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Interviews: Ask Bre Pettis About Making Things

NixieBunny Parts to finish a 3D printed design (69 comments)

Many useful items that one could build require some metal bits in addition to 3D printed parts. I've recently encountered this situation when trying to make a little gizmo with motor drive. Small gears, shafts and so forth are very hard to come by. Have you considered starting an ancillary industry that provides the sorts of things that the company Small Parts used to offer, before Amazon killed them?

about a week ago
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Is Analog the Fix For Cyber Terrorism?

NixieBunny Re:Stuxnet (245 comments)

Yes, it was a USB flash drive with a firmware update.

I work on a telescope whose Siemens PLC is so old that it has a PROM in a 40 pin DIP package for firmware updates. Not that we've touched the firmware in 20 years. After all, it works. And it ought to work for another 20 years, as long as we replace the dried-out aluminum electrolytic capacitors regularly.

about 1 month ago
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Eric Schmidt On Why College Is Still Worth It

NixieBunny Re:They don't know you. Two resumes, one degree (281 comments)

I have no degree, but in 35 years I've never had to be selected from a pool of candidates. What's it like to have to compete for a job?

I worked my way through college at the school, building exotic computer systems for grad student research projects. I noticed one day that I was learning a lot more in the job than in the classes.

Now, 30 year later, and after 20 years in industry, I work at the same university, building electronics for telescopes. I suppose I could have gotten further with a degree, but not much further. At my performance reviews, I ask my boss to please not promote me to management.

about a month ago
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Vodafone Foundation Launches Cell Site In a Backpack

NixieBunny Re:Power Source? (37 comments)

There is some room left in the suitcase. They could have fit more battery packs in there - especially if they are Li-ion so as to not weigh a ton. Also, they could have provided some folding solar panels (it's not clear form the article if they are included or not).

about a month and a half ago
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How much time do you spend gaming compared to 10 years ago?

NixieBunny Re:Only one decade? (270 comments)

What are you talking about? Tetris is not violent. Mindless, yes.

about 2 months ago
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How much time do you spend gaming compared to 10 years ago?

NixieBunny Does Solitaire count? (270 comments)

Because playing Solitaire on my phone is the sum total of my gaming experience these days.

about 2 months ago
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TSA: Confiscating Aluminum Foil and Watching Out For Solar Powered Bombs

NixieBunny They don't care about real dangerous things (289 comments)

Story: I walked into the Detroit airport a couple years ago while wearing the Video Coat. The nice TSA people marked my entire family's boarding passes SSSS. They inspected us thoroughly, including the eight 5 AH Chinese LiPo battery packs used to power the coat. These are the no-protection-board version with the factory connectors that let you plug two batteries together like BIG 9V batteries. They will happily put out 100 amps.

Had we been 'the type', we could have started four fires in the cabin that day.

about 2 months ago
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Old cellphones, in my household ...

NixieBunny Re:Ancient brick phone (171 comments)

Ancient? My oldest cell phone is from 1985. Ten pounds of aluminum, lead-acid battery and first-generation circuitry.

I never got service for it, but I did mod one of its brothers to be the uplink transmitter for my unlicensed radio station fifteen years ago.

about 2 months ago
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At my current workplace, I've outlasted ...

NixieBunny Re:Year 15 here (177 comments)

I am in a similar situation, but only 12 years. The people above me are getting near retirement age, but lots of folks stick around until their seventies around here. I have a side business and work part-time, to keep the interest level up and reduce unreasonable demands on my time. And do volunteer work with high school kids, doing robotics. That's fun.

about 2 months ago
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Why Games Should Be In the Public Domain

NixieBunny Hits the nail on the head (360 comments)

This article is so right! He has found a way to express something that's been bugging me for a long time. I love his comparison of a policeman to a song writer.

The other thing about copyright is that it's not the creative people who make money forever off of their own work, it's the corporations that manufacture the plastic discs who make the money forever off of the songwriters' work.

about 2 months ago
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Facebook Estimates Around 10% of Accounts Are Fake

NixieBunny Re:They know your name anyway (140 comments)

I have a real account, and I manage a couple groups. One (a local bike ride) receives a steady stream of requests for new members to join the group. Half of these are fake Chinese or Indian accounts - it's obvious from their profiles. The rest are real local folks. I have no idea how that maps into the total number of fake IDs.

about 2 months ago
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

NixieBunny Re:Radio telescope - not exactly "skywatching" (201 comments)

We only use one receiver at a time, so it's not a problem. A poster written by one of our grad students that gives an idea of the telescope's capabilities is here.

The temperature scale on the graphs (temperature = signal strength) gives you an idea of the absurdly high sensitivity of the system. Some of those graphs are in milliKelvin!

about 3 months ago
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

NixieBunny Re:Radio telescope - not exactly "skywatching" (201 comments)

The beam size (it's a Gaussian beam, so it's fuzzy) is about 20-50 arc seconds, narrower at higher frequency. Basic pointing accuracy is about 5 arc seconds, but we improve that with pointing observations that measure the Gaussian beam dropoff on the sides of a bright object, so we can optimize pointing to within an arc second or two. More black magic.

about 3 months ago
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

NixieBunny Re:Missing option (201 comments)

Neil DeGrasse Tyson got his interest in astronomy after going to a kid's camp in Pennsylvania, and seeing stars for the first time in his Bronx life. Get out of town now and then!

about 3 months ago
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

NixieBunny Re: Radio telescope - not exactly "skywatching" (201 comments)

It should be. We work halfway between radio and light. The signal passes through Teflon lenses, is mixed by a superconducting mixer diode in a receiver cooled to 4K with a helium refrigerator, down-converted to an intermediate frequency range of 4-8 GHz, then into a spectrometer. Many types of black magic involved.

about 3 months ago
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Best skywatching equipment at my disposal:

NixieBunny Radio telescope - not exactly "skywatching" (201 comments)

I work on the Submillimeter Telescope on Mt Graham in Arizona. It's a 10 meter dish with several receivers in the ridiculously high frequency range of 200-800 GHz. We mostly do molecular spectroscopy, finding interesting molecules in faraway places. The 'images' that come out of my spectrometer are spectrum graphs, not photos.

about 3 months ago
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The $100 3D-Printed Artificial Limb

NixieBunny Re:Comparison to conventional prosthetics? (86 comments)

My wife has a high-tech wooden leg, so I'm familiar with how long they last, about five years. I also have a 3D printer, but I've never considered printing a leg socket. I'd expect the fingers in this hand to eventually break, as the wearer tests the limits. Fortunately, printing a single component is not expensive at all.

The idea of using the 3D printer to make the fiddly bits is excellent. It's also possible to use regular materials to make limb pieces. PVC pipe has been used in India.

In the long run, a local prosthetics cottage industry that relies on commonly available components and supplies should be self-sustaining, if the cost of materials is borne by humanitarian agencies.

about 3 months ago
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New Study Shows One-Third of Americans Don't Believe In Evolution

NixieBunny Depends on your definition of the beginning (1010 comments)

If time started less than 10,000 years ago, then sure, we've existed since the beginning of time. Time periods longer than that are very difficult for people to wrap their heads around.

about 4 months ago

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