Workbench Camera

Seeing a few other Makers add simple camera & boom systems to their workbenches, I was inspired to do the same. I tried to keep the construction as simple as possible.

Camera Boom Track

My boom track consists of two 3/4 inch floor flanges, two 3/4 inch 90° elbows, NPT on one end, slip fitting on the other and a five foot length of 3/4 inch schedule 40 pvc. The boom arm consists of a 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″ T fitting, cut in half, several random lengths of 1/2″ schedule 40 pipe, two 90° elbows and a end cap drilled and fitted with a 1/4-20 bolt, nut and wing-nut.

Camera Mount

Nothing is glued, so far friction holds it all together. I figure I can add set-screws if the elbows start to slip too much.

The camera is a Microsoft Lifecam Studio, which is a 1080p sensor with a fixed aperture auto focus lens. It’s a cell phone camera basically, when you get it to focus, it does a decent job. I’ve only recorded in 720p, I haven’t found the option to record video in 1080p, maybe my PC isn’t fast enough.

Import Mouser Invoices into Excel

It would be nice if online parts vendors gave you csv or excel files of your order or invoice. Mouser for example gives you the option of html files or pdf files. Future lets you download a plain text file, but it’s next to useless, there’s no part numbers or anything! I’ve created an excel spreadsheet that will convert a mouser html file into an excel format. It’s not a magic single button click macro or anything fancy, but as long as mouser doesn’t mess with their page layout too much, it should work.

To start, log into “My Mouser” and go to your order history (not invoice history). Click on an old order, and after it opens up, click on “print view”. Print view strips out the form elements that just make things more complicated. Now go to File, Save As and save the web page as a compiled page (MHT format). Sorry firefox, I do love thee as my browser of choice, but this only works in IE as far as I know.

Now open your mht file in excel, you should see that excel properly parsed the order table into neat little rows and columns. Now, open the excel file I’ve provided at the end of this post. Right click on the worksheet tab and choose “Move or copy…”. Copy the worksheet to the mouser workbook. After you have the two worksheets together, rename the mouser worksheet into “Web”. You’re almost done!

At the top of my worksheet there are two cell fields, starting row number and starting cell reference. The row number is where the parts table starts, it has been row 31 on all my orders so far. Starting cell reference is the worksheet reference for the first cell containing parts data, this has been B31 for all my orders so far. Be sure to include the sheet reference as well, so you want that to read “Web!B31”. If your order history is like mine, you may not need to change either of these. Once you get it right, you’ll see the rest of the spreadsheet fill in with your parts data. Now you can save this as an excel file, or export it as CSV, or whatever.

Download the excel spreadsheet

Under the Sea

The previous “I Feel Dirty” theme was getting a bit old, so I decided to change things up! This is “Under the Sea”. I notice it is formatted for 1024×768 instead of 800×600. What do you think about that? I run a high res on all my personal monitors, but working in the IT business, I know low res is still popular with a lot of people, even if they have big monitors. If I stick with the wider format, I’ll resize some of my recent pictures so they match-up with the text.

Given that broadband adoption continues to rise world wide, I’ve increased the number of posts displayed from 3 to 5. My feeling on the small number is my posts tend to have lots of pictures, and I like to minimally compress them as possible to maintain good quality. People on slower connections or slower devices might have trouble downloading several megabytes of data to render a page. I have an old pentium 3 laptop that despite my broadband connection struggles to view some modern sites. Drop me some feedback if you find more is better, or if it’s too much.

A friend pointed out that I have several unanswered questions in the comments for some of my posts. This website is my blog, a place to record my thoughts, and in the process, share them with the public. I don’t view it as a discussion forum. I welcome comments, criticisms and feedback. You can certainly post a question, and as long as it is relevant and makes sense, I’ll approve it as a comment, however, please don’t expect an answer. Really good questions usually receive a response either here or via email. If you want a discussion or debate on something you see here, pop on over to Linear’s forums:

Roll baby roll

The train has spent the last few hours speeding Eastward, I think we start heading North after Marshall Texas.

Here’s a screen-cap from Streets 2009, click on it for a huge version.

The sleeper car is a little different this time. The tiny closet has been replaced by a large hook and an open storage area. The single large step which you climbed to get into the bunk is now two steps, a little narrower. The halls feel narrower too, i think the room might be a tiny bit larger.

Our conductor is doing a better job keeping this rig rolling. The trip North is progressing more smoothly, we’re spending a lot less time at the stops.

My seat is on the west-facing side of the train again, so I’m seeing the same scenery again in reverse… I don’t really think I’m missing anything on the other side.

My EVDO connection has been working pretty good, I’ve been getting 15-20kb/sec uploading all these pics and videos.

After the Faire

Greetings Everyone…

The Faire is behind us now, and to sum up “how was it?” in one word: disappointing.

The fair reminded me of our local Independence Day festival in Manistee. It’s mostly arts, crafts and performers. The difference is, there were a few nerds in the corner, and fighitng robots.

The Faire had several major areas; the arena area housed some big ass tesla coils, some sort of lame robots with balls competition and the ComBot cage. The tesla coils were cool, but they were mostly just a light show to some midi controlled drums and a really loud PA system. The fighting robots were the coolest thing at the fair. It was very impressive to see the heavy weight and super heavy weight bots go up against each other. The smaller bots just sort of danced around until time ran out.

