Python classes on temporary hold

Hey folks, sorry if you showed up last night and class wasn't on. I had some personal business to take care of and it seems I did not sufficiently inform everyone. So just to make sure everyone's well-informed ahead of time, I'm going to be on vacation for a little bit and the next two python classes are also on hold. Snake-wrangling resumes in the first week of May.
Apologies for the inconvenience, but might I suggest you take this time to check out DaveR's Arduino classes. He's not as cool as me of course (no one is), but he'll take care of your tech fix with his stack of USNoobie kits. See you all in May!

A Visit to the Internet Archive


The Internet Archive HQ

A number of us from Ace Monster Toys went to visit the Internet Archive on April 1, 2011. The creator of the DIY Book Scanner, Daniel Reetz, had come into town to meet with people there on, you guessed it, book scanning. As always, he came by Ace Monster Toys when he arrived to take a look at the progress on our own book scanner. He invited me, Myles, Robbie, and others to go with him to the Internet Archive to check out the book scanners that they use for their ongoing book digitizing efforts.

Solar Power Workshop Coming Up!

The class will be held on Saturday April 23rd, starting at 11am. No pre-registration is required. Payment for materials can be made with cash or preferably by paypal.

Oakland's new hackerspace, Ace Monster Toys, is offering a public class in building small solar power systems. You'll learn how to build anything from a solar powered bike light, to an emergency power charger, to taking your bedroom or field research site off the grid. The emphasis is on being safe, cheap and practical in a small footprint, where the whole system can be moved.

The class will be on Saturday April 23rd, broken into two sections: 11am to 1pm will cover how power systems are built, and 1pm - 4 will be a chance to use Ace Monster Toy's tools and experience to build your own system. The Theory class will cover:

  • A hands on walk through the parts of a solar power system, from battery to solar panel & all the parts that go between.
  • How to calculate the right size of solar panel and battery for your needs.
  • Where to shop for cheap & safe parts.
  • Useful electronic theory ( How understanding watt calculations will keep you from getting ripped off on ebay)
  • Legal and safety issues. ( Why you'll be spending a lot on fuses, and how to build something that could pass an electrical inspection)
  • How to secure your solar panels.

The afternoon workshop will allow anyone to assemble the wiring and fuses needed to make a system. We'll have a few batteries, charge controllers, inverters and solar panels for you to test out your system, and will help you to calculate how what type of battery and panel to buy. We'll have a few items for sale, but most people should order from the vendors. When the parts arrive at your house, you'll be able to quickly plug everything together and be confident it will work. Depending on attendee interest, we may schedule a follow up session to finish construction. Attendees will need to pay for parts used, most systems will use $15-40 in parts.

Ace Monster Toys is a Hackerspace in the SF Bay Area in Oakland (quite near Berkeley and Emeryville). The address 6050 Lowell, near Alcatraz and Sacramento. You can find driving instructions on our website at acemonstertoys.org.

Second AVR/Arduino class tomorrow (Wednesday) night

David's second AVR/Arduino class will be tomorrow (Wensday) night. The main topics are:
1. Troubleshooting USnooBies aka why isn't my power LED coming on? We'll walk through the process of checking all solder joints and figuring out why some of your kits aren't working after they were put together
2. Simple programming walkthrough: Once we have them working, I'll go through the basics of setting up the software, a few simple code examples, and where to look for more info.
3. Whatever: If anyone has their own arduino hardware and wants help/advice on it, I'll do my best.

DIY Book Scanner is almost complete

Myles and I have continued to spend a few hours a couple of times a week on our DIY Book Scanner. As you can see below, it is mostly complete at this point.

Yesterday, we finished putting the physical parts together, figured out how to hang the lights, and made sure that the cameras could focus correctly on the pages (as well as get external power). The only thing left to do with the body of it is to hang a counterweight from the pulley at the back. This will allow us to raise and lower the platen without putting a lot of force on it. Sooner or later, we expect to rebuild the platen as we learned a few things while doing it and the acrylic that we are using tends to build up a big static charge, which holds onto the pages from books.

You can see our overall build progression in my Flickr photo set.

Our next step is to get all of the electronics working. This is non-battery power to the cameras and a foot switch to cause them both to take photos. We're using a linux virtual machine with the open source scanning software so people should be able to run the software on any computer at Ace Monster Toys, assuming they install VMware's tools.

One of the discussions that Myles and are having is how we could build a book scanner from scratch in an easier fashion, using some sort of standard parts and maybe molded corner pieces or some sort of interlocking system. The idea would be to create an easy to assemble set of parts that we could then turn into kits, making it easier for other people to build their own book scanners without staring at pictures of the builds of others on the DIY Bookscanner forums and figuring it all out for themselves. These conversations are just in the beginning stages but it seems worthwhile to discuss.

 - Al

An Embarassment of Makerbots

That's a Whole lotta Nerd in One Place!

So Makerbot issued user groups a challenge to put two makerbots together and take a picture. Fortunately we are able to over deliver on the request. AMT <3's our Makerbots!

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Ace Monster Toys is a non-profit hackerspace based in Oakland, CA, dedicated towards education, hacking, and maker culture.

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