Showing posts from August, 2012

The Mark Inside: the best book I've read on the long con

Amy Reading's The Mark Inside is perhaps the best book I've ever read on con artists and con artistry, a retelling of one of the classic stories of the bunco boom that marked the start of the 20th century in America. Reading builds her book around the life story of J Frank Norfleet, a soft-spoken, thrifty Texas rancher who built his fortune up from nothing, only to lose it all to a gang of swindlers. Norfleet became obsessed with the men who'd victimized him, and became a nationally famous vigilante, crisscrossing America bent on capturing and jailing the whole gang -- and any other con-men he met along the way.

Norfleet himself was transformed by his quest, which awoke in him a kind of inner showman and bunco artist. He delighted in showing off for the press and for audiences, spinning yarns as adeptly as the con artists he hunted. In order to get cooperation from government prosecutors and lawmen, he had to flimflam them, too, convincing them with carefully scripted cons …

Toorcamp: Quadcopter Controlled By a TI-84+

What happens when you combine a TI-84+ graphing calculator with an added bluetooth module, a 1 Watt Alfa wifi dongle, and a Parrot Wifi Quadcopter? You get a long range quadcopter that’s controlled from the TI-84+ directional pad.
This TI-84+ looks like a standard issue school calculator, but [Owen] added an ATTiny13 microcontroller and a bluetooth module which sniffs the I/O port of the calculator. This allows for bi-directional communication with a laptop. He wrote a few Python scripts on the laptop to receive data from the calculator and send commands to the Parrot Quadcopter. The high-powered wifi module allowed for pretty good range with the Quadcopter, which was flown across the Toorcamp grounds.
Of course, having an innocent looking calculator with wireless communications has some other uses. Data could be displayed on the calculator from a phone over bluetooth. How about accessing Wikipedia or WolframAlpha from your calculator? Despite the possibilities, [Owen] did say that he’s…

The coming civil war over general purpose computing

The Coming Civil War over General Purpose Computing
By Cory Doctorow

Even if we win the right to own and control our computers, a dilemma remains: what rights do owners owe users?

This talk was delivered at Google in August, and for The Long Now Foundation in July 2012. A transcript of the notes follows.

I gave a talk in late 2011 at 28C3 in Berlin called "The Coming War on General Purpose Computing"

In a nutshell, its hypothesis was this:

• Computers and the Internet are everywhere and the world is increasingly made of them.

• We used to have separate categories of device: washing machines, VCRs, phones, cars, but now we just have computers in different cases. For example, modern cars are computers we put our bodies in and Boeing 747s are flying Solaris boxes, whereas hearing aids and pacemakers are computers we put in our body.

[[VCR, washing machine] [[747]] [[Hearing aid]]

• This means that all of our sociopolitical problems in the future will have a computer inside them, too—…

LEAKED! TPP: the Son of ACTA will oblige America and other countries to throw out privacy, free speech and due process for easier copyright enforcement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the son of ACTA, a secretive copyright and trade treaty being negotiated by the Pacific Rim nations, including the USA and Canada. As with ACTA, the secretive negotiation process means that the treaty's provisions represent an extremist corporate agenda where due process, privacy and free expression are tossed out the window in favor of streamlined copyright enforcement. If this passes, America will have a trade obligation to implement all the worst stuff in SOPA, and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini and Kurt Opsahl explain:

TPP article 16.3 mandates a system of ISP liability that goes beyond DMCA standards and U.S. case law. In sum, the TPP pushes a framework beyond ACTA[1] and possibly the spirit of the DMCA, since it opens the doors for:

* Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement

* Requirem…

Hacking the AR Drone: Intro

Ever since we played with the original AR drone back at CES a few years ago, we’ve been keeping an eye on them. While we all agree there are better quadcopters out there, the price point for a ready-to-fly quadcopter of this size is really great with these.
When the fake video from FPS Russia of the weaponized drone made the rounds earlier this year, we were surprised at how people reacted. Anyone who has messed with quadcopters recognized it as fake right off the bat (not to mention the overly cliche fake russian character).
We won’t be adding a full fledged firearm to this. Mainly because it simply can’t lift the weight (There are ones that can, but we couldn’t justify the cost just for that). We do have some ideas though.
Lets go over the specs of the AR Drone 2.0 first.

The manufacturer is pretty good about sharing information. They have a decent breakdown of the specs as well as a full SDK available for writing apps for the AR drone.
*We’re assuming they mean 1Gigabyte of RAM the…

No secret knocks required at [Steve's] house – your subway pass will do

[Steve] is often host to all sorts of guests, and he was looking for an easy way to let his friends come and go as they please. After discovering that his front door came equipped with an electronic strike, he decided that an RFID reader would be a great means of controlling who was let in, and when.
Giving all your friends RFID cards and actually expecting that they carry them is a bit of a stretch, but lucky for [Steve] he lives near Boston, so the MBTA has him covered. Just about everyone in town has an RFID subway pass, which pretty much guarantees that [Steve’s] cohorts will be carrying one when they swing by.
He crafted a stylish set of wooden boxes to contain both the RFID reader and the Arduino that controls the system, matching them to the Victorian styling of his home. A single button can control the setup, allowing him to add and remove cards from access lists without much fuss. For more granular control however, [Steve] can always tweak settings from the Arduino serial conso…

Get Human is a website that helps you get through to a real person when you are stuck in an automated phone tree and can’t find a way out. For Fortune 500 and many other companies, they tell you the phone number to call or the words to say to get a human  (agent, representative, etc). One important feature is that the site also has a notification if the number they had listed is no longer working  ( when the companies push back).  Finally, they offer instructions on how to get a call back, and when email is a better choice.
Something this simple has saved my sanity many times. I’ve used it for several years, and rely on it. It’s wonderful.
-- Judy Baxter[Note: We first reviewed Get Human in 2007, and it has only improved since then. --OH]Available from

from Cool Tools

Hydro Priming Seeds with Cheetos

Brian Rawlings wrote in to share an experiment he’s working on with his 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son: using Cheetos as a hydroponic medium.
Hydro-priming is the process of soaking seeds in water before planting. Hydro-priming decreases the time it takes seeds to germinate. For this experiment, we wanted to test how different concentrations of Cheetos in the water would affect the germination rates of pea seeds. Do you expect that Cheetos will help or hinder the germination of seeds?
Brian and kids prepared seven cups with a varying number of Cheetos and either a half-cup of water or else no water. 100 snow pea seeds were added to each cup and every 12 hours, the seeds were removed to see how many had germinated.

Filed under: Earth Science

from MAKE

How a Slushie Machine Works

Now I’m jonesin’ for a slushie. [via Hacked Gadgets]

Filed under: How it's made

from MAKE