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Ask Slashdot: a Good Geek Project For My Arthritic Grandfather?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the spy-on-the-neighbors'-lawn dept.

Hardware Hacking 122

An anonymous reader writes "My grandfather is a retired electrician whom I've been trying to keep mentally busy. Together we've gotten an Arduino kit and have been working on some simple projects. He does the wiring and I've been writing the code. Recently his arthritis has been getting worse and he's been unable to work with the tiny components that the Arduino projects require. Does anyone have a recommendation for something similar we could work on together that would be easier for someone with his compromised manual dexterity?"

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122 comments

Non-grandfather here also interested (5, Interesting)

RagManX (258563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384017)

As an early 40s person who already experiences some of these problems due to 3 decades of arthritis and worsening hand tremors, I'm also interested in geek projects folks can recommend the asker. Especially if they are things I could also work on with my pre-teen sons.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384059)

Virtual designs - software - FPGAs, get frustrated by the build environments instead of your soldering iron.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (5, Insightful)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384123)

Build a damn tube amp. Build lots of them. You can make a killing selling them to audiophiles and guitar players.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384171)

Build a damn tube amp. Build lots of them. You can make a killing selling them to audiophiles and guitar players.

This is totally true. Musicians love kit that's not off the shelf from Guitar Center. A friend of mine plays in a couple death metal bands and he's constantly amazing me with the home electronics projects he posts to Facebook: fixing up old amps, modifying pedals, etc. He gets tons of requests.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384711)

A friend of mine plays in a couple death metal bands and he's constantly amazing me with the home electronics projects he posts to Facebook: fixing up old amps, modifying pedals, etc.

Death Metal? And he's concerned about sound quality?

Alrighty then.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (5, Interesting)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384961)

Tubes are the exact opposite of "sound quality." Check the THD's on tube amps. They are honestly terrible. But then again, an opera house is also "terrible" for acoustics. It's the even order harmonics that make it distorted, lowering quality. However, even order harmonics sound "good" to most people. I have an amplifier that is about as good as it gets (Denon, THD 0.009% at rated power(80wpc)), and most of my friends hate it. It has been described as "Brutally Honest". Maybe too honest.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

virgnarus (1949790) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385895)

Preaching to the choir, I guess, but audiophiles attribute it to the amount of "color" it gives sound. Monitor headphones and the amps like the aforementioned Denon are colorless because they're designed simply to produce raw, unfettered sound, which is essential for post-editing and mixing. Colored sound is what one wants when they want to, er, 'enjoy' sound, and it all varies on how the sound is colored.

Right now I'm personally looking for IEMs, and heading towards Etymotic stuff for their clarity and the lack of color they give, but the good thing is if I ever want to add color to it I can use particular amps to do so.

The color thing is also the reason why many audophiles go bonkers over vinyl as opposed to digital, because of the warmth it adds.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40386481)

Tubes are the exact opposite of "sound quality." Check the THD's on tube amps. They are honestly terrible. But then again, an opera house is also "terrible" for acoustics. It's the even order harmonics that make it distorted, lowering quality. However, even order harmonics sound "good" to most people. I have an amplifier that is about as good as it gets (Denon, THD 0.009% at rated power(80wpc)), and most of my friends hate it. It has been described as "Brutally Honest". Maybe too honest.

True. The only reason tube amps are popular is because they impart a harmonious amount of distortion in the mix, whilst the alternative solid-state amps introduce well, crap in the form of clipping.

End result is for music with a rather large dynamic range, amps that can't handle the sudden demands (most of them - usually through weedy power supplies unable to suddenly dump basically their max power through a dead short) end up clipping, horribly, generating very harsh harmonics.

Of course, the general public has shown a tendency towards liking certain forms of distorted audio. After all, what else explains, well, Beats? Or the horrible noise caused by said weedy amps blaring out latest rap hits (actually, scratch that - it's not just the weedy amps, but also horrible resonances that lead to those buzzing thumps).

Heck, I'd think a lot of the reason isn't because the audio is purer (most people hate pure audio as you mention), but because transistors don't impart the same melodious distortions tubes do while in normal mode, and then impart just horrendous artifacts when overdriven. Vinyl vs. CD, ditto (even more so with the loudness wars leading to clipping being present in the source bitstream).

