Author with book

Learn All About Writing A Published Technical Book, From Idea To Print

Ever wondered what, exactly, goes into creating a technical book? If you’d like to know the steps that bring a book from idea to publication, [Sara Robinson] tells all about it as she explains what went into co-authoring O’Reilly’s Machine Learning Design Patterns.

Her post was written in 2020, but don’t let that worry you, because her writeup isn’t about the book itself so much as it is about the whole book-writing process, and her experiences in going through it. (By the way, every O’Reilly book has a distinctive animal on the cover, and we learned from [Sara] that choosing the cover animal is a slightly mysterious process, and is not done by the authors.)

It turns out that there are quite a few steps that need to happen — like proposals and approvals — before the real writing even starts. The book writing itself is a process, and like most processes to which one is new, things start out slow and inefficient before they improve.

[Sara] also talks a bit about burnout, and her advice on dealing with it is as insightful as it is practical: begin by communicating honestly how you are feeling to the people involved.

Over the years I’ve learned that people will very rarely guess how you’re feeling and it’s almost always better to tell them […] I decided to tell my co-authors and my manager that I was burnt out. This went better than expected.

There is a lot of code in the book, and it has its own associated GitHub repository should you wish to check some of it out.

By the way, [Sara] celebrated publication by making a custom cake, which you can see near the bottom of her blog post. This comes as no surprise seeing as she has previously managed to combine machine learning with her love of making cakes!

Waterjet-Cut Precision Pastry

We need more high-end, geometric pastry in our lives. This insight is courtesy of a fairly old video, embedded below, demonstrating an extremely clever 2D CNC mechanism that cuts out shapes on a cake pan, opening up a universe of arbitrary cake topologies.

The coolest thing about this machine for us is the drive mechanism. A huge circular gear is trapped between two toothed belts. When the two belts move together the entire thing translates, but when they move in opposite directions, it turns. It seems to be floating on a plastic platform, and because the design allows the water-jet cutting head to remain entirely fixed, only a small hole underneath is necessary, which doubtless simplifies high-pressure water delivery and collection. Rounding the machine out are cake pans make up of vertical slats, like on a laser- or plasma-cutter table, that slip into registration pins and let the water pass through.

The kinematics of this machine are a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. To cut a straight line, it does a cycloid-shaped dance of translation and turning that you simply have to see in motion. Because of this intricate path, the cake-feed speed varies along the way, so this machine won’t be perfect for all applications and relies on a thin kerf. And we can’t help thinking how dizzy the cake must get in the process.

Indeed, the same company put out a relatively pedestrian two-arm motion cutter (another video!) that poses different kinematic problems. It’s essentially a two-arm plotter with a moving table underneath that helps increase the working area. Details are scarce, but it looks like they’re minimizing motion of the moving table, doing the high frequency small stuff with the stiff arms. Presumably someone turned the speed on the previous machine up to 11 and spun a cake off into the room, causing them to rethink the whole move-the-cake-around design.

Of course, watercut pastry isn’t limited to exotic CNC mechanisms. This (third!) video demonstrates that a simple Cartesian XY bot can do the job as well.

If you think about it, using high-pressure pure water to cut foodstuffs is a win on many levels. We’d just miss out on licking the knife. Thanks [Adam G DeMuri] for the awesome comment that lead us to a new world of watercut edibles.

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Machine Learning In The Kitchen Makes For Tasty Mashup Desserts

What did you do during lockdown? A whole lot of people turned to baking in between trips to the store to search for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Many of them baked bread for some reason, but like us, [Sara Robinson] turned to sweeter stuff to get through it.

The first Cakie ever made. Image via Google Cloud

Her pandemic ponderings wandered into the realm of baking existentialist questions, like what separates baked goods from each other, categorically speaking? What is the science behind the crunchiness of cookies, the sponginess of cake, and the fluffiness of bread?

As a developer advocate for Google Cloud, [Sara] turned to machine learning to figure out why the cookie crumbles. She collected 33 recipes each of cookies, cake, and bread and built a TensorFlow model to analyze them, which resulted in a cookie/cake/bread lineage for each recipe in a set of percentages. Not only was the model able to accurately classify recipes by type, [Sara] was able to use the model to come up with a 50/50 cookie-cake hybrid recipe. The AI delivered a list of ingredients to which she added vanilla extract and chocolate chips for flavor. From there, she had to wing it and come up with her own baking directions for the Cakie.

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Cakeday Countdown Clock Is A Sweet Little Scroller

If you want strangers to give you well wishes on your birthday out in the real world, you have call attention to the occasion by wearing a pointy hat or a button that says ‘today is my birthday, gimme presents’. But on your reddit cakeday, aka the day you joined, you’re automatically singled out with the addition of a slice of 8-bit cake next to your username. The great thing about your cakeday is that you’re almost guaranteed to get some karma for once, especially if you make something cakeday related like [ScottyD]’s cakeday countdown clock. But plenty of people forget what their cakeday is and miss out on the fun.

