From the Firepick website: 'We are developing a really cool robotic machine that is capable of assembling electronic circuit boards (it also 3D prints, and does some other stuff!). It uses a vacuum nozzle to pick really tiny resistors and computer chips up, and place them down very carefully on a printed circuit board.' There are lots of companies here and in China that will happily place and solder components on your printed circuit board, but hardly any that will do a one-off prototype or a small quantity. And the components have gotten small enough that this is really a job for a robot (or at least a Waldo), not human fingers. || There are obviously other devices on the market that do this, but Firepick Delta creator Neil Jansen says they are far too expensive for small companies, let alone individual makers.
The Firepick Delta Hackaday page talks about a $300 price for this machine. That may be too optimistic, but even if it ends up costing two or three times that amount, that's still a huge step forward for small-time inventors and custom manufacturers who need to populate just a few circuit boards, not thousands. They have a Haxlr8rpitch video, and have been noticed by TechCrunch, 3DPrintBoard.com, and Adafruit, just to name a few. Kickstarter? Not yet. Maybe next year. Open source? Totally, complete with GitHub repository. And they were at OSCON 2014, which is where Timothy found them. (Alternate Video Link)
Slashdot's Tim Lord was cruising the halls at OSCON, where he spotted Kevin Bates and his tiny Arduino-based device, called the Arduboy. On Kevin's Tindie.com sales page, he says the games it can run include, "Space Rocks, Snake, Flappy Ball, Chess, Breakout, and many more...The most exciting one could be made by you!" || His work with Arduboy got Kevin invited to the recent White House Maker Faire, where he rubbed shoulders (and shot selfies with) Bill Nye the Science Guy, Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, and Arduino creator Massimo Banzi. || Does Kevin have a Kickstarter in the works? There's nothing about Arduboy on Kickstarter.com, and given the Arduboy's simplicity and low price (currently $50), plus stories about it everywhere from Time.com to engadget to Slashdot, he may not need any financing or capital to make his idea succeed. (Alternate Video Link)
Plastic, plastic everywhere! Except on most surfaces of the Keyboardio ergonomic keyboard, which started as a 'scratch his itch' project by Jesse Vincent. According to his blurb on the Keyboardio site, Jesse 'has spent the last 20 years writing software like Request Tracker, K-9 Mail, and Perl. He types... a lot. He tried all the keyboards before finally making his own.'
His objective was to make a keyboard he really liked. And he apparently has. This video was shot in June, and Jesse already has a new model prototype under way that Tim Lord says is a notable improvement on the June version he already liked. || Note that the Keyboardio is hackable and open source, so if you think you can improve it, go right ahead. (Alternate Video Link)
Ben Blair is CTO of MarkITx, a company that brokers used commercial IT gear. This gives him an excellent overview of the marketplace -- not just what companies are willing to buy used, but also what they want to sell as they buy new (or newer) equipment. Ben's main talking point in this interview is that hardware has become so commoditized that in a world where most enterprise software can be virtualized to run across multiple servers, it no longer matters if you have the latest hardware technology; that two older servers can often do the job of one new one -- and for less money, too. So, he says, you should make sure you buy new hardware only when necessary, not just because of the "Ooh... shiny!" factor" (Alternate Video Link)
Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a
cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to
upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that
have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence
in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I
was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise
more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies
for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software
bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
samzenpus (5) writes "Dr. Andy Chun is the CIO for the City University of Hong Kong, and is instrumental in transforming the school to be one of the most technology-progressive in the region. He serves as an adviser on many government boards including the Digital 21 Strategy Advisory Committee, which oversees Hong Kong's long-term information technology strategies. His research work on the use of Artificial Intelligence has been honored with numerous awards, and his AI system keeps the subway in Hong Kong running and repaired with an amazing 99.9% uptime. Dr. Chun has agreed to give us some of his time in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post."
