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« March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

The DIY Guide to Being a Boy

Dangerous_boysInspired by the field manuals and do-it-yourself guides of the 1950s—and selling up a storm in the U.K.—Hal and Conn Iggulden's "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is to be released stateside tomorrow. Presented as the missing manual for modern boyhood (and the book the Iggulden brothers would have "given away the cat to get"), the thick red tome covers everything from tying knots, making a tree house, and hunting for rabbits to quoting Shakespeare, communicating in codes and talking to girls. Scattered among the do-it-yourself gems are digressions on great historical battles, tales of bravery and courage, and valuable pieces of boy-knowledge such as a complete list of baseball MVPs from 1931-present and a brief overview of the history of artillery (Conn Iggulden is a well-respected writer of historical fiction known for the Emperor series, based on the life of Julius Caesar).

Having spent only a day with it so far, I must say I'm pretty addicted. Having come of age right along with computers and the Internet, it is pretty often that I daydream about what it would have meant to grow up without any of the things we have now. If you're worried about keeping a boy in your life of any age well-rounded, or simply checking off a few "this is something everyone should know how to do" items from your list, this book is heartily recommended. —John Mahoney

Update: After being out for a day, it's already the #13 book on Amazon's top sellers list.

Paper Folding Photos

Phil has some photos from Wednesday night's DIY meet-up:

Despite some crummy rain, a lot of NY area makers made it to our MAKE/POPSCI/ETSY paper project night. Paper wallets were made, the drawbot cranked out dozens of portraits, experiments in powered paper flight were attempted...

I was too busy folding wallets to shoot any. Thanks again to Instructables user theRIAA for providing the folding instructions (see them here), and of course to the Make/Craft/Etsy folks for hosting. Stay tuned for next month's details—if you're an NYC-area maker, this is turning into something you probably don't want to miss. —John Mahoney

Antique French Gadgets

Today, I hit Paris's Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. It's an amazing museum full of scientific instruments and machines, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. Coming off of PopSci's Repurposed Tech contest, it struck me how single purpose these early machines were, and yet how stunning the level of craftsmanship and engineering that went into everything from early printing presses to astronomical clocks. See for yourself: Here's a quick gallery of some of the highlights. And let me apologize in advance: Most of the signage was in French, so my details on some of these things are sketchy; also, they didn't allow flash photography and I only had my little Elph pocket cam, so forgive the slight fuzziness.

The Kitchen Laptop Rises Again

Wallpc_b_600 I know we've plugged our amazing repurposed-laptop kitchen PC before, but I'm going to do it again because a) the project was my idea and I'm a glory hog, and b) because Lifehacker pointed today to a new Web and offline application that would be its perfect mate. Cozi manages your family's calendar, shopping lists, messages and more. You can tap into it from your phone—either by calling an (800) number or by text—and you can send other people's phones text-message reminders through the program. I suppose you could use it if you didn't have an awesome wall-mounted PC, but that would be lame.—Mike Haney

Some Skype with Your Fromage?

452629244_acdb1df80b_mNow that I'm a week into my little working abroad experiment, I thought I'd provide a quick update on which of my gadgets is making me smile as much as this gouda is, and which are making me sad like this crappy grocery-store-bought anonymous white cheese is. Did I mention I'm eating a lot of cheese?

Nokia N73: "You sound just like you're next door," said my Luddite father from Minnesota as I gabbed away and wandered accidentally into Paris's Chinatown (talk about disorienting). Pop may be talking in clichés again, but it is amazing that we can have instantaneous conversation from that far away. The N73 and the WorldClass service from T-Mobile has been nearly flawless: great coverage, clear calls. Only once did it get wonky, dropping calls and losing its signal last night in my apartment. My only other gripe: Call forwarding from my Verizon cellphone back home seems to be working; however, those callers cannot leave voicemails. Those who dial directly to the T-Mobile number can. Odd. The somewhat poky data connection is fine for emergency surfing but super-handy for my favorite feature—the built-in Flickr uploading tool that lets me post shots directly from the phone's three-megapixel camera. It's the first time I've actually bothered using a cameraphone.