Heck, a Class D amplifier has been around for years and yet people still haven't integrated them everywhere (considered the holy grail of amplifiers - super high efficiency (90+% isn't unheard of), super low distortion (rivalling the best costing many times more running in Class A or AB).

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40387131)

That weedy powersupply is a serious issue, i agree. My NAD amplifier is rated at 40wpc RMS, can happily peak to over 260wpc, and has a 1000watt transformer with massive caps.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384589)

Build a damn tube amp. Build lots of them. You can make a killing selling them to audiophiles and guitar players.

Need to define "unable to work with the tiny component" first.

Lets say the problem is agonizing joint pain aka arthritis when snipping thru thin 22 gauge interconnect wire and thru-hole components. I'm guessing that agonizing pain will increase about a hundred fold if he has to snip thru 16 gauge filament wires.

On the other hand, lots of people weirdly confuse Parkinsons-style jitters with arthritic joint pain. In that scenario it doesn't matter that it requires more strength and force, the important thing is the parts are bigger, requires less fine dexterity.

Personally I think you're better off going solder-paste / reflow oven SMD than thru hole. Its easier to do, faster, easier to learn, easier to touch up before reflow, lower odds of burns, etc. Personally I free hand solder SMD and have done so since the 80s, but whatever works for you. The biggest problem with SMD is the old people bragging about how experienced they are therefore they'd never try something new, its a mental block not a actual technical problem.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385007)

I also hand solder SMD's, but for an older person, something he is more experienced with might come easier. Working with larger wires, and far less breakable parts, he might feel more comfortable. And soldering a 5watt resistor to some posts is a LOT more forgiving than soldering a 1/10 watt SMD on a PCB. Lifted pads suck. Personally, i like doing point to point style wiring because i can use a soldering gun over a pencil. They are off when your not using them, they only take a few seconds to reach operating temp, mine has a light bulb so you can see what your are doing (good old Weller). Also, overheating old style thru-hole parts is quite a feat.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385059)

Also, forgot in parent post. Get some good Klein tools. My clippers cut 0/4 AWG like its 10 AWG. Cutting anything under 12 AWG is like paper. Good tools make the work for your hands easier, less impacting.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40386023)

Lifted pads suck.

I think PCB tech has changed over the years. As a kid I was lifting pads all the time in the 80s, to my considerable annoyance, but I haven't lifted a pad on a new PCB in probably 15 or 20 years. Maybe they use super glue instead of elmers glue now to laminate the copper to the fiberglass. I bought a decent digital hakko iron (such that it never overtemps) a couple years back and I've never lifted a pad with that iron. I can't believe I spend my first quarter century of electronic foolishness with cheap radio shack irons, should have gotten a hakko setup decades ago (or equivalent). Given a realistic learning curve, on thru-hole my skills probably maxed out around 1985 so its not like I got any more skilled WRT to lifting pads, PCBs must simply be made better now.

Good tools make the work for your hands easier, less impacting.

Yes but the impact on the hands of snipping component leads is always going to be more painful on thru-hole than SMD (ha ha)

far less breakable parts

I've never snapped a lead off a SMD part, but done it quite a few times to thru-hole parts trying to wedge into place. I've burned a couple SMD LEDs. I've lost many 0402 parts in the rug. Overall I think the destruction rate with thru-hole is going to be higher than SMD.

i can use a soldering gun over a pencil.

They also rock for desoldering because they heat up so much, so fast. I used to use them on PL-259 connectors before I switched to propane torch for those. Then I switched to type-Ns and BNCs for everything and haven't soldered a PL259 in some years now.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384161)

What about a tesla coil? Those should have big enough parts and will be really impressive to an 11 year old boy.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (3, Informative)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384765)

I was going to say the same thing. And if a tesla coil is too pedestrian, there are plenty of other "macro-scale" electrical projects to build, like quarter shrinkers or Marx bank capacitor set-ups for crushing cans. Check out 4HV [4hv.org] and the Geek Group [thegeekgroup.org] for ideas and communities to bounce other ideas off of.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384163)

Maybe there are tools that can assist him in the hobbies he already likes. Like when my great-grandmother's arthritis got bad and she could not sew, someone in the family bought her the spring loaded shears instead of scissors. They had a larger handle and it was easier to close them under force and have them spring back open than the regular maneuvering of scissors. For arduino, perhaps there are modules you can use that have the tiny pieces already assembled .. reducing the hands on but still leaving the satisfaction of keeping his mind active and you and him working on something together.

