Monday, March 10, 2014 - 17:09LEGO Computer Keyboard
Check out this fully functional lego keyboard from Jason Allemann, via JK Brickworks
I actually built the first prototype for this project all the way back in 2005! You can see a picture of that original prototype in the images below. I shelved the project for a number of reasons. Mostly because I was trying to build it onto the membrane of a Microsoft Natural keyboard, and working around the various angles of the keyboard was giving me a lot of trouble.
Last year I stumbled upon an old keyboard someone was getting rid of on the side of the road (nothing like doing a little free-cycling!). My interest was piqued again and after testing that the keyboard still worked I resurrected the project.
The biggest challenge was creating a frame that allowed the keys to be precisely spaced above the membrane. As I show in the video this was accomplished with a grid of Technic connectors and axles.
The second biggest challenge was finding appropriate printed tiles for all the symbols on a keyboard. Thankfully The LEGO Group has released all the main characters, numbers, and even a few special symbols over the years. I had to get creative with some of the keys though, which was actually quite fun. Still, there a few keys that could use some improvement.
Thankfully it is extremely easy to replace keys, so as I get inspired, or as The LEGO Group releases new printed tiles, I can easily upgrade the keys. It would also be quite easy to customize the layout, or add custom symbols to make a gaming specific layout.
The performance of the keyboard is quite good. There is a bit of flex in the Technic frame as you are using it, but this doesn’t seem to affect the performance at all. I can type just as well with this keyboard as with any other, as you can see during the introduction to the video.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 17:00SXSW: Notes from the Premiere of 3D Printing Doc ‘Print the Legend’ #3DPrinting #MakerBusiness
Yesterday, the feature length doc “Print the Legend” launched at SXSW 2014 to a packed house at the Stateside Theatre in Austin, Texas. (There is another screening today Monday 3/10 @ 1:45pm and Wed 3/12 @ 6:45pm.)
In attendance were a number of those featured in the film: Max Lobovsky (co-founder FormLabs), Zach Hoeken Smith (co-founder of MakerBot), Cody Wilson (founder of Defense Distributed), Michael Curry (formerly of MakerBot), and many others. (Including myself, as former MakerBot Community Manager and a writer on topics of 3D printing today.) Current staff from 3D printer manufacturers re-united with former colleagues, once-competitors shaking hands and talking about exciting developments in the field. It was an occasion for the sharing of many “battle tales” of the tough road that has taken “desktop 3D printing” from an extreme margin of industry into the mainstream media spotlight.
This was the first time most of us were seeing the festival cut of the film and we were as eager to see it as the festival attendees who lined up around the block. Print the Legend has as its backdrop the recent rise of the desktop 3D printing field as a whole, but focuses most of its screen time on intimate exploration of two key companies in this space: hardware startup darlings MakerBot and FormLabs.
ather than attempting to cover the thousands of participants in the movement — for example, the crucial RepRap movement and the DIY printer hobbyists (which would make a fantastic Jason Scott style archive like BBS: The Documentary), or the decades of inventors of countless numbers of printing methods duking it out to secure contracts and customers — the film sets as its central aim to create a nuanced document of the 21st century hardware startup. At heart this documentary is a film about hardware startups and those who participate in them — and the filmmakers had tremendous access to the thrills, upsets, hard calls and tough lessons that are typically invisible behind the meteoric rise of the technology brands that spring into prominence in our lives today.
While FormLabs and MakerBot are the chief focus, the documentary covers a number of additional figures from the field as well. 3D Systems’ Avi Reichental plays a central role — efforts on the part of 3D industry leader 3D Systems (and Stratasys also) to engage with and venture into the consumer space. Disrupting received notions about the role of 3D printing in contemporary society, sequences featuring Cody Wilson — (in)famous for the 3D printed handgun and other provocations — offer an anarchist counterpoint to the frequent claims of this recent period in 3D printing history as the “3D Printing Revolution.” And first hand accounts from participants in all stages of this time period weigh in on passionate dreams and hard realities from the factory floor.
This film is still in its first stages of release — doing the festival circuit while being wooed by distributors and various release platforms/venues — so there are limited opportunities to see it for now. Hopefully, in the near future, all of you who are curious about this film will get an opportunity to see it. And I look forward to all of the exciting conversations it will stir up about hardware startups and the 3D printing movement.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 16:00Recycling heat from industry could reduce carbon emissions #ManufacturingMonday
Scientists are studying ways to use the potential of waste heat in order to reduce carbon emissions. Via Phys.org.
