Beware the Dark Side of the MoBo, Luke!

Think of it as ’70s van art, only on your PC case. Alienware has the first-ever license to create official Star Wars PCs. Gee, I wonder why nobody else has shelled out the likely-significant bread to make such branded boxes? Until they come out with one in the shape of the Deathstar, which can vaporize anyone who sits at my desk without Lord Branwyn’s permission, spraypaint me uninterested. FWIW, here are the tech specs:

AMD Athlon™ 64 3200+ Processor with HyperTransport Technology
Alienware® PCI Express Motherboard
1024 MB Dual-Channel DDR PC-3200 at 400 MHz
80 GB 7200 RPM Serial ATA Hard Drive 8 MB Cache
Dual NVIDIA® GeForce™ 6600 GT PCI Express 128 MB DDR3
16X DVD±R/W Recorder Drive
AlienIce™ Video Cooling System

Alienware is running a contest to give systems away.

Analog Surfing Meets Digital Surfing

In my robot book, I talked about a type of robot you can’t see, or at least, it’s not something you would think of as a robot, but it meets the critera that most people would ascribe to a robot: it has sensors, a way of processing the sensor input, and actuators, a way of doing something in the real world in response to the sensing. Here’s a nifty, novelty example: A surfer d00d has built a Web-wired pillow that vibrates in response to wave action. Big waves mean big vibes, small waves, milder vibrations, and bad surf conditions mean no vibrations at all. The data, grabbed via the Web, comes from sensors on wave buoys.

Wrong on SO Many Levels

This winter (at the height of flu season), I was using a public kiosk touchscreen and started thinking about how many microscopic monsters there probably were crawling over every square inch o’ that greasy ol’ thing. Now imagine LICKING it. That’s the idea behind the EUI, or Edible User Interface, and the TasteScreen system. A USB-controlled dispenser sits atop a PC monitor. It contains 20 taste cartridges that can be combined to create many different flavors. These flavors then drip down the screen where the user can lap ’em up. And you thought your screen got dirty with dust and fingerprints. Obviously not a serious UI (please, tell me it’s not serious), but a fun proof of concept.

[Via Gizmodo]

Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?

Those who fondly remember the animated series “Pinky and the Brain” will appreciate this page of the dysfunctional duo’s frequent “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” exchanges. I always loved the read-in-what-you-want subversion of such lines as:

Brain: Are you pondering what I’m pondering, Pinky?
Pinky: Sure, Brain, but how are we going to find chaps our size?

B:Are you pondering what I’m pondering?
P:Umm, I think so, Brain, but what if the chicken won’t wear the nylons?

And the sheer Dada of:

Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?
Pinky: Uh, I think so, Brain, but we’ll never get a monkey to use dental floss.

B:Are you pondering what I’m pondering?
P:I think so, Brain, but I don’t think Kay Ballard’s in the union.

Computer-Generated Paper Accepted at Conference

This is hysterical. Three MIT grad students wrote a computer program designed to generate scientific papers (complete with charts and graphs). They submitted two of the papers to the upcoming “World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics” (WMSCI), and one of the papers was accepted! Amazingly, as of now, the students have not been disinvited from presenting at the conference and are raising money through donations to go. They plan on presenting a computer-generated talk.

Download a PDF of the paper.

Create your own paper using their SCIgen – An Automatic CS Paper Generator.

Update: According to their website, they now HAVE been disinvited to the conference. I tell ya, those Systematic Cybernetic Informatic fellas: No sense of humor.

Uber-Geek Trading Cards

I like cards: collectable card games, baseball cards, Tarot cards, Iraqi bad guy cards, etc. And then there are geek trading cards. I love the idea. In fact, Mark Frauenfelder and I created robot geek trading cards illos for my robot book. Now some guy has created cards of the Tiger OS X engineering team. Not as compelling as Rabbi Trading Cards (“Woot, you have the Rabbi Shnerson rookie card!”), but where else are you going to see “Can Summon a Master Device Port” as a stat line?

1GB Online Storage for $3/month

Has anyone here tried After my old iMac committed Hari-Kari and I lost a bunch of data I was too lazy to back up (like my entire iTunes library), I subscribed to .Mac with my new machine and now do regular remote backups. But .Mac is costly if you want to back up everything. might be a nice, cheap addition. Their service is entirely Web-based, so there’s no software to download. It works on any computer. Of course, no software means no auto-backup feature, but it does support drag and drop. In these digital media days, 1GB ain’t much, but it beats the paltry 250MB you get from .Mac for $10/month.

PSP Linux?

You knew it was only a matter of time: The PSP Linux Project is just getting under way, looking for developers. Wonder how long it’ll be before we see a distro on that gorgeous 480 x 272 wide-screen display.

The Blogs of Yesteryear

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a few days. I was in Philadelphia for the opening of a zine show I co-curated with Street Tech co-founder Sean Carton (now a Dean at the school). The show, housed at the Design Center, features most of my late ’80s/early ’90s zine and mail art collections, with additional zines from Scott Huffines’s collection (he used to run Atomic Books in Baltimore).

Kudos to the Design Center for doing such a creative job of hanging the show. There are three rooms, the first is set up like a viney jungle of zines, with dozens of pubs in plastic bags hanging from fishing line at different heights, filling the volume of the space. The second room has two shelving insets densely packed with my mail and collage art collections and a few zine reading stations. The third room has a ratty reading couch and a coffee table covered with zines and more reading stations along the walls. There are also giant posters of zine covers on the walls.

It was mind-blowing to see my collection (stored in the attic for years) spread over these rooms and to realize that each item represented an exhange, either a literal exchange of my zine (Going Gaga) or a piece of mail art for someone else’s, or at least a letter with a few bucks in it, asking for a copy of someone’s pub. Scanning over the material hanging there, thinking about this connectivity (from all corners of the globe), it was like looking at a primitive, analog version of one of those network node maps. This was the “sneakernet” days of cyberspace and the blogosphere. We had the desktop computers, laser printers, copiers, and recording equipment to make this indie media, we just had to rely on a glorified pony express (the international postal systems) to distribute it.

The show is running through June 10th. Check it out if you get a chance.

UPDATE: Here are some images from the show on Sean’s Bad Blog.

Silver lining of RFID

As you can see from this market report about the RFID market, there’s a very large silver lining: Printed Electronics.

Keep an eye on companies like Conductive InkJet Technologies developing these manufacturing processes.

From an environmental perspective, there are some big advantages to using an additive manufacturing process like this, particularly the reduction in wasted material. Traditional printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing processes are subtractive – you start with a copper-clad board and remove all the unwanted metal.

From an individual designer/hacker perspective, rapid prototyping circuits at your desk, literally on a piece of paper or mylar, is a very exciting prospect.

Origami robotics, anyone?