- May 5, 2012
This post is cross-posted from the White Star Balloon Blog Flying across the ocean is no small feat. It takes the concerted efforts of dozens of people, working hard at lots of difficult problems, from modeling balloon volume and flight dynamics, to planning interactions with air traffic control. The diagram above gives a little bit of an idea of the effort involved in getting across the ocean. Any single block represents tens to many hundreds of man-hours worth of effort.
- May 5, 2012
Lately, most of my free time has been devoted to the White Star Balloon project. One of the parts of the project I have become involved with is the tracking page. This was a major portion of the project a year ago, when we still had lots of buzz and momentum going. Unfortunately, it was a huge disaster, and we had to cobble something terrible together at the very last moment. Since then, a lot has changed. We’ve become more skilled, new technologies have matured, and new hosting solutions have become cheaper.
White Star’s tracking needs are somewhat unique among the amateur balloon community. Most balloons end up using sites like aprs.fi and spacenear.us. These sites are great, and the guys working on them are better web programmers than I’ll ever be. Unfortunately, they don’t meet our needs. aprs.fi is designed to used with devices carrying APRS transmitters (which we cannot use over the ocean), and spacenear.us is designed to be used with a distributed network of receivers, which doesn’t fit our model very well. We also wanted to plan for a contingency of getting a large number of visitors very suddenly, in case we hit CNN or Reddit.
This year’s tracking page is run entirely on the client side. All telemetry processing is done by the client, and displayed on maps, gauges and graphs. This allows us to use static hosting for everything. I used the following resources to make this happen:
- Twitter Bootstrap – A super quick and easy CSS framework. Looks good out of box, if a little cookie-cutter. Don’t have the time or the design skill to go further, though.
- OpenLayers – More fully-featured than anything from Google. Switched to this when we thought Google was going to price us out of GMaps. One downside: It’s huge!
- HighCharts – Very pretty, easy to use charts.
- Amazon S3 – Used to store all static files.
Everything is up on GitHub, and ready for inspection and shed painting. More about the specifics below.
- January 1, 2012
Introducing a useful SOPA- The Stop Online Productivity Avoidance box.
After having an extremely productive day on January 18th, I had a thought: What if every day were January 18th? Well, at the push of a button, now it can!
The button, switch, and display are wired to an Arduino. The Arduino communicates with a python script running on the router, which controls a Squid3 proxy blacklist. In SOPA mode, the whole of the internet is my oyster. In NOPA mode, however, distracting websites like reddit, hacker news, and hackaday are blocked. This isn’t very useful without a great deal of self control, however. In weaker instances, nuclear mode must be employed. Turn the key switch and press the button and all distracting sites are blocked for one hour. The only recourse is to restart the router, but the router requires 15 minutes to restart, blocking the entirety of the web for the duration. Overriding nuclear mode is not appealing.
All code is posted online at https://github.com/Zuph/SOPA-Box
A video demonstration and more pictures of construction lie below the break.
- December 12, 2011
Eventually, hand soldering surface mount components becomes a pain, especially if you’re doing small manufacturing runs. It’s much easier to work with solder paste and a hotplate. Joints are higher quality, and you can manufacture more boards at once. If it was good enough to get Sparkfun started, it’s certainly good enough for us! Working with solder paste does require a stencil, though. The stencil contains precisely sized holes which allow solder paste to be precision applied to the metal pads on your PCB.
- November 11, 2011
**This list will be kept up to date on the wiki: **http://meatandnetworking.com/w/Kicad_Resources KiCad is an Electronic Design tool, similar to EagleCAD. KiCad is free, open source software, and runs on OSX, Linux and Windows. KiCad is unrestricted. All features may be used for hobbyist or commercial works. Here are some features of KiCad that might appeal to the hobbyist: No restrictions on board size No restrictions on number of layers On-the-fly DRC test <td valign="top"> <ul> <li> Nested schematic sheets </li> <li> No restrictions on commercial use </li> <li> Completely open source<br /> (We should use open source software to build open source hardware!