Pico: The Robot that Stops on a Dime

When I first saw pico the robot on the MAKE blog, I thought its Li-Poly battery, which appears gigantic here, looked familiar. It’s the same brand, Full River, and type as is used in the FlyTech Dragonfly. The builder of pico even credits the indoor R/C flyer market with developing the miniaturized batteries, thinner PCBs, and other weight-conscious components that made his dime-sized bot possible. The name pico refers to a Sumobot category which has been proposed but has so far remained unrealized, until now — although some work will have to be done to stop pico from driving off the table, as it does now. The builder is looking to an even smaller battery and motor to allow him to add other parts, such as a wireless bootloader for hands-free programming.


DOOM on an iPod using an NES Controller

Oh those crazy kidz with their hardware mash-ups. This one comes to use via veteran Street Techie Craniac. It details how a gamer got doom.wads to run on his old iPod Photo using an even older NES Controller as his game controls.

A How-To can be found here.
See it in action here.

Thanks, Mark!


MAKE Vol. 9 is a Keeper!

I finally got a chance to read my issue of MAKE Vol. 9, the Fringe issue, and I think it’s one of the better ones they’ve done. I kind of winced at the Fringe theme, thinking it was going to be a lot of psychic silliness, reinforced by the Kirlian “aura” on the cover. But they do an awesome job of maintaining skepticism and decent B.S. detection, while still being open-minded and not forgetting the fun.

One of the more intriguing pieces in the Fringe section is a piece on the Freemasons, by MAKE’s Project Editor Paul Spinrad. The basic point of the piece is that the Masons started out as a society of geeks, stone masons/ engineers, who knew the “secrets” of cathedral building. He calls this period “operative Masonry.” Over time, more and more members joined who weren’t geeks/engineers and didn’t have any direct experience of the knowledge held in the Order. He calls this “speculative Masonry.” Paul asks the question: Wouldn’t it be cool if geeks reclaimed the Masons by joining in large numbers to a create new generation of operative Masonry, a place where people doing amazing things with technology could get together and share their discoveries? As he points out, the Masons have an amazing infrastructure, with lots of cool resources and swanky Lodge buildings. The Masonic membership is looking very gray these days and some Lodges have allegedly closed down because of dwindling membership.


Infinite Solutions: Hysterical, Evil

A few weeks ago, I saw an intriguing item on a hardware hacks site (which shall remain nameless) about greatly improving your WiFi network range by using your cell phone as an antenna. Whah? I took the link, began watching the how-to video, a show called “Infinite Solutions,” and hilarity quickly ensued.

At first, I thought it was real — goofy looking and sounding — but real. But by the time the host started wrapping Ethernet cable around a cellie to achieve “Ethernet induction,” I knew something was horribly, horribly wrong (not the least of which was the fact that the linking site hadn’t figured out that this was a put-on). I went to the Infinite Solutions page on YouTube and watched some of their other episodes. They’re genius, a hysterical mix of cheezoid production values, just enough real information and hand-holding to suck in the ill-informed, plenty of impenetrable geekspeak, and lots and lots of good ol’ Blarney.


MacBreak Discusses the EMI/iTunes Deal

Leo, Merlin, and the boys at MacBreak do a excellent job of quoting from and discussing the EMI/iTunes announcement this week.

If you’ve been living under a rock: EMI is releasing its entire catalog on iTunes (minus The Beatles, at least for now), all DRM-free, at twice the audio quality (for .30 more than the DRM’d tracks, which will still be available for .99). Full albums will get the higher audio quality and DRM-free for the current full album price. Yay! I might actually start buying music on iTunes now.


DEEP Inside the Golden Age of Analog Recording Technology

Last week, I got my copy of Recording The Beatles, a new magnum opus from Curvebender Publishing. I’m doing a review of it for MAKE Vol. 11.

I cannot begin to tell you how off-the-hook amazing this thing is. I was so excited by it, my hands were sweating when I first cracked it open. The “out of box experience” is intense. First off, it weighs a freakin’ TON. It’s oversized, hardbound, 540 pages long. It comes in a thick card slipcase, modeled on a ’60s reel to reel master tape box. Besides the book, you get all sorts of nifty goodies, like copies of B&W snapshots of the Fab Four and their engineers in the studio, a two-sided repro of the lyric sheet for “A Day in the Life,” a postcard to “The Beatles Band” from George Martin on vacation, a poster of the control surface of the main mixing board at EMI Studios, and other misc. stuff.

Inside the 11-pound wonder, you travel deep, deep into the minutia of the recording process. The book has detailed specs and photos of nearly ever bit of hardware used at Abbey Road from the mics to all of the tape machines and mixing consoles, the effects gear, the speaker systems, the studio instruments, the echo chambers, everything. The recording section goes through things like the Effects, how they were created, how they were used, what tracks they were used on, etc. There are even sidebar charts listing the tracks and the timecodes, so you can cue up the track to the place where various effects were employed. There are gorgeous photos throughout, even floorplans of Abbey Road and each of the studios within.


FlyTech Dragonfly Autopsy

I wrote a review of the WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly for the next issue of MAKE. It’s a pretty darn nifty flyer. Honestly, it’s actually a lot cooler than I thought. For a lot of these sorts of toys with a high-tech “wow” factor, I always wonder how much playtime kids (of any age) will get out of the thing. With the Dragonfly, it’s really fun to fly and to try to improve your flying skills. It’s also great that it’s very lightweight, in a Nerfy sorta way, so you can fly it both indoors and out (on VERY calm days). Of course, once you’ve had your fill of the Dragonfly as-is, it’s hacks time. The Dragonfly is still fairly new, so there aren’t that many mods out there yet, and given the light weight requirements, hacking it will be a real challenge.

So far, FlyTech owners have taken the styro shell off to figure out how it works and what parts it uses, replaced the LED status lights, from blue (at about 3V) to red (1.6V) to save some battery life. In stripping the shell and revealing the hardware, one hacker tracked down the Chinese company that makes the tiny Lithium Polymer battery packs. There’s a pack available that’s over twice the capacity of the 50mAh now in the Dragonfly. Unfortunately, it’s also twice as heavy, so again, the challenge is compensating for weight issues. Out of the box, the Dragonfly gets about 10 minutes on a 20-minute charge. The battery pack is charged from a cable connecting to 6-AA batts inside the R/C unit.


How-To: Install a Full OS X on AppleTV

Well, that didn’t take long. Unless this is an April Fool’s joke, this YouTube vid appears to show how this feller got OS X running on an Apple TV (for what that’s worth). And, it doesn’t involved much more than installing an HD formatted with the OS, the Semthex Kernel, and removing the Nvidia Kext files (which interfere with operation). The site AppleTV Hacks even has a how-to on it.