"DIY" entries

They promised us flying cars

Tired of waiting, hackers and billionaires alike are building the future they want to see.

We may be living in the future, but it hasn’t entirely worked out how we were promised. I remember the predictions clearly: the 21st century was supposed to be full of self-driving cars, personal communicators, replicators and private space ships.

Except, of course, all that has come true. Google just got the first license to drive their cars entirely autonomously on public highways. Apple came along with the iPhone and changed everything. Three-dimensional printers have come out of the laboratories and into the home. And in a few short years, and from a standing start, Elon Musk and SpaceX has achieved what might otherwise have been thought impossible: late last year, SpaceX launched a spacecraft and returned it to Earth safely. Then they launched another, successfully docked it with the International Space Station, and then again returned it to Earth.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule is grappled and berthed to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 12:02 p.m. EDT, May 25, 2012. Credit: NASA/SpaceX


Right now there is a generation of high-tech tinkerers breaking the seals on proprietary technology and prototyping new ideas, which is leading to a rapid growth in innovation. The members of this generation, who are building open hardware instead of writing open software, seem to have come out of nowhere. Except, of course, they haven’t. Promised a future they couldn’t have, they’ve started to build it. The only difference between them and Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Steve Jobs is that those guys got to build bigger toys than the rest of us.

The dotcom billionaires are regular geeks just like us. They might be the best of us, or sometimes just the luckiest, but they grew up with the same dreams, and they’ve finally given up waiting for governments to build the future they were promised when they were kids. They’re going to build it for themselves.

Read more…

Comments: 4
Four short links: 25 July 2012

Four short links: 25 July 2012

No Augmenting Money, Cat CV, Quantified Mind, and Hackable Bio

  1. Bank of England Complains About AR Bank NotesAfter downloading the free Blippar app on iPhone or Android, customers were able to ‘blipp’ any ten-pound note in circulation by opening the app and holding their phone over the note. An animated Queen, and other members of the Royal Family, then appeared on the screen and voiced opinions on the latest football matters.
  2. Kittydar — open source computer vision library in Javascript for identifying cat faces. I am not making this up. (via Kyle McDonald
  3. Quantified Mind — battery of cognitive tests, so you can track performance over time and measure the effect of interventions (coffee, diet, exercise, whatever). (via Sara Winge)
  4. Jellyfish Made From Rat Cells (Nature) — an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart. Very cool, but the bit that caught my eye was: the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”. It is an engineer’s approach to basic science: prove that you have identified the right principles by building something with them.
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Four short links: 5 July 2012

Four short links: 5 July 2012

Magnetic Frames, Checkout Design, Programming Go, and New Manufacturing

  1. Neocover — very clever idea: magnetic light-switch frames, from which you can suspend keys and other very-losable pocket-fillers.
  2. Design of Checkout Forms (Luke Wroblewski) — extremely detailed, data-filled, useful guide to state of the art (and effect of) e-commerce checkout forms. In tests comparing forms with real-time feedback to those without, usability testing firm, Etre and I measured a: 22% increase in success rates; 22% decrease in errors made; 31% increase in satisfaction rating; 42% decrease in completion times.
  3. Less is Exponentially More (Rob Pike) — wonderfully readable introduction to the philosophy of the Go programming language. What matters isn’t the ancestor relations between things but what they can do for you. That, of course, is where interfaces come into Go. But they’re part of a bigger picture, the true Go philosophy. If C++ and Java are about type hierarchies and the taxonomy of types, Go is about composition.
  4. 3D Manufacturing Business Plan — numbers for an existing business built around 3D printing. Fascinating to see the economics. The author makes the point: Based on these volumes, this product would be impossible to produce profitably by any other means.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 22 June 2012

Four short links: 22 June 2012

Why We Make, Kickstarter Stats, Dodgy Domains, and Pretty Pretty Pictures

  1. Reality BytesWe make things because that’s how we understand. We make things because that’s how we pass them on, and because everything we have was passed on to us as a made object. We make things in digital humanities because that’s how we interpret and conserve our inheritance. Because that’s how we can make it all anew. Librarians, preservation, digital humanities, and the relationship between digital and physical. Existential threats don’t scare us. We’re librarians.
  2. Kickstarter Stats — as Andy Baio said, it’s the one Kickstarter feature that competitors won’t be rushing to emulate. Clever way to emphasize their early lead.
  3. ICANN is Wrong (Dave Winer) — Dave is right to ask why nobody’s questioning the lack of public registration in the new domains. You can understand why, say, the Australia-New Zealand bank wouldn’t let Joe Random register in .anz, but Amazon are proposing to keep domains like .shop, .music, .app for their own products. See all the bidders for the new gTLDs on the ICANN web site.
  4. The Art of GPS (Daily Mail) — beautiful visualizations of uncommon things, such as the flights that dead bodies make when they’re being repatriated to their home states. Personally, I think they tend too much to the “pretty” and insufficient to the “informative” or “revealing”, but then I’m notorious for being too revealing and insufficiently informative.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 21 June 2012

