Entries in diy (7)


GoPro cable cam

I've decided I'm going to try and compile a bunch of footage this summer from all the mountain bike trips I go on and at the end of the season put together a killer riding video.  With that being the plan, I wanted to make sure that I get some interesting shots and plan out the video a bit so it turns out better than my typical head cam videos do.  One of the shots I'm really eager to try is a cable cam shot through the forest on a long a trail.  You'll often see these super long shots following a rider in mountain bike videos and I think they are rad.  Anyway, I started Googleing around and found tons of examples of cable cams.  One that caught my eye was from this Vimeo video:

DIY GoPro Cable Cam from Maia Media on Vimeo.


I really liked the use of the RAM mounts because I find them to be very stout and easy to move into various positions, both of which are useful in a cable cam (I think... :) ).  Anyway, I also had the RAM mount stuff, so I just went over to Lowes and walked around looking for stuff to use.  Here is the list of things I ended up using for my cable cam:

List of items used:

1. GoPro Tripod Mount

2. RAM Mount handle bar mount with tripod adapter

3. Duct Tape

4. Clothes Line Pulley x 2

5. 1/2 in threaded rod - 1 foot - Can't find a link to just one foot.  You could shop around or cut a longer one down.

6. 200 - 300 feet of paracord

7. Line tensioner

8. A few locking nuts to match your threaded rod

I ended up having all the RAM mounts and GoPro tripod mount already from mounting my GPS on my motorcycle and mounting the GoPro on a tripod.  I picked up the rest of the stuff at Jax and Lowes near my house.  I just walked around Lowes until something came to mind, and then went over to Jax to get the paracord and ended up getting the line tensioner while I was there.

Here is the stuff I picked up at Lowes:

And here is what I got from Jax:

And the tensioner:

There's not really much to explain about what I came up with: 

I just found a 12 inch length of rod and wouldn't you know it, right above it was two pulleys that had a hole that perfectly matched the rode.  I just screwed a pulley on each side after a locking nut (which is totally optional IMO) and then I tried to attached the handle bar RAM mount in the middle.  The handle bar mount turned out to be a bit too big, so I just wrapped maybe twenty wraps of duct tape around the rod first.  I already had some paracord in my box of stuff, so I tested out the dolly with my wife in the living room and the camera rolls nicely along the cord.  Here is some video I took after the weather got nice enough to go outside and play.  This is maybe an 80' run from a tree to a post near my house.  I think 200' of cord will be perfect for the long forest shot.

The way I attach the cord between two objects is like so:

1. I take the end of the long cord and tie it around an object (tree, fence post, etc) with a bow line knot.  This is a great anchor knot and it unties very easily.  Here's a video showing how to tie one:

2. Then I took about a 6 foot length of paracord and tied multiple overhand knots along the cord.  I can now wrap this cord around a stationary object and then use the cord tensioner to attach to two of the overhand knots and tighten up the cable portion of the setup:

After I had the line rigged up I had some concerns about how to stop th camera at the end of the line.  I didn't want it just bashing into the object it was tied to as I figured it wouldn't be long before I broke a pulley.  I ended up laying my jacket over the line like so:


This worked like a charm bringing the camera to a gentle stop and had the collateral effect of dampening vibration on the line.

Feel free to shoot me any questions/suggestions in the comments.


- - Rob


Bike belt from my old Kenda small block

So yesterday, I decided to finish up the spring maintenance on my MTB, and I swapped on a new set of tires.  The old ones were pretty spent but I hung on to the front as a spare.  The rear had a huge gash in the side wall, so it was junk.  Instead of tossing it though, I figured I'd make a belt out of it.  Turns out I had a spare buckle back from when I was making a few paracord belts:

So I had the buckle, and the belt material, so all I had to do was pick up some fasteners.  Turns out there is a fabric store right next to the bike shop, so I grabbed my new tires and slime, and then picked up these fasteners for a few bucks:


These are easy to fasten, as you just hammer them into place.  Great for me, as I didn't want to buy some tool to fasten buttons (although I'm thinking of getting something like that).  Anyway, I just cut off the side walls of the tire, and then took it inside to wash all the Stan's out of it:

