Open source plasmids: just add bacteria and reproduce at will


John Schloendorn is distributing "open source" plasmids, giving away proteins that normally cost biotech startups thousands of dollars per milligram, ready to be inserted into bacteria and reproduced at will, without any royalties.

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Car Hacker's Handbook

Dual core writes, "Car Hacker's Handbook is a book on car hacking licensed under Creative Commons."

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Interview with young man about his 3D printed prosthetic hand


Joris writes, "E-nable is a community of people working together to design and 3D print prosthetic hands."

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Massive guide to new Raspberry Pi B+


There's a new Raspberry Pi model out, the B+, and the nice folks at Adafruit have delivered a massive guide to working with the technology (just in time!).

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Persistence-of-vision holotank "mirror"

Brady Marks exhibited his We Are with You, Mirror at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire; it uses spinning light-up persistence-of-vision pixelboards to create a low-rez holo-tank mirror.

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What's the story with the Makerbot patent?

The 3D printing world is all a-seethe with the story that Makerbot supposedly filed a patent on a design from its Thingiverse community. As Cory Doctorow discovered, the reality is a little more complicated: if Makerbot has committed a sin, it is not the sin of which it stands accused.

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Watercolorbot clock

Evil Mad Scientists have demonstrated a great application for their Watercolorbot -- a plotter that paints with water colors. By drawing on a Buddha Board (a board whose coating goes transparent when wet, then reverts as it dries), they can produce ">a Watercolorbot Clock that very slowly counts away the hours.

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Last day of the Novena open source hardware laptop crowdfunding campaign


Just a reminder about the Novena crowdfunding project which closes tonight: this is Bunnie Huang's fully open and transparent laptop, the only computer whose internals can be modified and verified by its users. It's big and weird and fuggly, and it's gorgeous. It's important. I've ordered mine -- this is your last chance to get yours. Bunnie is a virtuoso hardware hacker and a brilliant reverse engineer; he broke the Xbox and wrote an essential book about it.

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Funding available for makerspaces' open anti-asteroid initiatives


Alex sez, "Spacegambit is a hackerspace space program that funds cool space projects around the world. We're now working with NASA on the Asteroid Grand Challenge, with the aim of getting more makers involved in detecting asteroid threats to human populations and figuring out what to do about them. We're running our open call at the moment (closing on 20 May) and looking to fund open-source projects linked with hackerspaces/makerspaces/fablabs/etc."

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3D printer that lays down conductive traces as it goes

Rabbit Proto is a print-head for the Reprap open 3D printer design that can deposit conductive traces alongside of structural plastic elements, effectively embedding printed circuits directly into the structure of its output. In the video above, a Rabbit Proto prints both the chassis and the the wiring for a game-controller in a single process. A properly designed 3D model could use snap-fit electronic components that directly connected to the internal traces for quick finishing.

The Rabbit Proto is open source hardware and comes from a collective of Stanford engineering grad students. If you don't want to build your own, they'll sell you one, in various states of ready-to-go-ness, at prices ranging from $350 to $2500 (the top price includes a printer, too)>

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Google's Project Ara: a click-in/click-out modular concept phone


Modular mobile phone design feels important; I've been excited about the idea since Xeni posted about Phonebloks last September. Now, Google and New Deal Design have floated a concept for a modular Android phone ecosystem called Project Ara that's got me even more worked up. Project Ara lets you swap modules (batteries, radios, cameras, screens, etc) around between "exoskeletons." They call it an "ecosystem" because third parties are meant to be able to supply their own modules for an open spec.

A good overview in Wired discusses the possibilities this opens up (night vision, 3D imaging, biometrics) but I'm more interested in the possibilities for surveillance-resistant open source hardware, and hot-swapping modules that lock phones into carriers. Plus, as a serial phone-shatterer, I love the idea of being able to click out a busted screen and click in a fresh one.

