Burning Man panoramas

Deep playa, one morning before it got too hot and dusty:

Burn night, just inside the circle of art cars:

Sunrise the morning after, from the top of a Robot Heart art car in a heap of blankets and warm people:

Ambling home, complete with bonus Temple. They burned that one too though:

Burning Man: we survived

In short, coz back in Vegas:

Burning Man – I was aiming to survive and I succeeded. I’m told this year was particularly hard. There was lots of this:

Highlights being camp mates, surprise tackle-hugging Kiwi, the Temple of Mazu burn, the deep playa, and all the pretties. Low points being the brutal dust storms, the heat, and the wind.

As for my LED projects:

  • The Mitochondrion lasted long enough for plenty of spinning and I didn’t see a better glow staff out there. Strips slowly failed, until only one of the four was working, at which point I put it away. Lesson: rebuild the power architecture to run strips direct from the batteries, no UBECs.
  • The Too Bright Hat was still working by the end, but the battery life slowly dropped from five hours to one. Playa dust is conductive enough that the isolation from the strip power supply to ground dropped from unmeasurably high to 30k Ohms. Lesson: lacquer the traces and seal the strips.
  • LED Strip Drivers: Bombproof, except for the switches. These were not dust proof. The two drivers that sat in people’s pockets were fine;the three on people’s bikes died. Lesson: Seal against dust, even if that’s just a ziploc bag.

When I get home, I’ll do detailed write-ups of the Hat and LED strip drivers. For now, we have to wash and then fly a fair chunk around the world.

Further into the heart of the American dream…

…or something like that.

I got bad culture shock in SF (and still have more to write about that).

Then we went to Vegas. Oh Jesus.

So now we’re going to Burning Man…

Best part of Vegas was chilling with an old friend who works here. In her pool, in the ‘burbs.

Vegas pool party 20150830_184347

Totally chilled.

Oh, and if you need to contact me, it’ll have to wait.

Birthday thoughts

…after a Vegas birthday that took in two circus shows, one training session, and one visit to Walmart – it is connection that I value, not spectacle.

Also warmth.

Hence I am delighted by this present from Andrea, helped by Shyamtara, from a photo of me spinning the Mitochondrion Mark 4 at Kiwiburn in 2013 by Kellective.


I shall be wrapping myself in this at Burning Man.

Random SF thoughts while I try to clarify how I feel about this place.

SF Toast 20150826_104354

We caught up with a wonderful surfer/aerial friend at some cafe down by Ocean Beach. They had toast, apparently causing everyone to blame the techies. In their defense, it was very good toast.

It was like this:

As Andrea says, “you never see that the other way around – surfers carrying their skateboards”.

Saw sand dollars and a syringe on the beach.

Caught up with another lovely friend and went to the cafe at the de Young art gallery. It is entirely clad in bronze, because someone had too much money.

SF copper 20150823_155143

On the wall of the de Young was a huge copper slab ten foot tall listing their major donors. I could try to claim this as a piece of art that asks questions about the place of Art in America, but I have enough culture shock already.

Achievements unlocked!

SF 20150824_174444

✔ Drive in the USA
✔ Get cut up by a BMW
✔ Get cut up by a Lexus
✔ Get cut up by a white van
✔ Get cut up by a pickup with a bed full of rusty engine parts
✔ Catch a bus in the USA
✔ Catch a bus going in the right direction in the USA
✔ Be mistaken for a Canadian

Last minute Burner soldering

Jez 20150823_194737

With Kellective.

SF looks like it does in the movies. The cultural presence is such that, even from far away as NZ, you kind of know what to expect, or at least there’s a pre-existing set of stereotypes that mediate your experience here. For example, the vegan cafe in Berkeley that’s full of hippy attitudes, the eye-wateringly expensive art gallery in the park, the white homeless people ranting about spirituality, the black homeless people giving you the side-eye.

The trick is going to be getting past that. Or is that the reality and does SF just have a global cultural presence because that’s where so much global culture comes from?

San Fran

Incoherent jetlagged thoughts from Oakland:

SF is biz jets and crappy public transport.
Time from getting off a plane to seeing a hand gun: less than two minutes.
Hipster mac and cheese?
Sunny parks as lounges.
Lots of homeless people, mostly black, mostly not begging but just hanging around.
Drivers stopping for pedestrians and lots of bike parking.
This American flag towel wasn’t American enough, so they added an extra American flag in the eye of the eagle:

Namespace clash, or why these jumping Germans are using #happyinmotion?

