Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Real Life matters in my professional and personal life have overtaken me
and kept me from online activities. But I have not been entirely
non-productive in my exile.
I started my First Life career in electronics over 30 years ago in my
pre-teens. In those days vacuum tubes still dominated consumer
electronics such as audio equipment. This was especially true of the old
garage sale finds that I could afford to get my hands on. While the
change to solid state technology for consumer electronics was nearly
complete by 1980 the vacuum tube soldiers on to this very day
particularly in high power applications (The Magnetrons in Microwave
ovens and "picture" tubes in TV's being two common examples).
So it will probably come as a shock to many folks that vacuum tube audio
equipment is still produced and is enjoying a renaissance in popularity
amongst music lovers. The reason is fairly simple, tube equipment tends
to soften the sometimes dry and harsh sound many perceive with digital
recordings. I get tinnitus listening to many digital recordings on
modern equipment, but I noticed some years ago that when listening to
digital sources through the aux input of my 1939 vintage GE Radio (all
tube) I could listen for hours on end with no ringing in my ears. Even
at fairly high volumes.
So when I decided it was time to buy myself a decent sound system I
decided I wanted one of these wonderful new tube amplifiers as the
foundation. So hoping for ringless ears and audio nirvana I set forth on
My boundless optimism was soon squashed flat by sticker shock. These new
age tube devices are quite expensive relative to good quality solid
state gear. So much so that the budget I had set would barely cover the
purchase of such an amplifier, let alone the rest of the system.
Kits provide a much more budget friendly alternative, but still as
expensive as good off the shelf solid state gear. More to the point was
time. If I'm hard pressed for time to scribble diatribes into this blog
when could I realistically expect to find time to assemble electronics?
In the end I bought a solid state amplifier, a A340 by Cambridge Audio.
This is a nice little English designed and Chinese built unit that many
reviewers feel has a very tube-like sound and is easy on the ear. After
a year of listening to it I agree. The sound is quite smooth and not the
least bit fatiguing to listen to even at high volumes. But the nostalgia
bug has bit and I still yearn for glowing bottles atop my sound
equipment. What to do? What to do?
Then one fine night when I got a chance to visit fair Caledon I was
sitting in gnomular form atop my keep in the garden watching the sun set
over Caledon Eyre I had a flash of inspiration. I could build myself a
tube amp in Second Life, along with a pair of speakers, without spending
one red pence! Or Linden Dollar. Whatever. All it would cost me is a bit
It only took ten minutes or so to rough out the general form of the
amplifier. I then spent an hour roughing out a prototype tube. The tubes
I came up with were very realistic models of real audio tubes in current
use, but they were prohibitively high in prims. Since I am not a master
of the sculpted prim I sent out a hue and cry for assistance over the
My request for aid was answered by Mr. Vivito Volare who in very short
order had produced very authentic sculpted glass envelopes for antique
bulb type and modern 2A3/300B type triodes. I assembled some tubes then
placed them on the amplifier chassis and hey presto! An authentic stereo
tube amp of my own, albeit in virtual form. Last but not least I gave it
a bit of functionality by adding a media changer script.
I call it Amp's Amp. I am also considering naming it the Tinlegs-Volare
SET-1 or TVS-1S. The tubes even glow!
Of course an amplifier alone is no good, so I built a pair of speakers
to match. For reasons of visual interest I used a speaker cabinet type
known as Voight Pipes, or TQWT's. This is a high efficiency design
commonly used with a single full range driver per cabinet. They are very
poplar among audiophiles for their acoustic "transparency" and among
audio hobbyists because they are relatively easy to build in a garage
workshop. I chose this style for its unique appearance and retro tech
flavor. To add to the retro look I gave them a nice walnut burl texture.
Once I finalize which Shoutcast streams it will be provisioned with I
will offer the amp with speakers for a modest price.
Ahhhh. Nothing says relaxation like Miles Davis played through some glowing bottles.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
More! I love the detail on the blown Chevy smallblock.
