vol, 03


technology on your time

The Paral:!ax Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Reader Module (#28140; $39.00) is the first low-cost solution to read passive RFID transponder tags. AI:! it takes is a rnicrocontroller Iike the BASIC Stamp® and you can retrieve each tag's 10-byte code. This is suitable for a wide variety of hobby and commercial applications, i.ncluding access control, automatic identification, robotics, inventory tracking, and carim mobilization.


• l-Wire®, 2400 baud serial TTL interface to PC, BASIC Stamp and other processors

• Bi-color LED for visual indication of activity

• 0.100 pin spacing for easy prototyping and integration

RFID tags are available from Parallax:

• 54x85mm rectangle tag (#28141; $2.25)

• 50mm round tag (#28142; $2 .. 25)

To order online visit www.parallax.com or call our Sales Department toll-free at 888-512-1024 (Mon-Fri, 7am to Spm, PT).

BASIC Stamp is a registered trademark 01 Parallax, Inc. Parallax. and the Parallax logo are trademarks of Parallax. Inc. J-Wi'" is a registered trademark of Dallas Semiconductor.


www . .parallax.com

No Assembly Required


Rem ate c.ontro I fa r i Pod

· Co ntrol you r i Pod. i Pod mini, or corn purer from up to 60 feel away

• L1ses RF siqnals that (ravel through willis for remote control use anywhere in the house

· Ti ny remote "Ita (he, to bac kpa ck, bi ke, sreertn 9 wheel- anywhere. for on-the-qo control





iPod Voice Recorder

• Internal microphone and laptop qua I ity sp ea kc r

· Connect external

m i crophon e or hea d p hones

· Mad"" far (Pod mini

· Made for Woo Photo

· Made (or 4th Generattcn iPod with Clti:K Wheel

• Mad~ ~rjr 3r'd Genera Ucn iPod ,..,;:hh touch wheel and bu ttcns


Multi·u~e Stereo Microphone

• Self·powered microphone with stc reo- q ua I ity .0 un d

• Swivel clip for easy attachment

. Connects directly 10 iTalk. iMicj or PowerWave

• Passthrouqh jack for

he. d p he nes or add iti 0 nal speaker

• Au to rna I ic level cent ro I for pc rfcct record i ng s


Bitttery Backup for iPod and iPod mini

· Provide, up to 8 hours of additional power to iPod

• LIse. any disposable or

rc charqca b I e 9·volt bette ry

· Co rry emergen cy i Pod powe r wh ereve r you go

. Work> with any dockable iPod Or iPod mini


FM Transmitter for iPod

• The only FM Transmitter

d e';g n ed exc I U sively for the iPod & iPod mini

• Powe red fro m the i Pod - no batterle 50 necessary

· Choose. Fly empty station from 87.7 to 107.9, and change your iTrip stations d i rectly from the i Pod

Buy now at www.griffintechnology.com Another great idea from ( GR IFFI N. )


technology on your time ™

Volume 03


Editor Dale Dougherty says manufacturers should get wise and create maker·friendly devices.

10: Cory Doctorow

Why co py rest ri eI io n en ab les not h i ng but user agg ravat io n.

12: Life Hacks: Sleep

Reboot your circadi an rhythm to get more done. By Merli n Mann and Danny O'Brien

!§: Tim O'Reilly

News from the Future: A report on the labs and garage pro j eels ch angi ng the way we live.

16: Made on Earth

A maz i ng t hi ngs you r ne ig hbo rs h ave made in the backyard: m oto ri zed s ho ppi ng carts, sol ar de at h ray, and mo reo

24: Bruce Sterling

Ma ke rs 01 vi rt u al goods earn rea I cas h in Seco nd Li fe.

25: Maker: Ed Storms

Ed Storms is leading the eIIort to take cold fusion off the back burner by moving it into the garage. By Charles Platt

36: Heirloom Technology

Swamp Tech: L ivi ng free in the Flo rid a Everg I ad as, ByTimAnderson

40: Let There Be Speech

Can you make a $200 computer for bl ind kids? By Fernando Botelho

42: 1+2+3: Blimp

Make a jet-propelled blimp for a buck. By Jo hn Perez

Inside the HomeBrew Robotics Club. By Quinn Norton

The first things we'll buy when we win the lottery. By Saul Griffith

2 MiI.kB Vdum,a os

Make: Projects


Control your car by computer. integrate an i Pod into you r stereo. become a Wi~Fi hotspot on wheels. make a liter of biodiesel, and more. A MAKE special section.


4 Ma.ke: Vdurn,a 03-







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Volume 03

81: Game Systems to Go

+tow to be a portabilizer. By Howard Wen

158: Primer: Wire-Feed Welding "Erep.by-step instructions lor welding your lirst project. By M iste r Ja 10 py

170: HowToons

Hold your breath: it's The Happy Hippo.

By S au I G rillit h, Nick Dr agott a, a nd Joost Bo nsen

172: Toolbox

'Re3I'lile reviews ollavorite books, gadgets, gear, and tools.

182: Retrocomputing

Remem beri ng and recreating tile Apple L By Tom Good

184: Makezine.com Highlights 185: Maker's Corner Almostevetylhingyou need to know about MAKE .

. Home

Retro AV cabinet, VolP phone wiring.Lf' cloning.


Gi ant posters.mailbox movies, si 11gle-use digital camera hack.


Custom Stink Blaster pods.

__ Design

Silicone nightlight. Simple lHlllasher.


Keychai n survival tools, roll you rown ri l1gtO ne s, Nokia Pop-Port hack, all 01 Wikipedia on a Sharp Zaurus.


Make your own tamperp root screwd rive r bit s. rnaki ng sq u are ho I es

in sheet metal. reading schematics.


Video game steering wheel mount. make a Simple h and held gaming device, Mac laptop tilt i ntertace.onli ne poker hacks.

6 Ma.ke: .. Vdum,a ru.


you stick a cow scul pture on top 01 a 400-loot crane?

pumpkins to the extreme. By Arwen O'Reilly

192: Reader Input 193: eBay Metrics

w;;arthe TSA taketh awaY,eBay ollereth up. By Chris Smith

194: Homebrew

HO;i built a microprocessor. By Joe Holt

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR PRODUCTS TO BE more maker frien diy, not ju st user friendly? When I see a produ ct described as user frien diy, I wonder if it's designed to be too easy, like a book that's written for newbies, and if it will actually prevent me from doing some interesting things. I suspect that makers want to know as much information about

a product as possible and that they enjoy learning - if not from manuals then from their own handson experien ceo

We've seen the microwave oven with the sticker:

No User Serviceable Parts Inside. When it comes

to consumer electronics, software, and websites,

a lot of them are designed to lock out users and keep them from getting behind the user interface. Shouldn't more of these products be maker-serviceable? Shouldn't the manufacturers make it easier to take a prod uct apart to tune or tweak it. or simply to repair it myself?

So let me tell you about trying to repair my daughter's damaged iPod mini. Th e year-old unit h ad fallen off a table while th e audio jack was attached: the plug that held the jack broke off,

"Makers really want the details, and more importantly, want access to the product itself,"

leaving the stem inside the iPod mini port. I first grabbed a set of tweezers to see if I could pull out th e jack, but I could n't get a grip on it. I tried pliers but I didn't have a pair small enough. I considered sending the unit in for repair, but it was out of warranty. The Apple support site indicated they'd charge for a replacemen t u nit rather th an actually repair it. I stopped by an Apple store wh ere the resident geek admitted he couldn't do anything. "You





should try opening it up," he said. "It's out of warran ty so .... " Knowing th at I was faced with buying a new one, I decided I had nothing to lose opening it.

Now the iPod min i is in noway maker friend Iy (nor are any of th e user-friend ty iPod s). The person at the Apple store told me I needed to use a blow dryer to heat th e glue that held the plastic top on. So after doing that - about a minute on high - I used a butter kn ife to pry off th e plastic top. Then I bent and removed a metal bracket. which was soldered to the body. Only then was I able to get at the piece th at held th e jack. I pu lied it ou t an dejected the stem by pushing it out from the back. After I put all the pieces back together (without the requisite soldering and gluing), I was thoroughly amazed

that the restored iPod mini actually worked. Still, I shouldn't need to blow dry an iPod mini to open it. no matter how cute it is.

Manufacturers should encourage makers, not thwart their efforts. To be maker friendly means to provide access to good information about the product. Makers really want the details, and more importantly, want access to the product itself. Makers want to look inside and see the moving parts. They want to do the unexpected, such as make repairs and improvements, and even harvest components once the prod uct ceases to be useful.

Look at the lessons of open source, which provides open access to the underlying source code. When a system is open and easily modified, it anticipates adaptation to a variety of uses that were never considered in the project's original design.

The personal computer had a design that was maker friend Iy. I recently replaced a vid eo board on a two-year-old PC without even needing tools, not even a butter knife. Try doing that on your TV.

If you know of prod ucts that you'd recommend as maker friend Iy, or ones th at fail miserably on th at account. drop me an email and let me know.

Dale Dougherty is the editor and publisher 01 MAKE. He can be reached at dale@oreilly.com.

MiI.ke: 7

When did hacking become confused with brea king and entering?

At O'Reilly, we're doing our part to keep the Hacker ethos alive with books that help you tweak, improve, and hack your way to your own personal tech nirvana.

• Geek your ride with Car PC Hacks

• Enjoy an out of this world experience with Astronomy Hacks

• Take the sting out of digital map making and navigation with Mapping Hacks

• Blog out loud and take personal expression to the next level with Podcasting Hacks


Ma king the world a safe place for hackers since 1978



EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Dale Dougherty tech nology on your time'" d.oloW.,...;ity ~""

EDITOR·IN·CHI EF Mark Frau enfelder markt&t<ily.~

MANAG I NG E DI TO R Shawn Connally 'ShilWfI@on:il'y.o:m

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Davi d AI b ertson d21'1Ad@abei"tS.ofldasiS!'!.cern


Kirk Von Roln r

ASSOC lATE E DI TO R Phillip Torrone pt@ma1t:atti,a.o:m

P ROJ ECTS E DI TO R Paul Spinrad psp!)rad@ma1t:atti,a.o:m


Arwen O'Reilly Dan Woods




Goli Mohammadi Bill Takacs

COPY EDITORSIR ESEARCH 707-1527·7092, biI&t<iIy."""

Terry Bronson ADVERTISING COORDINATOR Sarah Saulsbury Jessica Boyd

Michael Shapiro MARKETING & EVENTS COORDINAmR Rob Bullingt<>n


Terrie Miller John Banelle


Visit us onlin e at: Tim O'Reilly, CEO make.zine,com Laura Baldwin, COO

MAKE TECHNICAL ADVISORY BOAR D, Gareth Branwyn, Joe Grand, Saul Griffith, William Gu rstalla, Natalie Jeremijenko

Copy right © 20050' Rei Ily Media, Inc,

All rights reserved. Reproduction without per mission is pro hi bited.

Pri nted in the USA

~ MAKE is printed on recycled paper with ~ 10% post-consumer waste and is acid-tree.

Subscriber copies 01 MAKE Volume 03 were shipped in recyclable plastic bags.

Please note: Technology, Ihe laws, and limitations imposed by manufacturers and content owners, are constantly changing. Thus. some ollhe projects described may not work, may be inconsistent withcurren.t laws. or user agreemen.ts., or may de mage or a we rse Iy affecl some e qui pment.

lbur ;ately is you r own responsibility including proper use otsqu iprnent and ;aMy gear, and determining whelher you have adequate skill and experience. Powerlool;, electricity and other resources used lor these project; are dangerous. unless used properly and with adequate precautions. including ;ately gear. Some illu strative photos do not depict ;aMy precautions or equipment in order 10 show the project steps more clearly. These projects are not intended lor use by children.

Use ollhe instructions and suggestions in MAKE is at your own rtsk. O'Reil~ Media, Inc .. disclaims all responsibility for any resulting damage, injury. or expense.tt is your responsibilily 10 rnake su re that you r activities comply w~h applicable law;, including copyright.


Charles Platt (Maker Prohle) is a termer science-fiction writer (his best known book is probably The Silicon Man) who switched to journalism and became a senior writer lor Wired magazine. Currently running a small R&D busi ness in Florida. Platt pursues portrait photography as a spars-time interest. and is a longtime Ian 01 Hong Kong martial arts movies. His favorite show is Viva La Bam on MTV His interest in MAKE·ing gadgets began when he built a tic-tao-toe computer from telephone rei ays in 1966.

Sparkle Labs (DIY Nightlight) was founded by Amy Parness and Ariel Churi as a collective 01 designers andengi neers alter years 01 coil aborating in NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Their vision lor Sparkle labs is to explore new technologies and sustainable m ateri als in order to create m OrB thoughtful designs. H designs. programs. prototypes. tests and brands its own designs as well as thoseot its clients. Amy and Ariel work in the East Village in NYC with other Sparkle Labs designers. engineers. and two Siamese cats.

Timmy Kucyn cia (VCR Cat Feeder illustration) lives and works in the upper Haight with his dog Munky. Outside 01 illustration. he spends his time playing the conga drums and skateboarding Gust trying to keep the dream alive). and helping Munky to spread the love around the neighborhood. Green clothing gets the thumbs up. Highhaelsor any shoes that rnakatoo much noise are a thumbs down.

Thayer G owciy (Gover and VCR Cat Feeder photos) i sa self-described workahol ic, whose two other favoriteoccupations are to travel to "dusty lillie Latin towns to take photos and drink cheladas" and "watch my husband surf cold northern Cal itornia waves while I daydream about traveling to dusty I ittle Latin towns." She is al so working on a knitting book based on biological patterns found in nature. and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two cats. Her favorite loods are chicken mole enchiladas and hornern ade marshmallows.

Eric Wilhelm (Halloween Haunted House Controller) is an engineer who enjoys finishing projects almost as much as he likes starti ng them. He has a PhD from MIT in mechanical engineering and works at Squid Labs. where he designs. models. builds. and tests new technologies when he's not kitesurting. tandem bicycling. Or cooking highlyel aborate breakfasts. He and his wile live high up in the hills 01 Oakland. Calif., with an amazing view 01 the San Fran ci sec Bay.

Bill Gurstelle (Spud Gun) is an author (and termerengineer) living in Minneapolis. Minn. His first book. Badyard Ballistics. is about "rn aking interesting things that go whoosh. boom. Or splat:' and his fourth book. tentatively entitled Adventures in the Technology Underground. will be published in February. He appeared on the television show "Win Ben Stein's Money." and with Ben Stein's money. built a tull-size wooden catapult. He is currently laying siege to the people next door. and says. "II all goes well. soon the whole neighborhood wi II be mine."

Contributing Writers:

To r Am u n dso n. Ti m An d erso n. Fe rna nd 0 Botel ho, G aret h Branwyn. Ji II But I er, Nick Carter. Kevin Coned. Cory Dcctorow, Rob Elarn, Joe Fung.Joe Grand. Saul Griffith. Dan Gonsiorowski, William Gurslelle. Jason Griffey. Nigel Hall. Charles Hoffm eyer.Joe Holt. Mister Jalopy. Xeni Jardin. Brian Jepson. Steve Koschman. James Larsson. William Lidwell. Steve Lodefink. Carlo Longino. Jake Ludi ngton. Cameron Mallory. Merlin Mann. Mall Maranian. Dave Mathews.

Dan Mikesell. Johnathan Nightingale. Quinn Norton. Danny O'Brien. Tom Owad, Bob Parks. John Perez. Charles Platt. Polly Powledge. Mi ke Riley. Bob SDolI. Chris Smith. Sparkle Labs. Ewan Spence. Bruce Sterl ing. Dam ien Stol arz. Howard Wen. Eric Wilhelm

Contributing Artists:

Michelle Denham.

N i c k Dragotta. Th ayer Gowdy. Sara Huston.

Eri k Johnson, Tim my Kucynda. Ti m Lilli s. John Perez. Dam ien Scogin. Ni k Schulz. Stacy Stelnicki. Casimir Sienkiewicz

ML'lke!: 9

Cory Doctorow: Hacking

alongside of DRM. Apple's ITunes Music Store (ITMS) has a conditional access system that doesn't give you access to a song until you go through the one-click purchase process that moves $0.99 from you r bank accou nt into Apple's hand s.

But CA has an important difference. CA doesn't worry th at you'll get unlawful access to a work that th ey're protecting today. nor with the disposition of the stuff you got access to yesterday. CA systems are all abou t what you do tomorrow.

If the iTMS was compromised so that you could download ten tracks without paying for them today.

it wouldn't matter: tomorrow. they could patch the system and go back to ch arging you for access again.

Looked at that way. lt's clear that iTunes DRM

is just a cost-sink. while the CA is a vigorous. multihundred-million-dollar profit center. No iTMS customer ever bought a song for the DRM it contained. but lots ponied up their $0.99 because th ey wanted the access it got them.

What"s more. the DRM hypothesis of keeping honest users honest is herein revealed] for a sham: every song for sale on th e iTun es Music Store is likewise available as a totally free. unencumbered MP3 on P2P networks like Grokster and Kazaa. Honest users choose to get the iTunes version not becau se of the DRM. but in spite of it.

Lots of us have had an intuition that the right goods at the right price is all that it takes to sell stuff on the internet. even when the same stuff can be downloaded gratis. iTunes music sells because Apple's interface and service/support are better than the P2P networks.

If you want to compete with free. start by making a better product.


Cory Doctorow (craphound.oom) works for the Electronic Frontier Rlundation (eff.org). and co-edits Boing Boing (boingboing.net). His new novel is Somoone C<lmes ro Tmvn, Somoone Leaves Tmvn from Tor Books.

Why copy-restriction technology succeeds only In hurting the user.

DRM (DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT)basically. copy-restriction technology - is built on junk science. But it has a more popular. less visible cousin th at actually works: conditional access. The two get mixed up a lot - deliberately. as DRM vendors often point to conditional access systems to prove their wares' viability. Conditional access may not always be used in a way that's good for the public interest. but at least it actually works.

Here's the problem with DRM: a single leak. however obscure. is all it takes to rend er the system useless. It doesn't matter if you're not leet enough to crack the DRM on a DVD: you can always download it after searching Google, Making the first copy is hard. but every subsequent copy is as easy as can be.

"No iTunes customer ever bought a song for the DRM it contained, but lots ponied up their $0.99 because they wanted the access it got them."

Leaks happen. Always. The DRM systems place the propri etary file and th e tool s n eces sary to open it in the han ds of infin itely skilled. infinitely resourced attackers (bored Norwegian teen agers, rabid Ukrainian gangsters. Princeton engineering grad students) who go through this crap like Superman shredding wet Kleenex. They have all the advantages. and if DRM requires that they never break the systems. the DRM systems are doomed.

Conditional access (CA) is a lot like DRM. It often relies on cryptography: it secures or restricts access to files and resources and is often included

10 MiI.ke Vdum,a os

501 Fourth Street, Santa Rose, CA 95401 USA tel [7071 525-865 8 • web: www.zapworld.come-moil:zap@zapworld.com • Sleek Symbol: ZP

Life Hocks: Overclocking Your Productivity







By Merlin Mann & Danny O'Brien



12 Make: Vdurn,a ru

EVERYONE LOVES SLEEP. IT'S LIKE VIRTUAL reality without the dumb helmet. But if you're the sort of person who hyper-focuses on challenging tasks. you probably like the idea of sleep more than the actual practice. Sleep good: just not sleep tight now.

Not right now, when I've almost completely debugged my application. Not right now, when I've almost checked all these solder joints. Not tight now, when I'm only three-sixteen hundredths of the way through tipping my entire OVO collection. These progress bars don·t stare at themselves, people!

The problem comes when "right now" consistently turns out to be 5:30 arn .. and the nagging voice you're waving off is your own body's need to collapse.

Congratulations. Your sleep pattern is now a neat inverse of the rest of your timezone's inhabitants. You've hacked your sleep schedule. and now it's in pieces on your workshop floor.

The trad itional nerd folk remedy for a shattered sleeping sched ule is that life hack known as "wrapping around:' or "phase sh ltting" Sleep experts call it "chronotherspy" and prescribe it for those who have advanced night owl tendencies. In anyone's terms. it's called "staying up even later than you normally do and seeing what exactly happens."

Here's what exactly happens: you stay up two or three h ours later than usual every night. until you are so out of phase that you click back into the next cycle. and resynchronize with the rest of th e world.

It takes about ten days. At first. it's a great release to not force yourself to go to bed. like trying to get yourself on a diet by eating so many pies you'll never eat food again.

But then - according to Life Hacks own experimental subject. who we'lI call Exhibit DO'B - wrapping around has all the painful aspects of a bad holiday: jetlag. unpaid time off work. and having to deal with strange cultu ral oddities like breakfast an d morning people. It's a hormonal rollercoaster ride. and not covered by any warranty.

