Hackaday Links: October 24, 2010

Square Gears

This video demonstrates square gears and other oddly shaped cogs. We can’t think of a use but it’s interesting none-the-less. [via Tinkernology]

Cooking with Lasers

It’s late and you’ve been at the workbench for quite some time. But why go to the kitchen for a snack? Grab a couple of 1 watt lasers, hot glue a kernel of corn to a DC motor, and you’ll have popcorn in no time.

Calling this a simulator just doesn’t do it justice

Okay, so this link is a Lexus commercial. But it’s worth watching to see the footage of this driving simulator. Inside that pod is an actual automobile surrounded by a 360 degree screen. The room has a full x and y axis to move the pod (and the car) as you drive through the simulated world. It’s like someone gave a bunch of geeks an unlimited budget and say “go nuts”. [Thanks Luke]

What takes the most time in your hacking adventures?

Everyone whose spent some time in web design has run across the peculiar rendering bugs and workarounds associated with Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer Stole My Life aims to tabulate the collective time wasted from the lives of developers. We think it’s hilarious because spending the same amount of time meeting W3C standards and this problem would go away. But [Caleb] mentioned something interesting when he saw this site: What part of your hacking adventures wastes the most time? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

51 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: October 24, 2010

  1. so…whats the point to a driving simulator? i see the point to flight simulators because very few people can afford to purchase a plane. i feel like most people have been in a car before, and people with a drivers license have driven before…i just dont understand it…its not like their car is so special that it requires their own simulator, its a cheap mercedes.

  2. Driving sims are great for exploring human-vehicle interface design and other human factors (eg. effect of cell phone/alcohol use). USA has the National Driving Simulator (NADS http://www.nads-sc.uiowa.edu/) great acronym.

    As for biggest time wastes:
    * hunting answers in useless forums
    * dependency chains in FOSS sw projects, esp those that include different versions of dependent packages in various dependency branches.
    * wiring issues (bad connections/connectors, broken/bad cables, mis-wired lines)
    * ground faults (probably a wiring issue subset)
    * surfing HAD, BB, Make, etc instead of hacking

  3. “We think it’s hilarious because spending the same amount of time meeting W3C standards and this problem would go away.”

    I hope you’re referring to IE not being compliant. Seeing as most people cite IE6 as the problem seeing that W3C compliant code would be rendered incorrectly and some code needed to be written specifically with IE only tags to get it to render correctly. Although lately obviously less people use IE6 so it’s not as big of a problem. You’d be surprised at how many people were still using IE6 just 2 years ago.

  4. I think the line about “meeting W3C standards” is about IE meeting the W3C standards, not the web developers. In a sense, the other FOSS browsers are just this; Microsoft doesn’t care that their browser isn’t standards compliant, and there’s no way in hell they would pay the “community” to fix it for them, or likely let them do it for free either.

  5. Most wasted time:

    Reading Datasheets/Silicon Erratas for PIC’s. Especially when trying to find the cheapest PIC that has no problems with whatever modules are required for the project

    Chasing cold solder joints.

  6. I watched the Lexus video and still don’t get it.
    You can probably get 90% of the benefits with a $300 steering wheel, $2,000 PC, and 6x($1,000) LCD screens.

    But you don’t get bragging rights nor labeled more money than brains.

  7. I work for a company that makes flight simulators (certified up to level-d which means a pilot can train on it with 1 to 1 time). Simulators are REALLY EXPENSIVE. To make a 1-off like the driving simulator in that commercial would be redonculous. The commercial is CG and fake. Additonally 6-degree of freedom motion jacks provide a very realistic movement when combined with wrap-around screens. There is no need for a simulator that translates like that.

  8. Those weird shaped cogs could be very useful for applications where a steady rotation needed to be converted into a changing one. For example, the elipsoid cogs would (according to my mental back of the envelope calculations) produce output rotation with a sinusoidal rotational velocity, the spiral ones would produce a sawtooth output velocity and the fish ones a square wave. Now can you think of some uses?

  9. Reading HAD or Engadget is probably my biggist waste of time. Or waiting up for WOOT to switch items at night.

    As for hacking, probably troubleshooting wiring errors. Grounds…always check your grounds!

    Leaving a reply to HAD, waste of time. I mean how many people post bad things about arduino yet you still post the satupid blinky led projects. :)

  10. connectors and cabling.

