Surplus Ops & Reverse Engineering - This entails scrounging, rebuilding, and generally doing better for fewer dollars what others pay big bucks for. Many times, this includes dissecting a successful item, and learning how they did it. I enjoy seeing value where others don't. I put more time into projects, but my knowledge, opinions, and insights become experience based rather than sterile book knowledge.
Book learning tends to sort knowledge into bins: product packaging, analog design, sensors, digital design, RF, ergometrics, machining, software, operations, etc. An actual study piece rarely draws the line where one stops and the other starts. Reverse engineering entire packages gives robust, operational skills across many disciplines. I appreciate the spirit of the Midnight Engineering magazine (no longer available through the original link at Midnight Engineering. In it's place, a related conference lives on, called EntConnect. Web page publication alternatives seem to have stalled. Back in 1992, I paid for a life-time subscription to Nuts & Volts Magazine, and it is something I continue to greatly value. Through the years, they have paid me a small stipend for authoring original articles. I bid on government surplus goodies, and pick up all sorts weird stuff for decent prices. I repair what is repairable, sell some, and tear the rest apart for educational value.
Recently, I've had the chance to dive into the power supply of a 3rd-party vendor, designed to operate with a Beckman DU-2 UV-Visible Spectrophotometer. I'm still working through some problems on the amplification circuits for the Photomultiplier Tube. I have no circuit schematics for this 1966 classic, but find it's null-sensing circuits and simple mechanical design hard to walk away from.
At different times, my interests branch out to contract software and hardware engineering, and technical writing. Check out the following: