Thursday. 7/14/2016: So, Duke Nukem Forever came out before my models page!
Eeyup! You read that right. That quick to release video game "Duke Nukem Forever" has throughly beaten me to the finish line, in terms of things taking ages to release. People who were born the year I posted "Models Page: Coming Soon!"... Can now VOTE in the US! Yikes! It's incomplete, but It now has a partial listing of my models, The Model of the Space Shuttle cockpit I made in grade school, and my many (though not all) of my mother's carved and painted eggs. Kinda nifty that that's finally up!
In addition to that, I've fully restored my Sony Sobax ICC-600W nixie tube calculator. A page is not yet up, but I have plans to rework the calculators section to have a category page that will lead into the TI graphing calculator stuff, and the vintage calculator stuff.
Other recent projects include a custom built mechanical keyboard. It's a "75% + 1". Basically a standard 75% keyboard, with one extra column added to the right side. This one modification allows it to retain the ultra compact form factor of a 75% keyboard, without sacrificing any important keys, and without needing non standard key cap sizes. It's built on a blue anodized aluminum switch plate and uses Gateron blue switches with the top housings dyed blue. The key caps mounted to it are the "Danger Zone" SA caps from Massdrop. They are an aviation/Top Gun themed set. The keyboard has a modified magnetic connector on the right side that will allow a removable numberpad to be magnetically clicked into place. Once again, a page will go up for this. Patience!
My other big project is a custom controller for Kerbal Space Program. It will communicate with he game via USB and be built into my desk. It has real analog meters, an FDAI (Flight Director/Attitude Indicator)... aka, a Navball, toggle switches, joysticks, dials, etc. I'm building it, following design inspiration from the Apollo program. Also, yadda yadda, no mage yet.
I got XP installed to my old PC, and now I'm trying to get Windows 10 installed onto my Hackintosh... Boy,t hat thing is a beaut! Quad 3.5 GHz Intel i7, 32 GB RAM, over 22 TB of drive space, 1.24 TB SSD space, A Noctua NH-D14 cooler with a total of 16 fans between the cooler and case... And have I mentioned it's inside a modified 1939 Philco radio cabinet? Yeah, she is a lovely one! I have some brass art deco styled mailbox doors where the radio used to be, with a nixie clock shining through the glass. I've only got a used ATI Radeon HD 5770 GPU installed, but it plays Kerbal Space Program just fine, so I'm cool with that! Also got a PS4, and have been enjoying Fallout 4 on it. I have to admit, I've become a BIG fan of the classic swing and jazz that the Fallout games have introduced me to. If I ever get Windows installed on my machine, I'll probably do more PC gaming as well, but I'm quite happy with my Hackintosh and my PS4 at the moment. All I really ever play is KSP, Fallout, Infinifactory, and Farming Simulator!
Also, I got a job at a lab. Not a very high position, but it's possibly the most stable job i've ever encountered. It's economically resilient. The area I work tests foods and other consumables for microbiological contamination. There's always a steady stream of clients. Those clients are responsible for the good, reliable products out there. You don't hear about them in the news, cause they diligently test their product, with the goal of never releasing anything tainted. Companies like he one I work for now, help keep people healthy! We help keep e. coli or salmonella off the plates and store shelves. My job is pretty basic. Disposing of old samples, cleaning the containers, preparing new sterile media for the next samples. The beauty of this job, is as long as companies are selling foods in this country... We have clients. It's incredibly stable, and that is why I am appreciative of having this job. I may never find another job that is as long term stable as this one. Hopefully I can move up someday. Sadly, my time in college was specifically to learn electronics. The lack of a degree in chemistry will put a hard ceiling on how high I can get there, but there is still the potential to move up in the micro lab someday. I'm okay with where I am for now though.
Oh yeah, I've been at that job for 3 years... I REALLY need to update this page more. I had considered figuring out of a blog style system could be implemented here, as it would allow for a rather streamlined updating tool, but since I have always done this stuff in HTML, I just... meh... Each update is a couple HTML tags and then my text. Maybe someday. For the time being, I can just download the page I wanna edit, and then save it back to the server. It's more an issue of me forcing myself to actually do it.
All New Pages: Coming soon!
* * figures out what year my retirement age will land on... :P
Saturday. 9/16/2012: Quick update: New Apartment!
Well, I moved. I'm in an apartment now. Smaller than my house, but moving has allowed me to make much more efficient use of my space. I have a long way to go till I'm really set up again, but I have moved my mill and lathe. Both are set up in my two bedroom closets. Those closets are big! I'm quite surprised by how well this all works! I still intend to do some things yet. I want to line the floors and walls to protect from cast off from machining. I'm still reassembling my work bench. My main living area is mostly set up. I miss air conditioning... Really miss air conditioning. I do have a storage unit that's great for my staging, and I actually hope to keep some possessions off site to have access to them, without them cluttering my place (parts and what not)
I have a corner set aside for my records, and other vintage stuff like my theater organ and 50's era TV. I want to make sure my calculators are also on display around the house. I have a dedicated work room now. Could be interesting.
I'm still in the process of setting up, and I still have some things to move yet. Time is a luxury right now, and quite frankly, it's all been quite stressful. In the end, it'll be worth it to get a sort of "reboot" out of it. I have access to some tools I've not had access to in a long time. I do need better employment though. I still have credit card debt to deal with... The debt management plan wiped out 1/4 of my debt, but I had a 4 month gap in work... That killed the program, and my ability to keep up with the mortgage. I never did catch up, and the debt management plan really did not work with me over the lapse in hours. If I can actually find decent work, I want to continue paying off the debt, but it'll be directly to each company. I'll take advantage of the periodic settlement deals they sometimes offer... That is, if I can get REAL hours. Gamestop is only good for getting basic insurance. My other job doesn't offer insurance (too small) and while it's a GREAT job (mostly work from home) and it pays very well, there are simply not enough units to drive any more than 10-15 hours a week, with gaps between orders that can reach weeks to months. I need a third job. My moving to the apartment is simply because I couldn't afford to stay at my old house. It's sad, but it's reality. I don't mind it though. Cutting things out that I didn't need leaves me able to better use what I have deemed worthy of keeping. The only thing I do need, is proper shelving. I plan to make very efficient use of existing furnishings. I plan to build a cabinet that rises over my record player for example. Same for my theater organ. No use in wasting vertical space. I'll use of for things like my vintage calculators, etc.
I also recently acquired a very unique calculator from the 70s. It's a 1978 Digicomp Research desktop astrology calculator. I'm quite familiar with the old KOSMOS and KOSMOS II. Gimmicky little things from the 70s... But this thing is CRAZY. It came in a hard case, pulls off a pretty good imitation of an IBM or Tektronix blue, and has full travel keys, and more functions than I can name. The display is LED based, and the manual fills a 2 inch thick, 3 ring binder. My goodness! The money that must have gone into this beast when it was new staggers my mind. While I don't buy the astrology thing at all, I find the tech, and the dedication of tech to such a specialized function to be fascinating! One thing that surprises me... With most of the handheld astrology calculators being rendered useless by the Y2K bug, thanks to two digit year entry, this thing has the RIDICULOUS range of 3000 BC to 7000 AD! It will go into such details as allowing you to enter your birth to the minute, and figures celestial alignments to details such as latitude and longitude. I'm actually more interested if it can be used for more of an astronomy type of calculating machine. It does calculate planet positions, after all. Uhg... A friend is considering selling his telescope. It's a 6 inch Celestron with an integrated servo drive and target computer. I'd buy it from him if I had the cash, but I just don't have the cash right now... I really hope he doesn't sell it. I think I need to be more willing to drive him out into the country and away from the lights... get him back into stargazing. I need a car that works to do that though. Anyway, I think this was a cool find, even if I'm not really into that astrology stuff at all. Interesting application of vintage technology. So much complexity for so much stuff I don't get at all! And poor Jimmy Carter... He is used as an example in EVERY MANUAL I've ever come across for one of these gimmicky machines! XD LOL
As always, I have my eye open for the random and unique technology in the thrift stores and shops. I had the chance to get a Russian ISKRA 124, but I didn't have the cash to buy it, much less even ship it... I had to let it pass... Maybe someday.
