Mechpen drawbot


Alexander Weber has a nice build log on his drawbot called Mechpen, that is available on GitHub:

This is Mechpen, my newest drawbot.
The idea was to have a robot arm that could sketch on a rather large surface.
It is a SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) robot arm, meaning the robot has a shoulder and an elbow joint and a hand. Mechpen has a reach of 140 cm which means it could sketch up to A0 format.

You can see the full build on Weber’s Tinkerlog site.

Check out the video after the break.

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The FISA Oversight Hearing Confirmed That Things Need to Change

Section 215, the controversial law at the heart of the NSA’s massive telephone records surveillance program, is set to expire in December. Last week the House Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing to investigate how the NSA, FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community are using and interpreting 215 and other expiring national security authorities. 

Congress last looked at these laws in 2015 when it passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which sought to end bulk surveillance and to bring much-needed transparency to intelligence agency activities. However, NSA itself has revealed that it has been unable to stay within the limits USA FREEDOM put on Section 215’s “Call Detail Records” (CDR) authority. In response to these revelations, we’ve been calling for an end to the Call Details Records program, as well as additional transparency into the government’s use of Section 215. If last week’s hearing made anything clear, it’s this: there is no good reason for Congress to renew the CDR authority.

The Call Detail Records Program Needs to End

 Chairman Nadler began the hearing by asking Susan Morgan of the NSA if she could point to any specific instance where the CDR program helped to avert any kind of an attack on American soil. Morgan pushed back on the question, telling Chairman Nadler that the value of an intelligence program should not be measured on whether or not it stopped a terrorist attack, and that as an intelligence professional, she wants to make sure the NSA has every tool in the tool box available. 

However, the NSA previously reported it had deleted all the information it received from the 215 program since 2015. Morgan confirmed that part of the reason the NSA chose to mass delete all the records was because not all the information was accurate or allowed under the law. 

 In other words, the NSA wants Congress to renew its authority to run a program that violates privacy protections and collects inaccurate information without providing any way to measure if the program was at all useful. The agency’s best argument for why it wants to renew the legal authorization to use the CDR provision is because it might be useful one day.

 Rep. Steve Cohen asked the panel if they could reassure his “liberal friends” that there have been meaningful reforms to the program. The witnesses cited some of the reforms from USA FREEDOM, passed in 2015, as evidence of post-Snowden reforms and safeguards.

However, their answer did not meaningfully address recent incidents where the NSA discovered that it had improperly collected information. Documents obtained by the ACLU include an assessment by the NSA itself that the overcollection had a “significant impact on civil liberties and privacy,” which is putting it mildly.

Fortunately, the committee did not appear to be convinced by this line of reasoning. As Rep. Sylvia Garcia told Morgan, “If I have a broken hammer in my toolbox, I don’t need to keep it.”

We agree. No surveillance authority should exist purely because it might someday come in handy, particularly one that has already been used for illegal mass surveillance

Other Transparency Issues

In addition to the CDR program, Section 215 also allows the government to collect “business records” or other “tangible things” related to a specific order. Despite the innocuous name, the business records provision allows intelligence agencies to collect a vast range of documents. But we don’t have a sense of just what kinds of sensitive information are collected, and on what scale.

Rep. Pramila Japayal pressed the witnesses on whether Section 215 allows the collection of sensitive information such as medical records, driver’s license photographs, or tax records. Reading from the current law, Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, responded that while the statute does contemplate getting these records, it also recognizes the sensitive nature of those records and requires the requests to be elevated for senior review. 

In other words, the DOJ, FBI and NSA confirmed that under the right circumstances, they believe that the current authority in Section 215 allows the government to collect sensitive records on a showing that they are “relevant” to a national security investigation. Plus, as more and more of our home devices collect information on our daily lives, all the witnesses said they could easily envision circumstances where they would want footage from Amazon’s Ring, which EFF has already argued is a privacy nightmare

In addition, Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Andy Biggs pressed the witnesses on whether the government collects geolocation information under Section 215, and if there has been guidance on the impact of the Supreme Court’s landmark Carpenter decision on these activities. Wiegmann acknowledged that while there may be some Fourth Amendment issues, the committee would need to have a classified session to fully answer that question. 

Additionally, when asked about information sharing with other federal agencies, none of the witnesses were able to deny that information collected under Section 215 could be used for immigration enforcement purposes. 

