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Progress! Of the progressive variety - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 4th, 2013

09:02 am - Progress! Of the progressive variety

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On Friday I bought myself a soldering iron. People wot are in the know seemed interested in what kind it is - it's the kind they had in stock at the wattage the book recommended. Yep. It'll do the job. I also bought some solder, which is more complicated than you'd think. You've got your lead-free, you've got your rosin core, it's all very WUT. But I got lucky and got the right kind apparently.

Then on Saturday I went to Jaycar (local electronic hobbyist shop) and got a bunch of other stuff. I had deliberately avoided getting everything at Jaycar because there's nothing like going into a shop like that with a list that includes wire, resistors, switches, buttons, LEDs, a soldering iron and some solder to let everyone know you're a n00b. Why do I care so much? Well, I already have female paranoia*, and I'm not interested in reinforcing any stereotypes or being patronised. Call me silly if you like, but lessons learned early stick with you, you know?

Anyway, I got my stuff and then trotted off to see Happy and tieke, where I got a crash course in scrubbing floors (hey, it was there and appealed to my OCD) and soldering, and general traps for young players. After which I went home, head exploding with newfound knowledge and excitement.


Aaaand, did nothing with it. Because some of the parts I need to get going on the next stage of this process are still in the mail, and probably won't arrive for another week. Unfortunately, there's no jury-rig I can set up for this, so I just have to be patient, run myself through the theory occasionally, and work on learning more code. So that's what I did:



That is a binary die. It's reading 5 in that picture, and it's My First Breadboard Thing. It's just an exercise designed to teach basic breadboard use and circuit building, along with the basics of random number generation in software. Yes, those resistors are bigger than Texas, that's because when confronted with literally thousands of options in the electronics shop, those were the only ones with the right resistance, that also looked anything like the ones I already had. I have since learned that the little blue ones will do the job, but are also harder to find on the carpet when you drop them.

After that I progressed to adding a button into the circuit, and that's where I stopped. Push button, light light. It's thrilling for me, but not very exciting to photograph. And there's only so much "Wow Tats, a single LED!" I can expect from you lot before you start wishing I had stuck with the sheep, eh?

The other thing that's been bugging me lately is the lack of progress on the Magister's Staff. As I've mentioned before, I was persuaded to opt for laser cutting for the vane slots in the acrylic tubing, but then there was a series of snafus and it never materialised. This weekend I got sick of waiting, and decided to make some progress, any progress, on it. First I attached the battery casing:



Yes, that is actually a sprinkles jar. Don't worry, it's not just taped on with masking tape, it's screwed on. It's still not as strong as I'd like it to be and I may reinforce it with glue, but the whole lot's going to be covered in the ubiquitous plaster mache eventually, and it'll be quite strong then I think.

Then I very carefully had a wee chip at the edge of the tube with my fine-toothed hacksaw. Lo and behold, cutting 50mm/5mm acrylic tubing with a hacksaw is orders of magnitude easier than cutting 2mm aluminium sheet with a coping saw. Good to know. And in less than an hour, I had my slots cut and could fit the vanes into them. It's not as neat and tidy as a laser would have done it, but it's actually done, and that counts for a lot. Most people who've played Dragon Age will recognise this:



I R PLEASED. This is real progress. Because now, all I have to do is insert the convex mirror (cunningly fashioned by grist using some reflecty plastic stuff, a light bulb and a heat gun) in the top of the tube:



And then add the LED gubbins in the bottom end of the tube, add a switch and the fiddly stuff's done. Then it's a matter of doing the sculpting part, adding the plaster mache to create the overall look of a Magister's Staff, and putting the finishing on, and it's done. OMG about bloody time!

So while my soldering skills didn't get any exercise, my hot glue skills sure did. And while the Brainfart project didn't get much attention, I know that will eventually be the only project, and it'll take ages to produce a result, so getting these others done in the downtime is quite nice. Also, my confidence that I can do stuff with electronics is increasing.

I can kind of see why people go for digital projects and electronics projects in some ways. I mean yes, shiny. But also, they don't have the same levels of downtime. Like, my ice crystals have been drying for four days, and that's the second coat of stuff that's on them, and when I started I had to wait for the first coat to dry before I could tell if it was going to work. Electronics is more or less instant gratification. But in my opinion, if you don't have a modicum of the other kind of art in there, you end up with things like the first photograph - a nifty thing that does stuff, that isn't visually attractive. And where's the fun in that?

So yeah, I'm not chucking out my sewing machine and paints just yet, eh?


Meanwhile, I've been contemplating using tatjna.com to make a stash of my making-related things. I've made a lot of things across a very broad spectrum of arts and crafts and whatnot over the years, and while pretty much all of them have made it onto here sooner or later, I'm crap at tagging so they are hard to find. It'd be nice to have them gathered in one place. To start with, a lot of it would just be posts from here, reposted there, along with pictures. And tagged in a more organised way. I'm not about to abandon LJ though, this is my home on the internet. But I would quite like to use my domain for something, and I've mostly been short of a theme. It occurred to me over the weekend that Tats Making Stuff is a theme.