You will even tually reach the poin t where you' re going to sleep at around 3 p.m. an d waking up at 11 p.m. At that point. fun empties from the universe.

H CMlever your diurn al rhythm is programmed. God did not mean you to look up from your lunch and

see the sun rising. When I - er. our subjects - have done this. I found my body temperature plunged so quickly it felt like it was trying to slide out of my toes. My goosebumps had goose bumps.

But perhaps the worst part of wrapping around is that it's a hack. but it's not a complete hack. It's a

temporary fix. a kludge. You may sync yourself back with the real world. but that next all-nighter is going to throw you just as far out of whack as before.

If you want to permanently sort out your sleeping patterns. you need good sleep hygiene. For that. we heartily recommend William Dement's The Promise of Sleep (Dell). which does a good job of romping

th rough the accepted wisd om of handling your sleeping patterns. For those of you who like your info provided raw and cut-and-pasteable. there's

" If you want to permanently sort out your sleeping patterns, you need good sleep hygiene."

nothing better than Bora Zivkovic's sleep science blog Circadiana. circadiana.blogspot.com/.

The sleep hygiene hack is this: lots of sun in the morning. S un is the vertical sync signal in life's erratic hormonal TV transmission. Get a big shot in the AM. and your body will latch onto the correct rhythm. Hide from the "evil day star:' as many hackers do. and you'll lose vertical hold. and be flipping over and over the days and nights.

If you can't stand the sun. you can build your own artificial one. While thermonuclear explosions are

too short to really resync your sleeping pattern s. and magnet confinement fusion can disturb the neighbors. for sleep rebooting purposes. as Zivkovic says. solar activity can be simulated with "a piece of board. 3-4 strong neon lightbulbs. balasts. a switch. a plug. and some wires." Shine it in your face at dawn if you tend to sleep late. dusk if you ten d to arise early.

Don't forget the flipside: hid e from light when

abou t to sleep. For computer geeks. that mean s dim you r screen I For extra hack points, write a script that dims your screen gradually over time.

Fo r tho se wh 0 crave that la le-n lght creativity: go to sleep really early, like 9 p.m. You'lI get up at maybe 4 a.m., but tor night owls, that's when you're at your best.

It's important to move to a sleeping pattern that looks like a sine wave from one that looks like a seismograph. Don't mess your sleep cycle around: if you hack life that much. one day it will hack you right back.

Learn how to reel in your mind at Danny O'Brien's I ilehacks.com and Merlin Mann's 43folders.com.

MiI.ke: 13

i "All the Speakers J1.lll ~' ~ ~ k

I rIlol'sFit 10 Hear" JjVl(1U 150 unu ;;vp e(1 ners

M i dwest .A. co ld front

br j_l_lgs t h nudes tonus,

ra iuin g C<'I ps and co ils over II1LiCb of the nation



BK-16 Folded Horn Kit

Wows them at CES 2005

LAS VEGAS, 2005 Attendees at the CES show in Las Vegas were delighted with the sound they heard from the Fosrex BK,[6 folded hom they heard in the M adisound 1'00[T1.

We have chosen the Fostex rrrss« 6.5" fu[[ range for use in the BK, [6 cabinet. The ITI65K has a Kenaf fiber cone, in verted foam surround and aluminum dust cap.

The ITI65Kis run fu[[ range with a frequency response out to l Sk H z. The T90A super tweeter has been added to cover the

Speaker Enthusiasts Get Assist From Dr. Joseph D'Appolito

MOSS, NORWAY, Seas Fabbriker AS announces a joint project with Dr. Joseph D'Appolito, speaker guru. The result is The ThOT~ a handsome 114 wave transmission line speaker. The Thor del i vers accurate ba ss and alii cui ate treble frequencies ina T, line design that has been used by many skilled and ambitious hobbyists.

This kit uses two Seas Excel WI8EOOI magnesium woofers and T25cr002 Millennium Sonotex dome tweeter, mounted in a D' A ppulito configuration. Usable in-room bass l"esponse extends to 30Hz.

Thor IS an audiophile product sure to impress discri rn i eating I isreners. The highs are transparent, The midrange has exceptional clarity and openness. The bass is deep and solid, not boorny.

The cabinets are assembled Oak veneer in Clear or Black finish, 01 Che[TY veneer. The gri [[ s are bl ack and are recessed flush with the spea ker front. Cabinet dimensions are 45y," H x 9" W x 14j(," D. Assent b ly requires some ski II at solderi ng.

Price per pair: $1615.00 Premiu III crossover upgrade, add $200.00

The Thor is a [so available without cabinets, subtract $590 from the cost.

uppe[" frequencies, The T90Ais a top-mount hom tweeter with an Alnico magnet The tweeter is rolled off on the [ow end with a Fostex Tin & Copper foil capacitor. The system frequency ["esponse is 55Hz to 35kHz at 95dB.

The BK-16 cabinet is made from Baltic Birch plywood and is sold flat, unassernbled, unsanded and un fi ni shed. Ca bi net dimensions are 9.75" W x [4.75" D x 29" T.

The llit includes:

Pail' of Cabinets ' Flat Pair ofFF 165K Pail' ofT90A Pail' of DB,Cup Pair of Crossovers

• Nordost 2,F[at wire i,' instructions Kit Price: $635/pair '----l1li ••••

No Cabinets: $439/pair r--~-la-d-i-sO-l-ll-ld-O-ff-e-~ I-.S-: ---,

• Capacitors

• Inductors


• Loudspeakers

• Kits & cabinets

• Grill Cloth

Binding Posts





1, P.O. BOX 442B3

MADISON. WI 53744-l2B3 U.SA

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Banana Plugs

• Cable

• Crossover design

• Advice

• Books


I n his book, We the Media, Dan Giiimor refers to

• "the former audience" to describe the shift in power represented by blogging and citizen journalism. But the former audien ce isn't just taking control of news. A fan group recen tly completed a full-length feature film ofTerry Pratchett"s Discworld novel Loms and Ladies. Cost: 300 euros. Over at untamedcinema.com. fans create high-quality

t railers for movies th ey wish the studios would make. And mu ch of the bu zz in the months leading up to the release of the latest Star Wars fli ck centered around the 40-minute fan film. Star Wars Revelations. wh ich many thin k is better th an the last two efforts from the man himself. The producers of Serenity. a science fiction movie due out in September. who have been doing an aggressive online push for fan participation. decided to show an unfinished copy of the movie in ten cities. five months in advance of the official release.

On the radiofront. Infinity Broadcasting. a unit of Viacom. has announced that its KYCY-AM station in S an Fran ci sco wi II be switching to an all-podcast format. Meanwhile. Evan Williams. of blogger.com fame. is launching Odeo. a company that aims to bring pod casting to the masses. And. hot on the heels of the new buzz. we see several startups focused on bringing advertising to th e new medium.

The principles of "former audience" participation d on't apply only to the media world. Neil Gershenfeld's FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop

- From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication hit the Amazon bestseller lists immediately upon publication. A researcher at the University of Bath aims to release. un der the G.PL (a free software license). designs that would allow rapid prototyping machin es to make copies of themselves. A USC reseancher has prototyped a "contour crafting" robot th at can extru de concrete walls: h is next project is to extrude an entire house.

Irs not personal fabrication that will most change the way we create physical goods. th ough (at least not at first). Never mind "the network is th e computer" - the network is the factory. "Build to su it" (as when you configure and ord er your next computer online) may mean internet coordination of a network of suppliers. an d th e computer you order may never be touched by an employee of the

Tim O'l~eilly





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----------'The future is here. It's just not evenly

distributed \:Jet." - William Gibson

company that sells it to you. It may not even have been designed by an employee of that company, as new prod uct design is increasingly being outsourced.

In a manufacturing realm that is both larger and smaller than consumer goods. the Liftport Group, a con sortium focused on build ing a space elevator. will be opening a carbon nanotube manufacturing plant in New Jersey. Meanwhile. scientists at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Can cer Research Center have successfully indu ced a state of hibernation in mice. Irs time to crack

out th e science fi ction of th e 50s for id eas abou t promising applications for human hibernation. from space travel to trauma care.

Did I say trauma care?The U.S. Army is researching mobile robot surgery units for battlefield use. And as for life extension. Ray Kurzweillikes to point out that average life expectancy in developing nations is going up by a quarter of a year per year. Wh en that n umber goes above a year per year. we live forever. righ t? On th e other hand. largely driven by the spread of AIDS. life expectancies in many African countries have fallen every year since 1988. a phenomenon some are referring to as "the African cliff' But. in a tru e sign of th e discontin uities of th e modern world. a startup in Kenya recruits villagers for city jobs by texting job offers 10 (and accepting applications from) their mobile phones. leapfrogging services in th e developed world.

You can get URLs for the referenced stories at makezin e.com/03/nff.

Tim O'Reilly (tim.oreilly.oom) is founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media. Inc. See what's on the O'Rei Ily Radar at radar.oreilly.com.

"""E 15

Shopper Chopper

So yo u wan t to polish up your metalworking skills, yo u've just bough t a welder, an d you're in terested in mechanical engineering, If you're like Michael Dowling and Noam Davidson, you acquire a shopping cart and build a go-kart ou t of it.

"Noam has wanted to build a go-kart for awhile," explains Dowling, "With a Safeway shopping cart we found, and an old lawn mower motor, the idea ju st presen ted itself."

"We though t that it would be hilarious if we

could speed down th e aisles of a grocery store, doing some high-speed shopping and then race out th e do or," David son, 21. says,

D avid son's father apparen tty bough t in to the idea, buying him a welder, then securing a plasma cutter, a beam bender, a horizontal/vertical band saw, and a shear press for cu tting sheet metal.

Th e Un iversity of British Columbia stu dents gathered other supplies, including wheels off of a wheel-

16 M.£'I.ke: vcfurne ill

chair, damper sh ocks 'fro m a hyd rau lic hospital bed, gears from an old belt sand er, an d a plastic steering wheel. once again acquired from a shopping cart. this time a kiddie version. They spent most of last summer creating their masterpiece.

Th e final mod el has an upgraded motor (from a paltry 2hp to a 'flip-ind ucing lOhp). "When we too k it ou t for a test drive, in a semi-ch oked position, the to rq ue th e mo to r generated was too mu ch and it would flip the cart over. So instead of depowering our cart to a smaller engine, we installed a wheelie bar on it," Dowling says,

Speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour were attained without even letting the throttle out. Dowling and Davidson have yet to find a long straightaway in their Van couver, Canad a, neighbo rhoo d to test the cart with even a touch of th e thro ttle, wh ich they estimate could get them up to 110 km/hr,

"The lOhp motor had way too much power for the

cart and was actu ally pretty frightening at first to drive," Davidson says.

The sh opping cart go-kart may nat get the ch an ce to test its ultimate speed, however. Th e guys have moved on to grander projects and a grander shop.

The new an d improved worksh op inclu des an industrial lathe, two mini mills, a 4'x4' CNC router table, a bigger band saw, d if"ferent types of mills, and a milling machine.

"We kin d of have moved on to bigger an d better things," Dowling says. "We would like to build a real go-kart or dune buggy."

-Shawn Connally

» Go-Kart: balman.mech ubc.ca/-mdowlirw/Go-l<art.l1tml

At right, top: Plastic steering wheel from a ch ild's sh opping cart. From the gear box n ext to the steering wh eel, a rna kesh iff ser i e s of we I de eI shafts fo lIow th e ste er i ng wheel's movements and move the cart accordingly.

At right, middle: Detail of drive t,rain, inch/ding slip clutch anel th e sprocket gear that drives the rear axle.

Below: Damper sh ock recycled from a hydraulic hospital beel an eI wheels from an olel wh aelchalr,

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Gods of Thunder

Inn ovative engineering is often an iterative process of refinement and testing. For Nelson Pass, this means constructing ever-huger sound systems, and then field-testing them by throwing everloud er parties.

For his latest creation, Pass buil t speakers

that deliver bo ne-sh aking vo lum es down beyon d the low threshold of human hearing. The lowest registers are han died by a pair of su b-su bwoo fers known as EI Pipe-O, named after their resemblance to an old college roommate's beloved water pipe.

EI Plpe-O's acou stical pro perties derive fro m twin, 10-foot-tall cylinders cut from 24-inch-diameter cardb oard tub lng, normally u sed to cast con-

c rete pillars. Mounted over 21-inc h (read: imm en se) woofers, these tu bes act like organ pipes. At one party, Pass and his co lIab orators d ecid ed to test whether th e man ufactu rer"s peak power rating for these woofers, 800 watts, was accurate. After blowing the sp eakers out, they con clud ed that it was.

18 Ma.ke Vdum,a os

At frequencies above 50Hz, the system routes

its output to another set of speakers - the Klein Horns, so-named because they look like Klein bottles (""klein" also means "small" in German). The Klein Horns' massive wooden cabinets take sound pressure and raise its volume acoustically by routing it through chambers that follow the same "exponential horn" principle as a trumpet, only for sub-tuba frequencies. As with EI Pipe-O, the Horns' dimensions are dictated by the lowest frequ encies, the magic number being one quarter of the bottom note's wavelength, or 9lf2 feet for a 30Hz tone.

Rounding out the system are a pair of ribbon tweeters and a crossover network that directs the sou n d to th e six speaker ch an nels. All togeth er, they prod u ce sou nd th at's flat over th e entire audible spectrum (and even a bit below), even at

mad volumes. -Paul Spinrad

»Pass DIY: passdil'oom

Go, Jet Kart Go

I n the small town of Leban on, Oregon, you might see Richard Flanagan cruising dawn an empty farm road in his home mad e, jet-powered go-cart. Bu t you'll d efin itely hear him,

The 57-year-old machinist reaches speeds of 60 mph in the 7x31h-fcot vehicle, and more importantly, he can generate a lot of fire and noise, "Peep Ie come out of their houses to look," says Flanagan, "At night, it lights up the neighborhood,"

To hear him talk, jets are easier to build than you'd thin k, He starts with a turbo charger from an old car - made to compress air for the intake of a traditional engine, it also works well for pushing the fuel and air mixture into th e jet's combustion chamber,

Flanagan buys turbos from junked cars and 18- wheeler diesel trucks, then adds his own shafts, ball bearings, and custom-welded chambers, (He's holed up 75 used turbosforfuture prolects.)

To keep everything running smoothly, he created an electronic throttle control that captures sensor readings on exhaust temperature, RPM, and volum e of fuel. A car battery and power converter deliver the necessary voltage, while bicycle tires help it glide over rough terrain,

After recently selling three on eBay, Flanagan hopes to create more for like-minded drivers, Who doesn't want a ride with a calculated max speed of 200 mph, and the option of using gas, diesel. or paint thinner as fuel? All for $1, 500,

"The demand is incredible," he says. "Every kind of nut out there wan ts a jet engine."

-Bob Parks

Tankful of Tunes


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In the late 90s, bass player Ezra Daly couldn't fin dad ecen t stan d-u p

bass for u nd er $1,000. So he decided to make his own. At the time. he was working in a hardware store. and began experimenting with plastic buckets and broomsticks. He tried other contai ners as res on ators. and eventually settled on using motorcycle tanks.

They were "the coolest thing I could think of. and they come in all sorts

of shapes an d sizes:' he says.

For the next th ree months. Daly took woodworking classes. apprenticed with welders. and studied milling and electronics. He

dubbed his first instrument - made from a Guzzi Ambassador gas tank and scrap wood - the "Frankenbass :.

Getting more adventurous. his next design used two tan ks. Th is u nl ikely marriage of Tri umph an d Harley parts was called the "venus de Moto:'

He sold his third. the "Cycle Pole Slap Bass:' to Alex Kirt of the Wood Box Gang. It took over a year to make. and came with a custom case made from a fiberglass kayak. Since then. Daly has begun

to ou tfit h is creations with fan cy details. su ch as Harley fork covers. silver dollars. an d sid e lamps that flash to the beat. The basses he makes are hybrids - they can be played acoustically or with electric pick-ups. They're also smaller and lighter than traditi on al stan d -ups.

When bikers harass him about killing classic bikes to make his instruments. Daly points out that "no motorcycles were harmed. The tanks are s till in tact an d. if need be. can be u sed again:'

-Phillip Torrane

»w rec k an d Roll: wrecknroJ i.com

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Solar Death Ray

Twinkies turn into fiery black husks in a few minutes. A Clue board game bursts into flames. A Richard Simmons video melts into a sticky plastic glob. As a concept. irs funnier than a Letterman stu nt - and based on real scien ceo Read ers of Solar Death Ray can suggest any object at all. and Louis Giersch. a 26-year-old grad student. will obligingly expose it to l.OOO-degree temperatures in a homegrown. 112-mirror solar concentrator.

The site's highlight may be its hilarious post-ray writeups. which read like mock lab nates. but it was Giersch's attent ion to detail that mad e th e Death Ray work at all. (The hosts of a recent Myth Busters episode tried to bu ild a con centrator. but couldn't properly focus the mirrors.)

Giersch. who studied plasma spacecraft propulsi on at th e Un ivers ity of Was hington. started by writing an application in the Matlab visualization language. Mirrors on the 4'x6' backboard have a tolerance of 0.5 degrees either way to properly

20 MakEil Vdum,a os

focu s light. and th e software su pplies th e exact angles Giersch needs. He built small wooden bas es for each mirror. with th e correct corresponding angle. and used a compound miter saw with an onboard protra ctor to cut th e blocks quickly. The blocks screw into the frame along eight concentric circles from the plywood's center. Mastic adhesive glued on 31h-inch mirrors.

An improved Death Ray is currently in planning. boasting a suntracker and motors to automatically posit ion it for th e greatest sol ar blast. It sounds like the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. but not for use in Portland maybe. "I've stored up a whole bun ch of stuff t hat I really want to burn:' says Giersch. "but clouds keep coming up out of nowhere. I got halfway through a Rubik's cu be. and it ju st sort of petered out. ..

-Bob Parks

»Solar Death Ray: soJardeathray.com

Time That Waits for No One

Covered in brown shag carpet and propelled by gray, rubberized wheels, Clocky, a mobile alarm clock invented by Gauri Nanda of MIT's Media Lab, may be the next pet rock. But this adorable inanimate object has a purpose: to get you out of bed in the morning.

Here's how it works: after Clocky's alarm goes off. you h it the sn ooze bar. Clocky rolls off the bedside table and finds a new hiding place. A few minutes later. it goes off again and you have to hunt for the damn thing to turn it off. Presto: you're out of bed an d probably won't go back to sleep.

Clocky's movements are entirely random. An internal computer is programmed to make it move in varying directions, s.ays Nanda, 25. "The idea is that he will find new places to rest every day, which creates a sort of hide-and-seek game. The over-sleeper has to employ more of her

s ens es before dis abl ing the device."

Clocky, whose first wheels came from an old

Lego set lying around the Media Lab, is covered

in sh ag, a nod to t he carpet her paren ts h ad us ed to caver stereo speakers back in th e 70s ." As I started to develop the clock, I realized that the look worked really well with the concept tha t Clocky is like a troublesome pet that you love, and less like an an naying, stressful device th at you've learned to defeat ," s he says.

This union of .. troublesome pet .. and useful gizmo has generated a splash of publicity for Clocky. Nanda was recently interviewed on The Today Show and demoed Clocky on a bedroom set for Good Morning America.

Was Nanda worried about getting up in time for those early-morning shows? Not with Clocky by her side .. or rolling across the room.

-Michael Shapiro

»C 10 C I<y: www.cklcky.net

M."", 21


All good things must come to an end - but no t all ends are lucky enough to be good, much less artistlc. So when the Art League 01 Houston gave two local artists the freedom to transform soonto-be-demolished houses in to one giant sculpture, the artls ts jumped at the opportunity.

Th e resu It? I nversio n, a wo rmh 0 Ie-like fiss ure

in the side 01 a house that looks like a time

travel experimen t gone awry_ While no unusual gravitat ion allield s are de tee table in the area, this anomaly still has the power to suck in passersby.

Houston sculptors Dan Havel and Dean Ruck created the gian t sculpture by peeling off the exterio r skin 0-1 th e old h ou ses an d co nn ecting the wooden planks in spirallashion inward. The resultinglunnel is about 81eet in diameter at its open ing an d co nverges to abou t 2 feet as it ex its in to a cou rtyard behin d both build ings.

