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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)

Minecraft videos: booming industry with millions of viewers

Glenn Fleishman writes, "Minecraft YouTube videos are fantastically popular, and a core group of producers of these videos have enjoyed a wild ride up the virtual charts. Diamond Minecart, a YouTube channel by 22-year-old Daniel Middleton of Northamptonshire, England, has almost 1.9 million subscribers, and people have watched his videos over 400 million times."

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Danish travel company offers "ovulation discount" for couples, rewards if you conceive on holiday

Spies Travels, a Danish travel agency, have conceived of a promotion to help reverse Denmark's plummeting birthrate. They're offering a discount for couples who travel during one partner's ovulation period, and if you can subsequently prove that you conceived a child on the trip, they'll give you three years' worth of baby-stuff and a family holiday.

Do it for Denmark! (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Turkish government blocks Youtube to shut down spread of phone recording in which PM conspires to hide millions from investigators


The Turkish government has doubled down on its Internet censorship program, blocking all of Youtube in addition to its ban on Twitter. Despite theories about the political theatre of blocking Twitter, it seems like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan is also genuinely concerned with suppressing a recording of a conversation with his son in which he conspires to hide the money he is thought to have received through corrupt dealing. As with the Twitter block, this one was undertaken as an administrative order from the PM's office, without judicial oversight. The Twitter ban has since been rescinded by the Turkish courts, but the block may not be lifted before the elections.

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Kickstarting Lifeform: a fun, educational game about evolution

Michael writes, "I'm launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new game founded in the basics of genetics and physics. You're a cell in a 2d underwater universe, and you must reproduce to gain traits that dictate what you can do. Resources found around the map can be used to construct machines and tools to aide in your evolution. Not only is Lifeform the genetics game we've long been searching for, but it's going to be extremely powerful in classrooms all across the world. Science teachers can use it for genetics lessons, physics, studying the elements, and much more."

This looks really cool (and the prototype is great)! One caveat is that Michael's development projects are pretty thinly detailed, though it sounds like he's had some relevant experience, and the prototype bodes well for the project's future. As with all Kickstarters, you might get nothing for your money! A $15 minimum contribution gets you a copy of the game when and if.

Lifeform: A game of genetic and biomechanical evolution (Thanks, Michael!)

Vietnamese swimmers ferry passengers across flooded rivers in plastic bags

When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing. (via Kottke)

Disney buys Maker Studios

The Walt Disney Company has acquired Maker Studios -- a successful Youtube channel focused on millennials -- for $500M, with an additional $450M potential performance-related payout in the future. Cory 8

Michigan's Penguicon will focus on crypto and privacy this year

Scott sez, "Privacy and security has been a huge problem since the Snowden revelations, and midwest SF/open source software convention Penguicon [ed: near Detroit!] wants to be part of the solution. With Guest of Honor Eva Galperin from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cory Doctorow returning as Guest Emeritus, much of their tech track is focused on finding answers to the recent privacy problems highlighted by Snowden. Pre-registration tickets are available until April 1st. Programming was just announced." (Thanks, Scott!)

HOWTO make a chattering-teeth tooth-brushing timer

Here's a Make HOWTO for converting a set of wind-up novelty chattering teeth to an electronic tooth-brushing timer and toothbrush holder -- take your toothbrush out, start it running, and the teeth will chatter for two minutes (the recommended brushing time).

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Talking YA, dystopia and science fiction with William Campbell Powell

William Campbell Powell is a new young adult author whose debut novel, Expiration Day due out on April 1. Powell's book was bought out of the "slush pile" -- the pile of unsolicited manuscripts that arrive at publishers by the truckload - at Tor Books and I read it a year ago to give it a jacket quote, and really enjoyed it.

Powell came by my office a couple weeks ago to talk about the book, and we had a great chat that's been mixed down to a smart seven minutes. I hope you enjoy this -- and look for my review of Expiration Day on April 1. Here's a bit of it:

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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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Teens migrate from Facebook to a Youtube video's comment-section (funny)

Here's a funny fake-news video reporting on the mass-migration of teens from Facebook (where their parents have migrated) to the comments section of a slow-motion Youtube video of a deer running. While I don't think there's going to be mass-migration of all the world's teens to one comment board, there's a grain of truth here. My old Informationweek editor, Mitch Wagner, once discovered some young girls holding a gossipy chat in the comments section of an old blog post of his; when he asked them what they were doing there, they told him that their school blocked all social media, so every day they picked a random blog-post somewhere on the Internet and used it as a discussion board for the day.

Teens Migrating From Facebook To Comments Section Of Slow-Motion Deer Video (via Waxy!)

Kickstarting a sequel to Scott "Kids in the Hall" Thompson's Danny Husk comic

Tavie sez, "Canadian treasure Scott Thompson's popular Kids in the Hall character, Danny Husk starred in his own graphic novel in 2010, Husk: The Hollow Planet. A blend of fantasy and fable, with lots of humor and sex, it was an hilarious romp that ended mid-story. Now he's got a Kickstarter campaign to get the second volume of Danny's tales published, and to promote it, he's giving away DRM-free digital downloads of Volume 1. I always think it's a really smart idea when creators allow people to read their comix online for free (see: Elfquest) and I'm glad Scott's taking this one to the people. I hope the second volume gets off the ground, because I MUST see how the story ends."

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Kickstarting Dream Life, a solo comic from Salgood Sam of "Sea of Red" and "Therefore Repent!"

Salgood Sam -- who worked on great projects like Sea of Red and Therefore, Repent! sez, "In the last leg of a successful Kickstarter to print my next graphic novel, I've set up some unlockable interactive stretch goal rewards you might want to check out to help me make it to the west coast and print more books! If you can manage to time your pledges to hit the mark that puts my Kickstarter over one of three stretch goals, I'll draw your deepest darkest dreams for you. Or alternately bright and silly ones are an option."

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Alaska senator on a comedy news video about NSA surveillance

Pat sez, "Alaska Robotics News is a political satire series covering the Alaska legislative session. We've had good luck at engaging law makers and have had several notable guests on the show. U.S. Senator Mark Begich recently joined us to talk about NSA dragnet surveillance and precognitive policing. We have a small group of writers contributing the the show and enjoy a lot of support from our community. This segment was a good opportunity to get outside our local issues and poke at the boiling frog of government surveillance."

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