Chicory the magic ingredient in NOLA coffee

Chicory root Source: wikipedia.org

Anyone that knows me, knows I am not a coffee fan. While I have always liked the smell, I always prefer a cup of tea. While I was in New Orleans though, I was told to try the local way coffee is served, with chicory and milk. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. 

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Behold DecoTime!

I have finally finished my ongoing project DecoTime!

DecoTime is my Art Deco styled timer. It is powered by an Arduino driving two x27 168 or switec X25 stepper motors moving the needles. It also uses a MCP23S17 to drive the LEDs and take input from the two rotary encoders. A solenoid rings the bell when finished and the top LED flashes. It can be run off batteries(alkaline or NiMh), or usb. It also has an expansion port to use I2C with power. 

You can read all about it in great detail, including schematics and directions.
http://coolate.com/blog/coolate-pages/deco-time-angular-timer/

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Vectrex controller going open source!

The Vectrex arcade machine is still one of the best ever made. It is also the only home arcade machine that used a vector display and therefore can not be experienced in an emulator to its entirety. It was launched in 1982 right before the video game crash of 83, and was largely a commercial failure unfortunately. That did not stop it from getting some great games and becoming a cult classic. Great new home brew games are still being made to this day along with other hardware upgrades. This was all possible because the original designers released all the information about the system after it was discontinued, way before anyone was open sourcing anything. In that spirit, I am releasing my replacement controller design as open source!

Starting today you can download the files in thingiverse and build your own, modify it and improve it. If you want to make and sell them please contact me first.

I have been making and selling them for a year + now and feel it is time to share the design with the world! Vectrex4ever!

Thank you for everyone that bought one.
I will keep selling them for $100 for those that do not want to or can not make them. It takes a good deal of time to assemble them, so I don’t make much profit per hour, it is a labor of love. I also include a nice box and extra parts. I can print them in any color.

Check it out here:
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2584312

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Great Little trip to New Orleans

When I really like a place, and have only had time to scratch the surface of what it has to offer, I am often very reluctant to write or post about it. Others I know have tons more knowledge and insight, but when I really like a place I want to share my novice, initial, and simple kid like, feelings about the place. Recently we were lucky enough to go to New Orleans for my friends Dean and Andrea’s wedding. When Andrea was going to school there, they lived in NOLA, and loved it. For sometime Dean was telling me I would too, and had to visit. I figured I would really like it after hearing about it from him for years, but unfortunately I could not make it while they lived there. So I was really excited to check it out when we were invited to the wedding. It turned out out Dean was very right, I loved it! We only could spend 4 days unfortunately, but we will be going back. 

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Vectrex controller with LED lights!

I have updated my controller design to include an LED light on the joystick. It turned out kind of great! Check it out.

IMG_0579

Read more about my vectrex controller here.

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Kitchen upgrades, made in the USA!

So over the years I have acquired a number of frustrating low quality kitchen tools. I love to cook and work in my kitchen so I decided it was time to upgrade my tools. Unfortunately it was a little harder then I thought to work out the “best” ones, nothing at local big box stores was any good. After a bunch of research, here are some that I bought, and really really like. I wanted to share them so you don’t have to spend days researching such things. They are also all made right here in the USA, which is even better. Another bonus, they are all not even that much money, way cheaper in cost then the low quality ones made in China at box stores.

I have included links to Amazon, but most of these are available in MANY other stores. Check your local restaurant supply store, it is always a great place to look for good affordable cooking gear and ask questions.

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Vectrex Controllers!

After recently discovering my new (1982) favorite gaming system, the vector display based Vectrex, I found myself wanting a second controller for the system. With many originals warn out and fetching up to $100 or more, I decided to make my own fully compatible with the original.

A finished controller in orange plastic.

A finished controller in orange plastic.

Finished controller with a sticker overlay. It fits!

Finished controller with a sticker overlay. It fits!

For 1982 the Vectrex was fairly advanced. It’s controller had 4 decent sized buttons, and an ANALOG joystick. Most other home systems in that era had 2 buttons and a simple 4 way D pad. Granted many games did not take advantage of the analog stick and simply treated it as a digital “up, down right left” joystick. Some did though, Hyperdrive for example, so I waned to support them. I also wanted to have buttons that were the same size, and as good as or better then the originals.
So I needed:
-Analog stick
-Upgraded buttons
-EXACT same layout so I could use aftermarket overlays
-Exact shape, so it could still mount on a Vectrex.

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Formlabs Form2 SLA printer acquired for IUSB

In our efforts to make 3D printing available to faculty, staff and students at IUSB we pre-ordered a SLA printer. Stereolithography printers offer MUCH higher resolution then a FDM(spools of plastic filament types like makerbots and seemecnc). They use UV lasers to draw layer at a time in UV sensitive resin, so they can have very fine details.

Oh so pretty!

Oh so pretty!

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Importance of a Layer cooling fan for your 3-D printer

Some PLA and ABS plastics I have used are VERY sensitive to needing a layer cooling fan. Many 3-D printers do not have them, but they can be added fairly easily, and will improve your prints in most cases even if you don’t NEED it.

Most recently we purchased some lubricated PLA from Filament Express that required it. We liked the color and smoothness of the prints but it needed  a layer cooler. Our SeeMeCNC printer at work came with a layer cooling fan, but my Makerbot did not. I added one and it improved all my prints. This filament needed more then just my basic layer cooler, I had to add a much beefier fan AND a 120mm PC case fan to get good prints with it though. So if you are getting print quality issues, shrinking layers,  messy upper ones, or poor bridging, look at improving your active cooling.

Left: Layer cooler added to Makerbot replicator  Right: None added to Makerbot.

Left: Layer cooler/active cooler fan added to Makerbot replicator
Right:Before fan added to Makerbot.

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Deco Time expansion port thoughts

As with many projects, my simple stepper timer, Deco Time, has some serious feature creep. The latest feature I decided to add is an expansion port. Originally I just planed on adding two screws on the back that attached to an GPIO pin and ground so I could trigger other events when the alarm went off. As I progressed I started to think of other things I could add, for example a thermometer, a second display, more buttons, or lights. So I thought it would be nice to have a 5v power connection. Now I am up to 3 screws, so I think, why not add one more, and it can include 2 GPIO pins allowing me to make it an I2C connection.  Easy enough and useful, but how to make the connection? Screws were not ideal with the limited space and power now involved so I decided I would just add some header pins. I decided to swap them, having the pins on the wire lead that would plug in so it would be less likely to short out. I would need to key it so it would not get plugged in wrong which is not a huge deal but it just did not seem elegant enough. So I stated to look around what other instruments, or I2C ports used…

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mmmmm Donuts….

donutSize

donuts

More donut love!

Happy donut day!

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mBox a gaming/living room/steambox PC for the living room or wherever!

So we (Moray Labs) have been working on a computer design for a while now, and I wanted to share a bit about it along with the CAD files and more.

mBox: the wooden prototype!

mBox: the wooden prototype!

CAD Rendering

mBox: CAD Rendering

First off some background. We have wanted to make an affordable/portable computer for a long time. We tried a number of small cases small motherboards and efficient processors over the years and never really have been happy. Continue reading

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