Small Streams

Maker Remaketh
October 31, 2013, 4:06 am
Filed under: business, eutechnics, technology | Tags:

This article in Technology Review, “The Difference Between Making and Manufacturing” takes Chris Anderson to task for his enthusiasms but can also be seen as the play book for the coming years.

First I’d like to say that the author sets up a false dichotomy between making and manufacturing. Large manufacturers have always brought techniques from the kitchen or barnyard, and makers have always hacked ready mades. We’re only talking about a matter of scale. Leaving aside the Marxian perspective that quantity begets quality, the cat is already out of the bag.

David Rotman says makers, or let’s say, those people without standing in the manufacturing community, the unannointed, the macroeconomic non-entities, can do a lot, but they’re not making a revolution.

Many types of manufacturing require a sophisticated series of steps and processes to be done in precise sequence. Selecting the right materials and technologies is key to high-quality, low-cost results. If designers don’t understand the manufacturing processes and materials that are practical, they will never come up with the most advanced and compelling new products. It’s a lesson that has been repeatedly learned over the last decade in the development of new clean-energy technologies. Innovators may create smart designs for technologies such as solar panels, but ignoring the costs and practical details of manufacturing the new products is a sure path to failure.

Things need to be sophisticated, precise, and probably require the capital that hackers like you don’t have. Shift your perspective a bit, though, and you can see that Rotman provides the rubric for makers subverting manufacturers. Get sophisticated enough, get precise enough, and learn materials and processes, but do it cheaply and do it in such a way that encourages continuous practice.

Rotman is right, though, ignoring the cost and practical details of manufacturing is a sure path to failure. It’s just that I don’t believe the failure to be perpetual.


The View From Your Window Contest
October 27, 2013, 1:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Dish


You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts.  Be sure to email entries to Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

View original post

The British Library
October 26, 2013, 3:24 am
Filed under: drawing, eutechnics, math, observer, technology, Tourism | Tags: , ,


Yesterday I visited The British Library.

October 24, 2012, 3:51 pm
Filed under: education, math | Tags: , ,

Not unrelated to the Calcubot is the nomogram.


Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire
June 24, 2012, 8:53 am
Filed under: education, math, Uncategorized | Tags:

I will be applying to be an exhibit to Pittsburgh’s Mini Maker Faire. I hope you are, too. Here’s

a site that tells you how to make an interactive exhibit

20120624-141639.jpgMore evidence of my hackery, Calcubot Jr. I’m going to have to make measurements soon. Will have to go to school on Belsey’s Instructable.

Calcubot 0.1
June 16, 2012, 11:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Proof-of-Concept. #counting #calculating No measuring. Needs to be reinforced at bottom or a separate foot track needs to be built. You never forget your first bot.

Diddley Bow Pick-up
June 12, 2012, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Spotted at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh at a Kids and Creativity event. I’m going to have to make one of these. According to Christian at the electronics station, the pick-up is made with a magnet, a coil, and, as you can see here, a bottle cap.

Finger-Activated Switch
June 11, 2012, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


I used an NPN transistor, a resistor, and an LED for a circuit that’s completed with my own conductivity. #counting #calculating

Folding Paper
January 29, 2012, 8:45 pm
Filed under: art, math, research, technology, thinking | Tags:


Just finished watching Between the Folds, a gem of a documentary about origami. Lots of stuff about the art and science, the emotion and technique, and the history and trajectory of paper folding.

The documentary ends with a profile of MIT Professor Erik Demaine, who linkage computer maker Xiaoji Chen calls the “happiest genius in the world.”

I can see how one enthusiasm leads to another for Demaine: math, paper folding, genetics, and glass blowing — well, I’m not sure how the glass blowing fits in . . . but Demaine says it’s all about having fun. Maybe fun will lead to a cure for cancer as Demaine and others figure out how and why proteins fold, or maybe to nano computers in space.

I guess I should fold some paper while I’m inspired, but I’m more interested in approximating logarithms with musical scales.

Slide Rules
January 21, 2012, 8:43 am
Filed under: education, math, thinking | Tags: ,

Went to hear Doug present on how to use a slide rule at HackPgh last night. 20120121-084355.jpg

I found out how to use the scales for finding squares, square roots, cubes and cubed roots. I also learned that with the bigger slide rules there is no end of exponentiation.

I’m most interested in slide rules with elliptical functions. Pictured is a specialty slide rule for doing duct work.