-conscious and frequently want to know what a particular design change will mean to your cutting cost the upload/quote process is down-right tedious.

It would be great if Ponoko could produce plug-ins for the supported design packages to allow you to calculate the cutting cost from within the application. If I didn't already have multiple projects on the go I'd probably consider moving this from the "nice idea" stage—but I don't envisage that happening any time soon...


My unsolicted Ponoko marketing suggestion of the day: Produce a bunch of puzzles with the Ponoko logo and brand them with "Make it yourself at Ponoko" or something... Bonus points for 3D...

Syndicated 2007-12-02 14:10:00 from follower

Swapping, Meeting and Buying

I've read for ages that Ham Radio Swap Meets are great places to get good deals on various electronics bits and pieces (and, admittedly, junk too). A while back I discovered the website of the local Christchurch, New Zealand Ham radio branch. Unfortunately their most recent events page mentioned a swap meet in March but with no indication of which year!

Until a couple of weeks ago I hadn't followed up on the idea any further but on a whim I decided to email them. In a happy coincidence it turned out that their next annual swap meet was to be in two weeks time (this past weekend).

The shopping list

Although I got to the event later than intended I still picked up a few interesting items. Indeed, it was probably easier on the wallet having less temptation in purchase choice. :-)

Among a few other bits and pieces I managed to pick up three oscilloscope probes and related items for $NZ1, a partially used wirewrap set for another $NZ1 and some small project boxes. It will be interesting to see if having proper probes makes any difference when using xoscope—the Linux sound-card oscilloscope.

Also purchased a box of assorted ICs for $NZ5 which may turn out to be both a convenient and reasonable deal. I'm around halfway through cataloging the contents of the box and about two-thirds of the 70+ ICs seem to be useful with a good assortment of 7400 series, 4000 series and op-amps amongst others. It's taken ages to do the cataloging (Octopart and similar sites have been very helpful) but hopefully it'll pay off in the long run—if nothing else I'm learning things along the way. Looks like there's a few "historical" items dating back to around the late 70's/early 80's too.

Acquiring vices

My largest purchase (something approaching "real money" :-) ) was a PCB Soldering Vise which I later found advertised here at a price that made my purchase price seem reasonable.

Described as a "Mark III Circuit Card Fixture" seemingly made by Technical Devices Company of Torrance, California it's like a PanaVise circuit board holder but presumably cheaper and less well made...

(original image source)

The device looks like this, but less shiny:

(original image source)

It's likely to be larger than what I need but should hopefully be a useful addition to the tool chest. I even found a scan of Mark III Circuit Card Fixture assembly instructions (original image source) in case I unassemble it accidently...

All up it was an interesting time—I ended up stopping in at the SuperShed and a few garage sales on the way home but only added an ethernet cable to the purchase pile. :-)

Syndicated 2007-11-26 12:30:00 from follower

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