Maker Faire Austin

I’m at Maker Faire Austin. Woo-Hoo. I made it, and with my nether regions unexplored by over-eager TSA officials. Of course, I shipped my IEDs (Improvised ELECTRONICS Devices) ahead of time.

It’s great to be here and I’m excited about the Faire. I’m currently at a Personal Fabrication Summit, a working session/meet n’ greet of folks involved in personal fabbing/3D printing, CNC machining, etc.

Speaking of IEDs, I’ll be doing Mousey the Junkbot workshops on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be in the Maker Store building. If you’re coming to the Faire, stop by and say hi.

If you want to participate in the workshops, you may want to check out the materials I put together before the Bay Area Faire. They’re available at here. Hope t o see you there… er here.

Making Things Talk from MAKE: Books

As I’ve mentioned here before, I have a new gig as an editor at MAKE: Books, the book imprint for MAKE magazine. The latest book to come out of MAKE (done before I came on-board) is Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk. Man am I excited about it. It looks great, it’s written in a very clear and approachable voice, and it’s loaded with cool, quirky projects for using Arduino/Wiring microcontrollers to create networked objects, embedded devices that can talk to each other and connect to the world via the Web.

Like Dorkbot, one of the things I love about MAKE is how it isn’t just for the geekiest among us — both orgs appeal to creative types/artists, too. Making Things Talk is also geared that way. Throughout its pages, and for each chapter opener, there’s an example shown of projects created by artists, art or engineering students, or others who are using Arduino/Wiring hardware and the Processing software language to create cutting edge techno-art. And also like MAKE proper, there’s a real “I can do this” energy behind the book. I’m not much of an MCU/programming kind o’ geek, but looking through this, I’m inspired to try some of the projects. And with the cost of Arduino hardware so low, there’s not a big investment in giving it a try. Like with LEGO Mindstorms, the Arduino LilyPads, and other seriously-cool embedded tech that’s coming to market these days, I can’t help but wonder what today’s generation of hardware hackers will do when this is what they have to cut their teeth on.

Making Things Talk is available in the Maker Store. I have to admit, I find it a tad intimidating that the bar has been set this high at MAKE: Books. According to the intro, the amazing Brian Jepson of Hackszine (who was the editor for this title) actually did all of the projects himself during the editing process. Jeez Brian, way to make the rest of us look like slackers. Don’t we have tech editors for this sort of thing? But then, Tom Igoe has created such a juicy book I bet few real geeks could read it and NOT want to do the projects.


Making Your Own Books

I’m doing a weekly column, called “Provisions DIY” (every Wednesday), for Provisions Learning Center’s blog. This week, I talk about printing your own books via Apple’s iPhoto Books and Lulu. I use the example of BCP! Bitmaps, a two-off book that Peter Sugarman made, one for me, one for him. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

A few weeks ago, a package arrived in the mail. It was from my friend and long-time collaborator Peter Sugarman. Inside the mailer was a handsome gray and white portfolio box with an Apple logo on it. Inside of that was a gorgeous hardbound black book called BCP! Bitmaps. BCP!, or Beyond Cyberpunk! A Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Future was an electronic book (done in Apple’s HyperCard program) that Peter and I (along with Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing, Jim Leftwich, and others) did in the early ’90s. Peter had gone through the entire e-book (called a “Stack” in HyperCard parlance) and extracted all of the B&W 72dpi bitmapped images, along with some evocative cyber-dada statements we’d peppered throughout the stack (e.g. “Art is not a mirror. Art is a hammer,” “You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard,” “Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?”).

With these images and text, he made this amazing coffee table art book using Apple’s iPhoto Prints service. I’d heard friends (including Peter) raving about this service in the past, about how easy it was to use and how amazing the finished products were. It may take holding one to appreciate just how tasty it really is. The materials are first rate. On this book, the matte black cloth cover, the thick woven silver end papers, the glossy black internal pages, the print quality — it’s all top notch. Everything about it feels like it’s a high-end commercial product, not a two-off (as is the case here).

But like everything else with Apple, this level of quality and style doesn’t come cheap. The books are US$30 for the cover and the first ten pages, and $1 for every page after that. This book cost about $50 to produce. There are cheaper paperback and wire-bound versions available. And when you think about, the price of commercial hardbound books these days, this really isn’t that expensive. If you’re an artist who wants to do a small-run special edition book of your work for a show or similar situ, you could easily sell a volume like this for $60 or $70 (or more) and it wouldn’t be overpriced (by current market standards).

Read the rest here…


Contest: Win a Head-Mounted Video Display

This morning, I posted an item on the MAKE: Blog about Jake Hildebrandt’s hack of a Wild Planet video display, the head-mounted video unit that’s part of Wild Planet’s Spy Video Car. It’s pretty easy to make this display work with any video source. Anyway, Wild Planet read the post and offered up this contest (the replacement display unit appears to be no longer available):

Thanks to Jake, for the great hack! So sorry the website is out of stock. Our engineering group has a bin of extra headsets (pre-production samples, engineering test units, etc.) we’d like to make available to 10 clever hackers.