All in all, I can tell you , avoid credit. It's not worth the short term convenience. It doesn't matter how hard you work to stay current or to pay it off... All it takes is a lost job, or an unexpected financial burden to leave you in an unrecoverable state. It's sad that the country I live in is so economically messed up. Politicians will hand our tax money to banks and insurance companies to bail them out, but they won't let that money get to the banks through it's citizens. Our government helped it's citizens upgrade to digital TV with more reliability than it has helped us in the financial crisis. Why wasn't a program like that enacted to bail out BOTH the banks AND the citizens that were in such trouble that they, by proxy, were dragging down the banks? Well... I'm moved now... Still in debt, and barely keeping afloat. At least I have a cable order to build... Need to finish rebuilding my work bench though.
I never did get that XP disc to work... Maybe I'll try again, after I'm settled in and get a lull in cable work. Not that that's good thing, but it'll eventually happen. I can try and finish setting up my mill and lathe then too. I might add pictures later on. Maybe once I'm finally settled in, I can actually take pictures of all my calculators and add those as well. Get back into robotics. Heaven only knows how many gearmotors I stockpiled over the years. I could build several robots, maybe a dozen, with all those motors. I even got the solar panel that fits my ancient Powerbook 1400. I can finally move forward on my solar robot idea I had ages ago. It only took me 13 years to find that solar panel accessory! Always thought it'd make a nice rolling bot housing.
Anyway, till next time...
Saturday. 12/6/2010: Repaired some calculators, etc...
Well, I got the tubes from Russia and I successfully repaired my Elektronika MKy-1 scientific calculator. I also recently added a Russian KL-1 Pocket Watch Slide Rule, a pair of Elektronika MC 1103 calculators, and an Elektronika MK-61 to my collection of Russian calculators. The MC 1103s are very unusual. They are programable desktop calculators from the 1980s that feature Process controls and three Analog to Digital converters that can read between -10 to +10 volts. Combined with the programability, these machines were much like a primitive predecessor to todays modern PLC systems. I have to admit that I absolutely love the "alien" appearance of Russian tech. The cold war separated Russia from the rest of the world for so long, that their technology, while similar, followed a parallel, but distinctly different path than western and asian tech. There is a combination of unusual chip packages and a merging of semiconductors and tubes that followed all the way into the end of the 1980s. My MKy-1 has a VFD tube, in a traditional round tube shape (like an elongated 1950's era radio tube), with the numerals running sideways along the length of the tube. It has a large chip in an early 70 styled staggered lead package, a round metal can IC, and a DIP IC, that appears o be scaled slightly larger than a normal sized DIP. Square ceramic capacitors, all in cases that look like a melting of 1960 pop SciFi and 1980's angles. It's weird, and I love it!
I cleaned up my HP-41cx and it appears to work fine. Got a functional Monroe 344 Statistician, and another Commodore N-60, that I want to fix and put up for sale. It's improved. It can now actually power on, but has a segment stuck on across the screen, and can only be powered from battery power. I have a variety of other models as well, but I really should organize them onto a dedicated page. I also got a TI-92 to replace the one that was stolen years back. It took me over a decade to finally get one again.
I have mixed feelings about my latest acquisition. I love that I have such a unique pice of history, but it's only a piece. I acquired an ANITA MK-8 display board. The board features a single Nixie tube display, 10 thyratrons (neon filled lamps that function as latching switches), 5 selenium rectifiers (each used as a pair of diodes), and various support components. This is truly vintage technology. Tubes and selenium rectifiers. The board is labeled "Fab DE61". I assume this means it was FABricated DEcember 1961. That is very close to the time of the initial product launch in England. I hate that a machine was gutted to allow me to have this piece of history, but I'm still happy to have even a piece.
I'll come up with the full list one of these days. Last count, I saw 90+ calculators in my collection. Half a dozen are 1960's era models. I have had one calculator that did work decide to fail on me. My Canon 163 has decided to start feeding me gibberish results and frequently lock up after moving it. No idea if it's the Magnetostrictive delay line or an electronics issue.
Till Next time...
Saturday. 9/11/2010: Acquired Motors, Windows XP disc
Lets hope that this all works out. I recently got a large quantity of small electric motors. Also got a Windows XP Pro disc. With the XP disc, I ought to be able to once again use both my Xilinx software, and get Eagle up and running again. With The Xilinx software, I'll be able to get back to programming chips, and with the Eagle software, I can design PC boards and have them manufactured at a low cost.
In the mean time, I'm trying to restore a Casio 121-A calculator, a Wang 360E calculator (also need a Keyboard/Display unit), A Monroe 1920, a Monroe 324 Scientist, and a Friden STW-10. I have a tube on order to repair my Elektronika MKY-1, and hope to have it restored soon after it arrives from Russia. I plan to create a photo gallery and integrate it into my calculator page. The TI Calculator section will become a part OF that page, and will pertain to TI graphing calculator hacks specifically. It will simply move within the new broader calculator section. Most of all, It will be a gallery. I'll post technical information if I have it available. I'm uncertain as to what kind of space I have available, and I don't want to take advantage of TOO much of it for non-robotic subject mater. I purged many images on the site that were unrelated to the actual site content. I also have the urge to build Spyder's successor. I'v been getting ideas, most likely inspired by the fact that I'll be able to use my PC again. I also got a large stockpile of small DC gearmotors that I've been stockpiling to serve the day I return to robot building. A large number of them came from security camera aiming assembles. With Eagle, I can make the positive switch to SMT components, and end my dependence on hand made PCBs. With SMT devices, I hope to be able to build a compact electronic neuron that can function in a manner similar to the defined functionality of the Periplaneta Computatrix nodes. For more information on Periplaneta Computatrix, click the link to the Robotics section and scroll down.
Don't forget, if you have old calculators (70's and earlier, or very unique models), I may be interested. I'm also interested in salvaging any device that may contain Germanium semiconductors, old DTL logic ICs, and tubes. I am even able to use Neon bulbs.
Saturday. 9/11/2010: Never Forget...
Ashes to ashes...|
Never forget the ones who were lost.
Never forget our crumbled freedoms.
Never forget who took them from us.
Ashes to ashes...
