Archive for the ‘The Lab’ Category

Ar.Drone: First Impressions

Posted by 3ricj on 10 September 2010

It’s not often that I get really excited about a new toy these days. It takes something really cool and bad-ass to get me really impressed. I saw a toy at GoogleIO this year, and boy was I impressed.

It was this really nifty quadcopter being controlled by an android phone. Speaking to the people running the booth, the client was open source. They even had a cute android body on the quadcopter. Fast forward a bit – – I find they are available for preorder finally.. and I place my order and wait. Today, my new toy has arrived.

Only to find out that no android client exists. I have to use an iphone? I refuse to own an iphone. And that “open source” client? Well, it’s an SDK, with a highly restrictive (and really poorly grammered) license. It says if I don’t want to use it to make a free game, I’m not licensed to use the SDK. WTF people. You can’t show a product with specific features off at a conference (Android client) and then ship me a product with missing KEY features. LAME ASS SHIT.

There are a bunch of posts from the developers asking people to use their SDK to make an android client. And that the one shown off at googleIO won’t get released. Really? Lame, LAME, *LAME*. Future Ar.Drone customers: Be warned. I think they hang you for Bait and switch sales tactics in France, no wonder french this company only sells them in North America.


Posted in: The Lab  

Ada’s Technical – Grand Opening

Posted by Gnewt on 10 June 2010

A new technical book store is opening in Seattle! It’s called Ada’s Technical and is named after Ada Lovelace.

To quote their blog, “Ada’s Technical Books is Seattle’s only technical book store located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Ada’s specifically carries new, used, & rare books on Computers, Electronics, Physics, Math, and Science as well as hand-picked inspirational and leisure reading, puzzles, brain teasers, and gadgets geared toward the technically minded customer. Ada’s Grand Opening is scheduled for Friday, June 11th and monthly events, featured author presentations, and book signings will be scheduled throughout the year.”

The Grand Opening will be an exciting event. “The grand opening is going to be great… it will include free food and drinks, giveaways, and discounts on everything in the store. So, put June 11th, from 5-8pm on your calendars. And, in the meantime, stop by and say hello. We can’t wait to meet you.”

IR photography

Posted by 3ricj on 31 May 2010

CCD sensors are very sensitive to IR light. Most cameras filter this out so that color balance is easier and photos look better. However, if all you want is to photograph IR, you can hack your camera such that you can see it.

I modified a Canon SD1200 point n’ shot such that it can only be used for photographing non-visible light. Here’s how you do that: Disassemble your camera such that you can extract the window right in front of the camera sensor. Make sure you use gloves and keep track of your screws and tiny bits. Don’t get dust/fingerprints on your optics. Remove the existing IR blocking filter carefully with a tweezers on the edge. Having things like lens tissue is good to have around to place your optics on. Once you extract this IR blocking sensor, you’ll need to replace it with a suitable ‘window’ of the same size and thickness. With my camera, the window was 7.9mm x 8.88mm by 0.22mm thick. I found that I had glass coverslips which where pretty close in thickness (0.18mm). Using AR coated glass from edmonds optics or thorlabs will give you much better results. Sizing down this window was tricky – – Markr finally got one the right size. If your window is thick you might need a glass cutter; in my case 0.18mm glass can be cut with snips and broken to size easily.

Once you have it cut down to size, you must clean it completely. Lab grade acetone or methanol is the ideal cleaning solvent. Grasp your new window by the edges using tweezers, eyedrop a bit of acetone onto the surface, then quickly blow it off using a can of air. Don’t use ‘shop air’ as it frequently contains quite a bit of water and oil. Repeat as needed until it is clean.

Once your camera is reassembled, you can take ‘full color’ photos. Most photos will look far more ‘red’ than before. Check that your focus is still ok – – if you get your window thickness wrong your camera will be near sighted or far-sighted.

For the really fun stuff, you need to filter out visible light. You can do this using a visible light filter (such as a 87 filter from a camera shop, $150) or you can make your own filter using non-exposed developed film. If you find a place which develops medium format film, give them some non-exposed film and ask them to develop it. Make sure you tell them that the resulting pictures will be pure ‘black’.. that’s what you want. Film which has been prepared like this has one very tricky attribute: It will block nearly all visible light, but pass

most IR light. Now you cut down this film in order to make a filter on your hacked camera. This can be done after the optics on the front of the camera, or could in theory be installed in front of the sensor.

What does this look like?

Here is the back of a 5 dollar bill which has been photographed using a full spectrum camera:

.. and here it is in ‘pure’ IR:

Note the interesting lack of print over sections of the bill.

For extra credit, you can also filter out the light on your flash, such that it only emits IR. “non-LED” Camera flashes produce quite a bit of IR, so you can use the same film filter to block the visible light on your camera flash and only produce IR. The resulting camera can take shots at night without a visible flash – – all sorts of fun purposes for this.

Here’s an example of a tree photographed in pure IR:

More examples can be found here, or by googling IR photography.


Posted by 3ricj on 19 October 2009

This is a small experiment. It’s been a while; we don’t blagh much, because we are busy working on crap and being lazy. I might post these every once in a while, but don’t count on it. Also, yes, we are still alive, and more busy than ever before.

  • Microscopes. Things have been getting smaller, so it was time we upgraded our optics. We have two new microscopes in the lab..
  • An inspection scope for surface mount soldering and inspection (and anything else you’d like to look at using epi-illumination). It’s wired up to a crappy TV with a camera. Using a microscope on a low-latency screen like this is pure awesome. Here’s what sort of detail you can see with this system:

Min Zoom
Full Zoom

  • The other microscope is still a work in progress, but is a 400x epi scope which was designed for Petrographic Ore imaging.   Strangely, we don’t have much Ore viewing going on, but if you look closely inside of things you see stuff like this:

  • We’ve also been slowly setting up a chem lab, so we can decap our own chips.  Yay.
  • Much in the way of high voltage stuff. We ran dueling tesla coils last weekend built by two different people.  Soon we’ll have three going at once, just for fun and safety.
  • Costumes!
  • Monthly PCB fab!  We get a board made monthly, and we all chip into it.  heh.
  • We now have a makerbot!  It sometimes makes 3d stuff for us.  Hotpants.
  • Crafty tools:  “cnc” embroidery machine. Serger.
  • We can now sharpen drillbits.  Sweeet.
  • There is tons of other little projects going on all of the time, but I wanted to push out some of the highlights which I think we can talk about.  :)
    In summary: we are busy doing crazy projects; and we still don’t spend much time updating the blog.

To the edge of space (and back!)

Posted by JonM on 3 June 2009

Two weeks ago we sent our buddy AHAB3 up into the air. About two hours into the flight and 56062 feet up, we stopped getting position updates. We could hear it transmitting, but it just kept repeating the same position.

Our recovery teams drove around and tried to use the secondary beacon to figure out where it was. We got some good headings using the direction-finding equipment, but then lost all signal from the payload.

We headed back to Seattle, sure we had lost a third payload.

Last Tuesday, 3ric got a call on his cell phone. A forest ranger in Idaho had stumbled across our bumblebee! He hiked it out, and a few days later shipped it off to us.

Monday morning we got a nice present at the lab, gingerly removed the SD card, and were greeted with:

The edge of space

Tonight the we’re going to go over the payload with a fine-toothed comb, and catalogue what’s broken and what’s still working. A number of systems malfunctioned during the flight, so it’s vital to know why if we want to do this again.

More photos can be found here