DOTKLOK Revival

Way back in 2013 a very creative and talented Maker named Andrew O’Malley created the DOTKLOK project. The project has been dormant for a very long time.

Ol’ Sopwith is a long time clock builder and I became fascinated with this project. Why? Several reasons: a really cool set of clock animations including ‘pong’, ‘space-invaders’, and ‘pac-man’, a custom Arduino design that is easy to build from through-hole parts, and excellent documentation.

In 2014, I purchased enough parts to build three DOTKLOKS. The only thing I did not have was the acrylic front and back panels. At that time, Andrew was selling the clock in kit form or assembled. The problem for me, was the cost was beyond what I was willing to pay.

Without the panels, I packed up the parts and stored them in the parts closet with the intention of building an enclosure out of wood when I found the time. Never happened.

Recently, I discovered there are plenty of on-line ‘self-serve’ laser cutting services that can cut the acrylic panels for a DOTKLOK. Although a set costs about $20 USD (ouch), I took the plunge and ordered a set of panels using the provided Inkscape SVG from the project.

Once the panels arrived, I created a ‘prototype’ DOTKLOK. When I loaded up the Arduino code version 1.5 into the Arduino development GUI, I quickly discovered the code failed compilation with dozens of errors. It seems the Arduino API has changed considerably over the last five years. No surprise.

After a fair amount of research and effort, I was able to upgrade the code and get a clean compile. I uploaded it to the DOTKLOK prototype and it fired right up. Oh the joy. There are still some problems with the code in some of the animations, but I will fix those soon.

As I always do, I decided to hack the original DOTKLOK design to make it better. The aluminum standoffs are ugly and Andrew used two of them stacked together to get the right length. I also want to use shorter standoffs to make the clock “thinner.”

I ordered black aluminum standoffs (metric) and matching screws from AliExpress (China). They should arrive in a couple of weeks. I also discovered the Sure LED arrays used in the project are still available from a few sources, but only available in red.

I will publish all of my work on the DOTKLOK revival project soon. If you are interested in purchasing a kit or assembled DOTKLOK, let me know. I will consider making them available.

Thanks again to Andrew O’Malley for creating such a cool project.

Sopwith

 

About to Enter the 3D Printer World

I know you smoke breathers may find this hard to believe, but Ol’ Sopwith is finally going to enter the universe of 3D printing. I have dragged my feet on this technology for a couple of reasons.

  • I did not want to spend the money. $300 USD 3D printers are cheap and temperamental, and $2500 USD printers are way above what I am willing to pay.
  • I was afraid it would not be useful. (I do not want to waste time printing toy objects.)
  • I did not have the time to invest in learning a whole new technology from the ground up.
  • I did not have space for it.
  • I did now want a noisy, smelly device in my office or workshop.

Time have changed. I have a couple of projects I am working on that could really use the capabilities of a 3D printer. Plus the cost of really good printers has come down and the capabilities have gone up dramatically.

After extensive research, I decided the best printer on the market for price/performance is the Prusa i3 MKS3. The are built in Czechoslovakia by a company founded by Josef Prusa, one of the innovators in the 3D early days.

I ordered the kit version and am expecting it will take about 4 hours to assemble. It should arrive in a couple of days. I will post blog entries about my assembling, testing, and printing experiences so you can follow along.

Stay tuned.

Sopwith

NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-IV

In my previous posts in this series (I-III), I added night vision capabilities to the very cool NatureBytes wildlife camera kit. As in all maker projects – improvements had to be made.

Once I placed the night-vision capable camera in the field for testing, I discovered the LISIPAROI IR light board cannot be used in the wild. The device is just not powerful enough. If is fine for close-up work, but outside? Forget it.

It was time to turn disappointment into action. Plus, if it worked out of the box – what fun is that? Time to get serious. As I searched the web, I discovered weatherproof 12V IR lamps are cheap. These are designed to be used with CCTV cameras, most of which are 12 or 24 VDC powered. I purchased a pair for around $16 USD. The one I chose is made by a company called Phenas.

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NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-III

In Part-I and Part-II of this blog series, I assembled the terrific NatureBytes Camera Kit and mounted it on a tripod.  I had to wait for parts to arrive before I could add night-vision to the kit. This blog post shows how I modified the camera kit so it can see in the dark.

The goal was to somehow mount and power the LISIPAROI IR light board while still maintaining the weather-proof integrity of the NatureBytes camera kit. The night-vision hack turned out to be pretty simple.

I found a small plastic box with a latching lid in the office supply aisle at a local Wal-Mart. It was designed to store paper clips on a desk, but Ol’ Sopwith had other ideas. The box was the perfect size to install a battery pack, trigger wire and IR light board. Continue reading

NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-II

In Part-I of this series, I introduced the NatureBytes KickStarter project and finally got around to building the kit I ordered in 2015. I want to hack it so I can capture photos/ videos at night. I need to identify what nocturnal animals are exploring my yard overnight.

The Camera Kit is simply – Fantastic! Details of the kit and the build instructions can be found here. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the bright green case. This thing is an engineering marvel.

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NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-I

On June 24, 2015, a NGO named NatureBytes began a KickStarter campaign to raise money for a wildlife camera kit based on the Raspberry PI. Based in Berkshire UK, west of London, this conservation group set out to encourage kids to get off the couch and explore nature.

Within a month, the campaign raised £34,164 from 303 backers.  This was 108% over the goal of £28,995.  At that time, Ol’ Sopwith was living in London and was one of 50 backers who pledged £85.

It was expected the kits would ship in December of 2015, but there were delays caused by the complicated molding process used in creating the cases. I followed the updates closely because I felt their pain. Anybody who has ever been involved in the injection molding process of plastics knows how difficult this can be.

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Velleman FM Radio Kit

Being far from home and living in London is very interesting. As a hacker, maker,  and hobbyist from the US, a Radio Shack or an order from Mouser, Adafruit, etc is taken for granted. Things are different here.

There is not a Radio Shack nearby. The nearest equivalent is Maplin and these stores are everywhere. Every time I walk by one – I ‘pop in’ as they say here.

Last Saturday I ‘popped in’ to one and found a very interesting electronic kit. The Velleman Digitally Controlled FM Radio (MK194). Velleman is a Belgium based company that makes all kind of neat stuff. The kit was on sale for £12. How could I resist?

This kit is about as close as you can get to re-living the good-ole’ days of Heathkits. In the 60’s and 70’s Heathkits were all the rave among us geeks. I built a digital alarm clock that worked for more than 25 years. What is the big deal? Well, I was 14 years old when I built this clock. And it served as my alarm clock until I was 39. Every day – it was there. The power supply finally failed and its service ended.That my friends, is the definition of loyalty. Hand built and reliable.

Anyone that ever built a Heathkit remembers the yellow assembly manuals. They are legendary for their quality. Oh the joy of a Heathkit!

Heathkit Digital Clock

Heathkit Digital Clock

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