Sunday. 8/29/2010: By my calculations, life is good:
Well, I have to say that the debt management plan is going very nicely. I've seen a massive chunk of what I owe disappear in one measly year, since I started the plan. I'll be free of debt in no time. The cables I build at home, and the time I work at GameStop are getting me by alright! I've even had an opportunity to add to my calculator collection. Most long time visitors will recall that I started this website 14 years ago, and dedicated it to covering my robots, but even before that, my TI Graphing calculator hacks and mods. I had created the simple, but at the time useful, cartridge port on the TI-85 that would accept everything from flash memory (Mel Tsai's Expander SF), to speakers, temperature sensors, and even a light flasher circuit, for controlling lights by patterns. It seemed very cool back then. Now we have modern TI Graphing calculators that feature high resolution screens, like the TI-89, and the Voyager models. They feature built in flash memory, and we don't have to hack them to run assembly language software on them anymore. Much of my old TI site is obsoleted by newer and better models, but I keep it around for posterity, and because it was the humble start of this website. Heck, I think for a few months, the calculator page was in fact the index page!
My, how times have changed, and yet they're still the same. I still have a fascination with calculators, but it extends in both directions. Not only do the modern models fascinate me, but also the older models. I've in the past several months, added a significant number of calculators to my collection. Some of the most significant gems include the following:
Burroughs Manual Comptometer
SCM Marchant Cogito 240SR
Elektronika 4-71b (Russian)
*Elektronika MKY-1 (Russian)
Commodore N-60 Navigator
Commodore S-61 Statistician
**Monroe 324 Scientist
TI PC100C Printer
Rapidman 1208 LC
Many other TI, Commodore, and other models...
* = Needs minor repair or maintenance, or it has not yet been evaluated.
** = Major repair expected to be needed
I must admit, I'm quite happy to have models like the Friden EC-132, the SCM Marchant Cogito 240SR, the mechanical Friden STW-10, and my top of the line Commodore N-60 and S-61 models. These are marvels of an age long past, when calculators were not a commodity, but a valuable tool that was cared for and maintained. Early calculators could cost over $1000, and that's NOT adjusting for inflation. They were cared for, maintained, repaired if they broke. Today, if your calculator breaks, you buy a new one. If you need a new feature, you buy a new one. It's trivial. I found last year, a Chinese made graphing calculator for $19.99. It was rudimentary, compared to a TI graphing calculator, and yet, It works well. It will only be a matter of time before even the high end models are imitated.
These old calculators use some technology that is down right primitive. Many models from before the 1970s used "Magnetostrictive Delay Lines". These are coils of solid wire with a magnetic transducer at each end. Pulses, representing each bit of memory, are sent down the wire as a wave... by magnetically TWISTING the wire. The memory was actually mechanical! Hundreds of these tiny torsional twists of the wire could be flowing down from one end to the other, like if you flick a rope, and watch the wave flow to the end. Displays were usually Nixie tubes, showing beautifully formed numerals as a soft orange or red neon glow. The other display option was CRTs, or none. A few models only had printers, with no display at all! Others, like the Cogito and the EC-132 featured CRTs, tiny little picture tubes. Numerals were painted on the phosphor as vector graphics. Later models imitated and replaced the costly magnetostrictive delay line with a shift register made of one or more chips. Some early models, like the EC-132 and the Cogito also utilized mechanically encoded keyboards, to reduce electronic component count. These two models, along with other early models, such as the legend of all the old calculators, the Hewlett Packard HP 9100, used discrete components for their logic. There were no digital chips at all. Resistor-diode logic formed OR and AND gates. Transistors formed level buffers, inverters, and flip flops. I have a great respect for the engineers who were able to pack so many capabilities into such limited and rudimentary technology.
I hope to evolve the TI calculator section soon, into a new CALCULATOR section. It will retain all the old content, but expand to include my collection. It will serve as my own personal museum to calculating history. I'm working a lot, so I don't know when this will happen, but in the mean time, I'd like to share the fine resources that aided me in finding information on my calculator collection:
The Old Calculator Web Museum
Datamath Calculator Museum
Vintage Calculators Web Museum
The Museum of HP Calculators
M.O.S.C.O.W: Museum Of Soviet Calculators On the Web
Soviet Digital Electronics Museum
As is the case with any collector, I am ALWAYS interested in saving the objects of my desire. I don't want to see a single one of these vintage beauties get thrown out into the dumpster. I'm interested in broken machines as well as working ones. For the best examples, I'm willing to pay shipping or travel to acquire them. I have a desire to save and restore these old machines, and am always seeking examples of old technology that I do not have. The machine I have had the most trouble finding, is the Hewlett Packard HP 9100A or 9100B. This is an advanced scientific programable calculator that was made in 1968. I would like to find one of these machines. I am also interested in any other early HP (Hewlett Packard), TI (Texas Instruments), Commodore, Compucorp, Friden, Monroe, Victor, Wang, and many others. Basically, The older the better. Specific models that I do not have, and want to find, are:
Hewlett Packard HP 9100A
Hewlett Packard HP 9100B
ANY accessories for the HP 9100
ANITA (ANY model)
Wang (any model: 1xx, 3xx, 5xx, 6xx, 7xx, Any model, really)
Monroe Epic 2000
Monroe Epic 3000
Friden: Any calculator with a CRT, Nixie tubes, or individual VFD tubes, and also mechanical models, are on my list.
CRT displays: ANY calculator with a CRT (picture tube) display is on my wanted list.
Nixie displays: ANY calculator with Nixie tube display is on my wanted list.
1971 and earlier: I seek ANY calculator built before 1971, especially the rare ones from the 1960s.
Any calculator that is particularly old, interesting, unique, or technically or functionally impressive.
I may add to this list as time goes by. I am happy with duplicates as well, especially when there is a non functional unit. I wish to restore these old machines, and having multiple units sometimes allows two broken machines to be married into one functional one. I'm willing to deal with individuals or organizations that have these old machines. I want to build my collection to a point where it can truly impress visitors to this site. Eventually, i want the focus of this site to be the underlying technology that makes these machines tick. I want to document these machines from the inside out. Long hours working have paid for this, but also leave little time for documentation. I hope to work at it over time, but paying down my debt has to come first. I allocate a certain amount each month to blow on random things. I've not gone to a movie, or eaten out, or bought any videos lately. My focus for the past 3 months has been calculators. In the mean time, if you have any interest in vintage calculating devices, please visit some of the links I provided above.
Also, please enjoy this short video of the SCM Marchant Cogito 240SR "thinking".
Lastly, I am saddened by recent events. There have been numerous troubles that have been burdening the church I had been attending. Unfortunately, that church is no longer an active worship ministry. Most people migrated to another small church that was a little more conventional. It is my understanding that the ministry will return to it's original focus, the few founding members serving the prison systems. From serving, to general worship, and back to serving. The man who operated Set Free over the past few years started out living a very troubled life, but found faith and God, and was changed. He began to go to prisons and preach from the point of view of "I was in your shoes, and look how God changed me! You can be changed too, if you only let God change you!". I hope that ministry keeps on for a long time. There was a great deal of hostility towards the small church he operated. Many members left. It was most definitely a repentance themed church, not a "God loves you and always forgives you" theme. Some people could not handle the more hardcore message. There was also some internal misguidance by some members who had attained a very high position there. This was caught, but not before damage had been done. All I know, was there was a lot of hate and pressure directed towards us from the outside, and there were pockets of hate that were being directed outside from within. This was terribly unfortunate. All this caused an immediate split. It was downright awful to watch. It was as if that church was sandblasted into oblivion, buy hate, rumor, and attacks. I support Wade's decision to focus back on the core of where he started. I miss the fellowship, and the always unique and varying types of worship. It was not a routine. I never MISSED a church before. Seriously. When I dropped my attendance a decade ago, it never bothered me. I knew where I stood before God. The church had lost it's meaning. It was nothing but repetitive chants and some utterly autonomically reproduced, memorized songs. The sermons, I'm convinced, were being reused. There was little value in it. I focused on my faith in a solitary path. I miss this place, and it's been months since the doors closed. I miss everything about it. I feel like I've lost something that was important, but I really haven't. The church is not a building. It's a fellowship. Just because the building has gone to another purpose, and no one meets there anymore, I still know the friends and family, and even strangers who've moved on, who all share our faith, and that is the church I reside in. It's for God, not me. I still have my faith, and it's not shaken, even if it has lost it's most powerful outlet. Well, life keeps on keepin' on.
