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Comments

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Scroogle Has Been Blocked

compumike Re:Duck Duck Go (281 comments)

I too have been trying Duck Duck Go (link to encrypted version) for the last several weeks and have been impressed.

Furthermore, check out their privacy policy, as well as a recent blog post about search privacy that explains why it "might be the most private place to search the Internet". No IPs logged, no cookies, no contractors.

There are also a large set of convenient "bang commands" such as searching "!slashdot foo".

And finally, searching over (encrypted) HTTPS just works "out of the box".

Give it a try for a few weeks!

more than 4 years ago
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Where To Start In DIY Electronics?

compumike Free electronics video tutorials from NerdKits! (301 comments)

Check out some of the NerdKits Video Tutorials, which are 20+ free video tutorials that cover all sorts of electronics topics. For example, Motors and Microcontrollers 101 talks about how to model motors as circuit elements (I'm the guy in this video). The Halloween Capacitive Touch Sensor talks about using aluminum foil as a proximity sensor. All in all, we sell breadboard-based electronics kits, which help beginners like yourself get started with electronics and programming.

Then, our customers adapt it to do things we'd never dreamed of: measuring how far a hamster runs at night, or controlling an RC helicopter, or building an intervalometer, or even building a video game system.

The communications / RF type stuff is very cool, and I hope you're able to get there! The most relevant content we have available right now is a 20-minute video about building a single transistor amplifier for a sound meter.

Best of luck in your electronics journey!

more than 4 years ago
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Open Source Hardware Projects, 2009

compumike Re:The "Arduno" cult (77 comments)

(Actually, not 32-bit -- it's all still 8-bit, except for the AVR32 line which is another set of chips altogether.)

You're right, there was a lot lacking and people could be "scared away" from getting started with microcontrollers, but what we're trying to do with NerdKits is make it less scary without hiding the complexity or the conceptual learning. Our hypothesis is that people are actually smart enough to handle real tools, if you show them how, and will be far better off with that experience. Guide newbies through looking at the datasheet, setting registers, etc. Add some unique content that really makes you use your brain, and we've got a lot of very happy customers!

about 5 years ago
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Science Gifts For Kids?

compumike Re:Do they still make those "electronic project ki (368 comments)

I too had one of those as a kid -- the ones where you follow the book to connect the various spring terminals! While I might be able to go back and learn some more from it now, I can't really say I learned much from it at the time. It was very much focused on just following the step-by-step directions, with little emphasis on creativity / customization / concepts. So after finishing my Masters in EECS from MIT, I decided to build my own electronics kits for the "digital generation", with a tremendous focus on creativity / customization / concepts. Check us out :-)

about 5 years ago
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Science Gifts For Kids?

compumike Help them get started with electronics+programming (368 comments)

Whatever you do, find something where there's real teaching and interactivity and creative thinking going on -- not just polishing some rocks or a step-by-step Lego project. And furthermore, interacting with your child while they're using whatever science gift you pick is also extremely valuable.

Ages 7 and 9 may be a bit young... but we know that 11-year olds do well with getting introduced to electronics and programming, and the interaction that it offers with the physical world through various sensors and actuators. In our experience at NerdKits electronics kits, our youngest customers tend to learn the fastest, because they are the most fearless! They're able to try building something, get something wrong, but just keep working at it until they succeed. Our various free video tutorials help teach various electronics and programming concepts as well.

Here's an 11-year-old's NerdKits "Kid Review" in Make Magazine, or a reading by the author of the review.

Challenge them a bit -- with a bit of guidance, they're capable of taking on more than you might think!

about 5 years ago
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What To Cover In a Short "DIY Tech" Course?

compumike Impress, analyze, and then synthesize (256 comments)

You've got to get their attention first -- impress them with something that makes them say, "Wow, that's cool!" This is particularly important when reaching out to high schoolers and others who aren't necessarily techies yet. While some "neat" algorithm or circuit may capture your attention or mine, it's really hard to visualize for people who aren't already in that mindset, so you generally need a good physical interaction to capture their attention and spark their interest in the first place. From our NerdKits DIY video tutorials collection, I can particularly suggest USB-Guided Servo Squirter (a water gun you can point and control with a computer), our iPhone-controlled R/C car, our Valentine's Day LED Heart with PRNG for a randomized twinkling effect, or even our Morse Code Decoder which automatically translates dits and dahs into letters.

