Monday, April 7, 2014 - 19:30Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship #makerbusiness @helengreiner
The Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between 11 of America’s most inspiring and prominent entrepreneurs, the White House, the Department of Commerce, and our Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development partners.
Our goal is to harness their energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs both at home and abroad.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 19:00A short history of the modern bar code #Manufacturing Monday
In last week’s segment, Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible gave us the story behind the mid-twentieth century invention of the bar code. We here at Adafruit print thousands of barcodes daily so it was especially fun for us to take this bit of manufacturing history, from Slate.
When George Laurer goes to the grocery store, he doesn’t tell the checkout people that he invented the bar code, but his wife used to point it out. “My husband here’s the one who invented that bar code,” she’d occasionally say. And the checkout people would look at him like, “you mean there was a time when we didn’t have bar codes?”
A time without bar codes is hard to imagine now. But it wasn’t that long ago, and the story doesn’t start with George Laurer. It starts with an engineer named Joseph Woodland. In 1948 Woodland was trying to come up with simple symbol that, when scanned, would translate to a number that a computer could use to identify a product.
Legend has it that he came up with his design while sitting on the beach in Miami. He was puzzling over the whole thing, thinking about Morse code and tracing circles in the sand. When finally, bull’s-eye!
The very first bar codes were in the shape of a bull’s-eye, though they weren’t called “bar codes” yet. Woodland’s invention was patented in 1952 as a “Classifying Apparatus and Method.” But Woodland’s “apparatus” would gather dust for 20 years—the scanners and other equipment needed to put the system in place were too expensive.
Finally, in 1973, a group of supermarket executives led by Alan Haberman decided they needed to get some kind of scannable symbol in place to move people through checkout lines faster. They laid out a list of specifications that their ideal symbol would have and asked 14 companies, including IBM, to come up with a solution.
That’s where George Laurer comes into the story.
Laurer was working at IBM at the time and was tasked with making Woodland’s circular “Classifying Apparatus and Method” work. But Laurer didn’t think the bull’s-eye would fulfill the specifications set forth by the grocery industry. So he set out to make something that would. Eventually, Laurer came up with a rectangular design that fit more code into less space and didn’t smear on the presses (like Woodland’s bull’s-eye symbol did). The “Symbol Selection Committee” voted unanimously for Laurer’s rectangular symbol and code, which they named the Universal Product Code, or UPC. A year later, in 1974, a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum became the first item to be scanned with a UPC bar code.
According to GS1 (Global Standards One), the agency which issues bar code numbers, there are now about 5 billion bar codes scanned every day around the world.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 18:58BA662 Clone
It is said that the future is just pieces of the past stitched together, and so it is with the BA662. We reverse engineered the now-obsolete amplifier so you can stitch it into your projects, and give them a new future. Whether fixing an old synth or building a new filter with a distinct sound, the BA662 Clone can be your time machine. Why should Dr. Who have all the fun?
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 18:00ATTiny85 Arc Reactor Project
Zack shared with us his simple ATTiny85 Arc Reactor project:
Something I was making for Halloween. It has a potentiometer that you turn to switch the mode of the LEDs from flicker, pules, or solid. I used an arduino to program the ATTiny85. Ones I finished it I ended up giving it to a friend so I am not 100% sure on the capacitors. Anything close to 450uF should be fine and depending on the power supply you may not need them at all.
- 2 resisters (10 Ohms hook to LEDs and 470 Ohms hooked to potentiometer)
- 10k Ohm Potentiometer
- LM7805C 5 volt regulator
- 2 small Capacitors (I think I used 450uF)
- ATTiny85 and 8-Pin IC socket
- PC Board terminal
- 8 white LEDs
- Round ProtoBoard
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 17:00Interview with Susan Kare, the woman behind Apple’s first icons and pixel art pioneer
Priceonomics has an inspiring interview with Susan Kare, creator of the first Apple icons and pioneer of pixel art.
