Jun 2012 2

DIY earrings

Recently it was my six month anniversary with Rachel. She'd been dropping many "subtle" hints about all the things I should buy her to celebrate, but why buy when you can make?? So since jewellery featured so prominently in her wishlists I decided I'd make her some earrings. After tossing around a few ideas I happened across my old metal casting gear and half a white metal ingot, which gave me the idea of casting some earrings. And so with much vigor I launched into my next project.

Step one was to make a postitive to cast from. I dug out my trusty supply of blue plasticine and set to work. Working with a scalpel on an old mirror I made up positive and a box to hold the plaster.

Step two was to make the negative. I poured some plaster into the mold and then put it on a vibrating table to vibrate out any air bubbles. The plastic tray is to catch any spills.

A few hours later it ha...

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May 2012 29

Mr Blimp

We have a lot of helium here at the flat, a lot! As in two canisters worth. But anyway, I started my weekend by cleaning the garage and doing the washing, but by Saturday afternoon I was all done and had nothing to do. The thought of wasting an entire weekend without making something sent shivers through me, so for whatever reason I decided that I would make a cellphone controlled blimp. I suspect that decision probably had something to do with the package I'd just received from China, that contained a $6 bluetooth serial interface board. I was itching to use it!

A quick rummage around later and I found some spare LB1973M ICs, perfect for driving two small DC motors. Also in my DealExtreme package were a couple of mini solar toys which had some very small motors and gears, ideal for powering this thing.

A few hours later and I'd designed my circuit:

Based around an Arduino, i.e. an ATMega168. The power comes from a sma...

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May 2012 13

Replacing the screen of a Kindle 3G

Unfortunately after my trip to the US there was a small casualty: my Kindle's screen had cracked and only half worked.

As you can see, the top half was more-or-less stuck on the screen saver image, while the bottom half was still functional. And no wonder, there was a huge crack across the back of the epaper layer. But, notice how there is still an image on the screen even when it is completely disconnected from the device? This epaper stuff is very interesting, requiring power only to change the image; the rest of the time the device can actually be turned off and the image remains present on the screen. Compare this with LCDs and other display technologies which require constant power to produce an image, and you can see why epaper is such a favourable technology for ebook readers. Epaper itself is quite an interesting technology, consisting of lots ot little balls of black and white ink, suspended in little bubbles. Each bubble mak...

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May 2012 12

Day 32 - Monterey CA to NZ

Once you've reached Monterey you're pretty much done with Highway 1. So with Highway 1 behind me I hit the road again for one last drive. I was getting low on time so had to skip Santa Cruz and instead went on 101, through some farm land to start with but very quickly hitting the endless highways, buildings and chain stores that form the Bay Area.

On and on I drove, through Gilroy, San Martin, San Jose, Redwood City, Belmont, Burlingame, Milbrae and finally into San Francisco Internation Airport itself where I joined the dozens of other people dropping off their cars. Final distance? 7007 miles, or 11,200 km!

I trundled into the airport and had about 5 hours to kill before I could check in, so paid the $20 to store my bag and headed for the BART station.

Soon enough one arrived and on I got. BART means Bay Area Regional Transport, and is a pretty nifty system. It's notable in that it is:

semi-automatic, the tr...
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May 2012 12

Day 31 - Carpinteria CA to Monterey CA

Goodbye Carpinteria and hello more highways! Back on the road I was surprised by how New Zealandy the scenery appeared to be.

This could quite easily be somewhere around Banks Peninsula or North Canterbury.

Around 1pm I arrived in San Luis Obispo, which is one of the oldest settlements in California being over 300 years old. It seems quite a nice place, according to the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce it's the "happiest place in America". When I arrived there was a 4 pack of SD70 helpers in the loop sunbathing, but soon after I heard some rumbling and an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train arrived and pulled into the loop.

I wandered down and admired the sudden hive of activity.

It is quite a pleasant station with palm trees and a quiet sleepy dog feel to it. I stood around the cab car and soon the new engineer arrived and settled in...

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May 2012 12

Day 30 - Barstow CA to Carpinteria CA

Final day for some of us. We loaded up the car and hit the road and headed for LA. Within minutes the traffic picked up and it was getting heavy even by the edge of Cajon Pass. Part way down Cajon I took a detour to check out some of the railroading, but a confusing mishmash of roads and Private Crossing signs and the like made for little progress. One day I will master this pass.

On we pressed under boring gray skies and soon arrived in LA itself and met its atrocious relentless traffic.

We stopped at the La Brea Tar Pits, one of LA's highest rated tourist attractions but balked at their $11 entry fee. Instead we wandered around, looked at some dirty looking pools and piles of mud and went and got lunch.

One of the excavation pits at La Brea.

Lunch was delicious mexican affair, one of the best I've had yet.

On towards the airport we headed. On the way, and I'm not kidding here, but on the way we passed an oil field. ...

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