Ikelite Underwater Camera Housing Overhaul

Having always wanted to take decent (read: macro photos with a digital SLR camera) underwater shots whilst snorkeling and SCUBA diving, I had pined over an underwater housing for my Canon 40D. However, if you’ve ever looked into underwater housings for SLR cameras, you’ll know that they are horrendously expensive ($2500+ at the bottom end of the market)! A new housing can cost as much or more than the camera body itself and that doesn’t include the lens ports which are costly as well.

Secondly, my camera is old (bought in 2007), almost ancient by digital camera standards! So getting a new housing for the camera is impossible because the underwater housing manufacturers make a new housing for the next camera released. No point making housings for old cameras, that’s not where the money is.

I had bought an underwater point and shoot camera (Olympus TG-4) a few years ago to test the waters (note, there’ll be a few intentional and unintentional water related puns in this tale today) and it was OK. It definitely took photos underwater and is a solid piece of gear (I even made a bunch of accessories for it). However, I was never truly satisfied – the photos could be grainy (due to low light and a high ISO), photos were a bit flat (need a powerful flash), focus was difficult and don’t even consider cropping the picture. I wanted to take NatGeo quality photos and that requires a decent camera and decent lenses. Which I already owned. I don’t want to downplay the little point and shoot, it has taken some great photos shown below, however, the success rate is very low, probably 1 in a 100.

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Weather Station Display


Hey, so its been a while, there’s been a few projects since the last post, but I haven’t written them up 🙄 .

In an effort to stop the projects accumulating in the half-finished pile, I made an effort to take this project that has been sitting on the workbench for ages and put it on display. Its simple enough but I’m pleased with the result.

Ages ago I wrote some code for an HTU21D temperature and humidity sensor. I made an outdoor housing for the sensor and all, and used it for a while, but the display was a bit impractical. Anyway, this time I used a 2 line 20 character VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) I’ve had for years (sitting in the bits and pieces pile) to display the sensor measurements. I’ve always liked the display and now its time to show it off.

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Printing Heat Shrink Cable Markers with a Dymo Labelmaker

Recently I saw you can buy heatshrink tubing cartridges for Dymo label makers. This would be really convenient to make professional looking markers to identify individual wires and cables in some of my larger projects. (Cable and wire markers for industrial applications such as these have been around for at least a decade now, but are pretty expensive. This solution from Dymo seems to be somewhat more mainstream, but it still is too expensive for the hacker)

However, my hopes were dashed when I realised that the cartridges aren’t compatible with my $35 Dymo LetraTag. Also, each cartridge is $50, so I wasn’t keen on buying one hoping that I could get it to work with my label marker.

So I got thinking about making my own and I managed to cobble together a somewhat effective method using some regular heat shrink and some 180 grit wet & dry sandpaper.

Somewhat successful printed heat shrink cable markers

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AD587 Battery Powered 10V Reference Tutorial

Following on from a previous post discussing the Analog Devices AD587 precision 10.000V voltage reference, I built a portable device to utilise the chip.

Some requirements of the project were:

  • 10.000V ±5mV output
  • 10mA output
  • Battery operated device
  • Visual, low battery indication
  • Small, aluminium housing
  • Clear front panel
  • Low cost (under $50), readily available components

A low battery indication was a desired feature to prevent the device being used in an important test and the battery level drops low and compromises the AD587’s performance. A simple green LED will suffice. Output performance of 10.000V (± 5mV) couldn’t be compromised so there is no protection to prevent high current draw from the chip, I’ll just have to be sensible.

Battery powered AD587 10V reference.
Battery powered AD587 10V reference.

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Analog Devices AD587 10V Reference

Voltage references are a humble piece of hardware, their sole function is to provide a stable, known voltage. This constant, known value of voltage can then be used as a reference for ADCs and DACs as well as provide a precision current source.

I recently got hold of an Analog Devices AD587KN high precision 10.000V reference chip.

AD587KN 10V precision reference

This model of chip has an output value of 10.000V ± 5mV (that is, an output value of 9.995V to 10.005V) straight out of the factory. A voltage drift of 10ppm/°C at 25°C meaning that the output voltage will drift by 10ÎĽV for each 1°C the chip is exposed to. Additionally, the chip has a voltage trim input, so if you have access to a precision voltmeter, the chip’s output value can be adjusted even closer to 10.000V.

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Load Models Faster with Binary STL Files

If you are using Autodesk 123D Design to create your models, it will generate your STL files in ASCII STL format. XYZware is slow to load large ASCII STL files. Slicing an ASCII STL file can take a very long time too.

13 xyzware stall
XYZware black screen of death when loading large STL files

Fortunately, there is a solution. Saving your STL files in a Binary format will result in improved load and slicing times.

Converting your ASCII STL files to Binary is very simple. This simple guide shows you how.