Sand casting motorcycle cases

Sand casting has been around since, well, since a really really long time ago. For thousands of years, people have been pouring molten metal into finely crafted sand casts, and there’s really no reason that someone can’t do the same thing in their garage or workshop today. This article covers the process of sand casting new case parts for antique Indian motorcycles.  In this instance, the parts were not only very difficult to find, the author also wanted to modify the design completely.

Though there are a few terms that pop up with which we’re unfamiliar, the process seems pretty straightforward. You build a model of what you want, you create the sand cast from the model, you fill the cast with molten metal. Done. In some cases, depending on the level of precision needed, you may need some machining done afterward. However, in many cases things don’t have to be quite so exact.

[via Matthew Van Arsdale]

Automating household devices with Google Calendar

[Shane] is building a new house and wants some, “subtle home automation” as he calls it. His first project is hooking up a small heater to the Internet, and judging from his demo video everything is going swimmingly.

[Shane]‘s project is built around an mbed microcontroller that connects to the Internet via an Ethernet connection. The mbed has a temperature controller and a solid state relay to turn the heater on an off; simple enough, but we really like how easily [Shane] connected his project to Google Calendar.

After looking over the Google API, [Shane] was understandably overwhelmed. He figured out that by syncing the mbed’s clock to network time and sending a GET request for one minute in the future, the mbed would always know what was scheduled with a minimal delay.

Now, all [Shane] does to turn on his heater is schedule a time and temperature in Google Calendar. He can do this from across the globe or country and makes for a really slick part of a home automation system.

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Homebrew solder pot is too dangerous even for us

[rue_mohr] is building a hexapod robot, and that meant he needed to tin a whole bunch of ribbon cables with solder. Using a soldering iron for this task would take far too long, so he built a homebrew solder pot to tin all those wires quickly. While [rue] was able to get solder on all those wires quickly, we need to question his method – he used a halogen light and reflector to melt all that solder.

The build began with a recycled halogen light fixture. After taking apart the entire assembly, [rue] reassembled it into something resembling a solder pot; a concave reflector and halogen light bulb sit perfectly flat on the table, ready to accept pieces of solder.

After throwing the switch and putting a few bits of solder in the reflector, the solder pot surprisingly worked. [rue] was able to quickly tin his ribbon cables, and the halogen bulb and reflector didn’t break yet.

This is one of the least safe solder pots we’ve ever seen – the bulb could easily explode, and melted solder could come pouring out of the reflector at any time. [rue] is aware of the safety implications and make sure to wear a pair of goggles. If it works though, we really can’t complain.

Check out the video of [rue]‘s solder pot (with an awesome temperature indicator light right in the middle of a pool of solder) in action after the break.

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Detecting ASCII art across the Internet

As a web developer and designer, [Victor] has a habit of putting a very nice ASCII signature in an HTML comment at the top of every web page he designs. He was inspired by seeing others do this,  and this piqued his curiosity to see who else was doing this. His idea was to scan through a chunk of the Internet and see what other web pages had ASCII signatures in an HTML comment. With a lot of very clever work, [Victor] managed to grab some interesting ASCII art that would have been missed without looking at the source of millions of web pages.

After gathering a list of the top million top-level domains from Alexa, [Victor] wrote a script to download the HTML for all the pages in parallel. After that, it was just an issue of detecting the ASCII art in all the HTML files. There were a few earlier ASCII art detection algorithms, but nothing that suited [Victor]‘s use case. The best result came from only looking at the first comment (otherwise the signatory wouldn’t want you to find it with a quick glance at the source) that were at least 3 lines long and 40 characters wide. After discarding everything with HTML tags in it, [Victor] had an awesome gallery of the ASCII art from webpages all around the Internet.

What did he find? Well, there’s far too many ASCII signatures for [Victor] to put up on his webpage, but he did provide a nice sample of what he found. They’re mostly logos, although there is a Hypnotoad and Aperture Science sentry turret in there.

If you’d like to try out [Victor]‘s script, he made everything available on GitHub.

A camera that describes a picture for you

[Matt]‘s Descriptive Camera looks just like any other point and shoot camera, albeit a little more boxy and homemade-looking. It even works just like the Polaroids of yesteryear – snap a picture and in a few minutes you’ve got a reproduction in your hands. Unlike any other camera before, [Matt]‘s camera doesn’t give you an image. [Matt]‘s camera gives you a description of the picture you took, printed out on  easily-scrapbooked thermal receipt paper. Yes, mankind is now that meta.

To build the hardware of his camera, [Matt] took a BeagleBone single-board Linux computer and attached a webcam and a thermal receipt printer. The real magic is in the artificial artificial intelligence that is Mechanical Turk. [Matt]‘s camera sends his picture up to the Internet where some random stranger describes his picture. This description is sent back and printed on the receipt paper.

Even though [Matt] is spending $1.25 to have a single picture described on Mechanical Turk, there’s probably not another camera as retro-meta-fabulous-fantastic out there.