Oh yeah, the Arduino

$T2eC16d,!)kE9s4,BL5tBRnWzK3EZg~~60_35The California Science Center is now home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and while I get together my article on the exhibit, I wanted to share a bit of fun that was had with the Metal Earth laser cut “metalgami” model I picked up there:

These little models are precision made and kind of make you wish you were precision made to the same level. This is somewhere between origami and “Slot A into Tab B” kind of work and the fun is definitely in the assembly.

Still, it is a little bit of genius to see how each 3D form comes from a piece of a common metal sheet, and all you really need is a pair of tweezers and maybe a few wooden dowels and a straightedge to get some of the curves right.

Is it for Kids? Certain kinds of kids – the ones that work with Lego Technic or Kinex or, of course, origami. Is it for Engineers who grew up with the Shuttle? Heck yes.

Arduino for time-lapse

The time-lapse video was made with an arduino board that triggered the infrared remote receiver of an EOS-M every 2 seconds or so. Extra parts were a 9V battery (in the 5V board power input) and a standard IR LED. The EOS-M is a cheap way to get a good APS-C -sized sensor in a tiny package, but has no straightforward way to remote trigger via a cable.


Canon APS-C wide zooms – EF-M versus EF-S

Yay Canon Canada

EF-S 10-22mm with adapter versus EF-M 11-22mm

EF-S 10-22mm with adapter versus EF-M 11-22mm The red area shows an overlay of   equivalent size.

I have had the 11-22 for a week or so now from Henry’s here in Canada and took the chance to compare it to the 10-22 EF-S with the EF-M to EF adapter on the EOS-M. Up until now I’ve kept the 10-22 on the EOS-M for tourist and casual shooting as well as a few commercial shoots as a secondary camera.

Considering that a good micro four thirds  super wide costs $650-$800 and the EF-S 10-22mm is closer to $900, $400 is a bit of a steal.

Here are my findings in using it and comparing it to the EF-S 10-22mm

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What is the heart of inspiration?

From Gavin Aung Than's ZenPencil's

From Gavin Aung Than’s ZenPencil’s

A big issue that faces anyone who has had to grow up is choosing a career. It is tied so much to our time, identity, our goals and what we want to mean.

Even those lucky enough (and by lucky we can mean any mix of hard work, opportunity, and will) still have to contend with the day-to-day reality of Living A Dream of a Certain Size.

Take Chris Hadfield – the mundane aspects of being an astronaut may dominate his time – training, studying, paperwork, details and more details; a dream job tied up in procedure manuals and velcro.  What people find most interesting about his being an astronaut is not just the experience itself, but what it took for him to get there.

So what is that? Of course there is studying, and of course there is the hard work, but what he has shared with the internet community during is the not-so-simple fact that you actually can change your future. Not just in principal, and not after a lot of preparation, but every time you make a decision, big or small.

This message, above the inspiration that science, research and curiosity, is the most human message and the one he is most qualified to share.

And of course a message like that would be lost on most of us if not put into cartoon format, so here is it, from Reddit and Gavin Aung Than

Visualizing Feedback control

I wrote a jsfiddle sample as a demo for my brother’s control systems class at NAIT to show the differences between closed-loop feedback controllers – the tiny algorithms behind cruise-control autopilots, and autofocus in your camera.

I have to generalize it to a PID object and so on, but it is fun to play with the coefficients – and I learned a thing or two I’d forgotten about digital controller behaviour, like sampling error and sampling bandwidth. And as all Control Systems engineers are warned: Turn up your Gains slowly!

Ideas for feedback loop tuning games? The unicyclist? better cruise control, Autopilot lander? Fill the acid vat?


The real advantage of simplicity

Instagram, Pinterest.

It used to be that being a part of an elite group had a barrier to entry. You earned it up front then gained entry. Now the elite group has no barrier to entry, and the payment is essentially what you do within the group. The group itself has to be known though to be an elite – to be desirable to belong to, so usability is key – the more people use it, the more people want to use it, simply because the content is generated by the group.

However adding too many feature introduces new barriers, in terms of usability, and more importantly in terms of the new language of the group –  instagrams language – square photos, and photofilters, with like+comment+follow functions is something familiar and easy to pick up (hey, friends are familiar and social networks can now just bootstrap from one another). If more features were added, this would stratify the users into subgroups, which is not really desirable when trying to build (and sell) a unified community. Keeping it simple allows a faster community build, a more cohesive community – something that more features cannot help. It becomes very important then that the selected features work amazingly well!

UX: Touch design for kids is touch design for Execs

Kids are fearless and brilliant and will learn to drive an interface faster than any adult. This great article outlines 4 ‘pleas’ from a father to touch app developers that are not so much for his kid (2 years old) but for his own understanding, and I have not seen it spelled out so clearly and concisely before. Well worth the read.