Both of these revelations are concerning. Carpenter brought on a sea change in privacy law and it should be highly concerning to the public and to overseers in Congress that the intelligence community does not appear to be seriously consider its effect on national security surveillance.

As it considers whether or not to renew any of the authorities in Section 215, Congress must also considering what meaningful privacy and civil liberties safeguards to include. Relying on the NSA to delete millions of inaccurate records collected over many years is simply insufficient. 

Secret Laws in Secret Court

In 2015, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA mass spying on Americans, Congress passed USA FREEDOM to modify and reform the existing statute. One of the provisions of that bill specifically requires government officials to “conduct a declassification review of each decision, order, or opinion issued” by the FISC “that includes a significant construction or interpretation of any provision of law.”

Both the text of the bill and statements from members of Congress who authored and supported it make clear that the law places new, affirmative obligations on the government to go back, review decades of secret orders and opinions, and make the significant ones public. 

However, the DOJ has argued in litigation with EFF that this language is not retroactive and therefore only requires the government to declassify significant opinions issued after June 2015. 

It also remains unclear how the government determines which opinions are significant or novel enough to be published, as well as how many opinions remain completely secret.

Allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to interpret the impact of that decision on Section 215 programs in secret means that the public won’t know if their civil liberties are being violated. 

Releasing all significant FISC opinions, starting from 1978, will not only comply with what Congress required under USA FREEDOM in 2015, it will also help us better understand exactly what the FISC has secretly decided about our civil liberties. Adding a new provision that requires the FISC to detail to Congress how it determines which opinions are significant and how many opinions remain entirely secret would provide additional and clearly needed transparency to the process of administering secret law.


Despite repeated requests from the members of the panel to describe some way of measuring how effective these surveillance laws are, none of the witnesses could provide a framework. Congress must be able to determine whether any of the programs have real value and if the agencies are respecting the foundational rights to privacy and civil liberties that protect Americans from government overreach. 

Back in March, EFF, along with the ACLU, New America's Open Technology Institute, EPIC and others, sent a letter to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, detailing what additional measures are needed to protect individuals’ rights from abuses under the Patriot Act and other surveillance authorities. Hearing members of the Intelligence Community speak before the Judiciary Committee reconfirmed just how essential it is that these new protections and reforms be enacted.

We look forward to working with the US House Committee on the Judiciary to end the authority for the Call Details Records program once and for all and to ensure that there are real transparency mechanisms in the law to protect civil liberties.

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Modular Button Base (LEGO Technic Compatible) #3DPrinting #3DThursday

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aguzinski shared this project on Thingiverse!

LEGO Technic compatible modular base for 12mm push buttons. Can be used to with a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Makey Makey, etc.

3, 4, and 6-button pieces are included, but can combined together. I included two 4-button varieties. The tight fit version works better as a D-pad if you are using as a simple controller.

I printed without supports. This produces a few rough patches in out-of-the-way areas, so if that matters to you, they can be added.

See more!

Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

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It’s Almost Open Source Hardware Month! Come Celebrate with Us October 1st

We're kicking off Open Source Hardware Month with a panel of heavy OSHWA hitters from Colorado's front range. The evening, co-sponsored by SparkFun and OSHWA, will include the panel, followed by a mixer to connect open hardware enthusiasts. We’ll bring the refreshments, you bring a question for the panel or a project to share! The details:

  • What: Open Source Hardware Month kick-off event: open mixer and panel @ SparkFun
  • Date: Tuesday, October 1st
  • Time: 5:30 — 8:00 p.m.
    • 5:30 p.m.: Grab snacks, network, settle in
    • 6:00 — 7:00 p.m.: Panel
    • 7:00 — 8:00-ish: Networking
  • Location: SparkFun Electronics, 6333 Dry Creek Parkway, Niwot, CO 80503
  • Panelists:
    • Alicia Gibb, founder and executive director of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA)
    • Arielle Hein, artist, technologist, educator
    • Harris Kenny, principal at Kenny Consulting Group
    • Toni Klopfenstein, open source supporter and developer advocate at Google
    • Nathan Seidle, founder and engineer at SparkFun Electronics

SparkFun and Open Source

From the beginning, open hardware has been a pillar of SparkFun. Our products and resources carry no patents, so anyone can use, modify and even sell them. Being open source encourages people to share and learn from each other. It also forces us to focus on what we do best and constantly innovate. In short, it makes us better, for you and for the world. Watch our founder, Nathan Seidle, speak on open source hardware.

