Death to the Squeak!

I bought these new shoes which fit well, have great arch support (important for the mile I walk to the bus) and look pretty good.  But they squeak.  There are a lot of places a shoe can squeak: the sole on the floor, the tongue, and the sides.  These all go away when you break them in, especially on leather shoes.  And I thought my squeak would go away too with enough miles, but it hasn’t.

My squeak comes from the insole liner rubbing within the shoe — one hard smooth sticky-ish plastic on the arch support and the other soft stickyish rubber on the sole.  I tried some vaseline and that helped a bit, but after a few days, the squeak was back.

So I sat back and tried to think of some material that was slippery, thin, and durable. Something that wouldn’t get absorbed into the soft rubber sole.  And eventually I hit on what I think will work: Tyvek®

Luckily Tyvek is easy to come by — it is in every FedEx envelope!  And I just happened to receive a FedEx containing my Twilio shirt.  With luck, Twilio will have helped me dress sharp and beat the squeak!

Posted in Cloth, Finished | 1 Comment

The Rewards of Open Source: T-Shirt from Twilio!

So, I’ve not been much of a Maker recently, at least that’s what you’d conclude from this blog.  But actually I’ve been busy busy busy at work creating new sample code, which hasn’t left much time for at-home tinkering.  Except for the OpenVBX project I’ve been working on :)

I really like Twilio in a retro-futuristic way.  I mean, navigating telephone trees (“Press 1 to be ignored.  Press 2 to be referred endlessly from one department to another.”) was something I’d thought died with the dawn of smart phones.  Why would I go through a linear search through an audio tree when I could click on a web page and go directly to the information I want?

Well, it feels different when you control the tree.

With Twilio you can make a phone call do just about anything you want.  Text to speech?  No problem.  Speech to text?  Easy.  Record a message?  Conference calls?  Protect everything with passwords?  All trivial.  Even your own hold music!  No more Muzak™!

So I long ago wrote a little package that knows all the phone numbers in my family, and if one of those numbers calls in, it automatically calls out to everyone else, sort of an active conference call or a rings-you party line.  It works really well, but sometimes nobody answers (given that we’re spread across three timezones, its not surprising that my free time doesn’t match anyone else’s).  So I began to wish for the ability to take messages and transcribe them to emails, and for people to manage their own call-in and call out numbers.  That’s “easy” t0 do, but still a lot of code to test.  I procrastinated for months.

And procrastination paid off!  Twilio released OpenVBX which does nearly everything I want right out of the box.  Now I can focus on just making one widget (the call-everyone party line) instead of all the UI and other stuff.

So I installed it and started to play with it and … hit a bug.  Apparently some other folks had experienced the same thing, and Twilio had been looking at it for about a month, but no solution was offered.  It turned out that I had just the right amount of ignorance on the internals that I found the problem quickly just looking at the obvious stuff, like “what changed since the last push when the conference call worked?”  It was a one word change, something that got missed when the maintainers updated the API.  I was disappointed that it was missed in their QA and that nobody had fixed it in a whole month.  The QA problem is a ding on Twilio, but the not-fixing-for-a-whole-month is a super big ding on the open source users!  Seriously folks, contribute!

Shawn Parker at Twilio saw my answer and got the fix added to the development branch pretty quickly, which I was really happy to see.  And then he sent me a t-shirt!  That’s the most profitable one word I’ve ever uttered :)

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Salute to the Quick Fix

Wooden door with "temporary" latch

Sometimes good enough is good enough

Over at Cool Tools they’re running a Quick Fix contest.  They say “When things break down it’s not likely you’ll have the tools needed to make a perfect fix. That’s why for this week’s contest we are looking for quick fixes. These aren’t meant to be perfect, but rather stop-gaps that will let you get by until you have the resources needed for a longer term solution.”

That reminded me of the latch at my Dad’s old farm.  I really think this is a prize-winning quick fix, but I suspect that Cool Tools holds more interest in the tools used than the effect.  The fact that Grandpa made a simple latch to keep the door shut with a hammer, nail, and scrap wood is a great testament that sometimes the quick fix is good enough to last practically forever!

When the family visited the farm back in 1988, we asked Dad what the room had been used for.  ”Calfing” he said, and added “I remember when my Dad nailed that latch on there and said he’d go into town for a replacement.”  Somehow that never happend, and the quick fix lasted more than 40 years.  As far as I know, it is still there!

