Finally!

I started writing The Blognosticator in July, 2011.

At the time I was unable to acquire the domain blognosticator.com. That belonged to a nice woman who had bought it and was holding it, hoping that someone foolish enough to create a blog of the same name would come along and agree to buy it.

I offered to purchase the domain, but the price was too high.

I already had acquired blognosticator.net and blognosticator.org, and that was good enough for me. I saved my money and moved on.

A few times in the 13 years since I was approached to purchase the domain, and I tried a few times, but the price was always too high. I just waited.

In March of this year I received an offer to purchase the domain for only $150. I bought it! After making the purchase, the domain went to an escrow company. I think this is a procedure to prevent domain theft, leaving the domain in a location where it cannot be transferred until the escrow period has expired.

That happened yesterday. And, I moved the domain to my host company’s site the same day. It took a few hours, and the process was completed today.

As soon as my domain registrar completes the transaction, the new domain will point to these pages where, perhaps, I will get a few more readers each month.

I waited 13 years to get the most important domain associated with The Blognosticator, and now I have accomplished that.

With total readership of over 450,000, this effort has been worth the trouble. I hope you continue to visit the blog from time to time, following along as I add new posts about my projects and my work.

Thank you to everyone who has visited The Blognosticator!

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Rack one up to success!

Blognosticator head

This is the third of a three-part post. To read the first part, please click here. To read the second part, please click here.

I finished the bike rack clamps yesterday. I drilled and tapped the holes that needed threading, and I then took the parts to the buffing wheel where I made them look very shiny. In the end they were really nice.

These are the finished clamps to hold the Pletscher Athlete rack on my Superstrata bicycle.

I had no trouble doing the finish work, except the threading of the holes using some taps I bought from Amazon. These didn’t work as well as other taps I have, so I had to use an extraordinary amount of downward force to get the taps to bite into the aluminum. My right palm is still sore today from that activity.

Today I took the parts to my garage and mounted them to the bicycle frame. They went on as planned, and I tightened them in place, ready to attach the Pletscher rack. To get that to fit I had to bend the vertical struts a bit, as the rear of the Superstrata is wider than a normal bicycle. Then it was just a matter of tightening all the clamps in place, and adjusting the connecting points to the rack. About an hour later I had the rack on the bike, and a smile on my face.

Here you can see the rack on the back of my Superstrata. It fits nicely, and I can put a significant load on the rack, including my two nylon panier bags. I am confident that this will work well for me and my stuff as I ride.
It’s possible to see my aluminum bracket behind the rack plate at the bottom. It is fortunate that Pletscher makes this rack with significant adjustability. Because of that, I was able to mount the rack without difficulty.
This is the front seat post clamp on the seat post stub. My clamp pinches that post, while the Pletscher rack attaches to the wings of my clamp. This is a very sturdy arrangement.

Thus ends this short-term odyssey. It has been fun and educational, and I saved a lot of money! Overall, I probably spent $50 0n parts and tools. I lost track of how many hours I spent making these brackets. Any way you look at it, I got a good deal!

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A small, but fatal error in part positioning

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In my last post I discussed making parts to hold a rack on the back of my Superstrata carbon-fiber bicycle. To read Part 3 of these posts, click here.

I have been machining those parts, and it has been a humbling experience!

On a CNC machine made primarily for cutting wood and wood composites (plywood, particle board, etc.), the cutting of aluminum requires that the machine be run more cautiously, more slowly, and with greater discipline.

Though I have been very cautious, I got a bit ahead of myself yesterday when I positioned the parts in a grouping that was very efficient for a scrap end of an aluminum plate I had on-hand. The machining went well for the first two parts, then I got into trouble. My error was in positioning the parts too close to one another, and in places where their support tabs would be cut off by subsequent cutting paths.

This is an example of tabs machined into a part (shown in red). These tabs keep the part attached to its parent, and they are cut/sanded off after the part is complete. This is one of my bike parts, cut after the others, to serve as a back-up part in case something went wrong in drilling and tapping.

This was a serious mistake on my part, and it caused me to remember an adage in machining circles: holding the material is more than half the work!

I make almost all of my aluminum parts with a .25 inch single-flute cutter from Vortex Tools. That means that there will always be a quarter-inch channel around the periphery of the pieces I cut.

I knew this, of course, and I thought that I had planned for it in the positioning of my parts in the job. But, as my cutting continued – more than an hour into the process – I realized that I had lost control over two of my parts, and I still needed to make more passes to finish those parts. I stopped the machine and redesigned the cutting paths for those two parts to try to salvage the operation. It worked, to a point.

This is the approximate position of my parts as I had put them for machining. The light brown areas are the 0.25-inch channels cut by the Vortex cutter. The darker brown areas are channels where the cutter overlaps the previously-cut channel (this is OK). The yellow rectangles are the tabs that were appropriately positioned. The green rectangles represent the tabs I placed that were later cut off or rendered useless because I had cut through their support to the parent metal (not good!).

When cutting parts on the CNC machine, I usually insert small tabs along the edges of those parts that are left behind in the cutting steps. These tabs keep the machined pieces attached to the source material. At the end of the process, I cut the parts free by breaking or sawing the tabs, then I sand the remnants of the tabs off to remove them.

Yesterday, while preparing my file for cutting the parts, I put two tabs into the mix that would be cut off in subsequent cutting steps, leaving the original part unsupported. This is not acceptable, because I am pushing a rotating cutter up against the edge of a plate of aluminum with close to six horsepower of machinery, and expecting that little chunk of aluminum to sustain its tentative hold on the parent plate with just one tab!

In other words – I really messed up.

I restarted the project today, and I was be able to salvage the two parts by super-gluing them to the spoil board, a trick I learned from a machinist friend. The super-glue held on one, but broke free on the other, causing an unsightly divot in the surface of that part (not structurally significant). My parts are now cut, but still need to be drilled and threaded.

