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Category Archives: all out geekery

  • Multiaxis symmetrical drawing – A Mandala maker that doesn’t suck

    I’ve had a terrible time finding a good piece of software to draw mandalas with. To be honest, I don’t care what mandalas are but I’m obsessed with how cool it is to draw with replicated symmetry on multiple axis.

    Without further ado, here it is (drag your mouse to draw):

    I hope you find it addictive. Click to pop out.


    So wow… just wow, this blew up. This little tool ended up making the front page of Reddit in one amazing thread in which  many people shared their mandalas. It was an amazing day in many ways, first of all I’ve never seen so many positive comments in a single thread online. The amount of people who seem to have been positively touched by this program is humbling. Drawing mandalas is apparently great stress relief for many and I’ve received several personal notes on how much this program had done for them. I did not see that coming to say the least. Then the fact that this tools was picked up by real artists pushed it to build creations I didn’t even know it was capable of. Lastly, my solar powered raspberry Pi handled hundred of thousands of connections in a single day which turned out to be a technical challenge on top of the overwhelming response. When I set out to create this program, I did not have the slightest idea that it would hit such a sweet spot. I mainly wanted to scratch an itch and couldn’t find any good apps out there. It is a true privilege to have had the chance so see so many people use a tool I made, and have them report they were positively touched by it.

    Here is a few of the most amazing mandalas that were posted on the Reddit thread, this is what it looks like when real artists take over your tool :)

     

  • Nosy Monster

    Robin & I have been working on a rover for the land since his toy RC car broke. I opened it up to see if I could fix it, and as with many things, I quickly came to the conclusion that “I’ll just throw a Pi in there and do it myself”.

    Here’s the supposedly amphibian piece of shit that broke withing 1 hour of use.

    Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 6.04.40 PMThe engines still worked so I bought a Raspberry Pi Zero with a Pi cam, some super cheap Sunfounder Relays

    From the ground up

    Before anything else, we introduced the notion of a relay. In the past we used Lego motors and batteries to apply power directly to actuators and create little robots. I just snipped one of the wires and had Robin create contact manually so he could make the correlation between a closed circuit and the motor going.

    nosy_monster_01

    With this “manual relay” in mind, we added a Pi controlled relay to make him realize that what the new gizmos do, is what he was doing by hand.IMG_7013

    nosy_monster_02

    Ok we have a web controlled Lego motor going. Let’s see if we can replicate with the RC car’s motors.

    IMG_7020IMG_7021First the manual relay

    nosy_monster_03

    Then with the Pi controlled relaysIMG_7024nosy_monster_04Our first iteration looked like this and had a few issues. I separated the circuit powering the DC motors and each were powered by only 1 AA battery. I also had many adjustments to make in the logic.

    IMG_7064Eventually, by adding a DROK voltage regulator, I was able to power everything from a single USB charger and prevent the motors from affecting the rest of the circuits.

    IMG_7127But the extra hardware is hard to fit in the Nosy Monster so it’s unlikely that I will be able to fit the solar panel that would turn it into a completely autonomous robot. So I started googling for other potential frames and OH GOD I JUST STUMBLED INTO THE WORLD OF RC ROBOTICS. Oops…

    In any case, I broke down the control into a step by step process. Instead of pressing “Go” and “Stop”, pressing “Go” will make it go for 1 second. There is 2 reasons for this. First, web based control introduces delays which make for a shitty live driving experience. Second, I would like this to behave like an actual rover on another planet. It reports back its sensors status and human decide on the next steps to follow. Heck I’m even thinking the next steps could be something that is voted on online. This would not be possible with “live” control.

     

  • IPv6 link-local address to MAC address online converter

    The converter

    It can also be addressed directly via:
    http://ben.akrin.com/ipv6_link_local_to_mac_address_converter/?mode=api&ipv6=fe80::5074:f2ff:feb1:a87f
    for all your API needs.

    Description

    This converter was implemented per Dave Russell’s suggestion as a follow up to the MAC address to IPv6 link-local address online converter. If you are interested in the steps behind this conversion, they are simply a reverse of the original Mac->IPv6 converter.

    Please note that of the various IPv6 notations, the one this script will expect is fe80::xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx.

