In the summer of 1990 I was getting ready to head off to my freshman year at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. Over the summer I got a letter from the school stating that they would be trying a new "integrated curriculum" that fall for a sub-set of the entering freshman class. The concept behind the integrated curriculum was that the subjects like chemistry, math, mechanics, thermodynamics, statistics and others would all be merged together to get more focused on how to use all of that to solve problems. That sounded cool, but the hook for me was that all of the classes would be taught on brand spanking new NeXT Computers. I quickly filled out my reply card and sent it in the mail that day.
Flash forward 22 years and we got a similar letter in the mail, this time for my daughter who is about to enter 8th grade. Her school is also experimenting with a new approach to the curriculum: all based on using the iPad. Both the NeXT and the iPad owe a large part of their existence to Steve Jobs. I found it fascinating to do a little comparison of the specs:
||iPad 2 (I know about the new one of course – but this is what she is getting)
|Price (at introduction)
||$4,995 (half the cost of the original NeXTCube)
||$499 – $829
||Motorola 68040 @ 25 Mhz
||Apple A5 @ 1 GHz with dual core
1120 x 832 4 color (black, white, 2 shades of gray)
4,096 color graphics was a $3,000 option
|1024 x 768 16.8M Color
||8 MB – 32 MB
||105 MB – 4 GB ($$$$$$$$)
||16 GB – 64 GB
||13.2 lbs (just the box)
85 key mechanical keyboard
2 button mouse (the last / only that came with a Steve Jobs product)
||NeXTSTEP (still say it had all the good stuff just now making it into OSX)
||iOS (the future of all Apple's OSs)
The table above is, to me anyway, the surest sign of progress in the last 20+ years.
The integrated curriclum at Rose was an interesting experiement. I "dropped out" after a few months and switched to the regular curriculum. There was just way too much homework with the integrated projects. No one was able to keep up. I still got the use the NeXTs (when the IC guys weren't on them, which wasn't often, but they had to sleep – a little – now and again) and I imagine that has a lot to do with my fascination with all things Apple to this day. Educators are drawn to tech like moths to a flame. Here's to hoping they can figure out how to use it for more light than heat.
Although my makerbot still sits in its box in the basement, I am still spending some time thinking about how I will use it once I eventually get it built. I've got most of it figure out, but still have some questions about input.
There are three ways that something can end up being made by a 3D printer:
- it can be designed in a 3D software tool from scratch. I have Solid Edge and Blender for these sorts of jobs.
- it can be downloaded from a 3D community like Thingverse or GrabCAD and then either printed directly or modify it using one of the software tools I mentioned in the point above.
- it can be "digitized" from a real object that I have in front of me or even in a series of pictures.
It's this last one that has me spinning a bit. What I want to be able to do is capture a 3D image of a human in motion. A 3D action shot if you will. These are the ways I have read about digitzation being done
- A group of "performance artists" in Barcelona (you'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever been to Las Ramblas) pulled of an exhibit called "Be your own souvenir" in which they hacked together 3 kinects to scan tourists. The tourist cum souvenir would strike a pose, would get scanned and then they would print out a 3D model of them. This is the closest to what I want to do (and the cheapest – kinects are less than $100 each and I already have one) but documentation is lacking and I am not sure if it could capture a high shutter speed freeze frame of a person in motion…soemthing tells me the answer is no though.
- Autodesk has a tool called 123D Catch that magically converts a series of 2D images into a 3D point cloud. Now there would obviously need to be some cleanup of the cloud before it was printed, but this also holds some promise. The trick would be to arrange multiple high speed cameras around the person in question…then synchronize them so somehow they all were generally focused on the same thing and took a picture at exactly the same moment. That sounds pricey (multiple high speed cameras) and hard (synchronization). If desktop software is too 20th century for you, then there is a cloud based company that claims to do the same thing – they might even offer some cleanup services so it may be a better deal overall.
- In the DIY realm from whence my printer came, there is a scanner prototype of sorts, but it seems scaled down for taking scans of small toys or other small parts that you would print out 1:1 on a Makerbot. I need something to scan a person then print it out at 5 or 10% life size (so it will fit on my makerbot in one pass). There are some really nice commercial solutions in this vein as well. But they don't even have prices on their website (if you have to ask, you can't afford it).