Then, only once you have their attention and interest (they've got to be asking, "How'd you do that?"), you can go deeper into the underlying concepts and electronics and programming. Open up a dialogue, ask "How would you build this (conceptually)?", and once you've done that kind of analysis-style thinking on a few existing projects (learning to take things apart), the students will be empowered with the skills they need to start doing synthesis-style thinking on building projects of their own.

Only after that should kind of top-down, system-level thinking should you dive down into the details, like how to use printf and scanf in C for the LCD or serial port, or how to use interrupts in microcontroller programming.

Just yesterday I taught four high school physics class sections, 10th-12th grades, and we were able to talk about concepts around feedback control systems, sensors and noise, motors, etc all around a currently-unreleased project we're working on with our electronics kit. (Lots of links here, but I think they're quite relevant to my reply and show off how we do things in our part of the DIY educational space.)

So in summary, capture their attention with a few exciting projects, make them think analytically to figure out how they work, and from there, let their imaginations run with taking those projects in new directions or in coming up with their own!

more than 5 years ago
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How To Make Science Popular Again?

compumike Making Science and *Engineering* Relevant (899 comments)

If you're truly trying to integrate science with "mainstream culture", a big part of the overlap is in engineering. Science for the sake of scientific knowledge is great, but we've found that it's often easier to connect to people by looking at how science connects with their lives, which often falls into the realm of engineering (or medicine). We have tried to do that with our free educational electronics videos.

Even as science and medicine and gadgetry continue to advance, it's important to make it accessible and exciting to those outside the field. But while the original book being reviewed argues that "the scientists themslves" must take up the lead in educating the public, the fact is that making these subjects accessible has its own set of required skills that are not necessarily the same as those needed for being an excellent scientist. Some will be able to do both, but it's not for everyone.

more than 5 years ago
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DIY LED Array Marquee For Your PC

compumike Not Slashdotted Anymore! (128 comments)

Hi all,

We had tuned the www.NerdKits.com site to survive slashdottings with its old PHP backend, but we recently started experimenting with some Django. Django is great as a programming framework, but I suppose we have discovered that our tuning of the server settings isn't quite up to handling a Slashdotting! We've temporarily disabled that stuff so the site is back and running. My apologies for the downtime.

- The NerdKits Team

more than 5 years ago
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Cornell University FPGA Class Projects for 2008

compumike MIT 2.009 Product Design class, and more (112 comments)

For a slightly more holistic project approach, take a look at a MIT 2.009 Product Engineering class (Mechanical Engineering dept), which now has videos from their projects for this semester: microwave fire extinguisher, self-adjusting electric cook-top array, basketball player tracking system, etc. There are also some neat projects for microcontroller beginners on the NerdKits videos page. DIY digital scale interface over USB, morse code decoder, iPhone R/C car control, and more. (Disclaimer: I did some of the electronics design for the 2.009 Purple Team, and am one of the NerdKits team.)

about 6 years ago
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Future Sony MMOs Will Be On Consoles

compumike Console controllers for long-term playing? (144 comments)

Maybe it's just me, but for something that I'll be playing even for more than half an hour, I really prefer a PC mouse/keyboard (and sometimes joystick) to a console controller. Since these MMOs tend to focus on people who are going to be playing for a long time very frequently, I hope they've considered that effect. I'd get very uncomfortable with any of the popular console controls (Wii/Xbox) and just don't find them particularly effective. Additionally, text chat seems to be an important part of MMOs.

