Les Yeux

One of the pieces I displayed at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2016 consisted of two monitors showing a pair of eyes. I was (slightly) inspired by Ben’s Video Wall of Terror.

Les Yeux

I started by filming Dr. Prodoehl to capture the movement of her eyes. The crop lines show where I planned to crop the single video into two separate videos. I also used filters on the videos to get the old TV scan line effect and add a bit of distortion. (The cropping is for a 4:3 aspect ratio display to be compatible with the old computer monitors I had on hand.)

Les Yeux

The two videos were then exported and one was trimmed to be about a half second shorter than the other one. Since the installation would be running for two full days this meant that we’d see some interesting time drifts between the two videos.

The videos were played using a pair of Raspberry Pi Zero single board computers. Like nearly every installation, there were problems involving technology, this time I think it was a bad SD card, but I quickly swapped it out and got up and running again.

Here’s a short video showing Les Yeux Times at Maker Faire in 2016, along with the two videos that were used.


On the durability scale it goes from “Consumer” to “Commercial” to “Industrial” and then finally to “Children’s Museum”.

While most adults can figured out how things work, and most will actually use things the way they are designed to work, children will use things every way possible, not (usually) maliciously, but because the are still figuring things out. Install a lever that goes up and down, and they’ll move it up and down with all the force their small bodies can muster, so you might want to add some hard stops on the inside.


Kids also can’t read/don’t read (to be fair, many adults don’t read either) so add some arrows showing direction of movement. Also if those arrows are just vinyl you applied to the surface, they’ll get peeled off. Every interaction needs to be thought about in great detail, and sometimes you need to think like an angry vandal hell-bent on destroying things.

Plan for things to break, because they will, but make them easy to maintain and repair. Use off-the-shelf parts when you can, so replacements are easy, or if you fabricate the parts yourself, make spares, and document how to make more spares in the future. Use Loctite. Use set screws. Use Loctite on set screws. Use hot glue. Use lots of hot glue. Use screws and bolts, not nails and staples. Make sure you can take it apart and repair it.

Stay Durable, Friends!


Calling this RepRap Report #4 is probably not even close to a proper title, but I’m going to use it anyway to cover the latest changes to my old MakerGear RepRap Prusa Mendel, which is a Prusa Mendel (iteration 2) I started building in 2011 and finally finished in 2012. It worked well for a few years, and around 2015 I seemed to have a lot of issues making it work reliably.

I eventually got a cheap clone E3D hotend so I could switch over to 1.75mm filament, and it didn’t work well so I eventually got a real E3D hotend and then it seemed as though I just could not print ABS. It never seemed to be able to maintain a proper temperature. I gave up on it when I got a Maker Select Plus and put the RepRap to the side…

I figured that since there was a problem getting up to heat for ABS, maybe I could try PLA, since it uses a lower temperature than ABS. I grabbed a file I recently printed on the Maker Select Plus and gave it a go.


In the photo above you’ll see the MSP print on the left, and the RepRap print on the right. The print on the right is a bit smaller in diameter, and it’s not round… it’s oblong. We’ve also lost the hole in the center, but that’s pretty much always been the case. The MSP print is probably at 0.15 or 0.2 layer height, and the RepRap print is probably 0.3 or 0.35 layer height.


The bottom also looks pretty bad on the RepRap print. Those round holes are looking pretty oblong and a bit uneven overall.


And here’s where we really see an issue. The MSP print is 9mm tall, while the RepRap print is just over 6mm tall. We’ve lost nearly 3mm in the z axis. Not great! I figured I should try a second print to see what I’d get…


I got this… Wow. It’s, uh… terrible. Now, I did not use a cooling fan while printing this. I always printed ABS with the RepRap, so I didn’t even have a cooling fan installed. I may try some tests with ABS again, or I’ll add a cooling fan if I try PLA again.

I’m not convinced the RepRap will even be a good printer. I mean, five years ago, it was decent, and I made a lot of things with it, and they were good enough. I’ve thought about upgrading it into a Prusa i3 since I could reuse most of the parts, and would just need a new frame, which I could probably just laser cut. That might be a good option, but I’m also half convinced that if I take the whole thing apart I’ll never get around to putting it back together!

Apple Wait...

At Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2015 I presented a piece titled Apple Watch, and at least one person enjoyed it enough to make me think about creating another piece utilizing the same concept, so for Maker Faire Milwaukee 2016 I presented Apple Wait….

Apple Wait...

Apple Wait… (like Apple Watch) consisted of a Raspberry Pi Model B connected to an Apple Monochrome Monitor from 1988. Instead of just attaching the Raspberry Pi to the monitor with some gaff tape, I added in one more reference to technology, an iPhone box.

Apple Wait...

It seems the box for an iPhone is just the right size to house a Raspberry Pi Model B. Interesting enough, the iPhone 4S and the Raspberry Pi Model B were released about the same time frame. They are very different devices, with different goals, aimed at different audiences. Why not merge the two together? Technology is interesting!

Apple Wait...

For Apple Wait… I took a busy indicator cursor from the olden days of computing on Apple devices and brought it into the modern day, but made it 8-bit and low-rez, because retro is in. If you’re interested in learning more about old things, check out Where did the loading spinner originate?, The Design of Spinning Indicators, Spinning pinwheel, History of the Mac Spinning Wait Cursor, and just for a laugh, The Marble of Doom.

Apple Wait...

Hakko Soldering Iron Fix

Once upon a time at the museum we found an old Hakko FX-888D soldering iron for Sam to use. He tried to soldering things, but it did not work. I tried soldering things with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it worked great! I looked at his iron and declared it “not working properly” and then we stopped using that one.

This week I tried using my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron and it just did not work. I ‘raised’ the temperature and it still didn’t work. Meanwhile, Becky soldered about a dozen buttons while I was still trying to do one. The solder would melt but not stick. Weird, and then I discovered that I probably managed to “adjust” the temperature instead of “change” the temperature. Yeah, confusing, right?

This is (sort of) explained in the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron manual, very poorly, but start on page 5 and see if it makes sense. If not, watch this video.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the procedure for resetting the Hakko FX-888D soldering iron to the factory defaults, which totally fixed my problem of it not getting hot enough to make good solder joints.

  1. With unit turned off press both UP and ENTER buttons
  2. Turn the unit on while continuing to press both UP and ENTER buttons
  3. The display will flash the letter “A”
  4. Release both the UP and the ENTER buttons
  5. Press the UP button
  6. The display will show the letter “U”
  7. Your iron is now reset!

I’m posting this here because future me will probably screw it up again, and then I’ll read this post and know how to fix it. Also, if Becky ever screws it up, she can look here too!

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