Update to Experiment 1: Hard Drive Sander

As I said in a previous post, I ripped apart an old hard drive and made it into a disk sander.  My power supply for that sander finally arrived!  I tried plugging the sander in and then plugging the PSU into the wall while its switch was on, but nothing happened.  After some frantic hair-pulling trying to figure out if the supply was dead, I found a solution on the Internet.  PSUs need a signal from the motherboard to actually turn on, even if they are plugged in, so jumping the green wire to a black wire on the motherboard connector fakes that signal.  I tried this, and amazingly, the HDD spun up and became a high-speed sander!   I was able to nicely sharpen a railroad spike into a chisel for chopping stuff.  I also sharpened a wooden dowel into a conical point and gave a regular pencil an unnaturally sharp point.  I noticed that after 2 minutes, the HDD spontaneously shut down.  The PSU's fan still was spinning, but the HDD consistently shut down.  However, I can cycle the supply by flipping the switch on and then off to fix the problem.  I believe that the HDD figures out that there are no signals from the motherboard and then decides to shut off.

Experiment 6: Hot Ice

In traversing the wide Information Superhighway, I found NurdRage's very neat hot ice video.  I used his homemade method and used 1 liter of clear vineagar to 3 tablespoons of baking soda.  His method worked very well.  When I boiled it down, I did not notice a floating crust but rather a quick-forming rim of crystal around the pot.  Once I saw that (it took a while), I immediately took the sodium acetate trihydrate (the end result) off the stove and cooled it in the refrigerator.  When I stuck my finger in to see if it was cold, it froze!  I was happy that I had made it work on the first try.  After I microwaved it for 30 seconds and cooled it again, I placed a crystal of the sodium acetate trihydrate in and it froze very nicely and beautifully.  My solution actually turned out to be quite clear.  The experiment gave a warm feeling of satisfaction and was also quite warm physically, due to the exothermic freezing reaction.

Experiment 5: 9V Battery Clips

Cool little thing I discovered - by peeling the casing back on a 9V battery, one can salvage a clip for connecting other 9V batteries to circuits - sort of like battery clips commercially available.  I did this by carefully twisting and rolling the metal case away to reveal the six small batteries inside the larger 9 volt.  The little terminal tab at the top popped out, and I was able to solder wires on to the backside, like so:
As you can see, it is just the top of a dismantled 9V battery with wires soldered to the back, but it works quite well for attaching power to circuits.

Experiment 4: Carbon Rods

If you want to do electrolysis to make sodium hydroxide or do other stuff, carbon rods are sometimes used as electrodes, but burning pencils to get their rods only gives thin, easily breakable clay containing pencil leads (I did that).  If you have a battery (like a AA or D-cell) that says "Heavy Duty" or "Super Duty", it probably has a carbon rod inside.  I took apart a heavy duty AA and peeled apart the positive side to reveal the carbon rod.  I carefully removed the sides of the battery and got out the rod.  Then I washed it up to remove the weird black stuff that surrounded the rod.  By the way, the carbon rod is in the center, not on the sides.  However, it turns out that I need a membrane to electrolyze aqueous sodium chloride into sodium hydroxide, so I will not be getting there quite yet.

Experiment 3: Zinc Ring Casting

So I have been interested in metal casting for a while and have made some blobs and large ingots, but I wanted some real results.  I made some casting sand using 1 part ground cat litter (try to find one that only has Bentonite clay in it) to 9 parts regular play sand.  I ground the cat litter using my mom's kitchen blender; if you do so, wash it out well or she will murder you with a butcher knife.  I probably should have used fine silica sand, but play sand was what I had on hand from building my large metal-melting furnace.  Regular play sand will give you coarse results.  I added enough water so that it stuck together but was not sopping.  I then basically followed this, but I did not add any vents/air holes for the casting.  My flasks were made by cutting a frozen juice can in half; you can definitely improve this if you do this experiment.  Having made my ring mold (using my dad's wedding ring), I used a soup can as a crucible and a propane torch to melt some zinc pennies (date after 1982) and skimmed off the copper coating.  With a smooth action, I poured the metal into the mold.  I am exceedingly happy with the results.