Email us with a one-paragraph proposal of what cool thing you’re going to do with your own cyborg headset. Best 10 answers we receive by 5PM tomorrow (Oct. 10) receive a headset. No guarantees-these aren’t production samples, but they’re free, right?

email us: hack(at)wildplanet(dot)com

Much love, Wild Planet Engineering Team


Awesome Electronics and Arduino Tutorials

There just aren’t enough good, clear electronics and getting started in microcontrollers tutorials online. It’s a shame because far more people would be interested in this stuff if the barriers to entry weren’t so intimidating. And unfortunately, many of these barriers are unnecessary (like tutorials that can’t be bothered holding your hand and easing you in slowly).

So, I’m thrilled that one of my favorite hardware hackers, Lady Ada, has put up the first four lessons of her Learn Electronics Using Arduino tutorials. Clear, well-documented, well-illustrated tutorials. It seems so obvious. And yet it escapes so many.

So if you’ve been wanting to get into MCU/Arduino programming and taking control of some hardware projects, grab your soldering iron, Digital Multimeter, and your Arduino module and hit this link.


How-To: Make Your Own SD/MMC Card Connector

Hackszine points to this nifty project that turns a floppy drive ribbon cable/connector into an SD/MMC card socket. The builder, Rob Wentworth, soldered this onto the PCB of his Linksys WRT54G router. If you’re running third-party firmware on your router, like DD-WRT or OpenWRT, this SD socket gives you access to a lot more apps, data, and swap-RAM space. This how-to only covers the SD socket side of things. Here’s a tutorial on attaching an SD socket to a WRT54G router.


Adventures in Hollywood & iPod Etching

Our pal Jake von Slatt has a fun piece on the Steampunk Workshop where he tells the tale of his trip to LA, to appear on Wired Science, interspersed with his prepping of the project he planned to demo there, etching an iPod.

The next step in the process was to clean the iPod back carefully with alcohol and spray a couple of coats of the ER-71 Photo Resist Liquid on it. This had to be done in subdued light, particularly avoiding any light in the blue and UV part of the spectrum. Around here that means kerosene lamp light. After the resist was applied the iPod went into a oven at 140 degrees for about 20 minutes to cure.

Back to my story, after several phone conversations I agreed to ship all of my projects out for a “show and tell” segment, but the producers wanted more “science content” so I proposed etching an iPod in a demo since electrolytic etching with it’s anodes and cathodes and electrons and ions is the just about the most “science-y” thing I do.


Introducing MAKE Vol. 11

MAKE Vol. 11 is out. I just got my contributor’s copy on Friday. There’s the typical embarrassment of DIY riches in it. It’s an alternative transpo issue, with lots of cool bike and car hacks. Mr. Jalopy is on the cover with his Mobile Drive-In Movie Projector. But the thing I’m most excited about in this issue is that *I* kick it off! I wrote the “Welcome” editorial piece. I’m truly honored and flattered n’ junk. The piece is an edited version of my “Makers vs The Blob” piece I wrote here, my wrap-up of the SF Maker Faire. You can read the longer original piece here.

Speaking of Maker Faires, I’ll likely be at the Austin Faire (Oct 20-21). I’d love to see some of my Street Tech compadres there.


More Easy-build CNC machine

A few days ago, I blogged an Instructable on MAKE about a (relatively) easy to build 3-Axis CNC milling machine. Folks (on Instructables and MAKE) thought it was cool n’ all, but they wanted to know a lot more, like how to control the steppers, details of the software used, etc. The builder has answered, with a new Instructable that covers the steeper motors and driver circuits and the software he uses. There have been a number of calls to do a CNC machine project in MAKE and it’s probably something we should consider. These machines really have reached a point of being (relatively) cheap and easy enough to make that lots of people might want to give it a try.


Backup Battery Kit for the iPhone

Like all battery ratings, the iPhone’s alleged (up to) 8 hours of talk, 6 hours of Internet, etc. is bullshit. On my new phone, I’m getting maybe 3 hours and change of talk, Web, and other use, AVERAGE use. I haven’t timed it, but I had a two-hour-plus doctor’s procedure the other day. I’d used the phone a bit in the morning before it, but not much, used it throughout the procedure (phone, EDGE web, video and music) and there wasn’t much of a charge left by the time I was done. I can’t imagine this thing lasting from one end of the country to the other if you were actually using your iPhone as Gopod intended during the flight.

Which brings me to the Minty Boost, USB charger kit, created by Lady Ada and sold at the Maker Store. I’ve been wanting to get one, but never really had the need for it. She reports on her site, and PT confirms on MAKE, that it does work with the latest iPhone software update.Maybe with this in my laptop bag, I’ll feel confident about using my phone on the plane and still having enough juice left to call people when I reach the other coast. Of course, with this thing in my bag, given my history with TSA, I might never make it off the ground.

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences with traveling with the iPhone on long flights and other situs where other phones hold out. Our Comment system is still turned off, thanks to Russian porn spammers. Please email me at: garethbranwynATmacDOTcom.