Make a Thing

I keep a stash of exciting hardware, and wait, like an insect waits, for opportunities to put parts into play. This stash includes a couple of these gnarly 7-segment displays

And speaking of play, gaming is and has been a muse for some time, and board-games have been especially exciting as of late. One of the games I’ve been playing is called Cave-Evil, and it is truly wicked.

A four-sided Dice is a critical element, determining whether your mining efforts have uncovered 1) Gore 2) Metals 3) ShadowFlame or 4) Chaos.

So! When, browsing the web and looking for compelling inspiration, I stumbled across an accelerometer-based seven-segment dice and I saw an opportunity to create a different, potentially more accessible, version. My task is clear.

Main Components Needed to get this off the ground :

  • 1 – 12″ Seven-Segment Display
  • 7 – TIP31AG 40W Transistors
  • Assorted Resistors
  • 1 – 74HC595 8Bit Shift Register
  • 1 ProtoBoard
  • 1 Radioshack PCB
  • 1 – 16 Pin IC Socket
  • Arduino Uno

The basic jist –

This is pretty Straightforward. Here is a good primer on Shift Registers, 7-Segment Displays, and the Arduino. and Here is Pretty Solid Youtube Video. Here’s a third guide.

Arduino sends a set of 8Bits to the Shift Register. The shift register sets its output pins to HIGH or LOW according to the set of bits in the register. The “latch” on the shift register is then closed, and those 8 Pins remain in their respective states. Then you open up the latch and send it a set of new bits.

Shift Register and Transistors on Board

Shift Register and Transistors on Board

The added complexity with the transistors stems from the relatively high-voltage demanded by the large seven-segment display. It gets plugged into and demands something around the order of 36Volts @ 0.7A. Transistors just work as switches, taking the relatively low power generated by a HIGH Pin out of the shift register and enable the electrons to flow through a completed circuit, which in turn highlights that segment on the display.

The one difficulty I had with this project involved the open-source sets of arrays to control the 74HC595 – even having wired things up carefully, the segments of my display did not correlate to the given (expected) values expressed in code I found online. However, I started tinkering with the following set of values :

// 10-1F: Figure-8 drawing (8-character cycle)
B01000000, B00100000, B00000001, B00000100, // 1-segment
B00001000, B00010000, B00000001, B00000010,

and worked from there.. turns out my segments are labeled in a slightly more orderly fashion ..

// B01000000, // middle segment
// B00100000, // bottom left
// B00010000, // bottom
// B00001000, // bottom right
// B00000100, // top right
// B00000010, // top
// B10000000, // top left
// B01000000, // middle

Figuring out where my bits are

Figuring out where my bits are

Code on GitHub

It’s about being visually loud

I thought a good bit about the remote whoopie-cushion story, and how this afforded someone an opportunity to demonstrate an otherwise-difficult-to-manifest sense of humor. This project is, on its surface, just selecting a number 1-4, but selecting it with the dial turned to 11, IYKWIM.

Another thing of note. Running this from the breadboard was lackluster, because some of the connections were iffy. I could tell it was working and took the leap to a soldered PCB because I knew I could get better and more consistent performance… but this is a drawback if someone was unable to solder…

Whats next – well. firstly, I need to finish up the code that controls a random output, maybe cycling through digits in suspenseful fashion.

second, I need to explore the “switch” – Originally I was planning on using some arcade buttons that I picked up ages ago from

but in thinking about super-fun-necromancer-style unconventional switches… the notion of using a Capitative Sensor I’ve got kicking around is quite appealing…

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NYTimes API Graph Frequency / Time

Yearly Occurrences of “Skateboarding” in the NYTimes since 1981.

nytimes api yearly occurrences of skateboatd

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Fulgurite Hunter : FLA

Digging in

LtgFlashPortions20130904.csv offered up an excuse to explore a) compelling natural phenomena and b) a sizable csv data file

I began by using terminal’s head command to figure out the table names I’d be dealing with. Next, used python to grab random subsets of data to play with. With Processing, amplitude seemed like an interesting place to start.


Seeing this did not provide any immediate ideas. So instead, I listened in with the Minim library.

Akin to killer PVD-based band Lightning Bolt, the lightning amperage graph sonified was noisy. Unlike Lightning Bolt the Band, the audio was not compelling. I dropped the ball on documentation, but this avenue seemed like a dead end, and so on to the next one.

Stepped back to re-assess the data and determine what subset might be compelling for further effort. The ~15 percent of lightning that actually hits the ground was the next inviting bit. I fell into Fulgurite – variably-sized hollow glass mineraloids formed by lightning strike. Silicate-rich soils are fused by extreme heat into bizarre forms. This was clear to be the projects’ focus. With the lightning strikes’ amperage, latitude, and longitude, along with the soil composition of a given location, it becomes possible to imagine a formidable fulgurite finding map.



Back to the nets to learn what I can about soil classification. Turns out there is a taxonomy for all the globe’s soil orders. Turns out I am most interested in entisols and aridsiols – soils that are mostly sand, sand being an array of mixtures of varying minerals, mostly quartz.


Hunting Fulgurite

Started with a global soil order map.


Quickly felt limited by a lack in the sense of resolution.