Another thought, find larger items, maybe he will struggle with tiny wires but how would he fair with say installing a cdrom drive into a pc chassis? Maybe you can build a new pc together? You can get a few year old pc super cheap on craigslist thats plenty fast to be a multimedia machine for dvd ripping and storing. Maybe such a project might interest him?

Anyway, keep him active, no one ever got better by not being active. Just my thoughts.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (3, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384247)

LEDs come in Jumbo sizes [google.com] .

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (5, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384563)

I have arthritis in my hands that has altered a lot of things for me, the best "geek" project I've found has been learning to play jazz on the chromatic harmonica. Now, I've been a musician since very young, but the chromatic harmonica was the only instrument I have found that does not require a lot of digital dexterity. There's one button on the side, that's it, and it can be pressed in lots of ways - with the tip of the finger, at the joint, even the side of the finger.

And if you've ever heard the music of Toots Thielemans or Gregoire Maret or Larry Adler (or even Stevie Wonder) you know that you can make some extremely sophisticated music with the chromatic harp. Personally, I play jazz, standards, ballads, but I know players who are into classical, blues, Brazilian music. It's easy to start, but you can spend a lifetime learning it, and there's nothing like learning some music to extend the useful life of the brain. The intellectual part of learning music engages like few other things. It's like mathematics, except you can dance to it.

And chicks dig musicians. No matter how old your grandpa is, that's always a bonus.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384627)

I assume the problem he is having is soldering the components. If so: get a 3D printer of some sort, and start printing out 3D circuit boards. You can make these boards so that they are solder-free and the components just plug in.

Bonus geek points if you also build a reprap from scratch - although that may not be possible if the arthritis is getting bad.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384647)

Use non-SMD components like DIL + Through-hole. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384757)

Im in my 40's too, and I love to build with electronics. I really dont need SMD components for my prototyping, through hole components works just fine.

Collect gazillion various cheap surplus NOS components from eBay and youll have all the fun youll ever need. Get some old 8x51 Mcus, theyre easy as pie to code for and an old Serial port based PC, and you have your programming station for life.

I shake quite a bit from time to time, dont know if I have arthrities or beginning parkinsons, but Ive always been too unstable for SMD components without any diagnosis on my body (doc says Im as healthy as they come, but I can hardly hold a camera steady despite 30 years with an soldering iron).

Through hole components are just like LEGO, big and fun to build with.

Boron and Arthritis (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384759)

Worked for my dog (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385253)

My larger dog (~90 Lbs), has severe arthritis in his hip and back knees. He used to require regular doses of Duramax just to walk around. We started him on ~1500mg of glucosamine w/ MSM. He's now up to 4500mg twice a day, and hasn't needed a Duramax in months. (Once we ran out of the glucosamine, and within a day, we was in pain again) We have to crush the pills over his food to get him to take it.

Is there a placebo effect in dogs?

*Note. This are much, much larger doses than any of the glocosamine trials I've ever seen in humans. YMMV

Re:Boron and Arthritis (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385429)

Try cutting out wheat and/or nightshades (potato, tomato, peppers, etc) from you diet. I've seen HUGE improvements.

Re:Boron and Arthritis (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40386289)

Same with my wife. I don't think it works for everyone, but she definitely notices, within minutes or hours, when she has a nightshade... especially paprika, which is in a lot of things like mustards or hot dogs.

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (3, Interesting)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384791)

The obvious geek project: a gripper/manipulator that discards jitter in its input. I believe I read something about robotic surgical tools using this strategy. It has the added benefit of enabling scaled-down control, so you could e.g. write something on a grain of rice.

If I had the time I'd do it myself!

Re:Non-grandfather here also interested (1)

K-tWizel (1724182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385135)

Little Bits: Modular electronics that snap together with magnets http://littlebits.cc/ [littlebits.cc]

Mental (0)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384027)

something that doesn't require the use of his hands?

Re:Mental (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384291)

something that doesn't require the use of his hands?

That's the problem with "find something geeky" being a little too vague. What, like watch Star Trek reruns? Play RPGs like pathfinder or DnD? If he means "something geeky thats electronic related", maybe amateur radio?

Electromechanical computer? (2)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384029)

While I freely admit to knowing next to nothing about it, maybe an electromechanical computer of some sort? There are a bunch of them around, some of them are quite famous too, maybe that?

