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« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

One Weekend Left!

Robot_popsci_smJust wanted to remind everyone that there's only one more weekend left to work on your re-purposed tech projects for our contest over at Instructables, so get cracking! April 1 is the deadline, meaning there's still time to grab some e-junk and turn it into something new and exciting. Head on over to the PopSci group to see what's been submitted to date—we're not going to single out any of our favorites just yet (must preserve impartiality!) but let's just say there have been some pretty amazing entries so far; some you might have even seen being picked up on blogs already. Check 'em out here. —John Mahoney

Fun with Projectiles

Whoosh_330I'm allergic to potatoes. I know, weird. But that doesn't mean I don't love the idea of shooting one at high speeds out of a homemade plastic tube into the back of someone's head. Fortunately, Bill Gurstelle—PopSci pal and author of such DIY classics as Backyard Ballistics—has a new book that's bound to make your summer a lot more fun, and scare the crap out of your neighbors: Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior's Guide to Building Projectile Shooters. From Bill's site:

With Whoosh Boom Splat, you can build:
* The Jam Jar Jet – the simple pulse jet engine that roars
* The Elastic Zip Cannon – a membrane-powered shooter that packs a wallop
* The Mechanical Toe – a bungee-powered kicking machine
* The Vortex Launcher – a projectile shooter that uses air bullets for ammunition
* The Clothespin Snap Shooter – the PG-17 version of a clothespin gun that fires fiery projectiles
* The Architronito – the steam-powered cannon conceived by Leonardo da Vinci

Check out his hilarious commercial below. —Mike Haney

DIY Lens Hoods


If you've ever dabbled in the realm of pro-level photography gear, you know that the photo-accessories market can get pretty ridiculous. As with companies like Monster Cable that scam innocent home-theater builders into paying up to $120 for a $6-dollar HDMI cable, camera companies have gotten away with charging exorbitant sums for even the simplest add-on components for years.

Lens hoods are often the worst price offenders. Designed to keep glare from entering the lens and interfering with image quality, lens hoods are basically just molded pieces of plastic or lightweight metal with screw threads or plastic snaps for attaching to the end of your lens. Not too complicated, right? Then how can Nikon and Canon charge upward of $580 (!!) for a single lens hood for their pro-level telephotos? There has to be a better way.

Enter lenshoods.co.uk, an ingenious repository of free printable patterns that allow you to make your own lens hoods out of paper. Just print out the PDF pattern, trace it onto some nice dark paper stock or some thin cardboard from the post office, affix it to your lens with a bit of tape, and presto: $500 saved. A paper hood obviously won't be as durable or glamorous, but it will provide the same level of light protection, which is what it's there for in the first place. And if it tears, just print out a new one. (And no, just sticking any old piece of paper on there isn’t the best idea—lens hoods are custom shaped for a lens’s focal length to provide maximum light protection without interfering with the field of view). So now you can put that $500 toward something a bit more exciting—say, an actual lens. For that kind of money, you can get a very nice fisheye for your DSLR. —John Mahoney

Last Night's Party

Last night's NYC DIY meet-up was a blast: plenty of good people, good food, good drink and, of course, good MIDI hacks. This month's theme was handmade music, and as one would expect there were some pretty fabulous homebrew instruments on display.

Especially great was Jeff Hoefs's Beat Blocks, a 4-track beat sequencer with a tangible interface operated by blocks. Basically, if you put down a block with four stripes, you get four sixteenth-note hits on that beat. It's a blast to play with, which will hopefully be communicated in some way via this video:

For more photos, click on through below. And thanks to everyone at Etsy and MAKE for helping this first DIY meet-up happen. Stay tuned for details on next month's shindig. —John Mahoney

Continue reading "Last Night's Party" »

PopSci: The Milk Carton of the 21st Century


PopSci is all about the children—we staunchly believe, as the sage Whitney Houston instructed us, that we should teach them well and let them lead the way. Unless, of course, they’re the kind of kids who tend to wander off while you’re on vacation.