What drives two artists to spend 300 hours stripping planks and wielding nail guns to create

22 Mi'I.ke: VQh,JrM ru

a tempo rary struc tu re? "A lot of art h as to do

with the language of architecture. Being aware 01 space and how it relates is a big locus 01 the project. We approached the houses as one big object - no t as so meth ing small in a con tain er - bu t something we could carve," says Havel. "We also were in teres ted in man ipul ating a sol id geome trlc architecturaltorrn to create a more fluid, organic ch aracterlstl c"

Inversion came to its end in June 2005_ "A key component 0-1 the project was the structure's demolition," said the artists. "The temporary,

eph emeral a spec t of the pro [ect fo rces the viewer to experien ce th e proj ect d ifferen tly, re taini ng

a stronger memory 0-1 the houses instead 0-1 it beco ming an everyd ay backg rou n don M on tro se Bou levard _ I nversion celebrates bo th the past an d fu tu re of the Art Leag ue as it nears grou nd breaking 01 a new studio/classroom building."

-Jill Butler

Nixie a la Mode

A furniture maker by day, Andrew Argyle had been making clocks for years wh en he discovered that eBay had made previously obscure nixie tubes easy to obtain. Th ese old n eon in dicator tubes were all but abandoned in the 70s with the advent of LEOs, but along with nostalgia for vinyl an d typewriters, ni xies h ave experienced a revival.

Like oth er electron ics ent hu siasts, Argyle began turning the tubes into glowing reminders of the past, present, and future. "I like to try and recycle components from old computers," he says. "The complexity and beauty of old technology is often lost. Th is way, at least someth ing is pres erved from a disposable past."

The motherboards for his clocks come from the sera p piles of friends and family, t he interface cards from various high-tech salvage places, and t he wood for th e cases from th e local I urnberyard - unless, that is, he's mounting the nixies in a chunk of 400-million-year-old coral he collected

on the shores of Hudson Bay. Constantly innovating, he's currently working on maki ng t he clocks wireless so he can sen d anything in text form to th e di splay: stock prices, temperatu re, dates.

When asked about other, possible variations, he admits to trying to adapt a "bizarre Russian alphanumeric display to show the time and have a playable version of Pong on it." He also wants to add a Geiger counter, which he sees as the nixie's "spiritual cous in."

The rage for nixies has spawned numerous web pages with schematics, as well as those selling everything from m lnlatu re to ju mbo tu bes in bulk, custom-made clocks, and even nixie wristwatches. After all, says Argyle, "there's nothing like seeing the warm orange glow of the neon from your own

creation." -Arwen O'Reilly

»Nixie: glow;nglechrom

Bruce Sterling: Hands On


The virtual makers Inside Second life.

EVER SINCE ONLINE GAMES WERE INVENTED, people have chafed to break the limits of the gaming experience. Bu t th e rule-breakers have gen erally come across as hecklers - cheats. player-killers. "grleters," tossers of rotten tomatoes - instead of creators. Since it was all for play. there was no good way to take the audience behind the curtains of game design and turn them into game designers themselves.

Enter Second Life (secondllte.corn), which is massive. online. and multiplayer. but not a traditional "massive online multiplayer game," Second Life. which has 20.000 participants and the goal of a million users by 2007. is probably best understood as a platform for development. Development of what? Well. pretty much anything people can think up for the platform. really.

Second Life has a graphic design engine on board ..

Any player can use that - you can practice in a

"san dbox'' If you build something permanent that you want to show off to players - a nice ch urch. let's say. or a mall store or casino or strip-joint - then you pay rent or buy virtual property. That's where the owners of Second Life make their own money

- they use real estate taxes. like a town does.

Most of the people "playing" Second Life simply swan around goggling at the stuff done by the local creatives. maybe buying virtual clothes. tays. or tickets to public events. But the mavers and shakers in Second Life are the people who make stuff.

You might call them franchise game developers.

Prosumers. Creative-class hackers. Otaku hobbyists. Role-playing game athletic stars. Salonistas. Minor celebrities. Culture-ind ustry en trepreneurs.

They're also a bit like bloggers who can work in 3D. l'rn running out of synonyms here. so let's cut to the chase: Second Life is more centered on user creativity than any "game" has ever been before.

Now come some weird implications. which are mostly economic. The virtual things one makes in

24 MiI.ke~ Vdum,a os

Wheel of Virtual Fortune: Second Lifer Chan dra Page makes and sells imaginary vehicles, such as t.his un ibike, which she sells for cash-convertjble Linden dollars.

Second Life are the maker's intellectual property.

The game doesn't claim to own them - the maker does. This means the maker can sell them - for fake money within the game. and. uh. for real money. too. The "Linden dollars" that circulate within Second Life are swiftly convertible into actual u.S. dollars. on. say. eBay or the "Gaming Open Market"· (gamingopenmarketcom). where 1.000 Linden dollars can be exchanged for about US$4.

Trading game money for real money isn't new

- it happens in EverQuest. Ultima. Anarchy Online. Lineage. Camelot. and many other games. but in Second Life. makers are. in some sense. in the design and manufacturing business. The skills they learn on the Second Life website are remarkably akin to those in genuine 3D product design. the programs the big bays use: CATIA. formZ. Solid Works. Those are the digital CAD-CAM specs behind actual objects.

So it would seem pretty likely. maybe even inevitable. that the making of virtu al assets has to cross over into plans for gen uine products that can also function outside the context of a game. We·re not talking about the licensed ancillary rights to a toy Darth Vader lightsaber here - no. I mean the spontaneou s creation of real stuff from a highly unreal world with. let's just say. a million people Irving in it.

Then what? Do we play? Or do we just watch?

Bruce Sterling (bruce@well,com) is a science fiction writer and part-time design professor.

26 Mi'I ke: Vduml!:! os

any dog poop, but I have to pick my way around some furniture and across rubber exercise mats that Ed's wife, Carol. placed beneath the equipment to prevent it from damaging the parq uet floor.

Storms has a laconic sense of humor, but his relaxed style is deceptive. During more than a decade of supposed retirement. he has worked from his home with relentless ambition and infinite patience to understand and control an obscure phenomenon known as low-energy nuclear reactions (LEN R). H is latest acquisition, the electron microscope, is on loan from a small Chicago company of speculative investors who hope that Storms may make a crucial breakthrough in his one-man research initiative.

The stakes are immense.

If LENRs exist and can be harnessed, they could eliminate our dependence on carbon-based

fuels. Oil would become obsolete for most applications, and electric power lines would largely disappear as cars, homes, and airplanes would acquire their own individual nuclear power cells, capable of gen erating electricity for decades while costing virtually nothing to maintain. Moreover, LENRs would not be hazardous, quite unlike the dramatically dangerous fission and hot-fusion reactions that occur in bombs and nuclear power plants. Since they don't emit chemical pollu tants such as carbon dioxide, they could even alleviate global warming.

Hard to believe? Certainly, this kind of lyrical speculation seems uncomfortably reminiscent of "futuristic" visions from 1950s Popular Mechanics magazine covers, or classified ads offering mysterious ad ditives that guarantee 100 miles from a gallon of gas. Since LENRs have been notoriously difficult to replicate on a reliable basis, many skeptics dismiss the entire field as "pathological science."

Still. Ed Storms does not remotely fit the profile of a crackpot inventor, He spent most of his working life in Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the most prestigious research environments in the world. Arriving with a degree in radiochemistry, his first task was to design and build a mass spectrometer - a device used to

measure the presence of elements in vapor with extreme precision. He became involved in the SP100 program, an effort to build a power reactor for use in space, and he played a significant role in the Rover program, which developed a nuclear-powered rocket motor. This project reached the point where it was tested in Nevada. "We had a reactor with liquid hydrogen flowing in at one end and hydrogen gas coming out at the other end, around 2.500 degrees Kelvin," Storms recalls. "The specific impulse and the thrust were just enormous. It could have taken 100 tons to the Moon without any problem. But Nixon killed the program when he needed the money to bomb Vietnam."

The final and fateful phase of Storms' tenure

at Los Alamos began when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced their discovery of "cold fusion" in 1989. The laboratory sponsored a major effort to replicate the effect. Of about 100 scientists who were involved, Storms was one of only three who succeed ed. Du ring a year-long series of 250 separate experiments, he measured excess heat on numerous occasions and detected tritium, a radioactive byproduct. 13 times, causing him to become convinced beyond any doubt that although the phenomenon was elus lve, it was real.

Oth er researchers lacked his persistence or were simply unlucky in their selection of metal electrodes, which turned out to be a crucial factor. Pons and Fleischmann were widely discredited, and Los Alamos almost forgot about cold fu sion, along with most other conventional research in stitutions.

In 1991, Storms took early

retirement. He retreated into an unspoiled, mountainous area of New Mexico, worked for

only solving the energy problem but the nuclear waste disposal problem, too.

We enter the other half of his house and walk down a red steel spiral staircase into a garage recessed into the hillsid e. Carpentry tools such as a radial-arm saw and a band saw remain here since he used this space for his home construction work, but most of th e garage has been remade as a laboratory. A chemical workbench stands against one of the cinderblock walls, while an impressive array of vacuum equipment is mounted on an improvised bench opposite. Computers are hooked up to calorimeters, doing data acquisition.

Storms shows me a hand-fabricated electrolytic cell, which would look familiar to any

high school student who has seen oxygen and hydrogen liberated by an electric current passing between two electrodes immersed in water. Martin Fleischmann's idea was to substitute an electrode made from the precious metal palladium, which he immersed in deuterium oxide, commonly known as "heavy water." Although it sounds exotic, heavy water is all around us as a trace isotope in everyday water. It yields deuterium,


two years with his wife to build a beautiful home among the pines and junipers, and then resumed his research on his own. Today, he is a central figure in a loose-knit international network of LENR researchers who work mostly outside of mainstream science and publish their results

on a website ( t<lffi'fof.l 11M",,) for wh ich Storms

is the science editor. Piece by piece, they have accumulated a formidable body of evidence suggesting that nuclear fusion can and does occur at moderate temperatures, and can be demonstrated using equipment that is small enough, cheap enough, and safe enough to assemble on a kitchen table.

Storms picks up a wafer of palladium less than an inch long and places it in the chamber of his electron microscope. As a pump evacuates air from the chamber, a picture 0 f the pallad ium appears on a video monitor. It looks like a lunar land scape, pitted an d scarred.

"We know now that the nuclear reactions occur in micro domains," he says, poin ting to little blips in the image. "The amount of heat that we measure has to do with how many of those micro domains you create on the surface. The energy density is one million watts per cubic centimeter. Most of the sample is completely dead, but if

you concentrate on the part that you know to

be alive, a couple of microns below the surface, you're up to 100,000 watts per cubic centimeter."

He speaks in his habitually dry, academic style, but allows himself a wry smile. "This is a higher energy density than anything outside of nuclear weapons." If he's right. the only thing that makes LENRs safe to play with is that they occur on a microscopic scale, without creating any neutron rad iation to trigger a chain reaction.

He shuts down the $175,000 electron microscope and we walk outside, across a decked

area where hummingbirds drink from feeders overlooking a spectacular view of Santa Fe. In the far distance, beyond the town, Storms points to

a thin white line which he identifies as tents that h ave been erected to cover a temporary stash

of nuclear waste on a hillside near Los Alamos. While activists and politicians squabble over disposal plan s, the" temporary" stash keeps getting bigger. Since LENRs create virtually no radioactive byproducts, Storms sees them not




Storms sits witl1l1is STM wl1ere tile

28 MiI.ke Vdum,a os

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a fancy name for hydrogen th at has on e extra neutron in each of its atoms. The deuterium penetrates the lattice structure of the palladium, where Fleischmann theorized that nuclear fusion could occur after the deuterium has reached sufficient density. The fusion would liberate heat, which could be harnessed to create electricity.

According to conventional nuclear physics, this was impossible. Atomic nuclei repel each other so strongly, you sh ould need huge amounts of energy to overcome that repulsion and make them fuse. LENR advocates responded by suggesting that unique conditions in a PonsFleischmann cell could change the rules regarding nuclear fission: but hot-fusion proponents insisted that positive results were "experimental errors ," even afte r on e obs erver cou n t ed 92 s eparate groups who had validated the phenomenon.

The elusiveness of the

phenomenon was blamed initially on impurities in palladium. "People analyzed the surface of the palladium," Storms recalls, "and found platin um from th e anod e, silicon from the glass, boron from the Pyrex, lithium, and other elements

- zinc, copper, and silver." But subsequent studies indicated that impurities were actually necessary. "I f the palladium is super pure, it doesn't work," Storms says. "We now believe that when the impurities reach a certain mix, they enable the phenomenon. I've seen this myself. On the occasions when I hit it right the first time, it turns on instantly. It takes no time at all"

He claims the "micro domains" that foster LENR are most common where a thin film of one

metal is deposited on another, and he uses an expensive vacuum deposition system to enable this. "I vaporize a palladium wire by pass ing

a high current an d low voltage th rough it," he explains. "If you get it hot enough, it will vaporize without melting, and in a vacuum, you can deposit the vapor on other metals. Other people have done this with electrodeposition, but vapor deposition is cleaner. You can adjust the plat-

ing conditions to produce various geometrical characteristics, all kinds of morphologies, widely varying in size. My effort is to sort through that and find what it is about an active material that makes it unique."

Since Storms is an experimentalist, not a theorist, he isn't trying to explain why the phenomenon occurs. He is simply changing variables one at a time in the hope of hitting a combination that will make it occur more reliably.

This is the same kin d of trial-and-error approach that Edison used when struggling to develop a working filament for a light bulb. It's comparable, also, to the efforts of scientists who developed high-temperatu re supercond uctors

- ceramic compounds that ought to behave

as insulators yet somehow conduct electricity with zero resistan ce. Even now, no one knows exactly why these materials behave the way they do. In fact. according to orthodox theory, they shouldn't work at all.

The problem with LENRs is that they are not only difficult to replicate but difficult to detect. Japanese researcher Tadahiko Mizuno claimed he once had a cell that generated 100 watts of heat throughout a period of several days, but such reports are rare, and a more typical res ult would be 50 milliwatts. Since you must put some

30 MClke: VduFM ru

In deed, th e history of science is peppered

with instances where chance events enabled individuals to make radical discoveries. In the 1700s, Galvani learned accidentally that muscles can be triggered by electricity. French physicist Hen ri 8ecq uerel discovered the radioactivity of uranium entirely by chance, in 1896. Penicillin, smokeless guncotton, organometallic compounds, and the industrial synthesis of polyethylene and Teflon all entailed an element of chance, often because equipment was poorly maintained or accidentally contaminated.

If Storms does manage to hit upon the ideal conditions to trigger LEN Rs, he believes the phenomenon will be harnessed for commercial purposes almost immediately. "Nanotechnology is coming along," he points ou t, "and the computer industry knows how to put down any morphology on a microscopic scale." As soon

as the ideal configuration of microdomains is established, semiconductor labs should have no trouble mass-producing nuclear batteries.

Currently, however, the stigma associated with cold fusion continues to discourage well-funded research and development. A recent review by the Department of Energy refused to advocate the allocation of public money, and the academic community remains hostile. "In the United States, th ey simply are not willing to explore new ideas readily," Storms comments. "That's why a lot of the work now is being done in Italy, Russia, and Japan,"

Almost all peer-reviewed journals still refuse to publish LENR papers, while open communication

electric power into a cell before it generates output. you h ave to be able to measu re the d ifference between input and output power accurately while eliminating environmental factors and other sources of error, such as ordinary chemical reactions that produce h eat of their own.

The first step in th is direction is to place your LENR cell inside an insulated container known

as a calorimeter. This protects the cell from outside temperature fluctuations while enabling accurate measurement of internally generated heat. "Anybody can build a calorimeter," Storms says with a shrug. "A man named John Dash,

at Portland State, actually teachers high school stud ents how to do it. for cold-fusion experiments."

On the LENR website, Storms has provided his own step-by-step guid e for calorimeter construction - which seems appropriate, since he has been fabricating his own scientific equipment on and off throughout his life. When he was still a high school student. he constructed a Geiger cou nter, not only soldering electronic components onto circuit boards but learning to do glass blowing so that he could make his own detector tube. Even that wasn't the end of the story: to create a good enough vacuum inside the tube, he had to build his own mercury diffusion pump.

The same spirit still

motivates him now as he machines his own metal parts and does his own computer programming. He insists that others can make their own contributions to the field if they are willing to make this kind of effort. "There's a lot of room for the solitary experimenter. I can name half

a dozen people in the United States right now doing what I'm doing and having mixed success, and I get email from students who see that this work is real and valuable, and they want to get in on the ground floor."

He feels that individuals will continue to play an important role in LENR research so long as the phenomenon remains elusive and poorly understood. "Anyth ing tru Iy creative in science is usually done on a small scale by a people outside of the mainstream of academia or the government. Entrepreneurs, little companies. And then, if it works, it grows. It becomes Microsoft."

32 MClke: VduFM ru

Maka: 33

is difficult even within the community. "People who are successful now are not broad casting

the results until they get their patents," Storms says. "Whenever someone has information of any substance, they make you sign a nondisclosure agreement, and after that, you can't talk about it."

Has he been in that position himself? "Oh, sure. I've signed half a dozen NDAs."

Still. he remains fundamentally optimistic, and at the age of 74 he shows no signs of slowing down - because he feels he has no choice. "Once you realize that this is real." he says, "you can't go back, becau se your integrity an d your conscience won't allow you to go back. You know, Carol wants me to work on the house, and I kid her, I don't have time, because I'm too busy saving the world. That's how big this is."

He pauses, perhaps wondering if he sounds a little over-dramatic. "When you retire, you have to do something to keep yourself occupied," he says, retreating to his more usual laconic style. "And since I don't play golf," hegestures at the cluttered garage workshop, "I might as well be here."

Cold Fusion 101

Learn how to make your own calorimeter andlor LENR cell. Find PDF files about the following at: lenr-canr.orgJacrobatl

St 0 rms Ell owto III akea.pdt


l.oncharn ptGreproducti_pdl



Nuclear fission splits atomic nuclei to produce energy, while nuclear fusion joins nuclei together to produce energy.

Nuclear power plants cause fission reactions

by adding neutrons to plutonium or uranium atoms to make them unstable enough to split. When the atoms split, they release additional neutrons, which bombard additional radioactive atoms, causing them to split. Nuclear power reactors use control rods to absorb some of the neutrons to pre""nt a chain reaction that would lead to a meltdown.

Fusion is harder to achieve, at least by people. The sun and stars are giant fusion machines, but here on Earth, getting deuterium or tritium nuclei to collide with enough force to fuse them together requires very high temperatures. Re· searchers try to contain the reaction in powerful magnetic fields (solid containers would be vapor· ized) but progress in this field has been slow.

When Professor Martin Fleischmann of South· ampton University and Professor Stanley Pons of the University of utah announced the discov· ery of "cold fusion" in March 1989, the news tore through the scientific community like a nuclear explosion. Most scientists could not repeat Pons and Fleischmann's results, and the consensus was that the scientists were careless and foolish at best and scam artists at worst.

But a small number of scientists said they were able to reapeat the results, and research has continued on a small scale. in 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy reviewed the current cold fusion research and. concluded, "The experimental evidence for anomalies in metal deuterides, including excess heat and nuclear emissions, suggests the existence of new physical effects." According to Storms, the Pons·Fleischmann experiment has been successfully repeated hundreds of times in the last 16 years.

Today's experimental cold fusion setups

are more elaborate than the original Pons· Fleischmann cell, but the general idea is the same. The theory is that the deuterium dissolves in the palladium in such a way that the deuterium nuclei (which normally repel one another with great force) come close enough to fuse.

- Mark Frauenfelder

Washington Post on LENR:

Weillbergerwarilli ngupt.pdt

Charles Platt has been a senior writer for Wired magazine and has written science fiction novels such as The Silicon Man.

.34 MiI.ke Vdum,a os

To pressure gauge

.. __ To cathode

To thermistor

To thermistor

.. To anode

Anatomy of a Fuel Cell:

Cross-section of a cold-tusion cell shows eleclrodes immersed in deuterium oxide (heavy water) in the hope of inducing nuclear fusion ina palladiumeleclrode. Excess heat is measured by monitori ng the temperature of water flowi ng around the cell. Materials to build a cell are relatively cheap. but construetion is nontrivial. and meaningful experimental results will require extremely careful technique.



By Tim Anderson


I've been living outdoors for the past few months, mostly in the swamps and rivers of Florida. Fisheating Creek, southwest of

• Lake Okeechobee, is particularly stunning: white sand, cypress knees, cabbage palms, perfect cool sunny weather. and very few mosquitoes when I was there in March.

Living ou tdoors is great I wake up jus t before sunrise. have lots of energy all day. and sleep well at night unlike the caftelne-vernplre seasonal-affective jetlag meltdown that af"fiicts most of the people I know back in the land of progress.

I brought plenty of work with me. My laptop is full of more PDFs than I can read and the digital remains of my last five c:ompu ters. I've got a few thousand trip photos and Xeroxed notebooks of projects I need to finish drawing.