Thirty years ago, as tech titans battled for real estate in the personal computer market, an inconspicuous young artist gave the Macintosh a smile.
Susan Kare “was the type of kid who always loved art.” As a child, she lost herself in drawings, paintings, and crafts; as a young woman, she dove into art history and dreamed of being a world-renowned fine artist.
But when a chance encounter in 1982 reconnected her with an old friend and Apple employee, Kare found herself working in a different medium, with a much smaller canvas — about 1,024 pixels. Equipped with few computer skills and lacking any prior experience with digital design, Kare proceeded to revolutionize pixel art.
For many, Susan Kare’s icons were a first taste of human-computer interaction: they were approachable, friendly, and simple, much like the designer herself. Today, we recognize the little images — system-failure bomb, paintbrush, mini-stopwatch, dogcow — as old, pixelated friends.
But Kare, who has subsequently done design work for Microsoft, Facebook, and Paypal, has also become her own icon, immortalized in the annals of pixel art. We had a chance to interview her; this is her story.
Check out this vintage Macintosh commercial from 1983 featuring Susan!
“My philosophy has not really changed — I really try to develop symbols that are meaningful and memorable. I started designing monochrome icons using a 32 x 32 pixel icon editor that Andy Hertzfeld created. Subsequently I’ve been able to take advantage of more robust tools and higher screen resolution, and also design vector images in Illustrator. But design problems are solved by thinking about context and metaphor — not by tools.”
“The end goal is to develop an image that is easy to understand and remember, and that works well in its screen environment. It’s always optimal to be able to see the whole visual UI and mock up how icons will fit into that, and iterate.”
There’s a ton more to the interview, including pictures of Susan’s notebooks that show her original ideas for classic icons! Check it out here.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 16:00The strange stories behind the year’s best scientific images #science #photography
io9 has posted the winners of this year’s Wellcome Image awards and the results are pretty cool. Above is one of the winning entries- a close up of a kidney stone.
Researchers Kevin Mackenzie, Sergio Bertazzo and Zeynep Saygin all had winning entries in the 2014 Wellcome Image Awards, an annual competition dedicated to showcasing the year’s most fascinating scientific images. Here, in their own words, is how they captured their subjects, and what their images reveal.
Widening our view of the world can mean taking a much closer look at the familiar. Technology from MRI to Scanning Electron Microscopes, which use focused beams to interact with a sample’s surface to produce nano-sized resolution, is allowing scientists and medical researchers to delve into our strange and beautiful world (sometimes aided with a little Photoshop).
Seen above is a Scanning Electron Micrograph of a single head louse egg attached to a human hair.
This one depicts adult brain nerve fibres. Zeynep Saygin explains:
My image depicts the nerve fibres, or wiring, of the healthy human brain. Brain cells communicate with each other through these fibres and we can visualise them in every individual using a specialised MRI scan. The colours represent the direction of the fibres: blue for those that travel up and down; green for front to back; and red for left to right.
This is a density-dependent colour scanning electron micrograph of the surface of human heart (aortic valve) tissue. The spherical particles show calcification. The orange colour identifies denser material (calcified material composed of calcium phosphate), while structures that appear in green are less dense (corresponding to the organic component of the tissue).
The discovery of calcified particles shows that calcification in the cardiovascular system is more complex than being just a regular process of bone formation.
See the best runners up over at the io9 site.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 15:00Wanna Build a Rocket? NASA’s About to Give Away a Mountain of Its Code
This Thursday, NASA will release an extensive software catalogue to the public as a part of the government’s push towards transparency, via Wired:
This NASA software catalog will list more than 1,000 projects, and it will show you how to actually obtain the code you want. The idea to help hackers and entrepreneurs push these ideas in new directions — and help them dream up new ideas. Some code is only available to certain people — the rocket guidance system, for instance — but if you can get it, you can use it without paying royalties or copyright fees. Within a few weeks of publishing the list, NASA says, it will also offer a searchable database of projects, and then, by next year, it will host the actual software code in its own online repository, a kind of GitHub for astronauts.
