AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

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BadMrMojo
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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BadMrMojo » Mon Dec 30, 2013 10:37 pm

sbonner wrote:So, the question is, how can I make it economically justifiable?


It's an excellent question, (and the distinction between repair / upgrade vs. make is absolutely valid) but I'm afraid I don't have a particularly satisfying answer overall. I could try to argue that it's an investment as you go and that over time, the accumulated knowledge and catalogue of bits and bobs could end up cost-effective, but I really do think that's a fairly weak argument in the short view. You wind up with hand-made (and frequently shoddy... and sometimes failed) items that you could probably get cheaper and faster from a cart in the mall.

Simply put, I'm at a point in my life where I'm comfortable looking at this as an entertainment expense. I'm just making toys, not because it's in any way cheaper or more effective than buying them, but because I enjoy the process of figuring out how to make them. I realize that not everyone is so fortunate (and we've all been in that position, too). The MAME box, for example, is made up of a $40 computer, a $15 joystick and a couple of $2.50 buttons... and you could probably find an unlicensed joystick that plugs into your TV and does the same thing for $20 or so.


There are some compelling counterpoints, at least. I can take that arcade machine apart and reuse every single piece of it - down to the wires themselves - elsewhere. I could hook it up to an ethernet cable and cell phone charger and repurpose it as a generic desktop or home server. $65 for an arcade machine + $0 for a server is arguably approaching reasonable. On a personal level, I also feel slightly better about doing so than buying intentionally disposable goods but the experience gained in the process is the real reason.



All I've got are a few things to try to mitigate the issue, if not really resolve it.

1. Buy the generic components in bulk. Different color buttons are different SKUs (and therefore don't get you the bulk rate!)
2. Find a local source. Save on shipping. Ask staff questions so you buy the right stuff once.
3. Build everything to take it apart. Everything is a prototype and as such can be disassembled and reused.
4. Model in your head first. Right now, as I type this, I'm going through how to use the fewest pre-crimped wires for the 8 buttons on the next version... and the parts haven't even shown up yet!
5. Consider some purely digital projects. Interested in learning a programming language, trying out some web development, or finding your way around a linux box? A $30 Raspberry Pi A could be used as a development machine that is pretty much bulletproof. If you screw it up, all it takes is time to wipe the card and reinstall. Even cheaper, set up a VM in Virtualbox and slap a copy of Mint or Ubuntu on it.
6. It'll get better over time! Not only will your stock of leftover / reusable bits build up, but you'll have a better idea of what you'll really need and avoid needless expense. Not helpful in the short term, but it's a valid long-term goal, I think.


As a side note, I can't stop raving about the Pi, though. $30 or 40 and you have a computer that's made to have random wires hooked up to it, which is brilliant. Imagine running bare wires from a LED onto some random pin on your motherboard and then trying to figure out how to make your computer tell it to light up. You're supposed to do that with the Pi, which is either insane or the only sane thing in an insane industry - I'm not sure which.

I'd consider that a rare case of a component that's worth as much or more than the result for which it's used. Arduinos are slick, but absolutely for plugging wires into it... and not much use without the additional expense of things on the end of those wires.



tl,dr:

Free OS in a free VM lets you make stuff that's purely digital, for free! And as you get ideas to start integrating real-world stuff, then you start looking at hardware with that experience behind you and you'll have a solid foundation on the software end and can focus on the physical components.


I have no idea if that's helpful or not. Fingers crossed.

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby tombombodil » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:12 am

Also, if your lookin at building a desktop computer Google "logical increments".

It's a massive spreadsheet that provides suggested components at price ranges from the very low hundreds to the several thousand. It's updated regularly, and in every category you're getting more for your money than ANY store bought desktop.

As for putting it all together, a building desktop computer might be the most idiot proof electronic project possible, everything is color coded and keyed modern BIOS software prevents you from damaging anything by configuring it wrong and even most common assembly snags are either covered in the many fantastic step by step tutorials or can be solved with minimal Google-fu.

So yeah. If you have any interest at all in a desktop computer, want to pay a solid percentage less than any retail, off the shelf or custom made box, check out logical increments, pick your price range, find a good tutorial order the parts and start building. If your worried about damaging the parts, don't be. As long as you have a functioning brain, are careful, and follow the instructions closely, the chances of your irrevocably damaging something are very low.
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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby Bai Shen » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:34 am

sbonner wrote:So, the question is, how can I make it economically justifiable? Are there general tricks or approaches that will make the DIY option in electronics, computers, etc less expensive?


For computer hardware, craigslist, etc is your friend. However, you have to know what stuff is worth. There are a lot of people asking way too much for old crap. However, every now and then you'll find a gem. So be patient and keep checking the computer section.

For computer software, look in to linux and the entire open source movement. You can do pretty much anything you want on a computer using open source. It may take longer and be less polished, but it's possible. You'll also learn a lot. :)
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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby Ikoma » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:49 am

I kind of have a similar question about the other end - wordworking, plumbing, home electrical, etc. It seems like every time a job comes up, I end up needing a new tool to tackle it that makes the DIY solution more expensive (right up front) and annoys the wife. Obviously, over the long term, you end up with an impressive collection of tools to tackle jobs but you also end up with a storage/organization challenge.

Any suggestions for [A] acquiring the tools at the best prices (while still getting good tools) and [B] storing them?
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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BadMrMojo » Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:40 am

Ikoma wrote:Any suggestions for [A] acquiring the tools at the best prices (while still getting good tools) and [B] storing them?