These are the tabs, reconsidered. I should have put these in the areas marked in yellow. Those would have remained connected to the metal from which I was cutting. Note that I also flipped the part in the upper-left to put its tabs on the top. Hindsight is always 20-20! By drawing the 0.25-inch offset in Adobe Illustrator, shown in the two tints of brown, I would have foreseen the trouble I caused on the machine. I’ll do that next time.

Here is what I did wrong: I positioned the pieces, nested together, into a small grouping that would fit into the area on the metal plate. I failed to make note of the tabs and their positions in the path of subsequent cuts.

What I will do from now on: Whenever positioning parts for nesting, I will draw an offset of 0.25 inch around every part, then analyze where those paths overlap in Adobe Illustrator. If they overlap in places without tabs, that’s OK; if they overlap in areas where there are tabs, then I will have to move the parts away from each other or reposition the tabs in some fashion to prevent those fatal intersections.

My future projects will come out better for this.

This is Part 2 of a three-part post. In the first part, I discussed designing parts to hold a rack on the back of my Superstrata carbon-fiber bicycle. To read Part 3 of these posts, click here.

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Getting ready for Burning Man 2024

Blognosticator head

This is part 1 of a 3-part post on machining aluminum parts for a bicycle. Click here to read Part 2.

I have a gorgeous Superstrata electric-assist gravel bike.

I bought it a couple of years ago (actually four years ago, but there was a pandemic that interrupted the company’s manufacturing operation), and I have been enjoying it since then.

This is a Superstrata bike like mine with a drawing of the Pletscher rack mounted on the back. Since there are no mounting attachment points on my bike, I have chosen to machine some aluminum brackets to hold the rack on the frame. These brackets are shown in red in this illustration. Image courtesy of Superstrata. Click on the image to see an enlarged view.

The Superstrata is a 3D printed carbon-fiber frame. Each bicycle is unique to its owner. When you order, you fill in a form where you enter your physical statistics – arm length, inseam, height, weight, distance from your knee to the floor, and a handful of other measurements.

Superstrata then puts that physical information into their computer and out comes a set of manufacturing instructions that drive their 3D manufacturing printers. After some considerable printing, sanding and finishing, you have a very special bicycle.

I took my bike to Burning Man last summer, where it performed perfectly. It has tires that are wide enough to run on the desert playa, and it is still a fast enough bike to be comfortable when traveling long distances. The range is estimated to be over 35 miles on a charge, which I have never tested.

At past Burning Men (I assume that’s the plural) I took my Bianchi commuter bike, which was comfortable, but occasionally got bogged-down in the playa sand traps.* That bike had a handy Pletscher bike rack and a set of panier bags. These allowed me to carry cameras and tripods on my sunrise and sunset photographic outings.

The Superstrata has no back rack, and has no attachment points for a rack. I was told not to drill into the carbon-fiber frame, as that could damage its strength. I need a rack, so I decided to make some clamps that attach to the frame in three locations, creating attachment points that will allow me to put my Pletscher rack on the Superstrata.

One of the nicest qualities of the Superstrata bikes is the organic shapes of the frame parts. The entire frame is 3D printed in one piece. The forks are printed separately, then the two are put together to make a bike. The constantly-curving arms from the seat to the rear hub change thickness and curve as they travel. I chose a good spot to attach the lower arm of the rack, and made a paper pattern that described that curve adequately.

I copied that pattern into Illustrator. Then I printed several versions of that pattern, cut them carefully with scissors, and tested them against the frame. Once I had the fit right, I designed the counter-clamp, which was a bit simpler. The top of the rack attaches at the circular seat post, where there is a convenient spot to put another pair of aluminum clamps that will attach to the seat post base. I am confident that it will be strong enough for my rack.

The next step was to move to the CNC machine and cut a prototype in wood. I have a good stock of Brazilian Ipé lumber (called Curbaril by arborists). I planed some of that down to 0.375 inch thickness, and machined a couple of parts in that wood. After a bit of sanding, I brought them to the bike and tested them. They needed some very small adjustments, which I made in my Illustrator file, then made my first aluminum prototype. This worked nearly perfectly.

These are my first and second prototype parts. I made the first out of Brazilian Ipé wood; the second out of 0.375 aluminum plate. The design has been modified a bit since the aluminum block was cut to accommodate the stainless steel hardware better.

Meanwhile, I ordered some stainless steel metric hex-head machine screws for these brackets. I needed several sizes and lengths. These were not available at our local Ace Hardware.

After that step, I went into my overdoing it in Illustrator phase. I drew each screw in tremendous detail, drew the screw heads accurately, and then used Illustrator’s 3D tools (better, but still not much to brag about) to extrude 3D versions of my parts to preview what they would look like.

This is my work in Adobe Illustrator on these aluminum parts. I am known to overdo things like this. Overdoing it in Illustrator saves time and rework by helping me to preview problems in the design. Click on the image to see an enlarged view.

One can learn a lot while tinkering with an illustration. For example, the button-head screw heads are much larger than my original – estimated – drawing, and they would not fit the parts I had drawn. So I stretched the wings of each part to accommodate the larger screw heads, making the parts stronger in the process.

I’m ready now to machine the six parts in 0.375 aluminum. I have to run the CNC machine quite slowly to get a mirror finish on aluminum. That makes the parts nearly perfect when they come off the machine. I do a bit of buffing, and they are ready for use.

The other technique I have learned is to make a “gross” cut of the parts using a 1/4 inch cutter first, then change to a smaller diameter cutter for a very small final cut. To do this, I create an offset in Illustrator that creates a cutting path 0.005 in. away from the final dimension of the part. When those cuts are complete, I change the tool to a 1/8 in. cutter, and machine the final 0.005 along the perimeter of the part. This makes a smoother finish, and saves labor in buffing and polishing.