This isn't a show-stopper, as I'm sure they could adapt conventional PC controls, but I'm still not sure if it's a step in the right direction or not.

more than 6 years ago
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Plug-in Hybrids May Not Go Mainstream, Toyota Says

compumike The market works to reach equilibrium! (519 comments)

When fuel prices got too high, interest in electric vehicles and alternative energy sources boomed, but simultaneously demand weakened. Now oil prices have come off ~30% from their highs, and suddenly EVs are not a totally obvious solution anymore? Duh... this is how the market it supposed to work. This means that electric vehicle companies are going to have to start competing on real merits and not just squishy fuzzy green feelings. And I hope that makes them stronger! But it's not the worst thing in the world if conventional gas-burning cars remain an acceptable/affordable thing for the time being.

--
Learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago
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US House Limits Constituent Emails

compumike Think they read them anyway? (581 comments)

Given that they're all probably receiving thousands of e-mails asking them to reject the bailout, I doubt they're really doing much with them. I'd actually be surprised even you get the standard form-letter reply if they're so overwhelmed.

But I think the overall message is clear. It's not a cacophony, it's thousands of people singing the same message: reject the bailout or we'll reject you in a few weeks!

Ultimately, they're doing the worst possible thing right now, which is preserving the hope of a bailout. This leads to a further credit freeze, because banks won't sell their troubled assets at the (very low) market price because there's still the possibility that they'll be getting a much better price from Uncle Sam.

If you want to free up credit again, we really need one of the presidential candidates to stand up and say, "There will be no bailout." That will force banks to start doing transactions again. Some might go under, but that's OK. We just need to end this idea that a bailout might happen, because right now that uncertainty is what is preventing people from liquidating their assets.

--
Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago
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US Senate Passes PRO-IP Act

compumike The existing system wasn't working... (212 comments)

From Senator Wyden:

"With over 30,000 civil suits filed by a single entity against individual Americans it is clear that industry is more than able to enforce its intellectual property rights in civil courts without the contribution of taxpayer funds and busy federal prosecutors."

But while that's a kind of system that should be working, it really isn't. There are still tens of millions of Americans who either believe that it is within their "fair use" rights to freely redistribute copyrighted materials to dozens of unknown online participants, or do so fully knowing it is illegal.

So while the method sucks... isn't this actually a reasonable place for government action, you know, in enforcing the law?

--
Learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago
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Cisco Launches Alliance For the 'Internet of Things'

compumike Still need cheaper Wi-fi chipsets for this to work (96 comments)

Nobody wants to run ethernet cable to their toaster... so I really think that making cheap Wi-fi chipsets is the answer here. Unfortunately it still costs at a very minimum $5+ to add wireless to something, so it's going to take a little while for a $2 light switch to get these.

--
Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago
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City Sues To Prevent Linking To Its Website

compumike The bigger question... changing the legal system (429 comments)

So, yes, this is silly, but ultimately this is just one example of a bigger phenomenon: people filing stupid lawsuits, where simply the burden of defending oneself is overwhelming / not worth it. This happens for many reasons: lawyers are expensive, court simply takes time, etc.

Is there some way we can modify the legal system so that these kinds of frivolous suits die quickly and cheaply? Like an online peer review thing, where there's an anonymous, rotating committee of reviewers who can triage filings and vote to reject them? This has its own problems too, of course -- the rule of the mob emerges.

So I'm not sure what the solution is, but it seems like we have to think about how to make it about two orders of magnitude cheaper/easier to defend oneself in court against frivolous suits.

--
Get started with electronics: Microcontroller kit for Linux/Mac/Windows. Do it with your kids!

more than 6 years ago
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Mozilla Admits Firefox EULA Is Flawed

compumike It isn't the specifics... it's the principle. (312 comments)

Nobody has to agree to the GPL to use a GPL'ed piece of software -- only to gain additional rights like redistribution. All Mozilla really needs to do is to look at the Trolltech / Qt situation, and then look around and see real alternatives to their product (Opera / WebKit / etc), and they'll wake up and smell the coffee. There isn't enough justification for the EULA hassle just to "explain the license", and that will be worked around by developers and distributions.

