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Showing posts from October, 2009

Electronic Ideas and Experiments

LED lights.

This is a simple idea which has already led some local artists to make shiny balloons to light up a pier, and has inspired a teenager to start a business and win various entrepreneurial and inventing awards with something that leaves most open hardware or electronics enthusiasts cold and blank.

Basically the most simple thing you can build using electronics is an LED attached to a resistor, and both ends of those two, attached to a battery. Another simple variation on this is the throwie, which is LED + Battery + magnet (so it sticks to what you throw it onto).

To many this is old stuff, far too simple to be interesting any more, but to me the simplicity of the design is beautiful:


But it's actually a lot more fluid than that picture, made of bendable wires that could go anywhere, and could be arbitrary lengths really.



LED light can be very directional and will project really nicely on to things, so an LED tree made of wire or pipes that you can position seems a good idea. …

Beyond the netbook: Making the simplest open source arduino based microcomputer

Today's arduino based microprocessors are no match for the computing power of an ARM chip. Most of these chips can easily run Linux, or proprietary systems like WinCE, and they power most of our phones as a result of much earlier electronic experimentation, as show by last week's Micromen BBC program, about the Acorn vs Sinclair battles of the 80s.

A fully capable ARM chip able to control a complex thing like a mobile with it's full color displays and wifi, 3g bluetooth etc will cost a minimum of 150 pounds(and that's just for the chip), and so for hardware hacking isn't really worth the investment, as no-one will buy it for £150 when you can buy a proper ARM based phone at Tescos for 15 pounds.

But an arduino can still be the basis for some kind of cheap system, perhaps one that costs only around 50 pounds to prototype.

What I'd like to see though isn't a project to make something that mimics phones, but is to make a functional leap and create the simplest po…

A weekend building an arduino based robot

[The bot itself, looking sombre]

Last month, I went away to Stourbridge, a great centre of technology and robotics in the UK's scenic midlands. Here are some notes, pictures and film from that journey.

(I lied about Stourbridge).

The little train that brought me over from the main rail routes felt like a mix between the Totoro cat train and the slowly chugging train of death that inevitably carries away dead steampunks.

I later learned it had been built with very little money, so the health and safety was very minimal, and it was always breaking down.

But my friend Mat lives on the side of this sleepy town. He said that to one side of his house there was wasteland and empty industrial buildings. The other side, he warned was a land of chavs with blue neon underlit cars, there were also pubs and strip clubs, and lots of nurseries.

For a long time, Mat had been collecting arduinos and sensors of all kinds, hoping for a weekend of calm in which to play with it all. He invited me over to bu…

Dorkbot's New Hackspace

Here below you see a miniature, or pocket version of what was recently displayed at a large event in Bath by the newly hacktivised dorkbot bunch, who were given the challenge of providing a musical experience for a tech related arts event. They had to build a smaller version for testing, so they say, or most probably, because they could and because it was fun.




So Dorkbot has finally grown up from being a show and tell of the media, design, internet, engineering, musical and generally creative dork-peoples of Bristol. It has now gained much attention from event organisers and maker faires, as popular electronics has it's second rennaisance in arduinos and strange inventions, and as the closet sound benders of Bristol started messing with all that, so they are booked to play quite a few places, in the sense of course, of playing strange new-millennium unicycles that generate sounds by bending a microprocessor's own vibrations.



Tonight, we plotted the needs for the upcoming (23rd a…