After the flat cuts are made, I turn the parts on their sides and insert them in a 90-degree work holder I made on the CNC machine. This is a hole in the spoil board with a T-slot board at 90 degrees to the tabletop. With various clamping boards I can affix small items to the work holder and cut their edges. I will use this technique to machine the holes in the edges of these parts – some for tapping threads, and others for allowing a screw free passage through.

I use a laser aiming tool on my CNC machine, which makes positioning relatively easy. I can move the laser to the edges of the aluminum parts to set the machine’s X and Y base positions. Then, moving in increments driven by software, I can drill and cut with extraordinary precision.

I will hand tap the threads in the holes that require threads, and then polish the finished parts to a smooth, mirror finish. Then they will go on the bicycle.

I’m starting to prepare for 2024 Burning Man by making my bike ready. Later this month I will work on the generator, which needs wiring on its water temperature gauge, and see if I can get its oil pressure gauge to work. I’ll report back on those things as I get closer to the Burning Man week. I hope it doesn’t rain this year.

I will report back as I make these parts and affix them to the Superstrata. I don’t expect any trouble.

*Playa sand traps are small areas of the lake bed where the soil is not compacted, but has the consistency of talcum powder. If you ride a bike into one, the bike stops immediately, and your body does not. I have had this happen numerous times, and have invented a medical condition that describes the result: the Bicycular Orchidotomy.

This is part 1 of a 3-part post on machining aluminum parts for a bicycle. Click here to read Part 2.

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I have gone to the dogs

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Speedy dogs compete for love and affection – and that fuzzy lure!

I had the opportunity to photograph dog racing this weekend. I have never seen this activity before, so it was intriguing to me. The event was a gathering of several members of a dog racing group called CCASH – The Central Coast Association of Sighthounds. They get together often to run their dogs in a straight line race led by a mechanized lure that races along the ground in front of the dogs.

At the event I witnessed, the largest number of dogs competing was three. The breeds were varied, and it was common to see some combination of Whippets, Silken Windhounds, Greyhounds or Border Collies competing in the same heat.

I took the opportunity to learn how to use my Canon R5 in its high speed modes, which I have never tried before (violinists generally don’t move that fast). I had to dig through menus to find the settings, and I put the camera in its fastest mode for this event, which is 20 frames per second. I also left the camera in electronic shutter mode, making it possible for the camera to work so fast.

I taught photography at Cal Poly for many years, and I always asserted that 1/1000 of a second was adequate for high-speed shots. It’s fast enough to freeze a runner, a race car, a motorcycle, a bicycle or a bird. But, I realized in about 1/1000 of a second that it’s definitely not fast enough for speeding dogs. They move too fast!

I decided to turn this into a lesson in high-speed photography with my camera.

Speedy dogs compete for love and affection

My first professional camera was a Nikon F, one I purchased new in 1967 (see the story here). I still have that camera. Its mechanical shutter goes from one second to 1/1000 second. That camera features a titanium foil focal-plane shutter that moves vertically in the opening to allow for such a high speed. This is similar to the focal-plane shutter on a Speed Graphic camera (I have one of those, too!), but the Speed Graphic shutter is made of cloth.

Can 1/1000 second freeze motion? It can stop a person jumping over a high hurdle, or a basketball player in flight, but when you look closely, the 1/1000 shutter falls short of really stopping motion. A bit of motion blur is present in images from that camera (or any other like it) at that speed.

How fast does the shutter need to be to stop a dog moving left-to-right directly in front of the camera? I set up my tripod about 20 feet from the string the dogs follow when running (they chase a fuzzy-tailed lure that is pulled along the ground by an electric motor). Using my 100-500 mm lens, I set the focal length at 100mm. At this length, I would capture whole dogs with a lot of room on either side. In the final images I cropped quite a bit.

Then I searched through my menus, looking for the one called DRIVE. It is there that I can set the various modes for shooting single and multiple frames. I set it to the High Speed Continuous+ setting, which is 20 frames per second. I also set the shutter to electronic shutter, meaning that the mechanical shutter is disabled. The camera makes no sound during a burst of these photos; the only indication you get is a rapidly-flashing white outline around the image in the viewfinder.

Speedy dogs compete for love and affection

I set the camera 90 degrees to the track, then kneeled on the ground at dog’s-eye level and imagined an area to the left and right of my position. On the left, I would start pushing the shutter button when the dogs were about 50 feet away, and I continued until they had run about the same distance out of the frame on the right.

I was told that these dogs run at about 30 miles per hour, which, when moving in front of my camera, was just a second or two of presence in the scene. I managed to photograph the lure, the dogs and a lot of grass in the interstices. After each run, I deleted the empty frames, saving storage space on my memory cards. When you are shooting that many frames, filling a memory card is a real issue.

Speedy dogs compete for love and affection

These dogs are trained from birth to go after fuzzy-tailed objects like the lure they chase when racing. Many of the dogs are muzzled to prevent them from biting the lure. It’s a prize they really want!

After each heat of the competition a person walks the lure back to the starting line – 200 yards – for the next heat.

Having never seen dog racing before, I must say that I was impressed by the speed, grace and agility of these very special animals. They love to run, and they are eager to do it several times each day. The dogs are exceptionally well treated, healthy, and obviously contented. They love their owners and handlers, and they really love that lure! I enjoyed the canine athleticism on display.

I found that shutter speeds of 1/1600 and 1/2000 second were reasonable, but faster shutter speeds produced sharper images (no surprise!). My camera can shoot up to 1/8000 second, and I ended up at that speed for my most successful images. I also set the auto-focus to seek animal subjects, and that worked reliably. Several of the resulting images are excellent.

