C&C for the masses. I’ma build me one of these, in my copious free time.
Yes folks itâ€™s true: You can build a computer controlled 3-axis circuit board mill from cutting boards, a pile of printer parts and a Dremel. My coworker [Will] has posted the third and final installment of his CNC machine build on Engadget. This project was launched when Will stumbled across plans for an incredibly elegant and cheap ($22~$30) 3-axis stepper motor controller that originally appeared in Nuts&Volts in 1994. It uses a discontinued UCN5804B chip, but he lists a source for them. Building the controller and scavenging stepper motors from old dot-matrix printers is covered in
Part 1. For the body of the machine Will chopped up a couple cheap 1/2â€ thick cutting boards from Samâ€™s Club. The polyethlene probably isnâ€™t as good as say Delrin but it wins out for availability. Steel rod from the hardware store is used for the linear slides
Part 2 covers the constructions of the first axis (the table) which rides on inch long nuts on threaded rod.
Part 3 covers assembling the final two axes in the head and installing the Dremelâ€™s flex head. Amazingly he nearly got the entire thing built in the span of two evenings.
In 1994, Umberto Eco wrote an essay in which he compared the Macintosh to the Catholic Church and DOS to the Protestants. “Indeed,” he says “the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits.” DOS, he says, is Calvinistic, as it “allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation.” Eco knows his religions, but his interpretation of DOS as lying on the extreme end of the spectrum of reprogramability is fairly laughable to anyone who’s spent time around real operating systems. Five years later, Neal Stephenson wrote his seminal essay, ‘In the Beginning was the Command Line,’ tracking the rise of the Operating System as a saleable commodity, and providing a set of metaphors for various OS’s structured around cars and munitions, rather than religious movements. Stephenson grants that his essay is “more review than research paper,” but justifies this by noting that “ever since the Mac came out, our operating systems have been based on metaphors, and anything with metaphors in it is fair game as far as I’m concerned.”
These two are some of the most interesting historical thinkers of our age (IMHO), and to see them both addressing the same issue of contemporary culture in historical context but each from their own unique background perspective is fascinating. I’m not sure if Stephenson was aware of the, much shorter, Eco essay when he set out on ‘In the Beginning.’ It is easy to imagine that he was not, as it was published in Italian and as far as I know only provided in translation recently. Still, it is nice to imagine Neal and Umberto sitting down in a cafe and hashing through the issues interface metaphors and reformation politics.
I love the hi/lo of a device you crank in order to receive a message from another device floating in space. More Gibson than Gibson.
As part of XM Satellite Radio’s expanded EAS initiative, XM is working to develop a crank-powered satellite radio receiver that would allow listeners to receive signal during power outages. So during emergency situations where terrestrial radio networks are down and cell phone networks are rendered useless, you’ll be able to receive emergency notices without any power source. XM’s Emergency Alert Channel (XM 247) is received free-of-charge to any XM receiver. So even non-subscribers have the capability of getting timely updates in disaster situations. :: Via Hugg and Orbitcast
Go listen to this, laugh.
Danger Doom “The Occult Hymn” EP available free from Adultswim.com [More Inside] but that is pretty much it.
This looks fun.
Force Directed Graphs are self-organizing, visually appealing tools for representing relational data. The look is organic, because algorithms simulate the way charged particles arrange in space. They work great in user interfaces because the user has access to data nodes while the graph is being organized.
Tools to aggregate content published in a decentralized manner are king.
Over at the Technorati Weblog, Tantek Ã‡elik has announced two new products, Microformats Search and Pingerati. In case you’re not familiar, microformats are small bits of XML that can be used to describe things like events, product reviews, or contacts in a way that’s easily readible by both humans and machines. Technorati’s microformats search, which is currently in the “technology preview” (i.e. beta) stage, lets you search for microformat-tagged information posted to any of the millions of blogs Technorati indexes. Pingerati is a new site that you can “ping” to get your microformats indexed by Technorati’s microformats search, as well as a service for developers that can send microformats to other sites. For example, if you ran a calendar site, Pingerati could forward all of the microformatted events that it receives to your site, kind of like a Ping-o-Matic for microformats.
Red Hat is looking at Social Networking as desktop environment level software, which is interesting. I’m not that excited about that part, though. This also involves a Java/Hibernate/JBoss Open Source social networking server, which is meant to be extesnible and horizontally scalable and/or clusterable. This could be an interesting platform for neat little bits of social networking functionality which may not have the pull to create a critical mass community on their own.
Red Hat has developed a new MySpace like site called Mugshot — but it’s open source. I saw a short demo of Mugshot this morning at the Red Hat Summit in Nashville and it was pretty hot; they nicked the best stuff out of all the social networking sites and put them together in an open codebase.
The Mugshot client application is built with a special cross-platform code library developed in C with GLib and GObject. For network communication, Mugshot uses the open XMPP protocol also used by Jabber and Google Talk. The current version of Mugshot is built with Loudmouth, a GLib-based XMPP implementation developed by Imendio. The Linux version of the Mugshot client user interface is built with GTK and uses GConf for storing configuration data, which means it is closely aligned with the GNOME desktop environment. The Linux version uses D-Bus for interprocess communication, and will provide Firefox integration.
This Yahoo Research project is the sort of tool they use to teach time travelers and aliens like Mike Myers and Mila Jovovich about history. This begs the question: if Yahoo Research is working on products for time travelers and aliens, is that getting too far out ahead of the market?
a time-based data visualization showing the evolution of tags within the Flickr online image sharing community.
the “river” metaphor gives a quick overview of the tags as a function of time. tags appear from right of the screen, travel left slowly, & disappear. the font size of the tag is proportional to the intensity of its interestingnes. each tag displays 1 photo from Flickr with this tag, & can be user selected to show more images.
the “waterfall” metaphor is useful to study tags that persist across multiple days. the screen is divided into left & right halves. the top 8 most interesting tags are displayed in 8 rows in the left half, with font sizes proportional to the intensities of their interestingness. if a tag persists for more than 1 consecutive day, more photos are added to its row.
[yahoo.com & www2006.org(pdf)]