Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Hipster PDA Stencils, My First Printables Upload.


Long time readers (and my what a wonderful select bunch you are!) will recall I've been pretty obsessed with Index Cards and the idea of the Hipster PDA for a long time. Over the years I've designed, tinkered with and scavenged all manner of HPDA systems ranging from the classic binder clip and card, through to unconscious making of HPDA boards and even a nice Living Hinge Lasercut Design over on thingiverse. I've also recently started keeping an offline calendar, this is for a few reasons, one is at both my gym and where I train martial arts I have no signal/connectivity (yes rural mountain N Wales still offers some pockets of no 4G!) but I still need to check dates for sessions and exams and such. Some true disciples of the HPDA path go as far as buying printers that will directly print to 3*5" card blanks, but I wanted to take a leaf from the "journaling" community and create some stencils. 

So there's 3 stencils so far, a simple tick list, a universal calendar and a slightly odd mind map one! I've also been meaning to move over to Printables as a site to share my occasional small designs and so thought these might make a good first upload. Do feel free to check them out, download and print

Monday, 1 May 2023

DPPD, The Drop Pod Parachute Deployer


Just uploaded a video of the DPPD, as it reached the significant milestone of having operational code, and, although not mechanically complete, is a functional prototype running happily off a small LiPo cell. It's a good example of my new Pull/Drop pin switches which I'm selling, amongst other bits and bobs on my Tindie store

If you are interested I also put up another video (below) which goes through the setup and use of the Pull/Drop pin switches... it also has an amusing section where my brain cannot remember the word Kevlar! 

Monday, 24 April 2023

New Stuff on Tindie and more in the pipeline!


It's been a while since I restocked Tindie, and I only used to have a couple of products but a few things I've been making and building recently others said they would find useful so a few new items have made it to the store. First up is a remake of my popular Rocketry Screw Switches. The originals I used to CNC rout here in my lair, but finding time to run the machine was a faff, so I re-span the design to be able to get them produced by OSHpark meaning that I can restock them a little easier if they sell out. I won't waffle too much detail here but if you want a rugged set of switches that survive high g violence then these could be just the ticket whether that for a rocket or a combat robot or anything else!
Next up and new at the zoo is a kit of parts to make a Pull Pin style switch, excellent for remove before flight arming or there are options and features that make this attractive for low friction " Drop a payload with the pin staying on the vehicle" type systems!

Finally completing the trio of bits is a little assembled PCB which acts as a polarity protector, these are small enough to be soldered inline in a cable and covered with a little heatshrink, they can work at any voltage up to 20V DC and with a max current of 4.3A. If ever the power is connected backwards no current can flow through the board and both the board and the attached project will be undamaged. Connected correctly the little board draws less than a milliamp with no step down in voltage. Neat and can save your expensive experiment/avionics/altimeter etc on the other side! Check out the whole store here.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

New Pin Switch Video and Tindie store previews!

Been working on a few small projects and amongst them I've ended up designing, or redesigning some components that I think might be of interest for others, so over the next couple of weeks I'm going to get put some of these up on my, long neglected,  Tindie store. In the above video I'm doing a show and tell of some new pull pin switch assemblies which can be used as rocketry arming switches but also can be of use for payload drop mechanisms or other pull pin applications.  

I've also remade a version of my rocketry screw switches (although these are useful for any system that needs rugged violence proof power switching.. combat robots etc) I used to make these CNC routing them in my lair but that took a lot of time and I never got around to doing it so re-spinning the design means I can get the PCB fabricated by OSHpark. This means I should be able to produce stock quicker with less hassle for me, I plan to sell these in packs of 2 for $7.95, roughly £6.50.

Finally, I've also revisited my polarity protector board. These little boards only allow power through if they are connected the right way and therefore protect attached projects from reversed polarity. They draw a tiny amount of power (I don't even have anything capable of accurately measuring such small draw!) and can handle up to 20V input up to a continuous 4.3A. They are tiny and can be soldered into a wiring loom and covered in some heatshrink, or you can use them with pin headers, you could even attach the output to a breadboard. I'll put more details up on the Tindie listing when I get some stock built!

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Manjaro, Rocketry tools agogo!


I've been a long time Linux user with my first distro back in the day being Pure:Dyne followed by Dyne:Bolic. In more recent times I've tended to lazily reach for Ubuntu as it's mostly worked and I've spent a bit of time around variants like Kubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu. However, I've started getting a bit disgruntled with the Ubuntu experience, I've not been a fan of snap which has been more and more intrusive and generally it's not been the easy, hassle free experience I want. 

So Manjaro, I'd actually played with this on the pinephone as a phone OS and found it nicely designed and quite refined so have been trying it a bit on and off and then finally this week got around to doing a full install of Manjaro Xfce on one of my laptops. Install is really straightforward and everything has worked driver wise. I made the bootable pendrive a couple of months back using 21.3.7 and there were a few updates on first install and everything went smoothly. A notification that there was a newer kernel led me to quickly use the Manjaro Settings Manager gui to really simply update the kernel to the latest stable and again, everything was plain sailing with this. 

