Author Archives: Taylor

Opposable Thumbs Episode 3: Found Electronics

Only 90's kids will understand!

Only 90’s kids will understand! via

Listen to Episode 3 here.

At the suggestion of my main man Audrey Peiper, I based this project on a Girl Talk telephone handset that I had laying around the studio. I fear this will only embolden my mother-in-law, who exploits my penchant for hoarding electronics ruthlessly.

Given the ridiculously gendered nature of my starting point, I decided to reengineer the phone’s components to make a positive statement about women and technology. This got me thinking about how some of the original “computers” were women, back when the term described people who performed mathematical calculations. Ada Lovelace is another great example of a woman who contributed significantly to early computing with her work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

With these ideas in mind, I desoldered all of the components from my handset. This yielded a pile of simple parts, artificially limiting the potential complexity of my project. Working within this structure, I soon settled on the concept of the multivibrator, a simple circuit that can be switched between two states. The first multivibrators were astable, switching back and forth between states at a regular interval. Mono and bistable vibrators came next, and these circuits formed the foundation of modern computer memory (due to their ability to “remember” one bit worth of information). I didn’t quite have enough components to make my vibrator stable, so here’s a demo of an astable multivibrator or “flip-flop.”

From a 2017 perspective, this circuit is not that impressive! I dig it though, because it shows what complexity you can reach in the absence of integrated circuits. To change the timing of the circuit, you can substitute different capacitor values – larger Farad ratings will take longer to drain, resulting in a slower oscillation. No coding here, just good ole’ math (or blind experimentation). See this page for the diagram I followed and build your own.

Full disclosure: The red LED didn’t come from the phone. There, I said it!

 

Opposable Thumbs Episode 2: Dungeons and Dragons Dice

For the second Opposable Thumbs challenge, I started researching ancient games of chance. It seems that the original dice where the knucklebones taken from livestock like sheep or goats. While you can order the real thing online, I opted to 3D print an open source set because it was quicker. Then I made a wooden box, strapped a piezo sensor to the back, and taught an Arduino to interpret these vibrations numerically. This information is shared with a Processing app, where the numbers are mapped onto various numerical ranges (1-4, 1-6, 1-8, etc.). The system is currently set up for the 7 most common DnD dice, but this is easy to change in the code.

I think the next step for the project is to hook up with the roll20 API. This website allows players to meet in an online space that supports maps, character sheets, and the like. Knucklebones 1.0 would allow such virtual games to retain some tactility by requiring physical rolls, though the objects in question need not be actual dice.

Arduino

Processing

 

Opposable Thumbs Episode 1

The excellent Rob Ray and I have started a podcast called Opposable Thumbs. I used to organize art events with Rob in Chicago some years ago, and I’ve been itching to work with him again ever since he escaped to LA.

OT is a biweekly creative exercise where Rob and I invite a guest to set some sort of design challenge. Next, the three of us each make something based on that prompt, then Skype in to talk about our successes and failures. The first episode is out now! Here’s a preview of my project:

tba

Prompt: Paper Clip & 2×4

In this episode I create a diegetic prototype that recruits material “flaws” (such as the knot above) to act as touch sensors. The paperclip or other wire is embedded in the wood and attached to two pins on the Arduino. Add a 1M resistor or greater and use the source code below. Right now we’re just blinking an LED, but that’s how all great things start… Please download, remix, and send me photos or video of your implementation!

 

Raspberry Pi + Thermal Printer

thermal

I’m looking at doing some experimentation with thermal printing, using the same type of device that prints point-of-sale receipts. I found the Adafruit tutorials to be a little incomplete, so here’s how I got my printer up and running.