This one isn't a replica, but a ground up design by the builder. Great exhaust note. Many a time I've wondered what a Packard Twin Six would sound like with glasspacks.
And one for HS.
But this device of his stood out to me because it is something almost anyone with the inclination and some modest mechanical skills could replicate. A Steam Powered Armatron!
For those unfamiliar with the Armatron it was a plastic robotic arm made by the Tomy in the 80's that was sold through the Tandy Corporation's Radio Shack stores (Wikipedia). It is all mechanical and driven by a battery powered electric motor. Alas, this wonderful toy is no longer made but it was much beloved by geeks of yore (One of my coworkers has his on his desk, within range of the pencil holder). It was rather popular so working examples may still be found by dedicated scroungers.
Crabfu's modifications to run one on steam are straightforward. The electric motor is removed, an opening is cut into the side to allow for the drive belt/chain to pass though, a sprocket/pulley is attached to the drive shaft, and a mounted stationary steam engine is harnessed to drive the mechanism.
Given the relative simplicity of this mod I would think it possible to use a wide variety of alternative power sources, such as a Stirling engine or clockwork mechanism. Given that the Armatron is made of plastic potential power sources probably should be limited in power.
Also of interest is Crabfu's guide to drawing steampunk devices.
I hope you are as inspired by his site as I have been.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Are you a Gnome or an Elf?
Amplebeak is both. The term Gnome was coined by the late medieval natural philosopher Paracelsus who applied the term to Earth elementals. The term may have been of earlier classical origin, possibly from the Greek words gnosis (knowledge) or genomos (earth dweller). Paracelsus saw them as the ruling class of elementals, with the greatest store of knowledge and wisdom. They were characterized as small in stature, generally helpful, intensely curious and therefore fond of learning and teaching. Over time as the term "Gnome" became more widely used the concept of what a gnome was became diluted by local folk influences, which will be addressed in other FAQ's.
Amplebeak's people are a rare and little known subgroup of the Elves of Arda, more commonly known as Middle Earth, the history of which has been told by the famed chronicler J.R.R. Tolkien. They separated from the main population of the elves prior to the arrival of the Valar. They went Eastward where they saw the stars rise into the sky and after many centuries of travel, adventure, and hardship they came to settle in a mountainous territory that they share with a group of Durin's people (Commonly called Naugrim or Dwarves).
Like their western kindred they do not age and die, though they may be killed by malice or misadventure. A young gnome's formal education lasts for about 100 years after which they undertake a learning quest. Most such quests are within the territory of their people, but some few are specially trained and sent far afield to learn of the greater world and its peoples. This quest often lasts for several millennia, particularly for those tasked with study abroad.
There have never been more than a handful of questing gnomes outside of their home territory at any given time, thus they are largely unknown in the greater world. They also often travel disguised as Naugrim, as they are of similar stature. They are also of stockier build, darker skinned, and more rugged in countenance than their elven kin. Thus they are often called the "Dwarflike Ones" by Western elves, those few that know of them at any rate. Their own name for themselves translates as "The People" in English. Not an uncommon convention in tribal societies.
The adoption of Paracelsus' term "Gnome" came about shortly ofter the sage's passing when the young gnomes then on quest in Europe (Amplebeak being one of that number) came across his writings. Being amused by his description they adopted it as the name they identified themselves with to men.
How old are you?
Elves do not reckon time with the passing of years, but rather by historical epochs. The first date he remembers from the Gregorian calendar was in the Eigth Century AD, so he has been in the world of men that long. His attempts to reconcile the Gregorian with Elven calendars have been fruitless so far. To the best of his reckoning Amplebeak's age is somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 years.
Gnomes have beards and pointy hats. You don't. How can you call yourself a gnome?
The common stereotype of gnomes in modern pop culture has been shaped by the influence of many folk traditions and fables other than Paracelsus' original definition. The most common of which are the Molded clay garden figurines that originated in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, which usually have beards, pot bellies, and bright red hats. These are not elements of gnomes as originally described, nor are they common to all cultures.
