Friday, July 27, 2012

A Thank You To All Women Makers & Engineers

A few weeks ago I shared a story with someone about how my girls got started in building projects & electronics. It wasn't until later on that I realized that I had never shared it with the rest of the world as it is a story that needs to be shared.

The photos above have made their way across the internet onto many different sites & blogs. While many people have said thank you to me for sharing what my kids are doing along with a compliments of what a great job I am doing by teaching them, this praise does not belong to me but belongs to the women of the "Do It Yourself" revolution from both the present and the past.

While in Radio Shack one day browsing the DIY project clearance rack I had asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to build her own AM/FM radio. Her response was less then thrilling to me as she told me "Girls don't do that sort of thing ... Dad". Shocked because I've always tried to bestow upon my girls that anyone can do what they want no matter of race or gender I saw it was time to set the record straight.

As soon as we got home I went to work on showing both my oldest girls some great examples of women currently building things in both hardware & software. Showing them the not only the Adafruit website but also work done by Becky Stern , Jeri Ellsworth along with the countless times we've seen awesome builds by women on Hack A Day they finally realized gender is blind when it comes to building their dreams & ideas.

While the positive feedback from others has been great with people telling me how cool it is that I am teaching my girls these things, lets not forget to thank those who made the kids interest in electronics & building possible. Without the hard work, talent, & drive to both educate and share how they did things with the rest of the world my girls would never of had the role models that they have found in the work & talents of all of the women working on things from Arduino to Software. Now when out & about in town or at Radio Shack the girls pick out what they want to build and have found interest in asking how does that work and how can we build or own version.

So in the end please give a big thank you to all the women engineers & crafters out there showing the world that no matter race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation anyone can build their dreams & be a positive role model in the lives of people they've never even meet. Thank You Again for all that you do

Friday, July 13, 2012

These Hack Scouts Need your Vote!

A build project that the kids & I have been talking about for awhile is now back on the drawing board after consistent demand by the kids. Originally our plans were to build a working replica of the robot  K9 from the TV show Doctor Who but also add in some options to make K9 more of a security drone for the house as well as add in our own touch of sensors & internet integration.

While talking about plans of what it was we wanted our K9 unit to do the subject of building a world destroying alien race robot called the Daleks came into play instead of a lovable metal pup.

After deciding to switch our plans from the lovable K9 to a evil Dalek we started researching build plans. After getting a good idea from hundreds of others who to have chosen to create this type of replica we will be following the designs & planning of while still adding in our own range of upgrades & sensors. This type of build offers the kids not only a chance to build on of the most iconic characters from one of their favorite TV shows but also gives them a hands of approach to fabrication, CNC, electrical, motor controls & sensors. Now the question we are asking the Internet is do we go full scale or a mini. On the top right side of this page please submit your vote for either a Full Size Dalek or a Small Scale Dalek.

We would like the thank Atlantic Drives & Bearings of Vineland, NJ who have offered to sponsor  the drive portion of our Dalek no matter the size we choose in the end. We are very grateful for the amount of support shown to the kids on their "Hack Scouts" interest and would like to thank all of you who have sent emails offering to donate to our building efforts. Unfortunately at this time we are not taking donations, but if you would like to donate to this & further projects we ask for gift cards for materials & parts at these fine online retailers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

So Just What Is A "Real" Tablet Anyway?

Over the past year I've heard iPeople & Windows fans make claims that "Android tablets aren't real tablets" along with grandiose assumptions such as "The victim of Windows 8 will be Android tablets" and how the iPad & upcoming Windows tablet are the only true tablets. So just what is the definition of a real tablet anyway? & more importantly to be a tablet does it have to have a Microsoft logo or piece Fruit on it?

In my short write up on the ASUS Transformer TF101 I shared what I use my tablet for & how it fits into my lifestyle. I felt the need to comment again on the usfullness of my so called "non tablet"  after being without power for the past 95 hours after a nasty storm left myself and over 300,000 others in my area without power.

Like most parents when the power goes out we all try to find ways to entertain kids by playing boardgames, cards, & anything else we can do to calm down kids from the 5 to 10 age range. While all of those are great sometimes we still need the help of other entertainment such as a TV show or movie when calling the power company or getting the house setup with candles for the night ahead without power.

One of the best things I ever purchased was a $20 DC to AC 150 watt (200 watt peak) power inverter for our van to power our modified Xbox 1 XBMC unit. Using the inverter I was able to transfer more then 30 of our movies from one of our file servers hard drives by hooking it up to a external HDD enclosure & then to the Transformer's Dock powering the HDD through the inverter while also charging the tablet. Many would say "That's what Netflix is for" how can you run Netflix with no internet & dodgy cell service due to technical issues caused by the storm. While this sort of setup is not a new approach to many of us in the DIY community or those of us that can look at hardware and see potential as these options are unavailable to me on an iPad or other Android based device such as a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The ASUS keyboard with USB ports was a life saver when needing to charge our cell phones to keep in contact with family & find out local information such as Red Cross relief shelters in the area distributing ice & offering a place to cool off from the heat wave that hit in the days after the storm. The tablet provided entertainment for the whole family by playing over 20+ movies , charging 2 cell phones & serving as a partial flashlight while only needing to be charged twice in 95hrs.

So please... next time you decide to talk down an Android based device think about what your counter part can do that you might not be able to & vise versa. Take it upon your self to ask a friend or colleague who may own such a device to give you a real demo as it might just change your mind when you think outside of the box. As the future of portable devices comes down to more then just the latest game or social app or the number of current apps in the respective markets, it still does just come down to the same thing it always has.. the hardware.
Please note that this blog post was not written to insult the family of iPads,  future Microsoft devices or persons. It was meant to point out that yes many of you are %100 correct! it's not a tablet.. it's better then a tablet & most netbooks. I have a device that's marketed & sold as a tablet with a separate keyboard attachment that cost me just a little less then an iPad ( and possibly a Surface tablet) that I was able to do more with then the "real tablets" others claim as well as other current Android devices on the market just can't do. In the end as long as people can see the potential in a device's hardware, build an alternative operating system , & strive to get the most bang for their buck .... the Open Source spirit of Android will always live & show up on devices just as it has in the PC world with Linux for over 20yrs & 50 million plus users later.