  1. Download the full version of Raspbian Jessie (Lite will not work).
  2. Open the terminal and type   tar xzvf /path/to/your/file/filename.zip (the file is too big to unzip by double-clicking in OSX).
  3. Use ApplePi-Baker to transfer the .img to an SD card (I couldn’t get the official terminal method to work).
  4. Boot up the Pi and follow these instructions.
  5. Connect the printer to a 5V power source. I could only get it to work with a 10A supply, which is rated far above the 2A that the Adafruit tutorial calls for. You can test the printer by holding down the button near the power LED and then turning on the power.
  6. Wire up the printer data lines to the Pi’s GPIO pins. If you use a Pi rev1 like I did, you want pins 6, 8, and 10. Note that the RX and TX lines cross between the Pi and the printer.
  7. If you get a permissions error at the end of the Adafruit tutorial, open the terminal and type  sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin pi (source).
  8. Finish up with these steps for network printing (optional).

 

Sterling Silver at Shapeways

I’m working on a new version of Controlled Feeding Status that will be cast in sterling silver! First test “print” just arrived and is looking hot. Next up: soldering and refinishing.

CAA 2017, NYC

I’ll be delivering a paper on Saturday, February 18, as part of a panel called Making Objects Speak: Speculative Design, Critical Making, and the Internet of Things.

Arduino + Processing

Sparkfun has an excellent tutorial on the process of getting communication going between Arduino and Processing. It’s a bit word-heavy for my taste, so here’s a condensed version that my students are using this semester. All that’s required is an Arduino, a 10K resistor, a photoresistor, and some wire. See the comments at the top of the Arduino sketch below for a simplified wiring diagram. Note: this code only works one way (Arduino > Processing).

Arduino

Processing

First you should run this short program to find which port the Arduino is communicating on:

Now edit the following program with the port (around line 13) and run it. Don’t forget to plug in your circuit and to close the serial monitor in Arduino if it’s currently running.

 

RPi web cam baby monitor

BabyMonitor_fullsize

Aah – the summer arrives, so now I can actually finish/document some work that languished during the academic year. Have a look at this project over on Github and build your own! This fork of the popular RPi_Web_Cam_Interface adds support for night vision via IR LED ring (including auto shutoff so you’re not blasting your tot with IR all night).

Call for papers @ FATE 2017

fate2017FATE (Foundations in Art: Theory and Education) 16th Biennial Conference
Hosted by the KCAI (Kansas City Art Institute) Foundations Department
April 6-8, 2017

FATE is a national association dedicated to the promotion of excellence in the development and teaching of college-level foundation courses. A full list of sessions for the 2017 conference can be found here.

With the conference theme “To the Core and Beyond” in mind, session chairs Tom Burtonwood (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and Taylor Hokanson (Columbia College Chicago) seek abstracts from educators who promote digital fabrication in foundations level courses and beyond. This session invites papers addressing best practices for introducing, integrating and establishing digital fabrication into the art and design foundations curriculum, especially research that addresses experimental materials and collapses boundaries between disciplines. We aim to facilitate debate around a set of tools that is growing more common in our field. How have a few years of access to the technology changed how and what you teach on the subject?

Possible topics to explore:

  • Do you regard 3D printing technology/processes as equivalent to or fundamentally different from more familiar shop resources?
  • How do you address a potentially steep learning curve while avoiding easy introductory projects (keychains, etc.)?
  • What software/hardware do you use and why?
  • Where do you fall along the professional equipment/DIY tool spectrum?
  • Have you had the technology long enough for students to get four years of access? What effect did this have on their work?

To apply, please fill out this form, then email the following to tburto1@artic.edu and taylor@taylorhokanson.com by Friday, July 15.

  • CV
  • paper title
  • paper abstract (200 words max)
  • name, contact information & cv of any co-presenter (if applicable)

Manual WordPress Site Backup (Bluehost)

I found the process of learning how to backup wordpress with my host pretty confusing. On the one hand, noobs might not be aware that the files that make up the website can be downloaded directly via FTP, but that the database that houses all the text/page content must be acquired separately. Bluehost also has a couple of videos stating that free backups are performed on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, but it seems that only weekly is currently true (and, confusingly, it’s labeled as a daily backup). So…

  1. Log in to cPanel
  2. Click on File Management > Site Backup Pro
  3. Click Free > Backup and Restore
  4. Download MySQL database and Home Folder
  5. Update: Home Folder download keeps failing, so I’m just FTPing it instead.

Note: I have not tried restoring these yet, so YMMV.