How-To: Build a Cheap Lightbox

Herr von Slatt and the steam- driven monks over at the Steampunk Workshop have put together a little tutorial on building a cheap lightbox. He used the glass from an old copier, which is really a good idea. If you don’t have a dead copier lying around, you may have a dead scanner. I have several, but then, I already have a light table, too.


Fixing Never-Worked Stereo Kits (for Fun and Profit)

One of our regular readers, RHERSH12, sent this to be added to the Comments for the Soldering Tutorial, (our Comments feature is still turned off until we figure out a fix for our Comment spam infestation). I thought it was interesting enough to post in DIY. It had never occurred to me that there might be a decent market for buying failed kits (built, but never worked, and never fixed), fixing, and then reselling them. Some of this vintage equipment fetches big bucks these days.

RHERSH12: I just performed a hack that amazed me by working. I took apart a very complicated JBL pro audio tweeter that was ‘dead’. There was an open lead in about the worst spot. I managed to splice the hair-fine coil wire with a solder joint about .1mm across and IT WORKED! I even took a picture. This is one of a pair of tweeters from 1960 and I just had to try to get it working. I’m temporarily banned from my stand-up day job because of a broken toe. I’ve been spending all of my time at home at my bench working on restoring vintage audio stuff.

One of the pieces I’ve been working on is a kit tube audio amplifier from about 1962. It was built with a couple of tiny soldering faults. The soldering boo-boos completely disabled the operation of the unit and were the dickens to find and fix. It was assembled 99.5% over 45 years ago and never used because it didn’t work. It must have taken 50 hours for the builder to get it to the state it’s in and it never worked! It’s worth a small fortune now because of the scarcity of NOS tube audio. It’s not mine, I’m restoring it for a friend. I’ll eBay it off for him along wit hthe original box, paperwork, spare parts, etc. It will probably go to a collector in China or Korea for a 4 figure sum of money. It’s a strange world.


DIY: Hotel Meth Labs

Want yet another reason to be skeezed out during your next hotel stay (besides your nagging fear that the baby belonging to the previous occupants played poo-poo patty cake in the bathroom — at least you pray it was baby — while mommy and daddy cavorted naked all over the furniture)? How about the fact that mommy and daddy may have turned Mr. Coffee into a miniature meth lab, too? Sound crazy? Not according to this piece on Kevin Kelly’s Street Use. He links to a Huntsville, AL news outlet which quotes local officials. Apparently, it’s a lot more common than you might think. The piece concludes:

Phillips says it’s pretty easy to tell if a coffee pot has been used to cook meth. It will have a dark reddish-orange stain.

Gee, thanks for that warning. I was just about to brew up a delicious pot o’ Joe even though it looks like someone’s been using the coffee pot as a bedside urinal for the past six months.


Ingeniously Simple Tilt Switch

One of my all-time favorite hardware hacks is the BEAM touch sensor made out of little more than a paper clip and a piece of guitar string. You can see this type of switch on the tail of Herbie the Mousebot.

Here’s a similarly ingenious switch that uses little more than pieces of plastic, a washer and three screws to create a tilt sensor that engages the switch when the plastic wheel turns. Nifty.

[Via Make]


Joel Johnson’s Fisher Space Pen Warmed in Hell

Joel Johnson is back at Gizmodo, and if you haven’t seen his first column, every Street Tech reader should check it out. It’s a sober call to arms to cut the crap and stop the endless parade of breathless gadget hooting and cat-calling found on most personal tech sites. It completely captures the sentiments that lead to the creation of Street Tech in 1997. We were tired of seeing this kind of rip n’ read tech journalism (read the press release, write a preview of how awesome and cool the gadget is going to be, and then never even bother to write an actual review. Or the review is written after a company-sponsored trip to the factory in some exotic local, or gifts arrive on your doorstep, or promises of ad buys. Bribery, in other words.).

Reading Joel’s piece, I don’t feel as thought Street Tech has been too guilty of breathlessness or corruption, but it saddens me that we haven’t been able to deliver more on our mission to suck less, to offer our honest and informed take on what passes our bullshit detector. I’m hoping that, with our Federated Media alliance, and with some other changes coming to ST this year, we can deliver on at least a little more of that promise. We’ll certainly do our best. And a million thanks to Joel for shaking the chrome plating off of the industry-allied chrome-plated turd that passes for much of personal tech journalism. Let’s hope it makes a difference.

Review: FlyTech Dragonfly

PC Magazine got a hold of a review unit of the FlyTech Dragonfly, Wow Wee’s latest addition to their line of robotic toys. Bottom line: They like it. A lot. They gave it four out of five stars. Here’s their review.

We’ll be doing our own review when our eval unit arrives, by the end of the month. Stay tuned…


Out of this World Valentines

Slashdot writes:

Looking for something more fun and less predictable than roses and chocolates this Valentine’s Day? Write your love on the side of a satellite. This unusual approach to courting comes courtesy of students at MIT and Georgia Tech, as part of a larger initiative to pay for their research spacecraft, the Mars Gravity Biosatellite.

I like this comment:

Nothing says “I love you” like etching your girlfriend’s name onto a cold metal construct and shooting it into the black oblivion of space.


Robosapien with Mini Coil-Gun

The same fella who gave us the flame-throwing Robosapien is now showing off the CoilOSapien, a V2 outfitted with a mini coil-gun. It fires a charged-particle projectile and sports laser targeting.

As you can see from the vid, it’s actually the same Robosapien retro-fitted with the flame-thrower. So now he’s got a flamethrower AND a coil-gun. Finally a step towards taking Robosapien’s security mode a little more seriously. [And kids, don’t try this at home (at least not without adult supervision).]

Here’s a link to the video.
Here’s a link to the builder’s page.

Thanks, Robert!