Dan's Data letters #139Publication date: 19-Jan-2005.
Last modified 28-Apr-2012.
Dan, you wicked little boy!
You LURED me to ForceField, then, when I was most excited and my neurons were almost ready to burst forth into synaptic shock with inventive behavior, I fell into the miasma (not ferrofluid, mind you, but the real thing) of their "Out of Stock" well.
You can imagine my chagrin...but you'd need another LED in your FrontaLED Trekker to do so. Why, you may ask? (You did ask, right?)
When I was 11 my mother brought home an old EKG that was being discarded at the hospital lab where she worked. She said I could take it apart and keep all the pieces, she just wanted the two wooden boxes that it came in to store her art supplies. I got some great dials and switches, even a microswitch, but best of all was a huge (3" x 5.5") shell magnet that weighs over 5 pounds (6.75 lbs if you count the BBs that it now contains). There was also a slick lens system (from which I made a tiny microscope), which intriguingly enough, used to pass light through the bipolar holes in the magnet.
Then I made a small crystal radio (with earplug and tuner), from scratch, using a dial telephone finger-stopper as an antenna. At fifteen, I made my first speaker (from a beer can, refrigerator magnets and speaker wire... ha ha, you may think, but true!), and then built and modified a Radio Shack voice-activated relay so that it would turn on my 12 volt 8-track player, which was connected via inverter and RCA cables to a coffee-table stereo amplifier (standing on its end by my closet next to the Playboy pinups). And an infrared transceiver (from a kit, that one).
Then, in college as a Cognitive Psychology major doing research into hemispherical differences and evoked potentials, I used to hook people up to EEGs, send tachistoscopic slides (which I also made... manually) to one or the other lobes of their cerebral cortex, then amplified, plotted, routed and digitized their decision-making process on a DEC PDP-8 lab computer. Then measured (again, manually), the amplitude and latency of their (inverted) evoked potentials before punching and reading their cards into a SAS analyzer. Then...
You don't deserve a further explanation as to why I blew a wad (over $US100, which is still a wad in my book) last night on magnets at ForceField, EVEN THOUGH they were out of Featured Items (Grab Bag, ferrofluid, and magnetic viewing film), which is why I went there in the first place. To add further to my disappointment, their "Needful Things" link did NOT take me to their backorder page as I'd hoped, so for all I know they will NEVER replenish their stock from the gnomes who mine these rare earths and related magic.
Please keep me posted if you find any of the above available at a reasonable price. I did find (and buy) a small ferrofluid kit at Emovendo, but had dreams of so much more...)
You can turn, of course, to eBay in the meantime. Coincidentally, when I received Steve's e-mail I was looking at Emovendo's eBay store, because I'd just taken delivery of my 1005-gram tungsten cylinder from RGBco today (now everything else I own feels as if it's made out of balsa wood). I went through RGBco's eBay feedback to find everybody that they'd ever bought something from, which unsurprisingly includes Emovendo. Small world, et cetera.
There are lots of other surplus NIB magnet vendors on eBay, though. If you don't care about getting mere N38 material instead of N40 or higher, you can get large quantities of little magnets at "grab bag" prices from various vendors. It's usually one batch of little cubes, one batch of little cylinders, et cetera, but it's not hard to find bargains, especially on the kind of small magnets that you can safely hand to drunks at your parties.
There's also Engineered Concepts, as featured here, and Amazing Magnets, as featured here. Plus various other Web dealers who haven't been decent enough to send me stuff for free. This place, for instance, has small pieces of viewing film cheap.
My husband just told me of your site after I read him the description of a computer "game" I saw online. He thought that it would be perfect to tell you about because you enjoy finding scams and such for silly products. It is called "Journey to Wild Divine" and well, I can't really explain it any better than they do on their site, so here it is.
We about died of laughter, and gasped at the price. Please let us know what you think of this one. If nothing else, it will give you a good laugh.
Yep, it's real. It's basically a Myst-y sort of game, but with the added gimmick of (very) basic biofeedback gadgets, which account for its high price (well, along with some remarkably sumptuous packaging, apparently).
If you want to fiddle around with biofeedback, adding game elements to it isn't a bad idea; there've been lots of computerised biofeedback arrangements over the years, whose basic purpose seems to be to help the user stay awake.
Here's a little capsule review of the game.
Or get one of these
I'm looking at buying a small MP3 player to record a lecturer's voice with, because he's a damn fast talker and I'm sick of photocopying from one of the three students who can keep up with him (the others can't). A small (and relatively cheap) MP3 player would be well suited to the task!
The secret, here, is an external microphone. Pretty much anything that can accept an external mic - which can just be some cheapo unit, as long as it's at least mildly directional - should be able to do the job well. The omnidirectional mics in various little "thumb drive" MP3 players work surprisingly well, but I wouldn't bet my life on them cutting it for lecture theatre use. A cheap cardioid mic aimed at the speaker will reject ambient chatter much better; a stereo mic may also help make single speakers intelligible.
