Whatever Happened To The Desktop Computer?

If you buy a computer today, you’re probably going to end up with a laptop. Corporate drones have towers stuffed under their desks. The cool creative types have iMacs littering their open-plan offices. Look around on the online catalogs of any computer manufacturer, and you’ll see there are exactly three styles of computer: laptops, towers, and all-in-ones. A quick perusal of Newegg reveals an immense variety of towers; you can buy an ATX full tower, an ATX mid-tower, micro-ATX towers, and even Mini-ITX towers.

It wasn’t always this way. Nerds of a sufficient vintage will remember the desktop computer. This was, effectively, a tower tilted on its side. You could put your monitor on top, negating the need for a stack of textbooks bringing your desktop up to eye level. The ports, your CD drive, and even your fancy Zip drive were right there in front of you. Now, those days of desktop computers are long gone, and the desktop computer is relegated to history. What happened to the desktop computer, and why is a case specifically designed for a horizontal orientation so hard to find?

Continue reading “Whatever Happened To The Desktop Computer?”

Slow Down That Hot Rod Camera Dolly

[Eric Strebel]  uses a small homemade vehicle with his camera mounted on it to get great tracking shots for the intros to his videos. If the movement is slow enough then the effect is quite professional looking. But he wanted it eight times slower. We not only like the simple way he did it, along with how he machined parts for it, but the result makes it look like a hot rod, hence his name for it, the dolly hot rod. He also has an elegant mechanism for disengaging the motor while he repositions the dolly.

Machining Bondo body filler cylinder
Machining Bondo body filler cylinder

The are many ways to slow down a rotation. We’re assuming he was already at the minimum speed for the vehicle’s 8 RPM motor transmission and electronic speed controller. Gears or pulleys would probably be the next options. But [Eric] went even simpler, switching from roller blade wheels to larger diameter scooter wheels.

As simple as that sounds though, it led to that age-old conundrum, how to attach the wheels to the vehicle. The axle is made up of PVC tubes. So he machined square the ends of some PVC plugs and bolted the plugs to the wheel bearings. That left only to push the PVC plugs into the axle’s tubes. There are a number of ways he could have machined the PVC plugs, and the full explanation of the one he chose is best left to his video below. But basically, it involved first machining a Bondo body filler cylinder with a bolt embedded in it and then using the cylinder to hold onto the PVC plug while he machined that.

Continue reading “Slow Down That Hot Rod Camera Dolly”

There’s Now A New MIDI Spec, And Drones

MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, was released in 1983 in a truly bizarre association between musical instrument manufacturers. At no other time, before or since, has there been such cooperation between different manufacturers to define a standard. Since then, the MIDI spec has been expanded with SysEx messages, the ability to dump samples via MIDI, redefining the tuning of instruments via MIDI to support non-Western music, and somewhere deep in the spec, karaoke machines.

Now there’s a new update to the MIDI spec (Gearnews link, here’s the official midi.org announcement but their website requires registration and is a hot garbage fire). At this year’s NAMM, the place where MIDI was first demonstrated decades ago,  the MIDI Manufacturers Association announced an update to MIDI that makes instruments and controllers smarter, and almost self-learning.

There are three new bits to the new update to the MIDI spec. The first is Profile Configuration, a way to auto-configure complex controller mappings, described as, ‘MIDI Learn on steroids’. The second update is Property Exchange, and allows MIDI devices to set device properties like, ‘product name, configuration settings, controller names, and patch data’. This is effectively setting metadata in controllers and devices. The third new bit is Protocol Negotiation, a way to automatically push future, next-gen protocols over a DIN-5 connector.

What does this all mean? Drones. No, I’m serious. The MIDI association is tinkering around with some Tiny Whoops and Phantoms, and posted a video of drones being controlled by a MIDI controller. Play a glissando up, and the drone goes up. You can check out a video of that below.

Continue reading “There’s Now A New MIDI Spec, And Drones”