It’s all part of a White House-directed push to open up the federal government, which is the country’s largest creator of public domain code, but also a complete laggard when it comes to sharing software. Three years ago, President Obama ordered federal agencies to speed up tech transfer programs like this. And while the feds have been slow, the presidential directive is starting to bear fruit. In February, DARPA published a similar catalog, making it easier for entrepreneurs to get ahold of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s code too.
NASA has run a technology transfer program for over 50 years. It has given us everything from the Dustbuster to Giro bicycle helmets to “space rose,” a unique perfume scent forged in zero-Gs. But it’s high time the agency actively pushed out its software code as well. Increasingly, NASA’s research and development dollars are paying for software, says Daniel Lockney, Technology Transfer Program Executive with NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. “About a third of everything we invent ends up being software these days,” he says.
Already, NASA software has been used to do some pretty amazing stuff outside the agency. In 2005, marine biologists adapted the Hubble Space Telescope’s star-mapping algorithm to track and identify endangered whale sharks. That software has now been adapted to track polar bears in the arctic and sunfish in the Galapagos Islands. “Our design software has been used to make everything from guitars to roller coasters to Cadillacs,” Lockney says. “Scheduling software that keeps the Hubble Space Telescope operations straight has been used for scheduling MRIs at busy hospitals and as control algorithms for online dating services.”
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 15:00How To Make an Amazing Spider-Man Costume
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be here soon, and if you’re thinking about making a Spidey costume of your very own, YouTuber Crazydog500 has three how-to videos to help you put one together. You have to obtain the pattern yourself and get it printed, and then Crazydog goes through the step by step of making the mask and attaching shoes for a seamless look. The end result is a costume that looks a lot like what you see on the screen, and even if you’re not planning to dress like Spider-Man, it’s a good overview for different techniques.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 14:37BREAKING NEWS! Raspberry Pi Compute Module – Pi on a DIMM! @Raspberry_Pi #raspberrypi
The compute module contains the guts of a Raspberry Pi (the BCM2835 processor and 512Mbyte of RAM) as well as a 4Gbyte eMMC Flash device (which is the equivalent of the SD card in the Pi). This is all integrated on to a small 67.6x30mm board which fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector (the same type of connector as used for laptop memory*). The Flash memory is connected directly to the processor on the board, but the remaining processor interfaces are available to the user via the connector pins. You get the full flexibility of the BCM2835 SoC (which means that many more GPIOs and interfaces are available as compared to the Raspberry Pi), and designing the module into a custom system should be relatively straightforward as we’ve put all the tricky bits onto the module itself.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 14:00NeoPixel-Thermo-Hygrometer Displays A Room’s Temperature and Humidity #NeoPixel #Adafruit
Christian Bastel-Leben shared with us a unique project he built around Adafruit NeoPixel strips, saying: “I build a cool looking device that displays the temperature and humidity in a room with the help of your great NeoPixels! Thank you for the product and especially for the library!” Check out project documentation at his site here:
The NeoPixel-thermo-hygrometer is ready! Cornelius was milled with a beautiful body, the front panel is made of TrueLED Plexiglas (black). The thermo-hygrometer shows on the right scale, the temperature of 10-40 ° C and on the left the relative humidity from 0-100% of .
The respective delicate dark green dots indicate the boundaries within which the indoor climate is perceived as pleasant.
[Below] Here I sprayed the sensor with cooling spray: the center point for temperature is slumped down and then changes to blue, the point for the relative humidity is fired up and has this changed to red. The thermo-hygrometer is reminiscent of something between a DNA image and a LCARS display and looks very cool!
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 13:00How a medieval philosopher dreamed up the ‘multiverse’
Space.com has an interesting read on how space was viewed in the Middle Ages.