So nothing fits the bill perfectly. Looks like I have some more digging or possibly inventing to do.
I’ve been doing a little Christmas dreaming lately. No sugar plum fairies for me t – I’m dreaming of 3D Printers and desktop CNCs. I’ve been watching these spaces for a while and I think the price / performance ratio is finally at a place where will take the plunge. I really am just looking to tinker and have one more go at getting the kids interested in engineering . The question is what to get? I’ve listed the top contenders in each category below. If anyone has any experience (positive or negative) with any of these, I would appreciate a comment. Also, of course any others I should look at are appreciated too.
- MakerBot Thing-o-matic – this seems to be the top choice now. Lots of unit sold, reliable company backing and lots of mod options.
- Printrbot – this one doesn’t look like its available yet, but its got some good funding behind it through Kickstarter and I like the price (less than half of a MakerBot kit).
- Fabbster – this one also isn’t available yet, but does come from a big time 3D Printing company so it should be solid. Price is in line with MakerBot.
- MicroMill DSLS 3000 – I think this is the same CNC that Taig Tools sells. Seems to have good reviews and be fairly robust.
- micRo – this looks cool (and is the cheapest option) but from the forum posts it looks like the “company” behind it may not be the most stable.
- MyDiyCNC – this comes from another Kickstarter project, and is only a little more expensive than the micRo. Only shown working on wood though, so wonder if you can mill any metal with it?
Software & Sites:
- Thingverse – the place to get and share 3D models of things you can print or cut.
- Sketchup – seems to be one of the free modeling tools of choice for feeding things to 3D printers and/or CNCs.
- LinuxCNC.org – the home of the open source machine control software EMC. Have to get one of my machines sitting around in the closet setup with the latest version of Ubuntu I guess to be a controller.
- GRBL – controller software that runs completely on the Arduino chipset that is the brains of alot of the printers and CNCs.
- Phlatscript – a sketchup plugin that spits out gcode from some guys that make machines to build your own model airplane parts.
- Blender – all the cool kids make their action figures using this one
- Autodesk 123 Catch – an app that turns a series of 2D pictures into 3D models. Personal action figures anyone?
If I can get this figured out then I can make my own toys next Christmas
UPDATE: Just saw this article from the Economist which mentioned another 3D printer I was unaware of: Ultimaker (looks like a European MakerBot)
The year is already a quarter over. So, a quick update on my new years resolutions.
- Get back into the swing of things at the gym – C. I started strong but when I threw out my back a few weeks ago, I have seriously trailed off. Definitely need to do better. I think I am going to have to lay back on the running and find some lower impact cardio that I like.
- Get my HAM radio license – D. I gave this one a good run and purchased a few small handlheld HAM radios…that exploded in my office while I was charging them (and almost burned down my house). My plan is to reset this one once the kids are out of school and volleyball slows down. Find a local club and attend a few meetings…we’ll see.
- Get my sharshooter classification at IDPA – B. I shot the classifier at the one match I have attended so far this year and was only 3 seconds from getting sharpshooter. I am fairly certain that with some more practice (and when my holster for my Glock 35 finally comes in….been on order since November!) I can shave off 3 seconds. Of course at Marksman, I won my division at the match. Getting to sharpshooter will mean I will place lower in the matches for a while. And after actually shooting the classified, that stretch goal of Expert is right out for this year!
- Get back into sporting clays – D. Still haven’t busted a bird yet this year, but the late running cold weather has something to do with that. The good news is I plan to spend my birthday with my Dad down at Elk Creek so I should be able to make some progress on this one.
- Go on at least one overnight camping trip with the wife, kids and horses – D-. I need everyone’s help to convince my wife this is something she actually wants to do…or I may end up failing this for the year
- Resist the urge to overplan / overschedule our vacation to Europe this year – A. So far I have a way for us to get around, a place for us to stay and a starter list of one thing to see a day. The rest we’ll take care of when we get to each location and see what we feel like doing.
- Desire less – be happy with what I have – A. My level of ‘consumerism’ has been lower in the first 3 months of this year than ever in my adult life.
Overall grade – C. Need to do better…
A quick vacation planning update. We have now secured places to stay in all 4 cities we will be visiting. Thanks to FlipKey, Homeway and Susan(!) for the pointers. The renting a flat idea seems to be working out so far. Certainly something I will keep you updated on as we go through the trip and when we come back. London ended up being the most expensive, Barcelona the cheapest and Paris and Rome somewhere in between.
