That’s Not A Pile of Junk, That’s My Pet Robot!

I’ve just finished reading the best damn robot book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read plenty!). The book, called Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on Wheels, is by Dave Hrynkiw. Street Tech old timers will remember Dave from when he was a “Geek in Residence” here years ago. The president of robot parts and kit company, Solarbotics, Dave has been a tireless champion of BEAM robotics for years. BEAM (which stands for “Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, Mechanics”) is a fascinating bottom-up approach to robot building. Taking cues from biology, BEAM-makers mainly use analog electronics to create surprisingly lifelike behaviors in (usually) solar-powered, autonomous, bug-brained bots.

DIY TeleZapper

Cool little tip in the latest Wired. Instead of buying a TeleZapper, that little inline phone cable gizmo that tricks telemarketing robo-dialers into thinking they’ve gotten a disconnected number, you can easily make your own. All you have to do is download this WAV file. You can either play this 3-tone sound file into your outgoing answering machine message as is or trim off the last two tones. These are the tones you hear when you get a disconnected number. Only the first tone is required to trick the robo-dialer into thinking that your number is a dead-end (and they’ll take you off their list).

See No Evil

The New York Times has a story on Michael Naimark’s report on the topic of defeating security cameras with a simple $1 laser pointer. While most of us probably figured that a laser pointer would cause trouble for video cameras, apparently this fellow has done a fairly thorough analysis on the effect, and finds that it’s actually much more effective than we might have thought. The info on the web isn’t very detailed, but it’s unclear whether the “white-paper” mentioned in the NYT is the same one already posted on the web. We’ll check his site in a week to see if there’s something more detailed.