Belkin Wi-Fi Skype Phone: "I can hear everything I'm saying echoed back," said just about every caller I've spoken to on this thing. I had high hopes for doing a lot of Skypeing here, but the call quality just hasn't been consistent, so I've been turning to the cell instead. I suspect that's more of a Skype issue than a Belkin one, and other than failing to recognize my WPA Wi-Fi security, setup and everyday usage is a breeze.

Belkin Wi-Fi Travel Router: It's so cute, I want to love it, but the little brat seems to drop my network, necessitating a reset, about every other day. So every time I have to go back and re-set up the SSID, I'm adding a number to keep track of the restarts. Right now, we're surfing on haney6 (and probably pissing off any leechers in the building, since whether or not I re-set up security each time depends on my mood).

As for all my other toys, I haven't gotten too dirty with the Garmin or the N800 yet, and my entertainment hard drive already bricked, crashing my laptop whenever I plugged it in and failing to recognize the hard drive inside when I plugged it into the TV here.

I'll post more later, but if anyone has any great tips for tech while abroad, please share 'em in the comments. And again, if you're in the area, drop me a line. I have lots of cheese to share. —Mike Haney

And the Winner Is...

Fewc3xjjx6ezixdjmomedium The results are in for our Use It Again challenge! We were completely blown away by the amount of quality entries we received, and distilling them down to a smaller list of winners was a pretty excruciating task, but alas, someone had to bag the top prize. And that person was Instructables user radiorental, who transplanted the guts of a wireless router into an uber-slick vintage casing (pictured here), complete with a working analogue network traffic gauge pulled from an old boat. We'll be featuring it in an upcoming issue of PopSci, a nice bonus to go along with the sweet grand-prize Canon Rebel XT DSLR.

Also, congratulations to the first prize and honorable mention winners, whose projects we'll be featuring here in the near future:

First Prize:

Honorable Mention: We're pumped to do this all again soon, so keep an eye out here for details on what's coming up next. —John Mahoney

Google's My Maps - You're the Cartographer Now

Picture_6Google lit up the blogs today with what it's best at: another brilliant and cool product release. Actually, it's just a feature addition to Google Maps called My Maps, proving that even the slightest of tweaks from the mother ship is enough to get Web users salivating en masse.

My Maps is worth the hype, though. It allows you to take any Google Map and draw on it, effectively adding "cartographer"—an occupation and, for that matter, word I've always admired—to your curriculum vitae. You can add placemarks (like little push-pins), lines and shaded polygons to your heart's content, and each piece can be fully annotated via HTML with text, pictures and links, which lends itself to all kinds of incredibly useful tasks.

I dove right in and made my first map this afternoon, which is an annotated guide to my lunch hour, complete with all my favorite midday dining spots (check it out here, and if you work in Midtown Manhattan, you'll benefit nicely from my little airing of secrets). As far as I can tell you can't collaborate on maps yet, but when that feature hits everyone in the office could add their favorite spots as well. Other uses are myriad and insanely practical—customized driving directions, neighborhood guides, anything—and each map can be saved and linked to from anywhere on the Web.

It's really amazing that it took this long for a service as practical and useful as My Maps to surface to the mainstream. Or maybe there were others? If you've been making custom maps since Google was in diapers, let us know below. And we want to see how you're using your maps—make 'em public and post the links below in the comments.—John Mahoney

My Map - PopSci Goes to Lunch
My Maps Guide

Bon Jour Folks

Img_0339_2 Hey, kids, Mike here (one of the How 2.0 editors). I'm going to be working from PopSci's little-used Paris office for the next month—OK, it's just an apartment I got by swapping mine with a nice Dutch film editor I found on Craigslist. But I've brought along a tech arsenal to test just how connected one can stay from across the pond and will be posting occasional dispatches on how it's going, along with any cool DIY stuff I come across here (like this odd three-seater bike). Any PopSci fans in the area, shoot me an e-mail at h20 at time4 dot com. See what's in my gadget bag after the jump. —Mike Haney

Continue reading "Bon Jour Folks" »

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