We also have major parts of the transportation picture worked out as well. I know how we will get from Cincinnati to London (Delta). I know how we will get from London to Rome (easyJet). I think I know how we will get from Rome to Paris (night train, but you have to wait to buy tickets until you are less than 60 days from your trip, so I obviously have to wait). I have no idea yet how we will get from Paris to Barcelona (thinking about renting a car and driving). And lastly I know how we will get from Barcelona back home (Delta again).
Also, the kids got some luggage for their birthdays (they were thrilled, really…) and their passports came back the week before last (only 6 weeks so not bad). We should be able to leave the country with them and they should be able to bring some clothes along to wear while we’re there.
After the last few major transport items get sorted, the only remaining thing to plan for is the 1 thing we absolutely want to see or so when we are in each city. Here’s a starter list…as always, suggestions welcome.
- day 5 (partial day) – ??
- day 6 – Coliseum
- Day 7 – Vatican (including the Sistine Chapel)
- Day 8 – ??
- Day 9 (most of the day, but leaving that night if we do the night train) – ??
I have been anxiously getting ready for this years planting season. This will be the 4th year I have will do a garden and I think I am finally getting close to my ideal state: a variety of produce right from my back yard, without chemicals or GMOs and with as little maintenance work as possible. I have my 10 raised beds setup and am trying out some home made drip irrigation and green house solutions this year that should reduce watering, eliminate most weeding and extended my growing season. Despite all of the these fixed investments though I will still have to spend some time every week keeping up with the garden.
While some may call me lazy (just come to my house on a Saturday for projects ), what I really want is a production system that requires no maintenance. Now, I know that zero maintenance isn’t really achievable, but if I hold it out there as a goal, I will get closer than if I just accept what I have now. So in my quest for a zero maintenance production system I ran across the concept of permaculture. I’ll let you look at the permaculture site for a full explanation, but basically it is at its basic level an approach (or even a philosophy?) about how to grow things that are naturally in balance and in balance with nature.
Those of you that know me personally may think that I have completely gone around the bend with this one, but stay with me for just a few paragraphs more. Permaculture is most often applied to growing food, but I think it is applicable to growing anything – a business, a child, a dream. Take a look at the fundamental approach and imagine something you would want to grow other than a tomato plant as you step through them (steps from wikipedia article):
- Observation allows you first to see how the site functions within itself, to gain an understanding of its initial relationships. Some recommend a year-long observation of a site before anything is planted. During this period all factors, such as lay of the land, natural flora and so forth, can be brought into the design. A year allows the site to be observed through all seasons, although it must be realized that, particularly in temperate climates, there can be substantial variations between years.
- Boundaries refer to physical ones as well as to those neighbors might place, for example.
- Resources include the people involved, funding, as well as what can be grown or produced in the future.
- Evaluation of the first three will then allow one to prepare for the next three. This is a careful phase of taking stock of what is at hand to work with.
- Design is a creative and intensive process, and must stretch the ability to see possible future synergetic relationships.
- Implementation is literally the ground-breaking part of the process when digging and shaping of the site occurs.
- Maintenance is then required to keep the site at a healthy optimum, making minor adjustments as necessary. Good design will preclude the need for any major adjustment.
Now for the so what: I am of course going to be applying these things in a few of the experiments I try outside my 10 raised beds this year. I am going to try a specific application of permaculture called hugelculture to setup some areas to grow some more perennials (cranberry, blueberry, grapes, kiwis, etc). I am also going to see how I can apply this approach in business. What would be different for you if you applied permaculture principles to your next project?
As I sit in the CVG airport waiting on a delayed flight to Orlando for a couple of days of business meetings, I thought I would post a quick update on the planning for our Summer vacation to Europe. A quick recap: after last year’s summer vacation to the Outer Banks, DeAnna and I realized that our kids were finally old enough that they were not a total pain in the a$$, so it might finally be time to go beyond the safe confines of a vacation with the entire extended family and start to take them to see a bit of the world. So, we set up some general parameters and let each member of the family pick a city that we would see for 4 days, with a travel day in between. Mason picked London, Kendall picked Spain (I narrowed that down to Barcelona), DeAnna picked Italy (once again narrowed down to Rome) and I picked Paris.