Fortunately, we’ve got that base covered too. In the April issue, How 2.0 featured a “Hardware Trick of the Month” showing how to recover a lost USB drive by equipping it with a piece of software that displays a custom message requesting its return whenever it's plugged into a computer. It turns out one prescient reader took the trick a step further, attaching drives to lanyards and hanging them around the necks of his young children while the family was at Disneyland. Sure enough, his three-year-old son disappeared, only to be found by a Good Samaritan and brought to the Happiest Security Facility on Earth. Security personnel then plugged in the USB drive, got the boy’s name and his parents’ contact information, and he was returned quickly and safely—an ending befitting, well, a Disney movie. Check out the full story from our friends at Daily Cup of Tech, who wrote the original script for the USB trick. —Doug Cantor

Link - Have Your Lost USB Drive Ask For Help

Meet the PopSci crew (and people far cooler than us)

Etsylabs_2If you live in the New York City area, come to our first meeting of the DIY minds at the Etsy Labs space in Brooklyn, Thursday, March 22 (that's tomorrow!). Phil Torrone of Make fame will be demonstrating and selling some of the Make kits, and Eric Singer, founder and director of LEMUR: League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots, will show of some wacky electronic musical instruments, including something called the Sonic Banana. Get more detail here. Hope to see you there!

Calling All Geeks

Askageek_170How do I mount my new flatscreen HDTV on the wall? Can I permanently erase my name from the Web? How do I get "Big Pimpin'" as my ringtone for free?

All good questions. And all are answered by the brightest tech minds we know in PopSci's monthly "Ask a Geek" feature. Today we bring you a roundup of our favorites, but we know there's more. Do you have a different answer to one of the questions posed to our chorus of geeks? Or maybe a question of your own you'd like to see answered? Sound off in the comments below. —John Mahoney

UPDATE: The geeks answer! Commenter Ted asked about finding something to save audio streams from the Web the same way keepvid.com downloads videos. On the Mac side, there's Audio Hijack, an application that listens for audio generated by any application on your computer (your Web browser, Real Player, etc) and records it to an audio file which you can convert to the format of your choice within iTunes (just remember not to steal copyrighted material!). I've used Audio Hijack, and it's great. For Windows there is Total Recorder, which I haven't used personally but appears to have roughly the same functionality.

For everyone submitting specific computer problems they may be having, we know how frustrating these problems can be, but if it's specific to your computer we probably won't be of much help. Maybe give these other geeks a call?

The Ultimate DIY Game Table

Gametable_600_1If you haven't seen it yet, you've got to check out the homemade gaming rig recently built by staff photographer/DIY madman John B. Carnett and How 2.0 editor Mike Haney. Taking a salvaged PC running the MAME emulator and sticking it into a beautiful welded-steel table begat a 200-pound behemoth capable of running all the old school games you can can handle.

Currently, the rig is still sitting in the evil batcave/laboratory of Mr. Carnett in Philly, but it's rumored to be making its way back to PopSci HQ soon—good thing, because I'm pretty eager to school everyone here in Dig Dug (and post some pictures to prove it). See how you can build your own here. —John Mahoney

Enter the PopSci/Instructables "Use It Again" Contest

In honor of our new How 2.0 group on Instructables—the place to be for the coolest step-by-step DIY guides on the Web—we're launching what will likely be the first of many contests. And we're definitely kicking things off right—the winner will bag a new Canon 8-megapixel digital SLR and have their project featured in the How 2.0 section of an upcoming issue of PopSci!!

What kind of projects? you may be asking. It's simple. If you're like us, you're probably surrounded by all kinds of sci-tech detritus. Stuff that may be broken, outdated, random, whatever—it's all too cool to throw out but too weird to have any particular use on its own. Now the time has come to breathe new life into your old tech toys. Take any tech junk you've got around the house, bolt it together, and come up with something new and useful again (preferably while bellowing "It's alive! It's alive!" at your hunchbacked assistant).

If you've seen the "Repurposed Tech" feature in the pages of How 2.0, you know what we're talking about. More info is available over at Instructables, including the official rules and regulations for entering and examples of projects that would work. You've got until April 1, so get hacking! —John Mahoney

Link - Contest Instructions and Rules

Weekly Project: Drill-Powered Skateboard

Here's the first online-exclusive Weekly Project from regular How 2.0 contributor Dave Prochnow. Stay tuned for more as our favorite hacker cooks up something new each week. —Eds.

by PopScion Mar 7, 2007
Do you have a skateboard that is gathering dust in the corner of your garage? Breathe some new life into those wheels by zapping them with some volts. Specifically, attaching a battery-powered electric drill to the front of your skateboard will provide effortless nosegrinding and endless hours of fun.

Three factors will enhance your battery-powered skateboarding:

1. More Volts. Higher voltage battery-powered drills (at least 9.6V) will provide more minutes of skateboarding fun.

2. Greater Torque. Drills that can generate more torque will be able to move, ahem, heavier riders.

3. Big, Bad Rubber Wheel. The more rubber that meets the highway, the higher the performance.

Continue reading "Weekly Project: Drill-Powered Skateboard" »

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