Turning the End of a Big Bar

Say you need to turn the end of a bar that is too big to go through the lathe headstock and too long to fit between centers (or the center-rest if you have one)...

Here are some answers:

Arcane suggests:  If you have a milling vise setup that attaches to the cross slide for your lathe and a boring head with a MT3 taper, clamp the shaft in the vise, center it on the spindle and then use the boring head to reduce the end.

Dan suggests:  There was someone who did an interesting trick. They welded a smaller piece to the end and chucked it up. Supported the far end in a steady rest. Then they turned down the original bar and parted it. Rotate and repeat.

Better yet, just start with stock longer than required an part off the chucked bit.

My idea, specific to my 3in1 machine:
Using something of suitable height, like the angle table (level, just for the height), make a vertical clamp that hangs outboard the lathe.  Swing the head over to match and lock down, then use the X/Y to center.  Once centered, use the boring head as above, with the cutter pointing inward.  This would give me about 4' of length, and it would be easier to set up than removing the tailstock to use the lathe spindle.


Making SS Springs

Interesting post on HSM by Dorn:

Using annealed stainless steel wire (aka safety wire) that is not springy in this state, it can be work-hardened by stretching.  Once work-hardened, it can be wound into a spring.

Rich added:

I also use a "Drawing" technique when I want smaller wire for a model or repair application.  I open my vise about 4 or 5 inches and then wrap the wire around the jaws ( 2-3 wraps ).  Now I open the jaws more and draw the wire down to a smaller size with out having the use my legs or arms, only the vise leadscrew.

Never tried it... but it's something to keep in mind for when that someday comes along.


My Linux for Kids Notes

This is not a "how to" guide, a definitive list, nor even a recommendation for what to do for your kid. It's simply my notes. I needed to keep them somewhere, I needed a place where I could update them easily, and I wanted it "in the cloud" so I could always find it. Oddly enough, a blog is actually a good place to do this. I don't mind sharing my notes and if you find them useful... good for you. If you have some other recommendations, feel free to comment.

I'll be updating this as I go...

The list of linux apps I install, suitable for cut and paste into a sudo apt-get install command for a debian-based linux distro, because that's how I do it:

sudo apt-get install gcompris tuxpaint tuxpaint-config tuxmath tuxtype ktuberling stopmotion playonlinux extremetuxracer neverputt pingus funnyboat pysiogame stellarium stellarium-data supertuxkart sugar connectagram

Via playonlinux, install:
  1. 3d train studio - downloads free version via script. Pretty awesome for kids that like trains.
    - 20 trains (running) is a fun one to download. 
What each app is:
  1. gcompris - a big bundle of kids games, puzzles, and educational activities. Highly recommended. 
  2. tuxpaint - awesome painting program with lots of stamps. The config allows various settings. 
  3. tuxmath - still seeing if my kid likes it. 
  4. tuxtype - my kid loves this typing tutor, from about 1yr old. Seriously. 
  5. ktuberling - Mr Potato Head goes cyberspace. 
  6. stopmotion - makes stopmotion - still testing this one 
  7. playonlinux - scripts to install many Windows apps under wine. Most, but not all, require the CD 
  8. extremetuxtracer - 3D racing game, with Tux sliding down a ski slope. 
  9. neverputt - a minigolf game 
  10. pingus - a funny game for kids that like penguins, and what kid doesn't? 
  11. funnyboat - great kids game. 
  12. pysiogame - another educational game suite like gcompris, slightly more advanced. 
  13. stellarium - study the planets and stars. 
  14. supertuxkart - 3D racing game in go-karts. 
  15. sugar - the One Laptop Per Child OS.  Still experimenting.
  16. connectagram - word de-scramble game.

Other stuff to remember:
* Celestia - no current install candidate.


Flexture Clamps

Idea from a Dan Gelbart video (Building Prototypes, part 13):

If you want to clamp something, cut a slot near it, then drill in the middle of the slot, then tap the hole for a pipe thread.  When threading in a plug, the taper will expand the slot, which will move the metal to clamp the part.


New Directions

So, I've decided to start a new experiment.  I like reading about workshop tips and tricks, 'kinks' as they used to be called, and I've read a lot of them.  So many, in fact, that I don't remember anywhere near half... seems the good ideas spill out faster than I put them in these days.  I'm forgetting so many it's starting to bother me.  Thus, I've decided to write them down. 

After some consideration I came up with a basic criteria list: I want the ideas to be easy to enter, I want them accessible from any web browser, I want them to be backed up to the cloud, and want to be able to put in tags for easy searching.  From that, and considering that I don't really care if anyone else makes use of them, a blog seems about the right tool.

Thus, hopefully as long as I can keep learning, I'm going to be putting tips and tricks in this blog.  They generally aren't mine, and I'll try to cite where I can.  If anyone find them useful, so much the better.  I don't mind sharing my aggregation efforts.


KingSing S2 Review and Notes

So, I bought a new phone, a KingSing S2 to be precise. What follows is a living document that covers my impressions and the lessons I've learned with it on the way. I am not a smartphone/tablet expert and this is not intended to be a serious review of all this phones' features. I wrote (and will continue to update) this as a form of documentation for myself and I thought sharing it might be useful to others.