Looks like they missed the point.

--
Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago
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Scribbling On Digital Photos

compumike Just checking... what's the primary anger here? (134 comments)

Yes, this is crazy, but from reading the comments I think there are two things that need to be separated.

1) This is bad because there is massive prior art,
OR
2) This is bad because it is a patent on a software concept.

Which one is it? Number one seems to indicate legitimacy of the current patent system, and number two does not -- very different ideas, but I think slashdotters are conflating the two at the moment.

--
Hey code monkey... learn electronics! Powerful microcontroller kits for the digital generation.

more than 6 years ago

Submissions

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Smart Frying Pan Cooks a Mean Steak, Salmon Fillet

compumike compumike writes  |  about a month ago

compumike (454538) writes "Sage Lazzaro of Betabeat took a smart frying pan for a spin. "The pan’s bottom is equipped with sensors that continuously take temperature readings and wirelessly send the data to the Pantelligent app via Bluetooth. The pan and the app work together to turn the temperature readings into step-by-step cooking instructions that prompt you to make even the slightest temperature adjustments to keep your food cooking at the perfect temperature. ... When the pan reached the optimal 375 degrees, a SIRI-esque voice instructed her to put the salmon in the sizzling pan.""
Link to Original Source
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Smartphone-Connected Frying Pan Cooks Everything Perfectly

compumike compumike writes  |  about a month ago

compumike (454538) writes "Engineers at Pantelligent have paired the low-tech with the high-tech, and the result looks delicious. A Bluetooth module and temperature sensor are integrated into a frying pan, and adaptive recipes automatically help chefs of any skill level follow time and temperature cooking profiles to get perfect results, every time. Are these the cooking robots we were promised in the Jetsons?"
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Penetration Testing for the Masses

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 2 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "Every week we read about companies being hacked through insecure websites. Big companies have in-house security teams, but a new browser-based website penetration testing tool can scan, attack, and detect the biggest threats, such as SQL injection, XSS, and other vulnerabilities, finding holes in more than 90% of websites scanned — even in frameworks like Django and Rails. Can expensive security consultants be replaced by an army of machines providing website security for the masses?"
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Automatic Detection of OWASP Top 10 Vulnerabilities

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 2 years ago

compumike writes "Tinfoil Security today released a browser-based website penetration testing tool as a service. "We've caught SQL injection, XSS, insecure cookies, and other vulnerabilities in 93% of websites scanned, even in frameworks like Django and Rails," said Ainsley Braun, the CEO. Earlier this year, they found a vulnerability in United Airlines that leaked flight passenger manifests. Expensive security consultants and in-house security teams can be replaced with an army of machines providing constant scanning for all websites."
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Schematics and Circuit Simulation in the Browser

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 2 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "CircuitLab today released a browser-based schematic editor and circuit simulator for the online electronics community. SPICE-like device models and mixed-mode simulation support allows engineers and hobbyists to tackle a wide range of board-level design problems. While most EDA software is Windows-only, CircuitLab is 100% web-based, Windows/Mac/Linux cross-platform, and requires no installation or plug-ins. Instead of today's typical forum posts with static screenshots from different desktop tools, the online electronics community can now use CircuitLab to share useful URLs (as well as PNGs and PDFs) which link directly to interactive, editable, runnable schematics. In just a few clicks, another designer can open that circuit, make a change, simulate it, and post the new version back to the community."
Link to Original Source
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Talking Digital Calipers for Engineering Accessibi