    They’re backwards, they’re too tall, too short, too wide, wrong pitch, they didn’t solder, they fail over time, male vs. female, pin 1 is not pin 1, DTE vs. DCE. Not enough amps, can’t get them, no longer available, too expensive, too fragile, arcing, poor crimps, poor pressfit, cable strain.

    I always think there is no new way to screw them up, but I always manage…

  11. I hope that comment about W3C standards was supposed to come across how ReKlipz says it was, otherwise someone really has never made a website, in any way, shape or form ever – or has never read the W3C standards.

  12. My personal favorite waste of time is how the stray capacitances in breadboards fool me into thinking my opamp is working fine (or not working fine). Then I build it on protoboard… suddenly my oscillators amplify and my amplifiers oscillate (or it mysteriously works). I’ve learned to use IC sockets so I can switch opamps if necessary, and just leave the cheapest one that works in there.

    I also love it when I inadvertently damage pins configured as output on an AVR and spend hours debugging assembly code for no reason. Every solution I’ve thought of generally costs more than replacing the MCU.

  13. My biggest waste of time this weekend has been debugging a LM386N audio amp circuit, when the problem was with my code :( But you can bet your socks that my pumpkin will be sweet now that it’s working.

    Lexus tends to waste a lot of time and money on things that are not needed, and IE just wastes time and money because it likes to (I’m not adding any more asterisks to my CSS, ever!).

  14. I know all car commercials are chuckfull of CGI, and I certainly hope this is one of those cases too because it’s completely pointless to build a simulator when you can just go outside and test a car.
    Especially now that the governments has to bail them all out it would be an outrage and insult.

  15. He obviously means that IE inst W3C Standard, which is a give sense (i hope) most web designers get the hang of the standards after a bit (or if in a pinch, w3schools). I still pop my source in a checker every once in a while, but im never usually to bad at staying w3c compliant ;)

    As for time wasters:
    ~Never having the right tools for that one freaking random torx screw
    ~Searching google to look for references to specific boards or codes
    ~scrolling through forum after forum looking for an answer to a simple question that most of the time i usually know anyway.

    Biggest time water: HAD. But i love it :)

  16. @Whatnot: Yes, I’d like to see you risk getting plowed into by a real fully-loaded semi just to see if your avoidance system has a bug in it. I’ll stick to the simulator where I can still feel the turns and acceleration but not the 60-mph impact.

  17. That’s actually a pretty impressive simulator.

    Aircraft simulators (whose hydraulic actuators are fixed to the floor) mimic acceleration and deceleration (think takeoff and landing) by tilting the simulator forward or aft while the visual stays constant relative to the pilot. The combination fools the body into thinking that you’re decelerating when actually you’re just tipping forward.

    I would have expected that they would have simulated cornering g’s the same way – tilt the sim sideways, but keep the visual level relative to the driver.

    Translating the entire simulator around the way they do instead is something new, and it can’t be cheap. I’m guessing you could fit 16 or so aircraft simulator bays in the same space they’ve dedicated to one simulator. of course, they don’t have train 12000 drivers per year, so they can get away with one big, expensive sim.

    <p.Sims are are a large part of my job. Trust me, that's an impressive sim.

  18. @Queeg: I was wondering about this too, and the only reason I could come up with is that cars in general can change direction much quicker than aircraft can, so there needs to be a way of simulating the shift in momentum without introducing centripetal force about the drivers cog.

    Then again there’s redbull aircraft racing, no idea how they’d go about building a sim for that, though I’d love to see someone try.

    The think that takes me the longest: procrastination. :(

  19. @ Mr.Grimm

    Totally there with you on that one! How many times have I set a tool down as I’m sitting on the floor, just to realize after 10 minutes of frantically searching for it that it’s really on my bed, or on my desk, or underneath me somehow :-S

  20. My biggest waste has to be fault find circuits… Seriously I *ucking hate that *hit. I also have wasted a more time than I am willing to admit with perl but its all worth it in the end.

  21. To all those that think the driving sim is lame, etc..

    Are you guys dense or something? Sure, it might take some creativity to think of some uses for this thing. But come on: in-traffic drunk driving research, driving response timing vs. real world, effects of many distractions, plugging suspension data in for real testing without a prototype, and much more that smarter folks than i can think up.