Sunday. 2/28/2010: Periplaneta Computatrix additions, Current events:
Well, I was unemployed officially for 2 days. I'm working a job at Gamestop, which is technically a job, but not a living. Between unemployment, Subcontracting, and Assembly work for a former supervisor, I'm getting by. One of the MCG supervisors has a machine shop business and I'm technically an employee of his now. The work is something I can mostly do at home, which is very cool. The subcontracting... is for Ametek... Yeah, that's right. Ametek...
Basically, they never learned how to do some of the high end stuff I do. They needed some work done, and they had to come to me. I'm not complaining. They're paying me well. The company is still running MCG with a skeleton crew doing mostly aviation and defense type stuff. They apparently couldn't move that stuff for some reason. It's work, but it's not solid, steady work. The old servo drives I used to repair are in limbo. Ametek doesn't want to continue with them, and the guy with the machining company is trying to buy the line from them. Things are taking so long, I fear the market will dry up before we have them. There are only a few companies who still use the product. If they have too much downtime, they'll invest in a new product rather than try repairing the old.
Finally, I have an update in the robotics section. I've added new information to the Periplaneta Computatrix page. The most significant addition is a high resolution scan of the entire network. I'm still missing information on interpreting the symbology of the diagram, and need to figure out about 7 specific details to be able to start experimenting. I am uncertain about what connections are excitatory or inhibitory. I feel certain, maybe 90%, that I know inputs from outputs. I don't know the way a certain stacked input works, and there is a string of nodes that are contacting in the diagram. I'm uncertain how to interpret that. After that are things like abbreviations and functionality. I am definitely seeking documentation, papers, etc. If anyone knows anything about this network, I'd love an email. The more info I can get on this, the better chance I have to actually do something with this.
This thing has fascinated me for half my life. 78 neurons and 156 connections is impressive for a hard wired design like this. Still doesn't compare to the 302 Neurons and approximately 7000 connections of the nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans, the only living creature that I know of who's complete nervous system has been mapped. This type of complexity amazes me. That this tiny, 1 mm long worm is this complex, just simply blows my mind. How much more complex is EVERY OTHER CREATURE with a nervous system than C. Elegans, and yet, this network that's fascinated me for decades isn't 1/4 the size, and is 45 times less complex in it's connectivity. I most definitely believe life is no accident. This stuff is amazing!
Sunday. 09/20/2009: Major events, of the unfortunate kind:
Well... September 30th is the last day working for MCG. Ametek bought us last year, and they turned around and decided to shut down our plant and move the product to their larger facilities. It sucks... What else can I say. I just gotta get by and look for something new. I'm looking for a part time job to supplement unemployment. 8 years 11 months, to the day. Richard at MCG; Started 10-30-2000 - Ended 09-30-2009... Worse than that, is the loss of jobs held by some for as much as 32 years. So sad. The company was doing well also. It was purely a decision to take our good selling product and move it to larger facilities to "better use resources". it's a legitimate reason at the corporate level, but it hurts at the employee level. MCG started in the mid 1960s as Tachtronic Instruments... RIP MCG... You will be missed.
My disabled mother moved in. Thing were a bit tough for her. She could get by OK, but with the news of my job loss, we decided pooling our limited incomes together into one house was better than each struggling with 2 houses between us... Though I truly wish I had moved to hers instead of the other way around. Stress of the news had me in a panic. I could only think about loosing my house, and didn't think through what would have been the better solution. Now I'm stuck in my home till I can build enough equity to be able to buy myself into a different place. I need a smaller house with more yard, or with a large garage space already built. I'm bound by debt into this rut I can't escape. I don't have the resources to get a mortgage on a new house, even a smaller one. If I sell this one, I could get the mortgage on a smaller one, but this mortgage is so high, that I'd have to short sell to make a sale. A short sell would impact on my ability to get a mortgage. It's a catch-22. I can't afford a second smaller house on top of my mortgage, but I also can't sell my existing house first either. The GOOD news is I got into a great debt management plan through Lutheran Social Services, and they have been able to get my rates reduced. These guys are a life saver. I pay $90 less each month, but more goes to paying off balances. I should be credit debt free in 3-4 years. I just have to hang tight for that time till i can be free of that awful credit debt. NEVER AGAIN will I fall for the lure of plastic. The banks are fooling themselves if they think they will EVER get another dime of finance charges off me again. I'm done with credit. They've sucked my wallet dry too many times. When this debt management program is completed, I will have no credit cards, and and extra $490 EVERY MONTH in my wallet. That's the equivalent of picking up a part time job, with out having to work a single extra hour! 3 years from now, I can easily ACCEPT even a lowly low wage full time, or a higher wage part time job, and still come out of it with enough money to survive. If this economy ever picks up and I find a good job like I had at MCG, then I'll be sitting nice. I'll plow into the principal on my home mortgage, and get that thing out of the way. Then I'll start saving, finance free, and buy me a nice patch of land... maybe a few acres just outside of town. My brother did that. Maybe I can someday too.
I got my Fiero. TL;DR version... It's running but needs lots of work, more than was ever let on. It appears that the shop that "made it road worthy" for my trip to pick it up, did absolutely nothing to the car. I had it up on the lift at a local shop to repair the coolant lines, and they pulled me back into the shop. They pointed out that the things I said had been done to the car, prior to my picking it up, had in fact not been done, and that nothing under the car had ever been removed, adjusted, or replaced. There were no indications of fresh metal or tool marks of any kind, only 24 years of rust on the cars few metal components (lots of fiberglass on a Fiero). To top it all off, the rear engine cradle, the part they said was misaligned and had serviced for $300, was hanging in place with the driver side mount bolt half way out. I drove 600 miles, 12 hours, with the bolt holding my engine, transmission, and rear suspension bottom half, improperly secured... The car could have dropped to the ground at 75 MPH! I'm going to be contacting the seller of the car and ask him what he knows about this shop he is supposed to have taken the car to. I'll contact the shop, only after I find the receipts (which I kept) and speak to a lawyer.
Thank God that coolant line bracket broke. I never would have looked at that spot on the car and noticed the loose bolt otherwise (prompting me to take the car in, as I could have fixed the bracket myself). I'm thankful to God because I could have DIED if that bolt had come loose at highway speeds!