Industrial processes that require high temperatures often expel any surplus heat into the environment. While industries are fairly good at using as much of this surplus as possible, a small amount of heat is always wasted…
In a new study, published in Applied Energy, scientists from the University of Bath evaluated the opportunities for industry to recover heat, and analysed which technologies would work best.
‘A large potential was seen in opportunities for re-use on site, which is the simplest method often practiced at the moment. If you have this heat currently going into the atmosphere, and you have a demand for heat at a lower temperature elsewhere in the manufacturing process you can directly use it,’ explains Dr Jonathan Norman of the University of Bath, lead researcher on the project.
‘We also found good potential for converting heat into electricity. The advantage with this is that you don’t need to re-use the heat nearby, because electricity is easily transported, and can be used for many things,’ Norman says….
‘If we supplied electricity from the heat surplus, it wouldn’t have to be generated by a fossil fuel, and if it was used locally then it wouldn’t place more pressure on the emission-intensive national grid. Overall, through a combination of technologies, we think recycling heat would save about 2.2 mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. In comparison, onshore wind generation in the UK saved about 3.5 Mt of CO2 equivalent in 2010, compared to the average emissions of the national grid’ Norman explains.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 15:16The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Game – 30th Anniversary Edition
If in doubt, before you make a move, please save your game by typing “Save” then enter. You can then restore your game by typing “Restore” then enter. This should make it slightly less annoying getting killed all the time as you can go back to where you were before it happened.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 15:00Interview with Irene Greif, the first woman to get a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT
The Atlantic has a wonderful interview with Irene Greif, the first woman to get a computer science Ph.D. from MIT. She discusses her life and legacy, describing what it was like to be a part of the early days of MIT’s computer science program and detailing her experience as a woman at the school in the mid-60s.
Irene Greif always thought she’d be a teacher. “For one thing,” she told me, “I’d been told by my mother that it was good to be a teacher because you just worked the hours your kids were in school and you could come home.” It had just always been the profession in the back of her mind, the default.
So then it must have been a bit of a shock when, after in 1975 becoming the first woman ever to receive a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT, Greif discovered that she didn’t really enjoy teaching—she much preferred research. And so eventually she left teaching as a professor and did what she did best: studying, thinking, and figuring systems out. She founded a research field, computer-supported cooperative work, and has spent her life figuring out how to build better systems for humans to work together.
Greif recently retired from IBM, where she’d been since the mid-’90s, and is hoping to devote some time to encouraging young women to go into STEM fields and coaching them to stick with them—a twist on teaching that she does genuinely like.
I spoke with Greif recently about her experience as a young woman in a field with so few other women, about how things changed during the course of her career, and for what advice she wishes she’d had when she was first starting out. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Read the full interview here.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 14:42Hacking Radio Controlled Outlets
Hacking radio controlled outlets using an RFCat, an arduino, and more, from hackaday.
It’s no surprise that there’s a lot of devices out of there that use simple RF communication with minimal security. To explore this, [Gordon] took a look at attacking radio controlled outlets.
He started off with a CC1111 evaluation kit, which supports the RFCat RF attack tool set. RFCat lets you interact with the CC1111 using a Python interface. After flashing the CC1111 with the RFCat firmware, the device was ready to use. Next up, [Gordon] goes into detail about replaying amplitude shift keying messages using the RFCat. He used an Arduino and the rc-switch library to generate signals that are compatible with the outlets.
In order to work with the outlets, the signal had to be sniffed. This was done using RTL-SDR and a low-cost TV tuner dongle. By exporting the sniffed signal and analyzing it, the modulation could be determined. The final step was writing a Python script to replay the messages using the RFCat.
The hack is a good combination of software defined radio techniques, ending with a successful attack. Watch a video of the replay attack after the break.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 14:28Easy To Make Shredder Costume
Shredder has been battling the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since 1984. He’s had a few different looks, and Glitzy Geek Girl decided to make a costume based on the animated series from the late ’80s. Since she made the armor from craft foam, the whole project ended up being very affordable. The base of the helmet is a foam construction style hat. Here’s how she assembled it:
I used is a kid’s construction helmet from Hobby Lobby. It’s made out of foam so of course it’s suuuuper light weight. I made a pattern out of paper and tape to figure out how I wanted the spikes to look. Shredder’s helmet is kinda boring in the cartoon (it’s very flat) so I took some creative freedom here. I wanted it to be more angular like his newer helmets.
I traced my pattern onto more sheet foam and glued it onto the helmet. Then I trimmed the front bill and added a point in the middle.
Next I made the side and back panels out of foam and glued them to the inside of the helmet. Then I gesso’d it.
