30 August 2008

Fab@Home Model 2 project underway

Evan Malone, "father" of the Fab@Home Model 1 DIY home fabber, has put out a call for requirements for the next generation Fab@Home printer, and is enlisting those with the "skills, motivation, and time to make a serious contribution to the hardware, software, electronics, materials science, industrial design, systems engineering, or project management for the next generation of Fab@Home...."

Maybe this will motivate me to turn a box of partly-assembled parts into the Fab@Home printer we started building last Spring... want to get it into service before it's already one gen behind!

25 August 2008

Free Stuff

NMC has now posted the loops that were recorded at the Summer Conference as the new "NMC Jampack" - have a look at http://www.nmc.org/jampack, download and remix.

And my friend Kyle Cassidy is giving away a very nice Nikon Lens. I remember this lens because he was using it to shoot photos of me and my son Adam at Gettysburg Battlefield, back when he was a younger and poorer photographer. (Poorer financially, he was always a great photographer.)

22 August 2008

Shapeways - first impressions

The launch of shapeways.com has garnered a lot of attention, and it's a great concept - a 3D service bureau designed for the relatively non-technical user. Upload your 3D design, click on a couple of buttons, enter a credit card and your model arrives in a few weeks.

There are many other service bureaus that can do the same thing, for example our friends at solidconcepts.com, but Shapeways stands out for emphasizing ease of use, with a non-intimidating interface and quick automated review of your STL file.

Shapeways is in private beta, but I got an ID to try out. I figured I'd take a model from our shop, one that we knew would work because we've printed it, and give Shapeways a try. Here's the first one I tried:

In case it's not obvious, this is a teacher's aid, designed to speed up the grading process.

After a few minutes, Shapeways delivered the verdict: the model can't be printed because it's "not manifold". What does that mean? Unless you're pretty well versed in basic topology, don't ask. Short answer: shapeways doesn't think it's a good model and it won't print it. However, right in front of me is a copy of that very object, printed on a Dimension FDM printer, the same one I believe that they are using.

So, I tried another model:

It's a pretty cool design for a toothbrush handle, created by one of our students at Art Center.

This time, I got a different message - first, an email warning me that there was something bad about the model, but Shapeways might be able to fix it, but then a few minutes later it gave up. We printed this one here too.

So Shapeways - great idea, and I totally understand that they need to have software that uses algorithms and heuristics to try to determine whether or not the model can be successfully printed - otherwise, they are going to waste a lot of resources and materials trying to print bad models. I understand too that they are still in beta, and I'm going to send the models to them so they can try to determine what the issues are. Let's hope they can continue to develop their software so that it doesn't reject valid, printable models, because otherwise they are going to have some very unhappy customers or potential customers.

14 August 2008

The Lonely Planet Guide to Exploring Your Library

I was fascinated by the article Getting the Most Out of Your Library which appeared in Digital Web Magazine. (Thanks to Gina in OUR library for pointing me to it, via our Library's blog.) I wish that every library director would read this. Many of them would be shocked by the assumption that the library is a somewhat odd and arcane institution that requires a sort of Lonely Planet guide to navigate, but perhaps encouraged that a young digital native still considers the journey worthwhile.

I love this: Think of the library system as something akin to the open-source movement before software. Subsidized institutions buy books, subscribe to journals and proprietary databases, and pay people to help you find “stuff”, essentially at no cost to you. Wow! What a cool concept! And they often have coffee and free wifi too! They may be hard to find and difficult to understand, but they're worth the trip. Understanding how this young man perceives and uses the library gives us some clues about how the keep libraries relevant in the future.

10 August 2008

Welcome, "Off the Windowpane"

My colleague Crista Copp has started a new blog, Off the Windowpane. Those of us who know Crista know that she has a lot to say and says it well. I really enjoyed her first entry and can't wait for more.
An excerpt:
We need to stop separating “analog” and “digital” (and by the way, a question asked in person is no more analog, then a question asked on a website is digital). We need to stop using language that is exclusive to those who do or don’t use technology. We need to stop creating ways for our students to use technology, and just make our curriculum better.

06 August 2008

Is "The Atlantic" Making Us Stupid?

Nicolas Carr's article in The Atlantic, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" is more thoughtful than the alarmist title would suggest, and well-worth reading. Marshall McLuhan's observation that medium and message cannot be separated seems to have been validated by our understanding of learning and cognition.

The sad part is that instead of bemoaning the change and becoming nostalgic for the days when books on paper were always the most influential containers for thought, we need to be understanding how to build the systems that will train our minds in the ways that will be most effective for the future, and designing and building the learning institutions that can do it. We are tragically far behind on this last part.

More interesting than the article are some of the responses on the Encyclopedia Brittanica blog "The Reality Club" (of all places). I especially appreciated Danny Hillis' second comment which includes the insight:

"For many years books were the primary means by which important ideas were conveyed to us, we came to associate them with thoughtful insight. This association is out of date."