Wednesday’s Linux Class

Here’s a quick preview of the “Revitalize Your Computer With Linux” class coming up this Wednesday.

Linux is an alternative to commercial operating systems, available free on the web and maintained by a community of developers. It runs on very modest hardware (I’ll be doing a demo install on a single-core 2.0 GHz box), and has a variety of high-quality applications available out of the box.

I’ll be covering what Linux is, how to get it, and how to try it out and get it installed on your computer. Copies of Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) will be provided, so if you’d like to follow along, bring a laptop.

In addition to installation, I’ll be going over some basic skills that will help you get the most out of your new linux installation, including:

  • Command-line basics
  • Using the package manager to install new software
  • Basic productivity software (OpenOffice.org, Thunderbird, Firefox)
  • Keeping your system up to date

Hope to see you there!

Ride of the Valkyries

So, sometimes, I just have to stop and admit that I have a pretty awesome job. I work for a big box hardware store, as a technician in our Tool Rental department. I get all the general handy man projects around the store, and I was asked to build a tank for a competition between stores that is held every year. This thing is my baby, I’ve spent the last week and a half building this in between my normal work.

The cannon, which actually fires, is two inch PVC and has three and four inch PVC around it stepped down to the end of the barrel. The gun itself is a modified PVC t-shirt cannon, many of you have probably seen one on Make’s website. The valve is triggered with two 6v lantern batteries in series. The tank had to be parallel with the rest of the cannon so there’s room in the cockpit for a driver. I just added a 90 degree fitting after the solenoid valve.

The cockpit actually swivels, it sits on top of four casters and is guided by two galvanized pipes that sit in a circle cut on the top of the main body. The barrel tilts up and down hinged on two more pieces of pipe. The cockpit is made from two octagons, the one on the bottom is slightly elongated in the front in order to add a curvature. The curvature is achieved using 1/8″ Masonite, I attached it to the bottom and bent it onto the top. All the seams were filled with caulk give the illusion of welds.

The powerhouse behind it is a 3000 watt Honda generator fitted into the back. I added a long tail pipe to the end of the muffler to vent the exhaust out the back for the driver. Hooked up to the generator are the two front lamps, which are 250w halogen work lights painted black with high temp paint. It also powers the small air compressor in the front which is used to fill the PVC tank before the gun is fired. The filling system includes a modified tire filler with built in gauge so the driver can see and adjust the pressure as needed.

The main body was built around a lumber cart intended for flat goods like plywood and drywall. The frame is secured to it using metal strapping. The wheels are buckets spray painted black and the track is made from cedar edging painted black and silver. While I built almost the entire thing myself, I did have helping hands and helping minds for some of the creative pieces, but the awesome paint job was done by a fellow rental associate who’s an ex marine. He used camo paint and a faux brown stone paint to add the illusion of mud spray on the tracks and underside.

It’s really a testament to how great things can turn out when people put their heads and skills together. It’s was an extraordinary opportunity, and I’m extremely proud of how it turned out. I hope you guys enjoy the gallery below half as much as I enjoyed making this.

Intro to electronics class

photo by Windell Oskay on flickr

On Saturday November 6, Workshop 88’s own hacker extraordinaire Kevin Roof will be hosting an “Intro to electronics” class. Come out and start learning the basics of resistors, capacitors, transistors, diodes and all types of basic circuits. In this class you will build an LED throwie which conserves battery power by turning off during the day.

Date: November 6th, 2010 (Saturday)
Time: 2:00 pm
Location: Workshop 88 (Map to Workshop)

Cost: $10.00 (which covers the cost of the materials)

Contact: info@workshop88.com
Twitter: @Workshop88

Revitalize your computer with linux

Tux!

On Wednesday, October 20, Workshop 88’s own president Russ Lankenau will be hosting “Revitalize your computer with linux”. Do you have an older computer at home that you don’t know what to do with? Learn how to breathe new life into your machine that you didn’t know it still had.

Date: October 20th, 2010 (Wednesday)
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Workshop 88 (Map to Workshop)

Contact: info@workshop88.com
Twitter: @Workshop88

Sunday at the Workshop

Geocaching was on the docket, but we got work done and crafted around The Workshop instead.

After some jiggering, Andrew and Kevin got a router worked into our workbench.  It looks great and works like a charm.

My brother Dan and I built paracord bracelets.  Each one has 8ft of paracord that can support >500 lbs. of tension.  Great for people who love to backpack and camp, like me.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed extra rope to secure a tent or a tarp.

Practical Photography Class

Photographer

ƅethan @flickr - My Konica & Me

Tuesday the 12th of October, William will teach our first Practical photography class. It will cost $10 and you’ll need to bring your own camera. The class will start at Workshop 88 at 6:30pm. We’re trying something new, if you’re not already a member and want to join the Workshop after the class we’ll discount your first month’s dues the cost of the class!

Making a gee haw whimmy diddle

Several years ago at a conference I met a professor of acoustics from Japan who was demonstrating a folk toy called the “Giri-giri gari-gari”. He said it was so simple to make that anyone could do it without any measurements. I had to try it out!

After doing a little googling, I found out that the toy is also common in other cultures. In Appalachia it is known as the “Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle” (or the Gee Haw Whammy Diddle with various spellings of Whimmy or Whammy).

The toy is simply a stick that has notches cut along its length with a propeller attached to one end. The stick I chose was a square dowel. I used popsicle sticks for the propeller with a nail for the axle. I drilled a pilot hole to get the nail to seat without splitting the wood. The propeller spins when a small stick is slid along the notches. By adjusting how you slid the stick along the notches you can control the direction of the spin.

Here’s a video of me trying out one that I made in my office:

(Yes, I dropped the camera. Twice.)

Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle

I still need quite a bit of practice, but I can give you some tips if you want to make your own.

1. The notch spacing and the depth do not matter at all. Make them deep or shallow, as long as you are getting vibrations into the stick it will work.

2. The closer you can make the notches to the propeller the better it seems to work. There is a trade-off in making the notches so close to the propeller that you tend to hit them with the stick more easily.

3. The further back you hold the toy from the end with the propeller, the easier it seems to be to get the propeller to reverse. This is probably due to the increased transmission of the vibrations down the length of the toy.

4. The better balanced the propeller, the easier it will be to spin, obviously. It seems that the shorter the propeller is, the more easier it seems to be to get it to reverse. However, I think the shorter propellers are less dramatic.

This was a fun project to make, and I have fun playing with it!