Amplebeak has been known to wear hats from time to time, his favorites being a lime green top hat given to him on his travels and Sir Edward Pearse's Steampunk Crash Helmet. He has also been known to cavort merrily while wearing a ten gallon hat after drinking too much mead. (Amp finds the notion of a Ten Gallon Hat on a Half Pint Gnome wildly amusing.)
Caledon is a Victorian community. Why don't you wear Victorian fashions?
As stated above Amplebeak has been in the world of Man a bit over 1,000 years. Gnomish clothing hasn't changed significantly in design since before the race of Man existed. Thus most gnomes pay little attention to human fashion. Also Amplebeak didn't really consider human civilization advanced enough to approach humans openly* until around the Renaissance. Thus most of his ideas about human clothing was formed by his interaction with people of that time and his basic wardrobe remains basically that of an Medieval worker mixed with an Elizabethan Adventurer/Explorer. Since Gnomish styles change slowly, if at all, he was not aware until recently how outlandish he looked to his Victorian neighbors. Therefore he has made the effort recently to acquire Victorian garb. He is quite proud of his new wardrobe, so much so that I haven't the heart to tell him he looks like a colourblind gadfly who takes fashion advice from a mad parrot. As long as he's happy I'm happy for him.
* Most of Amplebeak's fellow questing gnomes still don't consider humans civilized enough to approach openly. Their loss.
Why don't gnomes like people?
Other than their opinions on human civilization, world wars, nuclear weapons, and melted chewing gum on sidewalks? Actually gnomes are cautious of all peoples other than themselves and the Dwarves they share their homeland with. Not actually xenophobic, but for historical reasons they are very careful dealing with the other races of Earth.
You see, the first speaking race they encountered in their journey through the Eastern lands of Middle Earth were the forefathers of the Orcs. At that early stage in history (Torward the end of what Tolkein called the First Age) the Orcs still showed much of their elven origins and the Gnomes took them to be another elvish group who had come Eastward and welcomed them. They found out to their sorrow how wrong they were. Fully two thirds of their population was killed, a loss they have never recovered from. Indeed their numbers still dwindle and they know their race is slowly coming to an end. Their birthrate isn't high enough to replace the population lost then, let alone replace those who die or are lost over the course of time.
Amplebeak for his part is very fond of humans and even chooses to live among them. He does however prefer small gatherings to large numbers of humans although he is becoming more comfortable with the formal social gatherings so popular in Caledon. He does travel from time to time to various elven realms for a respite.
A Victorian Elf/Gnome?
Fantasy beings from myth, legend, and folklore were very popular in the Victorian period. Elves particularly so, and as mentioned above the classic garden Gnome is a product of that period.
What work do you do?
Amplebeak is a gardener. A natural occupation for a gnome.
Why a gnome?
He was meant to be a penguin, modeled on Opus of Bloom County fame. I didn't really understand how AV's worked at the time and found making a penguin to be beyond my building abilities. So instead I played with the appearance adjustments to find out how they worked and what could be done. After many amusing permutations of my AV I finally ended up with a little chap who looked like a cross between Rumpelstiltskin and Pinocchio.
The word "Gnome" popped to mind, and not knowing anything about gnomes I popped off to the Internet to do a bit of cultural research. I found an excellent article on Wikipedia and several other sites that I used to develop my character. One of the most interesting bits I came across were anecdotes to the effect that Tolkein had originally planned to call the High Elven Noldor "Gnomes", based on Paracelsus original description. I sat down and thought it over, then wrote up an outline of what gnomes would be (to me that is) and incorporated much of the knowledge of gnomes I had gained into it.
It has been more than a year and a half since then and even though I could easily change my AV to a penguin I've become rather fond of the little fellow and wouldn't change him for the world. Well, not much.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I came across this whilst researching the previous article. Apparently Robert Paxton McCulloch of chainsaw fame was a fan of steam powered automobiles and decided to design a postwar luxury marque using an engine designed by Abner Doble.
