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TVIC : Six geeks, Seven CD-ROM drives, One Pub—The Movie

Seth's blogged and uploaded the video from this month's The Valley in Christchurch tech dinner and CD-ROM hackfest.

Here's the finale, just in time for the Christmas lights season:

Links to all the videos on YouTube:

Thanks Seth!

Syndicated 2007-11-19 00:50:00 from follower

TVIC : Six geeks, Seven CD-ROM drives, One Pub

I've just got back home from this month's The Valley in Christchurch (TVIC) tech dinner. It was goood... Real fun.

After dinner at our now usual haunt we ended up at our (fast becoming usual) follow-up haunt.

Last month—after visiting the recycling oasis Supershed—I had brought along an old CD-ROM drive and dismantled it during the post-dinner conversation. (Hey, why not? ) Apparently inspired by the fun I had had, this month Marek had organised to bring along seven old cd-rom drives supplied by Morris. By this stage we had six people at the table, various beverages and enough screwdrivers that we could all attack the task of drive dissasembly with gusto. And we did.

The highlight of the evening (warning: non-geeks may not understand) was when—following a comment I made—Morris managed to hook up a tray-eject motor to a pair of green and red LEDs (salvaged from a drive), making them flash alternately when he pulled the tray in and out. Seth took some photos and video so hopefully it'll be online soon.

In spite of all this frenzied electrical activity the bar staff never asked us to leave or stop, so I apparently mass cd-rom drive disassembly counts as an acceptable activity at the Bohemian.

Next month: printers!

Syndicated 2007-11-08 10:20:00 from follower

Gratuitous Update

In a transparent attempt to not leave the month of October blog entry-free here's a quick and gratuitous update.

One-way wiki

As noted back in July, I've been running a personal "one-way wiki" as an experiment. My primary goal was to get more of my in-progress hacks off my harddrive and onto the public net where they might be of more use to someone. The secondary goal was to try to reduce the number of browser tabs I had open and chewing up memory.

Overall I think the experiment has been a success with a (very) rough count of about ten-thousand words over about thirty pages in the wiki. While many of those words are only links there's a few in-progress projects partially documented also.

I still probably have more tabs open than I'd like but I think I'm making progress on that front.

The wiki has definitely been a plus for documenting in-progress projects and keeping track of details for recovering from context switches. Hopefully the notes—such as they are—are of use to others as well.

I think the only down-side is that my blogging activity has become even more curtailed than it was—mainly because I'm documenting items in the wiki rather than on the blog. It is entirely possible of course that I wouldn't have posted anything more to this blog even if if I hadn't had the wiki. In light of this however (and a couple of requests in this direction) I'm thinking of generating blog entries from the "recent changes" record of the wiki so people who are interested can still keep track of what I'm up to. When or if this idea actually gets implemented remains to be seen. :-)

Recent changes

In the interim here's a few links into the wiki:

Syndicated 2007-10-31 10:20:00 from follower

Ponoko has two dirty little secrets

It's true, Ponoko has two dirty little secrets:

  1. It's actually affordable.
  2. It's crack for Makers.

I've been attracted to the idea of Ponoko since I first heard about it—particularly once I knew they were New Zealand based. But I was always put off by the fact it seemed an expensive service—or at least the "flag ship" products available for purchase made it look that way.

Now that they've opened the beta up to New Zealand users and I've spent a bit of time with it I can reveal that Ponoko seems to have been holding out on us. (It's basically impossible to find pricing information for your own project until you upload something—which isn't without its issues.)

The first price-related figure for a personal project I saw was this one:

Cutting Cost (x1)  $0.56
Material Cost (x1)  $2.27
Add $10 for delivery in New Zealand and "You could be manufacturing something today and get it delivered for less than $15!". Now as it happens the object in question was a small acrylic square :-) but that's not the point. I later managed to design an ~150mm square acrylic puzzle with a delivered price of under $20.

I haven't as yet ordered anything (I don't need another habit :-) ) but if you've been wondering about Ponoko but been put off by the price of getting started it looks to me like it's worth investigating further.