The idea that our universe may be just one among many out there has intrigued modern cosmologists for some time. But it looks like this “multiverse” concept might actually have appeared, albeit unintentionally, back in the Middle Ages.
When scientists analyzed a 13th-century Latin text and applied modern mathematics to it, they found hints that the English philosopher who wrote it in 1225 was already toying with concepts similar to the multiverse…
In De Luce, Grosseteste assumed that the universe was born from an explosion that pushed everything, matter and light, out from a single point — an idea that is strikingly similar to the modern Big Bang theory.
At first, wrote the philosopher, matter and light were linked together. But the rapid expansion eventually led to a “perfect state,” with light-matter crystallizing and forming the outermost sphere — the so-called “firmament” — of the medieval cosmos.
The crystalized matter, Grosseteste assumed, also radiated a special kind of light, which he called lumen. It radiated inward, gathering up the “imperfect” matter it encountered and piling it up in front, similar to the way shock waves propagate in a supernova explosion.
This left behind “perfect” matter that crystallized into another sphere, embedded within the first and also radiating lumen. Eventually, in the center, the remaining imperfect matter formed the core of all the spheres — the Earth…
And although De Luce never mentions the term “multiverse,” Bower said that Grosseteste “seems to realize that the model does not predict a unique solution, and that there are many possible outcomes. He needs to pick out one universe from all the possibilities.”
“Robert Grosseteste works in a very similar way to a modern cosmologist, suggesting physical laws based on observations of the world around him, and he then uses these laws to understand how the universe formed,” Bower said.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 12:02The gloves that will “change the way we make music”
…musician Imogen Heap demonstrates the electronic gloves that allow people to interact with their computer remotely via hand gestures.
The interview was filmed at Heap’s home studio outside London, shortly before she launched her Kickstarter campaign to produce a limited production run of the open-source Mi.Mu gloves.
“These beautiful gloves help me gesturally interact with my computer,” says Heap, explaining how the wearable technology allows her to perform without having to interact with keyboards or control panels.
Pushing buttons and twiddling dials “is not very exciting for me or the audience,” she says. “[Now] I can make music on the move, in the flow and more humanly, [and] more naturally engage with my computer software and technology.”
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 12:00These MIT Researchers Want to Turn GIFs Into a Language
Two MIT Media Lab Grad students, Travis Rich and Kevin Hu, started GIFGIF, an interactive site that aims to measure and understand the potential of GIFs as web language. Click through to participate! via The Atlantic.
“We were talking about GIFs one day,” Hu told Quartz, “and we realized that they’re becoming more and more serious of a medium. They’re more popular, they’re used for more things.” Buzzfeed, for example, recently used GIFs to explain what was going on in Ukraine—reaching an audience that otherwise might have ignored the news. “And we realized,” Hu said, “that we could quantify this usage.”
The site, where visitors pick which of two GIFs relates better to a particular emotion, is powered by another MIT Media Lab project’s platform. Place Pulse used the multiple-choice A/B voting system to assign emotions to pictures of different cities, allowing researchers to quantify, for example, how “sad” or “unsafe” people felt when looking at pictures of Rio de Janeiro.
But Rich and Hu, who worked on separate teams but sat near each other (and the Place Pulse group) in the lab, decided to harness the system for their own purposes, to create a visual database of emotion. “It’s the same idea,” Rich said. “Taking something that’s very easy for humans to read—emotion—and translating it for computers.” While humans have no trouble deciphering what a GIF “means,” the same task is impossible for a computer.
Since launching on March 3, the site has drawn an average of 15,000 users a day who vote around 10 times per visit. “The average time is increasing already,” Hu said, “so we’re pretty optimistic for the future.” Their first goal is to build a text-to-GIF translator. “I want people to be able to put in a Shakespearian sonnet and get out a GIF set,” Hu said. But once they’ve gotten qualitative metrics for a large number of GIFs, they think the possibilities are pretty endless. “You could reverse-engineer it and use a GIF to find a movie that fits a certain mood,” Rich said.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 11:00NYC Resistor Members Collaborate with Brooklyn Ballet On Current Season #neopixel
Members of the NYC Resistor hackerspace shared with us about their latest project — which features Adafruit NeoPixels, GEMMAs, and more! — currently on view at the Brooklyn Ballet! (Grab tickets here!)