    Let’s not forget that its one slick piece of tech. Its obvious that some really creative people put their heart and soul into this project. I tend to respect companies that do a little bit more than cut as many corners as possible to squeeze an extra $2 in profit per quarter. Everyone here knows that if they didn’t blow the budget building this, they’d blow it on far less interesting advertising…or hand out bigger exec bonuses :-P

  22. Learning code instead of soldering a capacitor to make something blink lol.
    Seriously, my time waster is testing out repairs without putting the whole thing back together (thus having to hold the parts like a multi-armed goddess). Wish we still had prehensile tails.

  23. My biggest waste of time hacking is trying to re-learn how to use eagle so I can cut out a new PCB on the CNC that took me a year to make. Also just thinking about what I need to go through to FIND standard parts in eagles gazillion libraries makes me want to weep blood.

  24. @notmyfault2000 check out mythbusters where they constantly do experiments with cars, and when it’s too dangerous they drive it remotely with some cheap servos.
    And to me having an actual car to test things seems more reliable and realistic than a simulator that could be predicting things wrong and then in a real car you are the unfortunate sucker who finds that out.

    I get it with planes for training, but for cars it just doesn’t make sense in a cost vs effectiveness sense.

  25. I can’t put them in order but some definitive time wasters are:
    -looking for tools, which i could swear, i put in front of me…
    -reading through forums to find the answer to a simple problem and then ending up reading total diffrent and for the project not needful articles, which are interessting though
    -same with wikipedia (:D)
    -programming needles gadgets (AVR Studio says, that there are still 29% for code left and leaving them empty feels for me like throwing away good food! :D )

  26. an even better use for those gears would be to transform an input with a non-uniform-in-time torque (like all engines/motors) into something with a smoother torque. in fact, i’m kindof surprised if this isn’t in all transmissions… anyone know if it’s ever been used before?

  27. @Whatnot: And we all know how their car stuff turns out perfectly every time and how they can always reuse the cars afterwords, and how the “driver’s” reactions are on par with those of someone actually in the driver’s seat in terms of both speed and action.

    With the simulator, if you destroy the “car” you just hit the reset button. With a real car you’re out all of the time and cost it took to build the car.

  28. @blueb and other sim guys….
    Not sure about whether Lexus has their own big xy sim, but those are necessary if you want to give the driver good horizontal sim. Simply tilting on a hexapod doesnt give the feel of long corner slide… and then you have to have room to take out the motion — hard onset cue, then slowly reduce to 0 and slow return to origin without inducing more simulated motion. Takes a lot of space. And aircraft dont need much horz motion sim so std hex table works ok most of the time. When you need really big vertical sim, they go to NASA and http://www.simlabs.arc.nasa.gov/vms/motionb.html

    Again, the why here is HUMAN FACTORS, which is not what myth busters are doing with remote controlled cars… or directly doing. It is a rush to watch them work.

  29. biggest waste if time:
    trying to placing an order with TI…
    reading all the safety comments on HaD…
    every 4th HaD post… almost…

    i wonder what type of printer they striped down to get the parts for that lexus car thingy… also does it use an audrino? if not why is this on HaD lol

  30. @notmyfault2000:
    A virtual collision is far safer for sure, but being a virtual collision it can be done strictly on a computer screen. There is no need for a $100M(?) airbag container to go off in your face for you to know the system just failed.

    @Jon King:
    I’m not sure any of the things you have mentioned require a $100M(?) force feedback to study.

  31. @bob: What about “The avoidance system works, but gave me whiplash as it avoided the oncoming semi at 60mph, so we might want to increase xyz to smooth out the response?” At least 75% of the reason for the sim’s existence is to evaluate the feel and driver response in a realistic situation, while still being safe for both the driver and the hardware.

  32. @notmyfault2000:
    Apparently the cause of whiplash is of non-specific origin (some people may be afflicted by motion that others can tolerate).
    During normal vehicle maneuver, the average automobile will not generally exceed about +/- 1g acceleration (the tires simply do not have enough traction before losing grip)(1g acceleration will get you from 0-100km/h in about 3-sec for perspective).
    Most people will not experience whiplash at 1g.
    If somebody cannot tolerate 1g, leading medical professionals advise against driving motor vehicles altogether.

  33. I kind of have my eyes on the position of Corporate Evangelist. Because I believe it’s one of those jobs where I don’t have to do much work, but still get a corner office (like the guy at Lexus who concocted the idea for this simulator).

    Actually I’d love it if legitimate purposes for this simulator can be revealed (other than publicity, as legitimate a reason as it is), cuz I gotcha know.

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