Inkscape and Ponoko

While Ponoko mention using Inkscape to produce the required EPS files on their site I was unable to open the templates they provided—and it seems I wasn't the only one having Inkscape problems with Ponoko. The good news is that Inkscape 0.45 seems to produce the required EPS files okay—I can't say yet if they'll manufacture okay, but if you want to try just ignore the templates. (I'm hoping Ponoko will soon provide a Inkscape-compatible template set.)

Customer service

And the funy thing is while I was writing up my experience of the site I actually had received two emails from one of the Ponoko's development staff (at nearly 11pm!) who noted I'd encountered a couple of errors while using the site. The first email was to let me know they were working on the issue I'd encountered and the second around an hour later was to let me know they'd fixed the issue. Nice.

Syndicated 2007-09-27 15:40:00 from follower

BarCamp Christchurch links

While I think of it, here are some links to items I mentioned during my hardware/gadgets spiel:

Contact me for more information if I've forgotten anything...

Syndicated 2007-09-07 11:30:00 from follower

BarCamp Christchurch

Today I'm at BarCamp Christchurch. Great turn-out I think—about 30-40 people at various stages. Very cool to see an event like this in Christchurch.

Thanks Seth and Ben.

Syndicated 2007-09-07 04:30:00 from follower

A winning streak

I seem to be on a bit of a winning streak lately...

  • A couple of weeks back I won tickets to the Christchurch preview of The Simpsons Movie. A chorus of "Spider-pig" has been heard around the house by various singers since...
  • Then last week I entered a "Name the Thing Contest" contest on the Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog and won a Aryca D-pod mini camera tripod like this. The D-pod gets a good user review:
    ...little tripod - an aryca, very lightweight and strong. It is actually an extremely well designed bit of kit and folds flat into 15x5x1.5cm, so that it is easy to carry in ones pocket. Again I find it extremely useful...
    I've recently acquired a Black and White parallel port QuickCam without a base so until it gets absorbed by a project the D-pod can serve as a base.
  • And then of course there's this Saturday... :-)

Syndicated 2007-07-31 09:40:00 from follower

pwyky wiki

Like many hackerly-inclined individuals I tend to develop or research a lot more stuff than I release or comment on. The reasons for non-release vary but generally relate to the non-trivial amount of work it takes to put even a half-baked idea on a webpage or blog entry. (A workload increased by the accompanying handy case of perfection-itis.)

The amount of work required to document something depends significantly on the tools at hand so in light of that I've installed a version of the pwyky python wiki on code.rancidbacon.com. The version I'm running is actually a cosmetically modified version of a modified pwyky version hacked by a guy I ran into during my Google Maps hacking escapades. There's some notes on the modified pwyky version and they include some Apache configuration suggestions also.

I'm treating the site as a "one-way wiki"--it's intended to make it easy for me to update it, not in order foster community additions. Various obvious reasons apply.

The updated site will include project documentation and general link-storage--I guess a local del.icio.us replacement--in an attempt to reduce my browser-tabbage when I'm exploring half a dozen paths at once. While much of the wiki is intended purely for my use I made it public on the off-chance it ends up being useful for anyone else.

With some use of mod_rewrite I think I even managed to preserve the existing URLs on the site.

"Oh, I'll chuck it in the wiki" will hopefully help with my information processing activities... :-)

Syndicated 2007-07-26 14:05:00 from follower

It's here... OLPC/XO-1 etc

You might have guessed my silence over the past couple of days was either:

  1. completely normal due to the usual reasons for my erratic posting schedule; or,
  2. due to the OLPC/XO-1 laptop prototype finally arriving.
Here's a clue:

XO-1 self-portrait

As to the reports I took a trip to the courier's airport depot just so I didn't have to wait an extra day to receive the laptop... Well, what do you think?!


I managed to get the laptop upgraded to the latest firmware and system build just in time to take it for a show-and-tell at our monthly The Valley in Christchurch dinner. This display of geek-dom resulted in a small video recording demo starring Marek, Paul and myself (signed model releases not available).

Syndicated 2007-04-12 14:05:00 from follower

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