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New Disruptors 66: Crowded House with Joshua Lifton

Joshua Lifton is one of the founders of Crowd Supply, a company that crowdfunds around products. They take a very different approach to preparation, funding, and follow-up than Kickstarter. Kickstarter just announced that it had crossed $1bn in pledges in its five-year lifetime. Of that, it's disbursed nearly $850m. It's on track to facilitate perhaps half a billion in 2014 alone.

The name Kickstarter may be used interchangeably with the term crowdfunding, and it is the 800 lb. gorilla in the space. (Watch out for the shipping charges on that gorilla, especially internationally.) But in its wake, hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised from all sorts of other sites which fill in important aspects of ecosystem, and Crowd Supply is one of them.

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This episode is sponsored by:

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The greatest synths

John Twells tallies the synthesizers that shaped modern music. tl;dr: Minimoog, Odyssey, Prophet-5, Fairlight, PPG Wave, Juno, Yamaha's CS-80 and DX7, and Korg's MS-20, M1 and Triton. Oh, yes, and Roland's 303 and 101. [via MeFi, where a good tally of travestatious omissions accrues] Rob 14

Multimeters considered helpful

Phil Torrone from Adafruit sez, "Collin's Lab: Multimeters! The multimeter is your greatest ally when working with electronics. Learn how to measure voltage, resistance, current, & continuity - as well as which meter works best for specific tasks. Here are the previous episodes."

Collin's Lab: Multimeters

An app to teach kids resistor color code values

I learned resistor color code values as a kid by memorizing a racist mnemonic that a friend taught me. Today, there's a much better way. It's an app called Mho's Resistance, and it was created by our friends at Adafruit Industries!

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Open source brain-computer interface for makers

Joel Murphy (co-creator of the nifty PulseSensor, an Arduino sensor that detects pulse) teamed up with Conor Russomanno to create the OpenBCI, a Bluetooth-enabled, Arduino-compatible, 8-channel EEG platform that gives you access to high-quality, raw EEG data. What can you do with it? Biofeedback, DIY sleep research, creating art, controlling systems, and more.

They've got a Kickstarter going to fund it.

Huawei: unlike western companies, we've never been told to weaken our security

Huawei, the Chinese electronics giant that was accused of being "a security risk" in a paper by the House Intelligence Committee (its chair, Mike Rogers [R-MI], said "find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers' privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America") has come out swinging in a new cybersecurity paper.

In the paper's foreword, the company's deputy chair Ken Hu writes:

[Huawei] never received any instructions or requests from any government or their agencies to change our positions, policies, procedures, hardware, software or employment practices or anything else, other than suggestions to improve our end-to-end cyber security capability.

“We can confirm that we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any Government, or their agencies."

Unlike the companies that were on the target of the NSA and GCHQ's BULLRUN/EDGEHILL programs, which spent $250,000,000 a year to subvert security standards, and to convince western electronics companies to sabotage their own security.

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Macro photos of electronic components


Johngineer from Adafruit takes beautiful macro-focus photos of electronic components.

makrophoto (Thanks, Phil!)

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AutoDesk announces free electronic circuit design app

DC Denison of MAKE says:

Autodesk today expanded its suite of free 3D tools by partnering with Circuits.io to launch an electronics design tool: 123D Circuits.

The program allows users to create virtual breadboard-based designs to build and experiment with circuits. A virtual Arduino board can be added to the design, and the code can be edited in a browser window and simulated. The code can also be edited collaboratively (“a Google Doc for electronics” Autodesk claims).

The program also provides hooks that allow users to have the virtual boards professionally manufactured.

Autodesk Partners with Circuits.io to Create Free Electronics Design Tool

What is a capacitor? [video]

[Video Link] Collin Cunningham makes excellent educational videos about electronics. Here's his latest one, about capacitors. (Via Make)

Limor "ladyada" Fried profiled by MIT

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MIT is rightfully proud of alumna Limor Fried, the superhero hardware hacker behind AdaFruit Industries, creators of fantastic DIY, open source electronics components and kits. We're proud of Limor too! From MIT News:

Apart from selling kits, original devices and providing hundreds of guides online, Adafruit works around the world with schools, teachers, libraries and hackerspaces — community technology labs — to promote STEM education, designing curricula in circuitry and electronics, among other initiatives.

