Link Latte #16

Ok, another weekly round-up. Slipping further and further behind. I’ve been busy. I probably need to regroup. I need a holiday. I need more work. I need to hide under the bed surrounded by lots of little animals that I’ve made out of matchboxes, with matchstick legs. I’m a maker me. The Creator. Alpha and Omega, permanently in Beta.

1) Pick and Place Machine for making drone brains.

I didn’t know what a pick and place machine was until I saw this, and now I’m still not entirely sure. A machine for picking and placing things? I would have supposed so.

This one is special though because it comes from the the ardu-drone folk – the DIY cruise-missile-waiting-to-happen people, although personally I think the future is probably more like those hunter-seaker things of Dune… where a little quadracopter operated over the web that sits in a tree outside your house and when you come out it fires a curare dart into your neck.

I’m sortof surprised this sort of thing doesn’t happen more regularly in fact – I mean there’s this guy up in Auckland, NZ who’s just built himself a 50 million dollar house – after his company went down taking with it the life-savings (and therefore old-age-pensionhood) of thousands and thousands of people. And he got away with it. The Bhopal people got away with it. Cheney got away with it. Justice is not being done – and although I’m absolutely not in favour of the death penalty, I’m Scottish – so do believe in the sanctity of personal blood-vendeta. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.

And maybe it won’t – I mean if you look at revolutions in the past – The French, The Russian – the people had to be pushed to incredible lengths before they started killing the rich – just for the sake of moral principle. Maybe we humans are a lot more docile than we imagine ourselves to be.

Violence is first and formost an act of communication though – and one that almost always backfires – you can’t perpetrate violence without legitimising and strengthening the hawk constituency on the other side.. Especially now that information is so much harder to control.

Still – watch this space. The age of assasination – an inevitable flipside to the guard-economy, and possibly one so useful that if it didn’t exist, they’d have to invent it.

2) Industrial Scale Freecycle

This is pretty cool – it’s a way for industries to offer their (massive amounts of) waste to the ether, and have it turned into something useful… probably avoiding their own disposal costs. Industrial scale-freebies offer business opportunities… and make the whole system a whole lot more efficient.

I mean with these massive cotton-reels you could make massive cotton reel tanks and invade… who’d be easy to beat? Easier than Iraq or Afghanistan? Andorra? No… to mountainy. The Vatican? Yea – it’s a soveriegn state isn’t it. Invade the vatican with massive recycled cotton-reel tanks. You’d still lose, but that seems to happen every time anyway, and this way it wouldn’t cost you a trillion dollars.

3) What If The News Was Written By Scientists?

I know journalists like to go on about how important and worthy they are, and maybe they’re right. That said, I feel an almost physical sense of relief reading the article above.

Why? Because I haven’t got some fucker trying to sell me something – I can relax and take it at face value – which you can’t with news-reporting today. News today is all about trying to grab your attention. It’s a sales job.

It would be really good to have some rationality-filter set up to de-bullshitify the news.

4) Bitcoin

This is interesting – an alternative currency, yes… one that you can’t actually buy anything with yet, granted… but the architecture sounds interesting.

Which is to say, it’s entirely decentralised P2P – and they pay you (in bitcoins) for being a host. You can buy one thing with them – VOIP phone credits… so in some ways, it’s a high-tech rendering of the African thing where they send money about the place by reading cellphone top-up codes over the phone.

That’s the thing with currency – it really helps if it’s based on some “thing” that everyone uses. Corn in the old days for example. Today it’s debt, but that isn’t sustainable because the interest keeps multiplying.

Various funding mechanisms have been creating waves etc of late as well – the obvious one is… with the quite probably doomed-before-it-starts Disaspora. Another one was an open-sourced laser-cutter (more on that later). There’s one that’s turned up in the EU recently as well – private (rather than crowd-sourced) funding… from people who think they can second-guess the crowd’s earthly desires better than the crowd can. Nice diagram anyway


Because if there’s one thing geeks love, it’s flow-charts.

IBM are offering an alternative currency as well – for buying cloud services, which they claim everyone needs.

5) Back to the Axis of Evil

Another rash of surveillance innovations from the Plucky Brits…


So they can spy on themselves even more than they already do, and… should they feel the need to co-invade and occupy some wog country with the Plucky Americans, they can spy on “insurgents”, or locals. Depending on who you talk to.

In addition to that is a thing in The Telegraph, a depressing tory rag, where it is suggested that brain scanners could (might, may) be used to “read people’s minds” – which is almost certainly an example of the sciencificaly challenged reporting that I was on about before – if you read between the lines it seems that it could be used as some sort of lie-detector, and I’m not sure that that is any great surprise.

In fact so irked was I by the number of “could”s in this article, that I made a word-cloud out of it to prove my point.

Effectively disproving my point. Ok. I was wrong. Whatever.

6) Open Source Laser Cutter

Because everyone needs a laser-cutter.

Scoff thee not… $14,500 worth of people have decided they need a laser-cutter, and have punted it at kickstarter – this includes (as far as I can gather) the possibility of punting $512 and getting a laser-kit. Is that the same thing as a $512 laser cutter*? Hard to say. $15000 is (apparently) about 1/2 what a commercial laser-cutter costs… but 50% more than what they were after.

* oh – apparently not. Extremely misleading wording there. They say further down the comments that they expect the thing to cost $2-$5k.

Even further down the comments is a link to someone who is already doing the same thing, cheaper.

This one being specifically designed to replicate itself.

It’s not always the simplest/best/most-open that win though. There’s The Skype Effect – where although there are better alternatives, one offering leaps ahead on polish, marketing and then self-propelling viral hype. It helps if your website is lime-green.

Still… there seems to be a movement underway here. Would I buy a laser-cutter for $3k. Not immediately – but at some point. Probably. I’ve probably spent that much on laser-cutting in the last 12 months or so. Freedom to experiment. That’s what it’s about.

7) Lego Printer


Makerfaire was on recently – there was also this one that could draw on lightbulbs and eggs and so on.

For all your egg-drawing needs.

8 ) Briefcase trainset


round and round they go. From Trendy clothes shop, Paul Smith, via

9) Telepresence Robots


10) more quadracopters

Note robot-handling glove.


Which are (like the wizzy thing from a few days ago) controlled by the room, rather than being autonomous.

Controlled by the cloud. Although it seems like a cop-out, I’m not sure that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. It kindof makes the robot a detached limb of a larger entity than being an autonomous object in its own right.

So there you go. The week that was.