So, my go to tools that get set up on all my machines are Libreoffice, FreeCAD, Inkscape and Openrocket. The graphical user interface for package installation is called Pacman and it's simple to install Libreoffice, FreeCAD and Inkscape directly there and all of them are nicely up to date with the latest stables from each of those projects, many thanks package managers! Moving into FreeCAD vers 0.20.2 my first port of call is to install the excellent rocket workbench here I had a small problem. When iswitching to the rocket workbench it failed with a "libQt5Charts.so.5:cannot open shared object file", reading around the freecad error messages It was a missing dependency Qt5_charts. Sometimes, before diving into a terminal it's worth exploring the package manager GUI and sure enough searching Pacman found Qt5_charts and installed it readily. With a reboot of FreeCAD the rocket workbench is up and running perfectly. 

Inkscape installed perfectly well and I'm slowly adding and checking the range of extensions I use to drive various machines or draw or generate various geometries etc. So that left OpenRocket. A search of Pacman revealed no Openrocket, so just taking a punt, I opened a terminal and used the very handy: 

pamac search openrocket

which returned that indeed the latest Openrocket package (22.02-1) was available on the AUR (Arch User Repository) so then issuing a simple:

pamac build openrocket

Installed the package. However, veteran OpenRocketeers may recall there is sometimes some shenanigans that manifest when the incorrect Java Runtime environment is being used by the system and Openrocket want's a particular one and indeed Openrocket wouldn't run.  A quick search revealed the very useful "status" command so "archlinux-java status" showed originally that Java 17 and 19 were installed with 19 set as default. Open rocket wants 8 or 11 and so a package search led me to install Java 11 runtime and then we can us "sudo archlinux-java set-11-openjdk" to set the Java 11 runtime as the default. Then Openrocket is working flawlessly. 

So hey presto, we are all setup in a nice modern feeling distro that seems quite intuitive and seems consistent in the way things work. I look forward to setting up more tools and using it more fully over the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Pasting Table Mods, a Temporary Autonomous Workspace!

I've been working on lots of larger lightweight projects of late. You might have seen the hot air balloons I'm designing and building from large tissue paper panels but I'm also working on some larger cloth wing designs and more. I often don't have the length I require for the work on my shed workbench or regular bench in the house. So I went and bought a wallpaper pasting table. They are CHEAP! But with cheapness comes lightness and some lack of rigidity. However, for lightweight tissue paper or cloth work they are perfect in many ways and create a great Temporary Autonomous Workspace (been reading a lot of anarchic stuff lately and this name has stuck in my mind!)

There's one problem for me though, they are built way too low! Even doing light work standing at one of these for half an hour causes my lower back to start to grumble, I needed to raise the table, but equally I needed the mod to not stop the table folding away. 

So off to FreeCAD! (ICYMI here is a free to DL book I wrote on FreeCAD) The solution is pretty simple, there's enough room to add an adaptor to the 20mm square-ish legs and still allow the legs to fold away inside the table. I quickly CAD'ed an adaptor which had a square hole for the original leg on one side and then had a circular hole to receive some 25mm diameter dowel I had knocking around in the shed.  Once printed up in some PETG filament I epoxied the adaptors to the table side and then they live permanently attached and fold away with the legs. 

I then chopped a few dowels to length to bring the table up to where I need it. The 3D printed adaptors are a press fit on the dowel side which means I can insert the leg extending dowels and turn the table onto it's feet without them falling out. In turn the dowels can sit inside the table when folded, I should probably create some kind of storage strap or mount to stop them clattering about inside the table, but it certainly does the job. Available widely for around £15-20 this is a really handy tool hack for me!

Friday, 6 January 2023

Nextool Vanguard; a £32 Multitool Review


A while back in issue 58 of Hackspace magazine I reviewed a small folding scalpel the "3 Coil crane" and it's a fabulous tiny tool. I ordered that scalpel from a company I've used a fair bit over the years, Heinnie Haynes, who are based down in South Wales. Heinnie sell lots of outdoor equipment, clothing, shelters, packs etc, but they specialise in bladed tools and have a huge range including multitools, bushcraft knives and more. 

I sent them the link to the Hackspace article and they told me to mention anything I saw that I thought might be good for a review, that might be of interest to makers. Recently they've started stocking some interesting multi tools that sit at the budget end of their multi tool offers. The Nextool range is pretty affordable and one in particular stood out, the Nextool Vanguard as it has a built in adjustable spanner. I wanted to take a look and Heinnie were kind enough to send one out to me. It's been in circulation for a few duties over the last couple of weeks and I've put together this little video review. Hope you enjoy the video and do check out Heinnie Haynes, they've always given great service over the years and I'd genuinely recommend them,