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April 19 2014

Intro to Programmable Logic & FPGAs – April 27


I’ve been bugged to death lately about doing another FPGA intro class…and after a full year, it’s finally here.  We’ll be going over some theory & concepts first before we hit the real stuff.  Familiarity with digital logic circuits is highly recommended, but you will still learn something regardless.  A basic overview of what will be covered:

  1. Combinational Logic – Basic Logic Gates
  2. Sequential Logic – Flips Flops
  3. CPLD – Complex Programmable Logic Device
  4. FPGA – Field Programmable Gate Array
  5. Nintendo DS ReView – An Example of What FPGAs Can Do
  6. Xilinx ISE & Verilog – Synthesizing the First Project
  7. Using Clocks – Blink that LED!
  8. State Machines – Alternate between blinking different LEDs!
  9. Video Example – Making an 8-bit VGA controller

I’ll be using the Elbert FPGA development board for most of the examples we’ll be doing.  Having the board is not required to attend.  I will bring a disc with the software tools in case anyone would like to install them.  We will be using Verilog as the HDL (hardware description language) in this class, since that is what I am familiar with.

The Details:

  • Who: Anyone (Open to the Public)
  • When: Sunday, April 27th – 2:00pm to 4:00pm….but we can chill until 5:00pm.
  • Where: 3519 N. Elston – 2nd Floor in the Electronics Lab
  • Cost: FREE


April 14 2014

Tonight at NERP: Movement detection with Motion

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NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.

To do make a security-cam type device with a Raspberry Pi or a Beagle Bone, the software must run on Linux. There are several computer vision based motion detection applications available for Linux. The OpenCV framework can be used to build Computer Vision applications that do heavy mathematical operation on streams in real time. (It also can be used to draw colored shapes on your screen.) If the versatility of OpenCV isn’t needed for a simple camera app there are a number of movement detection and recording applications to choose from. One of the oldest is Motion. Motion is command line driven. It produces its output as a browser viewable video images, stills, and a few control output options. In contrast with writing applications using OpenCV, it’s very simple to unbox and and fire up Motion. With its simplicity comes limited versatility, but it might be suited to your CV needs.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is March 3rd, 2014. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14, Pumping Station One

April 11 2014

Mini Maker Faire in Chicago at Schurz High School – May 3

Reserve your spot to the third annual Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire! Tickets are FREE to the public, but by reserving early you guarantee your spot. Now you can e-sign the media release on Eventbrite and skip the line! As always, your generous donations allow those who cannot otherwise afford Maker Faire to attend for free. Recommended donations are $10/adult, and $5/child under 12.

Pumping Station: One will hopefully be there with a table. Come visit us!



April 06 2014

A Good Egg or, What Happens When Hackers Celebrate Pysanky Day

Okay, so first of all, Pysanky Day is a very special day celebrating the thousands-of-years-old art of Ukrainian egg decorating (a “pysanka” is one such egg, “pysanky” is multiples of them).  Now, there’s not an actual Pysanky Day; folks decorate the eggs traditionally around Easter time.  In my household, however, we celebrate several different holidays around Spring:  Passover, Easter, and Ostara.  Each year we decorate eggs and it’s grown from just Paas dyes to pysanky.

When I asked one of my fellow hackers if they’d like to learn the art, they got totally excited about using the Egg Bot.

The what?

The Egg Bot!

Of course, there’s a bot for eggs.  Why?  Because Hackerspace.

And thus, Pysanky Day was born.


A celebration of the ancient:  the plain egg is drawn on with melted beeswax using a tool called a “kistka.”  Based on technology that’s about four thousand years old, it just consists of a stick or dowel with a hole drilled in one end, into which is inserted a metal funnel.  The funnel is held in place with copper wire.

After heating the tip of the kistka in a candle flame, a small amount of wax is scooped into the fat part of the funnel.  It takes some practice to get the wax to flow smoothly without making drops of wax on the egg.