Unfortunately development costs of the steam engine were prohibitive and a more conventional gas engine from Porsche was mounted in the prototype.
The project was eventually abandoned as unprofitable.
Pity. 'Twas a nice looking motorcar.
history and design the possibility of steam powered (and thus Steampunk)
aeroplanes was raised. The conversation concluded with the commonly
held belief that while steam power was viable for lighter than air craft
the power to weight ratio and complexity of operation of steam power
plants precluded their use in powering fixed wing aircraft.
This is a commonly held view, yet as is often the case with commonly
held views it is wrong. In 1933 two brothers named Besler built and flew
a conventional production model Travel Air 2000 biplane fitted out with
a 150 HP steam aeroengine. The Gentlemen (and possibly ladies) of the
press were invited and they duly recorded the following film of the event.
Contemporary reports made much of the silence of the engines operation
with many reporting they could clearly hear and understand the pilot
shouting to them as he flew overhead.
The engine is a modification of the designs manufactured by the Doble
Brothers for their automobiles. For those unfamiliar with this
particular Marque (very few people have heard of the Doble) the Doble
Brothers, led by their eldest brother Abner Doble formed several
companies to produce automobiles using their condensing steam engines, a
first for steam cars. Their cars were also noted for their efficiency
(both fuel and feed water), their lack of visible exhaust, their
reliabilty and build quality (the engines were designed and built to run
a million miles before needing rebuilding), and ease of use due to the high
level of automation in the power system.
The key to the Doble power plant was a singularly effective pressure fed
steam generator that was electrically ignited and could generate enough
steam to start off in around 30 seconds (Albeit at less than full
speed). The brother's goal was to produce a steam system as easy to use
and maintain as an internal combustion engine. They also willingly took
on outside consulting projects to promote the superiority of steam
power. Thus their role in development of the Besler engine.
Alas to the best I have been able to determine this was the only such
aeroplane built and flown. The War Department of the United States did
take an interest in the concept of Steam Planes during WW II and a 3
cylinder rotary engine was produced, but there are no records of it ever
having been mounted in a plane and test flown. Only one survives to this
day and is on display in Atlanta Georgia. I could not find any pictures
of that engine but apparently it is popular among steam enthusiasts who
build operating scale models. Below is a clip of one such model being
demonstrated. I assume with a properly designed steam generator this
unit could be used to power a RC model plane but I have found no
aethereal record of such being done.
The Nazi war machine also took an interest in the potential of steam
planes, particularly for long range heavy bombers. But all the articles I
have read indicate that none of their research in this area got past the
If anyone knows of any further information about this subject please let
me know. I'll gladly share it in this forum.
Your humble servant, A. Tinlegs, Gnome.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Emeritus of Elf Clan and fellow tinkerer. He wished to show me a new
Steampunk themed vessel he had recently acquired. So I popped over to
the sandbox at ElvenMyst to take a look. I was mightily impressed by
what I saw.
The Vessel is the Steampunk Dreamship, one of three such airships made by Carrah Rossini. There is also a submarine in the collection which Iunderstand is capable of flight as well.
The fit, finish, and level of detail is evident in the pictures. This
same level of meticulous craftsmanship was readily apparent in the build
of Ms. Rossini's shop and at the sky platform above where the demo
models of her craft may be viewed.
The quality of the build and level of detail carries over into the interior.
The craft also comes with an astonishing array of extra features such as
an operable big screen television and radio with a remote feature that
allows the radio to be used in flight over shared lands.
What isn't readily apparent from the pictures and description of
features is how remarkably well it functions as an aircraft, something I
was very concerned about given its 91 prims.
I voiced my concerns to Mr. Padar who promptly offered myself and Mr.
Hod Runningbear a flight about ElvenMyst. Hod and I took our seats as
Eren took the controls and we were treated to one of the most drama free
and comfortable rides we had yet experienced in SL.