Switch (5, Informative)

Newander (255463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384031)

Depending on how bad his arthritis is, you could take over the wiring and he could start writing the code.

Re:Switch (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384185)

That's not the American way. Outsource! A small Chinese boy can be purchased for cheap. With his tiny fingers he can manipulate even the smallest components.

Re:Switch (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384715)

That's not the American way. Outsource! A small Chinese boy can be purchased for cheap. With his tiny fingers he can manipulate even the smallest components.

That's true, but hand transplants aren't that advanced yet, dexterity-wise, and even once they will be, it will be quite a hefty medical bill to pay.

Re:Switch (5, Insightful)

DdJ (10790) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384415)

Depending on how bad his arthritis is, you could take over the wiring and he could start writing the code.

You beat me to it! Let me elaborate on this by suggesting that each of you should spend time teaching the other the missing specialty. Don't just take over the wiring, have him teach you how to do it right, while you teach him to code.

Dear Slashdot (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384041)

My pain in the arse grandson has been hassling me me pointless electronics projects that are wasting away the precious few years I have left. How can I get out of them without causing offense?

Tell him your arthritis got worse and you can no longer handle the small components.

Re:Dear Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384103)

This! Biggest clue:
"... whom I've been trying to keep mentally busy ..."

Re:Dear Slashdot (3, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384257)

Maybe he'd perk up a bit more if you started cruising for hookers together...

Re:Dear Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384977)

Wait, the grandson or the grandfather?!?

Re:Dear Slashdot (5, Insightful)

ari_j (90255) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385749)

All joking aside, the answer is to find out if your grandfather is working on these projects because he wants to wire arduino boards or because he enjoys spending time with his grandson. It's probably the latter. Now, if you don't have other things to do together, then keep at it and maybe take others' suggestions to work with tube electronics or something else with relatively large components (warning, though: tube sockets can be just as tedious to wire and solder as IC sockets). But if you do, then try those things instead.

Wood and Brackets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384051)

Just like popular electronics magazines from the 1950s - just do the wiring with big blocks of wood and brackets and discrete through-hold transistors. You might be able to build something so awesome it's capable of blinking a few LEDs.

Really though - you're asking "help my arthritic grandpa do something that absolutely requires working manually with small components"... good luck with that.

You can always buy a $50,000 pick-and-place machine.

Legos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384063)

My grandfather reminds me of my 2 year old nephew. Slightly crazy, slightly racist, and has terrible fine motor coordination.

So I let him build the pirate ship one! Yaaaarr!

LittleBits (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384071)

http://littlebits.cc/

Saw these on a TED talk, looked pretty neat. (They are very expensive, though)

Re:LittleBits (1)

alphax45 (675119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384191)

These look neat. Might have to pick one up. Would make a good winter time "man cave" activity :)

Minecraft? (1)

cswiii (11061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384111)

If he can use a keyboard/mouse for a while, he could build things, but also work on circuit design (redstone) as well.

Better yet... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385293)

If he can use a keyboard/mouse for a while, he could build things, but also work on circuit design (redstone) as well.

Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of an electronics simulator, like Circuitlab or SPICE. That way, Grandpa can build a virtual circuit using a mouse and keyboard. He can completely test and debug it. Then, when all is ready, the circuit can be emailed to a company that will print/etch the circuit board and solder on all the components.

Obvious Suggestion (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384135)

Was there not a recent article about building a Turing machine out of Legos? I would think the big block version would be something he could handle...

Deal with the Arthritic Symptoms First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384159)

Your grandfather should be addressing the arthritis in his hands first and foremost. A simple exercise to maintain muscle control and strength as well as keeping the joints flexible is simply squeezing a soft (foam) ball for 5-10 minutes several times each day. As for electronics projects maybe look into electronic kits with larger components aimed at children.

As a side note there is an article titled "Omega -3 Fish Oil, Krill Oil Better Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis suffers." http://www.topix.com/forum/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/TG6V6EVP9GONAUVJM

A Project to Solve the Problem? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384169)

I'm not sure what level of arthritis we're dealing with here but I'm guessing he can't use a keyboard for extended lengths of time. I've seen companies that make devices that all the user to put a headband on that has a reflective dot on it (you can google for it, I'm not going to plug a product). This, in turn is watched by a camera mounted on or near the monitor and the user can then direct the mouse using the direction of their head. So, decide which of these has the best support for your needs and treat it like an input device. Then you could get two buttons (one for each thumb) and think of novel ways to implement the input from these two buttons. One simple way would be left click/right click. But you could also write a driver and some software that allows him to click into a word processing application and, say, does Morse Code to type with his right thumb and can click once with his left thumb to go back a space. Maybe give him a foot switch to toggle between modes of operation of his two thumb buttons? From that point, he might be able to slowly contribute to code.