And speaking of God, I am a Christian, and I'm not afraid to say that out loud. I am a scientifically minded, knowledgeable type of person as well. People have asked me how I can be both. I see science as simply a way to observe how truly amazing God's creation is. I do believe that modern science has failed society, and is feeding the world a load of lies based on bad deduction and a lot of assumptions and guesswork. I do NOT believe in the modern "religious" belief in evolution. Too much money has been invested in current science for anyone to ever admit it could have been wrong, so they continue to believe in it. I do believe that science backs my Christian faith, and that how people interpret a scientific observation can have a drastic effect on the way the observation is used.
Lately, there have been people badmouthing the church I go to, and it just makes me sad. In general, there seems to be a growing consensus of hate aimed at traditional religions. This troubles me, and I feel the need to speak out on the subject.
I've been going to an awesome church in my area for the past year now. I haven't been such a happy church goer in a while though. I hadn't attended church regularly in quite some time, not for lack of faith in God, but lack of faith in the sincerity and seriousness of the church I grew up with. I grew up Lutheran, and there's nothing inherently wrong with Lutherans. I do feel that it isn't right that people have so drastically broken up the church into so many separatist denominations. United we stand, divided we fall... People, instead of reading and coming to their own understanding, with guidance from their religious leaders, instead choose to blindly follow like sheeple, whatever their religious leader tells them to believe. They get a few quotes from the bible, and are told what to do. This blind follow the leader has led to over a billion people who are divided, but all claim to worship the same dude. Seriously... Get with the program. Instead of all this hateful exclusion, and condemnation, and xenophobic separatism, why not band together and focus on a collaborative attempt to understand the book we all claim to follow. And how about some action too. So many simply go into their church, sit for 1 hour, and then go home to live their lives. They live as if God only needs 1 hour a week, and the rest of the week is all theirs, and that 1 hour makes all the bad OK.
The church I'm attending is called Set Free Ministries. The church plays mostly contemporary Christian rock mixed with some oldies from the hymnal retooled for the guitar. This gets a younger crowd in, and can at times even attract the occasional passer by or wandering drunk (seriously! it's happened before). They focus on healing the "depressed, oppressed, addicted, and convicted", or basically, they go out into the local area and try to better the lives of the "worst of us". They are a repentance, redemption, and salvation preaching traditional church in "biker camouflage" that appeals to those who might never have considered setting foot in a truly traditional church. Sadly, we've been ostracized by the traditional churches, called a cult, and harassed by our city and our community, and all mainly for the "noise" we make and the "crowd" we keep. It's honestly, bikers and former drunks and drug addicts, mixed with a crowd of formerly lost souls, a small crowd of teens, and a mix of "normies" like myself. We've had people from all walks of life with all sorts of problems, ranging all across the board. Some people, like myself, chose this enthusiastic church over the bland traditional churches that don't seem to give it their 100%. There, peoples problems become easier to overcome, because they are shown a way to overcome them, through faith and support. They understand what it's like to be at the bottom there, because many of the church staff, including the pastor has truly been there. They teach and preach recovery, from the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. I've been fortunate in my life. I've not had anything terribly devastating happen to me. I almost seem like the odd one out at that place, but the enthusiasm, the fervent activism there have me sold. They believe that it's not enough to just follow the leader, that you MUST read the word of God yourself. They believe it's not enough to sit down for an hour on a Sunday morning and call-er-good. They believe in going out and changing the community for the better. One of their big events was to gather enough money for a new Harley Davidson Motorcycle, take it down to Sturgis, and offer a FREE raffle for it. The catch was the person had to give 3-4 minutes of their time to listen to a story. A member of the church would tell a quick story about how they recovered. That was it. If you truly listened or if you shot it down, you got your raffle ticket, at no monetary cost. Some random dude rolled off with a Harley, and a few hundred people out of a couple thousand decided to listen seriously to the message they were given. Sturgis is known for it's rough and rowdy crowd. They went into the pits to find a few lost souls who would listen long enough to start their climb out of the pit they were living in. All I can say, is their mission, their actions, their words, so truly fit with what I believe in, and what I feel is the proper course for Christians in general.
I'm proud to be Set Free!
Sunday. 10/19/2008: Minor updates, Cars, Stuff:
Small update. 13 years... It's hard to believe this ancient website is still around. Ha! I've lasted long enough for X-Files to actually become relevant again (even if only a little)! I fixed the email links and cleaned up the navigation bar. I removed the no frames option from the top page (seriously, are there any browsers left that have no frame support?)
In October 2006 I got an 1986 Trans Am off of ebay. My 89 Firebird got hit when some idiot turning left at a light failed to yield on green. I actually stopped my car, but they continued to turn and scraped their entire side on the front pasenger corner of my car. Then they drove off. My auto ebay search found the car 2 days after the accident. I'd been looking for a Firebird with a good body for a year. The rolling chassis that I was supposed to get fell through. The guy promised delivery, and failed to Deliver. I flew to Chicago to pick up the car. It was about 10 minutes away from Fermilab, the United State's largest Particle Collider. I had to stop by and see the place. I missed the tour by an hour, but it was still worth going there.
Since then I've also found a Fiero on ebay that I plan to pick up at the end of this month. I'm trying to get to Fermilab again, hopefully to get the official tour. That'd be cool (for a nerd like me!). As soon as I get the Fiero, I'm going to park the Trans Am. It will likely be a couple years before I really work on it. I have to focus on paying off bills and such. The economy is a drag, and I just want to make sure I get through it. No major projects, and honestly, I have second thought all the time about theFiero. If I'd have waited only 2 days, and spent $100 more, I could have gotten one only an hour away. I jumped at what seemed like the first good deal in a long time, and lost that gamble. This one requires new master and slave clutch cylinders and a new master brake cylinder... oh but after I bought it, now it needs ALL RUBBER components of the brake system replaced. PLUS, the job he said he could do is now pending outsourcing to MIDAS! Come on! I am actually considering taking the loss of a $74 Amtrak ticket and reseelling the car on ebay. I really shouldn't have bought one so far away that needed work. I was dumb. For $100 more I'd HAVE A FIERO NOW! I've already put $150 into the Clutch. Now the Brake is going from and Expected $50 repair to God only knows what now. I might just have to call the guy tomorrow and tell him I'm not going to go the Midas route. Replace the Master, bleed the lines, and test it around the lot. If he actually takes this thing to Midas, it's going to blow my budget, which I can't replenish in time for the trip. What a mess.
Wednesday. 8/31/2005: Busy days, Carshows, Workbench, Mississippi
Well, long time as usual since an update. I finally built my Workbench for doing my electronics. Since this picture, I've already added an Electrostatic Air ionizer to dissipate static electricity build up and drop dust from the air. I've also added an array of power supplies, a bench multimeter, and a waveform generator. I've also setup my iPod speakers so i can work to my tunes.
In the garage, I now have a nice 11 gallon air compressor and nail gun. That'll help with my new living room floor project. It also opens up the new possibility of using air driven tools now. Still have not moved the mill and lathe into the basement. No free time to organize, much less use everything to it's full potential.
I've been attending a lot of carshows lately. It's good inspiration for my own Firebird, if I ever get to working on that thing. The engine finally quit on me. I think it's only a minor problem, but I've not checked it yet this year.
