OHS Schwag

Thanks to a huge load of sponsors and partners there was a huge load of cool schwag in my registration package.

LEDs, a kit, screw driver, decals, crests, Make Magazine and much more!



Aerial Photography

I’m looking at getting some aerial video and pictures for the Squirrel model airplane project.

I already have a small camera I can mount on a Squirrel. That’s a start. It’s a little heavy so I am using an 18″ Squirrel rather than the stock 12″.

I think it would be interesting to have a quadracopter platform to carry some camera equipment. Perhaps it could follow the Squirrel using a beacon mounted on the Squirrel or some other technique.


ARDrone is about 300 bucks.

Seems to have lots of accessories and parts available.

This might not be as open as needed for modification and it might not have the load carrying capacity. But the price tag is pretty good.

Perhaps it could be coupled with a light weight closed circuit camera such as the one at robotshop.ca.

That’s rather expensive at 250 but I’m not convinced I can’t get a similar one for cheaper.

I’v seen this sort of camera around on other Web sites and 150 seems to ring a bell.

If I’m understanding the literature this is iPhone controlled. Hmmm, there’s another bill to pay. But I so happen to want an iPhone someday.


Then theres quadracopter.us.

They have a lot of models.


A whole load of other features.

But they are all about 10,000.00.

Um, that’s sort of out of budget.


I posted a this issue into Ottawa Robotics Enthusiasts and ArtEngine online communities. I’m starting to get lots of ideas.

The most affordable is a blimp. That could very well work. So I’ll keep my eyes peeled for blimpy stuff.

This could be a really fun DIY project. It might get me more  into robotics too. Andrew Plumb mentioned the BlinkRC. This is a way of controlling things from Wifi. I might order that for this project (and I have a couple other uses for it in mind).


Arducopter seems the most promising so far (Mike from ORE).

It’s a few hundred bucks but it looks pretty nice. I think it’s open source so I should look that over.

I’d have to save my pennies.

Other stuff in my queue to research are:


Open source one

Another open source one


Open Cola

open cola

Here’s some food for thought. The internet can help us solve problems. This makes me think that patents are becoming a smaller part of the formula.

I’m moving more towards thinking that it’s old thinking anyways.

What do you think?

Open source tools

open source artifacts

Here’s a cool open source initiative. I think open source is going to get more and more important as time marches on.

The days of inventing and hoarding ideas are gone.

Solitary narrow minded business will be replaced by communal activity.

WordPress Workshop at Artengine Packed!

I did a workshop on WordPress for Artengines workshop series. It took place last night in the SAW Lab at 2 Daly.

We packed the place and everybody gave great feedback. There was also a silly penguin.

The structure of the presentation was as follows.


-Why WordPress? It’s fun and easy!

-Three ways to set up your WordPress site: Extremely easy, very easy and easy.

-The main features of a WordPress site: Pages, Posts, Categories, Tags

-The admin panel: Pages, Posts, Categories, Tags, Pictures, Youtube videos

-Other topics included, a few Search Engine Optimization (SEO) concepts, resizing graphic images with GIMP.

If you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me. On request, I’ll post a summary of the material from the presentation for those who don’t take notes.



I was looking at the lasersaur project to see how they’re doing.

I’ve expressed concern about how long it’s taking them given the funding and the number of sponsors waiting for them.

The trigger for my concern is that the project isn’t really open source so it does not have the benefit of the crowd. That aspect has concerned me because without the crowd the project may not mature as fast. Also the design may not be suitable for as many people.

I think it’s a huge disservice for the project to close the doors to the public.

Myself, I’m pretty new to all this CNC stuff (I took interest in it this passing summer).  So I’m just an reasonably enthusiastic newbie.

But I was a little concerned when I saw the statement in the picture I’m showing to the right.

Finally, the first lines of firmware have been written and the the barebone gantry is moving sweetly. We are more and more leaning towards GCode (or a subset thereof). Many people have commented on this and tried to push the community in that direction — maybe rightly so.

Our initial hesitation was that GCode seemed super messy and bloated for the lasersaur. After taking a look how reprap-related project use a subset of it we think much higher of it.

Reading through the source code of grbl and fiveD is also super helpful. Still if somebody knows of a technical paper on stepper motion, acceleration, deceleration strategies we would use it as our night time text for the weeks to come”.

The statement “leaning towards GCode” got my goat a little for some reason. Like I said, I’m no expert but the whole motion control thing seems really well solved. For instance this CNC system costs about 150 bucks. It includes everything you need to run 3 steppers motors (that can control three axis) from a computer using very well proven software such as Mach 3 or EMC2. A laser really only needs two axis so it’s actually overkill. This still leaves the laser uncontrolled. Well this CO2 laser power control was less than 50 bucks shipped. You connect it to the standard high voltage supply that is used with the CO2 lasers.