Didn't we already have something kind of like this called a Blade server? But this is better! An HP Web page devoted to Moonshot says, 'Compared to traditional servers, up to: 89% less energy; 80% less space; 77% less cost; and 97% less complex.' If this is all true, the world of servers is now undergoing a radical change. || A quote from another Moonshot page: "The HP Moonshot 1500 Chassis has 45 hot-pluggable servers installed and fits into 4.3U. The density comes in part from the low-energy, efficient processors. The innovative chassis design supports 45 servers, 2 network switches, and supporting components.' These are software-defined servers. HP claims they are the first ones ever, a claim that may depend on how you define "software-defined." And what software defines them? In this case, at Texas Linux Fest, it seems to be Ubuntu Linux. (Alternate Video Link)
Last week you had a chance to ask the Associate Chair of Research in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida, Juan Gilbert, about the Human Centered Computing Lab, accessibility issues in technology, and electronic voting. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Awarded the first Presidential Endowed Chair at Clemson University, and being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), are just a couple of Juan Gilbert's more noteworthy honors. Juan is the Associate Chair of Research in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida where he leads the Human Centered Computing Lab. With the help of students, the lab works on a variety of issues, including electronic voting, automotive user interfaces, advanced learning technologies, culturally relevant computing or ethnocomputing, and databases and data analytics. Dr. Gilbert has agreed to answer any questions you might have about computing and affecting society through accessible technologies. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
This interview with Googler Pete LePage took place at Google I/O 2014, where Pete and coworker Matt Gaunt set up a Device Lab with 46 different devices on their display wall. The point wasn't to show off Google's coolness as much as it was to let developers see how their websites displayed on as wide a range of mobile devices as possible. This is reminiscent of the last century's Any Browser campaign, which was set up to encourage developers to make sites that worked right in any browser instead of having a WWW full of sites "best viewed in Exploroscape" that displayed poorly in other browsers.
Today, the trick is to make a site that is fully functional across a wide range of devices with different size screens that a user might decide to view in landscape mode one day and portrait mode the next. Google is happy to share their MiniMobileDeviceLab with you to help set up multi-unit displays. Pete also suggests checking out PageSpeed Insights and Web Fundamentals even if you're a skilled and experienced Web designer, because those two Google sites are chock full of information on how to make sure your site works right on most devices and in most popular browsers. (Alternate Video Link)
samzenpus writes We recently had a chance to sit down with Edward Stone, Former Director of JPL, and ask him about his time as a project scientist for the Voyager program and the future of space exploration. In addition to our questions, we asked him a number of yours. Read below to see what professor Stone had to say.
This is an interview with Duolingo engineer Franklin Ditzler. He's not a smooth marketing guy getting all rah-rah about the company and what it does, just a coder who enjoys his job and seems to like where he works and what he's doing. Note that Duolingo is a free language teaching tool, and they seem determined to keep it free for language students by selling crowdsourced translation services to companies like CNN and BuzzFeed.
Duolingo founder and CEO Luis von Ahn is an associate professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Department, and was one of the original developers behind reCAPTCHA. Google acquired ReCAPTCHA in 2009 for "an undisclosed sum," a bit of history that led TechCrunch to speculate back in 2011 that Google would buy Duolingo within six months -- which didn't happen. But don't despair. It's still possible that Google (or another big company) might absorb Duolingo. We'll just have to wait and see -- and possibly improve our foreign language skills while we wait. (Alternate Video Link)
We've mentioned this interesting PAC more than once, including when Steve Wozniak endorsed it. The original Mayday PAC goal was to raise $1 million. Now Larry is working on a second -- and more ambitious -- goal: To raise $5 million by July 4. We called for your questions on June 23, and got a bunch of them. This time, instead of asking via email, we used Google Hangout to ask via video.
Here's a quote from the Mayday website:'We are a crowdfunded Super PAC to end all Super PACs. Ironic? Yes. Embrace the irony. We’re kickstarting a Super PAC big enough to make it possible to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We set fundraising goals and then crowdfund those goals." Check the Mayday About page and you'll see that a whole bunch of Internet and coding luminaries are on board. You may also notice that they span the political spectrum; this is totally not a partisan effort. | Another quote from the website: "Wealthy funders are holding our democracy hostage. We want to pay the ransom and get it back." Is this an achievable goal? We'll never know if we don't try. | This is Part 1 of a 2-part video. (Alternate Video Link) Update: 07/02 23:42 GMT by T: Here's a link to part 2 of the video, too.