Is this a practical input device? Probably not. Is it going to be you doing all the initial wiring and coding while your grandfather learns like a guinea pig? Probably. Is he going to look like a moron using it? Definitely. But if it keeps his mind active and allows him to contribute even a little bit to the code portions of your future projects, maybe it's worth it?

My grandfather was more mechanical than electrical and as such he would love to work on engines and things with me. Well, one day he had laid out all these parts in his living room (it was winter) and was working on something when he got up in the night, slipped on a small motor and broke his hip. So please, exercise caution in whatever you're doing and check with his doctor/physician to make sure that you are in no way exacerbating his arthritis!

Voice ot text coding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384225)

Like dragon or whatnot may enable him. Also, i second the tube amp . Older electronics were bigger, if yuo started making GOOD stuff (not the planed obselence suff on shelves) thatd also boost confidence and all him to spread his work (small sales or gifts) which would help more joy come his way

i m assuming hes dying

Re:Voice ot text coding? (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384285)

While it may be expensive, maybe you can find a few old unbuilt Heathkits on ebay.

One of these days I'd like to build a tube amp and compare the sound with the gainclone I'm now using. Power triodes are expensive, but that's what I'd like to try. Maybe I can find some surplus 812's cheap.

mobility (3, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384241)

Help him to build an electro-mechanical exoskeleton!

Pinball games have bigger parts (4, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384293)

Pinball games have bigger parts

Re:Pinball games have bigger parts (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40387585)

Using them to build a nuclear bomb would be a neat project.

My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke. (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384397)

My mom healed her artritis with homeopathy. ... Ok, ok, hear me out!

Yeah, yeah, I know. Magic, unscientific nonsense, jada-jada.

The fact is: You could *watch* my mothers joints move back into normal position and the build-up disapear once she had found the 'right substance' ( ... don't ask, it's this crazy homeopathy thing).

Placebo effect or whatever, it worked. She's 72 now and does regular garden work. She says without homeopathy and - probably more importantly, her homeopath - she'd be dead by now, and I believe her.

I don't believe in homeopathy as much as she does in her day to day life, but I do believe in astonishing placebo effects. Maybe this would be one.

Bottom line: Help your grandpa to exercise, a healthy and lean diet and get him 'hoocked' on homeopathy. It's cheap, shouldn't have any side-effects other than him getting a little 'new-agy' ;-) and chances are he'll get better. Actually, physically better. I've seen it on other people with my own eyes, it's definitely worth a try.

My 2 cents.

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (3, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384603)

The placebo effect from homeopathy is pretty neat, but on the downside you have to be a fucking idiot for it to work.

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384637)

The placebo effect from homeopathy is pretty neat, but on the downside you have to be a fucking idiot for it to work.

You make it sound like a religion

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384703)

The placebo effect from homeopathy is pretty neat, but on the downside you have to be a fucking idiot for it to work.

You make it sound like a religion

Prayer works for the same kind of folks, too.

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385347)

The funny thing about the placebo effect is that it has been measured, and it works!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/22/placebo-effect-patients-sham-drug
Even if YOU KNOW that it's a placebo. Although I could just hear that conversation. Go to a Dr, complaining about migraines.
The Dr looks at you and says "OK, your headaches don't look that bad. I'm going to give you a sugar pill that I'm supposed to tell you is a pain reliever. Now, I'm letting you know that this is a placebo, just so you don't get mad IF it doesn't work, but based on the facts about what I see about your "migraine" this should be all you need."
Either you'll deck the Dr. for being so insensitive, or you're going to take the sugar pill and possibly feel better.... The study suggests that the effect is the same weather the Dr lied to you and said it would work, or if the Dr is honest and just sounds like a prick for not believing your symptoms.
The only question left is would PEZ cure more ails if it cost more?

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40386603)

The only question left is would PEZ cure more ails if it cost more?