The other setting I used is Tv, which on the Canon camera means shutter speed priority. With the camera set on Tv, and the shutter speed set to 1/8000 second, the camera responded by adjusting its aperture to compensate for the available light. I had set the ISO at 1,600 for the entire event, and this worked well. Though 1600 was a bit high for daylight, I needed the higher ISO to get reasonable apertures for some depth-of-field. As a result, my typical exposures in Tv setting were f9.0 to f10.0.

There is no appreciable noise in the photos as a result of the rather high ISO setting. This can be attributed to the camera’s sophisticated sensor, and to the Digix chip in the camera, with its ability to suppress noise at most ISO settings.

Note: When I searched Google for more information on dog racing I found many articles about Greyhound racing in Florida, and the sometimes-corrupt gambling that is associated with dog racing. I also found a number of articles highly critical of dog racing (especially racing done commercially). There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding commercial dog racing, and some animal-rights organizations have labeled racing cruel to these animals.

The people I met at this event, and the dogs I met and befriended, are – quite obviously – not engaged in dog racing for gambling. Their dogs are healthy, happy, and are treated kindly by their humans. I don’t know any more about dog racing than I have learned by photographing this event and meeting its organizers. What I learned impressed me. These are nice people having fun with dogs that seem to really enjoy what they do.

An addendum April 12, 2024

I was invited to return to see the dogs run this past weekend. I decided to take what I had learned and do it again. The only differences were that I chose a different lens for this event. In the photos above, I was using my 100-500mm Canon RF lens. For this session I chose my 24-100 Canon RF lens. I figured 100 mm is 100 mm, right? I think that the smaller lens is not quite as sharp, and not quite as quick to focus as the bigger lens. I can see very slight differences between the photos. I also increased the ISO one stop and in return got another stop of aperture (and depth-of-field). The photos below were all taken as 1/8000 sec. f 10.0 ISO 3200. I used the shutter speed priority function on the camera so that the speed would be favored for each photo.

ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
ISO 3200, 1/8000 sec. f10.0
This is the battery-powered electric motor used to pull the lure along the ground. It is comprised of a Ford starter motor, a solenoid, and a battery. The reel, right, winds up the string when the operator pushes a button.
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I wasn’t asking the right questions
about Mini DisplayPort connections

I finally reached the point where my Mac Pro cylinder computer would no longer work for me.

I bought it new 10 years ago, then modified it about five years later to expand its internal working memory. When I bought it, there was a 1 TB SSD card in the machine; when I tried to update to Mac OS Catalina, that required more, so I took out the 1 TB board, and replaced it with an Intel 2TB card called NvE memory.

It has served me well.

This is my Mac Pro cylinder (Late 2013 edition). Shown are the input/output ports, including six Thunderbolt 3 ports that I used to connect three external hard drives, two high-resolution displays, and a FireWire hub through an adapter. The new Mac Studio has Thunderbolt 4 receptacles (that are the same size as USB-C receptacles) on the back and two more on the front.

I became aware of that computer’s limitations recently when I could no longer update the operating system. I encountered this problem when Apple switched from Motorola PowerPC chips to Intel, and this time from Intel to Apple Silicon. I held on as long as I could, but was finally forced to make the switch when I could no longer access my bank’s online banking system – they no longer support older browsers, and since the browser is tied to the operating system, I realized that I was stuck. I also could not run the latest Adobe applications or the Topaz applications I use in photography.

This was my original configuration. The challenge was getting the two high-resolution displays to work with the new Mac Studio computer through Thunderbolt or USB-C. Ultimately it was USB-C that worked, with adapters.
Click on the image to see an enlarged view.

I had put it off for quite a while, then finally decided to buy a new Mac Studio computer. I went online and put in the order on the Apple web site. It gave me the option of having it delivered the next day for $8.00. I declined, choosing instead to receive the machine in two days. It arrived the next day anyway. Cha-ching! I saved $8.00!

The machine is an M1 Ultra Mac Studio with 64 GB of memory and 2 TB of System SSD memory. It has a 20-core CPU and a 48-core GPU. It supports the simultaneous streaming of eight 4K video streams and much more. I don’t need to stream multiple video streams, so I’m in good shape.

This is my new Mac Studio computer. It’s a powerful, speedy, and relatively small device. Best of all, it connected successfully to all of my peripherals – external drives, and two Mini DisplayPort displays without much trouble.
I took this photo with a tabletop product photo set-up using my iPhone 14 and its 2x lens.

It’s very fast. I noticed this the first time when I exported a handful of DNG photos from the Photos application to a desktop folder. This usually takes several minutes. When I took my finger off the mouse (a new mouse!), the machine made its click sound indicating the completion of a task. I thought something had gone wrong, so I looked in the folder, and lo! all the exported files were there. I’m sure I’ll be pleased by the speed of this machine as I use it more.

When I ordered the new machine I expected the migration of my old data to be an issue (it always has been!). I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a problem this time. Copying all of my existing files from the Mac Pro to the Studio took less than an hour, and nothing was missed. I used an Ethernet cable connected between the two devices to make it happen as quickly as possible.

My three big hard drives connected without difficulty. I have two RAID drives that use the older Thunderbolt cables. I bought a Thunderbolt adapter from Apple and plugged it in-line, and all the drives were online.

Then things got a bit more complicated. I have two displays: one is an older Apple 24-inch LED display, which has served me well for many years. My second display is a gorgeous Eizo 27-inch screen. That display uses Mini DisplayPort to connect to the computer. On the Mac Pro, there were six Thunderbolt/DisplayPort receptacles. On the new machine there are none.

I connected the Eizo to the new Studio with an HDMI cable, which allowed it to work, but limited its resolution to 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is a 4K display, so it should be able to support much higher resolution. I was stuck with one working display, and that one didn’t support the resolution at which I have run it for years.