My intuition is telling me they are trying to improve or reinvent something that is already working very well.

This is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s important to take new paths. Especially the untraveled paths. So that’s good argument to get off the beaten path. But is the control of steppers a show stopper for people who want to get a laser cutter?

So the other hand is that they are trying  to fix something that isn’t really broken.

There must be something else about a laser cutter that makes it difficult to obtain. I guess if the motive of the project is for the participants to learn about motion control from an engineering standpoint, then that’s cool. But the project has a bunch of sponsors so that’s different.

This whole thing is good food for thought for me.

As many of you may know I am working on an open source project called Marauder which will be an accessible CNC mill that can cut plastics, wood and such (and a plastic extruder).

I guess I need to find improvements to make it easier (and less expensive) for people.

One area that I’m working on is different bearing systems. It’s a little like the Lasersaur project because I’m challenging existing solutions that work well.

It really takes a lot of time to figure out what the real barriers to ownership are.

Marauder Extruder/Mill


I realize that it’s pretty involved to make even a simple CNC mill for cutting plastics and wood. There are nice open source projects such as the Mantis. But for some reason, there is still a high enough complexity that projects are not getting done in my community (despite the low cost of the project). Perhaps the functionality of these projects isn’t compelling enough for people to make the commitment.

So I am setting out to make an open source design that is both a CNC cutter AND a plastic extruder (like a reprap or a makerbot-cupcake (thing-o-matic)). It will have both an endmill and a spindle.

Here’s the plan as it stands (feedback, ideas and collaborators welcome!):

  • Marauder will have a work area of about 11 x 8.5 x 3″.
  • It will be possible to tote it around.
  • It will be based on inexpensive parts.
  • Construction methods will use common tools.

I expect to build many prototypes during the design phase. I’m supposing I’ll sell a few of them during the process.

I have no set timeline. I’ve been working on this for about a month.

Marauder is the current project working name. Naming the project isn’t a priority but I’m sure something will drop out of the process.

An open source laser?

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Lasersaur project. It’s clearly a great idea to have an open source laser.

The project isn’t really open source. It is really a member-only community. The concern I have is that the project will not benefit from the knowledge and experience from the wider community. Not to mention what could be learned about different people’s needs if they project were actually open.

The pictures so far look quite nice.

Is this really an open source laser?

I was just looking at the truck that carries the lens and final mirror. It’s quite similar to my design but uses a wider variety of materials and fasteners so it’s much prettier.

Looks like it should be quiet and work well too.

But I’m wondering what the final cost will be and when the project will actually be available. The projects been going an awful long time and there is no regular reporting of progress.

I wanted to buy into the project but they don’t answer questions. I made a post on their project wall but they did not approve it. I suppose their members could be really happy but clearly perspective members may not be.

It will be very interesting to see what becomes of this. It looks like in the pictures that it’s might be a great laser but might be as expensive as buying one assembled. Possibly difficult to fabricate.

I suppose this might not seem so fishy if it were not labeled as open source when in fact it’s closed source (member-only).

Time Lapse Photography and CHDK

I’ve been wanting to try this and I happen to need another digital camera. I figure this is a great chance to try out CHKD which is an open source project that gives ordinary Canon Powershot cameras the ability to do things such as motion detection, time lapse and many other advanced features.

The challenge: Which Canon camera to get?

There is a list of the cameras that support CHDK. There are a lot of cameras available from Canon. What I’ve been doing is when I see a model then I go to the list to see if it’s supported. If it’s supported then I will look further at the model of camera. But most of the time the camera isn’t supported so I’d like to work backwards. I’d like to know which of the cameras work really well with CHKD. Then I can go looking for that camera. This one seems okay at first glance: “Canon PowerShot SD780 IS 12.1 MP Digital Camera”. Is there anybody out there who knows their line of cameras?

Cannon Powershot A720 IS

Okay, I got my hands on this camera a couple of days ago (Jan 2, 2011). I’ve got CHDK running. Seems pretty cool. Now I guess I need to learn how to use scripting and all the advanced stuff. Looks like the features they talk about are not in the camera. You have to write and load scripts into the camera using your computer. I will try CHDK for a while and see how well things work out.

Here’s an example. Apparently the code is here. I’m supposing the manual for CHDK is here. More movies!

Apparently you can use ffmpeg to convert a bunch of pictures into a video:


January 10th, 2011 update:

I just learned that Majic Lantern will work on the Cannon dLSR cameras. I will look into this since a digital SLR is on my todo list. More info. The Cannon 5D Mk III looks a little pricey but I’ll look into it anyway.