At a local car show today, I saw the greatest burnout I've seen to date. I temoprarily put up some pics and video. These will not remain online forever. The movies will only be up about 2 or 3 days from today, then I will take them down. They are being posted to answer the reqest of a local guy who was present, but had no camera.
Burnout Video 1 - The end of the actual burnout.
Burnout Video 2 - The pillar of smoke.
Burnout Video 3 - So SWEET! 2 minutes after the burn out... And it was still going over 5 minutes later!
These will be deleted after a short time. The videos will go first.
I'm supposed to have a rust free 1989 Firebird rolling chassis delivered to me soon. That will be my restoration car. I've got the LEGAL blackout tail lights off an 84 (legal because they have a red reflector strip integrated at the bottom of the assembly). I also have the full LED array that will fit underneath to add the CONCEALED dot matrix display. I will hardwire traditional lighting behind the water clear dot matrix panel so that it can still illuminate in the traditional fashion at the flip of a switch. Due to legal reasons, I may tie lockouts to the disply into the park switch of the transmission, if I determine that I can not use the system on the road. At least it could serve when the car is at shows or out of state. Minnesota is possibly one of the strictest states I've seen regarding exterior lighting and modifications. Stupid... I also have my overhead console that I want to use with the thumbwheel assembly removed to add a display, and I'm refining my ideas for the dash. I still want to have dark "red" stained wood trim inside, and a mix of white and black for the interior. Primary color will be white. Trim lines black, and the bird on the seat will be either a silvery blue or green to tie with the exterior.
I make no predictions or plans like I usually do. I've learned that time is a luxury, and I can never count on schedules and plans. Reading my last post is a laugh. I never installed my engine or updated my web page or built any new robots... I worked my butt off at work and went home and tried my best to rest between working on other things around the house and yard. I'll get to my car, my robots, my house repiars, my website... as I come to them. Plain and simple. I'll build Spyder Jr., restore my car, fix my house, someday, providing I don't croak before I get that chance. I now limit my game purchases to name franchises only. Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Katamari Damacy... These are the only games I've completed in the past year or so. I love Final Fantasy XI, but I have not touched it for half a year. Only real "gems" as one might call them will see my collection. Not every other random thing that catches my eye.
Last, but most importantly not least, is the situation in the Gulf coastline. Hurricane Katrina has done terrible things. I've seen flooding in rural areas. I once built a "sail boat" from a sheet, some broomsticks, a plywood square, and a 6 foot Combine harvester's tire inner tube. I SAILED a RAFT in my family's FIELD in 1993! Seeing New Orleans on the television is gut-wrenching. Crops can be regrown after the water drains away. Homes don't grow so eaily. they are built, and at great expense. A crop may be your money for the year, but it isn't your memories for a lifetime. Urban devestation like this is... Human devestation... No words can describe it... English does not have those words. Nothing.
Knowing the below sea-level elevation of that great city, it truly was a matter of time. Southern California has their "Big One" that they fear... This was New Orleans "Big One". I have family in the Purvis, Hattiesburg, Columbia area in Mississippi. This is directly north of Gulfport and Slidell, maybe by a little over an hour or so. The last contact we had was early morning when the edge of the storm was making it's way up. Communications went down just after that last contact. The last we knew was that a relative from Belzoni (further north) was in the area to pick up my relatives in this very southern area. One Uncle was in the car already and they were on the highway headed toward my other Uncle in his trailer home. They were driving into the edge of the storm to reach his place, but were already nearly there. This is the only means he had for escape. They more than likely went to another relatives house (houses are alwasy safer than flimsy trailers) nearby to take shelter, or headed northward. Till communications and power can be returned, we most likely won't know. I did get some images from Hattiesburg off the internet. Some news agencies were in the area. High winds were the main destructive force. Lots of damage, but nothing I havn't seen before thanks to the tornadoes we have up here in Minnesota.
I have my family down south in my thoughts and in my prayers, as is all the victims of this disaster. I hope they are OK. They are far enough north that damage is much less severe, but it is still bad. I don't expect a call any time soon, because of the dire power and communications problems. They are either bunkerd down or up in Belzoni. I'll find out sooner or later. As for the other people... the ones nearer to the coast... The ones suffering in New Orleans... I can only pray for them. For the lost, I pray for their loved ones, and for those who can help, I pray for them to be granted the endurance to ride this out till every last man woman and child that can be rescued, is rescued.
To all who are suffering, those who can't read this... Hold on and keep hope and faith alive. Millions are praying and hoping for you.
Sunday. 2/6/2005: Machine tools: My Lathe and my Mill
I recently purchased a Grizzly 9x19 Lathe and a Grizzly Mini-Mill. I guess I decided it's time to move on up from coat hanger wire and solder globs to real machined parts. It's gonna take me a while to tune the machines up and properly clean and lubricate them. I've been pretty crazy at work building a new motor product line. It leaves so little time, especially when there is overtime involved, but I can't complain. My overtime did pay for the two machines, and accessories after all. Among the acessories, a milling vice, rotary table, and a whole pile of cutters and end mills. Here are some pics of my garage setup. I will be moving the machines to my basement once I can get some family members renting my basement to move out.
I am equiping both the mill and the lathe with a Digital Read Out (DRO). This will improve my prcision and save great aounts of time by me not having to read vernier scales or count turns. I have purchased digital slide scale for the 6 axes. Those need to be mounted, and that is yet another time consuming process that I've yet to start.
The actual digital read out is a VERY fine quality unit that only costme about $120 so far. Mine is modified to read 6 axes (display 3 at a time, toggle between 2 sets of 3). It features bolt hole paters, compound vectoring, which is converting X (cross slide), Z1 (carraige), and Z2 (compound slide moving at any angle entered by keypad) into a simple X and Y reading. The DRO is actually a $18 PC board you can buy from http://www.shumatech.com. I'm using an old Tektronix Oscilloscope case as the case for my DRO. The scope display will be swapped out for a color LCD, the modified 6 axis DRO (normal kit is 3 axes), and the sparespace will house the guts of a former VCR to act as a tuner for the LCD. It'll be a nice little diversion while I wait for automatic feeds to finish cutting, or to just pass time while doing other things.
I'm looking into putting a 350 engine into my Pontiac Firebird. I just topped 200,000 miles last month. I've thought about it many times. My engine still runs absolutely great, but I want to get an old beater to drive and actually restore the Bird. My brother is good... very good. He restored a 383 big block for his 68 Dodge Charger. He's putting dual 4 barrel 500 CFM Edelbrock carbs on this thing... Yikes. Me, I'm not the power freak that he is, so I wanna keep my existing fuel injection, throttle body and for the time being, intake as well, plus the existing computer. The top end of the 305 engine I have is bolt for bolt compatible with the 350 I want to install. My brother can do the rebuild in his hacked together shop in under a week. The engine swap, he can do over a weekend. Nifty! I'm gonna start saving for the parts for the rebuild kit, since my brother already has a 350 that he'll give me. Seriously... He has engines just lying around! One thing I am considering, is doing a 383 stroker. That's the 350 block, with short pistons, 350 connecting rods, but a 400 crankshaft. The 400 crank pushes the pistons further up and down, and the shorter pistons allow them the increased motion without coming out of the cylinder. This draws more air into the engine and provides more Oxygen. More oxygen means a cleaner, stronger burn. That translates to an increase in power. Add to that the engine will have been fully rebuilt, and that means I can look forward to years of quality engine life ahead of me. No worries about how much more my 200,000 engine will take. Truth is... That Chevy 305 engine is still gonig on strong. I really can't complain much yet.