That depends. Does the PEZ contain the appropriate dose of 2,3-dimethyl placebohydromethane (generally regarded as the most effective form of placebo) and was it washed down with the appropriate ammount of dihydrogen monoxide?

Re:My mom healed artritis with homeopathy. No joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384709)

Amazing! Here you see natural cures do what chemical medicines cannot do (actually remove a disease rather than just cover up symptoms) with your own eyes no less! Yet you refuse to believe that it worked, you sir or ma'am have amazing faith in chemicals, I admire your religious belief in them. I am flabbergasted.

Teach grandson how to do electrical work (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384425)

grandfather is a retired electrician

Almost painfully obvious answer is "teach grandson how to do home electrical work".

Attention to detail is kind of important in this line of work, and a second set of highly experienced eyes is probably very helpful.

A noob can't do a worse job than the average illegal alien construction worker, so doing it yourself is not going to be any more dangerous than your average new McMansion subdivision. No time constraint and no need to nickel and dime to make the boss more profit means you can methodically make it right.

Obviously if you live in a nanny state where you require endless licenses and union membership to plug in an extension cord, this doesn't work so well, but in a free area its not too unreasonable.

Re:Teach grandson how to do electrical work (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385187)

Thirty years ago when I was a child I helped my Dad, a lawyer in the UK, to wire and plumb our house. He paid to have it all tested by the electricity and gas boards, and everything was good.

I recently moved into a new house and the experienced electrician (he looked to be in his fifties) had fucked up the strappers (one light with two switches). Nowadays it would be illegal to fix it myself. The law is bullshit.

Model Rockets. Big Model Rockets. (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384429)

Model rockets are a lot of fun, and there are larger kits now that use "D" and "E" engines from Estes, and are capable of using much more powerful engines from Aerotech. The bigger the kit, the less tiny manipulation. You can assemble the motor mount, he can trim and shape the fins, glue the fins, and give a fine coat of paint to the rocket. You assemble the parachute assembly. He helps steady the rocket body while you place the internal components.

IF you're really feeling fancy, get a ham radio license and find some transmitters that give altitude, acceleration, latitude and longitude, etc. Or find some other means of tracking and recovering the rocket.

I would also advise considering radio controlled cars and planes. Much less time building them and more time using them, which should be easier on the hands.

Lego Mindstorm? (2)

david.emery (127135) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384435)

Seriously... There's a lot of cool things to build and the bricks would probably be a lot easier to handle.

Re:Lego Mindstorm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385861)

I'm glad this is already mentioned - I totally agree. Lego Mindstorms may be "kid toys" but they have legitimate & interesting projects which purposefully do not require high dexterity.

Not entirely relevant, but... (5, Insightful)

meowris (1988866) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384443)

You're a good grandson.

Re:Not entirely relevant, but... (1)

SomewhatRandom (1299167) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384577)

Wish I had some mod points: +1

Re:Not entirely relevant, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385107)

Mod parent up +20.

Mod submitter up +1000. I wish I had spent more quality time with my grandfather.

Re:Not entirely relevant, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40386809)

I wish mine had lived long enough for me to have spent time with them at all.

Half seriously but who knows ?... (3, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384453)

Arduino Grande [geekosystem.com]
Enormous components [hackaday.com]

good project (0)

Muramas95 (2459776) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384473)

Death Clock?

Reduced Mobility... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384527)

Since your grandfather's dexterity is compromised, how about an X-10 or Insteon home automation project so that he might control his home using an Android tablet or iPad?

Re:Reduced Mobility... (1)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385667)

Since your grandfather's dexterity is compromised, how about an X-10 or Insteon home automation project so that he might control his home using an Android tablet or iPad?

Brilliant! There are many levels of home automation you could get into. Replacing switches and light fixtures with Insteon or Z-Wave devices would certainly be something he's qualified to do, or to help teach you to do properly. Designing various automation scenes is also something you could work on together: turn the lights on at 6:00 AM if it's still dark out, turn them off at sunrise or at 7:00 AM when it's time to leave, doorbell cameras and monitors, home security, heating control, basement water monitoring, TV remote controls, there are a thousand things to add on to such a system. And you can start fairly small, adding on only as needed or desired.