The image at the top of the post is the newly removed casting.  I cleaned it up with a Dremel tool and a hand file and then sanded it smooth.  As you can see from the two other pictures, the ring actually resembles a real ring and looks fairly nice for a first casting.  It even fits on a finger and does not irritate the wearer!

Experiment 2: Lithium Battery

Lithium is an alkali metal, which means that it is fairly reactive with water and air.  Some batteries have lithium in them, so following NurdRage's tutorial, I set about extracting lithium from batteries.  First I remembered that some coin batteries say "Lithium", so I found two of those with the word "Lithium" printed on them.  I took one apart and dumped a metal mesh that I thought was lithium into some cooking oil to keep it from oxidizing with the air.  I then dumped the rest of the battery into some water and it fizzed.  Thus I learned that the mesh was not lithium; the other part was.  With the second battery, I was more careful and found some reddish stuff on the inside of one of the polarities and isolated that in the oil.  When placed in water, this reacted quite well.  However, I breathed and then started coughing.  Later, I found a battery pack that had two AAs in it that were lithium.  These were the type NurdRage took apart.  I unwrapped one of them and found a nice roll of lithium.  I placed that under the oil and reacted a small part with water.  Fizz!!!  Once again, I breathed and then commenced coughing.  To remove the irritant, I opened some windows and blew the air out with a fan.  From my dad's research (he is a chemist), we decided that the irritant gas is probably hydroxide, so if you react some lithium, you may want to be wary of that.

Experiment 1: Hard Drive Sander

This experiment basically turns a Hard Drive Disk into a Disc Sander.  I had an old 160 gig hard drive that frustratingly did not work, so I took it apart.  I had originally considered making a mold and casting my own Torx screwdriver in metal to undo the uncommon screws, but I found a Torx head that fit, so I did not have to cast my own.  If you make a HDD sander, excercise patience when removing the components, because I am sure you do not want to break the important stuff like the motor.  I left the motor and platters intact and then rearranged the platters so that they were directly on top of each other, as to add more support.  I cut some sandpaper to be the right size and then sandwiched that between the top platter and the washer on top of the platters that held the stack down.  I tested the sander (before it had sandpaper on it) with a PSU I already had and the platters spun up, so I must have the right kind of "dumb" drive, one that spins up just by plugging into the PSU Molex connector.  I will be purchasing another PSU to act as a permanent power supply.  When I get that and hone some blades, I will make an update!

Intro to Experimentation

Hey Reader!

This post is the intro to many others- I have decided to record all my mad experimentations for all to see.  I am doing this for a number of reasons:

  • The Information Superhighway has too many unanswered questions that go nowhere.  I am not going nowhere with these posts.
  • Who knows if the writer of the tutorial you were reading didn't actually do the experiment?  I certify that I have done all these.
  • I need to get this info out for others to use!  In line with the maker spirit, share knowledge!
Have fun reading, and only use as much caution as you are comfortable with.

More RPi Words of the Wise!

Wow!  The posts are really flying today!  However, this is important.  If you have gotten NOOBS up and running and have installed Raspbian, you still may not be ready to roll.  I could not get Raspbian to show up at all, and so I started troubleshooting.  Although I would have liked to shoot my trouble with a .22-gauge shotgun, I was mature and instead looked up some stuff on the Information Superhighway.  My solution to Raspbian not displaying on my old composite video TV was to, in NOOBS, edit the "config.txt" file for Raspbian so that all the auto-generated settings at the bottom of the page were commented out.  Basically, to make Raspbian display on my TV, I commented out every line in the file.  It worked!  Time to set up WiFi!

NOOBS Display Output

OK, so if you are going about on your first time running the Raspberry Pi NOOBS SD card, don't freak out when you don't see anything on the screen.  If you have the RPi plugged in, methodically go through pressing 1, 2, 3, and 4 on your keyboard, one after the other, until you see something.  I got ready to "broaden my vocabulary" when my RPi seemed to be haywire again; save yourselves the trouble by changing the display output to conform to your display/TV by pressing 1 through 4 on your keyboard.  After doing so, you will see a very nice interface!  Yay!