After we landed Eren gave me the honour of taking the controls for a
spin about ElvenMyst. I was even more amazed at the craft's flight as
pilot. The only issue encountered was a slight delay at SIM border
crossings, which is a common experience in vehicles this large. The only
nitpick I could find is that the default viewing perspective in flight
is too close to the AV's head for my taste, and isn't adjustable. I
found that using mouse view when in flight gave the best field of view
After my "test drive" in Eren's ship I immediately ran out and purchased
my own copy. Save for the inability to rez the vessel on my own land
(Must do some spring cleaning) my experience flying the beastie about
Caledon's skies has reinforced my first impression. I've noted that in
flight the Dreamship seems to be an attachment, as I have not
encountered the dreaded "Full Plot" failure whilst crossing the
inhabited regions of Caledon. It also seems to become a phantom as it
can pass through solid structures with ease. I have yet to test the
radio and TV in flight.
All in all an exceptional product by an exceptional builder. I am quite
satisfied and will happily do business with Ms. Rossini again in the
future. Those interested in acquiring one of their own may visit her
shop in Dreamfall. If interested drop me a line in world and I will
gladly forward you a copy of the landmark.
I have named mine "Voyageur", after the French trappers who explored
much of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I was however content to make a virtual rather than a real model.
My virtual model will be on sale soon at a vendor near you. All proceeds
to benefit Relay For Life.
Friday, March 14, 2008
to me that I had not built any suitable vehicles for their use I
immediately set out to rectify that oversight.
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce the Tiny Terrapin. A fast,
agile, armoured sportabout suitable for even the tiniest of tinys. Some
shorter "standard" AV's might be able to fit within its cockpit as well.
A few advance prototype models have been distributed for evaluation and
testing. Refinement of the Tiny Terrapin's systems is ongoing but I
have high hopes that I will be able to bring it to market in a few
weeks, at a projected price of L$100. Proceeds of sales made during the
Relay For Life drive will be donated to that august and most noble
charity. I have other products in the development pipeline as well which
I will preview here, as my schedule allows.
I am having a small bit of trouble developing an automatic banana creme
pie loader and launching system for the cannon. If you or someone you
know may have ideas about the design of such a piece of equipment
please drop me a note in world.
A. Tinlegs, Gnome
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I've been rather busy in my workshop of late working on several vehicle designs I've had in the back of my head, but had no time to get to.
I've been of the opinion that one of those new fangled steam lorries I've heard tell of would be just the thing for acquiring supplies for my garden and keep in Eyre, and it might make delivering finished goods from my shop and garden a wee bit quicker as well. As I was unable to locate such a vehicle that met my needs (or stature) I decided to build one of my own.
I'm particularly proud of the fine red livery and brass boiler. The motive power is a two cylinder, double-acting steam engine acting one the rear wheels through a set of differential gearing. The power plant is also a regenerative condensing type such as is commonly found in marine power plants, but is not commonly found on road going vehicles. Two very advanced features for a machine of this type.
The advantage of a condensing steam system is that one does not constantly have to stop to replenish feed water. Nor does the operator have to plan his or her route around availability of water, thus allowing the most expedient path to be used. Hence making this a most efficient piece of equipment for businesses whose daily affairs include the making of deliveries.
For initial testing I loaded two rather large casks of elven wine aboard and took it out on a spin through Eyre and Regency. It performed the task given it nearly flawlessly, only having a few issues with some uneven pavements. To test its endurance I set out on a cross-Caledon trip to Penzance and back! Cognizant I might need some aid for a journey of such magnitude I called upon my friend Hotspur O'Toole to act as navigator and mechanic. Properly fueled, watered, and equipped with our supply of elven wine and spicy orc rinds we set out.
The test trip was a rousing success (save for a few SIM crossing glitches, such as hair loss)! We reached Penzance in good order and in seemingly no time at all. The return trip to Eyre was similarly uneventful. There was no need to stop for water at all. Indeed, the feed water reserves had barely been touched!
