Gas station without pumps

2019 September 14

Make magazine is back

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:43
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In Make magazine has folded, I passed on the news that “Maker Media halted operations and laid off all staff. That means no more Make magazine and no more Bay Area Maker Faire.”  I was particularly bummed, because I had just renewed my subscription!

Yesterday, I got email saying

The Next Issue of Make: Magazine Is Officially Off to the Printer!

Thank You sincerely for being a dedicated subscriber to Make: magazine! As Executive Editor, I’m thrilled to let you know the next issue is headed soon to your mailbox! When you receive it, you’ll find some exciting new elements.

In June 2009, Maker Media went out of business. Make: Community, a new organization formed by Dale Dougherty acquired the assets of Maker Media, including Make: magazineMake: Community is an association of makers whose mission is to serve and grow the global maker community. Through the support of its members, Make: Community will resume publication of Make: magazine.
Please join us at

So it looks like my subscription will continue.  I wonder how long will last.

2019 June 10

Make magazine has folded

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:31
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Last Friday, Maker Media halted operations and laid off all staff [].  That means no more Make magazine and no more Bay Area Maker Faire.  Sigh, I’d just renewed my subscription to the magazine a month ago!

There is currently a gofundme campaign ( to keep the servers running for the digital content, but it is not organized by the remnants of Maker Media, so I don’t know how legitimate it is.

Running a print publication theses days is a difficult business, and the Maker Faires relied heavily on industrial sponsors, who seem to have left for other opportunities.  Maker Media was relying on venture capital, but there was no path to profitability, so venture capital dried up.

There are some thoughts that the organization may be rebuilt as a not-for-profit, since their biggest successes were in education.  That might be a good way to rescue the core of the business, particularly if some of the startups that have made it big decide to donate.

I’ll be watching for news on further developments.


2016 March 19

Make magazine

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:01
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It probably comes as no surprise to my readers that I’ve been a subscriber to Make magazine since 2007, and that I generally read it cover to cover, including many of the ads. I like the project descriptions and the attitude of the magazine—a combination of isn’t-this-cool? and you-can-do-it-too. I do sometimes get bothered by technical inaccuracies and sloppy editing in the magazine.

For example, in the latest issue (volume 50), I found four rather grating errors:

  • On page 25, where where Sean Cusak is giving characteristics of metals, they claim that stainless steel is “heavy” but steel is “medium”.  Carbon steels have a density of about 7850 kg/m3, while stainless steels are around 7480–8000 kg/m3 []. That does not strike me as substantially different.  My favorite stainless steel (316L) is 7990 kg/m3, only 2% denser than carbon steel. I don’t see that as a distinction between “medium” and “heavy”, particularly when they give copper (density 8960 kg/m3) as “medium”. Copper is heavier than stainless steel! If “weight” is supposed to mean something other than density, like mass/stiffness or mass/strength, copper fares much worse. I can’t believe that Cusak made such an obvious mistake—I suspect bad editing.
  • On page 53, Ben Krasnow writes “LEDs are still more expensive than T8, comparable or less energy-efficient in lumens per watt, and require a whole new fixture.”  That statement is about half true.  LEDs do require a different fixture than fluorescents, and LED fixtures are often more expensive than fluorescent ones (though the LED pucks I put in my kitchen cost very little for the fixtures—all the expense was the labor of patching and painting the ceiling and installing the pucks). But LEDs are now substantially more efficient than fluorescent lights, in part because they are more directional—half the light from fluorescent fixtures is lost in reflectors and diffusers. I get much more light from the 43.4W of LED lighting in my kitchen than from the previous 120W of fluorescent fixtures (granted, they were old T12 bulbs, but T8 would not have been much brighter). I think that Krasnow may be about 3 years out of date on LED lighting, and he should reexamine his information.
  • On page 81, where Charles Platt is describing making a capacitor from aluminum foil and plastic bags, it says “To check for short circuits, use a meter to measure the resistance between the 2 sheets of foil, which should be zero.”  That should say “should not be zero”.  You don’t want the two plates of the capacitor to be shorted together! This looks like a simple type-setting error that should have been caught by a technically literate copy editor (does Make have technically literate copy editors? does anyone?).
  • On page 86, in David Scheltema’s and Tyler Winegarner’s article on Pirate Radio Throwies, they say “Check local and federal laws first, of course” instead of saying, “Warning: these transmitters violate federal laws”. They don’t even point the reader to the relevant laws or where they can find out about them. “The FCC limit under Part 15 regulations is 250uV/m (48dBu) at 3 meters.” [] They also only suggest a bandpass filter “for a cleaner FM signal”, rather than insisting on one to avoid the interference inherent in using a square-wave carrier instead of a sine wave.  The bandpass filter is not given, only pointed to youtube video that has a simple RC filter (nowhere near enough to clean up the signal to legal levels, as pointed out in the youtube comments).  I believe that the readers of Make deserve (and need) better warnings before being encouraged to do illegal activities.