Four short links: 21 June 2012

Randomized Trials for Policy, Crowdfunding Equity, Safe DIYBio, and Easy Unique Experiences

  1. Test, Learn, Adapt (PDF) — UK Cabinet Office paper on randomised trials for public policy. Ben Goldacre cowrote.
  2. UK EscapeTheCity Raises GBP600k in Crowd Equity — took just eight days, using the Crowdcube platform for equity-based crowd investment.
  3. DIY Bio SOPs — CC-licensed set of standard operating procedures for a bio lab. These are the SOPs that I provided to the Irish EPA as part of my “Consent Conditions” for “Contained Use of Class 1 Genetically Modified Microorganisms”. (via Alison Marigold)
  4. Shuffling Cards — shuffle a deck of cards until it’s randomised. That order of cards probably hasn’t ever been seen before in the history of mankind.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 12 June 2012

Four short links: 12 June 2012

Amazon Royalties Suck, Learn Electronics, Microtasks, and Finance Considered Harmful

  1. Amazon’s Insanely Crap Royalties (Andrew Hyde) — Amazon offers high royalty rate to you, but that’s before a grim hidden “delivery fee”. Check out Andrew’s graph of the different pay rates to the author from each medium.
  2. SparkFun Education — learn electronics from the good folks at SparkFun.
  3. TaskRabbitconnects you with friendly, reliable people right in your neighborhood who can help you get the items on your To-Do list done. Lots of people and projects sniffing around this space of outsourced small tasks, distributed to people via a web site.
  4. Henry Ford on Bootstrapping (Amy Hoy) — Amy has unearthed a fascinating rant by Henry Ford against speculative investment and finance. I determined absolutely that never would I join a company in which finance came before the work or in which bankers or financiers had a part. And further that, if there were no way to get started in the kind of business that I thought could be managed in the interest of the public, then I simply would not get started at all. For my own short experience, together with what I saw going on around me, was quite enough proof that business as a mere money-making game was not worth giving much thought to and was distinctly no place for a man who wanted to accomplish anything. Also it did not seem to me to be the way to make money. I have yet to have it demonstrated that it is the way. For the only foundation of real business is service.

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In defense of frivolities and open-ended experiments

Our children will improve upon the things we're building in ways we can't conceive.

Before you scoff at the pointlessness of yet another social network, web app, or project, remember that we don't always do the research or build the company that is immediately useful or profitable.

Comments: 2
Four short links: 23 May 2012

Four short links: 23 May 2012

Complex Exploit, Better Coding Tools, Online Coding Tools, and DIY 3D-Printed Dolls

  1. Tale of Two Pwnies (Chromium Blog) — So, how does one get full remote code execution in Chrome? In the case of Pinkie Pie’s exploit, it took a chain of six different bugs in order to successfully break out of the Chrome sandbox. Lest you think all attacks come from mouth-breathing script kiddies, this is how the pros do it. (via Bryan O’Sullivan)
  2. The Future is Specific (Chris Granger) — In traditional web-MVC, the code necessary to serve a single route is spread across many files in many different folders. In a normal editor this means you need to do a lot of context switching to get a sense for everything going on. Instead, this mode replaces the file picker with a route picker, as routes seem like the best logical unit for a website. There’s a revolution coming in web dev tools: we’ve had the programmer adapting to the frameworks with little but textual assistance from the IDE. I am loving this flood of creativity because it has the promise to reduce bugs and increase the speed by which we generate good code.
  3. Best Online Editors For Teaching HTML/CSS/JS (Pamela Fox) — Over the past few months, I’ve been teaching in-person classes on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as part of GirlDevelopIt San Francisco. Along the way, I’ve experimented with various online consoles and editors, and I thought I’d share my experience with using them for teaching.
  4. Makie — design a doll online, they’ll 3d-print and ship it to you. Hello, future of manufacturing, fancy seeing you in a dollhouse!
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DIY learning: Schoolers, Edupunks, and Makers challenge education as we know it

DIY learning: Schoolers, Edupunks, and Makers challenge education as we know it

We're on a path toward personalized learning.

Schoolers, Edupunks and Makers are showing us what's possible when learners, not institutions, own the education that will define their lives.

Comments: 2
Making innovation: Open hardware, personal fab and collaborative design

Making innovation: Open hardware, personal fab and collaborative design

MAKE's Hardware Innovation Workshop is coming May 15-16 at PARC.

Being held May 15-16, MAKE's Hardware Innovation Workshop is an intensive introduction to the business of making and the makers who are creating these businesses.

Comments: 5