maandag 28 november 2016

Open Sourcing the SNES Controller

About two years ago, I published a precise 3d-model for the SNES controller on Thingiverse. Not long after this, when reading about the PCB Cyclone, a 3d-printed milling machine targeted towards PCB creation, I decided to build it at some point to be able to recreate the electronics (in style, that is..)

It took me a while to get the milling machine to work. More specifically, I couldn't get the auto-leveling to work reliably using the Marlin firmware. Precise auto-leveling is especially important when milling PCBs, as the copper layer is only about 0.04mm thick, and PCBs aren't usually very flat. I even tried a development branch which supposedly comes with mesh-based auto-leveling. Once I started to appreciate the more-or-less recommended bCNC software, I quickly got it to work pretty well. Perhaps it would be better if there were no Marlin branch for the Cyclone..

Getting the electronics right was also challenging, as there doesn't seem to be precise documentation online for building the electronics for a PAL controller. In the end it turned out I just needed to add a single resistor of a pretty specific value on just the clock input (467ohm in my case), and everything worked like a charm. If you are stuck building a PAL controller, where only the B button works, the solution may well lie in this direction..

The schematics which I used in the end come from Raphael Assenat. These schematics were the first I got working (IIRC without any pull-up resistor!), but I guess other schematics would work as well for a PAL controller, with the right pull-up resistors, and this might obviate the need for an inverter (chip). That would open up some space for a nice connector perhaps.

I still need to model the connector, print the flexible rubber parts using some flexible filament, and mill the two small PCBs for the L & R buttons, to be able to say the SNES controller is now fully open-source, but this should all be relatively simple. I may wait until my next printer to try flexible filament first, and if that results in working parts, I might well be motivated enough to go all the way.. I would also love to print the whole controller again using soluble support material..

During the process, I've become a big fan of both KiCad and FlatCAM. Using these, modeling the electronics, resp. converting them into gcode to send to the milling machine was a piece of cake. But bCNC is also rather great. One tip for using bCNC: make sure you get the Z height approximately correct, before doing anything else (so before any kind of probing), or your milling machine may be attempting harakiri..

maandag 5 september 2016

Becoming Vegan

I've always had issues with consuming animal products, for ethical reasons, but passively assumed that they were necessary for health, or that it would be complicated to meet my nutritional needs without consuming them. So when I became convinced, about a year ago, that it is not necessary (or even healthy), and actually very simple to meet your nutritional needs as a vegan, becoming a vegan was the easiest decision I've ever made. Because I realized that animal suffering is completely UNNECESSARY to create healthy food, which makes consuming animal products about as morally right as slavery.

And I really hate bullshit, so you can be sure I researched this quite thoroughly. Go to Youtube, and see who you believe for yourself. Do you believe the emeritus professor in nutrition, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a seeker-for-truth kind of guy, who researched the topic his entire career, or the dumb weightlifter who says you need the protein..? Do you believe a meta-study performed by the World Health Organization which tells you processed meat increases your risk of dying from cancer, or some industry-sponsored paper which tells you everything is fine, and just keep consuming please?

Basically there are three important reasons to stop consuming animal products:

-Your own health. Most western people, especially in America, die from diet-related diseases. If you don't believe this, watch the documentary "Forks over Knives" and look into "The China Study". Another great book about this topic is "How Not to Die" by doctor Michael Greger. If you believe a vegan diet cannot be healthy at all, you just disagreed with many major health organizations:

-The horrendous suffering and killing of billions of sentient animals EVERY YEAR. Trillions of animals if you count fish. Especially mammals are practically human in their physiology and neural chemistry. Consider female cows, for example. Female cows are systematically raped, and their babies taken away from them (in many cases to be eaten!), just so we can drink mother's milk from another species. Please watch the documentary "Earthlings" to appreciate such practices better, and hopefully "make the connection".

-Our planet's resources and biodiversity are quickly being destroyed to support animal agriculture. Did you know that to produce 1 kilo of beef, you need on the order of 10000 liters of water, and on the order of 50 kilo's of animal feed? This represents an insanely inefficient use of water and land. Not to mention all the waste products making their way into the oceans. But it gets worse: animal agriculture, when taking all its factors into account, is quite likely the largest single contributor to global warming. Watch the documentary "Cowspirary" for more (accurate) facts.

It is impractical for a short blog post to dive into all the other facts and considerations I would like to mention about this topic, and it probably wouldn't be very effective. You might just think I'm insane. So I would just like to encourage anyone reading this (hi, mom!) to investigate the truth for themselves, and try to live vegan for a month. Especially Youtube seems to be a great way to get information, which used to be buried in the scientific literature, in a simple and convenient way. I will leave you with the following quote.