Open Source Hardware Resources from OSHWA

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) is a non-profit organization that advocates for open source hardware, and acts as a hub of open source hardware activity of all types. If you are interested in open hardware, you may be interested in some of the resources on the OSHWA web site:

  • Open Source Hardware month across the globe
  • Definition of Open Source Hardware
  • OSHWA Certification process

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  • Maker Spotlight: Conor Patrick

    This maker spotlight was brought to us through Maker Faire Rome.  You’ll be able to find them and many more creative and exciting makers at Maker Faire Rome: The European Edition on October 18-20. Get your tickets now! personal blog Who are you? Conor Patrick.  I am an engineer that […]

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    The post Maker Spotlight: Conor Patrick appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

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    Maker Spotlight: Manolis Kiagias

    This maker spotlight was brought to us through Maker Faire Rome.  You’ll be able to find them and many more creative and exciting makers at Maker Faire Rome: The European Edition on October 18-20. Get your tickets now! who are you? My name is Manolis Kiagias, I am an electronic […]

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    The post Maker Spotlight: Manolis Kiagias appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

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    Don't Let Congress Hand Patent Abusers Their Ultimate Wishlist

    Congress is considering a bill that would throw out the best defenses against bad patents. The Senate IP Subcommittee recently had a hearing about the Stronger Patents Act, a batch of recurring terrible ideas that has been introduced by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) for the third time in three years.

    The Stronger Patents Act would tear apart inter partes review (IPR), an critical tool for challenging bad patents. People who are charged with patent violations shouldn’t have to have millions of dollars in the bank to defend themselves. IPR provides a more cost-effective way of evaluating patents than expensive federal court litigation.



    Patent trolls, drug companies, and IP lawyer groups have been attacking IPR for years now, and they’re all big supporters of this bill. Big patent owners have grown so used to gaming the patent system that they’re willing to throw out IPRs, despite the fact that these reviews are clearly in the public interest.

    IPR allows companies to fight back against patent accusations for a fraction of the cost of district court. It also allows organizations like EFF to challenge bogus patents like we did when we busted the podcasting patent. If the Stronger Patents Act passes, EFF and our supporters won’t be allowed to file challenges anymore.

    Taking a second look at patents is in the public interest. In the seven years IPRs have been active, the specialized judges at the Patent Office have thrown out more than 1,500 patents that never should have been issued in the first place. Many of those are, unsurprisingly, software patents.

    The U.S. Patent Office often issues patents it shouldn’t have, particularly in areas like software, where examiners don’t always have access to the most relevant prior art. The office is funded by the fees paid by patent applicants. PTO examiners spend an average of about 18 hours per application, and that leads to wrongly issued patents.

    Too often, weak patents get used to threaten small businesses—patents that claim things like picture menus, or crowdfunding, or online contests. The IPR process is the best process, so far, for dealing with those improperly issued patents.

    When IPR was challenged in court, the Supreme Court upheld the process. The public has an important interest in ensuring that patents stay within their proper bounds.

    The Stronger Patents Act has another bad provision that will give huge amounts of leverage directly to patent trolls. Under rules laid out by the Supreme Court in 2007, it’s very hard for patent trolls to get court-ordered injunctions that can knock products off the market. The Stronger Patents Act would undo that rule, giving patent trolls leverage to scare massive cash settlements out of companies. In 2006, Blackberry (then called RIM) paid out a $612 million settlement to a patent-assertion entity when it was threatened with an injunction. That money went straight into the hands of some bad actors in the patent world, who used the capital to invest in—what else—more lawsuits against tech firms.

    The Stronger Patents Act will wreak havoc on a system that’s already balanced in favor of patent holders. Tell Congress to reject this proposal.



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    Linkdump: August 2019

    A googly eyed robot in a library

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    App note: Ferrite bead demystified


    App note from Analog Devices hinting for proper selection of ferrite bead for you applications. Link here (PDF)

    An effective method for filtering high frequency power supply noise and cleanly sharing similar supply rails is the use of ferrite beads. A ferrite bead is a passive device that filters high frequency noise energy over a broad frequency range. It becomes resistive over its intended frequency range and dissipates the noise energy in the form of heat. The ferrite bead is connected in series with the power supply rail and is often combined with capacitors to ground on either side of the bead. This forms a low-pass filter network, further reducing the high frequency power supply noise.

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