Link Latte #21

A Bunch of Stuff – September Seventeen, Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven.

1) Intel’s new chipset can be run on solar power


Which is cool… because my current laptop runs hot enough to fry an egg. To run this one you’d need a solar array the size of a football field.

2) someone’s managed to make a solar-powered reprap

and speaking of that,

3) Makerbot have a new extruder


.4 of a mm? Berlimey. Apparently the good news with this is that it creates the requisite space for printing 2 materials at once, which means you can print over-hangs… if you make one material water-soluble.

I have a feeling that this might be a pointer to the future of these things – quite basic architecture, but with really quite advanced vitamin parts. Still, “open” is the thing… the thing about it being open-source is that the parts themselves aren’t designed to be optimised for scarcity – eg: vendor lock-in etc.

4) Xbee Internet Gateway

Someone’s programmed a little router to push/pull from Xbee. As far as I can tell, it allows your Xbees to do cURL calls to websites… and that means web-applications. There may be easier ways of doing this stuff… but this is one that popped up recently. To have an internet of things, the things need to be able to talk to your wifi router.

Still pretty complicated though. What would be cool would something like this:

5) Magnetic-Connector Modular Electronics For Kids

Just little plastic bits that allow you to say “send the power that my tv uses to the web” or “if I put a movement sensor here, tweet me – because the neigbour’s cat’s come in again”. and so on… but ABOVE ALL ELSE, some thing about the size of a microSD that you attach to your keys/cards/tv-remote/glasses etc that you can ping via a website so you don’t keep losing them.

6) Ping Pong Ball Catching Quadracopter

Worthy of note because it uses “Learning Based Model Predictive Control” – which is pretty much what I use to get around the house etc. And catch pingpong balls

7) Tiny Stearable Via IR Bristlebot

Because I quite like bristlebots

8 ) Spooky triffid well that gives glasses of water to people


It’s all well and good until you see it move

The Tropism Well from Poietic Studio on Vimeo.

9) You can make 3D printed bobble-heads of yourself with only 2 photos!


Which is a bit spooky if you ask me. What’s even spookier, is that I’m not going to make them of me, I’m going to make them of YOU – using pictures off facebook etc, and I’m going to make hundreds of them, and I shall be their king.

And when you come round to visit, they’ll all hide under the bed, pissing selves with laugher.

10) Video of Peeps making a bike

beSPOKE from Jeff Katz on Vimeo.

And that, possums, is the difference between DIY and real skill, that only comes from decades of professional experience.

I’m not sure if this is related at all – but there seems to be this commercial/market-driven tipping point… where things start off all DIY etc, then really serious quality kicks in. I’ve seen it a couple of times – one is Camden Market in London back in the 1990s, that went from selling terrible goth tat to expensive boutiquey stuff – and the retail operations got seriously professional as well. The other is Etsy – which went from Regretsy-level stuff, to everything having this kindof boutique-glow. I’m not sure how the tipping-point is triggered… whether it’s one or two people inspiring everyone else. With Etsy, I think the curation aspect helps.

And money of course – I think that the fact you can make a living from this stuff attracts people with real talent.

It’s interesting though… there’s also money in Ebay – and while Etsy tends to produce stuff that looks like this

, with ebay it looks more like this

And that’s one of the good ones. For some reason ebay stores seem to resemble the results of memetic addiction – everything center-justified, a riot of different colours and fonts where each new paragraph is even shouter and more important than the one before… and they go on for fucking ages. And they love comic-sans. What is it with ebay and comic-sans?

As I say, the pic above is one of the good ones… and far be bit from me to criticise what might actually be very finely tuned to its target market… but clearly between ebay and etsy, different forces are at play.

And so back to the wonderful world of Maker-Land… which as I’ve said before, is more a trait of the blogosphere than anything actually useful (so far) – it’s about what gets attention – rather than what makes money… and I think there’s a major difference between the two, and that is, in the sphere of “what gets attention”, polish accounts for very little. Being first with a neato idea is what matters. Money on the other hand… polish matters, especially if it’s in an arena where everyone (else) is doing polish.

And polish takes practice. It’s not something you can just bang out, given some tools and a youtube tutorial. I’ve always (being a punk) kindof been against polish, but now I’m not so sure. I think polish might be the thing worth paying for. Accumulated Labour. Bruce Lee said something like “I’m not scared of someone who knows 10,000 different kicks that he’s practiced once; I’m scared of someone who knows one kick that he’s practiced 10,000 times”.

I think there’s something in that.