I let the tire soak a bit, then used a wash rag and rubbed all the Stan's out.  This was the hardest part of the job by far, but didn't take much more than moderate elbow grease.  Next, I cut a hole for the buckle with my exacto knife:

After that, I just attached the buckle:


Before I hammered the two fasteners through, I cut a piece of rubber out of the old side wall to use as a retaining strap on the belt.  I wrapped that around the front of the belt, and sandwiched it between the folded rubber holding the buckle.  Then I hammered the fasteners through.  The buttons end up behind the retaining loop:

The last thing I did was cut the belt to length, round the end, and poke the holes.  I marked the holes at the same distance as one of the belts I wear a lot and knew fit well.  Then I just cut an "X" at each mark, and ran a round file through each hole.  I did cut extra material out with my xacto knife too.

The finished product:

I've been wearing it for a day or so now, and it fits perfectly, and keeps my pants up.  Pretty sweet way to upcyle.


- Rob



Custom molded ear buds

I saw on the internet somewhere some time back a tutorial where someone used some Radians custom molded earplugs to make some molded ear buds.  Anyway, here's how mine turned out:

I decided to make them because my ear buds hurt my ears after wearing them for any more than an hour (which I do all the time when I travel).  Anyway, I've worn them for over an hour once so far, and they are totally comfortable.  Cool thing is, I can pop the ear buds out pretty easily, and could probably switch in a nicer set of buds without a problem.  It's worth doing IMO.

P.S. My life is back on the strait and narrow after a few rough months were I didn't want to do anything, so expect me to be blogging and writing code, and doing a ton of more projects this summer.  Next up is making some carbon fiber shiznit for my KTM.

- Rob



Windows Binaries for QT Canon

A while back I compiled some Windows binaries for my QT Canon application.  I did a couple of videos with it, but I sold my DSLR before I got to play too much with it.  Until I get a new camera SLR, the QT Canon project is on hold (mainly because I don't have a camera to test with).  At any rate, I figured I'd put the binaries so that others could play around with it.  There are bugs in the app, and this is beta at best, but feel free to download and make some cool time lapse videos.  All you have to do is download the zip file and then extract it some where.  Then plug your camera in, turn it on, and then fire up the application.  On Linux, the app will find your camera even if you start the app before you plug the camera in.  This is not the case on Windows though.  You must plug in your camera, turn it on, and then start the app.  From there you just set up a few things and start shooting.  Have fun!

Download for Windows (XP/Vista/7): QT Canon

I recommend turning off the auto focus when shooting time lapse.  Otherwise the camera has a tendency to "hunt for focus" between shots, and this can produce a jerky video when stitched back together.  Kind of like this one I made with my Canon Rebel:


Solar powered Mac Mini

A little backgound
I live in a ~750 sq. foot apartment with my girlfriend and dog, and my utility bill was ~$100. That seemed a little high, so I went to work on bringing down the bill. I first replaced all the light bulbs with either compact florescent or L.E.D bulbs as well as set my Mac to turn off at night and back on in the morning, on a schedule. These two actions alone, brought the bill down to ~$75. This was nice, and we've been living with this bill since Christmas, but I knew we could do better. I'm sure that most of the bill is made up of the dryer and my server that I run 24 hours a day, but things like the laptops we both have, the phone/camera chargers, and my Mac could be run completely off of solar power.

What you'll need
Before this project, I knew nothing about solar power, batteries, how to measure power consumption, or how to hook it all up. After some research, I was able to piece it all together, and I now have a working solar system.