Too bad swamps me so damn mterestmg. My laptop resides in a urethane ru bber envelope insid e a gasketed. hard backpack. When I get paranoid. I put that inside a dry bag. I have desiccant but don't usually use it. I bag my toys up when they're warm. and condensation hasn't been a problem.

36 Milka: VClfutlU:i 0.3

Ruben Cano in Ft. Pierce gave me some old-growth

lu mber from h is flatten ed house an d a dead corn snake for dinner. My mom says these gentle snakes are th e best ones for toddl er s to pet, but al as, it was killed for resembling a Copperh ead,




lou tfitted my can oe like a Chinese sampan. Th at co nsisted of taking ou t the cen ter thwart an d putting bent willow hoops 'for a little covered-wagon roof over it. With so many alligators around, I was glad to have some th ing rno re solid th an a ten t to sleep in. I have d if'feren t little roof tarps to cho ose 'from depending on the weather.

For a cool, dark den to use my laptop co rnputer; I use the alu minized tarp. l'f I don 't wan t to distract people 'from the scenery, I toss a carnoutlage tarp over that.

Solar panels an d fish ing rod are at the bow. I have two Solarex 20-watt (peak) solar panels 'from the MIT 'flea market an d a few 6- an d l.2-volt gel cell batteries retired 'from emergency room lighting systems. These batteries can run my lights, compu ter, sewing machine, and inverter fu II of rad io and telephone wall warts for longer than I can stand it.

Here's the sampan canoe with a bug net (at righ t), which the 10 cals call a "skee ter bar" because th at's where th e bugs go 'for a drink and a goo d time. I sleep in the mid die in a chaise lou nge fold ing ch air.

For vegetables, I sprou ted lentils or mu ng beans (above right) in a quart yogurt tub with vent flaps cut in the lid, Soak two cups of dry beans for a day, discard the water, an d rinse the sprou ts every day, Eat as many as you want. and the next morning the tub will be overflowing again, S prouts are very important to yachties, Mormons, and anyon e wh 0 wants to live well on stored food, The book Sailing

I caught a Brown Hoplo armored catfish with my the Farm (out of print. G.oogle for a used copy) is

cast net. Delicious flaky yellow meat. simple bone full of sprouting tips and oth er ingenious methods

stru cture, bu t it's got plen ty of bones on th e outside, for living well on a boat with very limited res ources,





American hobos developed this fine cooking stove (near right), This one is made from a 3-liter olive oil can, There are air intake doors at the bottom on three sides, I kept cutting and folding down the intake door flaps until there was no charcoal in the ashes, The top is cu t with an X and the flaps folded up with a vertical crease to support the pot. The pressure cooker uses very little fuel. It makes it hard to burn food because the bottom doesn't dry out. I'd boil a dozen eggs and steam-bake bread in a bowl atop them at the same time, Seawater has th e perfect salt con tent for making bread dough, I carry an aluminum license plate to put under the stove when I'm worried about killing th e grass, I looked forward to distilling drinking water like the old -time gladesmen did, but I n ever got thirsty enough to get around to it.

A simple method made possible by plastic is to run the steam into a plastic bag for a condenser. (above, bottom right), I tried it with a rice cooker and it

worked great. All th e salt stayed in th e cooker an d th e fres h water collected in the bag in th e tub, The

bag was su ch an effective condenser that the steam hard Iy puffed it up at all.

Th ese are South American "sucker fis h" kept in aq uariums to clean th e glass, When they escape, they thrive in the wild, breed, and get quite large, Th ey can't be caugh t on bait because they feed so low on the food chain, They're not a mercury hazard for the same reason, I removed its tiny

en trails full of algae and cooked it over th e hobo stove in a pressure cooker,

The book Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skitters (upf.com/Spring1998/ simmons.h tml) explains how Everglade fron tiersmen dis tilled swamp water. They used a 5-gallon can 'for a boiler and a coil of ok" copper tubing for a condenser. The condenser coil was cooled in a second 5-gallon lard can 'full of water.

(ISBN: 0813015731) Glen Simmons and Laura Ogden. $24.95 Cloth. 53/4x8lJ,_ 224p_ index illus.

How do you make a $200 computer for blind kids?

By Fernando Botelho



The Challenge

The lack of accessible media material in developing countries can place someone blind, such as myselt in a de 'facto S tone Age when it comes to productivity. In this contex l an inexpensive PDA-type computing device can be nothing less than revolu tionary for a blin d stud en r. A sing Ie device with th e fun ctlon allty of a talking notebook, calcu lator, textbook, calend ar, and dictionary is particularly exciting when the alternative is having none of these,

You r mission, should you accept it. is to make a computing device accessible to millions of blind kids around the world. To do this, you need to find the cheapest device capable of handling l inux, a keyboard, a speech syn thesizer, and speakers or earphones. Then, you r GPL -licensed creativity will make people like me 'fund raise in ord er to massproduce it

Traditional solu tions such as brailled or recorded books are expensive and etten inadequate substitutes 'for eyesight when it comes to studying or working competitively, Conventional computers

u sing proprietary software are als 0 no t a realis tic solu tion given an estimated blin d population of more than 180 million. A PC can easily cost in excess o'f $1.300 when hardware and commercial screen-reed ing software are included. Fin ally, the gift o'f a proprie tary solu tion is the gift th at keeps on cos ting, given the con stant need to purchase

40 MClke: VduFM ru



expensive upgrad es to have th e latest s creenreeding applications and other software.

H ere is where you come in. The realities of a population that is 70% to 90% unemployed require a solution that is creative, bold, and uncompromising. While this is a tough challenge, having somebody such as yourself hacking away at it gives us a realis tic ch an ce at bringing edu cation and employment to millions of blind 'folk.


The magnitude of the challenge requires much more than an incremental improvement on what's now available. The solution we need must cost about :1) 200 and meet the 'following req uiremen ts.

The device must be made entirely of massprodu ced parts. Th is is essential because the idea is to benefit from manutac turing econ omies of scale and h ave easy availability of hard ware and software. Your solution will be used as a proof of concept, You need not worry if you plugged a PDA board an d a keyboard toge ther without these being pro tected by a sturdy box. The real challenge is getting inexpensive hardware and open source software to talk. Other requirements such as case, assembly, packaging, and language localization, are things someone like myself can fund raise 'for.

The hack must be entirely based on open source software. Th is allows you r work an d that o'f others

to ad d up into solutions that cann ot be taken away by misguided corporate policies. It also ensures that the end user will remain in charge of the device.

The device must have a "real" keyboard. In other words. it does not have to be a full-size keyboard. but it cannot be a thumb keyboard either. End users will be blind. and a thumb keyboard will prevent them from achieving significant speed at best. and will be completely unusable at worst.

The device mayor may not have removable storage media such as a CompactFlash card (even though this would be desirable). but it must have a way of connecting to other devices. This could be via wireless means such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. or someth ing as simple as a USB or IR port. The idea is that even if surfing the in ternet is not possible. th e student can. for example. download books or other files from the teacher's desktop machine.

The device must have sufficient computing power to ru n a version of Li nu x, a screen read er. an d a software speech synthesizer. Hardware speech synthesizers are expen sive. reduce portability. increase power consumption. and are not as easily changed to th e local langu age.

State of the Art: The Perkins Brailler, a device for embossing Braille was invented in 1951 and costs $700. It has over 500 parts and requires frequent repairs,

ea ch of wh i ch ca n cost $100 or more.

''A Perki ns B raill e r is th e cia ssl c typ ew riter for em bossi ng Bra i lie wh e n yo u have some m on ey, as op posed to a slate and stylus, the classic way of producing Braille when you have no money;' says Fernando Bote III 0.

Shoulders to Stand On

Let us not rei nvent the wheel. Here are some leads that might help. I am not a hacker. but I can al so try to hel p

at • . Thanks!

I. Tal king Linux kernel:~!rn!!!iEl!m!l!J:iE:l~ 2. Lightweight screen reader for Linux:

3. Waysmall ccmputers:

4. OS speech synthesis:


5. Desktop for the blind:

6. More speech synthesi s:



Fernando Botel ho is an international consultant who manages projects related to trade development. technology. and disabil ity issues.

7. Free speech synthesis:

8. Generic Linux for the bl ind page:

9. Rollable pcrtable keybcard: ..

10. Low-cost PDA: •

M.o,,", 41


rF7."\ Business card trimmed ~ for rudder.

LIFT: 9" helium·qu ality balloon filled with helium and tied.


BALLAST: Modeling clay.


Cellophane tape join s two straws. (Make sure on e straw fits into another.)

@ PROPUILSION: 9" helium·quality balloon filled with air and slipped onto straw (neck of balloon trimmed).


WARNING: Without ballast, th e blimp will continue

to rise.

Launch gently.

42 M Li.k u; VCJ1:urn,a ru



u ~ BI~E"\'ED I-IEI~E

Silicon Valley's HomeBrew Robotics Club is leading the development of an open source robot hardware system. By Quinn Norton

Started in 1985, the H omeBrew Robotics Club (HBRC) is a spin off of Silicon Valley's HorneBrew Computer Club, which launched Apple and a host of other personal computer companies.

Chuck McManis has headed the club since 1987, and for 15 years has seen everything a determined group of amateur hackers can build, from octopods to robot blimps. The HBRC has spawned a number of companies, and while none have become the Apple Computers of robotics, from where Chuck is sitting, it's only a matter of time.

Make: The HomeBrew Computer Club [HBCC) showed us the microcomputer revolution - what does a robotics revolution look like?

Chuck McManis: In the 19th century, cars could look like anything. Before 1986, a computer didn't look like a computer - no one knew what a cornputer looked like. Now everyone knows a car or a computer. Robots right now can look like anything - probably the most successful robot out there is the bread machine. No one thinks of it as a robot, but it acts autonomously and reacts to its environment; it does the things that robots do.

How do you encourage people to build in HRBC? Chuck: By setting small measu rable goals. In ou r Tabletop Challenge, the robots move from one end of the table to the other without falling off. It looks simple, but that's a lot to consider. Building any robot gives you a sense of whole systems design, and tremend ous satisfaction seeing you r creation doth e things you built it to do.

c c

You've said Lego Mindstorms are a good place to start. What about for a more ambitious builder? Chuck: The benefits of Mindstorms are that every· thing works together: batteries, motors, controls. Mindstorms, though, leave off at about 5lbs. Advanced builders build robots that work outdoors

Twelve·year",ld Tony Pratkanis prepares his robotic blimp for takeoff at a HomeBrew Robotics Club meeting in Silicon Valley.

and indoors, in adverse conditions, and on nonsmooth surfaces. They're looking for new motors, higher payloads, longer run-times. teleoperation, and more extensive mapping.

Can you explain the idea behind RoboBRiX. the robotics platform born at HBRC? How is it unique in a world of robot kits?

Chuck: Mindstorms gave us standard sensors and actuators; however, there was never enough techni· cal information about how they really worked.

RoboBRiX was longtime H BRCer Wayn e Gramlich's answer to creating an affordable DIY modular robotics subsystem. He recognized the challenge of wiring up systems that delegate the things robots need to do. Wayne has recaptured the spirit of

the original HBCC in that his work is completely documented on the web, the software is released

as open source, and he tried to get the price down. They were picked up for sale by robotstore.com. and shou Id be for sale by Jameco soon.

Quinn Norton is a freelance writer and co-blcgger at ambiguous.org.

Make:: 43


-rl-IE UI.:rUVIR-rE rocr


A complete list of tools you need to make almost anything.


If a genie were to grant me my wish for a shed full of tools, this is what I'd ask for. Think of it as an extremely biased guide to outfitting yourself with the ultimate shop for launching your own space program.

I ::,:.,y useful

:iurprisingly u,,"lIl ~lTequ en 1 bul handy

can d.\lith.ut, beIIeT \lith

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Too I N. me Me Maste r # ~ B udget ~ Del uxe

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I've installed computers in all my cars.

I've also designed and installed circuits to == control different parts of my cars. Here are some of the most obvious hackable access poin ts on a car:

diod es, an d parallel ports - all of which 'figure into most electric car hacks.


Engine Ins tall a remote starter (such as the Commando EZ -2500 Remote Starter available 'from commandoalarms com), and you can press a bu tton on a key 'fob to make th e car start up automatically. (Don't try it on a car with manual transrnlsslon')

Many cornponen ts in a car. such as car windows and door locks, use relays. Relays are electrically controlled switches. When you press the button on you r key 'fob to lock your car's doors, the 'fob actlva tes a s mall curren t to the relay, which in turn 'flips a switch that allows a much stronger curren t to 'flow through the solenoids that activate the locks.

Relays with one switch are called single pole (SP). Relays with two switches are called double pole (DP). I'f the switch has only one

Door locks We've all locked ourselves out of our car at one time. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to un lock the car 'from any computer using a password?

Windows, lights, horns You can make a relay sys tern to remotely unroll you r car's wind ows a cou pie of minu tes before leaving the office to 'flu sh ou t the hot air. Or us e it to blast your horn and 'flash your ligh ts when you're lost in the megamall parking lot.


Before we get in to the speciflcs of my car hacks, here's an introduction to relays,




87 86

50 M <I ke: Vd:u.iliJe os

position, l.e., two terminals, on or off, it's a single th row (ST). I f the switch has two positions, i.e .. three terminals, it's a double throw (OT).

The relay shown here is a SPOT (one switch, two positions). You can see that there are five numbered terminals. Two of them are used to activate the switch, and the other three make up the twopole (double pole) switch. When you power up the relay (putting 12V across 85 and 86), it activates a magnet that pulls a switch inside the relay, and this switch then con nects 30 and .87. I f you disconnect the voltage between 85 and 86, the magnet stops, and the spring-loaded switch clicks back to its normal position between 30 and 87a.

You can connect relays to make complex condition al switches (" I'f the car is on and the win dow is down and the trunk is open, then honk the horn"). For some examples of in teresting car relay applications, visit the12volt.com/relavs/relavs.aso.


Diodes are electronic components that ensure current only runs one way. They have a stripe indicating the negative terminal. Th e cu rren t can on ty 'flow 'from plus to minus, so you should put the stripe toward the direction you want the curren t to flow.

Let's say you wanted to add a switch that keeps your rad io on, even i'f your car's keys are removed. You could jus t run a 12V line 'from your battery, through a switch, and to the "ignition" input on your radio. I'f you 'flipped that switch, your radio would tu rn righ ton. Th e problem is th at cu rren t wou Id flow back through the ignition wire and back into all the other devices it powered. The solution is to use two diodes: one between your new switch and the radio (s tripe toward the radio) and another

be tween the ign ition and the radio (s tripe toward the radio) to ensure current goes to the radio only.

In cenTRaL.:


Parallel ports are an easy way to control switches from an in-car computer (see MAKE's Halloween Project, this volume, page 86). A parallel port has eight pins that can be set at 5V or OV. Using a resistor and a small 5V "reed" relay (such as a RadioShack 275-232 or 275-310), you can programmatically activate or deactivate a switch by setting

o or 1 on a parallel port line.

I'f you're triggering a light load, such as a small

light, you can just connect the 12V through the relay. If you're trying to switch a larger load, such as headlights or the door locks and windows, you'll want to chain the relays together. The tiny 5V relay will pass 12 V to th e big 12V 30A au tomotive relay, wh lch will con trol you r heavy load.

You don't have to hack a parallel port There are many USB, serial. and parallel port-based relay controllers you can purchase and plug in to your PC. These are already safety-fused and easy to program, and inclu de example cod e. For in stance, ontrak.net makes the AOR20l0 that I used to control my Nash's windows via an onboard computer.


I wanted to be able to activate and access my cars' PCs 'from my house, so that I could connect via Wi-Fi to download music and grab email (via my company's CarBot software) to be read to me as

I drive. Instead of keeping the in-car computer on continuously (which would kill the car battery),

I bough t a pager (service is about $ 4/mon th) to connect to the "ignition" switch of the in-car PC. The power supply for the PC (an M1-ATX 'from mini box.com) has a mode where it will turn on

an d th en stay on 'for two hou rs. giving me time to do what I need to do.

By rigging the pager buzzer up to the ACC/ignition pin on the PC's power supply (isolated by a diode, so that ACC doesn't fry the pager), I can turn on th e PC in my car from anywhere in the city.

The PC, running Windows XP Pro. is configured to au tomatically connect to the internet (via Wi-Fi or EVOO) and run Trilllan, a popular ins tan t-messaging client. I can now dial a pager number to make my car computer wake up, go online, and start up 1M - at which point I can log in and start controlling the machine.


I decided to upgrade myoid Nash with power windows. The kit I purchased online took the good part of a day to in stall bu t was very simple electrically. It's just a motor with two wires, If you apply 12 V to one wire and ground to the other, the window goes up. Reverse the connection, and the window goes down. The rocker switches that came with the kit perform this reversal when you manually activate them, but to trigger this up-down with a computer required a more complicated arrangement o'f relays. You can see 'from th e diagram (n ex t page)



IE :::J a :n



th at two of the relays apply 12 V and grou nd to make th e window go up, and the other l'Wo relays apply ground and 12 V to make th e window go down.

My friend developed an on screen in tertace for controlling my windows, and I bought an AOR20l0 controller board from ontrak.net. It has simple command language for turning ports on and off and was ideal for this application.

U sing my in-dash touch screen, II can con trol the ADR2010, which activates the relays I've connected to the parallel port, which in turn can switch the bigger relays th at con trol the win dows,


To unlock the doors via cornpu tee I had to figure out how the switches work in my Caravan. After pulling the righ t door panel of f, I disconnected the lock switch and used an ohmmeter to test all three positions: off, up, and down. I found that it usually has a 20Kohm reading, but that it drops to 2Kohm when I "unlock" the switch and 4Kohm when I "lock" the switch.

I used the voltmeter to measure the voltage of both lines that went to the switch, with respect to ground, One terminal was on the ground of the car,

l.5V Latching Relay

(on back of motherboard}

2. Door Lock

3. Door Unlock

4. All Wi ndows Up (Normally Down)

5. Activate Front Right Window Motor

6. Acti vate Front Left Wind ow Motor

7. Activate Rear Left Wind crw Motor

8. Acti vate Rear Right Win dow Motor

9. Turn Ott Computer


Pager (Call 10 power Lip computer}

~ 5V Reed Relay

- (Door Unlock)

1.5 V Batte ry

5V Relay

MI-ATX12V Power Supply

Power Switch

Computer Motherboard

Wireless Card

~ To fron I lett wlndcw

52 M LI ke: Vd:urn,a ru

the other on each wire. (The leads on my ohmmeter have sharp ends. so I just poked a tiny hole into the wire to test the voltage.)

The voltages were both around OV_ I then followed the wires out through the door into the body of the car. One wire, a purple and green one, continued

in to the passenger footwell area. Using alligator clips and the sharp terminal probe, I connected that purple and green wire through the 2Kohm resistor to ground. Lo and behold. the pleasant "unlock" sound reverberated throughout the minivan.

Since the switches to unlock the doors are merely applying a resistance temporarily, I 'felt comfortable using a simple reed relay connected to parallel port pins.

N ow. if I lock mysel f out of my car, I can call a friend or relative who can log into my car, and ask them to "unlock" my car.


Ewwy _ af ulhar 0-1l1li SIiDhIn'a c. ...... autfttted wIItI. _puler IUId • WI-FI ClInt. In...aan, .... .tdIIIII. ,..... to Ih. _putar - • c.rsat PC,

"*'e bJ h .. _ (grbal_, - .... _

c.llin from UI)' IIII,aw.r up the:.,.wm tar

two ho ..... (to the: __ bdtery from nlnnl",

down). By .....,..,m.m -nil ... Ihroqh

the: PC 1 part .. nawn ...... StoIIIIZ CIIII

control hll windows ...... loeb _...,.. u .. II u till hll "'_r PC with .. .,., vkl--. .nd HUIII from hll hcIIM COllI .....

Fu rther exploration:

the12volt_corn, crutchfield_com, ontrak_net.

lnve 1110 r Dam i en S tol arz 11 as s p entover 1131111 i s I ile m aki ng different kinds 01 computers talk 10 eachother, His book. Car PC Hacks. was recently published by O'Rei Ily Media.lnc_

"'---- Door Lock Motor

(Motor Activation!}

I'\.._ Window Lift Motor

CIII ~III nu:u.u nr;:

IE == == = = === =




~III ----

Matt Turner is a protesslonal 'fabricator and installer of mobile electronics. He's been working in the

in dus try 'for 12 years and has bu ilt numerous awardwinning show vehicles, His latest project, outfitting a 2001 VW GTi with Apple's Mac mini, brings hope to all car owners looking to Madfy their ride.

hen the Mac mini was announced, along with its form-factor dirnen~~=~sion. Turner spent two weeks planning how he would install the mini into his car. Through careful planning and examination of his VW GTL he selected over a dozen off-the-shelf parts th at would provide a driver/user with the best in-car computer experience 'from a variety of standpoints.


