Product Development and Avoiding Stock Problems

You’ve spent months developing your product, your Kickstarter just finished successfully, and now you’re ready to order all the parts. Unfortunately, your main component, an ATmega328P, is out of stock everywhere with a manufacturer lead time of 16 weeks. Now what?

Read the full article at Hackaday: Product Development and Avoiding Stock Problems

The Sensors Automating Your Commute

In a bout of frustration I recently realized that the roads have all updated — most people have no idea how — and this sometimes hurts the flow of traffic. This realization happened when an unfortunate person stopped in a left turn lane well before the stop line. The vehicle didn’t trigger the sensor, so cycle after cycle went by and the traffic system never gave the left turn lane a green light, thinking the lane was unoccupied. Had the driver known about this the world would have been a better place. The first step in intelligent automation is sensing, and there are a variety of methods used to sense traffic’s flow.

Read the full article at Hackaday: The Sensors Automating Your Commute

Will It Sell?

Many of us develop things for one of two purposes: to hack something cool, or to sell something cool. When hacking something cool, your target market is yourself, and you already know you’ve made the sale. If your goal is to sell the thing you are making, then a lot more thought and effort is required. You could develop the coolest product in the world, but if your target market is too small, your price is too high, your lead time is too long, or any of a dozen other factors is not quite right, you’ll be spending a lot of time and effort on what will amount to a huge disappointment. The Hackaday Prize Best Product has many great examples which let us study some of these success factors, so let’s take a look.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Will It Sell?

Fail of the Week: Museum Buttons

Museum exhibits are difficult to make, and they’re always breaking down; especially the interactive ones. This is a combination of budget, building a one-off, and the incredibly harsh abuse they take from children.

My first exhibit is an interactive laser show that turns waveforms from music into laser patterns, and different types of music have very different patterns. I knew from talking to the museum staff that industrial buttons were a necessity, but it turns out that industrial buttons are made under the assumption that tiny creatures won’t be constantly mashing, twisting, and (ew ew ew) licking the buttons. After a while, the buttons (and poor knob) were trashed.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Fail of the Week: Museum Buttons

Designing Your Project To Scale: Crossing the Chasm

Hackaday is all about the neat hacks and the repurposing of old components into new projects, but many people then try to take those projects and turn them into businesses. We’ve seen lots of people offer their stuff as kits and sell them on Tindie, with the rare few going on to develop a consumer electronic product at scale.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Designing Your Project To Scale: Crossing the Chasm

Designing Products with Injection Molding in Mind

3D printing is a technique we’ve all been using for ages at home, or via Shapeways, but if you are designing a product, 3D printing will only get you so far. It’s crude, slow, expensive, and has lots of limitations. While it’s great for the prototyping stage, ultimately products manufactured in volume will be manufactured using another method, and most likely it will be injection molding. Knowing how to design a part for injection molding means you can start prototyping with 3D printing, confident that you’ll be able to move to a mold without major changes to the design.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Designing Products with Injection Molding in Mind

Life on Contract: Hacking Your Taxes

You’re a contractor and people are paying you to work in your pajamas. It’s a life of luxury, but when tax time comes, you are in a world of hurt and you wonder why you even do it. Taxes are tricky, but there are some tools you can use to make it less painful on your pocketbook. With planning and diligence, you can significantly increase the amount of money that stays in your bank account.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Life on Contract: Hacking Your Taxes

Low Background Steel – So Hot Right Now

The nuclear age changed steel, and for decades we had to pay the price for it. The first tests of the atomic bomb were a milestone in many ways, and have left a mark in history and in the surface of the Earth. The level of background radiation in the air increased, and this had an effect on the production of steel, so that steel produced since 1945 has had elevated levels of radioactivity. This can be a problem for sensitive instruments, so there was a demand for steel called low background steel, which was made before the trinity tests.

Read the full article at Hackaday: Low Background Steel – So Hot Right Now

WTF Are Ground Loops?

These magical creatures crop up out of nowhere and fry your electronics or annoy your ear holes. Understanding them will doubtless save you money and hassle. The ground loop in a nutshell is what happens when two separate devices (A and B) are connected to ground separately, and then also connected to each other through some kind of communication cable with a ground, creating a loop. This provides two separate paths to ground (B can go through its own connection to ground or it can go through the ground of the cable to A and then to A’s ground), and means that current may start flowing in unanticipated ways. This is particularly noticeable in analog AV setups, where the result is audio hum or visible bars in a picture, but is also sometimes the cause of unexplained equipment failures.

Read the full article at Hackaday: WTF Are Ground Loops?

There should be more love in our politics, like there is at the library

The news has been filled with hate and anger lately. My normal sources of information are overflowing with it, and it makes the world seem like a terrible place.

This weekend I went to the Verona Public Library on a tour. My friend was so proud of it and wanted to show it off. I’ve been a fan of the Dane county libraries, but what I saw at this one was inspirational. If you want to skip to the point of the post, it is this: libraries are where we should be putting our tax dollars and attention. The community building, the learning, the understanding, the savings: the Verona Public Library represents who the average American is and what they do and care about, and how deep down we’re all loving people who just want to live a decent life and pursue interests like raising children and fantasy football.

Everything about this library is finely tuned to be awesome. The building is gorgeous and spacious. On walking in there is a book return with an automatic sorting machine that reads the tag and deposits the book into a specific bin for shelving. I know this because it’s behind a huge glass window that shows it off. Also near the entrance is a section for Wisconsin authors, popular new releases, and books for sale. My friend showed me where she votes, and the table that had all the appropriate documents for filing taxes. There was a computer lab, a reading room with a fireplace and all the latest magazines and newspapers. We walked by a giant shelf full of holds for people to pick up the books they had reserved online. The movies section rivaled Netflix (maybe not in volume, but definitely in the number of quality films, and many that weren’t available to stream). For adults, this place had everything, and if they didn’t have it, you could use the inter-library loan program and get it delivered there.

Then we went in the kids section. It was chaos, but perfectly organized for it. A giant castle in the center had little nooks for reading, and play areas distributed around the giant room were loci for congregating kids, with seats around them for parents to rest and mingle. There were piles of toys and books. The books were organized by ages and categories, and so many of the categories were really powerful and important, like bodies, Jewish, military family, countries like Pakistan, Iran, Korea, and Vietnam, and parents were reading to their kids from seats all over.

THAT’s what this country is and should be about. Teaching our kids about other cultures, learning about ourselves and others, and sharing resources. The place was safe and full of people who cared and weren’t afraid of other people and who understood the value and benefits of the library.

As we left, we checked out at the kiosk, where we were able choose our language to start the process. We chose pirate, because how freaking awesome is it that pirate is an available language at a kiosk? I still get a little choked up thinking about the library. There was so much love in that place. So much intellect and opportunity and community. That’s who we are as people, not this crap on the news every day.