The Skysense website says, 'Save time and manage your drone operations remotely: whenever the batteries run out, land on a Skysense Charging Pad and take off as soon as the batteries are recharged. Without ever leaving the office.' That certainly sounds convenient. Since it looks like everybody and her dog is jumping on the flying drone bandwagon, the next step is obviously charging the things without human intervention. We're talking about battery-powered ones, of course, like the multicopter drones that are starting to be used for things like pipeline inspection, mapmaking, and security alarm response. Sadly, using drones for beer delivery is currently against the law in the USA, as are the Burrito Bomber and the much-ballyhooed Amazon Prime Air drone delivery system. All this may change in the next few years as the FAA figures out how to regulate the many commercial drones that will inevitably be zipping through our skies, landing on pads to recharge themselves, and continuing their missions without human intervention. The next step in drone automation will probably be using driverless ground vehicles as drone launching and control stations. Shockingly, there aren't a dozen Kickstarter projects raising money to build automated ground support systems for automated flying drones already, but surely they'll show up before long. (Alternate Video Link)
Google I/O, the company's annual developer tracking^wdevelopers conference, has opened today in San Francisco. This year the company has reduced the number of conference sessions to 80, but also promised a broader approach than in previous years -- in other words, there may be a shift in focus a bit from Google's best known platforms (Chrome/Chrome OS and Android). Given its wide-ranging acquisitions and projects (like the recent purchase of Nest, which itself promptly bought Dropcam, the ever smarter fleet of self-driving cars, the growing number of Glass devices in the wild, and the announcement of a 3D scanning high end tablet quite unlike the Nexus line of tablets and phones), there's no shortage of edges to focus on.
Judging from the booths set up in advance of the opening (like one with a sign announcing "The Physical Web," expect some of the stuff that gets lumped into "the Internet of Things." Watch this space -- updates will appear below -- for notes from the opening keynote, or follow along yourself with the live stream, and add your own commentary in the comments. In the days to come, watch for some video highlights of projects on display at I/O, too. Update: 06/25 17:41 GMT by T: Updates rolling in below on Android, wearables, Android in cars, Chromecast, smart watches, etc.Keep checking back! (Every few minutes, I get another chunk in there.)
Their main claim: "Sigsense Sensors are field-switchable sensing modules which replace the current generation of single purpose instruments. All Sigsense Sensors connect to the Sigsense Wireless Dock through a common interface. This portability and convenience allows workers to always carry the right instrument for the job." In other words, a technician in a food manufacturing plant doesn't need to carry a humidity-measuring tool, a multimeter, a signal strength meter, and four or five other measuring tools, to the point where he's got a backpack full of instrumentation or a rolling a cart full of measuring devices. That technician can now (in theory) carry a single, wireless sensor body, and put the sensors he needs on it as easily as you change heads on an electric hair trimmer. Check their blurb on AngelList for more about what this company is up to, and note that they are going way beyond making one measurement at a time. They're talking about collecting instrument data, along with tracking technicians, and sending all this data to the cloud, where you can do with it as you wish. But not today. The website says they will have products available "soon." (Alternate Video Link)
"Otherlab," says their projects page, "is a private Research and Development company with a number of core competencies. We welcome industrial partnerships and commercialization partners. We have worked with dozens of companies globally from small start-ups to multi-nationals and Fortune 500 businesses. We develop enabling new technologies through an emphasis on prototyping coupled to rigorous physics simulation and mathematical models. We develop our own design tools because it's lonely at the frontier and to create new things and ideas, you often have to create the tools to design them." | One of their projects is building low-cost, inflatable exoskeletons that can be used as prosthetics or -- one presumes -- as strength multipliers for people who have working limbs. This is the project today's interviewee, Tim Swift, is working on. (Alternate Video Link)