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On absent-minded preparedness...

11/07/09 @ 03:23:58 pm, Categories: Life of Baka, Magical Blue Smoke, 536 words, 2682 views  

People often hassle me about all the random shit I acquire despite no clear need or desire. I continue to prove the necessity of such hoarding any time an unforeseen obstacle pops up.

Today, I finally received the EPROM programmer I bought from Hong Kong last month. Nothing fancy just a ‘Willem’ type parallel port burner that cost me all of $16…but it should be enough to burn BIOS ROMs for my NEO-GEO boards and things like that. I also bought a USB->Parallel adapter on the off chance that it would actually allow it to work, since none of my computers have Parallel Ports. (My older machine and my father’s machine, which have the same motherboard, have a header for a parallel port at least)

Well, the adapter doesn’t work, of course. So I knew I needed a DB25 at the end of a 26-pin IDC ribbon cable. That isn’t a terribly common thing, except for this exact purpose. I went into the storage room where all my electronic junk will continue to stew down into a mulch for the next thousand years. There, sitting atop a box, is the stripped carcass of an old VTech IBM XT knockoff that someone offered me and I didn’t see any reason not to take it. (And then they also gave me a hugef00k dotmatrix printer and a little CGA monitor) I had recently gutted it for a couple reasons; for one, I wanted to get some steppers and stuff from the floppy drives. I also wanted some random boards to work on with my soldering station.

Sitting in the middle of the mostly gutted skeletal remains of the computer, was an expansion card slot DB25 port with a 26-pin ribbon cable. However, when I removed it, it turned out the DB25 was male, and not female. This struck me as still being rather lucky, since a male DB25 suggests it was a Serial port, and DB25 serial ports hardly ever have all their pins hooked up… (In fact, only the same 9 pins as a DB9 serial port and an additional ground are needed.) Nonetheless, I needed a female connector for the parallel port. I have a DB25 F-F gender changer somewhere, but I haven’t seen it in years… F-to-F cables? Don’t think I have any. Hmm… That’s when I remembered a lot of connectors I purchased off eBay several months ago. Mostly I jumped on it because it had nearly every conceivable type of USB board and cable connector (And lots of them) but it also had DB25 and DB9 male and female ports, both PCB connectors and solder-cup style with bolt-together housings. (Not bad for $25, since that’s what a couple DB15s with housings cost me a while back from Digi-Key)

Now, all I need to do is snip the ribbon cable, and solder the wires to one of my solder-cup DB25 connectors to create the correct header cable for my ASUS M2N32 SLI mobo, and I’m up and running. (But first, breakfast!)

And there you have it, whenever something like this comes up, chances are I will find everything I need amongst the things I have collected with no particular need in mind.

It's a Sony.

12/13/08 @ 04:48:18 am, Categories: Life of Baka, Magical Blue Smoke, 523 words, 1021 views  

If you don’t get the title, don’t sweat it. (Though you really should watch Kannagi, it’s hilarious.)

Lately, I’ve been really busy with ideas and things, and sort of keeping to myself a lot. So, in case I get hit by a bus, lightning, a de-orbiting Soviet satellite, or a micrometeorite tomorrow, I want you all to know I was working on great things.

For instance, I went on a jihad against all my optical drives, in the end having disassembled four drives. Leaving just the three drives in my current machines, and some older SCSI optical drives I was on the fence about dismantling.

I’ve been trying to build a CNC machine for a while now, and the only real obstacle has been the engineering involved in the precision rails and other portions of the drive and chassis.

My primary need for a CNC at this moment is for etching PCBs for rapidly prototyping circuit designs. The current favorite method for doing so among hobbyists involves printing a mirror image of the circuit with a laser printer, and then using an iron to fuse the toner to the copper clad board, removing the paper, and using the toner as an etch-resist when chemically etching the boards.

That’s easy enough, but it’s labor intensive. You have to soak and soak and peel and soak and peel and peel and soak and peel to get the paper off the boards, and it’s not a 100% proposition in the first place; it doesn’t always come out right.

I saw a different take on this sort of non-traditional etch resist method, some folks sprayed the copper-clad board with black spraypaint, and then used a laser to burn off the excess paint, leaving just the circuit design as an etch resist. Much faster, more accurate, and apparently more reliable than the toner transfer method. But you need a computer-controlled two-axis lasing setup.

Well, you only get a working area of 1.5″ x 1.5″, but a pair of optical drive chassis rigged together is very precise and sturdy. You have the option of using the two chassis as an X-Y table to move the workpiece, and building a stationary tool (Presumably with a Z-axis), or having a stationary workpiece with the two chassis suspended above it, and keep the laser unit in the second one.

Besides being able to burn etch resist off a PCB, the laser would also be powerful enough to engrave and etch plexiglass and other materials. (As well as cut some plastics.) Though, unlike with PCBs, the 1.5 sq. in. work area limits the usefulness for cutting and etching tasks. (Since I’d be working with surface mount stuff primarily, small boards aren’t that big of a problem.)

The first task for it, upon getting its bootstrap version working, is for it to produce its own custom control boards, to replace the Arduino and breadboarded circuits that would control the prototype.

Oh, yeah. And since both of the chassis are from Sony optical drives, I will be naming the unit ‘IT’S A SONY Mk.I’. I’m thinking it needs a chibi Nagi etched onto one of the acrylic panels. :3

Magical Blue Smoke - Part 1

06/09/08 @ 12:42:05 pm, Categories: Shiny Things, Magical Blue Smoke, 1165 words, 1242 views  

You no doubt know the joke about letting ‘the magical blue smoke’ escape from your computer. Well, let me tell you, I still don’t know how the stuff gets in there in the first place. BUT, I have learned some cool shit the last couple weeks.

A couple posts back, I was talking about a foray (or rather a return) into the world of electronics… But you may ask yourself ‘Why?’. Why am I all of the sudden interested in building electronics? Well, it’s not all that sudden, I mean, I have all these varied interests, and my ADHD basically turns it all into a Magic 8-Ball. What’s Baka interested in this week? Shake it up, turn it over, and find out. But above all else, I have an overwhelming interest in making stuff. And electronics is just the most accessible canvas for me at the moment…I guess you could say.

First off, let’s go into some detail on some of the items I picked up…



nani sore?
A peek inside the mad, mad, mind of Baka-chan. Animator, artist, hater of stupid people, and evil genius. Look upon the undoing of all order in the universe, and tremble.
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