Lots of little MP3 players have a line in connector, but they won't work with an ordinary microphone unless they've got a dedicated "mic in" socket as well, or their line in is switchable to accept the low signal level of a mic. There are a few battery powered microphones with integrated pre-amps that deliver line level output (electret microphones need a battery, but they only deliver a mic level signal), and there are also little battery powered mic pre-amps that don't cost very much. But they'll make you look as if you're bootlegging a concert, not recording a lecture.
IRiver's iFP700-series MP3 players have a switchable line/mic input. I ran out of searching energy before I found any other players that did. Maybe the cheaper iFP300 players do too.
Alternatively, you could get a dedicated digital voice recorder, because:
1: It'll pretty much definitely have a mic in socket, and may have a better built in mic - possibly stereo.
2: It'll have a better user interface. Some little MP3 players make it pretty easy to start and stop voice recording, and to review clips afterwards; some make you delve through menus. A dedicated recorder should make start-pause-stop-scan operations dead simple, because that's all it does (it should have a tinny little speaker, too, so you won't need headphones).
3: You'll be able to record a lecture while you listen to a separate cheap mic-input-less cooler looking MP3 player, possibly somewhere completely different.
The down side is that digital voice recorders generally cost a bit more than your average Taiwanese mini MP3 player. If you're really short of cash you can just buy an old-style microcassette recorder, but that won't let you dump recordings straight to your PC (mind you, many digital recorders have no PC connectivity either, beyond the boring old hook-up-to-the-line-in-socket-on-the-sound-card technique).
I'm not an authority on the state of the art in dedicated voice recorders, but if you're looking for a starting point, an Olympus VN-240PC looks as if it might suit you nicely. It sells here in Australia for around $AU190, which is a bit of a rip, since the US price is more like $US60.
Olympus also have a combination MP3 player and voice recorder, the DM-20, which looks like pretty much exactly the one-unit solution you're looking for. It's more expensive, though; various US dealers have it for $US250 or less ($US200-odd ex shipping on eBay). That ought to add up to a landed Australian price of something like $AU450, tops; maybe $325 landed at the cheapest (there's an older model, the DM-10, that'll cost you $US150 or so if you can find one). Regrettably, Australian dealers seem not have gotten an important memo here, since the going rate from Aussie Web stores for the DM-20 seems to be $AU650-odd. Harris Technology want more than $AU850 for it. The DM-20 also doesn't have insert recording - the ability to insert new material within existing clips, to (for instance) overwrite the end of a clip where you got interrupted. This doesn't matter for lecture recording, but a notetaker this expensive ought to have this feature.
Here's a fairly recent piece on this subject.
It claims that you can go from cold to soldering hot to cold again in seconds! For example, you can solder two wires together and then immediately touch your hand with the iron's tip and NOT be burned!
Last time I checked, stuff doesn't heat up that fast and then cool down that fast. While MIG welders can get hot instantly, they sure don't cool down instantly. This thing just runs off of batteries, so I don't see it being able to produce the high current needed for heat generation.
Then again I may be wrong, but it seems to me something along the lines of super audio cables and power conditioners that fix your entire house while only being plugged into your bathroom outlet.
Just curious what you think.
Apparently, it works.
The claims for the Cold Heat irons are plausible, if the tip's tiny and has very little thermal inertia. That means the heating element has to react very quickly to stop the tip temperature from diving every time you apply solder to it, but that's not a technical impossibility either, for light duty work. You're not going to be making any stained glass windows or sweating any copper pipes with it, but most modern electronic soldering work can be done with a very low power iron. It's tip temperature maintenance that matters, not brute power. My big Portasol Superpro has to be handled very carefully if I want to avoid lifting tracks off circuit boards.
(A reader's now pointed out to me, though, that it's perfectly possible to scorch circuit boards with a Cold Heat. Another couple of readers have contributed their opinion that it's pretty hard to get any real work done with one of these things, if you're working on circuit boards at least. One reader e-mailed me at the end of 2004 to say that he likes his, though; he says you have to keep it in contact with heavier gauge wire for a little while to get it to work. He didn't mention trying to solder small components.)
I guess I'll never know, though, because the Cold Heat people twice promised to send me an iron for review last year, but never did.
Sometimes you make classic statements, and sometimes your statements are timeless.
I refer to your recent "you can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into" comment.
I'm temporarily using it as my sig on my forum. Thanks!
I can't take credit for that one. Jonathan Swift beat me to it about 300 years ago.
It was nice viewing your product on the internet this evening.
Actually, this is the kind of machine needed here in our country Nigerian manufacturing companies.
Therefore, in view of this we would be glad to receive your brochure and price list of your various finger print time machine.
These could be sent to our corperate office address : 2, Tayo Olukoya close Ojodu Estate, Ikeja, Lagos Nigeria. Directed to the CEO/Chairman: Engr. John Ariomovuohoma of Betlon International Limited.
Wwe are into distribution of coding machine for kobold in Italy.
We shall be grateful if allowed to serve you by helping you to distribute your product all over Nigerian industries because "time is money"
Thank you in anticipation to hear from you soon.
for: BETLON INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
Nigeria? Perfect! That's where my pump is!
Yeah, I know this is actually just the result of some English As A Third Language scam artist with screen scraping software that found this and this, and that various Italian companies have "kobold" in their name. But despite that, I think this e-mail's one tiny gazebo away from perfection.