I n car computer sys terns, the 'firs t challenge is power. The Mac mini presented a new puzzle, The power bu tton is located on t he back of th e en closu re

- great 'for homes, bu t not so great when it's in side a car. You can't let the mini stay in sleep mode all the time (it'll take it's toll on the car's battery), so Turner 'first contemplated a second ary battery ban k with a relay, bu t " that did n' t really seem to me to 'fall in line with the inheren t simplicity of Apple's computers," he says, After taking apart the mini, he discovered a simple, two-conductor momentary push bu t ton switch th at tells the hardware to 'fire up, and th is actually mad e the process of relocating it (electrically, at least) pretty simple. "The wiring 'for th e bu tton ac tually termin ates in a conn ector that plugs into the main board, so I simply unplugged

it and cut the original wires, extended them with a Monster Cable 2-channel 3-meter RCA cable and sold ered this cable to both end s of th e cu t switch wires," says Turn er, A drilled h ole and bu tton relocation solved the problem. Turner proclaims, "There's really nothing quite like hopping in the car, starting

54 ML'lk-e:: Vd:uFM os

it up, an d push ing th at bu tton to be greeted wi th the signature Apple startup sound,"

Turner's initial power setup took the electrical system's output (which varies between 12Vand 14V DC), converted it to nov AC, and then stepped it back d own to I8V DC through the Mac min i's power supply brick But the Monster Cable inverter he used would sometimes go into a protection mode


1.42GHz Mac mini with 512MB RAM, SuperDrive

Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme Xenarc 70 OTSV 7" USB touch screen monitor with VGA and dual composite video inputs

Cirque Easy Cat USB Trackpad Griffin PowerMate assignable USB

control knob

LaCie 8-incl USB Flash Card reader Belkin USB 7-port hub

Belkin USB 4-port bus-powered hub Belkin FireWire 6-port mini hub Alpine PXA-H701 Multimedia Manager

with RUX-C701 Controller

Monster Cable MCPI300 300-watt power

inverter Female USB

Ethernet and FireWire ports

40G iPod dock and a Griffin RadioShark USB AM/FM tuner

and not allow the Mac to power up normally. The lack of ign ition -ccn trolled wake and sleep 'fun ctlons and the quirky workarounds to power the computer and inverter to stay on wh ile pumping gas or runn ing in to a store 'for a qu ick pickup were solved with new hardware specifically designed 'for the Mac mini: the CarNetix CNX-PI900 ($90. carnetix.com).

This du al-ou tpu t, 140-walt in telligen t DC to DC power regulator simply replaces the Mac mini's standalone power brick. It accepts 7.5V to 18V of constant input, has an ignition sense and pulse trigger inpu Land ou tpu ts a stable an d con sisten t 18.5V, a second ary 5V or 12V outpu t 'for powering

U S8 hubs or screens, a delayed 12V amplifier for accessory tum-on lead, and a pulsed groun d outpu t for triggering the Mac min l's power bu rton 'for automated operation of sleep, wake, and startup tunctlons. The wide range of voltage input capability allows the P1900 to never sacrifice its output based on low voltages encountered during engine cranking, when battery voltage can etten drop to as low as 7.5V.

When Turner was Slashdotted, the manufacturer leapt at the opportunity to "fill the void 'for in-car

power solu tion s for Macs. Turner says. "The un it I in s tailed in my VW is a pre-produ ction model using the GTi as a test environment." Production models have been available since the end of April, and a Mac mini-specific plug-and-play wiring harness should be available in August 2005.


Tu mer first wan ted to have the mini moun tin-dash, but with all the connectors sticking out of it the mini stretched out from 6.5 inches deep to over 10.5. The choice was to either rework all the airflow controls and ductwork in the car or find a new home, such as the glove box. Turner says, "I still wanted the Mac min i to look as i'f it were a 'factoryinstalled option, so simply mounting the cornpu tar in the glove box itself or in the glove box door wasn't really wha t I wan ted to do. That's no t th e way th at I felt Volkswagen would do it. Instead, I chose to modify the internal storage dividers in the glove box to make an actual compartment that would house the Mac."

Th e fu II complernen t of con nectlons was then routed th rough the su b-dash of the car, wire-tied along factory harness runs, and plugged into the cornpu ter, The Mac mini itself slides in to the housing from the 'front to allow access to the back of the computer if removal of the computer is ever necessary.


The most striking feature of the mini installation is the in-dash LCD screen that controls the whole shebang. Turner adds, "The 'first thing to do when trying to make a large componentfit in a small area (like a 7-inch monitor in a double DIN-sized opening) is to take it apart and remove as much stuf as you can th at is extran eous or unn ecessary 'for the project

at hand. In the case of the Xenarc monitor, this mean t opening th e case of the rnon ltor, removing

th e bu ilt-in speaker, reversing the orlen tatlon of the power lead, removing an d relocating th e infrared receiver 'for th e remote control, and doing away

with the 'front of the case en tirely, including the bu ttons on the front bezel (all these 'functions are now performed via remote control). This gave me a 'flat surface to build trim on top ot as well as reduced

th e overall size of the mon itor significan tly."

To make the aluminum panel, Turner made an acrylic vers ion 'fi rs t. Th is was used as a cu tting template 'for the aluminum. Turner notes, "All o'f the other aluminum parts in my vehicle (the iPod and



IE :::J a :n



trackpad plate. th e port and flash reader plate. and the ring around the boost gauge) were all made with th e same tech nique of using separate jigs to make

a complete. one-piece. acrylic jig that was used to cut the aluminum parts. They were all then handsanded. polished. and brushed in the same manner."

Turner then hand-sanded the inside of the beveled aluminum starting with 80-grit sandpaper

and working through 120. 600. and 1000-grit sandpaper to reach a polishable





surface. He used a pneumatic die grinder with a polishing head an d a block of blu e jeweler's rouge to polish the aluminum bevel to a mirror finish.

cenTRaL.: RUB. RDu... RI1D PUSH.

Th e touchscreen isn't the primary method of user in tertace: in fact, th ere are three ways the driver or passenger can operate the mini. The first is, of course, the touchscreen, but Turner comments, "The touchscreen doesn't have the resolu tion to con trol the as, nor should it" The Grirfin PowerMate USB control knob and the Cirque Easy Cat USB Trackpad con trol most of the functions.

What's next for Turner? He's in terested in a tumby-turn GPS and would like to see a Mac-based aBO II in tertace to show engine speed. timing. an d vehicle speed. When that happens. Turner proclaims. "The dream will be complete."

For more on Turner's creations, along with extensive details on the Mac mini install, visit: tunertricks.com.

Phill ip Terrene is associatssditorot MAKE.

56 M L'I ke: Vdurn,a 03

When you're working on you r car's 12V wiring system, it helps to have a few special tools to get the job done. The UberTester is a 4-in-l gadget that won't remove door panel clips but does test for most wiring conu ndrums you might encounter. Plus. with its dual notification (buzzer and light), you'll be able to use the tool when your stereo is blasting or when you're contorted und er the dash.

This 9V-powered handheld device win test the following scenarios with just three wires:

L DC polarity - positive or negative voltage 2_ Speaker polarity - "pop test"

3_ Connectivity - wire loop back

4. Presence o-f voltage - fuse tester. constant or ignition switched power

I ns tailing a 1.2 V accessory or stereo properly - that is. with th e correc t speaker polarity. switched power source. and constant voltage tor the clock and preset memory - requires a tester such as this. Tracing wires in today's vehicles is

n ext to impossible with their nearly id en tical colors and tight wire looms. This gadget will help you find that needle in a haystack.



[A] Enclosure (gadget box) 3"x2">d" (Radiofshack #270-1801)

[8 ] 12V, snap-in, high-brightness lamp - blue

(RS #272-335)

[C] Mini 12V DC electric buzzer (RS #273-055)

[0]1" alligator insu lated test/jumper cable set

(RS #278-001)

[E] Wire crimps, shrink tu bing, or electrical tape

[F] Cotton balls

(10 keep the innards from moving around)

[G] 9V battery snap connector (RS #270-325)

[H ]9V battery


[I] Soldering iron an d solder

[J] Drill with large an d small bits

[K] Wire cutters



~!! ·SiliTAiIiIIIRiilTIii)ii)1IIiII1II Time: A Couple of Hours Complexity: Easy



~ S tart by drilling a hole for the lamp

ell in the bottom of the gadget box (not I

i_Ion the removable lid) about a quarter

:~III of an inch d own. Then drill a hole ju st

, large enough to let the three jumper

,_::: wires pass through it. Strip ';4" of insu-

lation off the lamp wires and in sert the lamp into the hole you drilled for it.


Iiiiiii. Cut one alligator clip off

the end of each of the red. green. and black wires and poke th e wires in to the gadget box. leaving the alligator clips outside of th e box. Tie the th ree wires into a knot to preven t them from pulling th rough the h ole. leaving about 2" of wire to work with insid e the box. S trip the wires back ';4" to prepare for the connections.


~. Conn ect the black wire from the 9V harness to the black alligator clip wire.

Connect the red wire from th e 9V harness to the red alligator clip wire. th e red buzzer wire. and to one of the lamp wires.

Connect the black wire from the buzzer to the green alligator clip wire and to the second wire on the lamp.

C heck wiring. Note that coming from the alligator clip jumpers. the red wire makes three connection s. the green wire makes two. and the black one only connects to one. That's it!

58 Ma.ke: Vdum,a os

Dave Mathews has been installing car stereos since his first go-kart in the 1980s and has never stopped tinkering with aftermarket audio. While this creation came to fruition in 1993. more stories and video eli ps on technology he is currently peering into can be found at davemalhews.com.


TEST YOUR UBER TOOL Connect the 9V battery to

the connector and touch the black and green alligator clips together

- you should hear a tone andl the light should illuminate. Connect the red wire to a positive 12V (or lower) source and the black to ground. and you should hear a tone and see the light illuminate. If so. your wiring is properly connected.



N ow would be a good time to pu t some extra sold er on the jumper wires inside the alligator clips. Usually they are merely crimped on. which will not provide a strong enough connection to allow you to let your tester dangle. Just pull back the protective covers on th e jumpers. clip th e jumpers to a piece of cardboard to keep them from moving around. and load up the solder under where the wires are crimped.



Now irs time to stuff the

bu zzer. battery. an d wires in to th e gadget box. Put the cotton balls in th e leftover space to keep the tester from sounding like a baby's rattle.


9V output and speaker polarity pop test Black/G.-eel>

Continuity test


Vo ltage pres e nc e ~ co n sta nt 0 r swi tch ed

Memorize trusguide, oreopy it and paste it onto your gadget box.

To prevent your battery from dying. keep the red wire from shorti ng on the black or green wi res by pulling

the insulation hood over the metal. Yo u s ho ul d see years of service from your battery since it is rarely used.

@;I rill tpllrll-L



When Verizon released its new BroadbandAccess service, I had to give it a try. $80 a month 'for OSLo like speeds in many cities? Yes, please I

I subscribed, bought the 5220 PCMCIA card, and it worked. Bu t the card's an tenna was so weak th at I often had to rotate my laptop. Also, it only served one computer. What i'f I wanted to run multiple machines or share connectivity with 'friends? Then it hit me: I could build the card into an access point and install it in my car with some beefy antennas. I called the project S tompBox becau se this little box would bring my own network "stomping grounds" with me wherever I went.


In technical terms, the StompBox is a cellular

rou ter, Like all rou ters, its job is to push data back and 'forth be tween multiple in tertaces. Ours has two in terfaces: Verizon's BroadbandAccess and Wi·Fi.

I decided to base StompBox on embedded hardware rather than on a laptop or full-blown PC. This makes it cheaper, smaller, more reliable, and better 'for "just plug and unplug" vehicular use. For the platform, I chose Pebble l.lnux, a Oebian distrjbution 'from NYC Wireless. For hardware, I used the Soekris 4521. a compact embedded computer that runs on 12VOC and has a great user commu nlty. All the software needed - Pebble Linux plus drivers plus cod e - 'fits onto a 128MB Compact Flash card

60 MClke: VduFM ru

that functions like a computer hard drive but is tougher and more vibratlon-reslstant.

The Wi·Fi interface is simple. The Linux driver HostAP can run an access poin t from any 802.11 card with a Prism2 chipset. You simply configure your ch olce of S S 10 and WEP key an d turn it on.

As 'for the Verizon in tertace, wireless networking pioneer Phil Kam wrote a how-to on ge t ting

th e 5220 card to work und er Lin ux. His solu lion is to make the system treat the 5220 card as a USB modern, and then send it the proper Hayes AT cornmands to dialup Verizon's network.

With this found ation in place, you can expand your access point's capabilities by adding a USB card, a GPS unit a webcarn, and other devices. I hooked up a GPS and did some Google Maps hacking to create an auto-updated web page (hosted

on my home network to avoid wireless traffic jams) th at tracked my car's route and sh owed its curren t location against a satellite photo. Unfortunately, this and many other bleeding-edge Google Maps hacks were rendered inoperative last May when Google changed the unsupported beta API that hackers' code had been relying on. Then in late June, a Google Maps API beta was of'ficially released, so now old map hacks can be repaired and new hacks written in a more stable environment Meanwhile, the StompBox's web page also shows photos captured by a webcam pointing out of the car window.



Soe kri s net452l. (w ith ca se) From soekris_com

» Verizon 5220 EVDO/lxRTT card

» Pigtail adapter (Orinoco to N-Female, panel mount) » N-Male to FME-Female antenna adapter cable

» CDMA antenna (800/l900MHz dual-band)

For cellular network

» Senao 2511 Mini-PCI 802.11 card (or any Prism2-chipset eq uiva Ie nt)

» Pigtail adapter (Hirvse U.FLto N-Female, panel mount) Wi-Fi antenna (2400M Hz band)


128M B Compact Flash card

An old mouse pad, or other piece of foam less than V. -i nch thic k

Fo r vi brat io n- p root i ng t he cards

Serial cable (null modem, DB9-F to DB9-F)

12VDC car power to M-type (S.Smm) plug cable

» Any GPS unit with standard NM EA output via USB or serla I port. If se rial, add a USB -lo- se rial ada pte r, p ",Ie rably one that uses the Prolific PL-2303 chip.

» 2-port USB PCMCIA card,low profile so that it fits inside the route r

Fo r G PSen h sncs ment

D-Link DCS-900W wi",less inh!rnet camera 12VDC tv 6VDC power transformer

Fo r web ca m en h ance ment

12V battery power supply (optional) (I used a Xantrex P400)

12V car power two-outlet splitter (optional)

To 01110 ad car b aUe ry wh i I eeng i n e is n't run n i ng (power en ha nceme nt)


StvmpBox .IMG file

Ready-to-go "disk i mage" lor the CH' card; downloadable at m akezil1e_com!03!stompbox

Debian 2.4.26 distribution (optional) Necessary il you want to compile extra code


Phillips sc...wdriver

Small and large pliers

Dri II P '" ss (prefer",d) or drill

Stepper bit

For drilling antenna holes in the case

D",mel tool

For cutting an openi ng to the USB card

A host compuh!r with a terminal emulator installed and a 9-pin serial port (or a USB-lo-serial adapter, listed in p...vious column for GPS)

For setup. I cover l.inux and Macintosh in this article. You could probably also use a Windows machine. but I haven't tested this yet.

Compact Flash reader/wrih!r For setup

12VDC power supply (deep-cycle battery, lab-bench supply, wall wart, or even your car bathory) 1.S amps or higher, with a S.Smm "M" plug

For testing


The stepper bit, with its Christmas-tree shape, lets you bore Wide, rou nil h 01 as in sh eet metal

with out havi ng to swa p in su cc esslve Iy la rga r bits. Hole diameters are marked on the inside of the bit's hollow, making it easy to set a drill press to stop at the right point. They're great for drilling out metal casas an II

pan als, for installing new ports. They're also safer than regular drill bits and n ot Ve ry ex pe nslve,

M.k,,, 61

elll ....... 1iIIIII6 ......

~!! mAHE. rr,

! START» a




Time: Two Weekends Complexity: Linux-Geek Easy

S tompBox's software resid es on the Compact Flash card. an d I've wrapped it all up in a ready-to-go image downloadable at makezine.comJ03Jstompbox. While all the software components on this card are open source and easily available. the specifics of configuring it are beyond the scope of this article. If you want

to make your own setu p from scratch so you can control exactly what's in you r system. see moro.fbrtech. comJ-toraJEVDOJcfimg. html.

la. Down load the StompBox .IMG file to your host computer. then in sert the C F card into the reader. It d cesn't matter what's on the card for now: we 're going to overwrite it with the image.

LlNUX: If the card was not blank. the system may try to auto-mount it. If so. please unmount the drive before con tin ulng, using th e urnount command.

Mac OS X: If the card was blank. you' II get a "not readable" pop up: click "Ignore." otherwise. it will automount on the desktop. Run the Disk Utility and repartition the drive into "free space." and then reinsert. Once OS X "ignores" the d rive. you can continue.

lb. Find out your system's physical address for the CF card. On my PowerBook. it's usually /dev/disk2. but it differs for every system. Warning: Be sure you have the correct ad dress before proceeding. or you can damage your other d rives I

le. Open a terminal window (Applications/Utilities/Terminal on a Mac) and copy the image to the card using the standard Linux command:

dd if,/files/stompbadmg of'/dev/disk2 bs'Sl92

Change the input file (IF) and output file (OF) parameters above to match your system. Copying can take up to six minutes. during which you should see the light on the CF reader blink. Once it's done. remove the drive.



2a. Remove the four screws on the bottom of the Soekris net4521 case. and then slide the top off.

2b. Remove all six screws in the motherboard and the two serial-port socket screws to detach the motherboard from the bottom case. Lift it out. and put it someplace safe.

· .

· .


62 Ma.ke Vdum,a os

2e. Hold the pigtail adapters' N-Female plugs against the existing antenna holes in the Soekris case. Trace around them with a pencil. and then use the drill and stepper bit to make holes just large enough to accommodate the plugs. Brush away any burrs.

Antenn a holes drilled to fit pigtail adapters.

2d. Mount the Wi-Fi pigtail on the

righ t-hand sid e of the case (the sid e closest to the power jack). This is

the one with the tiny U.FL connector on th e end of the cable. Insert the N-Female connector through the case hole and put the lockwasher on the outside. Then screw on the nut and tighten down. using lwo sets of pliers: one to hold the N-Female jack in place. and the other to turn the nut. Don't over-tigh ten I

2e. Repeat step 2d above. this time on the left-hand side for the 5220 pigtail. When you are done. both N-Female jacks should be mounted to the case. the 802.11b on the right and the 5220 on the left.

2f. Insert the Mini-PCI card (Senao 2511) into the Soekris motherboard. I t angles in to the conn ecto r an d th en snaps downwards into place.

2g. Connect the Wi-Fi antenna

pigtail"s U.FL connector to the antenna port closest to th e min i-PC I socket. These connectors are tricky: you may have to use a tiny screwdriver or metal stick to gen tly snap it down into the

so cket. Be csreful: these co nnectors are fragile.


~111·2h·.IIII"ns"e"rt·t"h·e·5·2"20·"card into PCMCIA

Slot 0 on the Soekris (the one on the a right, closest to the mini-PC I socket). 2'1 It should slide in smoothly, parallel to elll the motherboard.


21. Look at the 5220 card end-on; you

should see the conn ector socket, If it's covered by a small plastic cap, remove the cap.

2j. Connect the CO MA antenna pigtail's Orinoco connector to the tip of the card, just below the fold-out antenna. It should sn ap securely into place with ju st fingertip pressure.

2k. For GPS, insert the USB PCMCIA card into PCMCIA slot 1 (the remaining slot, away from the mini-PCI socket).

21. Insert the Compact Flash card into the Soekris' CF slot and secure with the bumper screw included in the case.

2m. Use the 0 remel to cut Iwo holes in th e top of the case, just above each of the USB card's ports and big enough to connect USB cables through.

2n. Cut a small strip of foam and put it inside the upper case where the PCMCIA cards will touch. Once the case is closed, this will snug the cards in to place and keep th em from vibratingloose.

20. Reassemble the case, slid ing it together carefully. Secure it with the four screws on the bottom.

64 MakEr; Vdum,a os



On the Soekris, the default speed of the BIOS (which does things like count memory, self-test, and handles machine-level communication) is 19,200 bps, while the higher-level Linux OS normally talks at 9,600 bps, For the very first boot up, we'll need to change the speed of the Soekris BIOS to 9,600 bps, That way, we can run our host computer's terminal emulator at one speed and be able to configure both the B IDS and OS.