One of my favorite designs, this is from one of the series of five Ukrainian Design Books available from the Ukrainian Gift Shop in Roseville, Minnesota. Part of the design was done with a traditional kistka, and part was done with an electric kistka.

In principle, the electric one works the same as the manual one; I like it better because the flow of wax is much more even.


We got to playing with the Egg Bot, which brings us up to present day technology. Using a pen, it writes on the egg. The writing is completely programmable.


And finally, in true hacker style, we used the 3-D printer to print an egg holder in the shape of a bunny rabbit. One of our members, walking through the space toward the end of Pysanky Day, commented, “Oh! Rabbit Pants!”

Yup. Hackerspace.


All egg images used by permission, copyright: CC-BY-SA Everett C. Wilson (

Image of the Egg Bot from the Egg Bot site, (

April 04 2014

Digital Game Night, 4.5.14

This Saturday it’s time to bring the pain…the childhood pain we all experienced playing video games never to see their ending. It’s time to pick up the controllers, yell at a screen, and speedrun through the night spanning Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Xbox 360 arcade games. The whole night starts with a round of You Don’t Know Jack where the winner gets to decide the first console/game of the night (from there on group votes will decide.)

This event is available to all members of PS:One and begins at 7pm in electronics. See you there!

April 03 2014

CNC Build Club: 32-Bit Controllers for CNC








32-Bit CNC Controllers are making a strong showing lately.  I have several that I can show, compare and trace to roots of at this week’s CNC Build Club (Thursday 4/3/2014 @ 7:00pm)


The TinyG has been around for a few years.  It can be purchased here.  It started as an XMega firmware/hardware project, that has been morphing into a cross process solution.  The basic TinyG is the XMega on their own hardware with 4 on board stepper drivers. It has very advanced motion control algorithms, including constant jerk.   The project is open source and on Github.




The second, but less popular format, the TinyG2, is running on a standard Arduino Due with a driver shield.  Here is it shown with a gShield.








The other popular 32 Bit CNC controller is he Smoothie project.  After about a year of prototypes they did a popular Kickstarter.  The Kickstarter is over and delivered and you can buy the hardware.  The project is open source.  Most of the motion control is based on a port of GRBL.  The project details are here and the GitHub repo is here.  The project supports 3D printers, laser (cutting only) and CNC routers.


Azteeg X5 Mini

This is the Azteeg x5 mini.  It is a another hardware solution for Smoothieware.  It is available for sale here.





March 31 2014

Tonight at NERP: Drew demonstrates Software Defined Radio

NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.
Software Defined Radio is a set of techniques for generating modulated RF waveforms in a transmitter, and demodulating the waveforms in a receiver. In traditional radio transmitters, the broadcast carrier waveform is generated in resonating analog circuits. The carrier is subsequently modulated in a specific way to encode information onto the carrier waveform. There are several distinct methods for doing the encoding and modulation. At the receiver the modulated carrier is received, amplified, and decoded to extract the transmitted information. Analog circuits are bulky. They could never fit in a cell phone, for instance. Worse, a specific analog circuit can operate over a very narrow range of frequencies (a “band”) and the modulation/demodulation method is inflexibly determined by the circuit topology.

Software defined radio allows the radio hardware to generate the physical carrier frequency and modulation format by algorithmic synthesis. Until recently, open (or open-ish) hardware capable of doing the waveform generation math in real time was not available at an affordable price. This has changed. Tonight at NERP, Drew Fustini will demo Aafruit’s “Software Defined Radio USB Stick” receiver. From the product description on the Adafruit site, the little radio does some absolutely amazing things. Software is eating the world, and radio is on the menu.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is March 3rd, 2014. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14, Software defined Radio Pumping Station One

Special Circuit Bending eSymposium this Sunday

Sunday, April 6

12 PM – 4 PM, FREE

Hacking upstairs in Electronics, open jam session downstairs in the Lounge.

