Hacklet 31 – Software Tools

For every computer error, there are two human errors, and one of them is blaming the computer. Whenever a human blames a computer for something, there are two tools, and one of them is the computer.

Not all of your nifty tools need to be fancy robots, CNC machines, or nifty Robertson screwdrivers; a computer is equally capable of being a fantastic tool, provided it has the right software. For this week’s Hacklet, we’re going through some of the best software tools on hackaday.io.

6653681421957570397[Alan] was inspired to build a software tool for making sewing patterns. Sewing patterns are usually designed for the ‘average’ person, but if you’re making custom wearables, you should end up with a piece of clothing that fits perfectly.

The first project [Alan] is using this tool for is a fleece cap that fits the contour of his head. He captured a 3D mesh of his head, imported the mesh into Blender, and unwrapped the resulting mesh. The two halves of the hat were then plotted with a Silhouette Cameo, cut out of fleece, and sewn together. The result is a beanie that fits perfectly around [Alan]’s head. It’s an extremely cool and novel application of 3D modeling, and if you ever need to wrap a 3D object with a 2D material, this is the project you want to check out.

5869061407871295021 And you thought the autorouter in Eagle was bad.

[Anderson] built a tool called Pyrite that will take a schematic and build a layout in three-dimensional space. He calls them Volumetric Circuits, and it’s basically the point-to-point wiring found in old radios and amplifiers taken to the next level. We featured this project before, and there haven’t been many updates since then. Maybe giving [Anderson]’s project a few skulls will help motivate him to get back to the project.

133031421839442989 Not satisfied with the existing free and open source CAM programs, [Snegovick] started work on his own.

[Snegovick] calls his project BCAM, and it’s exactly what you need to mill holes in PCBs, cut gears with a CNC router, engrave plastic, and anything else a 2.5 axis CNC machine can do. The project is written in Python, and yes, the source is available. Supported operations include drilling, path following, offset path following, and pocketing.

Write enough microcontroller projects, and you’ll eventually come up with your own library of common code that does one thing and one thing well. If you’re smart, you’ll reuse that code in future projects. [ericwazhung] is cutting through the hard part of developing all this code and released some things that are useful in a whole lot of projects.

Included in the commonCode library are the usual ‘heartbeat LED’, non-blocking input, a standard interface for AVR timers, bitmaps of text characters, DC motor control, and a whole bunch more. Extremely useful in any event.

That’s it for this round of the Hacklet, bringing you the best hackaday.io has to offer.

20 thoughts on “Hacklet 31 – Software Tools

  1. Interesting projects, but this desperate promotion of hackaday.io just proved that it is current status is *fail*.

    People advertise their stuff on hackaday.io, but the real content is hosted elsewhere. Hackaday.io doesn’t concentrate peoples projects/efforts, it’s just an added level of fragmentation.

    Hackaday.io lacks unique features (and no: the latest “vanity URL landrush” is no feature – you should have waited until april fool’s day for this lame joke).
    You can’t count on your excellent hackaday.com reputation as the sole cause for people to join hackaday.io. Hackaday.io is not a hosting platform, not a forum, it’s no catalogue, no blog, not a gallery post – it’s just an in-between. That’s not enough for a good project.

    Just my 2c…

    1. Judging from the thousands of projects on the site, and thousands more people registered to use it, I would say that your 2 cents aren’t even worth that much. The site is an obvious success. It’s not perfect, but it works.

    2. For what it’s worth, speaking only for myself and not as a writer for Hackaday, I feel mostly the same way.

      As someone who doesn’t just write about projects but actually makes stuff, I’ve used every documenting method there is over the years. Mailing lists, forums, a couple of my own websites, Instructables, Youtube, Imgur, wiki-platforms, communities with article archives, etc. They all work pretty well for what they are, but none are great. So, I would expect that, unlike all those other platforms, if something was actually designed for hosting projects rather than something I had to shoehorn to try to suit my purposes, I would be thrilled to have that and jump all aboard.

      Instead, I’ve tried and tried to get into it, but can’t. Not just for myself, but when I find projects I’d like to read up on, i end up taking a glance, giving up and walking away. As a writer, well, in 35 articles I’ve penned so far, zero have covered .io projects.