The company has released an online children’s show called “A is for Ampere.” On a weekly Saturday night program, “Ask an Engineer,” anyone can ask Fried questions online or show off their original devices.

One of Fried’s favorite stories, from a young viewer of “Ask an Engineer,” illuminates what she sees as the growing diversity of engineering. “A parent emailed us after watching the show with his daughter,” she says. “I had another engineer on the show with me — my friend Amanda — and this parent’s daughter asked, ‘Dad, are there boy engineers too?’”

"Meet the maker"

How is a $12 phone possible?


Bunnie Huang paid a visit to Shenzhen's Mingtong Digital Mall and found a $12 mobile phone, with Bluetooth, an MP3 player, an OLED display and quad-band GSM. For $12.

Bunnie's teardown shows a little bit about how this $12 piece of electronics can possibly be profitable, but far more tantalizing are his notes about Gongkai, "a network of ideas, spread peer-to-peer, with certain rules to enforce sharing and to prevent leeching." It's the Pearl River Delta's answer to the open source hardware movement, and Bunnie promises to write more about it soon.

How is this possible? I don’t have the answers, but it’s something I’m trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints.

First, there are no screws. The whole case snaps together.

Also, there are (almost) no connectors on the inside. Everything from the display to the battery is soldered directly to the board; for shipping and storage, you get to flip a switch to hard-disconnect the battery. And, as best as I can tell, the battery also has no secondary protection circuit.

The Bluetooth antenna is nothing more than a small length of wire, seen on the lower left below.

Still, the phone features accoutrements such as a back-lit keypad and decorative lights around the edge.

The electronics consists of just two major ICs: the Mediatek MT6250DA, and a Vanchip VC5276. Of course, with price competition like this, Western firms are suing to protect ground: Vanchip is in a bit of a legal tussle with RF Micro, and Mediatek has also been subject to a few lawsuits of its own.

The MT6250 is rumored to sell in volume for under $2. I was able to anecdotally confirm the price by buying a couple of pieces on cut-tape from a retail broker for about $2.10 each. [No, I will not broker these chips or this phone for you...]

The $12 Gongkai Phone

"Some future gadgets I'd buy," aka Brian Lam's only post from CES

Former Gizmodo gadget writer and chief editorial whip-cracker Brian Lam has covered many a CES in his time; since leaving Gawker media for ocean adventures and his Wirecutter electronics blog, I think his work has become much more interesting. He revisited CES this year, and produced exactly one post from it, highlighting interesting stuff he says he'd actually buy himself. The "luggage tracker" and HD camera are tugging at my credit card's heartstrings, too.

Interactive art installation: Bird on a Wire

My friend Matt Richardson (who created the awes.. er, terrific "Awesome Button" for MAKE) is part of a group from New York University's Interactive Technology Program that's launching an interactive window installation in Manhattan tonight called Bird on a Wire. Matt says, "The birds sit on the window until you call in, and they start flocking around. Not only that, but you can also hear the birds through the phone."

Canon shifts to robots for camera production

Reuters: Man tries out a Canon EOS-1D X at a Tokyo showroom.

Camera maker Canon is evolving toward "fully automating" production, to reduce costs. Japan, where the Canon plants in question are located, is a leading nation in robotics development.

"The move toward machine-only production will likely be completed in the next few years, perhaps as soon as 2015," according to a company official quoted in the AP.

But do not fear being made obsolete, earthlings.

"Human beings are needed to come up with innovations on how to use robots," another Canon spokesperson told AP. "Going to a no-man operation at that level is still the world of science fiction."

Read the full article.

(via @tokyoreporter)

Apple CEO Tim Cook visits Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, China

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks to employees during a visit to the iPhone production line at the newly built Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, in Henan province, China. Photo taken March 28, 2012 (REUTERS). Reports and analysis on the significance of the visit: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Wired News, IBT, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times.