So now to the real nitty gritty of planning. First up, we got our flights. After using various banks of miles and looking at all possible permutations we got four tickets (toegther even!) that will get us from Cincinnati through Boston to London Heathrow and then back from Barcelona through Atlanta to Cincinnati two and a half weeks later. We also went down to the Covington post office and applied for the kids’ passports (which was suprisingly easy other than the fact that DeAnna and I both had to go – I guess to prove that we weren’t kidnapping the kids to a foreign country).
Right now I am in the process of filling in the places we will stay and our inter-European transport. So far, I have booked us a flat in London, a flight on easyJet from London to Rome and a flat in Rome. Next up I have to find us a way from Rome to Paris (thinking about booking the night train), a flat in Paris, a way from Paris to Barcelona (thinking about renting a car and driving through the south of France) and lastly a flat in Barcelona. The goal is to get that all ironed out in the next few weeks and then spend the remaining time between now and our departure deciding what we want to see. It’s a few months away, but I for one am already really excited. As always, suggestions welcome.
After nearly two years of solid service my hacked, broken, old and generally worn out iPhone 2G finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. It got stuck in this mode where it though the headphones were always plugged in and so it wouldn’t ring or let you talk/listen through the handset and when you did plug in headphones, nothing would come through them in either direction. So, not much good as a phone (it still works otherwise though, so fear not, it will be re-purposed into a remote for my apple TVs throughout the house).
I was resolved to order a black berry (that’s right, I said it…err, wrote it) when I returned from Christmas break a few weeks ago. Yes, I did ask the corporate telecommunications person if they might be so kind as to buy me a new iPhone, especially since I had gone through all the trouble to acquire my 2G phone all those years ago and then hack it to make it work with the black berry sim I had been issued. And yes, I got the predictable response. No.
It turned out I didn’t need to order one as one of my colleagues happened to have a barely used one sitting in her desk. So after struggling all afternoon to get it configured, I was making/taking calls and sending/receiving email from my new ‘device’. I lasted for all of 16 hours before I was on the AT&T website ordering a refurbished iPhone 4 and adding a 4th line to our family talk plan. The BB…is….just…awful. Its like driving a Mercedes to work everyday and then being told tomorrow you have to ride a 86 year old blind elephant. And this was going from a 2.5 year old iPhone to the latest and greatest that our friends from the great white north had to offer. In the end it was an easy decision.
The unexpected side benefit is that now I have two devices: one for my work life, all connected to exchange for email, communicator for IM and the corporate directory for everyone’s name, rank and serial number. And one that I actually look forward to using for play with facebook, twitter, amazon, paypal and a million other apps that I can’t live without. No more will I check my gmail on the weekend and then absentmindedly look at work email and find myself responding to random requests 30 minutes later. Work is for work and play is for play. And so what if I have to buy all new pants or look like batman everywhere I go – the separation is worth it (well that and not having to depend on a black berry for anything really important).
I guess I am a week late in getting this post up, but trust me I was in no shape to do it on New Year’s day…to much ‘reveling’. So here are my new year’s resolutions, albeit I am already a week behind on living up to them:
- Get back into the swing of things at the gym. I sort of cheated and got started on this one in December, but I am writing it here to remind me in May when the flowers are blooming and its nice outside that I still need to be in the gym at least 3 times a week. I had the illusion that having home work out equipment would fill in the gap of letting our YMCA membership lapse a few years ago and while it is convenient, it is no match for the ritual of going to a gym and exercising with other people. That is especially the case when you have a workout partner, which thankfully Mason has taken an interest in becoming.
- Get my HAM radio license.
- Get my sharp shooter classification in IDPA (stretch goal would be expert, but I don’t to pressure myself too much!)
- Get back to the sporting clays course…didn’t go once last year!
- Go on at least one overnight camping trip with wife, kids and horses.
- Resist the urge to overplan / overschedule our vacation to Europe this summer.
- And last but not least: Desire less – be happy with what I have.
I’ll try to update on how I am doing through the course of the year. NB – I don’t have a resolution about blogging / tweeting / socializing more (or less for that matter). Its working for me at the pace it is now.
I am seriously intrigued…and its a diesel!
Crew-Cab Bobbed M35 from CC Surplus
I wonder if it can pull a horse trailer?