RPi SD Cards

Well, technology once again drives me to pulling my hair out!  I tried to redo my SD card since it self destructed, but the computer said it was "Read Only."  Nothing more, and no options to change it.  Therefore, I came across some weird stuff on the Internet that sounds slightly superstitious.  If one pushes, pulls, and presses on the SD card the right way when it is in the slot, all the problems go away and the SD card is writeable again!  It actually works!  As such, I have the NOOBS Raspberry Pi software installing Raspbian as I write this post!  Hopefully this helps for all those annoying SD cards!

200 Folding@Home WUs!

I just finished my 200th work unit for Folding@Home!  For those of you who don't know, Folding@Home is a distributed computing project on protein folding, dedicated to helping scientists understand diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer.  And today, my trusty computer, "FrankenBox I", just finished its 200th work unit, with a score of 621295 and a rank of 46952 out of 1708587 users!  That comes out to a percentage of 2.74%.  I am in the top 2.75% of all Folding@Home users!  In short, I am very happy and am already (when am I not?) scheming for ways to get more computers and do more folding!

RPi Battery Pack at Last!

Well, it's been a while since I have posted, because... actually, I don't know.  But, while traversing the Great Information Superhighway, I stumbled upon this amazing article on powering a Raspberry Pi off 8 AA batteries and a 12V car-to-USB adapter.  Since I had the materials and have wanted to get a battery pack set up for various projects, I tried the idea.  My Raspberry Pi was not functional, however, as it had somehow self-destructed its memory card again and had weird errors that I couldn't make heads or tails of.  After playing around with the car charger, I discovered that the polarity of the leads connecting to the tabs of the charger does matter.  I tried testing for voltage on the USB end of the charger, and something started smoking and smelling bad.  Then, I noticed that my clip lead had come undone, because it had melted!  After reversing polarity, I got the whole thing working!

I was able to power a USB keyboard light using my hack.  As you can see in the image, I have a four-pack of AAs, a two-pack, and another two-pack, all in series.  The clip leads connect to the tabs of the 12V car-to-USB charger, and then the USB light is plugged into that.  Next, I need to figure out my misbehaving Raspberry Pi and try this battery pack!

Scratch: The Future of Technology

Well, it might not quite be the future of technology, but it is pretty cool.  Check out Scratch!  The interactive, colorful, and easy programming language.  And Scratch 2.0 is coming soon, so take a look at my new project I made for computer club!  Also, go to beta.scratch.mit.edu to try out their new web interface!  No download needed!

Extreme Tech Fun!

Well, if I wasn't a tech already, I'm definitely heading down that slippery slope now!  Just recently, I got a recommendation from a friend to get VirtualBox, an awesomely powerful virtual machine suite.  I got it and  installed Debian 6.0.6 and Ubuntu 12.04 on virtual hard drives.  Then, for some extremely geeky fun, I played around with SSH on the virtual machines.  I had to configure the virtual network settings a bit, but that was pretty easy.  I SSHed as root into the Debian machine, which was already running a web server, then was able to play around with my knowledge of Unix and command-line operation.  I used the super-cool command-line tool nano to edit the index.html file of the /var/www folder.  Then, on my Windows 7 OS, I was able to view the website without any difficulty!  Should you ever feel the need to play around with SSH, Unix-based systems have it built in, and on Windows, you can download the program PuTTY, which is a standalone SSH client.  Have fun!

Educational Password Cracker!

It all started like this.  I got bored, couldn't think of a program to write, and so I decided to write a purely educational password cracker.  First, I made a ridiculously simple password generator algorithm that wrote all the four-character combinations of the numbers and letters to a file.  Then, I created another program that takes your MD5 password hash and set it to a variable.  It then reads a line from the file, hashes it, and compares it with your hash.  If they are the same, it tells you what the line from the file (the password) was.  If not, it reads the next line and does the process all over again.  Somehow, I just can't believe how simple that was.  And it works beautifully!  Check out the app development section to get the program and take over the world!