It’s true, we’ve managed to move all of our gear and junk into a new space. We’re in the same building, but we’ve now got over twice the space, and some delineation between a workshop sort of room, and other rooms that are more office-like. Above, you can see a shot of the new workshop. It’s pretty close to the size of our entire previous space, and we’re excited to fill it up with useful tools and fun projects. The first step though, was painting:
In addition to having more space, we also finally got roof access. That, plus a particularly motivated new-ish member (Walter), means that we already have a respectable antenna farm installed up there, perfect for the roughly 50% of our membership with ham licenses.
We’ve set aside a whole room for all the ham gear and a secondary electronics workbench (although it’s already surpassing the main bench as far as sweet gear goes).
The network goons have a server closet now, so normal humans can be isolated from the constant whine of small fans and hard drives.
There’s a large room set up as a classroom or conference room, perfect for some upcoming classes that are in the works, and nicely isolated from other noisy activities in the space. I reckon we can accommodate a dozen people per class, if they all need hands-on desk space, and more if it’s just rows of chairs.
There’s more to the space that hasn’t been shown here. Three more rooms in fact… some of which we’re not quite sure what to do with. If you want to see more pictures, there’s always our flickr group, or better yet: come visit us in person! Check out our calendar for a schedule of events and open nights.
As is usually the case, Interlock managed to cajole/bribe the organizers of BarCamp Rochester into giving us a table in the atrium, upon which we could set up our wares and lure in unsuspecting geeks. The conference itself was really great, with lots of interesting talks, and lots of attendees and traffic by our table. Everybody seemed quite excited about the “Skeletonizing Carcasses with Flesh-eating Beetles” talk, myself included.
In the past, we’ve had a slight lack of table-sized projects that moved, made noise, or otherwise stimulated people to come talk to us and see what Interlock is all about… but no longer!
After becoming a little obsessed with old pen plotters over the past few months, I decided I’d like to try assembling my own drawing robot. The main goal, again, was to have something small, cool, and interactive to attract folks at events where we have a table or booth. So about a month ago, our journey started with destruction… one printer and one printer/scanner gave their slightly non-functional lives to this project. Anything slightly cool was saved, and of course the precision rods, stepper motors, and timing belts were the main goal. I wanted this to use pin-feed card stock, so an old dot-matrix printer was also sacrificed.
I was without camera for most of the month, so documentation is non-existent. Regardless, the documentation would have been something like this: “!@#$!@#$ MORE EPOXY! !@#%!#$”, along with pictures of me looking frustrated. Let’s just say, this machine is a hack, on top of a kludge, wrapped in a cob-job. We ended up with the paper-feed mechanism from the dot-matrix printer acting as the Y axis, and a small solenoid from adafruit riding along on the X axis with a wobbly pen-holder (and some tape (and epoxy!)). This was all hooked up to a rickety breadboard (I designed and ordered an Arduino shield via Batch PCB, but it didn’t arrive in time) with two Polulu stepper drivers, an Arduino, and a simple transistor doohicky for toggling the solenoid. We ran grbl on the Arduino, and after tracking down a bug in said code and reflashing the firmware, we were well on our way. I learned a lot, stressed a bit, and the morning of BarCamp we barely managed this:
But it got better throughout the day, with some live on-the-scene hacking. I managed to get a toolchain set up to get webcam input traced and plotted thusly:
That toolchain starts with OpenCV handling the webcam, and doing a “trace outlines” sort of procedure. From there, a PNG is saved, converted to vectors by autotrace, converted from eps to hpgl (the language of old-timey plotters) by pstoedit, slurped back into Python via the Chiplotle HPGL library, where I have a few routines scale and optimize the tool path, and then we output some ugly gcode and stream it to the Arduino. Phew.
It’s a bit roundabout. But it worked, and it made people smile and wander over to talk to us… and they got some cool robo-portraits out of it. I’ll leave you with another image and video of the bot doing its thing. A few more can be found in my flickr gallery.
Surely this will be my last poorly documented project: a hands-free foot operated documentation camera. I thought it’d be handy, and I had an old broken desk lamp kicking around, so of course, the two must be mushed together.
