Author Archives: Taylor

Raspberry Pi + Thermal Printer


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/ (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).



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


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 and 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.

Seeed GPRS v2 in Hong Kong?

It’s the classic new media problem: you’ve got a cool show abroad, but will all your technology still work over there? I need to determine whether this board and this SIM card will be compatible in Hong Kong. This page suggests that 2G (a limit presented by the board) is still available in Hong Kong, and that the 900 band is still active. I suppose my fallback will be purchasing SIM cards when I arrive, but I’d like to avoid that. It may be cheaper, however, so maybe I’ll try both.

ThreeYearContract accepted @ ISEA Hong Kong


The title says it all! Track the project progress here if you want all the code/schematics. Here’s more info about the show.

Adding IR LEDs to an RPi Noir Cam (WIP)

A little research online seems to indicate the potential for IR LEDs to damage eyesight. Perhaps this is the tinfoil hat squad talking, but I don’t want to take chances with my kid’s eyesight. Thus, we need to wire/program the pi so that it only flips the IR array on during active recording.

A little poking around revealed that the status of the camera (“ready” or “halted”) is held at /var/www/status_mjpeg.txt . I created a simple python script in the same directory called

Lastly, edit /etc/rc.local  with nano to include  python /var/www/  somewhere before exit 0 . That will cause the script to run on startup.

Next up: connect pin 7 to a transistor so that it can control an IR array!