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stem, steam, it’s all just teaching kids math.

stem, steam, it’s all just teaching kids math. published on No Comments on stem, steam, it’s all just teaching kids math.

If you tell a kid, time for “math” they’ll probably groan unless they’re a bit of an “odd duck”. Math, traditionally, has been viewed by schoolchildren as boring, tedious, and often difficult to understand. STEM, now STEAM educational materials now provide the ability to convey the concepts of mathematics in a tangible way. The seemingly ubiquitous raspberry pi is partially responsible for this explosion in education related to technology. One such example of this is Kano OS.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Kano. It’s a great platform for the ~5 year olds that want a computer. Less than $200 in a branded kit, or around the same price to build your own. It’s a Raspberry Pi with a custom linux build that “kidifies” the whole look and feel. It does more than just make everything pretty, though… They’ve included “HACK/Minecraft” an educational version of the game, art tools, an adventure game that teaches the layout of a raspberry pi, and more.

What do you do when the same kid turns 8, two years into having a Kano computer? “I’m boooored. My computer locked up again”… You could schlop a Raspbian desktop imaged SD into the thing, sure. You could put Minibian on it if the kid is really interested in making it theirs, and you have the time to help them with EVERY step. Keep in mind, kids under about 10 in the U.S. usually don’t quite grasp “I could google that.”.

What I did was the hard part for them ahead of time. Minibian is the lighter version of Debian for Raspberry Pi. Almost exactly like a Debian minimal install, it doesn’t even include the firmware for bluetooth by default. But, it does have apt-get and the Raspbian repositories.

Here’s a very brief rundown of my method:

Minibian – boot to console with no network attached
Change root password, create sudoer (me) and user (kid) account
Attach network
apt-get update; apt-get upgrade -y

Install packages as desired:
minetest (it’s in the repos, and runs ok on a rpi3)
browser of your choosing
other games, educational apps, etc

Now, FluxBox is the one package I want to touch on to finish this up. It is a Window-Manager. You see, Linux doesn’t have a GUI by default, like Windows does. Instead, we run X on top of our perfectly-fine-without-it OS. X comes in a couple of flavors, but it’s the part that gives you a Graphical Interface. The Window-Manager makes that interface pretty, by giving you menus and such. Window-Managers vary, but FluxBox is one of the smaller ones. I’ve tried running Raspbian desktop as it comes; it locks up, chokes for CPU, chokes for I/O throughput, and applications hang when given to a child or other poorly behaved user.

Smaller in this context means less memory utilization, less storage for the window-manager software itself, and less headache. The menu system for it is entirely plaintext, the layout and theme styling is as well. So much of this window-manager is plaintext that you can spend a great deal of time fine-tuning everything to suit your tastes. Should it fail to composite things correctly after an application closes, there’s a menu item (scriptable btw) that cleans it all up for you. Even tidies up the handles on windows that are still attached to running processes.

The end result is a raspberry Pi computer with:
a pretty, clean GUI
kid-friendly menu system
parental monitoring
educational software
shortcuts to common web/cloud things.

rc stunt car

rc stunt car published on No Comments on rc stunt car

I’ve begun designing and 3D printing a RC stunt car. RC racing as a hobby supports many classes, including buggies, trucks, and aircraft. While these are just a few of the categories of RC racing you can participate in, there is one that I have enjoyed since I was young. Stunt driving involves driving your car through loops, over jumps, intentionally performing rollovers, wheelies, and other death-defying feats.

RC permits us to perform these stunts without any of the risk to life and limb. However RC is an expensive hobby to participate in. Many kits range in the hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. Bear in mind that a kit will be little more than a box full of plastic and metal parts requiring the user to assemble and tune their own machine from the ground up.

3D printing permits us to rapidly iterate a design while evaluating individual design characteristics and adjusting for them with a rapid turnaround. Considering this, the next logical thought is to 3D print an RC car from scratch.

I am currently bootstrapping one such vehicle. The plant layout is an independent lower a-arm with camber link front suspension, combined with a trailing arm live axle rear suspension. This will permit most suspension adjustments to be performed on the front of the car while the rear is primarily providing forward motion. For the application of a stunt vehicle this layout permits adjustment for a variety of intended stunts and surfaces. Additionally an open layout bootstrapped with a given purpose in mind, such as stunt driving, gives the flexibility Of ensuring that the platform is perfectly suited to its intended purpose.

At one point in my youth, I purchased a Bolink “Digger” car. This overly simplistic RC car chassis is little more than two plates of carbon fiber with spacers to stand them in a ladder chassis configuration. With a rigid rear axle and minimal front suspension the vehicle was very susceptible to rollovers, and wheelies. The chassis was also nigh-indestructible. Add the included Volkswagen Beetle body and you have a car that is nothing but laughs. That is my ultimate goal with this project… an RC car that is nothing but laughs.

And now I leave you with a short video of me ranting about the benefits of rapid prototyping.

threedee printering version two point oh!

threedee printering version two point oh! published on No Comments on threedee printering version two point oh!

Yeah, so… The Monoprice Select Mini I raved about is still a good first printer. I’m paraphrasing a HaD writer here, but it is the model-T of 3d printers.

Even with a failed heater circuit (dead short through the FET, scary!)… it’s a good machine. In the span of a few evenings, I’ve set up a RAMPS configuration under it.

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attempted nepotism?

attempted nepotism? published on No Comments on attempted nepotism?

Jim Comey testified before the legislative branch. Some of the things he talked on concerned me a great deal. They do not surprise me, very little regarding our government does any more.

I don’t generally trust law enforcement, certainly not at the federal level. But, I have to say, this guy came across as believable, honest, and concerned.

What comes next is yet to be seen, but it could get real damned interesting.

captain hack testifies in open hearing

captain hack testifies in open hearing published on No Comments on captain hack testifies in open hearing

Former CIA director Brennan testified today before the US federal government regarding Trump/Russia collusion.

The CIA director at the head of the ship when it came to light that US intelligence is literally hacking everything on the planet that they can. If you’re interested in cyberwarfare stuff that the Russians might have, he’s yer guy… sure.
Continue reading captain hack testifies in open hearing