Category Archives: fixing stuff

Makers and Hackers, London

I’m having a fab time at Makers and Hakers today – basically a one day hack-day bringing together crafts people and techies, and the brief is to ‘build a household item of the future’. Watching people pull out all sorts of kit from their bag – really excited to see the appearance of a sewing machine alongside arduino, soldering and electronics kit!

10:30am After Alex’s welcome and we introduce ourselves, people tentatively split into 4 teams. We chatted about what we fancied doing and after uniting our ideas, we came up with a name for our groups. Our four teams are:

* Fragile (formerly BOB)
* Nigel and the Craft Girls
* 2 Men 5 Legs
* Creatorz of Crazyness

11:00am I’m in team Creatorz of Crazyness with Omer, Andrew, Craig (from O’Reilly) and Tim. We chat about the ideas we came with, Tim wants to build a clock and Andrew wants to build some ickwl tiny bots – he’s brought loads of kit and also tons of brightly coloured felt.

12:00pm I’ve downloaded the Processing interface for arduino and Omer and I are looking through libraries for scripts. Andrew and Craig are soldering away.

13:00 Lunch. There’s a arduino weekend workshop going on and my colleague Nicky and others join us. There’s some nice introductions and chat about arduino going on.

14:00pm We’re consolidating ideas to build an arduino clock. Omer and I have spent about 3 hours so far trying to write a clock, we had some initial problems getting the Processing interface for arduino to work, so have ditched that. We’ve gone back to using the original arduino programming interface and have got some compilled code working as clock.

15:00pm Andrew gets a tiny sound out of his robot, but it’s barely audible, so he’s thinking about how to improve it.

15:10pm Eureka – Andrew adds a plastic cup to the robot and the tiny buzz is amplified!

15:17pm Epiphany – we got an alarm to work and we sit and watch the numbers ticking over in the arduino interface!

15:30pm Omer gets the servo to work with arduino and Tim gets the *rotating_bit* of the clock working

15:32pm Alex gives us a bonus half hour because we’re crafting/hacking carefully (slowly)!

15:52pm Craig has built a box! Now do we give it a felt coat? Andrew’s bot is attached to the servo and box so it acts as an audible alarm for the clock and the cup will doubles as a tipper.

16:15pm Last minute fiddling and yay our servo moves properly and distributes felt flowers by tipping them when the alarm goes off!

16:30 It’s time to stop working on our creations and set them up for judging on the designated area. Teams are hastily fiddling and arranging.

16:35 The people from the arduino workshop come out to vote. Teams describe their appliances to everyone, much clapping ensues.

16:50pm Everyone has one vote for their favourite creation. There are two prizes of £50 – one is an expert panel vote, the other is a peoples vote for their favourite.

17:00pm votes are counted and the expert panel goes away, to deliberate over their winner.

17:05pm The two team prize winners are announced:
* Experts panel award of £50 goes to Fragile (formerly BOB) for the LED arduino
bracelet from the Fragile team – which lit up when a new Tweet or email was recieved.

* Public vote goes to Nigel and the Craft Girls for their sound key rings. They attached an arduino to a Yamaha sound module to play individual MIDI tunes. An RFID tag on their key fobs triggered the tunes which could be played individually or together as a mix, reflecting who was in the building.

Alex is going to take the two winning creations to Maker Faire on the 14-15 March to show.

The other great projects were:
* 2 Men 5 Legs – who created a chair spin counter, ie it counted how many times you spun round on your office chair, although sadly ran out of time before completion.

* Tim Hutt – created an arduino driven tactile clock proof of concept device that would tell you the time in the dark using textured surfaces.

17:10pm Tidy-up time, wires, arduinos, soldering irons, a sewing machine, beads and ribbons are put away.

17:10pm Everyone is leaving and I’m blogging on the floor so will write up more detailed account later – byeeeee!

17:15pm Pub!

What a fantastic day, I’ve had so much fun and made some lovely new friends. Well done to Alex, James ( & Folksy) and all for putting this on. Looking forward to Maker Faire in Newcastle 😀 Shout to sponsors BBC Backstage, O’Reilly Maker Faire and 4IP.


Kernel Panic or a detour down Mac memory lane!