Hosted by Patrick McCarthy of the circuit-bending act Roth Mobot.

Bring something to hack, something to drink, and whatever tools you think you’ll need. PS:One has an excellent assortment of tools but they are finite. Components are available, but please donate some cash to help cover whatever you use.

Radio WFMT will be on location recording a documentary about the eSymposium.

International Tabletop Day 2014

International tabletop day

International Tabletop Day

Want to hang out with a group of fun geeky people at a Hackerspace and play some awesome games? How about homemade snacks and homebrew beer? Still not awesome enough for you? Well, how about we hack an Xbox Kinect and scan you, then 3D print a custom game piece with your face on it, or make custom game counters on a laser cutter?

Come on by Pumping Station: One, Chicago’s biggest Hackerspace, on April 5th and have some fun and maybe even learn a few skills! Bring your favorite games, or if you want some supreme geeky-points, bring a game you designed and play-test it with us [we can even discuss how to spruce-up your game with lasercut or 3D printed pieces, hint-hint]!

This event is public, so bring your family, friends, or just awesome gamers you know and wanna hang out with! If you want to take part in making the 3D printed game pieces, or laser cutting custom counters, we do ask for a minimum of $1 suggested donation to cover materials. If you want to see this stuff continue into the future, please donate more! Proceeds will go to Pumping Station: One’s donation box.

March 26 2014

CNC Steampunk Harp – Getting Your Guts in a Knot – Part 3


Elizabeth and Ryan with a fully strung harp

Elizabeth and Ryan with a fully strung harp

[See Part 2]

At long last, the CNC Steampunk Harp that Elizabeth and I have been building is, at least functionally, finished! In previous posts, I documented the process of routing pockets in the side of the harp using PS:One’s CNC router, and our road trip to Sector67 in Madison, WI to use their seriously awesome laser cutter. This completed the work on all wooden parts of the harp, and so I could finally assemble it.

First, I had to glue the stiffener boards to the back of the sound board and used the drill press to make holes for the 33 strings. Gluing the sound board to the harp body required a lot of fast work: driving nails to hold the sound board in place, flipping it over and trying to wipe out the dripping glue while only having access to the inside via small holes, flipping it over to drive more nails, rinse, lather, repeat… all the while, the glue is starting to set. Then I glued the trim strips in place that covered all the nails. After that glue dried, I used a 1/4″ roundover bit on a router to clean up the sides of the sound box, and… oops! To my horror, I realized I forgot a step in the directions that said I was supposed to use extra nails to reinforce the area where the sound board joins the base near the pillar. Seeing as the harp has over 1000 lbs tension on the sound board and I really don’t want it pulling itself apart, I used the pneumatic nailer to shoot brads through the lower front trim strip. Then I needed to use wood putty to cover the brads. Oh, and did I mention that the angle of the nail gun wasn’t quite right and the brads poked through the bottom? So I had to bend them over with a nail set and cover those holes as well with wood putty. You live, you learn….

Applying finish to the harp

Applying finish to the harp

The devil is in the details, and this is no exception in harp construction. In some cases I’d clamped the trim strips unevenly and there were gaps that I had to fill with wood putty as well. This didn’t want to come off the plywood on the back of the harp after it dried, even with a sanding block. Jason saved the project by using his “scary sharp” chisels to shave it off, as well as cleaning up other areas like where the sound board joined the top of the harp. Then came a whole lot of sanding before I could start applying coats of finish. MusicMakers recommends wipe-on polyurethane. While I normally prefer more natural finishes like shellac or varnish, my primary goal is durability, and I’d had excellent results years ago using polyurethane on another harp I built. I used 4 coats in total, lightly sanding with 600 grit between coats.

When it came time to join the neck/pillar assembly that I had constructed and finished last year to the sound box, I discovered another problem. The trim strip on the sound box extended beyond the base, interfering with the fit of the pillar! So I called MusicMakers for advice, only to learn that this problem had been documented in a later version of the construction manual that they had already posted on their website. This required filing the trim by hand, but eventually I achieved a good fit.