(it could also have a section called Breeds Of Sheep I've Shorn, because everyone wants to know about that, right?)

*ahem* Anyway, good idea? Silly idea cos nobody would read it? Silly idea because it's just another fucking project that will eat my time when I could be changing the world?

Heroin course tonight. I'm looking forward to it.

* The conscious expectation that by going into this environment as a woman, you are opening yourself up to experience sexism. To Jaycar's extreme credit, I have not experienced anything that resembles sexism in their shop. They do have hot pink wireless keyboards 'for her' though. *shudder*

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:March 3rd, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
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yes please a section on sheep you have shorn, with added bonus of interesteing and cute sheep breeds.. *nods*

and hooray shiny things with soldering..

*ponders wall hangings with lights in constilation patterns.* well gosh

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From:tatjna
Date:March 3rd, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
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That would be really easy to do. And I'm guessing quite popular as well.
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From:pombagira
Date:March 3rd, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
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ohhh... there has been discussions this weekend of turning urban witchery into a viable business... not all at once but it can certainly be done,

i'm all like.. *squeal* and then *eek* with a little *shifty eyes*

*grins*
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From:tatjna
Date:March 3rd, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
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Unfortunately the WordPress thing only seems to offer 'be notified of all comments ever' (ie, subscribe to entire thread), or 'don't get notified because you are a creepy stalker and obsessively refresh the page to see if there's a reply.

On your blog, this is probably less of a problem than on some of the more prolifically-commented ones (in which I have to read through 20 irrelevant comments to find the one that's part of *my* discussion), but it's still vastly inferior to the individual notifications you can get with LJ. I think twice about commenting on WordPress blogs because of this.

Drugr is a WordPress site. It's ok, but it's aimed towards ease for the blogger rather than ease for everybody, and IMO it's not very community-focused. Having said that, I'll probably use WordPress for my other site because it's easy and because the site itself will be less about community and more just a vehicle for me to post pictures of projects. I also probably won't be very ambitious with layout/format/CSS, because I care zero about styles and shit.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 3rd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
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If it has one called Flying Car, I might be sold.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 3rd, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
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Do you use firebug or google chrome's developer mode to "inspect elements"? Then you can see exactly which rules are applied.

And then be as specific as possible with your styling selectors.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 3rd, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
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Learn CSS! It's actually a very-well designed little thing, especially if you're actually using SASS. Which you should be.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 4th, 2013 12:31 am (UTC)
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My answer is "using CSS, which is the right tool for changing text colors, on account of it being designed for doing just that"
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 4th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
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You can only abstract a given task to a given degree before the abstraction becomes more complex than the task itself. CSS is a typical example of this. CSS (and SASS) represent about the maximum degree to which styling can be abstracted before cluster-fuck occurs.

Over the years many attempts have been made to simplify irreducibly complex tasks into simple "user-friendly" tools. Almost invariably, those tools cause two sets of problems.

A: they're really complex, so prone to failing badly, and
B: they provide the non-technical user with the illusion that something hard is easy

For example, writing in Markdown is substantially easier than using a WYSIWYG editor, produces better results and can be done much more rapidly. However, because we present editing text files as "geeky" people will put huge effort into learning a complex bad solution instead of the simple good solution.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 4th, 2013 04:27 am (UTC)
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Building the capacity to *allow* the user to change their text color once per years means digging into generative CSS, which has a whole bunch of ramifications. For example:

1: You'd need to establish some kind of consistent approach to handling text color at the theme level. Then you'd need to convince the thousands of independent producers of Wordpress themes to adhere to that standard strictly: and somehow account for all the special cases you haven't thought of.

2: You'd need a way to inject variables from the WP database into CSS, then *cache* it. Doable using a server-generated dictionary of SASS variables, but see point #1.

3: You'd need to migrate all the old stuff that works fine but was written pre-standard *to* this standard. Good luck.

4: You'd need to migrate from CSS to SASS. This is actually a great idea. Good luck.

5: You'd need to establish some kind of consistent way to define "text color" that's actually granular enough to be useful. Pages no longer have a single text color: a typical layout will have 4-10, which are typically (but not exclusively) defined by region. These definition of "region" is 100% contextually dependent, so there's probably no meaningful way to abstract it.



By the way, I think making the mitochondrion have faster refresh rate is easy. Just use a faster CPU and it'll work. I don't understand why you haven't done this already....
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 5th, 2013 10:23 am (UTC)
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5) You don't need to. You just need a way of selecting particular chunks of text and then working out their context.


I don't even know if that's a solvable problem.

7) So, I followed Joel's hint and sorted my problem out using the skills I already had. Click on the content I want to change, identify what styling is being used, add a colour statement for that styling, and done.

