Librarybox beta goes 2.0: self-powered Wifi file-server that fits in your pocket


Jason writes with an update to the amazing, kickstarted Librarybox project: "The LibraryBox Project, as a part of its ongoing efforts to bring information to areas without communication infrastructures, announced the release of the v2.0 public beta today. Boing Boing was kind enough to post about the very successful Kickstarter from July and this is the next stage of the project arising from that funding.

"LibraryBox is an open source digital distribution device, designed to route around both censorship and poor infrastructure by creating a hyperlocal digital file distribution point for use by libraries, educators, or anyone who wants to share files quickly and easily. The v2.0 release makes building your own LibraryBox easier than ever, while increasing the customizability and flexibility of the interface."

LibraryBox v2.0: Portable Private Digital Distribution (Thanks, Jason!)

Mozilla's $25 Firefox smartphone: a free/open device for billions of new netizens


Mozilla's sub-$50 Firefox OS smartphones are aimed at countries like India and Indonesia, where devices costing hundreds of dollars are out of reach of hundreds of millions of people. The idea is to bring a smartphone running a free/open operating system that is optimized for Internet access to people who have no net connection at all today.

The phones are slow and only have a few apps, but they're infinitely more useful than a candybar-shaped "feature phone," and with their low pricetag, many people will be able to buy them outright, rather than being beholden to phone companies who subsidize handset purchases through long-term, abusive contracts; and they'll get online using devices that don't lock them into a single company's ecosystem for email, messaging, and apps.

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Openknit: a Reprap-inspired open source knitting machine

The Openknit project is a Reprap-inspired, open source hardware knitting machine that can produce an adult-sized garment from yarn and a digital file in about an hour. The project includes plans for the machine, free/open software for designing clothes, and a promise to deliver STL files so you can print out the parts on your 3D printer.

Knitting, crochet, and other textile arts are, of course, a longstanding form of 3D printing -- using machines to deposit, align and interlock a feedstock to form 3D objects.

The Openknit garments are rather beautiful, as you can see from the Flickr set. If you're interested in understanding the underlying system, here's a good explanatory animation. It shows a high degree of ingenuity and skill on the part of the designers.

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Museums and the free world: keynote from the Museums and the Web conference in Florence


Yesterday, I delivered a keynote address for the 2014 Museums and the Web Conference in Florence, speaking in the audience chamber of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is pretty much the definition of working the big room at the palace. The organizers will be uploading video shortly, but in the meantime, they've been kind enough to post the crib for my talk, which is pretty extensive. The talk was called "GLAM (galleries, museums, archives and libraries) and the Free World":

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Two Ubuntu phones with top apps in 2014

Canonical, the company that publishers Ubuntu (a free/open operating system based on GNU/Linux) has announced that it will ship two Ubuntu OS phones this year, in partnership with two manufacturers, one in Europe and one in China. The OS runs HTML5 apps, and the company is seeking to have the top 50 apps for Android and Ios ported to its phones before they go live. A 2013 crowdfunding drive raised over $12M in pledged pre-orders, but the company fell short of its $32M goal and refunded everyone's money. However, the $12M was apparently a sufficient demonstration of interest for at least some manufacturers. Cory 12

HOWTO build a robotic air-hockey opponent out of Reprap parts

Jose Julio realized that the drive-train and parts in a Reprap printer could be repurposed, along with an Arduino-controlled vision-system to create a robot air-hockey opponent. He documented the build here, and the code is on Github.

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Free curriculum for maker-kids: toy hacking, 3D printing, Arduino rovers and more!


Andy Forest from Makerkids, a Toronto makerspace for kids, writes, "Together, Kids Learning Code, MakerKids, TIFF and the Toronto Public Library have just finished developing 7 comprehensive maker curriculum modules for libraries, schools and other organizations who want to get kids started being Makers. The Mozilla Hive Network Toronto provided funding support. The modules are designed for a non-technical audience and contain all the information needed to teach these topics:"

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Build your own open source hardware Nest-style smart thermostat


Alan sez, "Spark.io provides instructions for making your own Nest-like 'smart' thermostat. Of course it's entirely open source, with files on github."