Read the entire tutorial at Glitzy Geek Girl.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 13:00Digital Thermostat V1.0
Haris Andrianakis shared with us his digital thermostat project:
In the need of my new homemade energy saving fireplace (which boils water for the radiator) i designed and built a digital thermostat. The idea to design my own thermostat came when i came across with the following problem.
When i first fire the fireplace the water in the boiler around the fireplace is cool. After a few minutes the fireplace warms the water enough so that the water temp exceeds the thermostat limit. The thermostat changes state and drives an electric valve to move the water from the fireplace boiler to the radiators. The electric valve is slow enough and takes a few minutes to make a full turn. While the water is moving from the fireplace boiler to the radiators, circularly cool water is coming back in the fireplace boiler from the radiators. Τhe water temp in the fireplace boiler is getting cooler and after a few minutes falls under thermostat’s limit. The thermostat changes state and stops the valve from driving the water to radiators. This happens again and again until the whole amount of water in the radiators is get warm.
To prevent this problem from opening and closing the electric valve in so small time spaces i designed a thermostat that can delay the sample points. It check’s the fireplace boiler temp and drives the electric valve once the water temp exceeds the thermostat limit. After that it waits for a half hour or more and then checks the water temp again….
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 13:00anywhere: pseudo multichannel personal autonomous sound installation #musicmonday
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 12:00A telescope that’s bigger than a galaxy?!? #astronomy
NASA Science News has the scoop on a telescope that, believe it or not, is bigger than a galaxy.
… At the January 2014 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers revealed a patch of sky seen through a lens more than 500,000 light years wide.
The “lens” is actually a massive cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2744. As predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the mass of the cluster warps the fabric of space around it. Starlight passing by is bent and magnified, much like an ordinary lens except on a vastly larger scale.
Lately, the Hubble Space Telescope, along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, has been looking through this gravitational lens as part of a program called “Frontier Fields.”
“Frontier Fields is an experiment to explore the first billion years of the Universe’s history,” says Matt Mountain from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The question is, “Can we use Hubble’s exquisite image quality and Einstein’s theory of general relativity to search for the first galaxies?”
The answer seems to be “yes.” At the AAS meeting, an international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and La Laguna University discussed Hubble and Spitzer observations of the Abell 2744 cluster. Among the results was the discovery of one of the most distant galaxies ever seen—a star system 30 times smaller yet 10 times more active than our own Milky Way. Bursting with newborn stars, the firebrand is giving astronomers a rare glimpse of a galaxy born not long after the Big Bang itself.
Overall, the Hubble exposure of Abell2744 revealed almost 3,000 distant galaxies magnified as much as 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. Without the boost of gravitational lensing, almost all of those background galaxies would be invisible.
Abell 2744 is just the beginning. Frontier Fields is targeting six galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses. Together, they form an array of mighty telescopes capable of probing the heavens as never before.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 11:00Cone: More than a Speaker #musicmonday
Don’t insult Cone by grouping it in with the average speaker. Through machine learning, Cone from Aether gets to know you and helps to eliminate that ever-nagging question: What should I listen to? via wired.
Of course, one of the ideas behind Cone is that, when we’re at home, we don’t always have our phones in our hands. And yet, Lamb and company didn’t want to risk making Cone needlessly complex; one of the motivating beliefs behind Aether is that truly smart devices need simple, powerful controls specific to those devices themselves.
The secret sauce that lets Aether achieve that simplicity is machine learning. Each time you spin its dial, Cone learns something about you. By taking note of what you skip past and what you listen to, it slowly puts together a profile of your music listening habits. It’ll take note of what you turn up to rock out to–and what time of day you do it. With a built-in accelerometer, it knows when you pick the thing up and take it to another room, and it will pay attention to what you listen to there (and how it’s different what you listened to in the first room.)
If you’re not going to bedeck every gizmo with a touchscreen or off-load its controls to a dedicated application, you need to “pick up the slack with services and sensibility,” explains Lamb, who formerly served as a product designer at companies like Nokia and Skype. Another way of putting it is that you have to make the few controls you do have smarter. With Cone, that spin that tells it to move to the next track isn’t always the same static command. Instead, it changes based on what day you’re listening and what time. In other words, Cone’s sensitivity to context is what lets it get away with being so simple.
Making Choices for You
The even bigger–and bolder–idea behind Cone is that we don’t always know what we want to listen to in the first place. It’s an insight that was born out of months of research, with Aether’s early employees examining their own music listening habits and those of a dozen families with various levels of tech and music literacy. The problem, in short: Services like Spotify give us a staggering library of songs but offer relatively primitive tools for enjoying them. “Streaming music is still finding its place in the world,” Lamb says. “It’s accessible. But it’s not really accessible.”
