Improving The Glue Gun

I LOVE my glue gun. It’s one of those tools I always appreciate when I’m using it, but don’t use it nearly as much as I have uses for it. Why? It’s kind of a hassle to round it up, plug it in to heat it, and then to deal with the inevitable drooling that it does. It’s messier to work with than it should be.

Cold Heat to the rescue. These are the same folks who gave us the instant-on soldering iron, and they’ve applied the same heating technology to glue guns, creating the Freestyle (US$30), a cordless gun that heats up in under a minute and doesn’t drip like traditional guns. I’m definitely buying one of these babies as soon as I have some mad money to blow.

[Via Kevin Kelly Cool Tools]

Best. Electronics. Tutorial. Ever.

Think you know how electricity flows through a circuit? Think you know how transistors work? Well, in the immortal words of Firesign Theater: Everything you know is wrong. Or at least slightly off; less than accurate. This article, on an amateur science website, will help clear things up. Here are a few choice tidbits:

…you must abandon the idea that CURRENT travels in transistors or flows inside of wires… Current does not flow. Electric current never flows, since an electric current is not a stuff. Electric current is a flow of something else. (Ask yourself: what’s the stuff that flows in a river, is it “current” or is it called “water?”)

“So what flows inside of wires? The stuff that moves within wires is… is called Electric Charge. It’s the charge that flows, never the current….


…Have you discovered the big ‘secret’ of visualizing electric circuits?


Wires and silicon …both behave like pre-filled water pipes and water tanks. This simple fact is usually obscured by the phrase “power supplies create current” or “current flows in wires.” Once we get rid of that word “current,” we can discover fairly stunning insights into simple circuits.

If the two-part piece gets too gnarly for you, there’s a shorter summary article.

Steve Roberts’s Latest Nomadness

Just the other day, I was wondering what Steve Roberts might be up to these days. As you may recall, Roberts is the “high-tech nomad,” creator of the Behemoth, the tricked out, gadget-laden bike and trailer that used to show up at tech shows back in the day (we’re talking late ’80s/early ’90s). Roberts called the project a “no-holds-barred extravaganza of geek expressionism.” And an extravaganza it was, all 580 lbs of it — that’s how much weight was involved in hauling around the cellphones, laptops, and radio gear of the time.

Things are obviously far more portable these days, but getting together a full spectrum mobile system with phone, radios, GPS, computer, Bluetooth, WiFi, and other communications and data collection tools can still be unwieldy. So Steve’s latest project is the Shacktopus, a sort of deep geek Bond-ian suitcase, a grab n’ go mobile communications center filled with everything you could possibly imagine needing on the well-wired roadtrip. He’s started a new website and blog to document his efforts and is hoping to turn the results into actual product. [Via hack-a-day]

BoxBots: High-Tech Folk Art

We love the high-tech folk art here at the Labs — it is “street tech,” after all. And, we love the robots made from junk. These two interests get all origami on us in BoxBots, a wacky menagerie of cardboard robot models crafted by artist Jonathan Keller while he was bored and living in Antarctica.

Other people have gotten in on the act and started submitting their own BoxBots to the site. I love the idea of re-visioning trash, squinting to see if there’s a robot lurking in there. You’ll never look at your garbage the same way: “C3PO, is that you?”

[Via Make]

Xbox 360 Firmware Hacked

A European hacker named TheSpecialist, along with a team of fellow propellerheads, has successfully modified the firmware on the Xbox 360 console so that copied game discs can be booted directly from the DVD drive. The group has no plans to release the firmware (“The team advocates hacking, not piracy”), but their investigations are public, so a release of the hack is likely soon.

Here’s what Microsloth had to say on news on the hack.

Drooling Over Dremel

We don’t know about you, but we’re pretty psyched here at Street Tech Labs about getting our hands on the new Dremel Stylus tool (US$70). The latest in the Dremel line, this cordless multipurpose rotary tool has a handle for better grip and fmore control when doing precision work. It’s smaller than the last Dremel release (the rather beefy 10.8V cordless), which can be a little unwieldy on some jobs. The Stylus offers a nice happy medium, with a respectable 7.2V Li-on battery and up to 25,000 RPM. The handle grip allows you to hold the Stylus like a pencil, for greater control in situations where you need it, but you can also flip the tool around and hold it like a typical Dremel (for using things like a cut-off wheel where you’d want the wheel to be perpendicular to your cut).

We’ll try to get ahold of an evaluation unit for an in-depth review. Stay tuned…

The Bucky Boob Tube

Is there a carbon nanotube TV in your future? Maybe. As you may recall, a company called Applied Nanotube showed off a rather low-res (we’re talkin’ 280 x 200) proof-of-concept nanotube TV last year. Now the company has announced a letter of intent deal with a Taiwanese TV maker to create commercial sets based on Applied’s tech.

Carbon nanotube TV tech is similar in concept to CRT (cathode ray), with the carbon tubes shooting electrons at the screen, but here, the sets can be LCD-thin and the energy consumption is significantly less. Nanotube tech also does not experience the image ghosting found on larger LCD and plasma displays.

A spokesbot for the company said that trials of the sets could begin as early as later this year and that commercial production could be underway in two.

Full story on CNet.

Windows on Mac: We Have a “Winner”

In January, we told you about a guy who had started to take up a collection to pay the first person who could get Windows XP running on an Intel Mac. It may have taken longer than some people thought, and the proceedure is gnarly enough that old deep geeks need apply, but it IS doable. The question now, of course, is WHY?

BTW: When we brought you the story in January, the pot was up to US$7000. The two hackers who performed the installation, who call themselves “Narf2006” and “Blanka,” took $13,854 back to their cubicles. Colin Nederkoorn, who initated the contest, is continuing to take donations to support ongoing efforts in his Windows on Mac open source project.

New Ransomware Sighting

EWeek is reporting a new trojan horse ransomware attack. Called Cryzip, the malicious software likely arrives via an email attachment, though exact details are not yet known. Once in your (Windows) machine, Cryzip scoops up all of the Word, Excel, PDF, and JPG docs on your system, encrypts a copy in Zip format, deletes the originals, and provides details on how to pay the US$300 ransom to get your stuff back. So far, reports of the attack have not been widespread. If you need another reason to always back data onto a second, removable medium, this’d be one (and we’re not going to bother to remind you about not opening up even remotely suspicious attachments).

Thanks, Alberto!