3a. Plug the Soekris into your 12VDC power source, using an M-type (5.5mm) plug.

3b. Hook you r host computer up to

th e Soekris u sing the serial cable and an USB-to-serial ad apter, if necessary.

3c. Run the terminal program on your host and set the baud rate to 19,200 8-N-1 (19,200bps, 8 data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit). I used ZTerm.

3d. Plug in the Soekris and watch for the BIOS screen. As it counts through memory, quickly press CTRL-P to access the BIOS set-up. You should see: comBIOS Monitor. Press? for help.

Now, reset the speed by typing:

set conspeed ' 9600

3e, Enter Reboot to restart the system. You should see the BIOS boo! up, followed by the operating system. This will take one to two min utes. If your system does not boot the CF card might not have been written correctly

--- Caseticl (gr ou n c1p tan e)

~----+---- +12V ~c+gjll----t--- 128MB CF _._+--- EVDO Carel

or isn't compatible with the Soekris (rare, but it happens). other possibilities are that you have weak power supply or faulty hard ware.

3f, You should n ow see the prompt:

Dsbian GNU/Linux 3.0 pebble ttySO pebble login:

Log in as root. with a null password (just hit Return). Your access point is now ready to configure: you can start by ch anging to a better password.


4a. If you don't have one already, create a dynamic DNS account. Browse to dvndns.org from your host (or any other) computer and follow the instructions for setting up an account for the DynDNS service.

4b. From you r terminal. ru n th e router configuration script on the S oekris by entering: /usr/local/bin/in.itial-conJiguration

Answer all the questions, and the script will set up the system. You'll need to know your DynDNS account info and the Verizon ph one n umber for your 5220 card. Also, be ready to set some names, password s, and private network IP addresses for wireless and wired clients (example: and Its last step is to generate new S SH keys, which takes several minu tes. Wh en the script completes, it prompts you to reboot: go ah ead, and then unplug the Soekris. The router is now ready to go online I


fi!!! 5

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elll Q



3G is a general term for several types of wireless broadband service, including EVDO,lxRTT, EDGE, UTMS, and others. Ve· rizon's BroadbandAc· cess is EVDo/lxRTT. In a lxRTT area, you'll get ISDN-like speeds, and in an EVDOcapable area, you'll get DSL-like speeds. In both cases, your upload will be slower than your download.

If you drive out of range, your link slows as more packets are lost, until you finally drop offline. Your range depends on

the type of antenna and how well it's positioned on your car.

You can greatly imprwe that range with an auto-gain two-way amplifier. I use Wilson Antennas model #811201. Make sure you can scale down the auto gain as you get closer, or your signal can get too noisy in a good coverage area!

For more advice, ask an amateur radio

buff about working at 80011900 dual band (for 3G) and 2400 MHz (for Wi-Fi).


Plug th e router back in, an d it should now attempt to log on to the 3G network automatically, a few moments after it boots. You can see if it worked by logging in via terminal and checking the "pppd" messages (from l.lnux's point-to-point protocol daemon) in the "messages"logfile at /var/log/messages. Use the command s tail or grep to see th e most recent messages or to search the en tire file.

If it worked, you' II see pppd messages that list your network's I P ad dresses.

Otherwise, ch eck for an incorrect phone number, an inactive account with the provider, or poor reception. When you' re too far from coverage, or have bad antenna connections, you'll see a "pppd: LCP timeout .. message. You can check your coverage by swapping the 5220 card back into your host compu ter.

Any Wi-Fi clien t devices should now be able to join your new network, or you can physically plug Ethernet-enabled devices into the router's ETHI port.



Now that you r device is online and powered, it's time to put it in the carl

Ga. 0 ecide wh ere you want to put your an tennas. With regular, grou no-plane antennas, reception will be best wh en they are centered on the largest available expanse of metal, such as your car's roof. But they should not be positioned close to each oth er; keep the an tennas at least 20cm apart, preferably farther. If you get terrible reception (or don't have a metal roof), you may want to select a ground -plane-less antenna, like th e kin d that mount on truck mirrors. Visit a good ham radio store or local amateur radio club for advice.

Gb. Using the N-Male to FME -Fernale adapter, connect the 3G antenna to th e NFemale jack on th e left of the router, away from the power jack. Hook th e Wi-Fi antenna to the other jack, on the right. Then position and mount both antennas.

Gc. Secure th e router inside th e veh icle where it won't get knocked arou nd, th en hook it up to the cigarette lighter via the car power cable.

You now have the heart of th e StompBox - a Wi-Fi access point that you can drive anywh ere I The n ext page describes some fu n ways to expand on it.

66 M .. rkes Vdum,a os



Since this is a standard xS6 platform running Linux. it's open for expansion. Add a GPS unit. and you get veh icu lar tracking. Th e router runs llnux's gpsd in the background to poll data from an attached GPS unit and publish it as a network service. I connected my GPS serial port to th e router using a USB-toserial ad apter with a Prolific PL -2303 ch lp, Th e software on the CF card finds the PL-2303 and attaches th e gpsd program. but if you use a USB-conn ected GPS or a different adapter. you'll need to manually softl in k th e d evi ce to I de'll 9 ps,

Since I wanted something flashy and fun for the vehicle-tracking page. I used G.oogle Maps as the interface. When I first did this last spring. the Google Maps API hadn't been officially published yet. so this was still pretty new and shaky territory. And my scripts broke later. along with many other Google Maps hacks. when Google changed their API out from un der us map hackers. But n ow that th e Google Maps API beta has been released officially. it is a much more stable way of using Google's mapping systems. and it gives beautiful resu Its.

I didn't want internet visitors curious about StompBox to flood and bog down my mobile network. so I used gpsd in combination with the dynamic DNS system to offload traffic onto my

•• co ........ '<" ":::rw..,..-_ .... _ ..... ~ __

..... _.:........- ~

... iI ~ ... -..,._- ..... --

home network. I set up a PHP script on one of my servers at home to periodically telnet into StompBox's GPSd port (2947). then query it for position and speed. It then plugged those numbers into an XML document and fed them into the Google Maps Hacking tool set. gen erating a map. You can see the scripts that did the work on the StompBox website. makezin e.com/03/stomobox.

Note that this setup is designed for internet users to track the StompBox remotely. not for in-car. realtime GPS n avlgat ion I For th at. you 're far better off using a ded icated navigation device or software.

GPS how-to: moro.fbrtech.com/-toralhowto/gps.html



An other fun trick is to ad d an onboard camera. I chose the easy route: a wireless web camera. the DLink DCS"900W. which has its own onboard server an d a wireless link. Plug on e in. configu re it. and

you can pull still or moving images from it using any browser. It also points ou t of any window. sticking in place with a suction cup.

Ou r C F card software is configured to use a DCS- 900W camera that's set up on the IP address ending in ".S" on your network. So. for example. if you set 192.16S,1.0 as your network, the camera should get the address 192.16S.1.S. Set the camera's SSID an d WEP keys as you d efin ed for your network.

You can view the camera in put from within your StompBox network by going to th at IP address. With the firewall rules I added. you can also

view it from the public internet by vis iting the dynamic DNS name of your system. at port Sl (i.e ..

http://192.16S.1.S:S1). Assign a password to limit demand on the camera. if word gets out:

To fu rther avoid network traffic jams.

use the getcam.sh script. also on the CF card. This offloads image serving onto a home server. Edit the script to point to your server. an d an automatic process (known as a cron job) will upload the latest images every five minu tes. Ch ange the interval by editing th e file letc/cron.d/getcam an d ad d cameras by du plicating the

To r Amu ndso n is a no mad ic mad sci ent ist based inS i I icc n valley who's studyi ng our side 01 the temporary dimensional rift he discovered.

... l<,,, 67



IE ~ a 2'1

elll Q


nu::u-ul Ii .. IIlnnl-=--=-=-1


It's easy to make a small batch of

biod iesel that will work in any diesel engine. You don't need any special equipment - an old juice bottle will serve as th e "reactor" vessel - and

on such a small scale you can quickly refine your techn iq ue an d perform further experiments. After a few liters' worth of experience. you'll know if you've been bitten by the biodiesel bug.

The principle behind biodieseling is to take vegetable oil (either new or used). an d process it into a fu el that's th in enough to spray from a regular diesel engine's fuel-jnjectlon system. This is done chemically. by converting the oil into two types of compound s: biodliesel. which shares the original oil"s cornbustibility. and glycerin. which retains the oil's thick. viscous properties. Drain away th e glycerin. an d you're left with

a fuel that you can pour into any diesel vehicle with no further modification.

Once you get to th e far sid e of the learning curve, making biodiesel is very much like cooking. In fact. a commercial biodiesel production plant shares more in common with a large-scale bakery than a petroleum refinery. There's organic ch emistry involved in baking

a cake, but most bakers would n't consider themselves organic chemists.

68 MiI.ke Vdum,a os


VeplBble 011 I, a b1llyoerlde, which ._.,. ttmt Ita molecule co.,.l. or a Ilycerin ''badcbone''wlth three tatty acI$ attached, forml. a .... lIIpe like a capital letter E. To make blodl_l. we add lye and mettmnol. The hllhly cau.tlc lye breab the three tatty acid branch. orr or the llyoerin badcbone. The.e free tatty acI$1hen bond with the mettmnol. which twn.them Into tatty acid methyl ... - oIherwI_ ~ U blodl_1. The freed llyea-In, which

I, ,-1_, ,I,*, to the bottom, I_wlnlthe ruel (and lye) on top. Wuh the lye out or the 'W- layer, and you h_...-e blodl_1.

But lfil not ttmt ,Imple. With .ome b1llyoerlde molecul_ only _ or two tatty.acld branche. break orr, which 1 __ m_- or

dl-a;lycerlde molecule. ~lIIped like capital "DI or "'), rather than free llyeerin. At the ~e time, mix I. methanol and lye prockI_ .ome weter - and 011, weier, and lye mixed toplh_ make .oap.

With all or th_lncomplete and competlnl chemical reaction ..

yoW' batch will Inevitably contaIn.olllp, wehr, 1 lye, methanol,

and mono- and dl-a;lyI:IerI_ alona with the nice blodleM! and II~ _In. Mono- and dl-a;lyeerI_ are _u,,"III ... .0 they preIII!nI: mixed 1.1$ from.,...at. maJcI.lt .... to emact blodl_L The plcbrepb eIIIeI'I muddl_when you u.e wute lllqetable 011 rather than Pin 011, ,Inee It contan. tree tatty acid-. weier, and COtmI_ random contamnanb from all ~ R'ench IFI_

Th.e by-producb are bad for an enllne, potentially cau.1. mlcro-tlbrulon,ttmt cIamqe ruellnjector-. or dOl ruel III .... But you can rem_them by .,..nl or cooknl the blodle.el In varlou, ways, or by p_l. the Incompletely converted blodl_1 spin, u If It were veptable 011. n extreme ca.e-. you'll end up with a thick, ,oapy maa that n_ .epara_. All blodl_l_ wind up with a batch or thl'llop _ or later. rom-iely, you can u.e It to make a pod, ar--eutII • .oap - which I, .omelhl. that all blodleM!llOI~ need to have on hand.


[A] At least one liter Df vegetable oll (YDLI can double this recipe if desired, u sing a larger bDHle).

Either new or waste vegetableoil isfine.lf you are using waste oi I. try making batches with samples from different resta ura nts' grease bar rels.

[B] One bDHle rnethan DI gasollne treatment, su ch as H eel (in the yellDw bDHle) Dr PyrDil brand,

Sold at auto parts stores. You can buy I arger quantities in bul k from local auto- racing suppliers. petroleum distributors. and chemical suppliers.

[C] One bDHle lsopropyl alcohol gasoline treatment, such as ISD·H EET (in the red bDHle) Dr PyrDil brand. Carried by the same retailers as methanol. You won't need much of this. even if you start making larger batches.

[0] Between 5 and 10 grams <>f lye, quantity explain ed below, YDU can use regular lye (sodlum hydrDxide, NaOH) Dr pDtash lye (pDtassium hydrDxide, KOH). NaOH is easier tD find, but KOH is easier tD work with.

NaOH is widely available as Red Devil Lye drain cleaner. You can buy KOH from local soapmaking and tanning craft suppliers. or from braintan.com.

[E] Phenolphthaleln sclutlon,

Avai tabla from beer and winemaking and lab chemical suppliers. Also cont ained in maryeducational chemistry sets. Should be fresh.

[F] On e Dr tWD gallons <>f distilled water. Used for washing the fuel.

[G] Vinegar.

To neutralize discarded lye.


[H] Metric gram scale, sensitive tD at least 'h gram. Avail able at some tobacco and "head" shops. or look for a triple-beam scale at pawn shops and flea markets.

[I] TWD syringes, eyed!rDppers, Dr pipettes, calibrated in milliliters. They should each hold LIp tD 10ml, an d be marked in increments no larger than .2ml.

Grad uat,edeyed ro ppers a nd ora I syri nges are avai I abl e in drugstores. sometimes with the baby supplies. You'll use these for different chemicals that you sheuldn't mix up. so it he I ps to get 0 n e syri nge and 0 n eeyed ro pper.

[J] Candy thermDmeter.

[K] Measuring cup, beaker, Dr other way Df measuring 220m I and. one liter <>f liquid.

[L] TWD I-pint glass MasDn jars with tight lids, and three Dr m ore srna II M a son Dr ba byfD Dd· si ze glass [a rs.

[M] TWD2·liter bDHles Dr larger, glass Dr PET/PETE (#1) plastic. FaYDr juice, water, Dr milk bDHles over soda, since their wider mouths are easier t'D fun nel intD.

TWD·liter pot, an d a hDt plate Dr electric burner (n Dt gas).

CheeseciDth, clean nags, and a bucket.

Funnel and plastic spoon,

Masking tape Dr labels, and a marker fDr labeling.

[N] Safety goggles and. gloves.

Litmus strips Dr electron ic pH meter (optlonal) .

Time: Six Hours over ThreeOays Complexity: Low


fi!!! mAHE. rr,

IE :. a 2'1

elll START ::'::'



'If you're using new oil, you can skip

to Step #2. But if you're starting with waste oil from a restaurant 'fryer, it will contain food particles, water, and free fatty acids (FFAs) - contaminants, that you need to remove or adjust for. The FFAs make the oil more acidic, (a.k. a. ran cld), which coun ters the effect of the lye. You can compensate for th is by adding more lye into the main reaction later, but you need to perform a titration test beforeh an d in order to determine how much extra lye you'll need.

ta, Start with more than one liter of oil, sin ce the following steps will sligh tly reduce your oil's volume. Warm the oil to about 95°F in a pot on an electric hot plate (don't use a gas burner, here or anywhere else in this project), then filter it through a few layers of cheesecloth in a funnel (or use a coffee filter).

lb, Heat the oil to 140°F and maintain the temperature for 15 minutes. The water will fall to the bottom, so you'll risk steam explosions if the temperature gets too high. Pour the oil into a bottle or other vessel and let it settle for at least 24 hours. This removes water, which would produce soap in your batch. 'If you see water at the bottom (it will be dirty, not clear), don't pour it back out with the oil.

70 M2I ke~ Vd:um,a ru


While blodlesells ""Ie to ""ndle .. nd store, the homebrewlng process Involves fl .. mm .. ble, poisonous, .. nd c .. ustlc chemlc .. ls, .. Icohols, .. nd lye. Keep .. 11 chemlc .. ls clearly I .. beled, se .. led,

.. nd out of re .. ch of chlldnm .. nd pets. When ""ndllng metiMnol .. nd lye, we .. r long sleeves, ""fely gl .. sses, .. nd gloves "",de out of nitrile - or, even better, PVC, W .. sh the gloves .. fter e .. ch use, .. nd be c .. reful not to touch your skin or eyes. Keep .. w .. ter hose ne .. rby In case of skin cont .. ct. Meth .. nol c .. n be .. bsorbed through the skin, so wash Immedl .. tely with water If cont .. ct occurs, Immedl .. tely flush lye off skin with w .. ter or vlneg .. r; MetiMnol fumes .. re poisonous, so we .. r .. m .. sk, or hold your

b ..... th while pouring, .. nd work outside or with good ventll .. tlon,


1iiiiiiiiiI. Determining the acidity of the vegetable oil.

2a. Dissolve one gram of lye in one liter of distilled water (0.1% lye solution), 0 ruse an eq uivalent ratio to make a smaller amoun t. This is you r reference tes t so lu tio n, wh ich you can s tore sealed and re-use 'for later batches.

2b. In a small jar. dissolve 1ml of slightly warm oil in lOml of isopropyl alcohol. Stir until clear. then add two drops of phenolphthalein solution.

2e. Using a g radu ated syringe or dropper. ad d your reteren ce test solution drop-by-drop in to the oilalcohol solution, keeping track of how much you're using. The more acidic the oil. the more you'll need to add. Stir constantly. and continue adding solution until the mix ture stays pink 'for ten seconds. Note the number of milliliters of lye solution you used; this is the number of ex tra grams of lye yo u'll need to add per liter of oil.

Th is process is called "tltratlon," an d it's a standard method of determining a solution's acidity.


~III :3=:.=:~=~:i~:~=E=t~:::m~T·~i·~·· ~·~·~·m·ic·a·l·re·a·c·ti·on-th·a·t·p·ro·d·u·c·e·s·th·e·b·i·Od·j·e·se·I·. ------------

~ 3a. Determine how much lye you need. If you're using new oil, use 5 grams of NaOH or 7 grams of KOH per ~III liter. With used oil, use these amounts plus one gram for every milliliter of solution you used in the titration .. step 2c. For example, if it took L5ml of lye solution to turn the mixture pink, use 6.5g of NaOH or 8.5g of KOH.

Q 3b. Measure your lye into a clean

E::: Mason jar. Add 220ml of methanol,

cover securely, and tip the jar to make sure the lid doesn't leak. Then swirl

or shake the jar gently until the lye dissolves fully. This will take a few minutes, and the jar will become slightly warrn in the process. This mixture is the methoxide solution, and it's dangerous stuff: you'll need

to wash the Mason jar lid after you're done with your batch, or its seal will dissolve. (Some regular hornebrewers prepare methoxide ahead of time and store it in #2 HOPE plastic.)

3c. Warm a liter of your oil up to BooE Let it cool down if the temperature gets too high.

3d. Pour the oil into a large bottle, add the methoxide solution, cap tightly, and shake like crazy for about five minutes. The contents might change color a couple of times.

3e. Set this mixture aside, and admire. 'I n half an hour or so, you should see

a darker, dirty, glycerin layer start to sink toward the bottom, and a larger, lighter, biodiesellayer rise to th e top. Th is is a good time to clean up. 'If you're sure your bottle won't leak, you may want to let it settle upside-down, so you can drain the glycerin out by cracking the bottlecap. Or you can lay it sideways to make it easier to pour off the biodieseL

31. Let the liq ulds contin ue to settle overnight.

72 M2I.ks Vdum,a os

1.1. ~:;Ab~~~:~::~:'t:i~~ ~oRd~e:~~g~yl~~~~~oLno_ and di-glycerides. soap. methanol. lye. and

possibly a little leftover oil (triglycerldes). The glycerides are all oil-soluble. so they'll reside predominantty in the upper. biodiesel layer. The thin layer of glycerin. which is water-soluble. witt sink. Depending on the oil and catalyst you used. it might be either liquid or solid. Soap. methanol. and lye. which are also watersoluble. witt be mixed throughou t both layers - although some of the soap can sometimes form its own thin layer between the biodiesel and glycerin.

I f you see more than two layers, or only one, then something's wrong - possibly excessive soap or monoglycerid e forma tlon. These are bo th ernulslfiers, and in su fficien t q uan titles they witt preven t separation. In th is case, ch eck your scales, measurements. and temperatures. You can reprocess the biodiesel with more methoxide, or try again with fresher oil (or new oil). I f you can. shake the bottle even harder next time.

I n an engine. glycerin droplets in biod iesel witt clog fuel filters. soap can form ash that witt damage injectors. and lye can also abrade fuel injectors. Meanwhile, me thanol has toxic and combustible fu mes th at make biodiesel dangerous to store. You don't want any of these contaminants in your biodieseL If you left your biodiesel to se ttle und is lu rbed for several weeks. these water-solu ble impurities wou Id s lowly fall ou t of

the biodiesel (except for the methanol). Washing your biodiesel with water removes the harmful impurities, including the methanol. much faster.

Unfortunately, washing witt not remove the invisible, oil-soluble mono- and di-glycerides, These are a problem in rare instances when large amounts of certain types of monoglycerides crystallize. This can clog fuel filters and injectors. and cause hard starts. especially in cold weather. High-quality, commercial biodiesel has very low levels of mono- and di-glycerides. which is the ideal for biodiesel homebrewing. You can roughly test for th e presen ce of mono- and di-glycerides in your own batch by processing it a second time, as if it were vegetable oil. If more glycerin drops out. then your first reaction le ft some unfinished business behind.

