Archive for March, 2010

Accelerometer Pitch Trigger

March 29, 2010

It’s been a while since I posted, and it is partly because of the projects I have been working on. Here, I mounted a Memsic 2125 Accelerometer chip inside an old Apple speaker enclosure. The output voltage varies in the horizontal and vertical directions based on the acceleration of the chip in those directions:

Since this has a voltage output, the pitch trigger is a bit gnarly. I’m working on a method to convert this to a resistance output, which would actually alter the pitch. However, the voltage range is too small to currently be useful in that regard. Right now, it’s just a pretty sweet noisemaker.

Worst Idea Ever

March 18, 2010

Green Day just created new levels to stoop to:

Google Maps: Bicycling

March 15, 2010

For the past year, since I’ve been living in New York City, I found my way around by selecting the “walking” option on Google Maps, then changing my route based on one-way streets, or just by discovering construction en route. It was always a hassle to make it from Point A to Point B by bicycle because Google Maps never accommodated the option.

Finally, the concept from RideTheCity merged with Google to create Google Maps: Bike There. Not only do the directions cater to one-way streets, hills, and bike lanes, but it also draws the various bike-friendly streets around the city. You can take safe, scenic routes or direct, fast routes.

Of course, if you already know the city pretty well, this might do more harm than good. Bugs in the software still tend to plan routes through “off-limit” paths in Central Park, or roads that just do not accommodate cyclists whatsoever. On the other hand, once this app goes mobile (which Google foresees in the near future), it’s going to be MUCH easier to get around if you get lost on your bike.

I hope this summer results in more efficient bike routes, compared to my distress last summer of circling around neighborhoods and finding myself on the on-ramp to interstates.

Pi Day

March 14, 2010

Google is so freakin awesome, even if they are taking over the world.

Karl Klomp, Video Bender

March 11, 2010

Failter 6 by Karl Klomp

Failter 6 by Karl Klomp


When the term “circuit bending” is brought up, it typically applies to audio: going inside a synthesizer or guitar pedal and tweaking it to produce weirder sounds. Circuit bending is so rooted in audio, that the prospect of “bending” video signals is pretty unheard of.

A Place To Bury Strangers is going on their U.S. tour this month with two projectors, fed from a switchbox that has six iPods feeding video into it. The feeds are selectable, so any two out of the six videos can be projected onto the band from behind. Here is a clip from their current tour:

Although this setup is pretty sweet, it doesn’t require any IC chips or internal circuitry other than switches and jacks. So we did a bit of research to find out if there is anyone out there actually making video effects pedals. Like a guitar pedal, but for video.

If you google “DIY video effects” or “Video Mixer Circuit” you will inevitably stumble upon Karl Klomp. Klomp takes video circuitry like mixers and monitors, and alters them to make interactive video effects. Here is an example:

Though it seems that most of his effects are made from existing video mixers, there are a few easy projects that were constructed using one or two IC chips. The AD8072 is even available from Analog Devices, so I might start there.

Check out Karl’s website for more videos and pictures of his projects. Maybe in a few months I’ll have a video effects box of my own.

The Mole People

March 9, 2010

Mole People by Jennifer Toth

The Mole People is a fascinating look at a subculture living beneath the subway tunnels of New York City. Written in 1993 by Jennifer Toth, an intern for the L.A. Times, this exploratory semi-nonfiction uncovers a community that most social works and law enforcement officials knew about, but refused to acknowledge publicly for fear of a mass repeal of the subway system.

Toth’s book has been criticized as unverifiable and inaccurate, since it is based on the accounts of the unnamed homeless, as well as unpublished figures by the Transit Authority and the NYPD. Still, it is an interesting story about an alternate lifestyle, better than living on the streets and more tightly-knit than most above-ground communities. True or false, the people exist, and they’ve been making their home in the dark recesses of New York’s underground labyrinth for decades. Pretty great read.

Second Avenue Bike Lane

March 5, 2010
Second Avenue Bike Lane

The best design, with a separated bike lane

After a year of near-death experiences riding in the shadows of buses and taxis on First and Second Avenue, we’re finally getting separated bike lanes on the east side. From Houston to 125th street, the entire infrastructure of the east side is being rebuilt, and the bright green comfort zones will be protected by a treeline, with parking on the street side of the lane.

Though I have no real complains with First Avenue (except maybe the United Nations Funnel of Death, where cars tend to merge spontaneously to the FDR exit), Second Avenue is perhaps the most dangerous avenue in Manhattan. With the never-ending subway project, there is construction constantly, multiple entrances to the Queensboro Bridge, and generally no regard or respect for bikes north of 14th street. Even the painted bike lane in the Lower East Side does little to stop taxis or loading vans from parking there, so it’s usually more dangerous riding in the bike lane than on the street.

Of course, the construction of this lane will most likely take another year, and add to the chaos of the commuting, but at least we’re finally catching up to the west side.