Humans! Good for doing things like this. Yay for them.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
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The mitochondrion should be programmed using node.js, compile SASS for colouring the LEDs, and implement 3D CSS transforms.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 4th, 2013 01:25 am (UTC)
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Apropos of nothing that's happening in this thread, your icon would not be out of place in a 1930s horror movie.
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
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I agree, let's get back to the important topics...

I was happy when I learned if I spill a liquid into the keyboard, this is not the same as the computer.

At least in pre-laptop days.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Someone dosed my keyboard with vodka once. It made for some interesting communications before I replaced it.
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Inhalation, dissolution, or free-range electrons?
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From:tatjna
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Flailing followed by spillage.
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 4th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
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That's a method!
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From:vernacularity
Date:March 3rd, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
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Jaycar also have not a too bad ratio of female-male staff which may possibly be of some relevance in the atmosphere, and the woman who works there who I have interacted with seems to know as much or more than the guy(s) who is/are usually there though is relatively quiet about it, being quite shy.

Also the place is relatively n00b friendly I think, at least nicer than Dick Smith's ever was. I thnk they are like many places which are hell on anyone pretending to know more than they really do, but pretty good with the honest "um, what do I need here?" approach.

Edited at 2013-03-03 10:52 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:March 3rd, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Yep, and I am learning fast that it's much easier to find what you need when you can give exact specifications.

Luckily for me, the chap I dealt with on Saturday was pretty patient with my "you know, a slidy switch not a toggly one" type descriptions. And gave me a catalogue, so now I can be all "I need 5 XR250L type nanomodules, plzkthx!"
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From:tatjna
Date:March 4th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
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Not really. The XR range is specifically designed to be fit for purpose, and while people have been known to kludge it with the DR350s, the result is clumsy and ugly and can end up being quite expensive if you mount it wrong.
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:43 pm (UTC)
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It just depends on if you want a Suzuki or a Honda.

If you mount them wrong, it can get ugly...
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From:bekitty
Date:March 3rd, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
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Speaking of sheeps, here's something I just saw on Stuff. Apparently, this year's winner of the Golden Shears, Rowland Smith, has donated the $3000 he won to aid cancer research. The Australian women's team also donated their winnings, so with the audience's contribution of $3000, the combined total raised was $11,000. Pretty neat, eh? :)
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From:tatjna
Date:March 3rd, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
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That is all different flavours of awesome, especially when you know that shearers and woolhandlers don't make a lot of money.
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 4th, 2013 12:53 am (UTC)
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Oooh, shiny LED bits!

I'd be all over a Breeds of Sheep Tats has Shorn section of course :-)

I have gotten that kind of sexist shop treatment before. Bike shops used to be the worst for it. I would tell them clearly and specifically exactly what I was looking for...and they would try to show my one of those stupid heavy "city cruisers"
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From:tatjna
Date:March 4th, 2013 01:04 am (UTC)
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Yep, I've had it in a few different places, and especially in shops that sell consumer electronics. I've little experience with component/hobbyist electronics shops, but no reason to believe it'd be different. Imagine my happiness to discover one that doesn't do that! ;-)
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From:c_maxx
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Really; they should sell you what you want.

Some shops barely seem to be interested in selling at all. Is that good business?
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 5th, 2013 04:29 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I only get it if the customer is asking for something that is clearly a bad or dangerous idea. For instance, someone in a pet shop who wants to buy neon tetras (little wee freshwater fish that like to live in groups) and clownfish (saltwater fishies of Finding Nemo fame) are going to be asked to make sure they have two different tanks for them because they cannot live together.

But in my bike example, that would be more like asking for clownfish and being told, "Oh we have some lovely neon tetras!" That's nice buddy....

Even when I found just the bike I wanted, another salesclerk tried telling me I really wanted the other model with the carbon fibre frame. No you idiot, I really don't! Not for a loading touring bike! Carbon fibre is brittle and not a suitable material for attaching racks to realistically....not that the bike he tried to point me to even had rack mounts.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 5th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
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You'd think the fact that you know what rack mounts are and whether the bike has them on it would indicate to the sales people that you know what you're talking about, and thus what you want. And that's where the female factor comes in, and that's what's so bloody infuriating about it.
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 5th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
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It really is. I also hate the let's make everything female pink and have pockets thing as I think has been ranted before. And this is coming from someone who is willing to voluntarily wear pink on a regular basis nowadays. I still don't think it is a good outdoor clothing colour though since it gets dirty fast and Science forbid I *didn't* want little flowers all over my junk! Makes me wish I could fit into guy-shaped stuff better, but much more short and hourglass-shaped than any male fit model.

You know what the most amusing bit on my bike saga was? After I got just the bike I wanted, in the right size and everything, I then had to have new handlebars and a new stem (the sticky-out bit the bars attach to) put on because even with smaller framed bikes, they still put the same size gear a larger framed bike (aka a six-foot something tall guy) would use....even though in trying to picture what the human being who would ride the bike as stock issue would look like I am envisioning something more like an orangutan. Short legs and loooooooonnnngggg arms.
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