This countdown clock works like you might expect — every day that isn’t your cakeday, a message scrolls by with the number of days remaining until your next one. When the big day comes, the message becomes TODAY IS YOUR CAKE DAY. Both messages are bookended by cute little pixelated cake slices that we would apply liberally to the day-of message if we made one of these.

This simple but fun project shouldn’t put too big of a dent in your parts box, since it’s essentially an Arduino, a real-time clock module, and a 32×8 LED matrix to display the text. We love the uni-body design of the enclosure because it creates a shelf for the Arduino and gives easy access for gluing in the display from the rear. If for some reason you don’t reddit, then make one anyway and use it to count down to your IRL birthday or something. We’ve got the build video cut and plated for you to consume after the break.

We would understand if 2020 is supplying you with enough existential crises, but if not, consider building a clock that counts down the rest of your life expectancy.

Continue reading “Cakeday Countdown Clock Is A Sweet Little Scroller”

The Cake Robot Is No Lie

[52 Skillz] didn’t know anything about building robots. So he decided to not just read about it or make a simple robot. He jumped right in and wanted to build a robot that could make a cake. It took about a year and a half but it now — mostly — works, as you can see in the video below.

Granted it isn’t perfect and it isn’t really all that practical. But as a learning exercise, it was certainly ambitious and successful. Apparently, you still have to scrape the bowl a little by hand to get some of the flour off the bowl walls. Also, loading the ingredients might be more work than just making it by hand, but that really isn’t the point.

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Problems That Plagued An Edible Marble Machine

Prolific creator [Martin Raynsford] recently created a plus-sized edible version of his laser-cut Marble Machine for a Cake International exhibit and competition; it seemed simple to do at first but had quite a few gotchas waiting, and required some clever problem-solving.

Gears are three layers, stacked and cemented with sugar glue, and coated with a hard edible shine.

The original idea was to assemble laser-cut gingerbread parts to make the machine. Gingerbread can be laser-cut quite well, and at first all seemed to be going perfectly well for [Martin]. However, after a few days the gingerbread was sagging badly. Fiddling with the recipe and the baking was to no avail, and it was clear [Martin] needed to find something other than gingerbread to work with. After experimenting, he settled on a modified sugar paste which kept its shape and dried hard enough to work with. (While appearing to stretch most people’s definition of “cake” past the breaking point, the category [Martin] entered in the competition allows it.) The parts were cut by hand using laser-cut wood parts as a guide, then finished in a food dehydrator overnight.

The next problem was how to create the large spiral which forms the main ramp. The answer was to laser-cut a custom support structure that supported the piece while it dried out, and doubled as a way to transport the piece safely. High stress points got extra layers cemented with sugar glue, and some parts were reinforced internally with strands of uncooked spaghetti. Everything was sealed with an edible shine, which [Martin] says acts as a kind of varnish for cakes. A video demonstration is embedded below. Continue reading “Problems That Plagued An Edible Marble Machine”

Hackaday Links: December 27th, 2015

PCBs can be art – we’ve known this for a while, but we’re still constantly impressed with what people can do with layers of copper, fiberglass, soldermask, and silkscreen. [Sandy Noble] is taking this idea one step further. He took C64, Spectrum, and Sinclair PCBs and turned them into art. The results are incredible. These PCBs were reverse engineered, traced, and eventually turned into massive screen prints. They look awesome, and they’re available on Etsy.

$100k to bring down drones. That’s the tagline of the MITRE Challenge, although it’s really being sold as, “safe interdiction of small UAS that pose a safety or security threat in urban areas”. You can buy a slingshot for $20…

[styropyro] mas made a name for himself on Youtube for playing with very dangerous lasers and not burning his parent’s house down. Star Wars is out, and that means it’s time to build a handheld 7W laser. It’s powered by two 18650 cells, and is responsible for more than a few scorch marks on the walls of [styropyro]’s garage.

Everybody is trying to figure out how to put Ethernet and a USB hub on the Pi Zero. This means a lot of people will be launching crowdfunding campaigns for Pi Zero add-on boards that add Ethernet and USB. The first one we’ve seen is the Cube Infinity. Here’s the thing, though: they’re using through-hole parts for their board, which means this won’t connect directly to the D+ and D- USB signals on the Pi Zero. They do have a power/battery board that may be a little more useful, but I can’t figure out how they’re doing the USB.

[Keith O] found a fascinating video on YouTube and sent it into the tips line. It’s a machine that uses a water jet on pastries. These cakes start out frozen, and come out with puzzle piece and hexagon-shaped slices. Even the solution for moving cakes around is ingenious; it uses a circular platform that rotates and translates by two toothed belts. Who would have thought the latest advancements in cutting cakes and pies would be so fascinating?

It’s time to start a tradition. In the last links post of last year, we took a look at the number of views from North Korea in 2014. Fifty-four views, and we deeply appreciate all our readers in Best Korea. This year? For 2015, we’ve logged a total of thirty-six views from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That’s a precipitous drop that deserves an investigation. Pyongyang meetup anyone?