DIY soda dispensing bar gun (aka wunderbar)

You’ve likely see a WunderBar or bar gun – a single dispenser for 4 to 12 different beverages. Bartenders use them to dispense many of the mixers they need from water to club soda to cola.

Cornelius brand bar gun and CO2 distributor
Cornelius brand bar gun and CO2 distributor

A typical modern bar gun is connected to a syrup / water / CO2 mixing system. A long time ago, the soda came pre-mixed in 5 gallon stainless “kegs” and the bar gun was just the centralized dispenser. 

The DIY home bar can have something similar! In place of 5 gallon kegs, we will use 2 (or 3) liter bottles.

The system consists of a CO2 cylinder and pressure regulator, a distribution manifold, the bar gun, some tubing, and a bit of DIY to create a fitting for soda bottles.

custom brass soda bottle dispenser head
custom brass soda bottle dispenser head

The trick is to creat a custom head fitting that lets CO2 into the soda bottle through one tube and forces the soda out through another tube.

The head part consists of a “street tee” fitting with two NPT-to-barb adapters.

To make the unit, a 4″ length of brass tubing is bonded (soldered or using JB Weld) inside one of the NPT adapters. Next, a brass or copper washer is bonded to the threaded neck of the street tee. The unit assembled with Teflon tape so the brass tube runs down the center of the street tee. A hole is drilled into a soda cap just barely large enough for a snug fit when the threaded neck of the street tee is inserted. A neoprene washer is sandwiched between the washer on the street tee and the soda cap. Finally, it is all tightened together with a nut on the inside of the cap, threaded onto the threaded neck of the street tee.

NOTE: If you use 1/8″ NPT hardware you will have plenty of space inside the soda cap. If you use 1/4″ NPT hardware as in this example, things will be tight and sanding if grinding down the NPT nut will be necessary (which is why the nut in the picture looks round with two flat sides).

Someone on the Internet sells plans for $12 this setup. I found all the details by doing an Internet search for “soda bottle mini keg”.

The setup isn’t cheap (the parts for just one soda bottle head fitting is $15US). So, unless you are doing for the experience of building something or you must have all the cool gadgets, I’d just stick to having soda bottles behind your home bar it in you personal Pub Shed.

Echoes of foot steps

paw prints in relief
paw prints in relief

This is what happens when there is a quick warm up and melt off of snow after a long cold spell. The fluffy snow melts quickly, leaving the previously compressed foot prints.

iOS is not as homogeneous as it once was

Just a few years ago, the big complaint of the Android platform was that is was the wild west. Vendors could choose their own screen resolution and pixel density. This made it difficult for mobile app developers (and designers).

Fast forward to 2015 and there are iOS 7 and iOS 8 deployments, iPhone 4, 5, 5S, 5C, 6, 6P, iPad Mini, Mini Retina, iPad, and iPad Retina. If you want to render all of the needed icons and splash screens for your mobile app, it now looks like this …

iphone-size-comparison16px favicon
32px favicon
57px app icon
72px app icon
76px app icon
114px app icon
120px app icon
152px app icon
180px app icon
1536×2008 portrait launch image
768×1004 portrait launch image
1242×2148 portrait launch image
750×1294 portrait launch image
640×1096 portrait launch image
640×920 portrait launch image
320×460 portrait launch image
1024×748 landscape launch image
2208×1182 landscape launch image
2048×1496 landscape launch image

Thankfully, there is still ImageMagick and it’s ability to script the generation of all these different graphics.

Here is the updated script …

@echo off
echo Utility to generate all of the icons and splash screens for iOS.
echo One files needed in the current directory - mask.png
echo which is used to make iOS looking icons.
echo Assumes there is a file called src10241024.png and that the
echo 'important' material is 768x768 and centered with the remainder
echo of the area being solid color.

