Batching It.

Like many of us. Matthias spent a lot of time robotically swapping disks in and out of his CD burner, ripping music, and doing backups. Then he thought he could rig up something to perform the tasks for him. He was right. By pulling together some electronics design, mechanics, coding, and woodworking. Matthias built a Linux PC-controlled contraption that rips through stacks of CDs.

A hinged wooden finger opens and closes via solenoid, conveying the CDs by grabbing and releasing them by their center holes. Motorized pulleys move the grabber. This CD transport mechanism is run by an external controller board full of solid-state relays, retired lab equipment that Matthias bought at a University of Waterloo surplus sale. The relays act as a bridge between the Linux machine and the mechanicals, translating digital commands from the computer’s printer port into motor-capable voltages.

C D burner functions are done with the standard Linux utility CD record. By making calls to CD record and his own C routines. Matthias can load. rip. and stack CDs from the command line and run batch jobs by calling a simple shell script. In other words, the whole thing works. But now. after having proven the concept, he’s partially dismantled the contraption. He wants to use those solid-state relays for some other projects he’s been thinking about. Paul Spinrad

Talk about cheap transportation — how about a jet engine made from a couple of commuter coffee mugs and a sink strainer? Amateur designer Larry C. welded the parts together after realizing that the cups’ graceful I lines form the perfect shape for what’s known as a “ramjet.» a jet engine that uses moving air to compress volatile gases.

This Starbucks inspired idea could be space- aged or simply spaced-out but Cottrill plans to test his creation this summer. Meanwhile, the Iowa-based inventor has earned serious creed for his designs on an online forum for exotic engines. It’s a site populated by hobbyists looking for alternatives to expensive turbine engines currently available for model airplanes.

A prolific designer of mongrel flyers. Control recently wowed the online forums with a blueprint for a“focused-wave valveless pulse jet.»The basic design has been around since World War 11. Control’s setup makes strides in the affordability of materials, simplicity of design, and the thrust of the engine. It was successfully constructed in 2004 by hobbyists in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and by Control himself, who says the sound was so loud he needed a set of plastic ear muffs over his foam ear plugs. “There’s really nothing like a pulse jet. It roars much louder than a diesel train whistle: it’s unbelievable.» Bob Parks

Lego Type. In the days before digital type, fonts were often distributed on two-inch film reels for use with phototype setting machines like the VGC Photo-Typositor. Mark S., a Twin Cities-based type designer, is working to convert some of the film fonts done by prolific type designer Phil Martin to digital formats.

A flatbed scanner and standard film-strip holder were employed in the digitizing process, but Simonson needed a spooling mechanism to keep the film from flopping about and getting scratched. To solve the problem, he raided the family toy chest and built two spooling towers on either side of his scanner out of Legos, one for doling out film and the other for uptake.

The bulk of the towers was constructed out of a rain bowed assemblage of regular Lego pieces while the hand-crank reels were comprised of vintage Lego Technics gears and axles. Simonson scanned the film letter by letter, turning the Technics gear to advance the film to the next frame. The longtime

Lego fan even devised a clever Lego locking arm— it flopped down into the teeth of the gear when needed — to keep the film in tension while it was being scanned or cranked.

His makeshift Photo-Typositor got the job done, but Simonson speculated about automating the film-scanning process. “If I had the Lego Mind- storms system, which allows you to add motors, light sensors, etc.. I could control the whole thing from my computer.» Simonson’s digital versions of Martin’s Fotura and Bagatelle fonts should be out sometime early next year. Jason K.

If simplicity is the heart of elegance, then this one wheeled motorized scooter far-out gleams its two wheeled cousins. Trevor B. self-built Eunicycle weighs in at less than 30 pounds, but can traverse a variety of surfaces — roads, sidewalks, and even grassy fields.

The Eunicycle self-balances by way of a feedback loop between a gyroscope and a motor perched just above its one wheel. When you tilt forward or backward, the wheel does too as it attempts to remain under the center of gravity.

Build it for about $1,500 in parts, including a microcontroller board, gyroscope, accelerometer, and other components. Perhaps the most important of these is a kill switch, allowing you to shut off the motor at the flick of a button. The maximum recommended speed of 12 miles an hour may not sound like the NASCAR definition of hauling ass. but when you’re flailing through space on a single, motor- driven wheel — gravity isn’t necessarily your friend. X. Jardin

Some people are just better prepared for an ’80s revival. Patrick Webb has created a custom jukebox that screams garish authenticity and blasts out more than 700 of his favorites — including Poison. Motley Crue. and Bon Jovi.

The 38-year-old database manager started with the idea of having a digital repository for his CDs. He fastened together sheets of fiber board and hauled a Pentium 133-Mhz computer and 15-inch monitor from the basement. Getting the PC to mimic a jukebox was easy, thanks to the well-known MAME software, or Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

The cabinet runs a free app called Arcade Jukebox 8. along with a dozen or so classic ’80s games. He saw a photo of an old jukebox with what looked like tail lights, and bought a taxi light from a commercial fleet supplier, adding a coin-op device. “There’s something funny about our teenager’s friends coming over to stick quarters into it. but it makes that great ‘clink!’ sound.» Bob Parks

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