I do still have extensive body work to do to it. I may save up for not only the engine, but paint, a parts washer, and a spare car. If I drive a cheap junker around for a while, it'll give me the time to strip, not just the engine itelf, but everything out of the engine compartment. It'd be the perfect opportunity for a pressure wash of all the metal and parts. It would also identify rust areas, since oil and grime will no longer be hiding everything. Since everything would be open, it would be the perfect opportunity to weld in new steel where needed. My brother can weld, but we have a friend who is 5 times better. He'd likely help out. I'd paint my engine compartment, once everything is finished, to match the color I will eventually paint the exterior, a dark metallic green. I'll eventually restore the exterior body as well, and finish the paint job on the outside. I'm going to paint the engine block blue, to fit with the car's original color (That and blue was a common block color with some of the older Firebirds I think). I plan to do a modified version of a Pontiac GTO Judge stripe on the side of the car (there were two versions of the Judge stripes, I forget what year/option I'm copying). The Judge stripe I'm copying starts at the front of the car, arches over the front wheels, across the door, and would angle up to a point behind the rear side windows. Since a modern Firebird does not have any major angle on the side windows or even a rear side window, the stripe would not follow the lines. Instead, I will continue the line over the rear wheel wells, arch it downward, and then have it arch back up and widen to meet the rear spoiler. I have the aero style spoiler, but it is cracked, I'll replace it with the older style wing spoiler. I'll paint the stripe colors onto the spoiler, but not the rear hatch metal or the pillars supporting the spoiler. The two side stripes will be connected by the spoiler stripe. I had considered a bumblebee stripe with the firebird logo in it, because I LOVE how it looks, but I don't want to be lynched by the Mopar guys for putting their look on a Pontiac! : )
I did a mockup of the car using a photo of a car with no rust. My car has different rims. The mockup was done using Graphic Converter for Mac... I don't even own Photoshop... The car in the mockup was originally red. The stripe is not finalized, but I want it to be a 2 color stripe. It'll be a green stripe body, with a thinner outline color to contrast it against the green of the paint job. I was thinking of a gold with a light green tint to fit the whole color of the car. I want the stripe to be more subtle than flashy. I'm not a big fan of gold, but the green and gold thing was a common color mix at the time the GTO judge was made. Also, the gold is subtle, an edge around the green stripe of slightly different shade. I saw a green tinted gold paint job once, and really liked it, so I think I'd like that look. Here is the mockup.
On to my more "extravagant" ideas for my car, the things that I hope to make happen later on...
I want to build a custom interior for my car. The first project will be to reupholster the seats. I'll go with black and white (or maybe just white) leather, I think, with a silver or gold "firebird" on the back half of the seat. I might do white seats with a black bird on the back and eliminate the silver or gold. I've also considered a light blue bird in place of silver. It would be another tie in to the original blue color of the car.
I have always been interested in the old Knight Rider car. I watched "KITT" as a child and always wanted a car like that. I want to do something inspired by it, but nothing so complex. I just want something that feels more advanced and stylish than the stock dash. I want to put my wood working skills to the test and create a wood dash pad, and accents in the dash itself. The Pontiac logo will be in the center of the top of the dash, with the words Pontiac and Firebird on either side. I've yet to decide if the words should be oriented for the driver, or for spectators viewing the car from outside through the windshield (I will be taking it to shows). The dash iteself would be no where as complex as the Knight Rider dash, but I would like to do LED bar gauges and digital numeric readouts and such. An iPod dock would be located right in the dash board, and a small LCD would be built into the dash. I'd love to have it be both a video display, as well as a computer display. What do I display??? I could have detailed readouts of data taken from the car's sensors, stuff a dash doesn't usually reveal. I could possibly render an animated "screaming chicken" as a screen saver of sorts, or maybe monitor the stereo outputs to generate visuals for audio? Who knows. I dunno, I'll have to make it do something fun.
On the front end, I'd like to modify the plasic in the flip up headlights and the fog lights to create secondary daytime lights that do not require flipping up the headlights to use. Blackout panels would make it look stock, till it lights up. I also want to add an extra pair of lights up under the front end to provide enhanced night time road illumination. I have not had a chance to look at clearances, but mounting them in the air skirt might be a nice position that would keep them out of the way, yet provide a brighter drive. I don't know yet if that's too far and back though to work. I need to experiment to really know.
My father is the owner of a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger. Fine car, fine car... I was reading about some of the Dart models, and the 68 Dart featured a 2 speed wiper that when shut off would stop mid swipe and reverse itself to the rest position. That's a somewhat unusual configuration, as most wipers simply finish their cycle and stop only at the end of that cycle. It'd be fun to try to replicate that on the Firebird. Few people would ever get to see it happen, not at shows or anyway, but I would think it was cool. Same goes for the amber parking lights. On the 68 Dart, they actualy turned off, when the headlights came on. That will be part of my headlight mod on the front end. I think I want to replace the amber reflector with a clear one and install two lights in it, one amber and one clear, add a blackout panel to conceal everything, and let it have a variety of lighting configurations.
My ultimate electronics mod would be rather expensive, but the coolness factor would be unbeatable... A moving sign style LED matrix to replace the tail light assembly. Imagine... I feel like driving with Corvette tail lights today, click! How bout a 69 Charger tonight. Sure! OK, at aparty, got the sound cranked, lets have a moving light show on my car's back end, click... A custom tail light with animated scrolling turn indicator arrows and "STOP" quickly scrolling up and down onto the light bar's center while the rest of it lights up, quickly scrolling inward from the sides, dependingon how hard I hit the brakes. Whatever I'd want! The posibilities are endless. The thing that makes it so very possible is the fact that there were black out options for that body style. I'm sure I can get one effortlessly. That would make the rear end ideally suited to the concept of a concealed LED matrix. Returning to the dash idea, a computer could select tail light patterns from a library that you could select onscreen. LEDs seem cheap though, but when you calculate how many are needed for such a project, then add to that the fact that they need to be superbright for daylight opperation. I also need to consider ambers and whites for turn and reverse lights That'll be a later project. I do still want to take on such a task someday though. I don't see how I can let myself give up on an idea that creative and fun, just cause it'd "cost a lot". Time will be the determining factor if I have anysay, and not cost.
On to my robots, I built Spyder to be rather expandible, and have decided that the once daunting task of making a "mux" circuit to switch leg opperation... is not daunting at all. I can simply design the circuit on my PC and send it to a Xilinx chip to excecute the signal switching. The truth is, I could easily eliminate the 74HC138 board all together, integrating it's function into the CPLD. This would also give me a nice place to mount the CPLD bord, instead of having to cobble it into the existing frame as an add on. The 138 board could easily be used on any other robot project I build in the future that needs signal conditioning to prevent H-Bridge shoot-through (aka smoke).
