Over the years I’ve played around with the Raspberry Pi to see what I can get it to do. I have limited programming skills and rely heavily on the opensource community and how-to documents.
The most successful projects I’ve done with the Raspberry Pi have revolved around using them as DNS and VPN servers. I also have them running with a monitor and wireless keyboard/trackpad combo in the basement utility room and garage. The screen on my phone to look up something in those rooms gets to be a little small and I’m usually using the phone as a flashlight so having a full sized monitor comes in very handy.
One of the things I’ve wanted to do for a while is build a portable gaming machine. Something that could easily go in luggage and look decent to the TSA as it gets scanned. I tried putting something together in 2013 with a Raspberry Pi B first gen, but struggled with lag and the controller setup. As luck would have it, I’ve had an extra Raspberry Pi 3 Model B sitting around I’ve been trying different projects with, but haven’t found the one until I read about RetroPie again.
Somewhere, deep in the capital city of Nebraska, is a building.Â This building is full of smoke, full of mirrors.Â Inside, birds take flight, machinists grind away in a vast darkened wonderland, and countless scavenged items from around the countryside rest in hulking, sometimes dilapidated heaps, thrown into rows awaiting re-discovery and thrifty sale.
Need to romp in an old grain silo turned on its side?Â Do you want a 50s era dental xray machine for arcane experiments?Â Wait, is that a VW Thing?Â There’s an old jumbo-tron!Â Think of the possibilities.Â And oooh look!Â Fiberglass light fixtures the size of your mom!Â We could turn these into Death Star replicas!Â That’s a rather large magnifying glass over there and, ah… wait.Â Who really needs an Applebee’s sign?
That’s not really the point, people. Stop looking at that sign.Â This, friends, is the home of something much more special something you might need way more than an Applebee’s sign.Â The hackers and makers of Lincoln, NE lurk these grounds.Â They are Lincoln Makerspace, and select members of OMG had the pleasure of meeting them this past week.
This fine group of enterprising guys work out of an old window factory.Â They currently spend most of their time in a small office space on the second floor, where you can find various works of art, Maker style.Â There’s an automatic drawing machine, kinetic sculptures, a record player with an ember on top that creates a flaming vortex when lit, and a dapper CNC milled likeness of Einstein, to name a few things that decorate the space.
Beyond that, the picture gets more dirty, more crazy, more awesome.Â Their small office space is part of a huge building that has pretty much everything a maker would need to have an A team style warmachine creative fit.Â Professional machine shops aside, the old window factory and Lincoln Makerspace have a 20x10ft CNC to call their very own (incidentally, this is where Einstein came from).Â That would be impressive enough, were it not for this:
Gosh, what’s that?Â It looks like a 10ft tall robot arm, fully armed and operational.Â But what is it for?Â What…does it do?
Â Group member interests, when not flinging people around in racing chairs, include bioinformatics, physics, free energy, engines, robots, and art. So far Lincoln Makerspace is a small group, but they pack a big punch and have a very high cool projects to member ratio.
Omaha Maker Group is impressed.Â If you’d like to get to know the Lincoln Makerspace, you can reach them here.Â We look forward to working with this great group of guys in the future!
Jason notes that I forgot to post a photo of the other Mendel parts I’ve been building for the MakeryMendel. Â Below are photos of a stainless steel heater tube (the one that I didn’t ruin by welding a drillbit to the inside) as well as the “order form” that Brandon sent me. His drawings aren’t anything fancy, but we seem to have gotten the job done. Â For scale, the bushing in the photo is 1″ OAL, and the threaded rod heater is 1.5″ OAL. Â The picture with the fire is a prototype plaster bushing that we were testing. Â It’d probably work, but we dried it a bit too fast and it developed a nasty crack.
People I meet via theÂ Omaha Maker Group often ask me what it is that I make. Â I try to avoid the “Everything” answer, popularized by Jason Uher, but it seems to be sort of the truth. Â Due to a renewed Â interest [by people who aren't me] in things that I’m making, I’m trying to do a better job of actually driving these projects to completion, and maybe even doing a slightly better job than I otherwise might. I’m also trying to do more projects that are more “grand” in scale (for example, building a power supply, instead of a really neat custom connector; Not that either of those are really grand, in the big picture). Â Below is one of these projects.
After lots of fiddling with desklamps and bounce cards every time I want to take a decent macro photo, I’d finally had it. Â I started looking into buying a ring-flash accessory for my digital camera, but found them to be alternatingly pretty expensive or in the realm of “I could build that”. So I did. Read on for the details and a few more photos.
I determined early on that I didn’t want or need a flash-tube-based solution (like the one built by Patrick), which is a reflective ring illuminated by a standard photo flash. Â I didn’t want to spend the money for a fancy “automatic” external flash, and didn’t want the headaches and setup associated with a cheap manual flash.
I did some initial research on running an LED illuminator on the camera’s hot-shoe trigger, but decided that it really wasn’t needed, as LEDs can just be turned on and off and don’t need to be “fired” like a xenon flash. My illuminator is powered by a simple pack of 4 AA batteries (ideally NIZN for the extra .3V).
The illuminator itself Â is just 8 banks of 14 (112 total) white LEDs soldered to a piece of perf-board and a connector for power. Â To make it run on 6 volts nicely (and to give me more input voltage range), I wired both halves of the LED array in parallel and then the two banks in series. I could have just put the banks themselves in parallel (and run the array on 3ish volts), but that would put my total current draw at over 800ma, which I opted to avoid.
From a physical standpoint, the LEDs are just soldered to the perfboard and surface-wired on the back side. I’m a bitÂ embarrassedÂ by my soldering job, so I won’t be posting any photos of that here. Â I cut the hole in the center of the board with a few forstner bits, and finished it out with a sanding drum in a Dremel. I plan on gluing a 58mm filter ring [generously donated by Don] to the back side of the board so that it can attach to my S5′s filter adapter. I’ll probably just Velcro the battery pack to the side of the camera, as this rig is mostly for use on a tripod.
One problem I have come across is the convergence pattern on the LEDs. At distances less than about 8″, there’s a bit of a dim spot at the center of the frame. This should be correctable with some sort of diffuser and a bit of tweaking of the LEDs angle.
As for the LEDs, they were ordered from Tayda ElectronicsÂ for $8 shipped ($0.04 each, plus $2 shipping). At 3.1ish volts per bank, I’m under-volting them just a bit, but they seem plenty bright.
Below is a few more pictures of the light, plus a photo of another project, demonstrating the dim spot. More photos of the device will follow, as soon as I get it into a more final form.