Category Archives: entertainment

Year of Open Source 2013 Calendar

Year of Open Source is a lifestyle and documentary project by Sam Muirhead. He is spending a year replacing as much as possible of what he does with open source alternatives.

As part of his fundraising effort he came up with the cleverest reward that I’ve seen in a long time: a swimsuit calendar featuring many of the world’s open source technology leaders. Of course, I had to have one, and now I do, hot off the presses from Berlin. If looking at mine isn’t enough for you then you can get your own, or just creep middle-aged cartoons in speedos, right here.

year of open source 2013 calendar


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Build The Enterprise Is The Biggest Open Hardware Project Ever

If you dream big, dream REALLY big. Dream spacecraft big. Build The Enterprise is a website devoted to laying out, in detail, how a primitive version of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek could be built in 20 years.


There’s a petition up on the White House’s website to assign NASA the task of a feasibility study. Only 20,000 more signatures to go! Interestingly, they decided to go with a promotional graphic that is eerily similar to that scene from Independence Day when a spacecraft blew up the white house.

BuildTheEnterprise-White-House-Petitionindependence day white house


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Vagina Hacking by Scanlime, Open Hardware (Emphasis on Hard)

Beth over at scanlime is no stranger to building electronics. But this time she wanted to, well…in her own words, “create something new and exciting that I can immediately use in my everyday life. It also happens to be a sex toy.” Specifically, one of those little remote-controlled vibrating egg things.

She ended up producing a hack that is remarkably polished. She even designed and 3D printed a custom enclosure for the whole thing. If she had used neon pink plastic it would have been hard to tell that it wasn’t part of the original product.

She’s got an incredibly detailed description of the project on her blog. Personally, I think the most interesting part of the hack was her solution to the power problem.

This was getting complicated fast. Lithium polymer battery, a boost converter to raise the voltage to 5V for the sonar module, charging circuit, “fuel gauge” indicator. All of this work goes into every commercial product that runs on batteries, and we often take it for granted. As far as I’m aware, though, there isn’t a great equivalent for quick DIY prototyping. The Arduino Fio board is close to what I want: an Arduino with a built-in LiPo battery charger. But it doesn’t have the 5V boost converter or any way of monitoring the battery’s charge. Without designing my own PCB, I’d need several separate components: batteryfuel gaugecharge/boost. All total, over $45 and a lot more bulk and complexity than I wanted. I was really hoping there was a better option.

It so happens that this sort of amalgamation of parts is already pretty commonplace in the form of portable cell-phone chargers. These devices are very little more than a boost converter, charger, lithium battery, and a very basic fuel gauge. Best of all, thanks to economy of scale, they’re really inexpensive. The 3200 mAH battery I used in this project was only $22, and it’s something I can reuse for multiple projects… or even to charge my phone.

This is an elegant solution that can apply to an array of different projects. Once something becomes commoditized it can drop below the price point at which it makes sense to reproduce the functionality yourself. All wireless projects need power, and with cell phone chargers becoming cheap and easy to find it makes sense to just plug one into the project’s USB slot and call it a day. Not only is it cheaper and easier, but it’s modular because you can still use it for its original purpose.

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The Fixer’s Manifesto v1.0- From The Inventors Of Sugru

If you like the Fixer’s Manifesto then you can also look at pictures of people holding it here, if that’s your thing. If you want to fork/hack/improve it you can do that on the github page. If all of that is just to “free as in beer” for you then you can also buy a print from Sugru (it comes with a pink pen for making edits…yeah).

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Vote For An Open Source Ecology Documentary In The Focus Forward Competition

Vimeo is being stupid and I can’t figure out how to embed the video.

Anywho, Open Source Ecology (OSE) is an awesome project that is trying to create an open source version of the infrastructure that the modern world depends on. Basically, all the machines you’d need to turn dirt into iPhones.

This is a documentary about their work that has been doing well in the Focus Forward filmmaker competition. Go watch it and add your vote!

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Blender’s Open Movie Project – Tears Of Steel

This isn’t exactly open source hardware. But Blender is open source…and robots are hardware…and it’s Saturday.

This is the fourth from the Blender Foundation. The movies are intended to push Blender’s open technology forwards.

For the entire creation pipeline in the studio, we will only use free/open source software. For 3D graphics, compositing and video editing we’ll obviously use Blender. The new ‘Cycles’ render engine will be used, which includes open source projects like OpenShading, OpenColor and OpenImage. For camera and motion tracking Blender uses Libmv. For imaging and drawing we expect to use GIMP, MyPaint, Krita and Inkscape a lot. Render output and footage will be using the OpenEXR format. Scripting will be done in Python. Studio database storage will most likely be in SVN. The workstations in the studio will be equipped with 64 bits Ubuntu Linux. We have our own render farm this time, running on Debian and Ubuntu.

Since we’ll work with external providers for music, sfx and mix, we can only recommend them to include free software in their pipeline, but won’t put stringent demands here.
Obviously we’re very interested to be in contact with free/open source projects of any kind, to check on what we can do together.
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A Guide For Defeating Procrastination by Alex Vermeer

Open source revolves around The Project.

Without projects, there wouldn’t be an open source movement. If there’s no project then there’s nothing to be open about in the first place. Additionally, the projects are usually something new and interesting. That’s great for producing the motivation to finish, but a lot of the time “new and interesting” leads directly to the unknown. A learning curve, or a delay, can turn a promising project into something permanently on the back burner.

Alex Vermeer has put together a beautifully simple poster that is based on The Procrastination Equation. Basically, expectancy and value are good, impulsiveness and delay are bad, and the poster has a ton of different strategies for increasing the good and decreasing the bad.

Here’s what it looks like…

And here’s where you can download your own copy. Vermeer released it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license for Canada.

You can also buy a physical poster here.

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Legoification of Open Hardware on Genomicon

Over at Genomicon there’s a good post examining why it is vitally necessary for open hardware to “Lego-ify” if it wants to get any kind of wide acceptance.

Home computers started to really take off after the text-only interface of DOS was replaced with the graphical interface of Windows. Individual contributions to the web started to really take off after raw html code was replaced with higher level languages and tools. Tinkering with electronics is a lot more attractive when it doesn’t require soldering.

At the moment, possibly one of the largest barriers to entry for open hardware are CAD/CAM tools. Just like microcode, they have to be complicated because there are so many variables that have to be accounted for. However, they can slip into the background behind more user-friendly interfaces. But, any time you reduce complexity you have to decide which variables the user is allowed to manipulate.

Lego keeps coming up as a metaphor because it’s perfect. Lego handles all the nitty-gritty details of tolerances and compatibility, then simplifies the nearly unlimited design space into neat little packages. That kind of thing has to happen, and has to happen well, before a technology can achieve any kind of scale. The expert hobbyists can always figure out what’s going on, but the people who just want the technology to do something for them aren’t going to put up with much troubleshooting. Best Buy currently makes a lot of money hooking up audio/video gear, which is nothing more than plugging cables into boxes, because even that high-level packaging is too much for some people.

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Make Magazine Is Planning The “Ultimate 3D Printer Shootout” Issue

If any single publication can claim to represent the maker movement, I suppose Make Magazine is it.

John Abella says they are working on a massive guide to 15 hobby-level 3D printers, to be released in November. It looks like some of the designs they’ll be comparing are the Printrbot, 3D Touch, SeeMeCNC, Felix, Lulzbot, Up!, Solidoodle, Makerbot Replicator and Ultimaker.

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