~ -~~~~.-:---=~--~~~~,~-.-~

.; -; -~--:::::"~-''"'~~'.~:''t.~~-==:-=-~

, ' ~

_ Ii

may take up to a couple of days. 'In general, the better your washing, the faster the fuel will clear. 'If you're in a

water. But if the emulsification layer hu rry, you can dry the fuel faster by

persists, try applying h eat, adding salt, heating it at a low temperature. As

and adding vinegar, in that order. with the evaporation method, the fuel is don e when it clears. 'If you can read a newspaper through the biodiesel, it's dry and ready to pour into a vehicle. Congratulations - you're done:


fill 4a. Pou r th e biodiesellayer off th e top, a: '" into another bottle. Don't pour off any

of th e glycerin, as it makes wash ing i difficult; better to leave a little biodie- 21 sel behind, If you let the bottle settle ~.' III upside-down, drain the glycerin from ... the bottom.


4b, Gently add some warm distilled water to the biodieseL

4c, Rolate the bottle end over end, until the water starts to take on a little bit of white soapiness, which may take a few min utes, Don ot sh ake the bottle. You want to bring water and biodiesel in to contact, withou t mix ing it too vigorously. The biodiesel contains soap, and if you overdo the agitation, the soap, biodiesel, and water will make a stable emulsion that won't separate.

4d, Turn the bottle upside-down, crack the cap, and drain away the soapy water. 'If you're using a soft drink bottle with a narrow neck, you can plug the openingwith your thurnb instead of using the cap.

4e, Add more warm water and keep repeating the sloshing and draining process. Each time there will be less soap, and you can mix a little more vigorou sly. 'If you go too far and get a pale-colored emulsion layer between the biodiesel and white, soapy water, don't drain it away; it's mostly biodiesel. Just keep washing an d diluting: until the water becomes clear and separates out qu ickly. 'I t takes a lot of

41, After draining the last wash water away, let the biodiesel sit to dry in open air until it's perfectly clear, which

74 M.i.'I.ke; Vd:um,a 03

USE. rr,

You can put you r liter of biod iesel into a jar to pass around toyour ad miring friends. or use it in a diesel engin e. We generally filter fuel before add ing it to

th e veh icle to remove micro-abrasives. but a liter

or two probably won't do any damage. To be safe. you can filter your liter through several coffee filters. Since it's a small quantity. don't worry about wh ether it's OK to ad d your homebrew to your tank. so long as it's clear. Even if your liter con tains a lot of mono- and di-glycerides. they'll be safely diluted by th e rest of th e fu el in th e car.

Litmus strips or a pH meter will test the fuel's acid ity - one in dication of how clean it is. Biodiesel should measure a neutral 7. with a higher number indicating soap or leftover lye. To test for the presence of glycerin. you can use the Gly-Tek test kit (glv-tek.coml. which detects leaked antifreeze in motor oil.

If you start using biodiesel regularly. however. you sh ould have the fuel tested. an d change your fuel filter often. Biod iesel can free petroleum residue stuck in the fuel system. which can cause clogs. Also. watch for old fuel lines. which may get sticky and need replacement. Biodiesel can degrade the

n atu ral rubber used in older cars' hoses. bu t it's fine with now-standard synthetic rubber.

Biod iesel will normally store for months. but. like petrod iesel. it can be attacked by certain bacteria. To prevent this. you can mix in the same biocide chemicals that are widely used for petrodiesel storage. Also note that biodiesel made from animal fats can gel in cold weather: if this might be a problem. test a sample in the freezer before filling your tank. Biod iesel made from canola oil has the lowest solidification point.


Th ere are n umerou s recipes for biod iesel. generally characterized by number and type of main reactions. The method described here is a single-stage process. which uses an alkali to catalyze the main reaction. and relies on titration to determine the proper amount. Two-stage methods dispen se with titration and run reactions twice to achieve complete conversion. The two-stage. base-base method repeats the lye reaction. while the two-stage. acid-

base method uses sulfu ric acid for the first stage. These methods. while more complicated. are also more foolproof and better suited for large batches.

Homebrewers make and wash larger batches of biod iesel in a variety of tanks: on e clever design uses a 55-gallon drum that's tipped on its edge

to make a drainage point at the bottom. which

is fitted with a valve. This makes it easy to drain glycerin or water. Various recipes can turn th e dirty leftover glycerin into soap. 40-weigh t oil. pain tbrush cleaner. and other useful products. High-volume operations can buy a $31.000 glycerin-purification distiller from Recycling Sciences (rescien ce.coml. which will convert dirty biodiesel glycerin into nice. clear. commercially valuable glycerin.

Popular. high-volume wash ing method s include mist washing. in which water droplets sprayed on the su rface of biodiesel settle down through the liquid: bubble washing. which uses an aquarium air pump and air stone to gen tly agitate water and biodiesel: and bulk washing. in which water and biodiesel are agitated manually. For fin al filtration. d own to 5 microns. biodiesel can be pumped through standard. under-cabinet. household water filters.


Th is article is partly based on a series of articles by Maria "Mark" Alovert that first appeared in th e Energy Se If -S uffi ci e n r:y New sl ene r: re b elw olf .co m

Ma rk A love rt 's site: I oca I b100. com

Homebrewing forums: biodiesel.in'fiopop.cc, veggieavenger.com/media

Biodiesel policy and activism forum: biodieselnow.com

Bi od i ese I pr oce ssor de sign san doth er info: iourneytoforever.orglbiodiesel.html

Biodiesel stations and industry info:: nbb.org

YW Diesel foru m: tdiclu b.com

Setting up a commercial blodlesel pump in you r town: pro pe Ifu-el s. com

Ro b fl am is a lou nd er of Prop el Fuels. a Seatll e -based biod i esel services and fuel dis! ri but ion co mpa ny_

"""E 75




Grassroots Network Offers Alternative to Big Oil

By Ila!l Go",iorowsiti

SEATTLE - Sl"tting an 0 ~, d "",I Vollro wilh a bulT1jl"- ,ticlt..- promotng a came is not unusual on the streeh ot Seattle. Spotti~ two or tilree ot tllrun jMted on the same b IocIt isal ,tie slJange h"""",r - espocially when all ot tilem advertise the ",me caure. 1M that', tile """'" on the sfreet outside of Dr. Dan', Alterrnti", Fue II/I\rls in Seattle. and the ,ticlt"" all broadca:;t some \OIIiatton ot "Iliodiere.I'um!red~ The Fuel I/I\rls pnmotes and sel h tiodi","1 tu a segment ot the population that Dan F""""an (a.k.a. Dr. Dan) affectionate ~ cal h "attluent CIlIclqJoh." Th,¥ are poop ~ willi~ tu pay $3Ji7 a gatIon tu pow..- the ir cam witil a """",ab ~ energy soume and d"""",oo the amount of pollulion released inlu the atrrosph ... from the bum ing of fossil fue h.

Oil and aulornob i~ compan es haw been slow tu oft..- attematt"" tu the petro ielJrn-fueled car. but corscentious dlilr..-s lett out in the ro ~ by tme imus" tries are addressing tile ssue til"""el"". Grassmob;dislt~ullJJS like tile Fuel I/I\rls a .. popp i~ into ""iste"", nat:""w~e, to s ..... both priltate Clln",mern and ne igIlbortlOod biodiesel CllOp..-ati"" ffiD P ,m in on large, shared ,torage tanlm. Co-OP' form via word-of-moutll, fl)'!rn posted at local g,nges. or online queries. One b ~di"," Ier. Eric Forrer. has been troJ ling cratgsl st tur int"""ted indiv~uat, in Seattle', North End ...... Mer he flrds enough mernb..-s Dr. Dan will install a

27O-ga1 ~n tank in a h ~~ mJb ~ Iocalion near Fvnw', home and koop iI flled

The biod~ooJ distribution clJain favms local. independent bushesses, COJ1S1Jmers buy fuel from ro""P' or smatl d hbibuturn I ike Ilr, Ila!l's. while the distruJuI..-s buy it from anyone who can malte h~l!-qualily stuff, from bacltyand homeb,.".,-s tu local startup, I ike Seattle lliodiesel, whicll, in tum, gets the IlIW wg~~ eil tileyme tu produce b~deool (mostly ooyIJean) from, well, Iowa. tor no"

We can reerning~ me lefty pol ,ieal 'leJeolype:; aside while ~ing the National B"d",elllMm 'srmp ofb od esel d htritruiors. at nhh.!l!!!fbiNi!!!!b od ~ V d istritruiors. Thevasl nliIjonly are in the Midwest, wh..-e ",gelable o~ is grown and pro",ssed, mher than in coastal Si""a C lub ,trongh~, St.dl as Seattle. San FllIIlci:;Cl),am 1Im.1ey, Bulilisn1 siITlJl~ a matt..- of eCllnOmics. as e.ridented by the invol",m..-t of mmician and filT1l advocate Will ~ Nelson. H s _pany. Willie Nelson', Biod lesel, nliIrtkeh biofue I as a way tu "'"pow..- independent filT1leffi to plant Olljl' tilat will let them participate in the en..-gy millet

BacIt in Seattle. Dan Freeman hop'" that the fIlel I/I\rls will. one day. sell b ~diere. that is rot oily JillCOSsed, but alse grown in-state - and atl llitllout tile baclting. ronsent or assstance of autumobile nliInufacfurnrn or oi I rompa";",

Deep .. Fried Ride: Veggie Oil Inside


FID RENCE. MA - Iloit-yourreJfem are tum i~ tu an offbeat solution tu n!i~ fuel prices: they're modting CNs and IIucIts tu run on discarded CllOking rul Witil a Gieasecar system instat led, any d esel wIlic~canrun on~Jeo~

1",1ead of fueling at gas ,tat",,~ Greasecar devotee:; tanik up at restaur""", wh..-e deep-try..- oil is tossed oul daily, Si"", many ",tab lishmMis pay d hposal fees, theyie happy to gi'" the stuff ~.

G_"""V~ie fIlel~..-ns (weasewrom) sell' COJl\fl!ISion kits tor about $000. around tile ~ame pri", as im MisrouJi.lJased _petitor GreaseJ ConwrsiOJlS~.

Conwrted vetricles are actually dualfuel t¢rid~ capab~ of running on brnh d ~I and wgetab~ 0 il The ~ine can dlllW fuel fmm eITher tile rngu tar tanl\. or a heated oil tank in tile trunilt. The vehicle stats up in d ",':1. til.., ,w[oh", OW' tu pu .. veggie pO\'ol!i' on", the grease is WilT1l ..,ough to flow tIlrough tile fuel inject m.Ihs approach allows the weaseburners to ""lit just fine in co ~ climates,

Bonus benelih The atr com i~ out of tile tallp iJe will smell faintly of Frnnoh flies, and you can slap on a "Dn'" lI!!IIn" bumper sticlteJ: Greasecar "'PrnserTiatilrei; ~ifJ CllnVe.ried veI1icl'" OXjlerle.nce no mange in fuel eCllnorny. eltll..- - though they admit you mifJ need tu cIlange l"ur unIT of measuiI!IOOJlt to "friesp..- gat~n~

Slippery Characters Steal Fryer Oil, Leave Mess By Pall SPlTad

SPR ING FIE Lil. t.KJ- The mlltililion-dola-. used cod<ilg 01 rn~ilg b.mess is tiing a beatilg fran a new kild of crimml: tile wease band~ as repaied il tile $pIingfieki New"'lBadw.ln some regiOll~ tile ~1Iih of the biodJesei ildustryhas gilOlll new vt*Je ID dd wease. As a rnstI~ bandts now cruise the backs of restaJ. r.Ilts. Slrling tile sumtan:e oul of disca1J bil'S ,,;tIl hanem1de pumper bucks. ~ resiaJr.Ilt water.; dOll 1 realize tIlat tIley're tile mllng bucks, bul Keitll Wendort. !!ld<esman tur iii recyder Griffin ~dustrJes. says tmt his company's stiny 18- .meelers sIeIIn-deMl tile jicltup a-eas. whle the tIlJeves leave pods of wease.

How Eco Is Bio?

Elechic Vehic~ (EV) Hybr~ Gas/Elect,ic G.r 1120 Biodlesel-Fueled G.r 76.8


7.5.1 72.4, 76.4

50= """",_L1uilol)'l''''ll_'Wmbgrll&!JfuJlalGROClll«l:l. . ~ ...... "'~)r1.a1 )'l.a1l"J.:1:rJ h'M"~·{j~EE T

fly f'llily Pmledge

CHICAGO - Hybr~" EVs,orbiodiesel- which is best fm theemrciroflment' Figunflg oul tile anS\reJ can be hiclty. Diesel get, betlerml ~age than gas, but , takes more petroleum to produce. E ~ctfic ""hicles (EVs) don't use gasol ine at all, bul IT you P lug tllem into tile gnd, you',e usiflg energy flOm coal-buming power plants, whim polIule. Il20 b iodiese I (a common b ~nd romain ing 20% pu,e b od:iesel and 00% petrod lesel) redaees lossl I·fue I use, bul a rigruou, ana ~ is must <IOCOunt fm the diesel thats used to tflJd tile \Ilgetab ~ oi I to tile blod esel process ing ~ ant.

Fmturntely, scientist, at AJgonr.e Nat:iOflilI Laboratmy h""" conslruded a cornpuler mode I tlat let, joudo apples·to·apples comparison, of a variety of fue I tecll· nologles. and see how they' at. eClllogically. Tile results of tllese "well·to·whee I" cal· eu I.tions can be ,.u/jllis ing. Fm examp~, wh ile an EV eorsunes "'I)' I ,tie petlO~um _ " lifetime, hybrids are actually, l~ht.1y better at reducing g,eenhouse gases .

76 MiI.ke Vdum,a os



IE :::J a :n





I'f you have an iPod (or any portable music device, for that matter), and you drive, it's a no-brainer that you wan t to bring that aud io experience in to your car.

Here are my four goals for making a car-based portable music system:

1. I want to play the music through my car's speakers.

2. I want to control the functions safely while I'm driving.

3. I want to mount it securely so it doesn't fly around.

4. I want to power and charge it so it doesn't run out of juice while I'm driving.

Each of th ese problems h as a number of solu tions depend ing on h ow much money and effort you are willing to spend. But clearly, the main problem to solve is: how do you get that audio signal in to your car speakers?

To help you decide the best way to get your iPod into your vehicle (and there are probably a million possible permutations of device + car), we're going to look at the different ways you can (or should be able to) integrate a portable MP3 player in to a car.

The 'focus of all these approaches is to pu t the audio in to th e head unit. The head unit is the more technical term 'for the "radio" or "tuner" or "stereo" or "cassette deck" in your car: that is, the head unit is the thing in the dashboard with the dials and buttons that acts as the "analog hub" 'for your car's audio media experience.



a :n



You can get audio into your car's receiver in one of four ways: FM transmitters, FM modulators, tape adapters, or directly into the head unit via an AUX in, CD, or satellite radio interface, This decision tree will help you find which method is right for you,




iPod bus input • iPod aux adapter

FM han smitter

FM modulator

Cassette adapter






This inexpensive device ($30) is powered by the car's battery and connects to the car's antenna lead. Pros: Better sound than FM transmitter. Cons: No con t rol via rec ei ve r,

Does your receiver have ~._ • an au xlllary input on

the back?

Does your receiver have a cassette player?

A male-male mini plug cable costs $2 and connects your iPod's head phone ou tpu t to the stereo's input jack. Pros:

Dirt cheap, sounds good. Cons:

No charging, no control via receiver.

Translates audio signals from your iPod to the magnetic pulses that your tape deck expects to read off a cassette tape. Best choice: Griffln's SmartDeck ($29), which plugs into the top o-f the iPod and

can tran slate the fast forward/ rewind buttons on your tape deck in to n ext track/last track con trois on you r head unit Pros: Cheap. Cons: SmartDeck doesn't charge your iPod.

78 MClke: VduFM ru


A $20 to $70 mini-radio station that beams your iPod ou tpu t

to your car's antenn a. Best choi ce: Monster iCarPlay Wireless Plus FM transmitter. Pros:

Charges batteries, tunable across FM spectrum, on-cable controls. Cons: Sound quality is not as good as any other solu tion oHered here.


Several companies make ad apters that in terface between your iPod and the CD ch anger jack on your car's receiver. These compan ies either reverse-engineer stereo systems or go under non-disclosure agreements with receiver manufacturers to create sub-$100 black boxes with the proprietary CD changer in terface on one side and RCA jacks on the other. These boxes trick th e receiver into th in king that a CD changer is plugged in. allowing the iPod's signal to play through the speakers.

Some companies make a single. omnibu s adapter and let you choose your car via dual-inline package (DIP) switches on the bottom of the unit. You also have to buy a $5 adapter cable th at fits you r car's jack. other vend ors sell a separate ad apter box for each brand of OEM vehicle.

Most ad apters give you limited control of your iPod via the receiver. Some brand name car stereo companies have iPod ad apters that will show artist/song information on the receiver's display. Monster C able's iC ruze system has an option al dash mount LCD that displays artist/song information. They range in price from $100-$ 500. Sources: mp3yourcar.com. theistore.com. crutchfield.com. installer. com/aux. logjamelectronics. com/auxin pconv.h tml. monstercable.com/icruze.

Pros: Charges batteries. best sound quality. Cons: Expensive. installation can be difficult for certain cars. receivers. an d adapters.

Getting Audio Out of the IPod

lt's worth noting that there are two ways to get audio out of the IPod: top or bottom. The top con nector on the IPod IS a variable output. amplified signal. lt's designed to power your headphones. The amplification IS controlled with the volume function of the scroll wheel. When usmg the van able output with any of the adapters listed here. you wind up With two ways to Increase volume: the IPod or the head Unit. This may seem like a good idea. but It can cause distortion.

The best way to get audio out of the IPod IS from the bottom. where there IS a line level output. This provides a nice. fixed level designed for ampllflca tlon by another device (I.e. your head Unit). Keep this In mind when buying any adapter equipment.

The $50,000 Solution

If you're about to buy a new B'vIW. you can skip this decision tree entirely and sirnply plug your iPod into the rnanufacturer-supplied cable. In 2004, iPod rnade a deal with B\AW and created the first iPod integration adapters These first ad apters were really a hack th at made the i Po d emulate a CD changer, but they've since added steering wheel and head unit control of the iPod

Since that tirne. Apple has started making

rnore deals with auto manufacturers. which are lrnplernentlng different levels of iPod display and in tegra ti on d epen ding on th e rn odel 0 f the car. In th e corning years, the i Po d's pro pri e tary botto rn conn ec tor may becorn e a de facto standard for

in car integration So when you buy a new car, you may be able to simply ask for the "iPod integra tion" 0 pti on. Pros: Excellent sou nd and con trol. Cons: You have to buy a B'vIW for it to work.

"""E 79

elll 5!!! mDunnnG. aJn.TRlJL.... AnD

IE otARGlnG scumcns ~




~ After deciding how to connect your iPod to your receiver, you need to figu re out how to mount it. If I you are u sing a system that lets you control your iPod through your stereo's buttons and dials, then

you should stow it in your glove compartment or other out-of-the-way place, If you want to use the iPod's controls, then you should mount it on the

MacMice PoclBu ddyotfers FM tran,smiUing, power, ancl mounting Cclvforge. com/podbuclcly.shtml).

dash. Check your local car wash for a deal.

There are dozens of mounting systems designed specifically for the iPod. Initially, these were all cast in white plastic to match the iPod, but recen t versions from Belkin are being made in black to better match the interior of most cars. The iPod holders

Learn about the Apple iPocl remote control protocol at maushammer.cDml systems/ipocl·remote/ ipocl·remote.html.

made by ProClip blend in almost seamlessly with th e finish of most cars.

80 MiI.ke~ Vdum,a os


While the iPod has a great interface, it's certainly

not designed with automobile drivers - wh 0 must

The wired remote control that comes with

keep their eyes on the road - in mind.

effective han ds-free remote. You could even affix it on the steering wheel (given enough wire length) so that you have a "hands-free" remote.

If you're interested

in wiring up your own remote wired controller for the iPod,perhapsto conn ect it to you r steering wh eel controls or your own dash-mounted interface, the protocol and pinouts are available at Maushammer (see above for URL).

th e various gen erations

of iPod can serve as an


You can buy a FireWire-to-cigarette lighter adapter for less than $10. But if you must. you can build one. First. put 12 volts through a I-amp fuse to the power pins on a six-pin FireWire cable. You simply put the

+ I2V on pin 1 and the ground on pin 2. A FireWire has a flexible voltage range from 8V to 30V, so you can put the 12V from th e car straigh t into it.

