Time sink


Radio Robot
Tune to the radio station

Robot Radio

I sold my soul to Micro$oft and got an Xbox 360 & Kinect last
Christmas. When not working long hours at my day job, I have spent a
lot of time playing Dragon Age and others on the Xbox.

Work on my projects slowed to a crawl, however I did start two new projects.

One was started back last November and it has gone quite slowly. The
other was started around February and almost finished. More details later.

I did take photos as I went along but forgot about them until I got my
camera out for our trip to Maker Faire.
Here is a picture of an art robot from the San Francisco Maker Faire 2011

K9 and meatballs

My wife saw a website that described how to take household items and embed them into models of other things.
An example of this is using split peas as rivets on the Dalek I made (Oh and that was her idea).

model k9
High tech steam punk style

One day a while ago after a spaghetti and meatballs meal. She held up the empty plastic bottle of spaghetti sauce and said I am going to make something from this.
After some thought she said Steampunk K9.
Out came the glue gun and a bunch of other things and here is the final creation.

Steam punk model
K9 steam punk style

Nose buried in an LCD screen

I have had a quiet time recently. Instead of devouring books like there’s no tomorrow my wife has had her nose stuck in her new ebook reader and now she wants to give a review of it.
Review: Ectaco JetBook Lite
I had wanted an ebook reader for ages and between waiting for the perfect design to come along and not wanting to get sucked into anything proprietary, I finally settled on the Ectaco JetBook Lite. I say settled because it didn’t fulfill all my nitpicky design desires, but as I got it on sale for CAD$129 I figured it would do until something I liked better came along. However, after about three weeks of use, I could not be happier with it.
At about five by seven inches wide it is perfect for holding in my hand, not too heavy or too light. In fact, as this version runs on four AA batteries, the battery pack makes the whole thing nicely balanced to be held easily in the left hand, and the slide bar allows for one handed page turning, in both directions (there is also a button on the bottom for turning pages). The screen is LCD but is very easy to read for hours at a stretch. The slow page turns and ‘flash’ when you turn the page that you get with e-ink are not a problem here. There’s no wi-fi on this thing, so you have to load your books off your computer. And it doesn’t play MP3s, but who cares. That’s why you have an iPod. If I had to make any criticism at all, I wish it came some sort of cover to protect the screen so I could shove it into my purse. Or one of those rubber scuba suit things that people put on their iPhones.
While actual reading experience is, to me, far more important than getting the book onto the device, transferring files to and from is painless. The JetBook Lite comes preloaded with a ton of freebies, the cream of Project Gutenberg. Some of these I had already read (or in the case of the Sherlock Holmes, memorized) and others were not in my immediate must-read pile (CIA World Book?!). Since the computer recognises the JetBook Lite as just a USB drive, I was easily able to copy everything off, and replace it with books of my choice. As long as you keep the top folders, Books & Pictures, you can arrange the sub-folders anyway you want.
The JetBook Lite works with all sorts of file formats. I have tried txt, mobi, rtf & epub and they all work fine. I have had less luck with PDFs, but I admit haven’t spent the time to properly fiddle with them either. As I am still working my way through classics & freebies, I have not actually had to purchase a book yet, but since they seem to come as epub, hopefully I should be okay.
The JetBook Lite is perfect for anyone who wants to dip their toe in the ebook water. I was planning on keeping this until something better came along, but really, I can’t imagine what feature would get me to switch.

Maker Faire San Francisco

So we made our way down to the bay area at the end of May to this year’s Maker Faire.

leg extensions
Springing into action

When you see the things made here, it makes you want to go and do something yourself right away, but by the time the vacation is over and it’s back to work, you realize that there really is not enough time.

Tesla car chassis
Chassis of a Tesla. This is what you get for all that money

Notable was another type of Tesla (this time the car). Of the Teslas they had on display one had the body off. There really is not much inside those things.

This hairy beast was walking around on all fours, and was very impressive.

wild thing
Wild thing you make my heart sing

The only bad thing I would say was it was VERY crowded and it helped to stay the full day because the beginning and end of the day was the best chance to get near anything for a good view or to ask questions.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Foster city and they looked after us very well.

Newcastle Makerfaire 2009

Steam punk style horse
Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!

Well, we just got back from a quick trip to the UK to visit family. One of our little trips was to go to Newcastle for the weekend to visit the first UK Maker Faire. We saw the dates coincided with our trip and felt it would be fun to make the detour to Newcastle.

We knew it would be small as it was the first one in the UK, but boy was it fun to go and talk to like minded people who just make things for fun. There were a few robot exhibits and various other things that kept us busy. One of the best exhibits was a ‘retro’ lunar lander style game except it was not graphical, it actually had a bunch of stepper motors and servos and an arduino to control everything. You then controlled the thrust to land a model lunar module. Totally cool.

I had never been to Newcastle before and found it quite nice. We stayed at the Marriott hotel next to the Metrocenter in Gateshead and took the bus into Newcastle each day. The hotel and staff were well above expectations.
The Maker Faire was across several venues within Newcastle but all within easy walking distance.
The picture above is of one of the mechanical exhibits that someone had made complete with fire breathing nostrils.