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Face-substitution in-browser with Javascript

Auduno's Face substitution webtoy uses Javascript libraries to map your face using your computer's webcam and overlay it with the faces of celebrities from Bill Murray to Justin Bieber to Rihanna to the Mona Lisa. It's an impressive example of cross-platform, in-browser application development, and suggests some pretty cool stuff on the horizon for Web-native apps. The sourcecode is on Github for your forking pleasure.

Face substitution (via Waxy)

Github seeking volunteers to translate their how-to videos with Amara


Nicholas from Amara writes, "Yesterday afternoon, the social coding platform GitHub invited their fans to collaboratively translate their how-to videos using open-source platform Amara.org. In less than 24 hours, 150 volunteers created 40 translations across 18 different languages. On their blog, Github wrote: 'We think it would be cool if people all over the world could enjoy our videos, regardless of what language they speak. So, starting today, we're inviting anyone who's interested to help us translate our videos via Amara's Volunteer Platform.'"

(Disclosure: I am a volunteer board member for the Participatory Culture Foundation, the nonprofit that produces Amara)

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Podcast: Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful

Here's a reading of my latest Guardian column, Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful, about the social and political factors that make all the difference when choosing technologies.

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Random NSA program generator, with denials

The NSA-O-Matic generates eerily plausible leaked NSA programs at the click of a mouse, including non-denial denials from NSA shills and spokesjerks. For example "STUMPVIEW, a searchable database that bugs conversations within earshot of laptop microphones. Senator Dianne Feinstein assured the public that the program discards information as soon it is determined to be irrelevant." It's hosted on Github and ready for your forking and contributions.

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Building a fully open, transparent laptop


Bunnie Huang is a virtuoso in hardware engineering, and a hero of the open source hardware movement. In this Make post, he documents how he and Sean "xobs" Cross prototyped a laptop that was open and transparent to a very great degree, secure against all attacks short of dopant-level hardware trojans. The post -- and the photos of the gloriously fuggly laptop, which they dubbed "the Novena Project" -- is part requirements document, part philosophical statement, and part engineering text. I love Bunnie's reasoning for wanting an amazing, open laptop: he spends the majority of his waking hours with it, so he wants it to be as amazing as possible, and it's worth him spending the time and money to get there. I also love the requirements he sets out for genuine "openness" (I put some of these after the jump, below). Most of all, I love how this thing looks: rough-hewn, gloriously unfinished with its 3D printed panels, and as bursting with potential as the Colossus.

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Openstreetmap: why we need a free/open alternative to proprietary maps


In the Guardian, Serge Wroclawski makes the case for Openstreetmap, a free/open map tool maintained by a volunteer community. Wroclawski argues that allowing companies to own maps allows them to own places: to determine which features of our neighbourhoods are worthy of inclusion, to determine which parts of our cities should and shouldn't be considered in route planning, and to monitor our decisions about where we travel and what we do when we get there. It's a dangerous proposition, and Openstreetmap is a viable, and often superior, alternative (see, for example, the map above of the neighbourhood around my office):

The second concern is about location. Who defines where a neighbourhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighbourhoods as part of its algorithm. This raises the question of who determines what makes a neighbourhood "safe" or not – or whether safe is merely a codeword for something more sinister.

Right now, Flickr collects neighbourhood information based on photographs which it exposes through an API. It uses this information to suggest tags for your photograph. But it would be possible to use neighbourhood boundaries in a more subtle way in order to affect anything from traffic patterns to real estate prices, because when a map provider becomes large enough, it becomes the source of "truth".

Lastly, these map providers have an incentive to collect information about you in ways that you may not agree with. Both Google and Apple collect your location information when you use their services. They can use this information to improve their map accuracy, but Google has already announced that is going to use this information to track the correlation between searches and where you go. With more than 500 million Android phones in use, this is an enormous amount of information collected on the individual level about people's habits, whether they're taking a casual stroll, commuting to work, going to their doctor, or maybe attending a protest.

Why the world needs OpenStreetMap [Serge Wroclawski/Guardian]

(via /.)