TNT Newsletter for April 20, 2007
Tie yourself in knots, after the deluge, moveable parts, the one-and-only paper clip, and working under pressure.
My very dear Readers,
I hadn't thought of it this way before, but spring is all about knots: hammock knots, sailing knots, rock-climbing knots, tying-stuff-to-your-truck-to-take-it-to-the-dump knots. Keith Hammond, our copy chief extraordinaire, pointed me to a great animated knot-tying site, and whether you still remember those trucker's hitches from your Scout days, or you've never tied anything more complicated than your shoes, you should definitely check it out.
Because spring is also about learning something new, I'm also sending you some other reviews to get you in the mood for spring. After the review in the last TNT about some tools to get into and out of tight corners, a reader wrote in suggesting a new use for the humble yet glorious paper clip. Eric Wilhelm, founder of Instructables.com, posted about a great new electronics parts search. Another reader finally wrote some good guidelines for resuscitating wet electronics. And if coaxing something that seems dead back to life isn't spring-like, I don't know what is!
Staff Editor, MAKE magazine
The maker's paradise this year will be Maker Faire 2007, a two-day family-friendly event celebrating engineering, arts, science, and crafts. On May 19-20, 2007, thousands of crafters and makers will converge at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in the San Francisco Bay Area. Featuring hundreds of makers, tons of workshops, and more cool inventions than you can imagine, this event is sure to leave you buzzing with inspiration for months to come. Purchase advanced tickets today and save before time runs out.
Reviewed by Keith Hammond
Instant merit badge: Animated Knots by Grog shows how to tie a hundred useful knots, each with its own clear animated photo sequence. From necktie Windsors to bowlines to the Prusik triple sliding hitch (a dangling MacGyver would use one to climb straight up a rope), it's a handy resource for household use, boating, camping, or rigging just about anything with rope or cordage.
Reviewed by Joel Young
I've revived a couple of soaked laptops and iPods, and if the machine isn't turning on, you pretty much have to disassemble it as fully as possible. You can find guides all over the internet. Cole's Hardware has little screwdriver kits that work well.
Once it's apart, you'll most likely see that the circuits have white sediment on them. I'm not sure what actually causes that to happen, but it causes (temporary) short circuits. If you get some denatured solvent alcohol from a hardware store and wipe the sediment away with cotton swabs and a toothbrush (don't breathe too deeply--it's not poisonous, but it is irritating), you should be able to get most, if not all, of the components working again.
Be careful not to let the display get soaked by anything, including the alcohol, because it won't function again after that. That's the part that's most likely to need replacement, and unfortunately, displays are not cheap. My fiancées iPod nano got soaked recently, and I was able to get everything but the display to work--and it costs $50 to get a replacement from a third party. Meh.
Reviewed by Eric J. Wilhelm
Enter the part number, or simply its title or use, and Octopart returns the best-matched specific components, their prices and availability from several suppliers, and links to the relevant catalog pages.
I wish this had existed back in 1998. At the time, I was in charge of building the power controller for a web-controlled, wireless robot with a live video feed as part of the ultimate class in MIT's undergraduate mechanical engineering program, 2.009 Product Design. What is now a relatively easy task was really kicking my butt then. After two painstakingly hand-built MOSFET H-bridges driven by charge pumps exploded in my face, I was at my wit's ends. I knew there had to be a better solution, but I could not find it anywhere. At one stage, I even sat down with the Digikey catalog and started reading through all of the components in the sections I thought might have something relevant.
Pop "h-bridge" into Octopart and the fourth result is my favorite chip (and what eventually saved my skin in 2.009), the LMD18200. Hey look, the cheapest price with the highest availability is at Digikey. I think I'll get it there....
Octopart is pretty cool as is, and I'm sure there will soon be lots more distributors. What's even more exciting, in my opinion, is the concept of Octopart searching through a webpage, determining what specific parts are mentioned, and generating a personalized shopping cart with the cheapest and most readily available parts.
Reviewed by htimsmk
With regard to the spring hook and trimmer screwdrivers posted, I find a paper clip unfolded with a small Z-shaped bend in the end is best for guiding belts in VCRs and such. You can push and pull on the same end.
Reviewed by Scotty1
This drill accessory is great. If you do any drilling, it can definitely save bits by applying steady pressure. It works on power drills: replace the handle with this and it will make drilling more efficient. Saves a lot of time and money, and pays for itself very quickly.