There's a fairly cheap home automation controller called Vera3 produced by Mi Casa Verde [micasaverde.com] . It runs on an OpenWRT platform, and they welcome hobbyist contributions of new device controllers and other innovations. There is support for Android, iPhone, iPad, WAP, other portable clients, as well as a web interface that's well suited to set it all up. Custom device control can be written in Lua, enabling you to add just about any kind of functionality you can imagine.

Best of all is what you build together would benefit him immediately, and help even more in the future if his mobility is compromised by the progression of his disease.

Great suggestion!

Pinball (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384535)

Restore a pinball machine. Mostly large components solenoids, motors, lights, mechanical components - lots of wiring - and quite often replacement of components on the motherboard etc. A very tangible project and very exciting if you like that kind of thing.

Re:Pinball (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385155)

I will second the motion on pinball, especially older electro-mechanical (EM) games from 1977 or prior. These can be cheaply acquired and all wiring schematics and parts are generally available. The key here is that the parts are macro-sized and you are just dealing with large solenoid and relay coils. Soldering is done with a large 40-100W gun. You don't need the precision required with soldering thru-hole or surface mount components on a PCB. Better for the eyes and shaky hands.

Being an electrician, the electrical logic should be second nature for him.

And when you are done, you have a fun game to play.

Perfect Project for Grandpa... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384633)

A coffin. He's going to need it soon anyway, and will save the family some money when it comes time to plant him. Win-Win!

I smell an opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384661)

More of these
http://www.arthritissupplies.com/easy-grip-slant-tip-tweezers.html

Arthitis Remedy that works well in our clinic (1)

Malenx (1453851) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384785)

Cherry Juice. Get the good natural stuff that's not full of processed sugar and drink a glass each day. At our Chiropractic clinic a lot of senior patients have gotten really good results with reduced arthritis pain in their joints from this.

Then there's also the geek project to solve the problem... build a small robot system together that he can use for soldering. Something that can tolerate slightly trembling hands while still offering solid and precise control. I imagine a simple robot arm that can attach a soldering arm, controlled by a joystick system with varying motor speed for more precise movements. Add in a large magnifying glass and an adaptable vice to hold the board and you have a precise soldering workshop.

automate the problem away (1)

tbonefrog (739501) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384789)

I'm just a software guy who never could get his mom to use a mouse in part because of her arthritis. Maybe you could build a voice-command manipulator with a magnified viewer. You might need a helper to build the first one (see 'outsource' above), then just keep improving them. After a few generations you should be able to sell it to arthritic surgeons. With voic commands, what could possibly go wrong?

Palm...face? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384827)

> Ask Slashdot: a Good Geek Project For My Arthritic Grandfather

Pam: Auto-Jerk Hand! Auto-Jerk Hand! Auto-Jerk Hand!!!

Jim: Good one.

Don't compromise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40384983)

You're looking in the wrong problem space. Ask your grandfathers primary care physician about Tramadol [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tramadol] and Dimethyl sulfoxide [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmso] . These could help decrease his pain, and improve his fine motor control.

Gardening! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385039)

I know a man in his sixties who had such bad arthritis that he had to stop working.

Being a cognitive therapist he decided he needed to do something to get his mind off the pain, so he started a garden in his backyard. This turned out really well for him because the pain sensation was reduced while he was busy, and eventually because of the physical exercise his muscles got stronger and better support his bones (not sure how that works) and he has a lot less arthritis now.

So a project with some labor in it may help with the arthritis.

Re:Gardening! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385721)

Scroll up a few screenfuls of posts and you'll see that it was obviously the homeopathic treatments he took that enabled him to garden.

Oh, wait. You just proved the opposite.

Talk to... (2)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385123)

A occupational therapist, they have all kinds of interesting ideas on what is best solution for your grandfather, since it really should be done by a professional who understands your grandfathers unique needs and not a bunch of youngsters who think their opinions are more important than any professionals.

Ham Radio! (1)

cplusplus (782679) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385175)

Try Ham Radio. You no longer have to learn Morse Code to get a license. It allows some room for tinkering with equipment. I'm sure you can find local groups who can help you get started, and find cheap equipment on craigslist. Once you're started, you can hook up cheap used logic analyzers to look at signals and stuff. Hell... you can even spin the hobby toward radio astronomy. Need a further challenge? See who you can find on 5 watts or less... 1 watt or less!

HAM it up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385195)

HAM Radio can be fun. All kinds of gadgets you can build too...