I contacted Apple Support first by searching for Mini DisplayPort to Thunderbolt, then a variety of other search terms. All resulted in no information. Could I be the first person in history with this connection problem?

I then contacted Apple Support on the telephone, and was handed-off to a specialist who came up empty, except to recommend Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter ($50). I ordered two of them and they arrived quickly. But, on the back of the box it very clearly indicates that this adapter will not work with Mini DisplayPort.

On the back of the Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter from Apple it shows that it is compatible with the Thunderbolt Display, but not compatible withe the Apple Cinema Display (my display), Mini DisplayPort (my Eizo display) and DisplayPort. I didn’t open the box, and will attempt to return the two adapters I purchased.

So I called Other World Computing, the go-to company for all things Mac and storage. In the past I have enjoyed their skillful tech support, and I have purchased numerous external drives and other accessories from them. After a few minutes on the phone I realized that I had stumped their support guy. He also came up with the Apple Thunderbolt adapter. I pointed out that I was holding one, and it indicated that it will not work with Mini DisplayPort.

Hmmm.

One option was the purchase a dock from OWC. Last year I bought one of those for my wife’s new Mac Mini computer with a Mini DisplayPort display (also an Apple 24-inch LED display). That works great, but I have two Mini DisplayPort displays, and I couldn’t find a dock with two receptacles for these. Perhaps I could buy two docks?

The challenge of connecting two Mini DisplayPort displays to my new computer was starting to affect my sleep. I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I could purchase a new Eizo display, or two, those now using USB-C plugs to connect to more modern computers.

Then it hit me: if those use USB-C plugs, then it might be possible to get a Mini DisplayPort-to-USB-C adapter. I looked on Amazon and found about nine million of these. I ordered two that seemed to fit the bill. They advertise connectivity between MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and several other computers to Mini DisplayPort. They do not specifically indicate that they will work on the Mac Studio (but they do!).

This is a diagram of my new Mac Studio computer with all peripherals connected. I found adapters on Amazon (shown in red, above) that allow me to connect the older Mini DisplayPort cables from those displays to connect to the Thunderbolt 4/USB-C receptacles on the Mac Studio. With these I am able to use both displays at their full resolutions. An HDMI cable connection would not allow that, limiting me to 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution on one display. The other display was inoperable; it required the adapter to work.
Click on the image to see an enlarged view.

I ordered two of them. And then I waited two days for them to arrive. Today they arrived; I rushed to the back porch to get my package, quickly opened it and dashed upstairs to my desk. I opened the connectors, plugged them into the Mini DisplayPort cables from the two displays, then plugged those into the Thunderbolt/USB-C receptacles on the back of the Mac Studio, and I woke the machine up. They worked immediately!

Now I have two very high resolution displays just as I had on my older Mac Pro. Total cost of the adapters: $32.00.

My problem was that I wasn’t asking the right question… I was asking if Mini DisplayPort would plug in to Thunderbolt. I should have been asking if Mini DisplayPort would plug in to USB-C. The answer is absolutely yes! Emphatically yes! Ya sure. You betcha!

Connecting a Mini DisplayPort display to a Mac Studio computer using USB-C adapters.
This is the adapter I bought for the connections. There are numerous brands available on Amazon. I chose the Jasput brand because theirs had the best documentation in the Amazon store, showing their adapter connected to various Mac computers and various displays. They also showed which displays were not compatible. Fortunately mine were both compatible.
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Turning my new lathe into a really nice lathe

My plan was to write about some graphic arts subjects. I attended two terrific events related to printing recently, and I will write about my experiences – soon.

But instead, I want to write about my new lathe.

This is my new Delta “midi” lathe, complete with a new digital tachometer.

I have had a woodworking lathe for decades. It is a Sears & Roebuck machine built in 1953. I managed to put a small 1/3 HP motor on it, and I built a nice table for it back in the early 1990s. I took the lathe to a powder coating company and had them apply a blue coating on the machine. It’s really beautiful.

Somewhere along the line someone installed a three-jaw chuck to the lathe. This obviously came from a metal-working lathe. The problem is that they drilled it to the correct spindle size, and threaded it for the spindle a little bit off-center. So, for the past 30 years I have been troubled by a wobbly chuck, which made the lathe almost unusable. It is just awful.

Why I didn’t replace the lathe – or the chuck – in the interim, I cannot tell you. I just didn’t.

…until a month ago when I was invited to attend the Central Coast Woodturners club meeting. This coincided with the annular eclipse of the sun. We stood in the parking lot and admired a projection of the eclipse on a large sheet of paper. It was a pinhole and neutral-density filter combination that made this possible. This was a fanatic way to see the eclipse.

During the meeting, the president of the club announced that someone had donated a Delta lathe to the club, and the club wanted to sell it. The deal included an extended bed and a set of lathe tools, unused. I asked how much the club wanted, and after a vote, I was allowed to buy the whole thing for $300. I convinced a man in the club to deliver it to my house!

I took the lathe to my shop, removed the old lathe from its table, and attempted to put the new one on the same table only to discover that the new lathe is about 6 inches longer. That meant that I had to take the top off the table and put it in the wood stretcher! I built two wings of the same thickness as the original table, then affixed them with wood biscuits to the existing table, adding 10 inches to the table top. A bit of routing and some paint made it look OK.

I also decided that the new lathe would be too high to operate comfortably, so I shortened the table legs by three inches. Fortunately I had made the table with carriage bolts, and it came apart easily, then went back together just as easily.

The lathe had sat somewhere for quite a while, and when I attempted to put the drive belt onto one of the pulleys, it disintegrated. I ordered a new belt on Amazon.

This is the new control box for the lathe, with the power switch on top and the digital tachometer below. One digit is missing in this photo, a product of shutter speed and the refresh rate of the tachometer display not agreeing.