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 10:00From the Forums: NeoGeo GoBack Machine! #flora
Barry shared his NeoGeo GoBack Machine project on the Adafruit Forums:
…The case is made from two 2″ x 3/4″boxes from the Container Store. They are bolted together bottom to bottom with the same screws that mount a USB charger in the bottom, which also holds the 500 mAh Li-Po battery and on-off switch. The top holds a Neo Geo Watch sandwich – GPS, Flora, magnetometer, plus a pushbutton. The battery also powers the GPS’s VBackup pin. I’ve dubbed it my NeoGeo GoBack Machine.
From the Adafruit Learning System!
FLORA NeoGeo Watch: Make your own LED timepiece! Use FLORA and its GPS module to tell time with a ring of pixels. A leather cuff holds the circuit and hides the battery. The watch is chunky but still looks and feels great on tiny wrists! The circuit sandwich becomes the face of the watch, and you’ll use a tactile switch to make a mode selector. The watch has timekeeping (one LED for hours and one for minutes), GPS navigation (customize your waypoint in the provided Arduino sketch), and compass modes. (read more)
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 10:00My latest project glows when the ISS is overhead #neopixels #electricimp
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:00This 13-year old just became the youngest person ever to build a nuclear-fusion reactor
So what were you doing when you were 13? We bet it wasn’t building nuclear reactors for fun. The Atlantic has the story of this extremely smart kid who became the youngest person ever to build a nuclear-fusion reactor.
It started with the Internet.
“One day,” Jamie Edwards recalls, “I was looking on the Internet for radiation or other aspects of nuclear energy.” (As one does.) Through that search, he came across the story of Taylor Wilson, an American who, in 2008, had become the youngest person ever to build a nuclear-fusion reactor. Wilson was 14 at the time.
“I looked at it,” Edwards says, and “thought ‘that looks cool’ and decided to have a go.”
Edwards is 13. He is a student at the Priory Academy in Lancashire, in the U.K. He loves science—so much so that, as he told the Lancashire Evening Post, he used to try and steal his older brother Danny’s science homework. So that he could do that work himself.
Edwards—a “young boffin,” as the Post delightfully calls him—began construction of his makeshift nuclear reactor back in October in a science lab at Priory. He also kept a blog tracking his progress in the work of reactor-building, cataloguing his collection of a diffusion pump and a control panel and other components of the device that would eventually smash some atoms.
This morning, all that work paid off. Edwards smashed two atoms of hydrogen together, creating helium. Yep: From a little science lab in a school in Lancashire, a 13-year-old created nuclear fusion.
“I can’t quite believe it,” Edwards told the Post, of this accomplishment, adding that “all my friends think I am mad.” But he’s also a record-holder—and one who got his record in just under the wire. Edwards turns 14 on Sunday.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:00Robotic arm gives amputee drummer better beats #musicmonday
This is one of the coolest prosthetics we’ve seen- a robotic arm that actually improves the drumming skills of the wearer. Via CNET.
When drummer Jason Barnes lost his lower right arm to electrocution two years ago, his future as a musician didn’t look too promising. But thanks to a new robotic arm invented by Professor Gil Weinberg, founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, he may soon be the envy of the drumming world.
That’s because the new mechanical arm effectively gives Barnes the ability to use three different drumsticks while playing his kit. He holds the first in his left hand, as always. The other two are held by the robotic arm attached to Barnes’ right bicep. One of those sticks is controlled by the up-and-down motion of Barnes’ arm, as well as electrical impulses from his body measured by electromyography muscle sensors.
The other stick however, analyzes the rhythm being played and uses a built-in motor to improvise on its own, adding a dimension to drumming that’s heretofore not seen on any stage we know of.
“The second drumstick has a mind of its own,” Weinberg said in a statement. “The drummer essentially becomes a cyborg. It’s interesting to see him playing and improvising with part of his arm that he doesn’t totally control.”
Barnes finds it more than interesting. “I’ll bet a lot of metal drummers might be jealous of what I can do now,” he said. “Speed is good. Faster is always better,” he said, referring to the fact that the autonomous stick can move more quickly than humanly possible.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 07:00New Magnetic Material could lead to Advances in Computer Memory Tech
Scientists foresee great potential for advancements in a range of fields due to a new temperature sensitive magnetic material, including progress in computer memory technology, via BBC.