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Crowdfunding Novena, the fully open/transparent laptop project

Remember Bunnie Huang's fully open laptop? Bunnie and Sean "xobs" Cross prototyped a machine he called the "Novena" in which every component, down to the BIOS, was fully documented, licensed under FLOSS licenses, and was totally modifiable by its owner.

Now, Bunnie and Xobs have teamed up with Sutajio Kosagi for a crowdfunding campaign to take the laptop into production. $500 gets you the board, $1200 gets you a desktop version, $2000 gets you a laptop and $5000 get you a "heirloom laptop" in a handmade wooden case crafted by Portland-area luthier Kurt Mottweiler.

The Novena is "not a device made for consumer home use" -- it has lots of components that are exposed during normal use, has no moisture- or static-resistance built into it, etc. It's intended as a piece of high-quality lab equipment for people interested in the long-term project of building fully open, everyday use computers where surveillance, abusive commercial practices, and other proprietary horribles are substantially harder to accomplish than in the current hardware/software ecosystem.

Noah Swartz notes, "I for one am super excited about it because it's meant specifically for hackers and tinkerers. The motherboard has a Spartan-6 CSG324-packaged FPGA built right into it, and if you opt for the conversion-tablet form factor you also get bunni's own battery controller which allows you to use cheap RC car or airplane batteries instead of expensive laptop specific ones by moving the load balancing circuits off of the battery itself. Also the internals of the case are covered in mounting holes (dubbed the peek array after Nadya Peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIUE8VVLjCE) which allow you to affix whatever sort of add-ons you want to the inside of the laptop."

I've put in for one of the laptops. I can't wait.

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Arduino-powered Etch-a-Sketch clock

Dodgey99 built an Arduino-powered Etch-a-Sketch clock, in which a pair of stepper motors painstakingly draw out the current time. It's got a very low refresh rate, though: the limits of the motors and the Etch-a-Sketch means that it takes more than a minute to display the time, and it needs a couple of minutes' rest between each number. There's a plan to accelerate things with some beefier motors.

I use an Arduino driving two very cheap darlington stepper drivers with 64:1 internally reduced steppers for the drawing. For the rotation I'm using an Easy-Driver driving a Nema 17 stepper.

I also have a DS1307RTC real time clock installed so it always knows the time. Setting the time is a one-off via USB connected to a PC. Once done, you un-tether, and then the RTC keeps the time, for up to a year on the rechargeable battery, or so I'm told...

The code is actually very simple, it's just a pain drawing the numbers!

The G clamp on the back is for a counter balance until I find something more elegant!

The steppers are far too slow to write the time in under a minute so I delay it for a couple of mins between each draw. Mostly to give the very hot motors a while to cool off and to give the etch a sketch a break!

Etch a Sketch clock powered by Arduino (via JWZ)

Open source soft robotic quadruped with many applications

Pt and Limor write, "The Glaucus, named after the Blue Sea Slug (Glaucus Atlanticus), is an open source soft robotic quadruped from Super-Releaser. It is a proof of concept for a method developed at Super-Releaser that can reproduce nearly any geometry modeled on the computer as a seamless silicone skin. The company hopes to apply these same techniques to practical problems in medicine and engineering as the technology develops. The quadruped has hollow interior chambers that interdigitate with one another. When either of these chambers is pressurized it deforms and bends the structure of the robot. This bending produces the walking motion. It is similar to how a salamander walks, by balancing itself on one pair of legs diagonal from one another while moving the opposite pair forward."

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Eggbot design: Pi Egg for Pi Day


Tomorrow, 3/14, is Pi Day in the USA (it will not be Pi Day in the rest of the world until the Martian Emperor subjugates us all to his sinister 14-month calendar). In celebration, Thingiverse user Thor4231 posted this great Eggbot design, ready to be automatically sharpied onto your favorite ovum by means of the wonderful Eggbot printer.

Pi Egg for Pi Day