While waiting for that to be delivered, I decided to add an electronic tachometer to the machine so its speed would be indicated clearly (it has a fixed-speed motor with stepped pulleys). I have an ulterior motive also: I intend to replace the motor with a variable-speed motor someday. Having the tachometer on the machine will eventually be more valuable to me.

I ordered an electronic tachometer from Amazon, one that came with a Hall Effect sensor and a magnet. That arrived a couple of days later. I also ordered a plastic box to put the tachometer and power switch and wiring in. I studied the details of the sensor, placing it in various locations on the lathe, but it was too long. I simply couldn’t find a place where I could squeeze it that would be near the spindle pulley. So, I returned to the Amazon application and found a different Hall Effect sensor that is only three millimeters thick. I ordered that.

Meanwhile, I machined the plastic box to hold the components and made a terrible mistake cutting it on the CNC machine. I ruined it, so I ordered another one.

I also had to embed a fixed magnet into the pulley edge in a position where it would pass the sensor at 13mm distance. The pulley is cast aluminum, very light, but it does have enough body on the outermost ring to support a small magnet. To do this, I made a wooden contraption with a negative of the pulley machined into it, landing the pulley flush with the top of the jig for machining. Then I cut a shallow recess the size of the magnet in the rim of the pulley. The magnet is only a few grams, making its weight not much more than the aluminum I removed, so the net weight of the pulley is almost the same.

This is the Hall effect sensor I bought to sense rotational speed. It is a Hamlin sensor, capable of detecting the passing of a small magnet about 13 mm away (embedded in the drive pulley on the lathe). You can see the wiring pushed into the recesses of the casting to keep it away from the pulley and belt.

I couldn’t affix the magnet until I received the Hall Effect sensor because that sensor is triggered only by the south pole of the magnet, and I had no idea which side that was. I waited until the whole circuit was wired and running before rubbing the magnet against the sensor on each side to determine its polarity. Once that was determined, I put the magnet permanently into the pulley with epoxy.

Here, the pulley is mounted in a wooden jig I made to do the machining. I machined a tiny recess in the outer ring of the pulley to accommodate the magnet – shown here. I had to determine the polarity of the magnet before setting it in epoxy on the edge of the pulley.

Wiring was moderately difficult because I had to run the wires where they would not interfere with the pulley, drive shaft and drive belt. I managed to squeeze the wiring into recesses in the casting to accomplish that, with the wire leaving the back of the machine through a waterproof fitting. From there, it goes only a few inches to the control box.

Hall Effect sensors are very clever. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and their basic function is to respond to a nearby magnetic field. When a magnet moves past the sensor, a reference trace in the circuit is affected by the magnetic field. That signal is amplified by a transistor, and sent to the tachometer, where it is “counted.” It is the counting of magnetic actuations per minute that is displayed on the tachometer.

This is my drawing of the control box and the wiring of the lathe motor and the digital tachometer. Click to see a larger image.

The sensor I found is called a Hamlin 55100. I measured the position of the pulley inside the lathe body, and marked its radius with a Sharpie. Then I mixed a glob of epoxy, and affixed the sensor to a spot that is exactly right to sense the passing magnet.

I wired both the lathe motor (110VAC) and the tachometer (9VDC) on the same switch (on opposite sides), so flipping the power switch activates both devices simultaneously. The tachometer circuit is powered by a 9 volt battery mounted in a box on the back of the lathe. I ran all the wires to the control box and connected them according to standards for their voltages.

Now I have a working lathe with a digital tachometer. It’s ironic that the speed must be changed by moving the V-belt, but someday when I put a variable-speed motor on the machine, that tachometer will be more useful.

(And, it was a fun project!)

Addendum May 23, 2024

I decided to make the conversion complete! I bought a DC motor conversion kit from Penn State Industries, and installed the new motor on my lathe. This makes it possible to change the speed from zero to 1,000 rpm without changing the drive belt.

This is the new DC motor mounted on the lathe.

The kit comes with the new motor (more powerful than the one it is replacing), the speed controller box, and a template for drilling the mounting holes on the motor mount. I made a wooden template on the CNC machine, then used that to drill the holes in the existing motor mount. Minutes later the motor was in the machine and almost ready to go.

To finish, I had to remove the AC wiring from my original control box (shown at the top of this post) and install the new AC wiring where it was. Then I mounted the new speed control box to the left of my tachometer/power box, and turned it on. And it worked. But it was turning the wrong direction! I called the engineer at Penn State, who explained to me how to change the motor’s direction, and I got it going the correct way.

This shows the completed controls. The speed and motor control are on the left, while the tachometer power is on the right. The tachometer shows the speed of the spindle, as measured by the Hall-effect sensor described above. I’m very pleased with the final modification of the machine.

The engineer also told me how to set the low and high speeds on the circuit board inside the controller box, which I did. This makes it possible to get a tremendous range of speeds without ever changing the drive belt’s position on the pulleys.

Now the new lathe is complete!

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Completing my transition to mirrorless cameras

I take thousands of photos: birds, kayaking adventures, landscapes, panoramas, travel photos, and classical music. Lots of classical music.

For 13 years I have been the staff photographer for Festival Mozaic, an international music festival held here in San Luis Obispo, California. The event is now in its 53rd year.

In those years as the festival’s photographer, I have been shooting with various Canon cameras and lenses. My first was a Canon EOS 1D Mark III, followed by an EOS 5D Mark III, followed by a mirrorless EOS R, and recently by a mirrorless EOS R5. In the middle I also used a Canon G4 (also mirrorless) with an adapter that allowed me to use my full size lenses on it. When I bought the R, I bought an adapter to use the full-size lenses with that new type of camera. Canon made it easy; their $100 adapter allows all the previous model lenses to be affixed to the new cameras with full electronic control.

