Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Hello Processing

If you want to learn to code, Processing is a great place to start.  You can download the Processing editor for free, or you can do a quick intro tutorial without downloading anything right in your web browser.

Hello Processing

It’s part of the Hour Of Code project, and in addition to the tutorial video with Daniel Shiffman, it has a fully functional Processing editor right there.  You can change the examples, or you can make your own programs.

Get started right here!


Found @ CRASH Space No 6. – USB LED Light goes Dieselpunk

Finished Light

The finished light plugged into a USB hub

So there was a delay this week in the F@CS series. Why? Because I met my match in a part that is taking more research than I originally intended. It has the location of a factory printed on it so I’m doing a bit more humanities-style research on it.  Please stay tuned.

The change-of-course-project is a mod of an  USB LED light.  I stumbled onto an inspiring Instructable by Winged Fist called Dieselpunk USB Lamp that has links to other Dieselpunk and Steampunk style mods for modern technology.   My version uses more lamp-parts and 10mm LED, but the spirit is the same.

More pictures are up in a flickr set, including the original USB LED find from our donations pile.

If you decide to make your own, please note two important  missing pieces from the Instructable: any mention of a current limiting resistor or a link to how to solder wires together. It is tiny, but you can see a resistor soldered to the lead wire of the LED in the Instructable. I would have liked him to call that out as important. I know the original current limiting resistor in my hacked object came out in the dismantle.

To make a lot of these without designing a PCB or soldering wires together, go to Mouser and order something like the Visual Communications Company’s CNX LED Socket with the integrated resistor option. They’ll be more stable than a wire to wire connection and the LED can be swapped in the future. Some items in the line have lens accessories.  Also, they are less than a dollar if you are getting the part without lead wires.

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Found @ CRASH Space No 5. – Tactile Swiches

Finished Viewer From op
United States Patent US3133170 (1964)

Tactile momentary switches are magic.

Think of all the giant heavy toggle switches and spring-based momentary push buttons on some of the older electronics you’ve seen and we still have. Crazy satisfying to play with but heavy, clunky and big.

Now picture tactile switches, or tact switches, that still manage to have a physical snap and yet are tiny.  Their physicality comes from the deformation of a metal dome that may or may not also serve as one of the electrical contacts. The clicky seal-intact indicator on jar lids is that kind of spring.

These switches represent a huge step in miniaturization and production automation.  The technical drawing (shown middle left) was captured from the oldest patent I could find using this technology. Everything else I saw from before this before was using coil springs. Current patents filed are all about improving reliability, manufacturing and size.  There are some others in  F@CS No. 5 Flickr set and I’ll be posting more.

The reason I’m writing about them for this series is because someone kindly donated a handful of 12mm tact switches to our parts bins. I enjoy poking around to see what new stash has shown up in the unlabeled drawers.  So this is a little how to on how to use them in finished projects (not just exposed on breadboards or raw pcbs) and a bit of a buying guide if you want to source your own.

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Found @ CRASH Space No. 4: Pager Motors as Insects

Pager motors are small motors with a lopsided weight on the end that were developed to shake pagers (link provided for those born in or after the ’90s). They now shake phones, electric razors, toothbrushes, etc.  The particular pager motor for this project was another scrapped-off-the-floor find. Most likely it fell onto floor and hid under the couch during a Mega-Take-Apart excited to be free from a toothbrush.  I made a moth with it.

Which one is alive?

Which one is alive?

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Found @ CRASH Space No. 3: Too Many Phones!!!

Flickr User Matthijs: Dooky! Pick up the phone!!

Flickr User Matthijs: Dooky! Pick up the phone!!


We get a lot of cell phones donated to us. We don’t use them. They get taken to Good Will. We do not check to see if you have removed your information correctly.  They might end up separated from their charger before we hustle them out of here,  which makes them useless for anything but scrap. And please note, the options for old phones are poor.



So what to do?

Here are some ideas for your old phone:
•    Keep it charged and use it as emergency 911 phone, since carriers are required by law to allow 911 phone calls (or donate it to a local homeless shelter for the same purpose. )
•    Make a robot controller
•    Type your model into a search engine along with the word hack or make or project(s) or clever and see what comes up.
•    You can give a shot to learning how to send a text from your Arduino. (I would probably not demote my current phone for this, but choose the GSM/GPS shield because I like to make projects that others can more easily reproduce)

If you are just going to strip your old phone for parts or give it away, there are some organizations who could really use your phone as a phone.  For example the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Many other charities that I looked into actually sell the phones to get money from them being scrapped.  You can sell your phone too to someone one like EcoATM. If the phone has “zero value” those services may not keep it out of a third world incinerator.   If the EcoATM says your phone has zero value, better to hold on to it and try to find a e-Steward certified disposal option like Call2Recycle.  I’m going to look into becoming a participating site with them, but we aren’t there yet.