for %%S in (16 32) do (
	echo making the %%Spx favicon
	convert src10241024.png -gravity Center -crop 512x512+0+0 -scale %%Sx%%S favicon%%S.ico

for %%S in (57 72 76 114 120 152 180) do (
	echo making the %%Spx app icon 
	convert src10241024.png -alpha off -gravity center mask768.png -compose CopyOpacity -composite -gravity center -crop 768x768+0+0 -scale %%Sx%%S -background transparent icon_%%S.png

for %%S in (1536x2008 768x1004 1242x2148 750x1294 640x1096 640x920 320x460) do (
	for /F "tokens=1,2 delims=x" %%A in ("%%S") do (
		echo making the %%Ax%%B portrait launch image
		convert src10241024.png -scale %%Bx%%B -gravity Center -crop %%Ax%%B+0+0 screen-%%Ax%%B.png

for %%S in (1024x748 2208x1182 2048x1496) do (
	for /F "tokens=1,2 delims=x" %%A in ("%%S") do (
		echo making %%Ax%%B landscape launch image
		convert src10241024.png -scale %%Ax%%A -gravity Center -crop %%Ax%%B+0+0 -rotate 90 screen-%%Ax%%Br.png

Eventually, the sour 1024×1024 image should be undated to about 2400×2400

Compare iPhone in camera pano vs stitching app

Rather than give my opinion, I’ll let you decide which of the following two pictures you like better (click on image to see full size; images modified to increase compression to JPEG 75%) …

iPhone 6 plus camera pano
iPhone 6 plus camera pano

AutoStitch App using 10 photos
AutoStitch App using 10 photos

Hire a Renaissance Designer

vitruvian_manIn a utopia, there would be a person for every job and a job for every person. We don’t live in a utopia. Whether you are a startup or a global corporation, the odds are good you can’t afford to have every role silo’d. It’s just too expensive – either in dollars or time (or both).

A Renaissance Designer brings a mix of skills to the task of delivering a great product. They should poses a solid foundation in their own discipline of design – user research, ideation, sketching, user testing, mockups, etc. They should also possess at least rudimentary skills typically bestowed on the team segments they work with. It’s true, whether we are talking industrial design, print media, or software design.

An industrial designer should understand the manufacturing process for materials – how plastic flows, how strong it is, the limitations of a carbon fiber layup, or the methods of combining fiberglass with metal.

A visual design working for a print media company should understand the side effects of the print process, bleed, and the limitations of scaling.

A software designer should understand the fundamentals of the UI framework, the constructs of HTML & CSS, or be familiar with the platform UI interfaces.

A Renaissance Designer is more adept at working side by side with their engineering and technical brethren. When there is a relatively seamless collaboration between designer and technician, they are able to more quickly develop a concept, test it with end users, iterate it, refine it, and productize it.

Using a web application example, the UX Designer creates a mockup of an idea and tests it with end users and then conveys the mockup to a developer to codify. There are clear boundaries. A Renaissance Designer may create an interactive mockup or ask a developer to create a rough prototype; then apply all of the necessary CSS to visually match the design. The result is a more seamless transition – a blurring of the lines – between the design tasks and the development tasks.

It seems intuitive but often, companies over delineate roles. This slows progress, establishes an “us vs. them” environment, and results in less design reaching the end user.

Can’t find a Renaissance Designer? No problem. Look for is a Designer who is curious to learn. The range and depth of skills they need is easily attained as projects and tasks evolve. You get an invaluable asset and they get a nearly endless dose of fresh challenges.

Developing trust requires empathy for the user

image by truefreestyle

I was recently asked to help out on a new software project related to security. I was told the problem was that “users don’t understand.” I guessed that wasn’t the real issue.

One message the team heard consistently was, “Why is this a ‘risk event’ and not that?” When we dug into the underlying feelings behind the users’ comments we learned they wanted more confidence that the software was doing the right thing but initially they just didn’t trust it.

How do we instill trust in the end user? On this project, the deployment team gets the system up and running and then spends a large portion of their time explaining what is happening behind the scenes.

Why not incorporate the explanations directly into the software? Historically, the software was like the Wizard of Oz, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” – in other words, the team designed and delivered a user experience that was deliberately and impenetrably opaque.

The researchers and developers on the projects are  incredibly smart and they have invested thousands of hours to create intelligent algorithms, so it’s no wonder they repeated say, “We want all of this to be automatic”.

Automation is good, but only once the user trusts it.

A historically similar situation is spam filtering. In the beginning, spam filters had a habit of false positives and frequent misses. They eventually got better – but never perfect. Two factors made the filters better; one was better algorithms and the other was giving the user some control to mark things as spam and not-spam.

For this project, my advice was to expose some of the software intelligence. Let the user understand why the algorithms identified a risk or why it has dismissed it. Let the user contribute their own assessments by promoting/demoting a risk event. Finally, let the user hide it all when they are not interested – like when they start to trust the system !