After returning to Eyre and parting ways with HS, I received a message over the aether from Miss Starlight Vandeverre. After telling her the tale of my journey she asked if she might have a ride on this new means of transport. I readily agreed and after she arrived we climbed aboard and set off for her estate in Tanglewood. Now up to this point all testing was done on paved roads and I was interested to see how the lorry would do on less modern pathways. By and large it handled them well, although there was occasional need for me to get out and push. Crossing the railway proved to be particularly troublesome, running through a gully as it does in those parts. But in time I was able to deliver the good Lady to her doorstep without her needing to dirty her feet.
Flush from my success with the steam lorry I decided to attempt another vehicle I had rattling around in my head. Based on the same chassis as the lorry I built an Omnibus. Since steam is a somewhat messy technology and this was to be a passenger vehicle, I decided on a cleaner, less sooty, power source. Electricity!
Being aware that electric vehicles have some limitations, primarily limited range due to battery discharge, I decided to try a more experimental system. The well known and revered inventor Nikola Tesla once demonstrated a system for transmission of electric power through the aether. I thought that that would be a dandy solution for an Omnibus and set to work researching how it might be accomplished.
After many sleepless nights poring over technical arcana I developed a design for a power system I thought might do. I installed it in the now finished chassis and with some trepidation (I do admit it!) climbed aboard for the maiden voyage. To my great delight it set off under its own power with nary a sound, save for a slight hum of the motors in the hubs of the wheels. I have test driven it in all parts of Caledon to verify that the power transmission system operates reliably and have yet to encounter a location where power is not available. But for redundancy I have fitted a reserve storage battery just in case.
I am puzzled by one thing. I designed this vehicle to draw it power from the coil operated by the Caledon Tesla Society down in the Southern end of the realm. However, when I traveled down that way in testing the coil was gone! I'm at a loss to explain where the power comes from but it is my conjecture that the coil has either been moved or someone has another such device in operation in Caledon. Or perhaps it is drawing power from the aetherial waves of the wireless stations of Caledon, such as Radio Riel.
If anyone does have such a coil and has noticed a recent drain in power please contact me to arrange payment for your electricity.
My last project was for the defense of our nation. An armoured, self propelled gun platform I call a Terrapin. I hear that some mainland states have similar weapons they refer to as “Tanks”, though what a container for fluids has to do with such machines eludes me.
The beast (for such it is, being over seven metres in length and over three metres breadth and a weight of some 40 tonnes) is steam powered, with two separate double-acting two stage engines acting independently on the wheels of each side so as to allow for differential steering. The wheels may be coupled together across sides by use of clutches to allow for the full torque of the engines to be utilized to overcome obstacles, or to provide a limp-home capability in the event of engine failure or battle damage.
The main armourment consists of one 4.5” gun, derived from the naval guns of our Middlesea Auxiliary gunboats. This has the advantage of giving the Terrapin substantial striking force while allowing us to only need to manufacture and stock one munitions type, thus saving on cost of operation. Initial tests have shown promise but this is still in the prototype stage of development. Refinements are ongoing and I hope to add its capability to our armed services in a timely manner.
Thank you dear readers for your time and I hope to see you all in Caledon soon,
A. Tinlegs, Gnome
Friday, February 29, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The first powered aircraft flew in 1852?
Steam powered airplanes have been built and flown?
One of the primary reasons the first programmable mechanical computer
was never completed was because screws and nuts were not available in
standard sizes at the time?
The wireless telegraph may have been invented much earlier than the
historical record shows?
Inductive electric motors, fuel cells, and internal combustion engines
were all invented in the 19th century?
Passenger rail service of the 19th century often exceeded 70 mph and
sometimes topped 100 mph? Yet it was a common belief well into the 20th
century that if human beings were subjected to speeds in excess of 60
mph they would suffocate. This medical "fact" was often quoted in
Stay tuned for articles on these and other tidbits of 19th century
technological history and culture.
I am Amplebeak the Gnome, Citizen of The Independent Nation of Caledon and Elf Clan in the virtual world of Second Life.
You've caught my blog in its construction stage, but I hope you check back soon.
Vedui e' mai govannen!