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Karakuri Somersault Doll

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Look in horror as it tumbles. Tumbles for you. You don't know why you bought it. Perhaps the promise of "a centuries old secret artisan technique" combined with the self-satisfying DIY gratification making that one clock brought. Little did you realize that this back-wrenching monster is the stuff of nightmares, a real life ode to Puppetmaster with a conveniently translated instruction manual.

Go back to your LEGOs, man. Go back to your solder and breadboards. This way is madness.

[Karakuri Somersault Doll - MakerSHED]

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My Bag, Let Me Show You It

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A couple of years back Lifehacker ran a series of posts displaying user-submitted shots of readers' Go Bags (what you grab and haul every day) and their disgorged contents. I sat entranced for hours, leering over this voyeuristic yet impersonal display of things usually hidden away. Eventually I made my own.

More recently several editors shared the contents of their laptop bags and a similar spell was cast, I simply had to know each and every gadget and velcro wrap and oh my my is that a stainless steel thumb drive?

Hit the jump for a taste of madness. Or better yet share your own Go Bag over in the Weekly Geek Flickr Pool.

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Dear Otterbox

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Podcaster, life streamer, and long time friend Jessica Mullen has a few things she wants her broken Otterbox to know:

Dear Otterbox,

I can't believe it's over, just like that. One day, things are going fine. Sure, you're dirty, but I always know you're clean on the inside (cream on the outside?). Then you start changing. Falling apart. Losing pieces of your self. Your cute little rubber port protector flaps, it almost seems like you have that disorder where you want to be an amputee. Then one day (at the beach no less), I discover a chunk of your skeleton is gone forever. Maybe I was too rough with you. But you begged for it! I could drop you from the top of the fridge and you liked it. Yeah, your rubber started getting a tiny bit stretched out. But your delicious skin was the most comforting fidget device I didn't realize I needed so bad.

My new case is a bitch, total rebound case. She has like, zero traction. You always stayed firmly connected to the surface you were on, this CapsuleRebel slides around like a floozy. A floozy with oozing sores on her plastic peeling face. Did I mention her face was self-adhesive?! Christ, I want a sturdy case because I'm clumsy! Do you really think I can get that sticker on straight, sans cat litter?!

Otterbox, I think we should give us another chance. I feel lost and vulnerable without you ...and your bulk.

Take care of yourself ok? Get that crack patched up and maybe we can talk.

Devoted love,
Jessica

ps. didn't you say you had a sister? a PINK one?

In the 2 years I've been sporting Otterbox cases my evangelical wiles have seen no less than 8 converts to this ruggedized religion. While several of my ilk inhabit harsh, unforgiving climes (there are 4 such cases not 20 feet from where I am typing) it was Jessica that was able to utterly destroy what I previously marked as indestructible.

DearOtterbox_Right.jpgThe product's finer points are addressed above, and I'll maintain that the latest case design remains a sound buffer between my iPhone and the super-heated talcum-powder dust bath it's exposed to every day. Aside from a change in the belt clip between 2G and 3G/3GS models there is little room for improvement for those seeking a stout protection for their most often used gadgets.

Suggestions should be made, however, to the folks over in R&D at Otterbox. Forget military contractors in Iraq or Afghanistan when stress testing, seek out instead Austin-based super users like Jessica to see if your gear can stand up to trials of real rigor.

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The (somewhat) Weekly Filmschool #2: Chroma Key

Chroma Key (or Green Screen) is one of the most popularly known compositing techniques in our film-literate society. The concept is simple: put a pure-color in places where you want to be transparent later on. It sounds simple in theory, but can be very complex in practice. Fear not though, for it is not out of reach of the average geek! I'll show you how it's done.

continue reading "The (somewhat) Weekly Filmschool #2: Chroma Key"

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Acquiring Signal

Signal_Header.jpgI recently acquired a GPS navigation device as a gift, thereby scratching another notch in the pock-marked yet fickle Personal Tech ScoreCard that precludes day-to-day functionality. The iPhone/PDA, the cloud computing, and now the disembodied female voice purring directions based on low orbit satellites. When I finally break down and embrace Eye-Fi, or get my Wacom to produce anything half-decent, I shall embody the pinnacle of evangelical tech symbiosis; lithe, functional, fully jacked in and devoid of restraint.

This came up in a phone conversation with a buddy:

So I installed my GPS today and it's freakin' sweet, but before it was mounted I gave the thing a test run from my glove compartment. Worked great but the phantom voice was a bit unsettling.

I don't trust any machine that has a voice.

Right, but it got me thinking about how I've never really implemented this flavor of tech in to daily life. You've seen those ads for the GPS devices that will send you a text message should your teen run in to a tree right?

So what? You'll just know they're dead sooner.

No dude, you could totally save them. Like in Signs.

Swing Away.

