Dorkbot DC Last Night

I can’t speak for everyone at last night’s Dorkbot DC, but it *looked* like a good time was had by all. I know *I* had tons o’ fun. It was a BEAM robot workshop, organized by Tim Slagle (great job, Tim!). We built Solarbotics kits or homebrewed BEAM critters with Solarbotics parts. It was nice to have a “knitting” event where we could all sit around and talk, get to know each other better, have a few laughs, etc. while we worked on some electronics.

Several people informally showed off projects, including Mark Adams’s six-legged Basic Stamp-based walker (see below). Dig the alligator-clip mounts for the LCD display. Classy. The display shows program execution in real time. Thomas Edwards also showed the progress he’s made on his touch over IP project. A few people learned to solder and started work on their first robot. Touching, really. You never forget your first bot. [Sniff, sniff]

More pics by Matt Billings here. A few from Thomas Edwards here.


Herr von Slatt Profiled on Wired News

Our pal Jake von Slatt gets the front n’ center star treatment on Wired today, with an interview and a gallery of some of his work. Congrats, Jake!

In the slideshow of projects, he includes the above pic of an old radio he’s currently converting to a digital music machine. Here’s what he says about it:

“There are a million ‘MP3 player in old radio case’ mods, but with this one I intend to entangle the very DNA of these two devices The filament supply of the radio will be tapped and regulated to power the MP3 player and the output of the MP3 player will be spliced directly into the audio output stage of the radio’s vacuum-tube amplifier. I’ll then load it with a bunch of period music and radio plays.”

We like the way this guy thinks! Make him Fabricator General and Minister of the Manufactorum!

BTW: If you haven’t seen my Wired News steampunk piece from a few weeks back, it’s here.


Use C-Cell Batts for D-Cells using Coins

Here’s a cool, quick hack. I just went to buy some D-cell batteries and found two displays in the store with every battery type BUT D. They seem to be getting rarer. I already had a bunch of Cs on hand. Using four (or five, or six) quarters, you can make up the difference in the battery holder and adapt C-batteries where Ds are called for.

[Via Lifehacker]


Busy Fighting Foo

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a few days. I was away at Foo Camp, O’Reilly’s annual live geek wiki, unconference, and camp out. I had an amazing time, met a lot of fascinating new people, reconnected with lots of still-fascinating old people, had a few awkward interactions with people who think they’re more fascinating than they actually are, etc.

I’ll offer up my recipe for a delicious Foo Camp Cream o’ Geek Reduction after my body catches up with my brain (or is it the other way around?). Anyway, I’m crispy-fried and can barely walk. I’m going to sleep. Wake me up if anything interesting happens.

In the meantime, check out this pic of David Pescovitz doing a little re-branding of Larry Page’s Google helicopter. See Scott Beale’s other Foo Camp photos here.


My Steampunk Article at Wired News

I have an article, called “Steam-Driven Dreams: The Wondrously Whimsical World of Steampunk,” up on Wired News. It’s a brief tour of the art, tech, and media of the growing steampunk movement, as told through pictures (and my pulchritudinous prattlings).

Here’s a snip:

Steampunk Magazine
Every movement needs its house organ, its broadsheet for posting manifestos. In just two issues, Steampunk Magazine: A Journal of Misapplied Technology has established itself as a worthy mouthpiece. True to form, it’s available both in a treemeat version, for $3 plus postage, and a free PDF.

So, how does the magazine define steampunk? It’s inaugural issue says: “Steampunk lives in the reincarnated collective past of shadows and ignored alleys. It is a historical wunderkabinet, which promises, like Dr. Caligari’s, to wake the somnambulist of the present to the dream-reality of the future. We are archaeologists of the present, reanimating a hallucinatory history.”

I have no idea what that means but I’m just going to shut-up and drink the Kool-Aid.

[Shown here are a pair of one-of-a-kind brass goggles, created by UK artist Atomefabrik, and Datamancer’s Steampunk Laptop.]


Promotional Transmission for Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators

Weta Limited sent us a link to their new “Promotional Transmission” for their staggeringly-cool line of Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators, a.k.a. collector rayguns. The pricetag is staggering too, at US$690. But Weta’s only producing 500 of three models, so they’re only likely to increase in value. And, if you buy one, you’re automatically entered into a drawing to bag the other two. Where’s my disposable income when I need it?


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.


1986 Mac Plus vs. 2007 AMD DualCore? WTF?

This is pretty audacious, interesting, funny, and probably proves the inherent subjectiveness of computer system performance comparisons. Dubbed: “The Most Outlandish Computer Comparison Ever!” Guess who wins?

The most interesting, and saddest part, is their conclusion:

“Is this to say that the Mac Plus is a better computer than the AMD? Of course not. The technological advancements of 21 years have placed modern PCs in a completely different league of varied capacities. But the “User Experience” has not changed much in two decades. Due to bloated code that has to incorporate hundreds of functions that average users don’t even know exist, let alone ever utilize, the software companies have weighed down our PCs to effectively neutralize their vast speed advantages. When we compare strictly common, everyday, basic user tasks between the Mac Plus and the AMD we find remarkable similarities in overall speed, thus it can be stated that for the majority of simple office uses, the massive advances in technology in the past two decades have brought zero advance in productivity.

“And that’s just plain crazy.”

We couldn’t agree more.

[Via /.]


Happy Mutant Handbook Tat

One of my favorite parts of The Happy Mutant Handbook was the “Urban Absurdist Survival Kit” with designs by the mysterious Ward Parkway, a.k.a. the incomparable Jim Leftwich. We all got to brainstorm ideas for the “kit,” and Ward did the amazing sticker art for it all (and the lion’s share of the content, as I recall). It was a popular part of the book. MTV even did an ad for itself using art inspired by the stickers. BTW: MTV, you scumbags still owe me $1,000. I helped create an ad for MTV and all I got was a stinkin’ MTV sweatshirt.

Anyhoo, love for the HMH and Ward’s stickers lives on. This guy liked the “EVOLVE: Support Mutation” sticker so much, he made it into a tattoo.

Looking over the Survival Kit again reminds me how brilliant these stickers are and how we should really try to get them online. It’s SO much easier now to actually make them into stickers (& T-shirts, mugs, etc.)

UPDATE: Ward just sent us a copy of the original sticker:


The Moleskine Hard Drive

The Moleskine journal craze may have officially jumped the shark with this badboy, an admittedly cool-looking HD stashed inside of a hollowed-out copy of one of the insanely popular French journals. Now, I love the stash-book concept as much as the next ex-stoner, but I’m not sure why you’d want to slice up a perfectly good, and relatively expensive, Moleskine, when another hard cover journal can be had in the gimme bins of your local Borders for a few bucks.

Okay, we might not be blogging about it if it were in a nameless black book. So, maybe the memetic value is worth the extra scoots. And we have to admit, the icon he made for his desktop is just too damn sweet.