      Maybe it’s just a personal quirk. Just like how everyone learns differently in school, different people need different ways to absorb information. The way projects are presented on the .io site clashes severely with my particular way I want to do things. Perhaps you and I are in a minority.

      Yes, thousands of people use Hackaday.io, but you had to in order to participate or vote on projects which had prizes so the data’s fuzzy. I read a fascinating article on G+ the other day that showed just how abysmally-few people actually use it because they want to use it or use it for what G+ is actually trying to be. Almost everyone who has one only uses it when they were forced to. Gmail and Youtube commenting integration, etc. Something like only 2-3 million people actually use as a social platform. It’s not fair to ignore the .io’s numbers completely, you have to give people a bit of a kick in the pants to take the initial plunge so the contests worked wonderfully in that regard.

      If you (or anyone) would like to be constructive… what about the .io would you like done differently? What “features” do you think it is missing that it requires? I can’t think of any myself, I’d rather many of the “features” be removed so it was a lot simpler to get at the info I want, but that’s me.

      1. A smattering of unrelated hackaday.io thoughs…

        I use hackaday.io as a nice spot to host a bunch of my projects without having to deal with setting up a website (I’ve got the URL reserved, but haven’t done anything with it in a year and a half). I use it as a repository of cool/hacky things I’ve worked on which I can point someone to. I like getting skulls, but I’m not very driven in the social aspect.

        Last I checked, there are more users than projects on Hackaday.io… Which is both surprising and not; even prior to hackaday.io, it was pretty evident that those making hacks are greatly outnumbered by those appreciating hacks. I wonder if this imbalance makes the social concept much less likely to succeed.

        As for site changes, it’s a bit annoying having a limit of 6 images per project, though I completely understand there are likely storage/bandwidth limits that have to be worked with. I will use images hosted on Imgur occasionally, though often am too lazy to bother with linking extra pictures; my projects approaches to using/referring pictures varies widely. An export of the html content of pages might be neat for self-archival purposes. If hackaday.io ever ends, I hope there’s a grace period with such a feature enabled.

        1. “it’s a bit annoying having a limit of 6 images per project”

          Heh, didn’t know that. That’d kill it for me right off the bat. Any time I document a project I’ve got dozens of pictures. It’s essential to me to show off the build process. Even just having 4 or 5 different angles of the final product is pretty important.

          If you look through /r/DIY or Instructables or, anywhere really, 6 picture would be hugely limited.

          “I like getting skulls, but I’m not very driven in the social aspect.”

          Ditto for me. The “social” aspect is sharing and helping and inspiring others. Actual conversation. Accumulation of cliquey points is actually a turnoff for a community to me. Each to his own I suppose.

          1. “Cliquey points” is a weird-one… I understand the turn-off aspect, but I also understand the perspective of having run a pretty-detailed website for two+ years (and actually a few others in the past) and having only received contact from two people in all that time. I dunno where the happy-medium is in all this, but it sure is nice to know for once that actual human-beings are actually willing to add my projects to a list of those they follow (rather than just look at once and forget). Much more difficult in a self-hosted site setting… And Matt, your name doesn’t click-through to your project-site(s)?

          2. “it sure is nice to know for once that actual human-beings are actually willing to add my projects to a list of those they follow (rather than just look at once and forget). Much more difficult in a self-hosted site setting”

            That makes sense, I see the value in that. It’s not what would impact me though. And you’re absolutely right, if that’s the kind of thing you’re drawn to, then it’s all but impossible to accomplish that on your own site.

            Once upon a time I was on the board of directors for a community of ~10,000 where we wanted articles and projects and such handled better. When I was first drafting the improvements, I thought it best to to have something similar to this whole social stuff we have now (this was, oh, 10 years ago before “social” anything). I figured that recognition and some type of points and scores and such would be good incentives to people to contribute more. We took baby steps, as a volunteer-run community could, and didn’t get a chance to implement them for a couple years. By the time we were ready, I’d changed my mind. The kind of people that are motivated by those types of things I found to be generally selfish, greedy, cliquey, drama-causing and generally undesirable to the community. Those that contributed just because they wanted to and had an urge to share and help others were more like scientists.

            But in that situation if people wanted to talk about what you did, they could do so in a real way. Not just in a “like this Kony video” kind of non-participation status-whoring way, which is how I see a lot of the social things.