Since the FireWire end connector is fairly hard to solder, it's probably easier to just cut a FireWire cable in half and put the voltage on the two relevant pins,

Agreat place to learn more about mounting an d charging your iPod in the car is iPodlounge (ipodlounge.coml.

The $30 SiK imp iPocl charger (sik.com) has line level au diD output.

d ash or other accessible location.

The cheapest and most space-age mounting solution is good old Velcro. If it's good enough for securing objects in the zero-G environment of the space sh uttle, it's good enough to affix your iPod securely to your d ash board. You'll want some sort of iPod case or plastic belt clip, just to make sure you don't gum up the back of your iPod. You can get sticky Velcro at craft and hard ware stores.

Th e Apple iPod dock that comes with some

mod els of iPod provides aud io output and recharging. Since you already h ave it. you can also Velcro or tape this to the cen ter console of your veh lcle, if you can fin d a level surface.

Because iPods are about the size of some mobile phones, you

can also use a mobile phone holder. Mobile phone holders come

in a variety of forms - some clip to AC vents, while others stick to the

Portabilizers take apart video game systems and turn them into portab Ie gam ing un its. 8y Howard Wen

Benjamin J. Heckendorn hacks video games. in

the most literal sense. The 29-year-old from Verona, Wise., disassembles video game systems, cuts apart their circuit boards within, rewires them, and s tufts th em in to smaller, custom-made casings. Adding battery power systems and an LCD display, he transtorrns th em in to portable gaming units.

Four years ago, while employed at a company th at had cornpu ter-con trolled machining eq uipmen t, work tu rned to in spiration as he tash ioned ou t a handh eld casing to con tain the circuitry of

an Atari 2600 (also known as th e A tari Video Compu ter System: see MAKE Volume 02, page 192).

"I though t it would be a cool project in th e memory of the old Atari 2600," he recalls.

Heckendorn's portable 2600 was somewhat clunky, with a tiny LCD screen (cribbed 'from a

h and held TV) and woodgrain exterior that evoked the original design styling of the 2600. But it had

an an tiq uated, re tro-ccol charm abou t it When Heckendorn debuted his creation in 2001 on the interne I. it caused a buzz in the classic video games community. Over time, he produced several refined versions of the device, and sold a number of them.

Other people, inspired by his work, made their own game portables - many au t of sys terns besides

into h and held s. (Most recen tly, he cons tructed a portable PlayS tation 2.)

H is hobby has evolved in to a book that was released in early 2005, Hacking Video Games: A Complete Guide to r Turning Your Old Game Consoles Into A wesome New Portables. Ad o-ft-yourself guide, the book 'features eigh t pre-designed projec ts the reader can build. Systems covered include the Atari 2600, i\J in tend 0 En tertain men t S ys tern, Super Nintendo, and PlayStation L

Don't try to convince Hecken dorn and h is 'fellow "portabilizers" that nowadays one can simply emulate many of the classic video game consoles on a PDA or handheld computer. To them, the guts of the old systems are what make their hand-built gaming portables unique. "The best thing about using original hardware is that it makes 'for a more interesting story:' says Heckendorn. "The 'fact that origin al parts are still u sed is intriguing to people."

Portabilizing Your Video Game System: A Primer

Thinking about giving your old video game system a second life as a portable? Here are 'five important points to keep in mind 'for portabilizing it:

the Alari 2600. An online community centered on Wiring

the "portabilizing" o'f video game consoles emerged. In order to pack the original circuit boards of a video

Heckendorn himself turned other game con soles game sys tem in to a smaller case, the beginning


Tlche 1 "'r"Iol I'S Port h In 1\1"1 r"Io tn r"Iot"'l",

~ '" _VI ~ VI ILlI'" I. '" I .\.IV

Fntertainll1ent Systell1

Tighe Lory says once he figured out how to make his 21f2 lb. portable version of the N in tend 0 En tertainmen t Sys tem (N ES), the actual con structlon of the gaming device was simple. More than a hundred people have asked him i-f they could buy his portable NES. bu t he isn't selling. He wants people to make one on their own.

Anatomy of a Homebrew Portable Gaming Device:

The N ES Portable

A, Joypad

B, C ontrol button s

C, Reset button

D, Speaker

E, Erlernal power jack, designed for the standardlOV GameGear adapter

F. 8 AA battery pack

G. PI ay er 2 control] e r port

H. Volume control

I. AV out, for playing on a TV. Uses a stereo 1/8[1 jack to male RCA plugs.

J. C artrl clge slot

K. Screen

L. Power on/off

82 Mi'I ke: VQh,JrM ru

op lid

Inside bottom


work typically involves sawing apart the boards and reconn ecting th e circuit pathways with wires. "1 t helps to be good at soldering. since a lot of the connections a person needs to make can be quite small and close together:' notes Heckendorn.

Erik Zuroski. a 21-year-old computer engineering stud ent from Milwaukee. Wisc .. recalls wrangling with wiring as the biggest problem he faced when tu rning a PlayS tation 1 in to a portable. A single wire may not seem to take up a lot of preciou s volume inside a case. but they add up. and can become a frustrating. springy mess. He recommends. "Make sure to leave yourself enough room for wiring. It might make the final product a little bit bigger. but it will save you h ours of fru stratlon,"

Video Output and Display Screen Pulling avid eo sign al off of an old video game system and connecting it to a modern-day LCD screen may req uire the constru ction of adlditional circuits.

Says Tighe Lory. a 29-year-old programmer from Richmondville. N.Y .. who made a portable Nintendo Entertainment System: "1 had to create a new circuit board th at amplifies the weak composite video sign al after I removed the RF modu lator from th e NES:'

Heckendorn warns that taking apart a miniature television. from which to cannibalize the LCD screen. can pose an other challenge.

"Some of the pocket TVs have strange internals. like multiple interconnected circuit boards instead

Portable Game Websites

Benjamin J. Heckendorn's personal website:

The Portables of Doom' - a web community for the portabil izing scene:

Erik Zuroski's portable PlayStation I:

Tighe LOry's portable Ninlenco Entertainment System:

Brian Gardiner's portable PS One:

of just one and weird [screen] lighting schemes:' he ex plain s.

84 MiI.ke Vdum,a os


Th e power req uirements for a video game system. especially that of mod ern consoles. can be daun ting. Lory's portable NES ru ns for four hours on eight AA batteries - and that is considered impressive in this hobby scene.

Because avid eo game system's power regulator is often situated on the periphery of its circuit board. lt's usually the first component to be removed and discarded. Still. Heckendorn says. "Don't over-power the unit. Most systems need the power to be regulated before using lt,"

Case Design

While most people don't have access to machining eq uipmen t like H eckend orn did. it is possible to work with plastic. Design your portable's casing with a CAD program and upload the file to a rapid prototypingfirm. a company that will manufacture your case. (Expect to spend about $300 per case when using such a service.)

"Stereolithography is a very expensive technology. but it is the only way to give yourself the freedom of creating your vision:' says Brian Gard.iner. a 27-yearold tech help analyst from Rocklin. Calif. He created a portable PS On e with an es pecially slick-looking case that looks like something Sony itself might have designed. "To me. the appearan ce of my device was ju st as important as the fun ctlonality"

Don't rule ou t the possibility of u sing electronics cases from unwanted equipment either.


Expect to spend $ 200 or more for all th e necessary parts. (The bulk of this goes to the display screen and battery.) If you choose to custom-design a handh eld case for a more professional final product. the cost can go up to $600 and quite possibly more. For that price. you can buy a Nintendo DS and a library of games.

To the portabilizers. the price is worth it. "You don't do a project like this to save money:' says Lory. "I really love the NES. and it was fun to take one apart and make it better th an it was before.

an d breathe new life into it. ..

Howard Wen is a freelame writer who has written for salon.com. oreillynet.oom. playbol'com. and Wired. among others.

Make: Projects

Scare the ki ds in your neighborhood. Use that extra VCR to feed your pets and give you a weekend away (now that the neighborhood is out to get you). Then build a glowing potato cannon; maybe you can use it to impress the neighbors and get back on their good side.

Haunted House Controller


o 0


VCR Cat Feeder Night Lighter 36

98 108

., .. "" 85



I loved neighborhood haunted houses as a kid. Trick-or-treating was more of a search for haunted houses than for candy and mischief. I was ever-hopeful that around the next corner, I would find another garage converted into a cardboard-and-bed-sheet maze filled with low-budget frights. But I often thought HI could do better than that."

For the last ten years, I've been perfecting my technique of scaring kids. This project shows you how to build a tool I frequently use in my haunted creations: a relay board that switches on electrical devices in time to an audio file that's playing on a laptop. The laptop connects to the controller board via its parallel port. Using this setup, you can then write code that synchronizes lights, motors, fog machines, pumps, laser pointers, and other devices to sound cues in a spooky soundtrack.

~LJ.LL.I;'::u.w is a partn er at S quid Labs C' I I' I , -," I), where he find s solu tions to un iq ue engineering problems.

88 MiI.ke Vdum,a os


[C] Terminal block for

16- to 22-gauge wi ... I used a l!2-position barrier screw terminal strlp.

[H] LEDs (stan dard 2V is fine)

[N] Grounded exh!nsion cords Get one for each AC relay, One should be at least 6, feet long; th e rest can be any length because you'll be cuffing them and only using the ends.

[A] 120VAC solid state relays logic-compatible input voltage (range should in cI ud e 3.3 -5 VDC), sc reW mount, with load voltage and load c urre nt ra nge s sufficient for any AC device s you axpe ct to con tr 01. Get one for each device; I used th rae Crydom D1225 relays.

[I] Small plugboard (solderle s s prototyping brea db oard)

[D] 25-wi ... flat ribbon cable

[J] Four stand-offs or some ha rd pia sti cor meta I tubing that's wide enough to accommodate your screws. These need to

be long enough or cut to sufflclent length to dear height of re lays pi U s sorn e ,extra headroom for wiring; I used 1.25-inch for relays 0.'9 inch es tall.

[E] 25-contact male D-

su bminiatu ... connector wilh"displacement connection" that crimps onto ribbon cable

[0] Wi ... I6-gauge stranded for AC devices, 22-gauge solid core for DC and signals.


[F] 241'in DIP (dual inli .... package) plug with displacement conn actlon, for connecting ribbon cable to breadboard. These may be' called either "IDC DIP plugs" or "'DI P plugs," but don't confuse them with plain DIP plugs that don't bite into ribbon cable.

[8] DC solid state ... Iays single-pull single-throw, logic-compatible input voltage (range should

in elude 3.3-5 VDC), screw mount, with load voltage and load c urre nt ra nge s sufficient for any DC devices you expect to Use. I used two Crydom D2D12 relays.

Windows-based laptop (or a desktop computer, but those are less convenient and har der to con ceal)

[K] Cable ties

Wood sc ... ws

[L] Non-conductive base I used plywood.

[M] Non-conductive transpa ... nt cover I used a small sheet of hard acrylic.

[G,] 470-ohm resistors orre for each relay, plus one E!Xita.




Time: A Weekend Complexity: High


My controller board cons ists of th ree AC relays (to power 120 VAC props) and two DC relays (to power things like laser pointers and battery-powered props). but you can add another relay. The relays are switched on and off by signals sent from a personal computer through its parallel port. The schematic below shows how th e various components are connected. If you can't read a schematic. don't worry: you can still build the controller by following along with the photos. (Also. see page 151. Reading and Dmwing Schematics.) But to program it later. you'll need to get in to some simple C++ code and do some light tweaking. compiling. and debugging.

DC Devices

DC Power Sources (wall-wart,


DC Ground

AC Relay· Crydom D1225

• DC Relay· Crydom D2D12

General Status I ndicator (always on)

90 MiI.ke Vdum,a os

la. Attach main components to wooden base. Using the photograph as a guid e. lay the so lid state relays. terminal block. and breadboard onto the base. Mark places 'for holes. and drill holes appro priately sized fo r th e screws. Using wood screws. attach the components to the base.

lb. Attach receptacles. Cut all of the extension cords approximately 12 inches "from their receptacles. and strip .M of an inch of insu lation at the cut. Mount three receptacles to the edges of th e base by drilling through holes and securing with cable ties.

Ic, Attach AC power cord. Attach the This is the cord that supplies AC power to your props. cut en d of th e "fourth exten slon cord

to the base. and strip .M of an inch of

in sulation.

ld. Attach wires to terminal block. Wire up the AC side o"f the controller.

as shown. using the screw connections on the terminal block. Use short pieces of the #16 wire to connect the hot side of each receptacle to the hot output (Terminal 2) contacts o'f the solid state relays. lt's always best to switch the hot side. not the neutral.

The wires in extension cords are often color coded: black is hot (live), wh ite is neutral, and green is gr oun d. If yours aren't color cod ed, look at the plugs with the blades pointing towards you and the rou nd, grou nd plug at th e top. Hot is th e smaller blade, on the right, an d neutral is th e wider blade. Use a multimeter to test conductivity between the blades and wires to identify which is which.




2a. Snap D-sub connector to cabl e. Position one end of the ribbon cable squarely between the D-subminia-

tu re con nector"s two rows of 'forked contacts, and then press down with

th e strain relief. Th e con nector should snap into a locked position.

2b. Snap 01 P pi ug connector to

ca ble. Peel one wire away from either edge of the other end of the ribbon cable, and connect the remaining 24- wire ribbon to the D'IP plug, using the same method as above.

2c. Determine pin-to-pin relatlonship. Use the multimeter to see which pins on the D-subminiature, parallel port connector correspond to which pins on the D'IP plug. The pins we're

in terested in are th e ones th at connect to the parallel port's Pins 2-9, which are the output data lines, and the port's Pins 18-25, which are all grounds.

Each of the forks ("insulation displacement connectors") should pierce through the ribbon cable's insulation an d make a connection with a wire in side.

It doesn't matter wh ich edge of the ribbon cable you peel the' wire away from.

You might sketch a map of the DIP plug's layout or aUach a label to help you remember.



• + input to LED

• + input to relay (Terminal 3)

• Ground (from parallel Pin 25)

• LED to Resistor

92 M <.i.ke Vdum,a 03

3a. Wire up the bre.adboard. Plug the DIP into the breadboard. Using the schematic or ph otos as a guide, wire up the controller's signal side, using #22 wire. This will connect the relays' in put terminals to the parallel port via the ribbon cable, while LED/resistor pairs show the state of the parallel port. The 'first output pin, Pin 2 on th e parallel port, will always be on as a general statu s indicator. Th en, starting with Pin 3 and going down the line, each input pin conn ects to both the positive-side input (Terminal 3) of each relay and the relay's LED indicator. The ather sides of the relay in puts and indicator pairs connect to ground.


4a. Secure the 01 P connector to the board with a cable tie, so that it won't get yanked out of the breadboard.

4b. Cover the AC porti on of the controller. Mark and drill holes in the base and cover and connect them with the stan d-offs.1 used clear acrylic sol could still see the LEOs.

4c. Ensure your wiring is correct before attaching to a computer. A parallel port can only source a few milliamps of current, and can be damaged if the data lines are shorted to ground.

g such as ECP or output only.

4d. PI ug the controll er into your "< x Note that a parallel port's
computer's parallel port (leave the D~rulpLJ:~ro=:r. I~P~'~M ,I eight output pins are ad-
pin:? 0 riD~b~O gLPT1::;{I(
AC unplugged for now) and see if you ~n3 1 DD~b~1 {iJLPT2:37l3 dressed in binary fashion:
pin 4 2 r;:3D.:tabl2 QLPTl27ll writing a 0 to the port
can illuminate the LEOs. Use a parallel ~n5 3 RD~b.] turns them all off; writing 1
pinS 4 I"JD.:tabl4
port mon itor such as "lpt.exe" from pin;' 5 P;D~b~5 r----AM----j turns on on Iy the first data
n eil.fraser.name/software!lpt. The pin B 6 ~D~b~S pin (Pin 2); writing 2 turns
pin 9 , OD"-'on
port number of the parallel port varies CcrtIDI~~I: on only the second data
Fe~~I~!3i!l~ OiL! a nStrDbe pin (Pin 3); 3 turns on th e
pinlS ] ~ErrDI 2!!.ll 1 ~Ao...ID.n~r~
between machines, so be sure to check ~n13 • ~5eb::t pn16 , ~lnjj~i~F'irer first am d second, and so on
all options. You may h ave to change pin12 5 r:::'iOl.tripcw 0nlI J r:::'iSeledinW: LIp to 256, which turns on
~nl0 0 !;A;::~nru~ , Ci Inloetl~ ~n~
your parallel port's setting in the BIOS 0iLll "] QBIJ!V 5 Id Tri::t:ll~ ww:s all eight.
to somethin 'ather than bidirectional PROJECTS CONTROLLER BOARD

4e. Test the controller board by plugging it into 120 VAC an d then plugging a lamp into one of its AC plugs.

Th e power to the lamp shou Id now be under computer control.

4f. Attach your devices. AC devices can be attached by simply plugging them in. For DC devices, splice a DC relay's output terminals between the positive wire th at comes from its power supply (for example, the device's wall wart) and the device's positive power input. For battery-powered devices, you can use an external battery pack and run the wires through the controller, or use an equivalent wall wart AC to DC transformer and plug th at into the AC on the board,

94 Make; Vdum,a os



Th e devices you use with the con troller complete the display. Lights. strobes. fans. and fog machines are easy: just plug th em in. I created on e vivid effect by directing laser pointers into the eyes of a stuffed rubber mask. and when the controller switched them on. the eyes seemed to come alive. Projectors shouldn't be repeatedly power-cycled with a controller. but you can set motors up to block or deflect their beams.

Motors outfitted with rotating cams will pull strings that make skeletons dance and bats flutter. and reels will raise and lower hanging spiders. To drop a guillotine blade. I used a 12VDC automobile seat motor to rotate a cardboard hook that released the rope. I reinforced this effect with an aquarium pump that gave a quick squirt of warm water just after the blade dropped. treating onlookers to the feeling of fresh-sprayed blood.

Sa. Think of some simple but scary scenarios that can be conveyed by sounds and darkness a nd enhanced by your devices. On e approach: weave a story that's just plausible enough that kids will won der if irs tru e. and wh ile they're pond erlng, startle them with someth ing dramatic. like an abrupt lighting change or th e hiss of a fog mach ine.

Sb. Cre.ate the soundtrack. U sing a wave file

ed itor. I sampled. cu t. and pasted sound s from Halloween CDs. The sequence of sounds should suggest a series of events. but it needs to be short and concise: trick-or-treaters aren't known for long attention spans. and you don't want the next group arriving in the midd Ie and miss ing the fun. You can hear my guillotine sequence soundtrack at oreilly. com/go/soundtrack.

Sc. Download Borland's free C++ Compiler, then download inpout.d II and add it to you r compile libraries. This is what makes calls to your parallel port from Windows NT and XP. For details and links. see hytherion.comlbeattid p/computJpport.htm.

Sd. Write the controlling code that syncs your devi ces to your soundtra ck .. You can model your code on my sample at oreilly.comlgo/syncode.

I nclu de in pou t32.d II and define all of your devices as variables at the top of the file. Then play your sound track file and ru n th rough a precisely timed seq uence th at pus hes valu es to th e parallel port (often at machine address Ox0378) and calls to the Sleep fu nction. Compile. run . debug. and repeat as needed.



Or. instead of writing a fixed script. you can also

use the controller board to switch lights and other devices in time to the beat of mu sic you're playing on Winamp. Ch eck out discolitez.com for a Win amp plug-in. or try mine at 8-legs.org/ewilhelmlprojectsJ2.l65. My plug-in works by calculating the difference in the Fast Fourier Transform of a song between one time step and the n ext. When the value of this difference in a narrow frequency range exceeds a threshold. one of th e relays is triggered. This lets you set a string of Christmas lights along the floor

to flash with the kick drum. syn c another at eye level with mid-range beats. and use a th ird along the roof to complement cymbal crashes.

Se. Dress up your haunted house with other tricks. I discovered that baby Furbys beh ave very strangely when given half of their normal 6 VDC.

I nstead of batting its eyelashes an d making baby soun ds. mine moaned and screamed like it was ju st skinned alive. So. I completed the effect by actually skin ning it and wiring it up to the controller and a

3 VDC sou rce. Remember th at in th e dark. you often need only to suggest something rather than fully recreate it. For example. two bright white lights and a rush of air from a fan along with the soundtrack were enough to evoke the feeling of a truck stopping just short of trick-or-treaters at the door.

You'll know you have it righ t when kid s come to the door hold ing their bags open for treats, watch wideeyed for a few terror-filled moments. clamp their bags shut and sprint back to their parents before the piece of candy you tried to drop in th eir bag hits the ground. Happy Halloween I

"""E 95


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