For acquiring tools, I tend to look at it like buying computer parts: Always start looking one step up from the low-end. That one step up will usually get you something that will last, rather than something that's really intended as disposable. The big cost of that is, as noted, storage and space.

The other handy thing is to try to focus on versatile tools instead of specialized ones, I think. A little dremel kit with a handful of cutting discs and sanding bands generally gets used whenever I need to get something done and don't have the right tool for the job, for example.


On the storage front, I really can't help you. I've quite literally got stacks of stuff piled up in various corners. Fortunately in my case, it's just me - so there's no one to get annoyed with my clutter - but even I must admit that it's pretty bad. I'm very much interested in hearing the answers - particularly for those with limited space.

Candid example (unstaged scene, 5' from where I'm typing this):

Image

From left to right, you're seeing a box full of jumper wires and an arduino box from adafruit, a sloth pillow, a box full of arcade parts from Suzo-Happ, a usb connector for the arduino, a Leap Motion and connectors, and the LED ticker, mounted on some acrylic and awaiting some brackets.

The intention is that I can't sit on my couch until I do something with them. The harsh reality is that I wind up just sitting on the other end.

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BottledViolence » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:53 pm

Ikoma wrote:I kind of have a similar question about the other end - wordworking, plumbing, home electrical, etc. It seems like every time a job comes up, I end up needing a new tool to tackle it that makes the DIY solution more expensive (right up front) and annoys the wife. Obviously, over the long term, you end up with an impressive collection of tools to tackle jobs but you also end up with a storage/organization challenge.

Any suggestions for [A] acquiring the tools at the best prices (while still getting good tools) and [B] storing them?


Very few jobs require specialized tools that you can't rent. Home Depot, local equipment rental places, and auto part stores all rent stuff. Home Depot would rather rent a paint sprayer to you for a minimal amount and sell the paint, rollers, tape, and drop cloth than have you pay a pro who is buying his stuff from a wholesaler. Autozone would rather loan you a gear puller or spring compressor for free so you buy parts there instead of taking it to a shop.

If you need to buy stuff like hand tools, look at garage sales and pawn shops. Ebay and Craigslist are OK, but resellers drive up auctions and craigslist is full of people willing to put up a free ad and hope someone is willing to pay top dollar. Good hand tools last a long time and generally come with exceptional warranties.

For storage, good luck. :lol: I am a tool junkie, so I have stuff everywhere. Renting big stuff like air nailers, compressors and paint sprayers cuts down on bulk, and not going crazy with every size of every tool helps. A medium sized pair of channel locks will do most of the jobs that a large set and small set will do.

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BottledViolence » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:29 pm

BadMrMojo wrote:For acquiring tools, I tend to look at it like buying computer parts: Always start looking one step up from the low-end. That one step up will usually get you something that will last, rather than something that's really intended as disposable. The big cost of that is, as noted, storage and space.

The other handy thing is to try to focus on versatile tools instead of specialized ones, I think. A little dremel kit with a handful of cutting discs and sanding bands generally gets used whenever I need to get something done and don't have the right tool for the job, for example.


Every black friday Lowe's sell this tool kit for $99. I bought one a few years ago as something to throw in the truck and not worry about. I ended up using the hell out of it. I have Snap On and Mac tools as well as several full sets of Craftsman, but this inexpensive tool set is holding up just fine. It's about the cheapest I would go with tools and they have a lifetime warranty. Snap On is nice, but unless you make a living from your tools, they aren't a good value.

I was looking at my electrical bag and could probably get rid of half the stuff in there. Instead of a continuity tester that I never use, an outlet tester that I use a lot, and a non-contact voltage detector that I frequently use, I could just use my multi-meter. I could probably lose the dikes and just use my Linesman's pliers. I have all that stuff because it makes things easier, not because I need it. If I had less space and money was more of a factor than time for me, I could get by just fine without half that stuff. Heck, I did just fine without it for years. I was only recently that I added a bigger meter, VoltAlert, and outlet tester. The outlet tester is just so damned handy. :lol:

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BadMrMojo » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:33 pm

While not an answer to a question, I think it was BV that asked for pictures of the next project. I got my real arcade controls last night and I was feeling inspired by the discussion, so I dove in this afternoon.

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby Citizen Joe » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:27 pm

When it comes to tools, I'm a sucker for a case. If it isn't a stationary tool, I've got it in a case with several accessories included. So, router with multiple bases, the wrenches and an assortment of bits. Cordless drill with charger and various drill bits/tips. Circular saw with several blades...

Also, when selecting cordless tools, pick the same brand with interchangeable batteries. The batteries are the expensive part so you get a better return for your investment if they are interchangeable. Also, cordless kits usually come with the charger so now you can charge multiple batteries at once.

I store my cased tools in a rack above my workbench and have them all labeled on the front.

For loose hand tools, I put them in rolling cases in kits according to trade. So I've got an electrical box, a plumbing box, drywall, etc. Since I have a full woodshop, those tools are on hangers and dedicated drawers under my workbench.

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Re: AMA about DIY (not punk but that might come up too)

Postby BottledViolence » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:00 pm

BadMrMojo wrote:While not an answer to a question, I think it was BV that asked for pictures of the next project. I got my real arcade controls last night and I was feeling inspired by the discussion, so I dove in this afternoon.

Linked for bigness.


Very cool. I really should get started on one, but I'm pretty sure I will get to the point you are at now and lose most vation as soon as I get to the software part.


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