Archive for the ‘Electronics’ Category

Phases, or Why I Can’t Seem To Get Anything Done

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

People thrive on different things. Some people love to work, others love to relax, to spend time with their families, engage in sport or simply socialise. And then there are those who have hobbies. I am most definitely one of the latter, having too many interests for my own good. My dad collects stamps. Well, he at least collected stamps while I was impressionable. Like me, he divides himself between many interests, though he is able to spend more time with each one before feeling the urge to move on.I suppose that’s where I get it from. But as I’ve grown up and older I’ve taken an interest in other things.

Disassembled Pentax Spotmatic F

My most recent interest is in film camera restoration, particularly those from 1960-1989. It really deserves its own post but to give a summary I was given my grandfathers Praktica LTL SLR and his “Agfa Super Silette rangefinder by my grandmother. Both were not working and needed repairs. Not wanting to break them trying to fix them myself I had them repaired by a professional service technician and everything was swell. This piqued my interest in film photography, which led to a friend of mine giving me all of his old camera gear, including a Pentax Spotmatic. This was fortunate as these are a very well built, easy to repair camera with mountains of information on the web covering just about every possible problem they suffer from. Naturally, when I disassembled it I got slightly too enthusiastic and ended up causing more problems than originally existed, but after a month or so of tinkering and researching I have gotten it back into almost perfect working order. In the same way I went overboard disassembling my Spotmatic, I also went overboard looking for my next project and bought a pile of vintage cameras in various states of repair. I will post a list some time soon. Of course, this whole interest stemmed from an interest in photography. I have a Canon EOS 500D, certainly not the best camera on the market but it serves me well and doesn’t miss a beat. If anything, I don’t think I’m doing justice to its capabilities. Yet despite this it, like all the digital SLRs I’ve tried, is a very clinical camera. The digital SLRs just don’t seem to have the charm, the magic that the vintage cameras are steeped in. When I do travel, I take the 500D, but I just don’t feel as much attachment to it as I do to my old cameras.

Nixie Clock

Chronotonix V400 Nixie Clock by

I have also gone through an electronics phase, firstly because I needed a power regulator to smooth out the power coming out of my motorcycle so I won’t have to be as paranoid charging my iPod or iPhone with the engine running. This didn’t take long, so I went on to make several solid state headphone amplifiers and am in the process of making an arduino-based shutter speed tester. Not to mention I keep coming back to Nixie Clocks despite hating working with high voltages. That said, I’ve always been partial to electronics since I was very young and it’s a hobby I always come back to sooner or later.

These are only my most recent obsessions. Before camera restoration or DIY electronics I have always been extremely focused on computers, originally simply for gaming but then for overclocking and now for gaming once again. Even after finishing school and going to university I was still The Computer Guy amongst my friends and housemates, and now where I work I hold the same reputation. Apparently I have some sort of silicon pheromone that lets those in my immediate area know that if their computer breaks they should harass me about it. But it’s the only hobby I have that I have obsessed over constantly for almost 20 years. Putting it like that I actually feel quite old now. But, back on topic: I have been building, breaking, and repairing computers since my dad brought home our first PC, an Intel 386 desktop running DOS. Not as old school as some, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Because I have too many hobbies, and all men must Make things to be manly I decided I needed to make a work bench using some old tables I was given and some cheap timber from the hardware shop. Initial results weren’t promising. The bench is a little wobbly for my liking and not really stable enough to lean on with all of my weight. But it was a learning experience, and I felt extra manly at the end. All that needs to be done is a bit of extra reinforcement and a change to the base and everything will be swell. The problem is I have started eyeing quite a few power tools every time I go to the hardware shop and thinking to myself “I will possibly need that in the future”. It’s a battle of self control every time I go in there these days, particularly on paydays. I do need a new entertainment unit to replace the one I currently have, which only have enough room for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. What I want it one that has enought room to fit the media centre, the blu-ray player, the reciever, the PS3 and the XB360. One more project to add to the pile.

After all of these though, I think the most expensive thing I love doing is alf and half between riding my motorcycle and touring on my motorcycle. Early 2010 a friend and I rode 7300 kilometres down along the Great Ocean Road and on to Adelaide, then back home through Broken Hill. This was in the middle of summer which meant that we were hot for most of the trip. It was amazing. The main difference between riding a motorcycle somewhere and driving somewhere is this: When you drive, you are in your car which is going through a place. There’s a disconnection from the places you’re going through. On a motorcycle this disconnection is gone, and even when you don’t stop you still experience great things while you travel. It’s a great experience. So great, in fact, that we’re planning a much longer and more difficult trip for the near future. While this means more great experiences, it also means I have to spend a lot of dosh buying gear, getting the bike check out and set up and generally doing a lot of running around before we set out.

So these are the main ways I’m spending my time and money these days. By no means am I exceptional at any of them, but they’re interesting or fun and that’s all that really matters in the end, isn’t it?