The Clutter Manifesto

My basement workshop is so crammed full of stuff I literally can’t use it. My workbench, a sturdy hardwood library table, is covered in junk to the point that I couldn’t find a square foot that didn’t have two layers of detritus on it — the top layer is big things like old projects that no longer work, boxes of stuff, fragile but light things perched on top. Underneath is the magma of bent resistors, snippets of LED strip, #4 screws, mystery fasteners I’ll never use, purple circuit boards from old versions of projects, and a surprising number of SparkFun and Adafruit breakouts that have filtered down from higher up in the heap.

When work on something I bring the parts up to the dining room and work on the table, which is great for many reasons — more space, better light, and superior noms access top the list. The down side is that I don’t devote any time to making my real shop into a viable working place, and it becomes a cluttered store room by default.

I am therefore focusing on a four-part plan to reclaim my work space from heaps of junk.

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Mike Harrison’s Reverse Engineering Workshop

Hardware teardowns are awesome when guided by experts. One of our favorites over the years has been [Mike Harrison], who has conquered teardowns of some incredibly rare and exquisitely engineered gear, sharing the adventure on his YouTube channel: mikeselectricstuff. Now he’s putting on a workshop to walk through some of the techniques he uses when looking at equipment for the first time.

[Mike] will be in Pasadena a few days early for the Hackaday Superconference and floated the idea of hosting a workshop. We ordered up some interesting gear which he hasn’t had a chance to look at yet. A dozen lucky workshop attendees will walk through the process [Mike] uses to explore the manufacturing and design choices — skills that will translate to examining any piece of unknown gear. He may even delve into the functionality of the equipment if time allows. Get your ticket right now!

To keep things interesting we’re not going to reveal the equipment until after the fact. But follow the event page where we’ll publish the details of his reverse engineering work after the workshop.

[Mike] is the badge designer for this year’s Hackaday Superconference badge. Unfortunately Supercon is completely sold out (we tried to warn you) but you can check out the badge details he already published. And we will be live streaming the Supercon this year — more details on that next week!

The Most Useless Tools You Can’t Seem to Part With

I’m a tool person. No matter how hard I try, I eventually end up with a bunch of tools that I just can’t bear to banish from my workshop. Why? I’m gonna keep it 100%: it’s the same emotion behind hoarding — fearing that you might need a thing later and not be able to have it.

The stuff costs money, and if you have to script to buy a bunch of tools pertaining to Project X, you expect to still have and probably need those very same tools — even if they have to sit in a box on my shelf for 20 years, taunting me every time I have to move it to one side.  “Heat-bending element” the box’s label describes at tool I haven’t used in at least 5 years. I have a bunch of these white elephants. I’ll probably need to heat-bend acrylic real soon… yeah.

I’ve found that pretty much everyone in our crowd can relate. You buy a special tool for one project and it was expensive and tremendously helpful, and since then it’s been sitting around uselessly. You certainly couldn’t part with it, what if you needed it again? So you store it in your house for 20 years, occasionally coming across it when looking for something else, but it never actually gets used.

Join me now in a walk down our memory lane of useless tools.

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It’s A Wall-Mounted Dremel Workstation!

We’ve all seen Dremel drill presses, but [Tuomas Soikkeli] has created a full-fledged (albeit miniature) workstation using his Dremel as the motor. He has a gnome-sized belt sander with what appear to be skateboard wheels turning the belt, with the Dremel’s toolhead tensioning the belt and turning it as well. There’s a wee table saw, petite lathe, cute router, etc.

The Dremel attaches to the base via the 3/4-to-1/2 threaded end upon which specialized tool ends may be connected, and which DIY add-ons (like this light ring that we published previously) typical connect. Though in truth the threaded end varies in tensile strength from model to model — even the knockoffs have the same end, but is it strong enough to attach to the rig?

We like how [Tuomas] has his rig mounted to the wall. It looks like he has a couple of flexible shaft extenders nearby, allowing the rig to almost serve same role as a shop’s air tools.

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Hackerspace Jukebox!

Depending on whom you talk to, music can be an integral part of getting work done. At the Hackheim hackerspace in Trondheim, Norway, [Nikolai Ovesen] thought that the previous system of playing music over Bluetooth took away from the collaborative, interactive spirit of the space. Solution: a weekend build of a Raspberry Pi-powered jukebox.

The jukebox is simply laser-cut from plywood and bolted together. Inside, the touchscreen is mounted using double-sided tape, with the Raspberry Pi 3 and buck converter mounted on its rear with motherboard spacers. An IBM ThinkPad power cable was re-purposed and modified so it supplies the amp, as well as the Pi and touchscreen through the buck converter.

Once everything was connected, tested, and fired up, a bit of clever software working around had to be done in order to get Golang working, along with setting up the touchscreen and amp. Hackers interact with the jukebox using the Mopidy music server and its Mopify(Spotify) plugin — but they can also request songs through a bot in the Hackheim Slack channel.

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Artificial Skylight Brings Sunlight To Any Room

Humans aren’t supposed to be cooped up indoors all day, but who wants to be bothered by UV rays, insects, allergens, traffic, physical activity, and other people? On the other hand, a gloomy living space generally inhibits productivity — if not making it difficult to find what you’re looking for. So, if you’re looking to illuminate any room in your place, and you have the cash and the patience to wait for its widespread release, CoeLux is a skylight that needs no sky or sun — not that you’ll be able to tell the difference.

The Italian developers [CoeLux Srl] are perhaps wisely remaining tight-lipped on how the effect is achieved, but confirm that nanoparticles in the skylight mimic the effect of atmospheric fluctuations, compressing that vast deep blue into a few milimetres while maintaining the perception of infinite depth.

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Path to Craftsmanship: The Art of Throwing It Away

Some hackers build sharp, mildly toxic nests of parts, components, and thrifty finds around themselves. These nests, while not comfortable, are certainly comforting. They allow the hacker’s psyche to inhabit a locale as chaotic as their minds. Within these walls of stuff and clutter, stunning hacks pour out amid a small cloud of cursing. This article is not for them.

http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/an-analog-life-remembering-jim-williams/
Very few of us can actually function in a workplace such like that of the venerable Jim Williams (photo from linked article). Thanks to the commenters for mentioning him in the previous article.

For the rest of us, clutter is a Zen destroying, seemingly unconquerable, monster that taunts our poor discipline and organizational skill from the dark corner of our minds. However, there is an easy solution that is oft overlooked. Somewhat obviously, most organization problems can be solved by simply not having things to organize.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize the source of my clutter woes. My first tactic was to blame myself for my inability to keep up with the mess. A more superior human would certainly be able to use their effortless discipline to keep a space organized. However, the clutter was a symptom of a problem completely separate from my actual ability to keep a space clean.

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