I usually find one or two such errors in each issue, so having (at least) four in this issue struck me as high. Is this just random variation, or are the Make editors getting sloppier?

As a stylistic matter, I found the “Over the Top” final-page item by James Burke particularly poorly written this time.  The picture would have been fine by itself, with a brief description, or with how-to instructions, but the badly written purple prose just detracted from it.

2012 April 20

Make: Kit Reviews | The Ultimate Kit Guide

About a month ago, Make magazine released their reviews of various kits, Make: Kit Reviews | The Ultimate Kit Guide.  I have been a big fan of kits as a way to get kids into the habit of building things and knowing how they are put together.  They provide an intermediate point between ready-made consumer goods and hand-made artisanal goods.

I’ve talked before about my fondness for Heathkit electronics kits when I was growing up (Thanks, Dad!) and about how I was glad to see that they were finally back in the kit business. The kit issue of Make has a number of cool things in it ranging from the $3 Learn-to-Solder badge to $800 model submarines, $1000 mini CNC milling machines, $1300 3D printers, and $863 wood-fired hot tubs.  Although there are few kits in the issue that I really want, it is cool to see just how much is available in kit form these days.  Some are old-school kits (tube amplifiers! crystal radios! Nixie tubes!) and some are very modern (RFID breakout boards, quadracopters, drone planes).

My son has made a number of kits over the years (like the Velleman MK150 shaking dice kit or the K5300 Stroboscope with a xenon tube), and he is now moderately competent with soldering iron, solder sucker, diagonal cutters, and long nose pliers.  I suppose I should get him doing some surface-mount soldering, as my fine-motor control is a little shaky for 1mm × 2mm capacitors and 0.05″ pitch leads on ICs.  (Yes, I’ve seen instructions for making solder reflow ovens out of toaster ovens, and doing soldering with a skillet, but I’m not yet convinced that those are functional enough to be worth the investment in time and fried parts.)

Leads torn on pressure sensor.

The point about SMD soldering comes up this week because the pressure sensor superglued to the inside of the dry box for the underwater vehicle had its leads torn apart. This is probably my fault, since I had suggested the idea of supergluing the pressure sensor to the inside of the dry box without giving any consideration to the forces on the tiny little leads of the pressure sensor.

I had some spare sensor boards, but I had to order more pressure sensors from Digikey and assemble a new board for them.  This weekend, they’ll drill yet another hole in the drybox and glue the replacement pressure sensor in place, but this time there will be a couple of pieces of plastic glued to the PC board (about 4.8mm thick, to match the thickness of the pressure sensor body) also glued to the inside of the dry box, so that unplugging the cables will not put strain on the tiny wires of the pressure gauge.

The new hole will make the 6th penetration of the dry box.  Somewhat amazingly, none of these penetrations have leaked, although we have had problems with the underwater connector that they designed for the motor wires.  We’re hoping that problem will be fixed this weekend.

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