If you enjoy music - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385279)

If you have a home stereo you may want to consider replacing some of the components with kit-build vacuum tube ones. Most kits comprise of point to point soldering rather than circuit boards and the components are larger. Still lots of wiring though. Check out Bottlehead.com - I've built several kits from them and learned enough about tubes in the process to start building my own circuits from scratch.

How about a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385311)

get-off-my-lawnmower?

migrate into programming (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385351)

I used to build electronics and intricate physical things when I was young. If computers had been available those years I would have written programs. These two crafts are similar in creativity and attention.

Lego Mindstorm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385415)

Lego Mindstorm provides a programmable controller that can then be linked to various other lego-based components (and even with a little work very un-lego components) in a way that makes it much easier for somebody with lesser dexterity to operate. While designed to help younger folks learn about robotics, there are a wide range of projects and hacks that can be easily searched out, providing an almost endless set of possiblities for you to build and learn.

The same design characteristics that makes it great for children also make it great for folks who are not able to do the fine, steady hand work of wiring bare controllers for similar projects.

PCB populating robot arm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385451)

If his hands are too shaky, what about using one or two robot arms to do the tedious work of populating and soldering the circuit boards (and possibly also direct wax-to-board painting for etching). Could turn into a nice automated electronics production line from home.

That ought to keep the two of you busy for a while. Serious suggestion, though. There's not that much open source software around to allow you to do this sort of thing, so there's definitely geek points to be had by making this.

The Terror of osteo-arthritis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385483)

I have my case and it is severe enough. They say osteo arthritis won't kill you but they are wrong. People who are hurting do not exercise. They gain weight. And from there are kinds of bad things happen like diabetes and heart disease.
                Maybe the best thing to do for seniors who are disabled by arthritis is to organise and get bother government and businesses to actually support a finding of a cure and also treatments that will do some good in the mean time. Right now in Florida our doctors live in fear of writing a script for pain killers. Getting our legislature to stop trying to save people from over doses while using pain killers as thrill pills is not a legitimate act. If anything we might want to make it easier for recreational drug users to OD and die. They are causing innocent people real pain by saying that it is ok to get high.

Model Rockets and HAM radio (2)

airishtiger (1223838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385825)

Both model rockets and HAM radio will not require too much dexterity. For myself, both hobbies also bring back memories of when I was young and just beginning to discover the world of science. Very nostalgic.

fun for the whole family (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385851)

How about a euthanasia machine?

Simple answer.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40385917)

HAM radio. you can run a keyer easily with severe arthritis. Plus a lot of it is larger scale and not micro mini scale. There is a huge community around it and you get to actually talk to people.

Volunteer support for robotics competition team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40385945)

I don't know if it exists where you live but have you looked into volunteering support for a local school robotics competition team.
I'm sure some team would love to have the assistance of a real electrician.

Maker collaboration or solar design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40386273)

Electricians are needed for cheap, open hardware controller designs for solar/wind/water. A good design could include PV, wind and water inputs, variable storage setups, wattage, etc. Most commercial designs are way too specific to a particular setup or must be expensively customized to each site. A good design might not make him rich, but he could be famous.

If he just needs help assembling small bits 'cause his hands don't work as well as his mind, any Maker group would be happy to have someone with solid electrical experience for doing/checking AC work and such. See what's in your area and look around makezine.com, get friendship and helping each other benefits. (and maybe more open designs!)

Habitat for Humanity might need a supervising electrician or two as well.

older geeks are often fine, fun people,

I are one.

anon

Problem==solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40386347)

Say grandad likes reading but has difficulty fingering book pages... ...Build a book reading robot, possibly with magnifier. Fiddling around with small change in his purse is difficult... ...explore low-tech solutions. Want to make a 'contraption'? How about a robot-arm soldering iron controlled by foot pedals. (You could even do it with bicycle brake cables - no soldering needed!) Turn yourself from a technologist into an *engineer*.
 

Large Component scale project (1)

SinisterEVIL (2661381) | more than 2 years ago | (#40387335)

Perhaps a solar panel or wind turbine for a consumer home. Nice large components, still techy.

Telescope (1)

SlayerDave (555409) | more than 2 years ago | (#40387795)

Build a telescope. There are many links to plans, here's one: http://www.telescopemaking.org/ [telescopemaking.org]
There are lots of opportunities for electronics with a telescope: motor mount, autoguider, goto integration, etc.
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