My alert for “happyinmotion” has been going nuts, with numerous German women jumping up and down:

A photo posted by Carolin (@caroli_in) on

A photo posted by @thats.the.secret on

Seems a deodourant company in Germany is running a competition called Die Rexona motion challenges, as explained by this German blogger. Hence they’re all over Twitter and Instagram.

Clearly, this is unacceptable, so I’ll be changing the name of this blog to www.52DRph0vtJT9pjoqXzgs0kJAt6McQH6AZpuzH9Tt3aC448i0sk40ci9hna0SBl1V.com.

A easier and more reliable way to join 144 LED per metre strips – sewing

The 144 LED per metre LED strips are stunning. The LEDs are close enough that they blur into a single bar of light. Sadly, the LEDs are close enough that joining the strips is a nightmare. The pads are tiny, joints are sketchy, the LEDs too close together to get an iron in there, and it’s easy to overheat and damage the LEDs. And I’ve had to make up four 1.4 metre lengths for the Mitochondrion LED staff, requiring joints in each.

So after much swearing and head-scratching I’ve come up with a better technique for joining them – sew them before you solder.

This applies to both NeoPixel and DotStar (APA102C) strips.

First up, cut the strips to leave whole pads. Don’t cut in the middle between LEDs, cut to one side. Yes, this means that the first LED on the part of the strip you are cutting off is now useless, but hey, you only lose one LED. I found cutting with a knife on a chopping board worked for me, my snips are far too large for this. The strips I’m using had adhesive on their backs, I scraped this off. The ends should look like:

Then make up a jig to hold the two ends in position, leaving both sides free. The ends of the strips should just butt together, for reasons that will become obvious. I only have one vice, so I used a clamp and some blocks from the workshop:

The next step is the fiddly one. I cut a length of multi-stranded hook-up wire, stripped the insulation off, and pulled out a single strand. I fed this through the holes in the pads and wove it back and forth. You could just make a simple loop, but that would leave the strip ends free to move and overlap. Instead, I wove some of the loops in a figure of eight pattern, with the strand crossing sides between the ends of the strips. This pattern can be tightened onto the pads and holds the strip ends against each other. Tweezers help. A picture is probably clearer than words, click to enbiggen to make it even clearer:

Getting the strand between the ends is easy, provided you start the sewing at one side of the strips and work across. That way you can hold the strand tight and pull it between the strip ends. Once I’d done a reasonable wrap, I took both loose ends of the strand to the back side, twisted them together a few times, cut them short and bent the ends down:

Now that the strips are held to each other and there is wire between the pads, soldering is a piece of cake:

And this is with a dirt-cheap, no-temperature control, medium-size soldering iron. I’ve yet to have a failed joint with this technique:

Bonus notes:
1) This technique does require an additional 1 mm between LEDs. This leaves a tiny, tiny gap. When the LEDs are on, I can’t spot the gap. If that isn’t good enough, then you could use the wire technique to overlap the pads directly and tie them together, but that’d require more complicated knots.
2) These joints are still just solder, so I wouldn’t bend them too much. Thick tape on the back of the joint seems like a good idea.
3) I really should write up my bombproof LED driver design.

LED strip drivers for the Flying Carpet

Driver boxes for the Flying Carpet, Marks 0 and 1. You could call this the march of progress, so long as progress is defined as smaller and tidier:

In fairness, I did the Mark 0 in a day’s rush before Kiwiburn, hence the horrible jumble. The Mark 1 is tidier, but of course building it revealed a bunch of extra tweaks to make assembly easier, like making everything through-hole, adding screw terminals, and shifting the sockets for easier access to the mounting screws. So there’ll be a Mark 2 and I’ll share that design.

The goal is a family of bomb-proof LED strip drivers, in a selection of sizes.

Specs for this version are: Teensy 3.1, level shifter, 34 Watt-hours of Lithium-ion cells, and 15 Watts to run NeoPixel or Dotstar strips. Will run 50 LEDs white and full brightness, 150 LEDs at single colour and full brightness, or many if your patterns are not full brightness. And a solid metal case that you can step on, and locking connectors so the cable won’t fall out.

Or maybe we just like to put googly eyes on all the things. This is the soft case for the hard case for the Mark 0 driver:

Mostly, I’m perturbed to be making plans for 2017

Spent today cutting and stacking about three cubes of mostly Japanese Cypress from some friends, with added mahoe from another fried, and mac and pine from our land. This will do for winter 2017, but when the hell did I start making plans that long?

And a shed full of bought pine for this winter, and pōhutukawa cut last year in piles for 2016, and we’ve now run out of space to store and dry any more wood. We were going to get some of the sycamores taken down this year, but that will have to wait until we’ve either burnt what we have in hand or made some more storage. Given we live in the side of a cliff, that’s tricky.