I started out with an old Canon SD1000, with CHDK installed of course. For those in the dark, CHDK is an alternate firmware that works on lots of point and shoot cameras (not just Canon, anymore), and it lets you run scripts, save pictures as raw files, and tweak every setting you could ever possibly want to. It’s awesome, and I needed it so I could trigger the shutter via an external button (you basically toggle +5v on one of the USB port pins).
I didn’t want to worry about running out of batteries mid-shoot, so I printed a dummy battery at Shapeways, ran some wires through it, then tinned and bent over the ends of them to make some pseudo “terminals”. These went out a hole I drilled in the battery door, through the lamp, to a simple 5v voltage regulator, wired up straight out of the datasheet. This 5v source also goes through an old lamp foot switch to the camera’s USB port, for the external trigger.
Finally, I took to the lathe to make an adapter between the weird lamp thread and standard camera tripod thread (1/4″ diameter, 20 threads per inch). I used a bit of round delrin stock, bored out the appropriate diameters, and just cranked a bolt through rather than threading things properly.
I tried a few test shots last night, while I put together Mighty Ohm’s Geiger Counter Kit. It works pretty well, but can’t really zoom in close enough to document very fine work. Hopefully it will still be useful for documenting other tasks that require both your hands in frame. Failing that, I’m sure there will be other uses for a scriptable camera attached to a flexible-yet-solid base… perhaps it will turn into a time-lapse-bot.
Have you heard about Maker Faire? Probably. Well, this year, a group of us including three Interlock Members ended up going down to Queens for Maker Faire NYC 2011.
Personally I don’t really consider myself a maker and have always been in the infosec hacker realm. I go to hacker cons like Defcon but Maker Faire was a new intense gathering of super positive people. Where else can you say you saw a giant hydrolic fire breathing dragon next to a one man drum corp.
Really the only reason I went down was to volunteer at the TOOOL booth with a couple of friends. I spent the weekend teaching kids and adults how to pick locks. I’ll just say that I don’t hang around kids very much but teaching an 8 year old how to pick locks was pretty freaking cool. But the highlight of my weekend was teaching an NYPD officer how to pick a master lock.
I’ve been taking up quite a bit of space at Interlock lately with my new toy, a Roland DPX-3300 pen plotter… delivered via ebay from the magical futurepast of the early nineties. For those that are out of the loop with the past century, pen plotters are two axis robo-thingamajigs that basically pick up pens and draw on paper with them. They’ve been replaced by wide-format inkjet printers, but they used to be quite popular with anybody who wanted to plot out maps, blueprints, and other large diagrams.
Anyways, somehow I caught the plotter bug, even going so far as to learn a bit of python after finding this neat library called Chiplotle that handles the basics of creating and streaming artwork to plotters using their native language of HPGL. They have a mailing list where they often point out good plotter deals on ebay, and I foolishly/accidentally purchased perhaps the biggest flatbed plotter out there. 3×2 feet of plotting goodness, 100 pounds of steel and stepper motors delivered to my door by a grumpy UPS driver.
After realizing it doesn’t fit anywhere in my house, I brought it to Interlock and have been tinkering with it since. The first step was to convert old dried out plotter pens into pen holders that would allow me to use Sharpies or other art pens with the device. That involved a quick trip to the lathe, which I hope to document more fully in the future.
Having figured out an inexpensive pen solution, I really wanted to make drawings based on webcam input… so I trawled around the internet and mailing lists until I could piece together a passable solution using OpenCV’s python bindings, and a series of nerdy unixy commands (convert, autotrace, and pstoedit) to trace, mush, and output the data. You can find the relevant code up on my Ronald Toys Github repository.
Having conquered such menial tasks, I decided that the default route the plotter was taking was quite inefficient, with lots of time spent seeking back and forth between lines. My precious robot was spending half its time flailing due to a poorly composed hpgl file. Surely there was a better way.
Tada! I wrote a really dumb sort routine that attempts to minimize seeking between lines, instead of blindly accepting the order that autotrace wrote them in. You can see the difference in the following two time-lapse videos. The first shows the default route that autotrace produces, and the second is my optimized version.
Next step for this project: some more sophisticated drawing routines, including some cross-hatched shading, color, and maybe even some 3D input from a Kinect. Stop in for a Tuesday Open Night and maybe you can be a robo-portrait guinea pig!