Feeling a bit sorry for myself today, as I was a bit unexpectedly sick last night (enough info) followed by a rotten aura migraine. Anyways, Salem, my dear old PowerBook G4 came out in sympathy with me earlier, with what appeared to be his own kernel panic…

A quick reboot seems to have cured Salem for now, though Apple’s support pages suggest I might have to reset the NVRAM and PRAM by holding down X on next start-up (hopefully not an OS install). I presume this is the equivalent to what used to be called in the bad old days of 90s PowerPCs ‘zap the PeeeeeRAM’ (sic) which was holding down Command + Alt +P+R at start up. Gosh thems were the days, I wonder who also remembers jolly times spent turning MAC OS extensions off and on until successfully finding the one that was conflicting with whatever you wanted to run? 😉

Anyways, I’m still feeling a bit grobbley, hope my kernel panic is past it’s worst and I don’t have to get anything zapped!

Haylp: Epic Mac Fail or how I survived Salem, my Mac’s HD clicker-death!

Last week, Salem my 15-in G4 Powerbook died unexpectedly. He was fine the night before and the first thing I knew about it was the scary Mac question mark folder blinking at me. I tried booting from the Leopard disk and looking for the hard drive with the disk utilities. Unfortunately Salem’s hard drive was making a worrying clicking and the hard drive could not be located.

So, accepting the worst, today I went to Tottenham Court Road and purchased a new 120GB hard drive for £39.99.

There’s an awful lot of screws to undo, so a Phillips screwdriver and a tiny allen key was necessary. It’s a good idea to use a static wristband and my tweezers were really useful for picking out screws in awkward places or fishing them out of the Mac when they’d dropped into a hard to reach place. I also had to get my torch to hunt for screws that fell on the floor and under the settee – I needed a cup or something to put them in really.

Anyways, first thing I had to do was lots of unscrewing. I took out the battery and there’s about 6 screws on the underside of the Mac and then a couple inside the battery compartment. For some reason I needed to take off the memory case shield and the screws inside – not sure why, I was just instructed to do so online!

There’s 3 screws each side of the Mac and the top two on the side at the back. The allen key is needed to unscrew the two on either side of the keyboard. Once these were out, some gentle manipulation got the top/keyboard open, but there’s some little latches just inside the CD drive opening that are unlatchable (if that’s the right term?) very carefully. When the keyboard / top comes off there’s a bit of electrical tape holding a teeny tiny connector that connects it to the board – this needs to be stuck back on when reassembling!

Anyway, with the top off, to get the hard drive out there’s a small bridge thing that needs unscrewing and taking out, next there’s a couple of screws around the CD drive to remove and then it can be propped up against the screen, with a hankie or something in between so it doesn’t scratch it – see the photo below to see how it was propped up!

The hard drive is attached to the logic board by an IDE ribbon cable and needs to be gingerly lifted, without pulling and then gently manipulate / pull the old hard drive away very carefully without bending/breaking the pins. The hard drive is wearing a little clear plastic insulator jacket, so this needs removing by unscrewing the pins holding it on.

Woo, so with the old hard drive out, the new hard drive fits into the clear jacket and then connects to IDE ribbon – making sure it’s the right side up. Also there was an ickwl bit of rubbery stuff on the end of the old hard drive to help it fit it snugly into the Mac that needed to be transferred. If all goes well and all the connections are correct – wahey – the hard drive fits into its hole okay!

Everything then has to be put back together very carefully!

The first attempt sadly failed as the new hard drive didn’t show up in disk utilities on booting, so annoyingly it all had to taken apart again and the old hard drive was put back in in case it wasn’t b0rked at all. On booting it was still making the clicking noise. So booted it from the open firmware to have a look at what was going on, but this didn’t really achieve anything from this as it turned out to be probably a loose connection and so went through the whole rigmarole again to take out the old hard drive and put the new one back in, which on second attempt happily did get recognized when looked for in the disk utilities!

I must also mention that I did have a bit of a faff with Time Machine as it didn’t restore automatically as the Leopard disk implied, so I had to install Leopard from the disk first and then restore from Time Machine. Anyways three hours later I had my old Salem back and was very happy!

What a hoohar!

So here’s the kit I needed
* tiny allen key
* tiny phillips screwdriver
* anti static wristband
* tweezers
* pliers for tight screws
* vessel to collect the screws
* 2.5-in 5400 IDE HD

Disclaimer: this isn’t a tutorial, just a summary of the process! If you need to do it yourself I suggest looking up a proper tutorial with all the correct technical terms 😉

Oh yes – don’t forget to back up regularly mmm’kay!

PS I have to thank Ciaran for his help and advice in getting this sorted out!