Exactly, but think about it. It's piece of mind. Puts them on the grid.

Yeah, but it's also controlling, micro managing, and ultimately you'll just know they're dead sooner.

A grim outlook to say the least, but this dialogue reminded of time spent back in the day being paid laughable sums of money to enable wireless communications and teaching, among other things, the basics of GPS navigation to a group of irascible users. The tech has certainly improved since but I can guarantee you those same guys are sporting grease penciled, self-laminated maps in hand's reach alongside the latest in GPS electronica.

Tech should support without being a crutch. As a hopeless soul lacking even the basest sense of direction the smallest of excursions require diligent foresight, hand drawn maps often supplementing sprawling print outs for use while driving. While thrilled with side-of-the-street precision in my new device I fear that this will be inline spell-check all over again, the trappings of which have crippled competence in any medium without.

Yet I imagine this reliance as nothing new, sea faring men of old relying on treasured sextants as much as a star-filled clear sky. Our propensity as tool makers is unavoidable, reliance predictable, and desire for implementation natural. Whatever instinctual sense once shared with migrating flocks has since been buried in a deluge of invisible frequency, sterilized from wavelength and rendered impotent by amplitude.

I shall embrace this new device with its far reach communique and throaty imperative. I will continue to sneak glances at my watch's digital compass whenever emerging from the subway, overpowering my geographic ignorance with a discreet confidence not only in tech but my nature as a tool-sporting human. Tell me where to go, invisible space lady, for I am listening.

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Turn Your Router in to a 360 WiFi Adapter with DD-WRT

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Connectivity is paramount. The first thing I did after purchasing my new Xbox 360 was snake a cable from the nerve center of my network to jack in to LIVE. While a simple process the proximity of television to router is not one that resulted in a subtle cable connection no matter how creative I got with the staple gun. I knew both official and 3rd party wireless solutions existed but at $70-$100 there had to be another way given that 6 years in the IT business have left me with a treasure trove of miscellaneous electronica.

The initial exposure to DD-WRT, a surprisingly powerful open source router firmware, came from Lifehacker a while back and has appeared a few times over the years, most recently as a way to transform your compatible router in to (among other things) a functional WiFi adapter for one's gaming console.

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Coming from a pretty substantial technical background I found the process an easy one but was a bit overwhelmed in the early research stages as to which version I should be dealing with. Given that I would be flashing the firmware and potentially bricking my device made me all the more wary as I went along. While linked in a few places the version specific details of the process could only be found in the wiki.

I took notes as I went along as my experience varied slightly from the installation tutorial but at project's end was left with a vastly improved piece of hardware that not only filled the gap of Xbox 360 WiFi adapter but left room for future expansion.

After I had the files I needed the whole process took about 10 minutes tops.

Hit the jump for a stripped down version of the process as well as a few notes regarding having to deal with my new ISP's device restrictions.

continue reading "Turn Your Router in to a 360 WiFi Adapter with DD-WRT"

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Lens Adapter Cuts Through Pesky Social Barriers

LensAdapter_Header.jpgAs an amateur photographer there are a few hurdles I am consistently attempting to clear. These range from the easily definable, such as financial limitations, to the more objective complications of social photography. A careful budget and solid research solves the former, but enter a public area with even a modest dSLR with a zoom lens and the vibe is instantly changed. People prepare to pose, security guards crouch to pounce, and reality shifts to fill my viewfinder with subjects that have shed much of their realism.

I've found a radiant aura of confidence (and stealthy wrist strap) helps to smooth over the painfully public process of carting my camera through highly populated urban areas, home or abroad, but even in a bustling metropolis I'm extremely hesitant to turn my glass on what is arguably the most interesting subject; people. It's awkward, raises countless privacy issues, and face it - is a little on the creepy side.

Preferring to err on the side of caution I've passed dozens of scenarios that tugged at the photographer in me, each encounter positively begging to be shot with the promise of something impossible to replicate in any studio setting.

The folks over at Photojojo (a fantastic DIY themed photography newsletter) offer a particularly intriguing solution, the Super-Secret Spy Lens.

For a surprisingly reasonable price ($50!) one simply attaches the device to an existing zoom lens the same way you'd screw on a filter. Sure, I'll be sporting an extra 5 inches of lens (which would equal about 10 at its shortest with my 18-200mm zoom) but with the ability to frame up candid shots I'd never have the chutzpah to take of a complete stranger.

Yes, there are certainly some issues that can be raised well within the bounds of decency regarding the taking pictures of unwilling, or unknowing, subjects. Common sense applies here more than ever and while I'd like to think any respectable photographer knows where to draw the line the fact remains that this apparatus exists to deceive. A point I'm strangely comfortable with given its ability to circumnavigate the tricky social rules of, you know, photographing strangers.

I'll very likely be grabbing one of these and am curious as to how such a device will be received in the photography community.

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