Hack A 20x Zoom Lens On A Webcam

I was given a Sony Handycam several months ago and I stashed it away knowing that one day I’d pull it out and hack it in some way, probably multiple ways. I salvaged some pretty nifty bits from this camera but the coolest was the 20x zoom lens. It has focus and zoom controlled by two stepper motors.

When I removed the CDD I realized that the lens could easily be attached to a different CCD from another camera. Well it just so happens that I had an extra Logitech Quickcam someone gave to me and since I had been inside them before, I knew it would be a good candidate for this hack. With just a bit of modification to the mounting holes on the circuit board, I was able to mount the lens with two screws, nice and solid.

I was pleased with the results and I’d like to take the project a step further… pun intended, and connect the stepper motors to a controller so I can get finite adjustment of focus and zoom.

Enjoy the video…

keep on hackin!

GE Electric Dryer Repair

The most horrible noise was coming from my girlfriend’s clothes dryer and she asked me if I’d take a look at it for her. I had recently replaced the heating elements so I was familiar with gaining access to the dryer’s innards. Prior to that repair I had no idea how the dryer came apart. There was a lot of trial and error, removing screws and panels that weren’t necessary. I’m sure there are many other DIY repair people out there like me that could use this video as a guide so this week’s hack is a how-to on dryer repair. This one is a GE but I’m thinking they all come apart in a similar fashion.
Once the front cover is removed you have access to replacing the motor, drive belt, belt tensioner, heating elements, felt seals, drum bushings and give the inside a good cleaning of excess lint.

Follow along now as we discover just what the hell is making all that noise in Lisa’s dryer!

Til next time, keep on hackin…

The Hack A Week Shop Tour

Wow this is the latest blog post yet! A few days late due to my week and weekend time being consumed by building a gizmo and writing a how to article for Make Magazine! The deadline was this weekend so no time for a hack this week.
I thought it would be a good time to give a little tour of my work shop. There IS a small hack, sort of, in the video good for a laugh.
I get a lot of people asking how I keep my work area so clean. Easy. Clean up a mess when you make it, put tools back when you’re done with them and stay organized.

till next time, when I get back to a real hack…

keep on hackin!

Mini-Hydroponic Strawberry Farm

Yes, Hydroponics!

This one was inspired by my girlfriends request to help her out with a hydroponics project. She’s an instructor on the Mobile Launch Pad which is run by the North Carolina Community Colleges. They want to make a hydroponics display that had a hands on feel to it, but there was some concern about time and maintenance. This wouldn’t be like a house plant that you could just move wherever you like… or could it?

So I decided to build a mini-Hydroponics, or Aeroponics set up here at home to test out ideas and so I could give them a report as to what it takes to grow plants in water and how portable this might be. After some research and a lot of learning along the way I have come to realize that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to hydroponics. Since we won’t be using soil, we’ll need some other medium to convey water and nutrients to the plant but how? Soil is easy because it’s where plants just naturally grow. All of the major and minor elements are there ready for the plant to absorb through it’s roots. What if we just put the plant right into water? We would need to add all the nutrients the plant needs to the water.

Water is a bit different everywhere. It can vary in how many dissolved solids are present. Too many dissolved solids in water can quickly become a problem in a small hydroponics setup. The PH of the water is another important factor. It should be between 5.0 and 7.0. Too alkaline (7.0-) and the plant can’t absorb the minor nutrients such as iron. Lack of Iron will show itself as yellowing leaves. Too low (5.0) and the roots can suffer.

This all means that we need a fertilizer that has a good balance of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These are represented as numbers on the fertilizer labeling. The fertilizer I choose, Jacks Classic, has and even blend of 20-20-20. This means it has 20% Nitrogen, 20% Phosphorus and 20% Potassium. PLUS, it has all the minor nutrients like Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum and Zinc. The minor nutrients are the ones that usually have to be derived from the soil. Most plant foods like Miracle Grow don’t have enough of the minor elements to work well with hydroponics. The plants will start off fine, but gradually fail due to lack of certain nutrients at different stages of it’s development.

One important thing to take note of. I used a clear plastic tub for this project for visual purposes. Once my setup was complete. I wrapped the entire tub in two layers of black trash bag plastic and taped it in place. This keeps out ambient light which will lead to algae growth in the water. An alternative light blocking method is to find a very dark container or simply spray paint the outside of it all black.

This setup is pretty simple and all the parts and materials are readily available at most hardware stores, pet supply stores and plant nurseries. It is however, EXPERIMENTAL> This is a first attempt at hydroponics and I plan on posting updates on this project so check back often.

Enjoy the video… all he info you need to build this is there.

Keep on hackin!