I have also considered letting Spyder be... Huh? Actually, I'm considering building a Spyder ][ that would be more or less identical to the existing one, but feature a machined body. I'm actually considering it being my first robotics project using my Mill and Lathe. I want to use aluminum. I'm debating an open frame or a closed frame. I'm also considering slowing the timing a hair and adding a little more gear reduction so the motors will produce a little more torque at the leg tips. An alternative may be surface mount boards and a physically smaller bot, which would be very cool. I might go with the name Spyder Jr. if I choose to follow that path, to go allong with Walkman and Walkman Jr. bots. For leg drive, I might machine a leg with a hollow for the motor tofit into. I am considering machining a screw that will fit the end of the motor. The jointed leg would then feature a spring that meshes with the screw. This prevents gear damage if the legs meet stress or impacts. It's also WAY simpler than the complex linkages in my existing Spyder.
I also am still wanting to do a wheeled robot to experiment with higher end control type stuff. My main interest will now and always be legged bots though. I also dream of bipeds. Whether it's within my abilitys??? That's a good question, but I'll never know if I don't try. My new machine tools are a step towards the mechanics of a biped. Hopefully, I can fulfill the electronics half of that too some day.
No updates to the contecnt of the site. I am so busy with my DRO right now, and with work. when the DRO is done, I'll be installing the scales onto the machines and prepping the machines for use. This summer, is when I hope to clean up my engine compartment and replace the engine with the beefier 350. Over the next months, after I hav my machine tools ready, I'll work on the Spyder project. Last but not least... Arrrrghhhh! I still need to learn how to use Eagle to make PC boards. I have not touched my PC for 3 months now! Definitely need to get on top of that.
Friday. 5/28/2004: Catching up, Xilinx, Eagle, and my new old PC
Wow... it's been way too long. Memorial day weekend is comming up and I'm not guaranteeing lots of updates, but I want to clean things up. For example, I'm trying to fix the main e-mail links. It'll take a while to filter through this html mess to find them all, but I'll get it all figured out.
My new e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK... I Have a real PC, that really opperates, and really gets used. It's a cutom mod case with an LCD built into the side and a swivell off a CRT monitor. The computer is nothing special, only a 566 MHz P3. What is special about it is my JTAG programming cable and my new toys. I've discovered CPLDs... Complex Programable Logic Devices. The brand I use is Xilinx. The XC9536 chip can emulate an equivalent of around 800 discrete logic gates and 36 flip flops. The next model up is 1600/72... They just get bigger and better after that.
My Quadrapod robot will now be controleld with a single CPLD to replace the 17 plus logic chips of my controller design. The one chip will actualy add features and configurability to the controller. It will now work with DC or PWM servos (selectable), and you can clock it with an internal sequence counter or with external sequence controls. At it's core is the same insane design that I did in a single all nighter (the one that took 3 days to decipher after I forgot how it worked after waking up from the all nighter).
The other program on my PC is Eagle, from Cadsoft. This is a PC board layout and schematic capture program. I can use it with companies such as the Bulgarian company Olimex (cheap, cheap, cheap!) to manufacture PC boards without ever touching a dry transfer decal or etchant solution ever again (yay)!
I'll have more information on these news items and software shortly
I mentioned way back in who knows what year that I had bought a house.Ironicly, I have yet to update with so much as a single picture of said house because of (insert excuse here). Anyway, I'm going to get around to it. I just need (that 4 lettered "T" word).
Other news... Final Fantasy XI Online is stealing my very life away. Before that, Kingdom Hearts did the same (I still gotta beat the final boss on that though). Caught news that Nintendo is pulling their heads out of their... sand and finaly giving the gamers a realistic styled Zelda. I'm still working at the same old job at Tachtronic Instruments. I still build and repair Servo Amplifiers, and still perform occasional motor test & assembly. My time is still thorughly consumed by house work, car repair, TV, and video games.
I'm currently working on Quadrapod, repairing Spyder, and most recently, I've begun design on a super simplified neuron. I hope to fit at least half a dozen onto each of the small size Xilinx CPLDs. I'll need to make a simple input device for each of the inputs, so I'll likely use something like a BEAM type setup to convert pulses and pulse widths from many inputs to a single output with a fixed pulse length, but varying rate. I'm hoping to fit a few of my neuron configured CPLDs onto a PC board and have it setup so interconnects can be easily configured. The neurons are all digital, so they will likely need diodes on each input, and a means to accumulate an analog value for the combined inputs. That is turned into a pulse rate. Diodes going into a fast discharging BEAM style Nu might do the trick. If I do fit 6 neurons per CPLD chip, like I hope, then I'll merely need diodes, which I can use to jumper the interconnects, and a pair of 74HC14s with RC nets attached to each of the 6 neuron's 2 inputs (Exiteatory and Inhibatory).
The intrnal function of each neuron involves a pair of digital 5 bit accumulators (each with 32 "steps"). The first accumulator is a "synapse" accumulator. It counts pulses up or down, starting from "0" every time the neuron fires. Exitatory pulses count up, and Inhibatory pulses countdown. The device is clocked by the pulses, and simultaneous pulses cancel each other out. A max rate clock limits the top bandwidth the neuron can handle (say, setting the neuron to "max out" at 100 pulses per second, for example). Each time the neuron fires, the second accumulator counts down. A digital comparitor checks to see when the synaptic accumulator exceeds the vaule stored in the weight accumulator (the second accumulator). Every time the weight accumulator countsdown (neuron fires), the number of pulses required to fire the neuron are reduced. Ultimately you could reach 1 pulse in, 1 pulse out with enough excitatory pulses. There is another control line called Weight Memory fade rate. This is apulse that increments the weight accumulator up by 1. A slow pulse on this line willmake the neuron gradualy forget it's weight and it will slowly require more and more pulses to fire the neuron. This could be integrated into teh Neural net or controlled at a fixed rate or externally.
I seelots of potential for plain old fun experimenting using these neurons. They could simply serve as a memory for a robot, or be wired together to form small networks that may or may not perform more complex functions. They would be great experimental tools (a.k.a. hobbyist toys)!
I haven't done much of anything with the TI calculators since college either. I still use them, but not for the advanced features described on this page. I'm still trying to get set up to be able to simply communicate with them again. TI has abandoned the old calcs with the USB link cable. I have my TI-89 out and use regularily. I mantain my 86, and need to find my 85 and 82. the latter 3 of the calcs all need maintenance or repair. The 85 needs repair. The 86 backlight is toasted for some reason, and the 82... I think it had a missing line in the screen. Honestly, I'd abandon the older calcs and stick tothe 89 if I was familiar witht eh hacks,but I have no TI-89 hacks to speak of, so I've just sat there doing nothing. Worst of all, I either lost my TI-83 + Silver Edition, or I sold it and don't remember. (with my memory, that's a real possibility!)
On a final note for this update... My 5.0L 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formulais in nice running condition now. I had always had trouble with the engine overheating and my dashboard guages shorting out andblowing fuses, and my rear hatch was messed up. Well, I've learned a bit about working under my hood. My ENTIRE cooling system is no more than 2 months to 2 years old except for the outlet housing and electric cooling fan, which are the ONLY original parts left of my engine's cooling system. I tracked down the short under my dash (this is a truly evil task by the way). I repaired the rear hatch pulldown mechanism and replaced all the bad lights in the car (headlight, dash, courtesy and tail lights to name a few). I replaced the hood and hatch lifts and finally figured out how to stow my spare tire (the hardest job of all! : )
I also had my transmission mounts repaired and had some basic maintenance performed to my transmission, though I did not do it myself.
In short, I like my car! : )
That is all...
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