Basic specs: 5" screen (960 x 540), quad-core 1.3Ghz, 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM, dual-SIM, dual-camera (8Mpixel back with AF), GPS, Bluetooth, magnetic compass, and proximity sensor. It runs Android KitKat. It's primary claims to fame are a skinny bevel around the screen and back-mounted buttons with nothing on the sides.

I bought it from DealsMachine.com for a little under $100 USD (plus shipping). In the box there was the phone, battery, usb cable, 2 screen protectors (one mounted), a European-plug USB charger, and an NA to European adaptor.  The mounted screen protector does have one small spot of debris under it, but it's probably better than I could do myself.  At this point, I'm not worrying about it.

Side by side with my old 5" phone is a bit odd... Because of the reduced bevel, the new one is smaller overall than the old one, but somehow it looks bigger. It's a strange optical effect, hard to describe, but I like it.  The camera seems decent, the screen looks good and is responsive.  I like that the 3 soft-buttons are off-screen and not lit. That makes it better for using as a night-clock when charging as it gets reasonably dim.

The first problem I ran into was with the reduced bevel.  I found it hard to hold the phone without accidentally touching the screen edge.  This thing needs some kind of case and it doesn't come with one.  As DealsMachine typically throws in silly "free gifts" with purchases, I had chosen a case, knowing full well that it wouldn't fit.  But, by ripping out the plastic retainer, cutting a bigger window in the back, and using double-sided tape to stick it to the back of the KingSing, it fit well enough.  Good enough for my sense of aesthetics anyway.  It works surprisingly well as a stand too.  One problem solved, two if you count the stand.

The next problem was the compass, which basically didn't work at all.  After some googling, I found the "secret" calibration routine that settled it down.  Basically, you just turn the compass on and wave the phone around in figure-8s.  Yeah, that's it.  Yeah, it works.  Second problem solved.

Next up was horrible GPS reception.  It just would not get a lock and I was beginning to think it was broken.  But, it finally did, after leaving it searching overnight while on the charger, and it seems okay now.  Actually, what I've taken to doing is leaving it in tracking mode (I use Orux Maps) and I've been surprised at how much of my daily travels are being accurately recorded, even without pulling the KingSing out of my pocket.  Leaving tracking on doesn't seem to impact battery life that much either.  So, that's another problem solved.

Battery life is not all that great, but not bad either.  Using it as a tablet, running the screen and playing with apps, seems to kill the battery fast.  I really noticed this in the beginning while messing about setting things up.  The last 15% goes very quickly.  But, in my regular daily use, I'm still left with around 50% charge at the end of the day, which is a little worse than the last phone, but acceptable.

One other thing against this phone is that the radios seem to be less sensitive than most.  In side-by-side comparisons, it shows less cell radio strength, less wifi sites to connect to, and reduced GPS signals.  They all work, but not as good as my last phone, nor some others I've had.  Not much can be done about that.

I tossed in my pay-as-you-go SIM and it works fine.  It also happily plays with my CallCentric VOIP account using the CsipSimple app.  That gives me 2cent/min outgoing calls when I'm in a wifi area.  I only do voice over cell, as I'm too cheap to pay for a data plan, so I can't vouch for how the KingSing supports the 3G stuff. 

It does come nicely loaded with crap-ware but Google play is there and works.  It also allows installing F-droid for easy access to opensource apps.  I was having issues with unwanted and unaccepted apps suddenly appearing on the phone, Baidu Browser among them, and uninstalling them didn't help.  They just reappeared in a few hours, getting pushed by some unknown force.  By long-pressing the status message and then hitting the App Info button, I learned that the offending app was "Galaxy S5" and disabling that seems to have cleared up this issue, for now.  I've also disabled playApp and Bluego Apps.

The Gallery app is crashing on me now... not sure why but I don't care as I prefer QuickPic anyway.  Google Maps, after an update, is now crashing as well.  That's a little more annoying.  Uninstalling the update seems to have cured that.  Oh, and the stock camera app was locking up as well, possibly due to a gallery link.  I'm now using OpenCamera and quite like it.

I'm still getting used to the back-button thing, and find myself relying on the screen double-tap much more.  I do like the air-wave to transition between pages, mostly because it eliminates accidentally starting an app while swiping.

Overall, I'm happy with it.  It's a lot of phone for the money.  This is my second China-phone, my third order from DealsMachine (used to be called AhappyDeal), and I've yet to be disappointed.  I am realistic in my expectations though...  I'm not expecting a $600 phone for $100.  I'd just rather pay $100 for a decent but cheap unlocked phone with no contracts and then upgrade every year.


The battery died... and there is no available replacement, none.  Being the kind of guy I am, I started looking into making this thing a DRO (Digital ReadOut) head for my lathe... but it doesn't seem to do bluetooth properly.  I noticed the bluetooth was a bit weird while trying to attach a smart watch.  Thought it was the watch at the time, but it seems the KingSing has issues.  Oh well, I bought another smartphone with similar specs for $50. New review coming soon.