Nick and Sayaka Vermeer, Olivia Barr, and William Ward have been working hard for the past couple weeks on an exciting project with the Brooklyn Ballet. We are transforming the dancers’ costumes into interactive performance pieces. Our contribution consists of six LED snowfall tutus for the ballerinas, one Pexel shirt for Mike “Supreme” Fields and six sparkling LED hair accessories for the young ballerinas. The dancers will be performing the snow scene from the Nutcracker in the Brooklyn Ballet’s Vectors, Marys, and Snow performance from April 3rd to April 13th.
…[See the video below from their crowdfunding initiative] to watch an interview with Nick and Lynn Parkerson, founding artistic director and choreographer of Brooklyn Ballet. We’d really appreciate your donation to further our work! All our hardware designs and code are open source, and we hope to see more creative works mixing technology and dance.
Snowfall Tutus: To accomplish the snowfall/glitter efffect we’ve added LED lights, motion sensors, and custom coded/fabricated microcontrollers to the tutus. The sensor we used is called an accelerometer and its placed at the waist of the corset. It reacts with with movement of the dancer by increasing the amount and brightness of the LEDs with more vigorous movement from the dancer. Nick found a remarkably strong ultra flex 36 gauge silicone wire thats perfect for the supple construction of the tutus and its become a standard material at NYC Resistor for wearables. The wire connects 24 neopixels that are broken down into 6 strands of 4 pixels in each tutu. Special thanks to Max Henstell and Adam Mayer for helping in production. Take a look at this amazing video of our twinkling Tutu!
Pexel Shirt: Pexel Shirt is custom made for the dancer Mike “Supreme” Fields and is designed to interact with his pecks and arms. Mike is a popping artist and his dancing incorporates the flexing of muscle groups to create surface movement on his body. The shirt is activated by individual accelerometer sensors placed over his muscles that illuminate the LEDs through a Flora microcontroller. There are four sensors total, one on each peck and each wrist. When he flexes an individual peck it lights up. The lights on his arms are controlled by moving his wrists up/down or right/left. The entire piece is hand sewn including stitches in between individual pixel on the arm strands for optimum elasticity while still being secure. Watch the Mike in action here: Mike “Supreme” Fields.
Sparkle Hair Clips: To accent the young ballerina’s costume we designed an LED accent on a hair clip. The clip uses a Gemma microcontroller and a strand of neopixels. The clear acrylic beads on the clip filter the LEDs and sparkle.
Please come out and see the show at the Brooklyn Ballet April 3rd – 13th.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 10:00George Lucas Explains How the “Star Wars” Lightsaber Was Designed
Fast Co. Design has the story on this mini documentary that explores the creation of the iconic lightsaber from Star Wars.
In all of the annals of film and science fiction, you’d be hard pressed to find an object as singularly identifiable as the Star Wars lightsaber. Even if you don’t like science fiction, you can probably tell a lightsaber sight unseen, just by the distinctive whooshing sound it makes. That’s an impressive feat for a prop that, originally, was nothing more than a rotoscoped stick. It’s a journey that has been documented in this great 15-minute film that details the secret design history of the lightsaber.
According to George Lucas, he came up with the idea of a lightsaber for Star Wars because the film was meant to be a space-age Arthurian epic. It needed its own legendary weapon that the Jedi could use to set them apart, but it also needed to seem futuristic. Most importantly, since Jedis were supposed to be peacekeepers, Lucas wanted the weapon to be purely defensive. He finally settled on the idea of a laser sword to be his franchise’s Excalibur.