Next we have the Maker Stage, which was an outdoor tent covering raised platform and rear-projection screen. Different Makers and visionaries had scheduled talks. In general they were hard to hear, and the projection was useless. The tent was open on three sides and kind of small. The screen was washed out, and the PA wasn’t very loud – it had to compete with the human mousetrap and the electric guitar bicycle contraption.

Indoors we had the Maker Shed, selling many of the commerical projects covered on the Make blog. Lots of leds, arduinos and other assorted electronic gizmos. The shed had three tiny areas dedicated to demostrations and hands-on. If you purchased a kit from the shed, you could solder it together there which was nice, especially for the young folks just starting out.

In the rodeo barn there was the craft sellers. A little further down a company selling big CNC mills was cutting various things, and demoing a snap-together kit house they’d developed for temporary housing usage. Further down were some home-made CNC’s cutting away at various designs. Sparkfun had a decent sized booth at the end of the barn, showing off some of their eye-candies and doing soldering tutorials. On Saturday there were a few large LEGO cities setup, which were quite impressive. A few real hackers had their tables grouped together, show casing musical gizmos, nixie tubes and surface-mount soldering. A computer club named Austin Modders had some nice looking rigs on display, but they weren’t really doing anything. Duke University had several different teams displaying their work on parallel computing. I spoke with one of the engineers for about twenty minutes – he was very informative, it looks like a great program to be in.

Outside there were some art-bikes, a stage playing eccentric music, model rocketry, kite building and flying, and last but not least, a small trebuchet. I was lucky enough to stumble upon it right before a launch; it was most impressive.

I’m going through my pictures and videos right now, uploading as best I can with my evdo connection. Right now I think I’m on the sprint network and it seems pretty fast.

find some videos here:
and pictures here:

More to come!

That's Lunch

chicago stuffed deep dish pizza

This pizza was lunch on Wednesday.

Dinner on the train was not so good. They were sold out of most things, I had to settle for some dry and flavorless salmon. Things were too hecktec for any pictures… Will try again today.

The train is about an hour and a half behind schedule – I hope they can make that up, since I don’t really want to be getting into San Antonio at 23:00 or later!

Greetings from the Texas Eagle

According to the trusty GPS, I’m south of Joliet Illinois. The train is rolling at sixty mph right now, and seems to max out around eighty.

The ride is a lot rougher than I thought it would be – so much for “riding on rails” referring to a smooth ride. It’s so bumpy and turbulent I’m having trouble typing. Here’s a picture of my laptop setup in my little room.

Lunch at Giordano’s was excellent. The small pizza was too much for this man to tackle, I had to leave some behind. It was only a five minute walk from the train station, almost right across the street from the Sears Tower. The weather was not at all pleasant, I didn’t take many pictures.

I can’t get my phone to roam on the EVDO network, so I’m stuck at 1x speeds … better than nothing at least!

Trying hard not to judge.

I made this mistake of printing the schedule of stops for my train, the Texas Eagle. I’ve been reviewing the stops, seeing if there’s anything of interest that can be seen from the station. In Saint Louis, the gateway arch is very close – I hope the weather cooperates so I can snap a few photos.

However, I’ve developed the habit of looking at the track mileage between stops, and the time Amtrak claims it takes the train to travel that distance.

So far the worst stops I’ve found are between Dallas and Forth Worth. The train is scheduled to arrive at noon in Dallas, departing twenty minutes later for Forth Worth. The track distance between the two stops is thirty-one miles. However, the train is not scheduled to arrive at Forth Worth until 13:55. So that means Amtrak estimates the train to take roughly an hour and a a half to cover that thirty-one miles. The train then takes a leisurely fifty minute stop in Forth Worth before rumbling south-westerly for Central Texas. Luckily I’m not traveling all the way to Los Angeles on this train. After arriving in San Antonio at 22:25, the train does not depart until 5:40 the next morning!

I continue to remind myself, taking the train is not about getting someplace quickly.

Almost Time!

Wow, it seemed like the vacation was a long ways off, and it still feels that way, but I’m leaving Wednesday.

The train leaves at like 08:15 on Wednesday, so I’ll be leaving my house at about 05:00 so I can get there early and maybe have a quick breakfast. The Giordano’s a few blocks away on Jackson is still my plan for lunch during the ~3 hour layover in Chicago. According to my folks and the Amtrak website, people traveling with a room on the train have access to some sort of lounge with a concierge that will secure your baggage for you.

Once I’m on the train, I want to roll a lot of video of the view out the window. A little googling and I found some ideas for real-time transcoding of DV output from a firewire camera direct to mpeg4 xvid files. This setup will let me film for 100’s of hours using my little 160g portable usb drive. I’ll also shoot some footage of inside the train with my shooter – I imaging it’s pretty tight in there, and I don’t have a fisheye lens.

I got my ticket for the fair in the mail a few days ago – it’s not nearly as fancy as the passes to other technology conventions – just a plain paper ticket with multicolor printing on it, no holograms even!

If anyone going to the fair wants to contact me directly, shoot me a gmail @ gordonthree and I’ll give you my cell phone number. I plan to travel with two phones, one of which I’ve subscribed to EVDO internet service on. Maybe I can even blog during the train ride.

Internet Exploder

I just noticed my blog looks awful in IE7 and even worse in IE8. Are there any html gurus in the readership that would be kind enough to tell me whats wrong?

Update: I switched to the “classic” theme and then back to the theme I like and the site is now rendering properly in IE7. There appear to be a few icon images missing, I’ll have to dig those up from somewhere.