Conductor Scott Yoo’s hands. This photo, taken in July, 2013, was made with a Canon 400mm f2.8 prime lens. I used to rent this lens for ten days each summer during the Festival Mozaic events. It is an extraordinary lens, but it’s big and quite heavy.

The greatest draw of the mirrorless camera for me is its silent shutter. Not having the clip-clop of an SLR’s mirror/shutter makes it possible for me to be in the audience, taking photos without a soul even knowing that I am there. My camera makes no sound at all, and that is the amount of sound that is tolerable in the pianissimo parts of a concerto.

Scott Yoo plays the lead violin in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (while simultaneously conducting the piece) in July, 2013. This photo was also taken with the rented Canon 400mm f2.8 prime lens.

All of my existing lenses work fine on the mirrorless cameras with the adapter. That’s a good thing because I have acquired numerous lenses over the years, with a wide range of focal lengths:

8-15 mm fisheye
16-35 mm wide angle zoom
28-300 mm wide/telephoto zoom
100-400 mm telephoto zoom
100 mm macro prime

…and a telextender, a 2X model, that makes it possible to use the 100-400 as a 200-800mm lens.

This is a photo of Jonah Kim, the 2022-23 Artist In Residence of Festival Mozaic. He was accompanied by ballet dancers at Cuesta College Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo. This photo was made with the Canon R camera and the older Canon 100-400 telephoto zoom lens.

A year or so ago I had to trash the 28-300 mm lens because something came loose inside it, and I couldn’t afford to have it repaired – or more correctly, I didn’t want to pay $900 to repair it. I put it in e-waste.

This is a photo taken in July, 2023 with the Canon R5 and the 100-500mm lens. I have outlined an area from which I took a section of the photo as a separate still image. The resolution of the original is 8192 x 5464. The resolution of the cropped section is 1872 x 1454 pixels, adequate for a graphic arts quality image at about 6 inches wide. The players are Alice Dade, flute, Scott Yoo, violin, Jessica Chang, viola, and Ani Aznavoorian, cello.

Earlier this year I bought my first RF lens for the mirrorless cameras. It is a 24-105mm zoom. This filled a gap that I had created by junking the 28-300. It was curious that this lens suddenly became my lens of choice when shooting journalistic photos. Previously, I would have preferred my 16-35mm lens.

This is the cropped image. It is a perfectly acceptable photo in its own right. Mr. Yoo is playing a Stradivarius violin in this photo.

I had normalized my lens collection. Then, in May, I attended the annual Summit of the North American Nature Photography Association in Tucson, Arizona. While there, I borrowed a Canon RF 100-500mm zoom lens from the Canon booth in the trade show. They let me have it for a day, and I enjoyed it – a lot. So I returned it the following day, then walked over to the B&H booth and bought one!

I think it’s the perfect classical music lens. It’s longer than my existing 100-400, and it is visibly sharper. I have read that the new RF lenses are sharper than their predecessors, and I expect this to be true if only because they are newer, taking advantage of improvements in lens design, lens materials and lens manufacture. Also, the final elements in these new lenses are closer to the sensor than the previous models, thus the post-diffraction component of the image is not traveling so far to reach its destination.

Alice K. Dade plays the flute in Mozart’s Flute Concerto at the 2023 Festival Mozaic Notable Encounter at Cuesta College Performing Arts Center. Ms. Dade was the featured artist of the weekend, with several pieces chosen that feature the flute. She is a professor of music at the University of Missouri, with a stunning résumé of flute performances worldwide. This photo was made with the Canon R5 and the 100-500 mm lens at 500 mm.

So far, having taken a few thousand images with the 100-500 lens, I am very impressed with the images. I also like its ability to focus faster and more accurately than its predecessor. This is a terrific lens.

Canon makes an RF telextender, which will work on this lens (though it has a limitation on the short end of its focal length). So far I have not needed that device, though I have had momentary thoughts about it – I wonder if the telextender would help right now? I let those thoughts pass and continued shooting with the unmodified lens.

I think that the accompanying images will show how nice a lens this is. I am excited that I can now shoot at 500mm without an adapter, and also excited that the high resolution sensor on the R5 camera allows me to shoot then crop usable images out of the larger photos captured by this camera. Those images are significantly larger than the previous cameras provided.

All told, I’m a very happy photographer with my mirrorless Canon cameras and my new RF lenses, built to work perfectly with those cameras.

I am also honored to be the photographer of these wonderful performances. It’s a lot of work, and the rewards are endless!

Addendum June 9, 2024

I added one more lens to the collection this week. I found a used, but immaculate 15-35 mm RF zoom on eBay this week, and I bought it. It came without a box or warranty card, but is in perfect condition. I am impressed by the feel of this fine lens.

With this, I can now put all but one of my Canon EF lenses away (the 8-15 fisheye zoom is the one I can’t replace yet). I am looking forward to shooting with this marvelous lens.

Photo from the Canon web site; thank you!
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Thank you to my readers!

The Blognosticator will reach 450,000 all-time readers tonight. That’s pretty cool.

I started writing this blog on July 26, 2011, after writing for a while on WhatTheyThink.com and for several years in Graphic Arts Monthly before that. Since “going private” I have had these 450,000, about 85 percent of whom are unique readers, which isn’t so great. But having 15 percent of my readers as repeat visitors makes me proud.

I have written 321 posts, and have received 624 comments. My greatest number of readers in one day was 856, my smallest was 12. My primary audience is in the USA, followed by England, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, India and the Netherlands.

I have had one reader from Palau.

On the dark side, I have had 786,805 attempts to post spam in my comments. Spammers try to use blogs to advertise products and other things spammy. To prevent these from getting into my blog posts, I pay Akismet to monitor my site and filter out the spam, which they do exceptionally well.

