Links of the Week 4/30
Third in my regular (?) series, here’s some things I found this week that I thought were cool and wanted to share (now moved to Monday, because I was busy on Friday and over the weekend). I’ve also decided to start organizing the links a bit. The categories will probably change week-to-week:
I’ve had to do a lot of 3D printing lately for 2.744, so I’ve been more interested in 3D printers. For a while I was fairly convinced that they were the spawn of the devil and either cost tens of thousands of dollars or were finnicky and unreliable, or both. Seems like things have gotten better in the past few years.
- Pretty 3D print layers: This is what good 3D printing should look like. Even layers, no gobs of extra plastic. They used a Creality3D CR-10, which is the second time I’ve seen this printer in a positive context. It’s amazing that it works, given how non-rigid it looks. I’ve been conditioned to think that Dimension’s and uPrint’s are the only valid FDM machines, and they’re super-rigid workhorses.
- Giant Belt-Z 3D Printer: Awesome build log that I haven’t finished reading fully of a large printer with belt-driven z-stage.
I’m a software engineer, so I read about software.
- Black-box Adversarial Attacks with Limited Queries and Information: Written by Anish Athalye (among others), a friend from undergrad, who does lots of awesome things, especially ML-related. Half of the time I find his stuff on the front page of Hacker News before I see it on his own site.
- Lessons Learned from Building Static Analysis Tools at Google: I interned at Google a few years ago, so I haven’t seen the latest on this front, but Tricorder was a thing when I was there, and it pointed out a number of stylistic issues with my code. Any good software company should have as many automated code-quality tools as is realistically possible, but as the article points out, they need to make sure not to get in the way. I personally found Google’s interface more confusing when writing Python than Palantir’s interface when writing Java - compile-time checks are great.
- Software Testing Anti-patterns: like code quality, companies should have a well-established testing procedure that runs as quickly, frequently, and automatically as possible. At Google, I wrote a ton of unit tests that were probably garbage because they were too tied to the implementation, and really should have been integration or end-to-end tests. At Palantir, I was working on the testing platform for end-to-end tests and performance benchmarking, which was absolutely fascinating.
- Now is the Perfect Time for an RSS Renaissance: Yeah, RSS! Blogs! Basically this article argues for RSS as a way to browse media/articles in a more nicely formatted, ad-free manner.
- Rundown of the New Gmail: More Material UI-ification of Google apps. When working at Google it was actually incredibly confusing, because every single internal app/webpage was the same Material UI, distinguished only by color palette. It was hard to know at a glance which site you were looking at. That said, I hope they still keep some features from old-gmail. I really love keyboard shortcuts and some of the Gmail labs. I’ve gotten so used to
efor archive as a way to fly through emails, automatically moving to the next unread email.
I’m also a mechanical engineer occasionally, so I read about hardware.
- First lithographic IC made in a garage: This barely qualifies as hardware when viewed through the lens of mechanical engineering, but it is astoundingly similar to some work that I did at UNC in Summer of 2013 in the Cahoon group. It’s a very straightforward thing to actually make IC’s - no different than etching PCB’s, in principle, except that the materials and scale are different. The main challenge is dealing with all of the nasty chemicals - HF is scary as hell, and in Cahoon’s group, we grew nanowires with silane, which is pyrophoric and toxic. We had some pretty serious safety protocols and equipment there, and I can barely imagine doing things safely in a garage. It is surprising that DIY Chinese silicon isn’t as widely available as DIY Chinese PCB’s are, though. That seems like it would be a profitable venture, to run a ~1 µm process for one-off silicon ICs. A full fab for that would probably cost under $1M, with at least a few batches per day throughput. Even at 50% load, you could probably churn out 1000 batches a year, no problem. There are some more-expensive full-service firms, such as Sigenics, but those look like prices range from $50k and up, and they’re focused on designing ICs.
- Adam Savage’s Technical Drawing: Back to MechE-land, technical drawing is an awesome skill and surprisingly fun and relaxing. I don’t consider myself an artist by any means, but my technical drawing skills are pretty decent.
- Traveling Squareness Comparator: Ox Tools, another great YouTube channel you should follow if you don’t already, builds the base for a precision…cylinder. Beautiful machining as always.
- Graphite Thermal Pad: As Linus said: wow, graphite actually being useful in a commercially viable product!
- Prius A/C Motor Repurposed: The latest in a series by Austin Brown, an awesome MITERS-an and former Dentist team member. He’s following in Ben’s footsteps here.
I like cameras. If you’re reading this, you probably knew that about me.
- Canon 7s”z”: The Canon 7S series seems like a really good balanced rangefinder - much less of the cult following of Leica or Contax or Voigtlandr, so it’s much cheaper, but with all the performance. Still not as cheap as my old Minolta SRT-100 gear though :)
- Sony IMX Sensor Comparison: I read sensor datasheets for fun. This one has some nice text around it that explains (sort of) what things mean!
- SMBC: Robin: SMBC is great, this particular comic was a highlight.
- Yozakura Quartet Animation: Whoaaaa this looks good. I should watch this show. Top comment also has a helpful watch order.
Thanks for reading!