Installing the last harp string

Installing the last harp string

Stringing the harp was more challenging than I expected. The bass strings are wound steel, the treble strings are nylon, but the mid-range strings are gut. Yes, it is actual gut. No, it is not made out of dead cats; sheep are more likely candidates. The strings are made from wound strands of intestine covered in varnish. Unfortunately, this makes them quite rigid, which is exactly what I don’t want when I need to tie a knot in one end. It took a lot of bending in the appropriate area to break the varnish covering so I could knot it, with much difficulty.

Harps take forever to get in tune. Simply stringing it draws the sound board up, which shortens all the strings and makes them go flat. Tune the strings up in pitch again, and they all go flat again! Rinse, lather, repeat… dozens of times. Being organic, I wonder if they change as a result of humidity, and if they are more prone to stretching over time. So they are the usual suspects for going out of tune.

Tapping a hole to install a sharping lever

Tapping a hole to install a sharping lever

The last functional step is to install sharping levers. These allow the harp to play in multiple keys by raising certain notes up a half step. To play flats, one tunes the string flat by half a step. Engaging the lever makes the note a natural, and disengaging it makes it flat. I decided to undertake installing a lever on every string before realizing just how much work this entails. So I bought 33 Loveland sharping levers. These had to be installed by determining approximate placement using a paper template MusicMakers provided, marking the location of the screw hole, drilling it out, tapping it, and installing the lever. Then the real challenge of regulating the lever begins. This involves moving it up and down while plucking and listening to the string, meanwhile using a digital tuning meter to determine proper placement to produce an exact semitone difference in pitch.  But to make matters worse, this is really a 3D problem. The lever may have to be disassembled to change the location of spacing washers to shift it right or left so that the string falls within the notch of the lever. And moving the string in and out by adjusting the bridge pins is necessary to set proper lever engagement, which changes the tone too. If the lever gets to the end of its range of motion and still isn’t right, well, then it’s time to drill and tap a new hole. Repeat 33 times for pure insanity.

Aesthetically, I’ve still got 10 brass panels that I’ve cut on the CNC router that still need galvanic etching with Elizabeth’s seriously awesome gear design. And I’m eventually considering addressable RGB lights under the neck controlled by an Arduino. But… functionally, at least, the harp is done! It works! It sounds beautiful! Now I just have to remember how to play it….

Reposted byarabus arabus

Caught in the Shop

I was walking through the shop tonight and saw something awesome happening. I took some crappy photos to show you (and I’m not sorry about it!).

That's a big piece of metal

Our Cold Metals area host, Mike, holding a big piece of metal. He’s going to turn it into a smaller piece of metal.


Mike and Dean work on centering the piece.


This is the part they’re trying to reproduce. This is a pulley for our new(ish) Johnson horizontal band saw. You’ll note that it’s bent. It’s also incorrectly sized, so there’s a bushing that’s been inserted that you can’t see. This bushing has no key, so the pulley was fairly noisy and inefficient.



March 25 2014

LulzBot… Soon!


LulzBot is know for producing and selling open source 3D printers, and in the spirit of open source, they do their best to give back to the community. In the past they’ve helped make Slic3r better, and more recently they’ve done a printer giveaway to hackerspaces… and yes, we’ve been chosen!

We are one of the LulzBot Hackerspace Giveaway 2014 Winners, and we’re pretty excited about it!

We (as a space) acquired a 1st gen MakerBot Replicator (the one with the wooden frame) and it’s served us well (ok, we never quite got the second extruder working, and it was down for repairs more than a few months last year.) Anyway, the MakerBot has been our best 3D printer to date, but with a LulzBot TAZ on the way, we’re really hoping to up our 3D game to include bigger and better prints, and hopefully explore new materials like Nylon, wood, and NinjaFlex. Being fans of open source ourselves (a makerspace is all about sharing!) it’ll be great to have a high-quality printer for our members as well as events like the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup.

