DIY Big Brother Art Project

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to the Civilian Art gallery here in DC, to the opening of a show by Hasan Elahi. Elahi, a Bangladeshi-born American artist and Rutgers professor, was held and interrogated by the FBI for several days in the wake of 9/11. Even after being released, his name appeared on terrorist watch lists. In response to this nightmare, he did something unusual, he opened up his entire life to scrutiny and self-surveillance. He created a project he dubbed Tracking Transience: The Orwell Project, taking pictures and keeping records of everything, from the hotel rooms he’s stayed in, to the food he’s eaten, to urinals he has known (see above). In the gallery show, and on his website, GPS location shows his whereabouts at all times. The effect of all this is unnerving, and sad, “lifecasting” as desperate survival strategy.

Clive Thompson has a piece about Elahi is the latest Wired (June). And on the Provisions Library blog, Signal Fire, Niels Van Tomme has an interview with the artist. The Civilian show closes this Friday (June 9).

So, after being determined innocent of any wrongdoing, Elahi is left alone now, right? Wrong. Here’s what he says about his current status (and his feelings about America) on Signal Fire:

“I get harassed still to this day– every time I fly through Kennedy airport I get taken in for hours. Other airports are hit or miss. To be honest, I have very good reason not to live here after all this, but remain here. This is home, this is where I grew up, I’m an American citizen and this is my country. So it does pose a very interesting question when your idea of the country does not necessarily reflect your government’s policies. I am certainly indebted to the US for what I’ve established here with my citizenship, it would’ve been impossible growing up in a small village in Bangladesh. On the other hand, I don’t agree with what our government is doing and that’s one of the reasons I’m doing this project.”


Spaghetti (and Meatballs) Deity Seen in Pieces of Toast

The Wacked Pack over at Evil Mad Scientist Labs have witnessed a miracle, the otherworldly appearance of our noodly overlord, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, on pieces of lowly Earth toast. Okay, so their CNC milling rig and a heat gun might have had something to do with it, but when you truly open yourself up to the wonders of science and technology, are these abilities any less miraculous? I see your virgin in an underpass rust stain and raise you a vision of divine fettuccine and meatballs, made possible by the glorious magick of switching electrons.


$100 WiFi Repeater w/Solar Power Option

Here’s an amazing solution for casting WiFi through a neighborhood, rural locations, etc. It’s a weatherproof repeater station that sells for US$99. It has an omnidirectional range of 700 feet. An optional antenna can boost that range up to 18 miles. Also, an optional solar panel can make the station self-powering.

[Via Sci-Fi Tech]


Database of Office 2.0 Apps

Street Tech pal Alberto pointed us to this amazing database list of “Office 2.0” applications (that’s 2.0 as in Web 2.0, not Office as in Microsloth). The list itself was built using Dabble DB an amazing Web-based database application. You can see a demo of Dabble DB is action here. Another Office 2.0 database site, maintained by Ismael Ghalimi has an updated list of Office 2.0 apps, with reviews, and other resources. Ismael also keeps a list of his Web-based office set-up.

Thanks, Alberto!


Amazing 3D Scanner Made with LEGOs and Milk (Seriously)

Longtime Street Tech contributor Mark Crane sent me a link to this amazing Instructable where a guy built a 3D displacement map scanner using little more than LEGO bricks, a Web cam, a Tupperware container, and milk! By photographing sequences of an object being progressively submerged in the milk, and then feeding them into a 3D program that supports displacement mapping, you can create a virtual 3D object from a real one. Ingenious.

Thanks, Craniac!


Mousey on Make’s Weekend Projects Podcast

I got a chance to meet Bre Pettis at the Maker Faire and he picked up a Mousey parts bundle and shot some footage of me for his Make: Weekend Projects podcast. Here is the result.

Man, do I ever have a face for radio! At least I sound reasonably coherent, which is a bonus.

BTW: In building this project, Bre experienced the dreaded “max headroom” problem, i.e., not allowing enough room above the circuit wiring to be able to screw the top of the mouse back on when you’re done. He also used solid core wiring throughout. It’s best to use stranded 24-guage inside and only solid core for the eyestalk wires. And even with stranded, you still want to make sure that you keep your wire lengths as short as possible. When I built the Mousey I’m holding in the above photo, I wasn’t as mindful of wire-length as I should’ve been, and when I was done, I couldn’t get the top back on. I had to re-route some of the wires to the sides of the LM386 chip and the relay to free up enough room. A royal pain.