I keep this picture handy on a shelf and look at it when I get all wrapped-up in finding the perfect solution.  Sometimes the quick solution is the right one.  Maybe even most of the time.

Posted in Finished, Musings | Leave a comment

Techshop SF Rocks!

So how did I miss the opening of TechShop in San Francisco?!

The sign is a lie!  They don't have a sign painted on their wall.In fact my Mom had to read about it in Florida and let me know!  Yeah, she’s a secret nerd.  Anyway, somehow it opened in February without any of my Maker friends saying a thing.

They’ve got laser etchers!  Like 3 or 4 of them!  A whole metal shop and mig and tig welding!  Heck, you can drive your whole car in the back and go to work on it!  Plastic vacu-f0rmers, injection molders, vinyl-cutting computer-controlled printers and all sorts of stuff that I really want to play with (like a high pressure water cutting system that will slice through granite!)  Did I mention the 3d printers?  Here’s the whole list as of today (as quoted from their website):

  • Epilog Helix 60-Watt Laser Cutters
  • Tormach CNC Milling Machines
  • 3D Printer
  • NextEngine 3D Scanner
  • Formech 600 24″ x 24″ Vacuum Forming System
  • Formech Heat Strip Bending System
  • Morgan Industries Injection Molding System
  • Sewing Machines
  • Overlock Sewing Machine
  • Tin Lizzie Quilting Machine
  • Computer-Controlled Vinyl Cutter
  • Powder Coating System
  • Lincoln MIG Welders (Steel)
  • Lincoln TIG Welders (Steel and Aluminum)
  • Hand-Held Plasma Cutter
  • Sheet Metal Spot Welder
  • Sheet Metal Brake, 16 ga x 50″
  • Rotary Sheet Metal Punch
  • Sheet Metal Corner Notcher
  • English Wheel and Planishing Hammer
  • Sheet Metal Shear, 16 ga x 50″
  • Sheet Metal Roller, 16 ga x 50″
  • Sandblast Cabinet
  • Metal Grinders and Sanders
  • Metal Chop Saw
  • Metal Horizontal Band Saw
  • Metal Vertical Band Saw
  • Computer Controlled Embroidery Sewing Machine
  • Electronics Testing and Soldering Equipment
  • Epson R1900 13″ x 19″ Achival Printer with Continuous Inking System
  • ShopBot 4′ x 8′ CNC Wood Router System
  • SawStop Professional Cabinet Table Saw
  • Panel Saw
  • Wood Planer
  • Wood Jointer
  • Wood Band Saw
  • Wood Sanders
  • Wood Scroll Saws
  • Wood Lathe
  • Drill Presses
  • Metal Lathes, 14″ x 40″
  • Vertical Milling Machines with DRO and Power Feed
  • Granite Surface Plate with Digital Height Gauges
  • Lots of Machine Shop Accessories and Tooling
  • Lots of Fast Computer Workstations with 2D and 3D Design Software

If you plan to take the tour (which I highly recommend!) be prepared to get an offer that is hard to refuse.  After the tour (which is totally free), they offer you a big discount off the monthly membership fees!  But you have to decide within 48 hours.  If that’s too much pressure, don’t worry.  They will probably offer you the same deal after you take a class.

You can also take a class before you become a member! So that lets you get your skills and safety certification in place before you start work on your project.  If I hadn’t just started a new job, I’d definitely sign up for some classes like the vinyl cutter and 3D printer (and maybe the serger … I kind of want to make another set of large-scale images on cloth!)  Maybe in a couple of months.

Posted in Musings, Training | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Removing the Obelisk (by Making a BATV Cover)

So, does your BATV (big-assed television) dominate your room too?

Do visiting friends feel like the Paleolithics dancing around the 2001 Obelisk?

Here’s what I decided to do about it:

See?! Now it’s not a giant black box dominating the room.  It’s a giant black spider!  Way better! (this was a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois exhibited out on the Embarcadero between 2008 and 2009)

Many thanks to Gabrielle who offers sewing lessons in my neighborhood for awesome prices … I learned to make patterns, serge, and generally use a sewing machine.  I feel accomplished.  She’s a great teacher!

I’ll post more details later, but for now, just basking in the happiness of completing this project.  It was actually started long ago — this was the first image I ever had printed at Spoonflower.  And now it is the other bookend on my little stream of crafty projects.

Posted in Cloth, Finished, TV Cover | Leave a comment