            For me, to see that a Youtube tutorial of mine got 75,000 views or an instructable has 10,000 or whatnot, that’s all the proof I need of “followers.” The occasional comment is icing on the cake. Seeing the stats is all the confirmation I need.

            “And Matt, your name doesn’t click-through to your project-site(s)?”

            Correct. A few reasons:

            1 – I value compartmentalizing my life. So if one parts falls apart, the others don’t go to shit as well.

            2 – I like submitting my own content to Hackaday, and don’t want it fast-tracked or given preferential treatment.

            3 – Most importantly, my contributions exist with the community that helped make them happen. I’m an incompetent amateur. I have ideas, but very few skills and even less knowledge so I rely heavily on the mentorship of various communities to get anything done. I regularly get roadblocked 20 of 30 times in a project and just don’t have the effort to become enough of an expert to answer all my own questions. That means that people often take time out of their day to hand hold and walk me through things or sometimes just give me the answers so I can continue. The only reward for those people who help me is to see that their efforts bore fruit. So, my documented and hosted projects exist in the communities of those that made my projects possible. I take it very seriously that time and again, complete strangers are willing to give so much. That means that my projects are scattered across a dozen or more communities because I have broad interests.

            To me, that’s the biggest reason I also don’t use Hackaday as my project host. I feel no kinship to anyone here. There is no communication, conversation or collaboration, so there is no feeling of “this community helped me” to lead me to share. Instructables is the same way, but I publish mostly “how to” content for Instructables, not “How I made this” project logs.

            If I would have wanted Hackaday to have a projects site, i would have built the community first as the foundation. That probably means an active forum so people can talk and share and all those good things. Then slowly add in ways for some projects to exist beyond forum threads (which are great for discussion but awful for archiving). Hackaday had (still has I think, somewhere, unlinked) forums, but no one really ever used them. To me, that signifies that people aren’t here to create or discuss content, they’re here to absorb it. Which makes sense, Hackaday is a blog that reports on other’s projects, not a place project creators gather to discuss. It’s perhaps putting the cart before the horse, because the horse isn’t there. Make’s community is similarly a ghost town. This versus places like EEVBlog tend to have conversation congregating for whatever reason. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

            I keep wanting a personal website to collimate all my projects but I’m awful at web design and I’m the kind of person that wants whatever i do, to be done well. I don’t mind a simple website, but I don’t want a crappy one. So, yeah, nothing’s linked, if that makes sense.

          3. Wow, man… I gotta say there seems to be a bit of judgementalism in your response.
            This bit, just as a teensy example: “Those that contributed just because they wanted to and had an urge to share and help others were more like scientists.”
            Scientists can’t remain scientists contributing to the greater-good when their homes are ripped out from under them and their equipment thrown on the streets.

          4. …I’m trying *really hard* NOT to read what you wrote as basically saying that what you do is knowingly and opportunistically use and profit from generous people (e.g. “scientists”).
            Doing-so requires [re]reading many of your statements as irony/sarcasm that the general-public aren’t in-on, and [the statements] aren’t otherwise indicated as-such. Doing-so also requires *believing* some darn-near-incredible claims that you’re intentionally witholding evidence to support. Google doesn’t seem to be helping. Doing-so also requires assuming that you don’t see connections that you made in your own writing… e.g. anyone who understands how search/browse works on youtube knows that youtube-view-counts are really nothing more than “cliquey points,” and you’re on a pretty high-horse against those. Doing-so further requires letting-slide some strong claims about people who help line your pockets.
            That-said, I’d like to believe you’re not a troll, nor an opportunist…

            So, I’ll try to rephrase what I said earlier… You lucked-out, brah… You’re making ends meet, and you’re getting to do fun and interesting things in the process. Excellent. And it sounds like you’re trying to give-back to those who’ve helped you. Cool. If you fancy yourself a non-troll/non-opportunist, you might want to scale-back some of your entitlement and judgement, even some you may not be aware of putting out there.

          5. “knowingly and opportunistically use and profit from generous people (e.g. “scientists”).”

            Whoa dude. Honestly I’m having trouble making sense of basically your entire replies. I think you took what I said and ran off into left field with it.

