Monday, June 29, 2009

Electronics parts yield articulated animal robots

I ran across this post today on the MAKE: blog that discusses robot art pieces that are fashioned from large numbers of electronics and mechanical parts into the most interesting animals you can imagine. Very imaginative and inventive, to say the least!

I was following some of the links about this and I found this post of the artist's own making, that takes a few of the robot pieces even further to make extremely short videos of them going through their articulated paces! They amazed me no end!

Comments welcome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Case of the Missing Sunspots

Ham radio operators and shortwave listeners have been pretty discouraged at the lack of our sun to build an appropriate number of sunspots. To the average person, this seems like either a tempest in a teapot or angels dancing on the head of a pin. But to folk who depend on the ionosphere of our planet to reflect radio waves, it is important. The number and size of sunspots on the part of the sun facing the Earth is closely tied to energy coming from the sun to energize the ionosphere's reflection regions. Here is a good discussion from NASA of why those sunspots have not been created and a good story why the folks waiting for them should not lose hope.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bach to the computer

This is the best computer visualization aid I've ever seen for music. As soon as you click to play it, immediately click on the HQ "button" and the "full screen" "button". It is quite a display. The particular piece involved in this demonstration is Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" for organ.

Comments welcome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amazing software for my Canon S3 camera

I stumbled onto this software site tonight. I have a hard time explaining how wonderful this software add-in sounds to me. There are a number of things that I've been wanting to do and was disappointed that my camera couldn't do that now are possible through this software!

If you want to read about it, the main page is here.
I found out about it through a kind of roundabout means. I read the MAKE: blog. It is a blog for folks who enjoy making things. The post I read on that blog is interesting enough. It is about making an automated robotic device that allows you to create panoramic views with your digital camera at the push of a button. The post is here.
While I was reading it, it linked to the actual construction instructions here.
And on that first page of the 13 steps to make the robotic controller, the CHDK program was mentioned. I did not know before that moment that anyone was mucking about, adding software TO the already existing instruction set inside my Canon camera. I wouldn't have thought of it, though that is the domain of a lot of the MAKE: projects: "hacking" or changing either hardware or software of modern devices to make them do things they couldn't before or extending the possibilities of the device far beyond the manufacturer's thinking. CHDK makes use of the microprocessor that controls the camera (every digital camera contains a microprocessor) to act as a programmable computer that provides the extra capabilities.
This software does that with a vengeance! Here's a partial list of things possible through using CHDK, divided into six categories:
a. Enhanced ways of recording images - you can capture still pictures in RAW format (as well as JPEG), and for video images you can have increased recording time and length (1 hour or 2 GB), and a greatly increased range of compression options.
b. Additional data displays on the LCD screen - histogram, battery life indicator, depth of field, and many more.
c. Additional photographic settings that are not available on the camera by itself - longer exposure times (up to 65 seconds), faster shutter speeds (1/25,000 sec, and faster in some cases), automatic bracketing of exposure, etc.
d. The ability for the camera to run programs ('scripts', written in a micro-version of the BASIC language) stored on the memory card - these programs allow you to set the camera to perform a sequence of operations under the control of the program. For example, a camera can be programmed to take multiple pictures for focus bracketing, or take a picture when it detects that something in the field of view moves or changes brightness.
e. The ability to take a picture, or start a program on the memory card, by sending a signal into the USB port - you can use the USB cable to take a picture remotely.
f. The ability to do a number of other more useful (and fun) things, such as act as a mini file browser for the memory card, let you play games on the LCD screen, etc.
And (just think about it), the possible things that the software can do for the camera and user may GROW in number, because, now that the genie is out of the bottle, there are a host of folks out there, poking and prodding away in multiplicities of experiments, trying to create new features no one else has thought of. I'm boggled...and excited...and anticipating my camera getting much more use.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Run for the, uh

The article sent by an ex-Texan friend is about a Kansas spectacle: a land-based spout of debris rising far up into the lower atmosphere. It is the land-based equivalent of a waterspout. Those are frequently seen near the shore, and they are not usually associated with the radical damage we see from tornadoes. The image and article are here. The photo is this month's cover photo for the respected National Geographic magazine, so I do not have any right to display it here. I recommend viewing it, however, as it is truly magnificent, as landspouts go. [I've shown an image at the head of this post of a much less impressive spout.]

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Power of the photograph: LOOK3 exhibit

LOOK3 YourSpace Online - Images by Festival of the Photograph

Looking through this kaleidoscope of slices of life in this world causes me to reflect on how both music and images can affect mood and outlook at the same time. Take a while to see what's here. Or go to the Web page of the slide show and look at it full screen! Look and reflect and rejoice and grovel in pain at what happens and can be seen in this world! All I can say in response to this overwhelming cavalcade is, "PEACE!"

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Console radios: old friends

I was driving down the main street of my new home town yesterday, when I passed someone using an unused building's sidewalk for their own downtown moving sale. As usual, I shopped to see if there were something I couldn't live without. The pictured console radio just called my name. For not very much, it was mine. Now I have to take out the chassis, check the tubes, replace all capacitors, measure resistors to see if they need replacing, align the radio's tuned circuits, replace the power cord, rewind or replace the AM flat coil antenna, and enjoy the results. Maybe I can even talk the wife into refurbing the cabinet.

Fixing old radios is sometimes fun. Listening is always fun, if you can find any station worth hearing in today's vast jungle of AM talk radio.

This post was started in March. Still working to complete the workshop, so nothing has happened yet to the radio. It is awaiting some attention. Comments welcomed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tilting at Windmills, Part 2

Yesterday, I took a side trip to view the new wind farm near our coastal plains town. Here's an album for you to ride along with me. These gentle giants are between Taft and Odem, Texas. There is no generation now, since the substation to get the power into the transmission lines is not even begun.

The company plans to put up 109 wind turbines, which will be 400 feet high, on this 15,000 acres of farmland. It's expected to generate 180 megawatts of power. That's power for 54,000 homes, or enough to power more than 23,000 homes at peak time when air conditioners are running. Last December, CPS Energy of San Antonio signed a 15-year agreement to gain about 65% of all the green power this farm could supply.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ogden Nash, poet extraordinaire

I found this page of his poems today, posted by his relatives. It is hard to go at his poems straight on, as he always found an oblique view to give you, most often leading toward the laughter end of the scale.

I recall seeing his poems first in high school American literature class. Although I thought at the time I didn't like poetry, I instantly had a rapport with his words. I laughed and savored the lines again and again. They certainly resonated with my lifelong affinity for playing with words, as he never failed to generate totally new words that fit his rhyme scheme. He also used ordinary, day-to-day words in ways that dressed them up for show, still managing to put on a patina of fun in his use of them.

Whether or not you've read his work before, check out the link above for some word fun.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Time for Three Laws to Step In

I just saw this post and thought to myself, "Yeeks!" This device is definitely a human add-on that could inflict rather dire damage to humans if not properly controlled. It is not yet tied to an independent controller, but some safety features would certainly be nice to see. /sweat begins to roll off forehead/

Here are posted some of Christian Ristow's machines.