“We can control the magnetism in just a narrow range of temperature – without applying a magnetic field. And in principle we could also control it with voltage or current,” said Prof Schuller.
“At low temperatures, the oxide is an insulator. At high temperatures it’s a metal. And in between it becomes this strange material,” he said.
Although it’s too early to say exactly how it will be used, Prof Schuller sees an obvious opportunity in computing memory systems.
“A problem with magnetic memory is reversibility – you want it to be reversible but also stable.
“Today’s best systems are heat-assisted, but they use lasers, which involves a lot of heat. But with this new material, you barely need to heat it by 20 degrees (Kelvin) to get a five-fold change in coercivity (magnetic resistance),” he told the conference.
Another potential use is in electricity networks. Prof Schuller envisions a new type of transformer which can cope with sudden surges in current – such as during a lightning strike or a power surge.
But he points out that new phenomena such as this often lead to entirely unexpected technologies.
He gave the example of giant magnetoresistance – a discovery that radically miniaturised hard drives in digital devices, and won the 2007 Nobel prize.
“Without it, that computer you’re writing on would not work,” he told the meeting.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 06:01Streaming Arduino data from a mountaintop in BC #arduino
“Plotly + Arduino Data Visualization” project video, featuring the Adafruit wifi shield! Thanks to Jack Parmer for sharing! “Some folks on the Plotly team hiked a mountain in BC last month, and streamed a bunch of environmental data at the top to Plotly using an Arduino, wifi shield from Adafruit, and cellular tethering. They made a short, artistic video about the experience…”
And here is the Instructable tutorial for the project:
Plot.ly + Arduino Data Visualization
I’ve been a fan of Arduino for years now, and have used it for building everything from MIDI controllers to simple LED flashers. One thing that has always intrigued me has been visualizing some of the data that I read off of the Arduino Pins.
Plot.ly makes this simple. Really simple.
The purpose of this instructable is to demonstrate how to hook up an Arduino + Ethernet Shield and send data to Plot.ly’s Servers and create beautiful graphs. We will be using a dual temperature+humidity sensor (DHT22), and sending the results directly to Plotly.
Featured Adafruit Product!
Adafruit CC3000 WiFi Shield with Onboard Ceramic Antenna: The CC3000 hits that sweet spot of usability, price and capability. It uses SPI for communication (not UART!) so you can push data as fast as you want or as slow as you want. It has a proper interrupt system with IRQ pin so you can have asynchronous connections. It supports 802.11b/g, open/WEP/WPA/WPA2 security, TKIP & AES. A built in TCP/IP stack with a “BSD socket” interface. TCP and UDP in both client and server mode, up to 4 concurrent sockets. It does not support “AP” mode, it can connect to an access point but it cannot be an access point. (read more)
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 06:00The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women
The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women @ ArabianBusiness.com. Ayah Bdeir founder of littleBits.
Ayah Bdeir has packed more into her 31 years than most of us do in a lifetime. She is most famous for littleBits, a collection of tiny circuit boards that snap together with magnets like Lego — allowing artists, students and designers to have a greater understanding of electronics. After creating the first littleBits prototype in 2008, she founded Karaj, Beirut’s first non-profit lab for experimental arts, architecture and tech. She has been a mentor on Stars of Science, the Middle East’s first reality show focusing on innovation. Bdeir was named one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business for 2013.
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 05:00Close encounters of the phantom kind: light painting with drones
Fctn.tv posted these incredibly cool photos using a drone to create light paintings inspired by the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I’ve always loved the asthetic of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I love how they used lights to imply the shapes of the UFO as opposed to spelling it out for the viewer. So I figured I would try to recreate a similar vibe with the DJI Phantom and see what would come of it. I attached some lights that I bought from Home Depot and shot some long exposure shots of the phantom flying around. I then brought them back into the computer and created some cool patterns in photoshop. Below are some of the comps I mocked up. I want to strap the worlds brightest flash light to it next and see what happens. Maybe fly it through a forest like a UFO with a tractor beam.
See more of the photos here.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 20:25Maker Faire: major ‘geek-fest’ for London heralds fully connected UK @guardian @make @makerfaire @HereEast #makers
It is described as the greatest show (and tell) on Earth, a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. Think Glastonbury meets TEDx and you get an idea. And now it’s coming here. An unashamed celebration of geekdom, Maker Faire is, according to its founders, “an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors”.
…Today, at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, Maker Faire will announce that it is to open its third annual flagship fair, the first outside the US, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. The event, which from next year will run in the summer holidays for up to four weeks, is expected to draw up to 75,000 people.