            I wouldn’t call “Asking questions in a forum when I get stumped, while documenting and sharing my progress with those that are interested enough to participate” to be “opportunistically using and profiting for generosity.” And best I can, I give back about the types of things I do know. There’s no coercion or a gun to anyone’s head. It’s participating in a community. I often get comments about people enjoying watching my progress and if I stall out for a while I start getting PMs from people wondering if I’m still working on it or if they can help.

            I mean… obviously I feel this way. I just took lengths to describe the kinship I feel with generous communities.

            “youtube-view-counts are really nothing more than “cliquey points,” and you’re on a pretty high-horse against those. Doing-so further requires letting-slide some strong claims about people who help line your pockets.”

            Line my pockets… with… what?

            Posting an instructable doesn’t pay me anything. I do it so people can learn from what I did and not have to take the hard route I had to because the info wasn’t out there.

            Making some little unique trinket that came to my mind doesn’t pay me anything. It’s just a fun and silly project I enjoyed making.

            Most of the things I make are actually me voluneering and building the project for someone else, giving it away when I’m done so this whole sudden and creepy “profit!!!!” angle you’re worrying about is… odd.

            And you mis-interpreted what i said about Youtube. I said that seeing that views number lets me know that there was a point in sharing the content I did and that it was worthwhile, which was your point about why you like to see the skulls. If I put a lot of effort into it and got 5 views, I’d know otherwise. I don’t care about (in the Youtube example) subscribers or thumbsup or shares or favorites. To me just seeing that the content was viewed was enough and that’s a functional thing, not an accumulation thing.

            Not sure why you’re going off about “entitlement” and “judgement”, the very first thing I said was “That makes sense, I see the value in that.”

            Your response is kind of bizarre and is getting pretty aggressively personal for some reason, so, let’s just leave it at us valuing different things.

          6. Aight, you’re right, I can see how from your perspective it was a bit left-field. Believe it or not, I was once of a similar perspective, myself, and try as best I can to not dismiss where I came from. I think if you saw the world through my [unfortunately, not as uncommon as it may seem] experience this “left field” would be more like the entirety of your stadium and the world surrounding it. I Thank God the vast-majority of people aren’t forced to see it that way, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. While my frustration may come out at times like these, I *usually try* to perceive things from the various perspectives I’ve experienced, and *usually try* to hold my tongue so as not to bring people down, especially for those who really *can’t* percieve the world in that way and are otherwise decent well-intentioned people.

            If you want to suggest a deletion of this portion of the thread, that’s entirely reasonable.

            Apologies for singling you out and for possibly bringing you down. Props for giving back.

            Only thing I’d not hold back is: don’t discredit the HaD “community” (staff, writers, project-members, etc). I’ve only been active here a few months, it may not be as active as a forum-site, but I’ve already been surprised on several occasions how actively-considerate many have been.

            You’ve got a lot of commentary/suggestions, but I don’t see it in the Feedback section which is designed for the very purpose of engaging discussions like you and the other cat were having. Instead, you’re having it here, in the comment-sections of a completely-unrelated article, then essentially complaining that the site doesn’t have active discussions. Create one, where it’s intended, where others expect to see it, where staffers look for ideas for improvement. You should know this. Instead you’re keeping it here. It seems weird, in fact, it seems intentionally troll-like.

          7. Well, I didn’t start this thread. Someone criticized the .io and I somewhat agreed and asked him what he wanted to see instead. It would be a selection bias to only ask the people already using the site what it would take for them to use the site, since they’re already the ones using it.

            To me, feedback shouldn’t exist in a bubble. Feedback should be a conversation so ideas can build momentum or squash themselves.

        2. Hey Gertlex, there is a limit of 6 images in the gallery on the profile page, but no limit to the number of images you can add on the project logs. We’re working through improvements for the site and do know that people would like better image integration. Thanks for taking the time to give us feedback.

  2. Brian! Thanks for the mention re: ‘commonCode’!
    I definitely appreciate the new followers and your write-up prompted me to notice that my project-details overlooked some key-points that make the ‘commonCode’ *system* a bit more than a collection of libraries. I’m still working on how to word it to get that point across without detracting from its usefulness to those who needn’t be bogged-down by those details. But, honestly, without the system, it’s just a collection of libraries that may otherwise seem unnecessarily-convoluted.
    Lots to think about… Thanks again for getting the word out!

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