Akismet has also blocked 155,415 malicious attacks on the site. These are attempts to post malware on the site, and in comments. I am especially grateful for the filtering done there.

So to my reader in Palau, and my 65,000 repeat readers, and to those who only drop in once and don’t return: Thank you! It’s a pleasure to know that you appreciate the effort I make to keep the Blognosticator relevant and to provide information that is valuable to you.

Please keep returning! I have some new stories in the works. Next week I’m traveling to Texas to visit two more Landa press installations. I look forward to seeing those machines in operation, and to writing about it here. And, next month I am attending PRINT United in Atlanta, where I will see the latest printing technologies, and bring back morsels for the Blognosticator.

I will not be building any more trailers.

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Musings on pinhole photography

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that last week I returned from the 2023 Burning Man festival in northern Nevada. It was a terrific event, full of excitement and artistic energy – until it rained. Then it became a less than wonderful mud bog. We managed; we survived; we will return next year and try again.

My camp is called the Pinhole Project. Our artistic endeavor is to document the art installations at Burning Man using large pinhole cameras on photographic paper. For this we have 10 55-gallon Kraft paper barrels, each with metal plates glued inside, and each with a precision-cut pinhole aperture in a sheet of aluminum that is cemented into the side of the barrel. On top of each pinhole is a “shutter” made out of gaffer’s tape.

We insert a large sheet of photo paper into each barrel in our darkroom – built inside a 20-foot container cargo box – and hold that paper in position with magnets. We then put a steel lid on each barrel, making the entire thing light-tight. Once loaded with photo paper, the cameras are ready for the field.

Every morning we hold a public workshop in our gallery. Interested people show up, sometimes in surprising numbers. We explain how the cameras work, how we develop the photos, and how we re-photograph each finished photo for our digital archive. At the end of the workshop, we invite those present to join us on the Playa to make new photographic images. We have a big pick-up truck for transporting the cameras.

The photographic paper we use is made by Foma in the Czech Republic. It’s designed for use under an enlarger in a darkroom, so the ISO is not published. But we have a Weston Master V light meter and we have used it to estimate the paper’s ISO at about 0.3. This requires a long exposure in the bright sunlight of the Black Rock desert. Our typical exposure time is about 45 seconds.

This is my No Dancing pinhole photo. These photos are negative and reversed. Once they are dry we re-photograph them for our digital archive. There, we invert the image and flip it so that it appears normal.

If people will be the subject of a pinhole photo, those people must stand still for 45 seconds –which is very difficult. We do our best, and the results are very impressive.

One day I took the group out onto the Playa to make photos. I had an idea I wanted to explore. There was a huge sign erected on the Playa saying “NO DANCING” – and I decided to take a large pinhole photo of a bunch of people dancing in front of that sign. It was a simple photo to organize, moving people into place, moving the camera to the right spot. We use wooden camera supports that look like medieval torture devices; each is a plywood piece with teeth on each side. There are two level edges for each tooth so that the large barrels can be placed in a number of positions on the support. We often add a bungee cord to stabilize the camera in wind.

The No Dancing photo turned out very nicely, and I am very proud of it.

This is the inverted, reversed and tonally adjusted version of the No Dancing photo.

A couple of days later I went back out on the Playa with a friend and we took three more large pinhole photos. Mine was a horizontal portrait of three inflated spheres of the Earth, the Moon and Mars that were on the edge of the Playa. These works were exceptional. They were printed on Mercator sections of fabric, then sewn into complete spheres. Illuminated at night, they were a spectacular sight.

I set up the camera and took a one-minute exposure –it was slightly overcast. Then we moved on to take a couple of other images.

My very capable camp mate Blanka Hodur is directing the dancers for the No Dancing pinhole photo.The camera is standing on one of our wooden camera stands.

Back in the darkroom, we processed all that day’s images, and mine looked very nice. But Mars had an egg shape, a significant distortion of its otherwise spherical shape. I knew this had not been caused by wind, so I assumed it was a camera distortion. Occasionally we have a sheet of photo paper fall inside the barrel when a magnet isn’t placed correctly. This usually causes blockage of part of the image, but it doesn’t cause distortion.

This is the digital version of the Earth, Moon and Mars photo. Note the egg-shaped distortion of the sphere on the left. This confused me. You can see similar, though not as extreme, distortion on the Earth sphere.

I needed to understand why this distortion was there.

I have drawn two pinhole cameras here: one is the camera we use at Burning Man. It’s a Kraft paper 55-gallon drum with its pinhole aperture on one wall of the camera. The other is an idealized pinhole camera that has its aperture at an optical center that is equidistant from all points of the photo material.

This is the pinhole camera we currently use. The distance A is the center; the distance 30° off of center travels just 84 percent as far, and the light at the edges of the photo travels only 47 percent as far. This, I think, explains the distortion I am getting in the spheres photo.

The current camera is far from ideal in terms of its optical path. Light coming in on the edges travels slightly less than half the distance that light travels in the center of the image. I am pretty sure this explains the distortion. The light along the outer edges of the image is traveling much less than the light in the center, and thus, it is being distorted along one axis. The other axis is affected similarly, but to a lesser degree because it’s a smaller difference between the center and the edges of the photo paper.

This is my idealized pinhole camera. All light entering the camera through the aperture travels the same distance to the photo material, shown by the lines labeled A. This, I believe, would eliminate the distortion. I’m not sure I want to eliminate the distortion, but I might build one to test it. Because the circumference of the curve is smaller, compared to our existing cameras, the photos would also have a different aspect ratio, and the width would be smaller.

The idealized pinhole camera would be pretty easy to make and test. I might try it by inserting a modified film plane into a barrel to normalize the distance that the light travels after it enters the camera through the aperture. With that I am quite sure that optical distortion would be eliminated on the circumferential axis.

I’ll keep you posted!

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