A Cardboard and Tape Pushbutton

There’s a new switch in town! It’s a Cardboard Push Button! You may have enjoyed the Cardboard Knife Switch, or tolerated the Cardboard Slide Switch, but this pushbutton is my new favorite.

For this project I ended up doing all of the illustrations first before I took any photos, and actually used the illustrations as a guide for some of the photography. Typically with these projects I build the thing first, then figure out how to best create a set of instructions, and sometimes that means photos, and sometimes it means illustrations, and usually it’s a combination of both of those.

I’ve also strengthened my ability to create isometric drawings quite a bit. If you compare this project to the knife switch, you’ll see the improvement. I took a few drafting classes back in the 1980s & 1990s (pre-computer!) and I still enjoy creating technical illustrations quite bit.

This switch can be used with any simple circuit, and is perfect for paper circuit projects, but can also be used with microcontroller projects and for any Crazy Circuits projects since you’re probably already working with Maker Tape.

I ended up creating a few fun illustrated examples of button tops for the guide, but then I thought it would be nice to actually create and photograph them, so I did that too. And like many of my cardboard projects, I’ve tried to keep things simple. It’s all straight cuts, and you can make this with an X-ACTO knife, or a box cutter if you do that sort of thing. It’s also great for a laser cutter, and you can easily scale this up to larger sizes since it’s just stacked pieces so it’s parametric.


Paper Dino Friends!

Who loves dinosaurs? Well, besides every kid I’ve ever met, some adults love dinosaurs too! I’ll note that these are not my designs, but I really like them! We’ve got a T-Rex, a Triceratops, a Pterodactyl, and a Plesiosaurus. While I did not design these dinos I just finished updating all of the instructions, and created new photos and videos for each one.

The instruction sheet for each was updated to change the method of construction so that Maker Tape was used, and used to its strengths. These are a few years old and still had instructions for using copper tape. (Boo!) Things are much simpler now with the conductive nylon Maker Tape which is stronger and easier to work with.

The studio we’ve built at Brown Dog Gadgets in the last year makes doing all the media creation a lot easier. We’ve got a permanent setup for video streaming, and I use that for any of these “hands on” making videos. Each video needs to be 30 seconds or less, so with a bit of editing and speeding things up, we can hit that mark.

Nearly all of our projects had a PDF component that at a minimum shows a diagram, has a template, and sometimes has step-by-step instructions. Typically there’s a lot of illustration involved, but we still try to keep in simple, and crank out as much new material as we can.

These dino friends are great for a classroom or camp experience, and work great for kids 10 and up. (Kids younger than 10 may have some dexterity issues dealing with the LED legs and the tape.) You can cut out the shapes with scissors, or an X-ACTO knife, or a laser cutter, though we really like using a Silhouette Cameo which slices through construction paper quite easily. Lots of options!


S1 Rotary USB Controller

You may already know that I’ve been building (and selling) USB controllers for the last 9 years or so. Most of them have been for photobooths, tradeshows, exhibits, museums, etc. Well, the pandemic blew things up, in a bad way, with no events happening, so I’ve tried to keep going, and occasionally do custom development, and then turn custom things into products, so here’s the S1 Controller.

It consists of a rotary encoder, meaning it can turn forever in either direction, with a built-in button. Just like the scroll wheel on your mouse! So, what can it do? Well, what do you want it to do? The first one I built was for an audio nerd who didn’t like spinning the scroll wheel on his mouse and then clicking the left mouse button to set the dials in their audio software, so this gives a real-world analog to turning knobs and setting values. I can appreciate that!

It could also be programmed as a volume control and play/pause button, or some other custom thing. I never really know what people will come up with, but 99% of the time I can program what they want. Maybe you want one of these? If you do, you can grab one from my shop or from Etsy.


Sleep Report for May 2021

Since my last sleep report we got a new bed! It had been a long time, and the old mattress was probably getting worn out, so yeah, that’s the big change this time around. My insomnia hasn’t been completely cured, but May was a good month! There were only two nights that came in under 6 hours of CPAP usage. I’ll say “CPAP Usage” instead of sleep because I’ve made a concerted effort to not leave the bed when I wake, but instead lie there with my mask on trying to fall asleep again. It’s something I’ve been working on, and it’s gotten better.

Part of this improvement is due to the new bed. Our old bed was a queen mattress, and this one is a split king, which means when I move around my wife does not really feel movement on the bed. Couple that with a larger bed so we can sleep a bit further apart and I think that’s helped quite a bit. We thought about separate beds, but ultimately decided to try this first, and it’s been pretty good, at least for me. (She is not sleeping as well as she did.) Oh, the new mattresses are memory foam, by the way.

I think I’ve also been under less stress lately (though to be honest, the last half of May was extremely stressful in some ways, but I still managed to sleep pretty good.) I still wake up tired and it takes me time to get moving in the morning, but I am old, and getting older (weird, right?) so there is that.

I may try to do these reports monthly to see how it goes. I still somewhat hate my CPAP machine. It’s got a humidifier, but it works for shit, and I get dried out a lot. Even now, when it’s not winter and shouldn’t be too dry in the house. Frustrating, for sure, but at least I haven’t died in my sleep yet! (Fingers crossed.)


Development with Resistance

As you may know, I sell a variety of USB controllers (on Etsy and my own shop) and I accept custom orders where I work with the customer to build (and program) what they want or need. So last year someone got in touch with me and said “Your Dual Button looks great! I need it with a 2.5mm stereo jack though, and it’s going to control some [REDACTED] equipment.”

So this was not a USB controller, but they liked the form factor of my product. Well, no problem. I do custom. I got as much detail as I could about the device they had (which was not working anymore) and asked for photos. There was a resistor wired into one of the buttons, so I asked the customer to check it with a meter to get the value. He couldn’t quite figure it out, but we made some guesses based on the color bands in the photo and I came up with a solution.

With the 2.5mm stereo jack we determined which of the TSR (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) parts were ground, and each of the buttons, and which button had the resistor on it. One button supplied full voltage and the other a lower voltage. I didn’t find out too much about the extremely expensive equipment it was connecting to, but I didn’t need to.

I came up with an easy way for the customer to swap the resistor, and even sent spares of various values in case we didn’t guess correctly. I think it worked fine with our “guess” resistor, so maybe the equipment just looks for full voltage versus a lower voltage. Who knows? I don’t work in the [REDACTED] field.

I often find these projects fun and a little challenging. I probably don’t always cover the time I put into them, but often they’re a good learning opportunity and sometimes turn into a product or repeat business.