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 3 years ago

compumike writes "Whether it's software engineers and their compilers or electrical engineers and their oscilloscopes, engineers and makers of all kinds rely on tools to build great things every day. We depend on tools so much that we often take our ability to use them for granted. The NerdKits team was contacted by a blind mechanical engineering student, and combined technologies from two earlier projects to produce a set of talking digital calipers that turn a distance measurement into an audible readout. The video includes a clip where Terry explains his passion for engineering and shows how he uses the talking calipers in his job and classes, so be sure to take a look."
Link to Original Source
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Homemade Robotic Xylophone Plays Holiday Melodies

compumike compumike writes  |  about 4 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "Just in time to add a bit of geeky holiday cheer to your office, this video demonstrates how to build a robotic xylophone featuring handmade solenoids and aluminum bars, and shows it playing several classic holiday tunes. New songs can be programmed in with C macros, and this project could even be extended to perhaps play a melody when a new e-mail arrived or a software build has finished compiling!"
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PayPal E-Commerce Hack: More Friends = Lower Price

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 4 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "PayPal's ongoing X Developer Challenge and their new Adaptive Payments APIs have allowed coders to dream up new ways of thinking about online payments. One of these entries is called Buckits, which lets consumers pool together to get discounts on a microcontroller kit. Check it out, and vote for your favorite entry in the PayPal Developer Challenge — voting ends Friday 11:59PM PST. Whether or not you're interested in microcontrollers, this demonstrates how PayPal is partnering with developers to create the future of e-commerce."
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New E-Commerce Model: Self-Serve Group Discounts

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 4 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "A "Buckit" takes the simple idea of a group discount and augments it for the modern Web. Anyone can create a Buckit, or join one that already exists. The more people who sign up for a Buckit, the less everyone pays for his or her own item. The final price each Buckit member pays for their itemis based on the number of people in the Buckit, and the amount keeps going down as more people join. This model lets people take advantage of their social networks (online and offline) to spread the word about a cool product and save money at the same time.

NerdKits is launching this today and applying this to the educational electronics kits they've sold online since 2007, but are also interested in applying the concept to other e-commerce areas where there's a "social or network utility" to a product: event tickets, multiplayer video games, etc. Check out this brief demo video, launch details, or the live Buckits website."
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Google Voice Controls Giant LED Display

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

compumike writes "What geek among us has never sat and thought about how cool it would be if you could call your computer and have it do stuff? Josh Davis put together a quick video demo and source code of his Voice Controlled LED Marquee, powered by Google Voice speech recognition and a DIY LED Array Kit. Imagine using the same display for monitoring server uptime, or RSS feeds!"
Link to Original Source
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DIY Capacitive Touchscreen Tech for Halloween

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "For this special Halloween project, NerdKits has put together a "haunted" Jack-O-Lantern (video and construction details inside) that glows when you reach your hand in. The technology used for the sensor is the same as is used in laptop trackpads and smartphone touch screens, just implemented with a somewhat more MacGyverish twist: two pieces of aluminum foil, some paperclips, and a microcontroller running C code at 14MHz. The sensor trips when a hand is near, and LEDs light up to surprise and scare the unsuspecting trick-or-treater!"
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Source Code and Signal Processing at your BBQ?

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "With July 4th cook-outs right around the corner, this new digital meat thermometer hack demonstrates an interesting application of digital signal processing techniques to something everyone does every day: food preparation. In order to speed up the meat temperature measurement, this video tutorial shows how to use a few lines of C code to invert the slow rise of the sensor and get a much faster overall device. Can code overcome the constraints of the physical world? Is the world ready for high tech in the kitchen?"
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Learning Electronics with a DIY Sound Level Meter

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "After being demoed at MIT's Battle of the Bands last month, the NerdKits team is back with a Piezoelectric Sound Level Meter, borrowing its display from the DIY LED Marquee that was the subject of a previous Slashdot story. This video tutorial describes in detail both the analog electronics plus the C code that runs the system. If this is your first experience at the intersection of digital and analog systems, don't be scared!"
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Hackable Microcontroller-Powered Valentine's Card

compumike compumike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

compumike (454538) writes "If you have a significant other to impress this Valentine's Day, consider putting your programming skills to use. This video tutorial shows how to build an LED Heart Valentine's card, powered by a microcontroller running C code, with a neat randomized "twinkling" effect in an interrupt handler. Think about it: how many ladies can say that their Valentine's card runs at 14 MHz?"

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