Zoomed into North America. Lack remains. Went further, chose Florida.

Florida for a few reasons. 1. Florida is sad-funny and fulgurites are cool-funny so thats a match, basically 2. I’m from Florida. sometimes I have to report back. This would be a fun activity. 3. Florida is sandy. Questing for fulgurite in the US makes sense in a handful of states, and Florida is one of them.

Using a demo of the web-based GIS data viewer arcgis, I pulled up the official US soil taxonomy information for Florida and stitched together a large map. This map is for cross-referencing against ground strikes, using processing’s get() function.

With just localized soil regions producing hits, I wanted a way to further filter potential fulgurite spots. Nick Felton’s visit compelled me to bring in the p5 library so I could play a bit with sliders & output. Added an amperage filter – higher amperage = greater heat = increased likelihood of fulgurite formation.

Finally, I need to actually go back and run through all the data – how to pull out the data I need without losing the ability to use Processing’s table class.
I started by running a terminal split command to break up the big file into three smaller files. Then I re-inserted the table headers, again using terminal. Then a small processing program was employed to pull out all positive ground strikes from all of the big split files. Terminal concatenated all this into one 102Meg file. Finally, I manually coordinated GPS boundaries across both the processing sketch and the GIS USDA Florida Soil Types map, and whittled thus 2Gigs of data into a handful of the most promising strikes in Florida.

So here we have all the lightning strikes on Florida’s fulgurite-forming soil-types, with their latitude and longitude.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.46.48 PM

but then if we filter them for a few of the highest-amperage strikes we get something like this.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 5.51.38 PM

Short of actually flying to Florida to put this to the test, (or seeing if social media might be employed to dig up some sick mineraloids) I decided to take a V-Drive and scope out some promising locations via G-Maps & S-View.

28.757753, -81.31596 amplitude:106651.0


28.465414,-82.61906 amplitude:70348.0



Does lightning glass hide in the sandy spots screencapped above?

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Week04 (cont.) – LightBloc (v1) Arrived

A week or so ago I modeled a quick LED+Coin Cell Light project, ordering it from Shapeways in their experimental material – “Flexo Rubber”.


It arrived and, while a first iteration, does some of what I hoped for it.



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Week04 – Manufacture a Part

My primary project involves the following modeled part, which I prototyped with the Makerbot for faster, cheaper turnaround.
Experience with the Replicator 2X was quite positive.



For the Assignment, Proper :

Started with designing a burly replacement for a broken coat hook.
However, cost to order via Shapeways and other companies was exorbitant.


However, When looking for affordable options, I was intrigued and inspired by this material – Elasto Plastic.


Fallback plan – design a light, small (and inexpensive) light-body using Elasto Plastic. Rummaged in bins and indeed – I had the basic components for a throwie.



Went overboard with a 55mm freestanding LED “mini city” – An opportunity play with escaping light and material translucency. This model also ended with too tall a price tag, So I continued to shrink and simplify – ultimately landing on the following 30mm cube form






Just now, following email arrived :


Exciting update! We’re in the midst of creating your order #308903 in our factory of the future.

Once our robots have finished creating your order and we make sure it’s perfect, you’ll receive an email from UPS, which will include the tracking information of your package. (If you have ordered a sample kit you will not receive this note from UPS.)”


Now I Wait.

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Web Stats AutoText


Mostly into reading right now. The aim became compelling text and interesting console output.

Click the image above to see a quick, browser-based auto-text-formatting experiment.

To see the complete raw output, Click Here.

To see the processing PDE, Click Here.

Using data from : The Guardian – Nielsen Web Stats May 2012

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HW 02 – Off The Shelf






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HW-02 : Define Object Structure

HW-02 on GitHub

I’m absolutely interested in exploring gombocs as computable, evolutionary objects, however, as a subject I’m afraid it is mathematically beyond me, at present. Choosing an object with more clearly defined geometry – a bicycle frame, is a decision to bite off something I can chew, granting me some room to practice c++ syntax and structure.

Re: Compromise. Variance in tube diameter and tube thickness are two variables I chose not to examine, as that also derives the size and angles of cuts & welds, ore mold-making decisions. A whole world of material stress is not included, nor are the components beyond the frame itself.

Re: Fitting this structure to other people’s objects. I’m afraid I cannot easily imagine this code, in present form, being terribly applicable to other projects / objects.

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D. V. G. P.


  • A light switch for the future

  • vision

  • Inspired by analog gaming and single-function, screen-less interfaces, I envision building a mysterious, desk-ready, freestanding dodecahedron which doubles as an elegant physical controller for a dynamic interior light system.

  • goal

  • build a highly responsive, wireless, multi-dimensional light controller.

  • plan

  • Sept. 17 : Basic 12-Sided, 3-D Modeled Case Halves. Graphic Development Underway.
  • Oct. 5 : Imp Agent and Device making successful HueAPI Reqs.
  • Oct. 21 : Accelerometer + Imp Custom CircuitBoard Underway.
  • Nov 5 : First versions of Working Prototype model Assembled.
  • Nov 21: Troubleshooting + Assembly, Enduser Setup Efforts.
  • Dec. 10th : Final Working Version 1.

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The Catacombs of the Internet       


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