  • A solar powered blog

    This blog is now powered by a Raspberry Pi using 100% solar energy. Nicole instrumented the Phidgets sensors so we would gain some visibility into our electricity production & consumption. This has already given us some great insights. We can see the effect that each device we use has on the system: how much the LED lamps take to charge, the hole that the inverter blasts through the battery when turned on. We can tell that not all sunny days are created equal in their ability to give a charge. We can even tell the increase in electricity consumption that rsyncing a whole bunch of data to the Pi has: 0.03A.

    The sensors

    • solar panels volts (a good indicator of sunlight)
    • input amps (indicates when the charge controller uses produced electricity)
    • output amps / load (what we consume with various devices)
    • battery volts (whether this blog will make it through the night or not)

    For now I’m only graphing using the Gnuplot one-liner from Hell. More to come…

    Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 12.33.16 PM

    It blows my mind way too hard that I have a system in which sunlight comes in and organized information comes out. And by organized information I mean lolcats.serious-cat

  • Footage from above of the beautiful place we’re calling home

    Thank you Jared :)

  • Hubsan X4 H107C

    Really a great little quadcopter. Much fun to be had with it, I’m almost ready to take it outside.

  • Duplogrifier

    I’ve been wondering for a while if I could represent a picture with Duplo pixels in a way that would do it justice.

    Introducing the Duplogrifier!

    Duplogrifier will take any JPEG and turn it into an arrangement of 2×2 Duplo bricks. Now truth be told, the answer to my original question is “no”. There are not enough colors available and it would take a obscene amount of bricks to build something visually acceptable. However it leads to some fairly cool results.

    2015-04-15: added 6 more “pixel” colors.

    You can play with it here:

  • Markov chains music generation

    Here’s a project I’ve had on the back-burner for many years. Following the natural progression of generating stuff based on Markov chains, I decided a while ago to port the algorithm to music.

    Music presents many challenges that I haven’t been able to address well so far. As a result, what the algorithm produces always had a bitter unfinished aftertaste to me, hence why I haven’t published anything about it for years.

    • Music is multidimensional, time is relevant and needs it own analysis and subsequent generation
    • The interconnectedness of different instruments from the piece is important as well.
    • Random generation even based on Markov chains fails to produce any structure. The pieces all sound like a long solo without chorus or any other repetition that would give us what we strive for: anticipation. In other words, it’s perfect for jazz.

    I’m hoping that publishing this will give me the kick in the nuts necessary to keep improving it. Without further ado, here’s what I have so far.


    Future improvements:

    • add to corpus
    • clean pieces analyzed of noise
    • try to infuse structure
  • More Dr. Meter fun

    Finger

    Arm

    Hair

    Salt

    Nutella (gross)

    Peanut

    Serrated knife blade

    Ballpoint pen

    Printed beer logo

    Cloth

    Melting snow

    [flv:http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/temp.flv http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Screen-Shot-2013-02-24-at-11.53.58-PM.png 640 426]

  • Dr. Meter B003+ 300X USB digital endoscope/miscroscope camera

    TLDR: an awesome cheap device wrapped in Chinese funkiness.

    The details

    It is hard, very hard to not pay attention to all the funny details that go around the device. But it’s a solid device that performs great for a good price. As far as I can tell, it does not do zooming per se, it is only able to get very close to a subject and thus when the resulting picture is displayed on a bigger screen, small details are visible. As such, what you see is strictly dependent on how close you stick the camera to your subject. In fact the camera has a focus length of a few millimeters to infinity, which means you ca use it a a regular camera but you’ll have to turn the focus knob quite a bit for that.

    First, some pics of what it’s capable of

    They are seriously lacking online

    The device itself

     On its little tripod

    The lens

    Everything else

    The device has multiple attachments referred to as “beauty inspection tools” which are meant to stick the camera in various orifices of one’s body. They are nicely sealed in sterilized bags (but not the anal one).

    Some of the various “beauty inspection tools”…

    The unboxing feels like opening a Chinese treasure chest, the mechanism, the texture, the looks; this product is made in China and not pretending otherwise. What else feels Chinese is pretty much anything written in English. It’s super funny to read it all.

    Technically

    The device is recognized as a standard camera in Windows, MacOS & Linux! No extra drivers necessary. This is what I love about buying products from smaller companies, they go after existing standards. As such you can open it with any webcam software, I took my test shots with photobooth. They provide some software for filming & measuring among other things but I care not about this functionality so I won’t spend the time loading it.

    I’ll take it to the beehive this week-end and we’ll see how it does there.