Once we get the TAZ in and up and running, we’ll share the results. Thanks again, LulzBot!

March 24 2014

Table Saw Guard



This started out as an experiment, but it’s working well enough that I might as well call it permanent.

Our table saw came with a blade guard that was attached to a splitter, and every time someone moved the guard, they’d bend the splitter out of position, so it didn’t line up with the blade. Instead of bending it back, people would just remove the guard and put it in some random place where we couldn’t find it, so a lot of the time we were using the saw without a guard.

Over-arm type guards are available, but some people have built their own, so I decided to give it a try. The Lexan sides and the spacers between them were cut out on the CNC router. Everything else was sized to fit the saw. (It’s made for a 10″ blade, but for some reason we have an 8″ blade on the saw right now.) A giant washer acts as a counterweight (it weighs about a pound).

I thought we’d have to fabricate a cantilevered arm from welded steel, or maybe some of the carbon fiber tubing that’s laying around. But first I built a prototype out of 2x4s, and it worked well enough that I decided to leave it that way (I replaced the two clamps with nuts and bolts after the picture was taken.)



The new splitter was cut from 16 gauge sheet steel on the vertical bandsaw in the metal shop, then filed to fit, and bent with a pair of pliers to line up with the blade. It has slots in the bottom, so it can be removed by loosening the bolts with a 10mm wrench (for certain kinds of cuts that it would interfere with, such as dados). Since it’s not attached to the guard, it doesn’t get bent as easily as the original one.

For more info (including DXF files), see the wiki page:

March 23 2014

Gothic Arch Room Divider is Finished (Sort of….)

Sanctuary and More 102Silversark put together an amazing fashion show on Friday to showcase pieces she made inspired by church architecture and her trip to the Netherlands. This is something I cooked up for a background piece for the show.

The design work took several months and the actual creation of the piece took about a week, working 12-16 hours a day.  The frame is made from CNC routed aspen (thanks, Jason H.!) which is a rather “fuzzy” wood and required two days to hand finish, including the use of a set of needles files to smooth out the inset edges.

The acrylic panels were hand-stained with Gallery Glass stain and simulated liquid leading. They’re not quite finished yet, but I plan to complete the staining within the next week.

I’ll also be using this as a backdrop for various events including the Sustainability Summit coming up as well as the Concinnity sci-fi/gaming convention on April 5th. Additionally, this might be making its way to Embellishments in the Grand Avenue Mall for a window decoration.

I can’t wait to make another one!

OpenChaos am Donnerstag, 27. März: Native IPv6 bei NetCologne

Natives IPv6 am eigenen Internetanschluss - Warum dauert das denn so lange?

March 22 2014

Surface Mount?

Today we learned a lesson in quality control. And how little some suppliers have.
We recently bought a set of (very) cheap “stepstick” 3D printer stepper motor drivers. While attaching heatsinks we noticed one board wasn’t mounting correctly. Further invstigation revealed that one of the components wasn’t quite soldered in the correct position:


Easily fixed with a quick dab of a soldering iron.

March 20 2014

Got included in the Digbeth Trust Broadcast today!

Hi to any people new to fizzPOP, have a good around and ask any questions on the forums.

If anyone knows of any other ways we can get the word out please let us know!


March 19 2014


Wenn man heute schon für jede Kleinigkeit einen RPi nimmt, dann kann es einem Roboter erst recht nicht schaden ;)
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"Pi-Rover" vollständig lesen

SnakeBite Extruder Works!

I repaired the Budaschnozzle hot-end over the weekend and bolted the SnakeBite extruder to it and then to MegaMax and tested it last night.  There’s plenty of tuning to do, but the first print looks promising:


Start of SnakeBite’s first print


More of SnakeBite’s first print


Not too pretty but it shows promise.

Not too pretty but it shows promise.

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