So, how do you build it? It all breaks down to the following materials:

1. Solar panels
2. A charge controller
3. A battery or batteries
4. A power inverter
5. Wiring

First things first, the panels. There are a ton of places to get panels, but since I'm new to this, and I love Amazon, I felt I probably couldn't go wrong just getting them online at Amazon. The first thing I did was search Amazon for "Solar Panels". I got a ton of hits, that ranged from 5 watts, to a few hundred watts. I wasn't sure how many watts I needed, so I didn't just want to buy anything. I took a look at the Google, and figured out how to calculate the watt/hours your electronic uses. The quick and dirty is this:

Take a look at the back of your equipment for a tag that has info about the power output. You'll see something like "writing... 100v ~ 2.5a ...more writing". To figure out the watt/hours, you take the Volts x the Amps. So the above calculation, would be 100v X 2.5a = 250w. Now add up all the watts from all the appliances you want to run, and then you'll know how much power you need to run your equipment. I figured my Mac takes around 40Watts and if I wanted to run it for 8 hours, I need to be able to make 320Watts of power. I was conservative and figured I'd only have about 5 - 6 hours of good sun a day. That means I could probably get away with a 60w system. So I went back to Amazon, and I after browsing, decided on a Sunforce 60w kit. This kit came with the panels, and it also came with an inverter, charger controller, and wiring. And best of all, I got it for $300.

So, all I needed now, was a battery. You'd think I could just buy any old car battery, and I'd be set. This is probably true, but there are some things to take into consideration. First, and most important is safety. You need to remember, that standard lead acid batteries will leak flammable gases when charged as well as become pretty hot. That being said, if you have a dry, ventilated, fire-walled area, you can build a nice battery cluster for a good price. This is not the case for me, so I needed to explore other avenues. If you plan on running your system in your house, you'll probably want to look into agm sealed batteries. These batteries don't leak gases, but do still get hot. There is a premium to pay for no gases though, and if you can use standard lead acid batteries, you should.

Because I practice agile, I believe in building a vertical slice of the system before I build in bells and whistles. Because of this, I went with a simple charge controller, and I am starting with a one battery system. As you search for batteries, you'll notice that there are a lot to choose from and they range from pricey to expensive. I decided on a Duracell powepack 600 (for $130) not because it's the best battery for the job, but because it is not just a battery (it had a built in 600w inverter), and if I decided that I don't have room for my panels and system, I'd be able to use my battery for many other things. Plus, when I have my vertical slice complete and have work out the kinks, I'll build a true battery cluster.

Putting it all together

The first thing I did was lay all my panels out:

4 15W solar panels

You'll want to build a frame to hold your panels. The Sunforce kit came with a PVC frame, but you could easily build this yourself.

PVC rack/stand for my solar panels

Next I attached the panels to the frame.

4 15W solar panels

I then laid out all the wires, and examined the mess.

Various wiring for my solar panel generator kit

It's important to keep in mind that you need to maintain a 12v system. That means when adding panels, or batteries to the system, everything needs to be in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative). As long as you keep that in mind, you should be pretty safe and not damage anything. My panels came with a four way connector that wires them in parallel, but when I add more panels, I'll need to figure out how to splice the new panels in. Also important to note, is that the inverter that came with the panels, is only a 200w inverter. If you plan on running anything bigger than a laptop computer, you may want to think about investing in a bigger inverter. I am using a 600w inverter.

Once my batter came in, I just needed to hook it all up. I first charged my battery from AC over night, to get it topped off.

The battery and inverter

Then I mounted the solar panels on the outside of my second story apartment balcony.

I used 10 inch house clamps and hung the panels from the top rail. This allows them to swing out and catch more sun.

I also bundled all the wiring with zip ties.

Here is what they look like from the ground.

My solar panels are installed

Here is what they look like making free power.

My charge controller

I've been running the system for about a week now, and I love it. I charge my phone on it every day, run my laptop off it every night, and I've had the TV and Mac hooked up to it. I'll be rearranging my entertainment system, so that the Mac can use the battery everyday as well. I've run the battery all the way down once (we've had a few days of rain, that didn't allow the battery to charge all the way), but otherwise it's charged and ready to go everyday when I get home. When using my laptop, I get about 7 hours off the battery. When using the TV, I get about 3 hours.

The future of the system

The next thing I will be doing, is building a Tweet - a - watt and attaching it to the inverter, so see exactly how much power I'm using from the sun.

A few months down the road, I'd like to buy a two or three stand alone lead acid batteries, and build a cluster and put it in a box on the balcony. After that, I'll probably buy a few more panels, as I'd like to ultimately have a 100w system.