Hal 9000 will turn 16 soon, will he drive?

Something silly just occurred to me...

In "2001: A Space Odyssey", the ship was run by a computer called HAL 9000.  HAL, they said, was "born" in 1997, January 12th to be precise.   Yes, I'm one of those geeks that celebrates HAL's birthday.  So, HAL's 16th birthday is coming up.  Time to get a drivers license?

Yes, a fictitious computer in an old film that really has nothing to do with driving, except for the minor fact that autonomous cars are on the prowl.  Those cars, or rather their computer drivers, are pretty much at the "time to get a driver's license" stage, coincidentally.

Yes, it's not really a drivers license but rather the long, slow process of changing laws to deal with silly things like cars that drive themselves.  But, semantics aside, it really is time for HAL (or his cousins) to hit the road.  Somehow, even considering HAL's villain status, I find that more comforting than the idea of the kid down the street getting his license.  After all, I remember what I did on the road back when I was 16.


NSA Was Here

what else can you say?


Say NO to Privacy

Big Data is the new big thing. Data collection and mining and all that this entails. We have government ministries exploring data mining possibilities while other government ministries try to protect our privacy. The kids these days have no use for this formal kind of privacy and us older folk berate them for it. We show exactly how all this data they toss about can be used against them. But, you know, they’re right. In the end, their way will be the way it is. Our old private ways will be laughed at, and feared.

We are, of course, right too. Data will be mined and used against the people. There is great risk involved and very bad things can happen. However, there is also a solution. Information is power. If you have information about someone, you can use it against them. But, that’s only true if they don’t have information about you, particularly that you are using their information against them. While this sounds convoluted, it’s actually very simple. No privacy, none at all, and there’s no problem. This is where we’re heading. The problem is we’re not getting there fast enough.

We need privacy advocates because the information is uneven, because ‘they’ are collecting way more information about ‘us’ than we are about them. It’s not fair and the information imbalance can be used against the losing side. These privacy advocates can help, but they are not a real solution. For every obstacle put up to protect privacy there will be multiple paths around. For those of us on the losing side, there is a solution, a No Privacy Union.

How do we create a No Privacy Union? We take the same data mining techniques that government and big business are using and we put them up on a web service that we can all access. We have the advantage in numbers for this. We don’t need super-sophisticated data analysers and the like because we can crowdsource. But, we still need data to work with. So, we volunteer to input our data. Everything: all our financial transactions, where we work, where we go, what we do, everything. We scour the media, we input the leaks, we witness events and report what we see. These are inputs. Anyone can take any input and create a data stream; weighting truth, analysing, correlating, and aggregating; that produces an output. Any output can then be weighed and fed back into other streams. We can build data visualisations and patterns will emerge. Anyone can use the data. Yes, it can be used against us. But, we can use it against them too.

How can we use our data against those that hide their data from us? Simple. If they’re not in the No Privacy Union (NPU), we don’t do business with them. We don’t vote for them. We don’t include them in anything. It is a UNION. It is solidarity in numbers. When it’s only a few, the members mean nothing. When there are enough to sway an election, then politicians will take note. When a business bottom line is at stake, they will take note. There is no militancy required, no wars, no aggression. It is as peaceful a revolution as there could ever be. It is simply people sharing.

Imagine a politician that wants to get elected but there are a significant number of NPU voters. There are three choices: One, ignore them and pander to other groups. That works for a while, until the NPU gets too big. Two, villainize them, make them the bad people that other people should vote against. Not going to work too well when everything about these people is public knowledge. The third option will eventually be the only one left. Join them. When the NPU gets big enough then all politicians that want to get elected must join. Now, imagine trying to be a corrupt politician that freely posts all financial transactions. How will this politician be corrupt? When every decision is public, how will this politician make sleazy back-room deals that trade off one group against another? How will this politician use information about people as a weapon?

Imagine a business that wants to stay in business. To sell a product to NPU members, they must be part of the NPU, publishing everything about their company. All financial transactions, all the suppliers, everything. Yes, there are privacy regulations... employees must opt-in to having their payroll information included. Those that opt-out are anonymized; a black spot in the data. The black spots are okay because, like the Big Data being used against us, they will form patterns on their own. Like with the politicians, those sleazy deals and whatnot will become obvious. As data flows around the black spots, they will erode over time, especially when there are financial incentives involved.

The NPU will start out as tiny spots of light in a sea of black privacy. But, as it grows and grows, the light will spread until it is the black that is isolated into clumps. The more light there is, the harder it will be to hide in the dark. Those operating in the dark will be increasingly excluded from the light. This is citizen democracy and there is no stopping it. In the age of Big Data, there can be no privacy for citizens. The only real answer is for citizens to embrace this and demand the same for those that exercise power over us. It is time for us to exercise power over them.

In the future, our children’s future, privacy will be something socially granted. You won’t look at things that should be private because that’s the right thing to do. That, and the fact that you looked will be as much a public record as what you are looking at. Privacy only needs legal enforcement when there is a power imbalance. Where there is no privacy, there is no imbalance, and social limits will be all that are required. Our children can and will end privacy.