Bringing the lightsaber to life in the Star Wars films was an organic process. Originally, Lucas’s vision was that a lightsaber should be an extremely heavy weapon, at least 40 or 50 pounds, that required two-hands to lift. This is why all of the lightsaber duels in Star Wars are two-handed affairs. Over time, though, Lucas realized that he needed a way to show that Luke Skywalker was getting to be more proficient as a sword fighter, so the lightsabers became conceptually lighter, capable of being wielded with one hand.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 09:00Awesome new Jack White video shows paint reverberating inside a stack of amps #MusicMonday
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 09:00Awesome new Jack White video shows paint reverberating inside speakers #MusicMonday
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 08:00The Cumulus Parasol from toer is a Self-Inflating Solar Powered Umbrella
The Cumulus Parasol from the Dutch design firm toer is a self-inflating, solar powered umbrella. Now if only they could make a rain-activiated one!
The Cumulus Parasol is a solar powered parasol that inflates itself when the sun starts shining.
This artificial cumulus protects you from the sun. Whenever the sun comes out, this parasol inflates automatically to a cloud like shape using a solar panel at the top.
The Parasol inflates in about 20 seconds. The inflated Cumulus has a diameter of two meters. The cloud doesn’t have a metal core structure. The curved shape of the inflated cloud is aerodynamic, allowing it to withstand windy weather. The nylon surface of the Cumulus is durable, lightweight, and strong. The silicone coating makes it water proof.
Solar panels are positioned on top of the parasol. When it is sunny, these panels power a fan which inflates the body of the parasol. When the sun goes away the parasol deflates automatically. Also the parasol can be switched off using an additional switch which is integrated in the pole.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 07:00From the Forums – A NeoPixel as a PHPUnit Status Indicator! #neopixel #arduino
This is a project for any PHP developers out there using PHPUnit as a test framework. I wrote some code to hook up a PHPUnit listener to an Arduino board, which changes the color of a NeoPixel based on the result of unit tests.
Here’s the code on GitHub.
A quick demo video (above).
Featured Adafruit Product!
Flora RGB Smart NeoPixel version 2 – Pack of 4: What’s a wearable project without LEDs? Our favorite part of the Flora platform is these tiny smart pixels. Designed specifically for wearables, these updated Flora NeoPixels have ultra-cool technology: these ultra-bright LEDs have a constant-current driver cooked right into the LED package! The pixels are chainable – so you only need 1 pin/wire to control as many LEDs as you like. They’re easy to sew, and the chainable design means no crossed threads. (read more)
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 06:00Editing circuits with focused ion beams #reverseengineering
[Andrew] has been busy running a class on hardware reverse engineering this semester, and figured a great end for the class would be something extraordinarily challenging and amazingly powerful. To that end, he’s editing CPLDs in circuit, drilling down to metal layers of a CPLD and probing the signals inside. It’s the ground work for reverse engineering just about every piece of silicon ever made, and a great look into what major research labs and three-letter agencies can actually do.
The chip [Andrew] chose was a Xilinx XC2C32A, a cheap but still modern CPLD. The first step to probing the signals was decapsulating the chip from its plastic prison and finding some interesting signals on the die. After working out a reasonable functional diagram for the chip, he decided to burrow into one of the lines on the ZIA, the bus between the macrocells, GPIO pins, and function blocks.
Actually probing one of these signals first involved milling through 900 nm of silicon nitride to get to a metal layer and one of the signal lines. This hole was then filled with platinum and a large 20 μm square was laid down for a probe needle. It took a few tries, but [Andrew] was able to write a simple ‘blink a LED’ code for the chip and view the s square wave from this test point. not much, but that’s the first step to reverse engineering the crypto on a custom ASIC, reading some undocumented configuration bits, and basically doing anything you want with silicon.
This isn’t the sort of thing anyone could ever do in their home lab. It’s much more than just having an electron microscope on hand; [Andrew] easily used a few million dollars worth of tools to probe the insides of this chip. Still, it’s a very cool look into what the big boys can do with the right equipment.