Brainings, Free Range Technology, Idiotic or Inspired?

3-Bit Video Abstraction Project

My employer makes a nifty little 12-volt LED light that contains separate RGB (red/green/blue) diodes. It’s  3/4-inch in diameter and intended for rugged, outdoor environments — specifically decorative use on carnival rides. The cool thing is that it can change color on command. It has four separate wires — one power plus three separate ground leads — so that the three colors are independently controllable. The result is that the unit can display the eight colors of the 3-Bit RGB palette by powering the diodes alone and in combination.

I began thinking about taking the technology for driving LED matrices and scaling it up to use this light. I thought an LED monitor of sorts made from the company’s products might be an intersting promotional tool, such as at trade shows. The larger lens size and greater viewing angle would make it more akin to an incandescent scoreboard than a desktop circuit board. That would be fairly well suited to scoreboard-style scrolling text and simple animations, but what if you want to display video?

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Free Range Technology

Soviet Saturday


I have no idea how you would say GIMP in Russian, but back in the days of the glorious Soviet Republic, they were getting digital with photo retouching. Hit the jump to see a circa 1987 video of just such digital action!

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Free Range Technology

A Nerdy Weekend Filled With Success and Resounding Failure

Xubuntu Laptop

This last weekend I decided to tackle a couple of tech projects I’ve been meaning to do for a while. The genesis of all of this was the fact that I have a detached garage with no connection to the innerwebs. Having access to the tubes that carry the World Wide Web while working on a project out there without having to run inside and muck up the desktop’s keyboard with dirty or greasy hands would be quite convenient. So, I developed a plan. As we all know, the best laid plans fall apart as soon as the first shot is fired.

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Free Range Technology

Track N Go


Now that we have finally dug out from our Polar Vortex here at the Atomic Toasters Detroit Outpost we have begun thinking of things to help us get to work no matter the snow depth. We believe we may have found the awesome. Hit the jump for a video.

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Free Range Technology

Frickin’ Lasers!


Have you ever needed to cut some metal, but all your hacksaw blades are dull, your Sawzall battery is charging, and Home Depot is closed? If you’re TWI Ltd., you just adapt a 5kW automated laser so it can be hand carried! OK, maybe they did it for decommissioning of nuclear facilities, and it’s not exactly “portable”. Still, it’s damn cool. If you don’t believe me, hit the jump and watch the video.

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Free Range Technology, Tech Travels

This Is A Truck And A Home

It seems to be Truck Tuesday here on the Toasters, so I’m sharing with you one of the coolest truck-based pieces of awesome I’ve seen all week. This last weekend in Prescott, AZ was the annual Overland Expo. Overland enthusiasts from around the world gather to gaze upon the latest and greatest in […]

Free Range Technology

Damn The Machines!


I love coffee. I can’t function until that first cup of brew is in my hands. I don’t even have to drink it. Just knowing I have caffeinated wonderfulness awaiting me is enough to let my brain start to work. I love the taste. I love the warmth…even in summer. I love everything about it. I’ll drink coffee from anywhere — Starbucks, Biggby, Second Cup, Timmy Ho’s, Double D’s. I have a Cuisinart Grind N’ Brew at home. Best kitchen invention ever. It’s a pain to keep clean, though. And an old timey coffee mill or even a newfangled electric one takes up too much space in my small kitchen. Plus, there are times where electricity isn’t available. Like when I’m camping or running from zombies. Or the man.

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Garbage Sailing

Garbage Sailing: Buying What You Could Get For Free

Wouldn’t you want it, based on that beautiful photo?

Every so often, I do enjoy taking a handful of coins and heading out to explore the weekend garage sales. Or, more accurately, “garbage sales”. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to see what people have stashed in their garage, and to […]

Communications, Free Range Technology

The $30 Cell Phone: Impressively Modest

The Rovan Q2/XP Moon

I recently spent a week using an ultra-cheap Chinese mobile phone I bought off eBay. I have an iPhone 4 that I normally use, and it’s truly a marvel of functionality and interface design. But unfortunately, my longtime cellular service provider is Verizon, whose phones utilize only CDMA network access. That’s a bit of meaningless technobabble if you’re in the US, but the CDMA protocol is nonexistent in Europe, which uses GSM mobile networks exclusively. So if you go overseas, a Verizon (or Sprint or Alltel) phone becomes a very handy paperweight. I spent last week in England. My options for mobile telephony on my trip were to rent a “tourist phone” for a week in the UK, rent a world phone from Verizon prior to my departure, or buy the cheapest unlocked GSM phone I could find. I went with that last option.

My iPhone supposedly cost me $149, but that was subsidized by a lucrative 2-year contract that absorbed much of the phone’s cost. The outright purchase of an unlocked 32GB iPhone 4 will land on the north side of $600. Just to calibrate, I bought the Rovan Q2 for one-twentieth of that cost. I wondered, would it have 1/20th the functionality? Would it drop calls, freeze up, or simply be DOA? It turns out I was pleasantly surprised how much I got for my money. Continue reading The $30 Cell Phone: Impressively Modest

Free Range Technology

One Piece at a Time


Were you ever the kid that stuck the Tinkertoy sticks into the bottom of your Lego blocks, and made tiny hammers to bang around the house with? Looking back, if only there had been some way to channel that energy creatively, to build astounding creations out of all of the building systems you owned, why then you could have been an astronaut been an engineer gotten a job and moved out of the basement. Well, have no fear for your children and the future they face in the harsh cold reality of the world! Some fine freedom loving folks over at F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab have combined their forces for the good of mankind, and come up with the Free Universal Construction Kit--“a matrix of nearly 80 adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between popular children’s construction toys”.

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