Hack a Solution
One thing I’ve been absolutely sure of is that, as a whole, our society no longer values the “solve it yourself” mentality. But as I write these words, I think that part of the issue may be that we actually value our time over our money, and it becomes easier to buy a solution than to spend the time crafting it.
The picture you see above is a breadboard with two LEDs, and behind it is an Arduino board. Think of it as a rapid prototyping minicomputer. It has input and output ports that you can wire up, it’s got a data port for uploading programs (you write them yourself) to it, etc. The reason it’s germane to this site is that I used it (as shown) to repeatedly trigger photographs from my DSLR on a regular interval.
…one of the big problems in the U.S. is that nobody makes their own stuff anymore… Couldn’t I have just bought an intervalometer? Sure. And it would have cost me $30 to $50. And seeing as I already had the Arduino board, and most of the stuff, all I had to to was buy an infrared LED, which came in a pack of three for less than two bucks. After spending a few hundred bucks on drywall and insulation, followed up by thousands of dollars on tools, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to spend any more money. Game on!
What did I need it for? Well, I wanted to shoot a timelapse of a day in the workshop — the final clean-up and set-up of the workspace, and some additional work, as well. In the end, I had a giant pile of JPEG files sitting in my camera. The next step was to import them all, and scale them down to the resolution for 720p high-def video. A simple action script in Photoshop took care of that. Then I used Quicktime Pro 7 to merge them all into a standalone video. This was the end result:
Not amazing, no. But it didn’t have to be. This was just an experiment for later work. That later project will be the timelapse of a complete bike build from the blueprint to the brazing to the paint to the parts build. (My buddy Wil has plans to order a kickass singlespeed.)
Before then, I’ll buy a larger CF card (or figure out how to fake one so that it interfaces with a hard drive directly), and get moving on this project. Expect some awesomesauce in the near future.
The candidate bike will probably be something I build for myself — whether that’s a replacement for my commuter frame, a track bike, or a new lugged 29er, is yet to be determined.
Circling back to my opening statement, though, I think that one of the big problems in the U.S. is that nobody makes their own stuff anymore, or learns how to work with their hands. Sure, there are contractors out there who are fixing basements, putting up siding, fixing roofs, or whatever — and I’m not saying that every job is something you should try yourself. (Christ knows I’d have botched any attempt at replacing my sump pump a few weeks ago.)
What I am saying is that there’s not enough shop classes and too much emphasis on slinging electrons around the Internet. Yes, computer education is important, but most kids have enough exposure to computers early on in life where they are capable of doing things by the sixth grade that most adults can’t even figure out with an instruction manual.
Maybe this is why I got into building frames — not just the joy of pushing around metal and building something that would last decades, but because there’s a certain honesty and joy to manual labor, and there’s reward in figuring out solutions to problems (and that’s why I fell in love with computers in the first place).