Monday, June 23, 2008

My Wiimote Whiteboard and Light Pen

By now, unless you have been living in a deep dark hole of non-geekdom, you've probably heard of Johnny Lee's incredible experiments with the wii remote or "wiimote". Basically, he has discovered a way to turn a $30 wii remote and a small light pen made at home in to a multi-touch whiteboard technology that can be adapted to any surface. I had to give it a try.

First I needed a wii remote, because I don't currently own a wii. I found one on eBay for $29.98 shipped. Next I needed the components for my light pen. A trip to Radioshack and a local art supply store took care of that. It's funny to see how Radioshack employees react when you ask them how to calculate the right resistor for your LED.

The formula for that btw is:

R = (V1 - V2)/I

V1 = The voltage of the battery
V2 = The voltage rating of the resistor
I = The current of the resistor in Amps

Here are the components I used from Radioshack. The cost is higher than if I would to have ordered from a somewhere else, but for a prototype it's nice to just be able to go down the street:

Lithium 3V CR1220 (230-0188) $5.49 (probably over kill)
5mm IR LED 940nm (276-0143) $1.99
P/B Switch SPST (275-1547) $0.87 (I bought a pack of 4 at $3.49)
10OHM resistor (271-1301) $0.20 (I bought a pack of 5 at $0.99)

For the casing, I saw Johnny Lee using a dry erase marker at his TED talk and realized you could fit all the components inside as opposed to using a Bic pen and needing an external power supply. However, dry erase markers are expensive. I was about to buy a back of 3 for about 8 bucks when I found hidden in another section the "Mr. Sketch" scented markers. They are the exact same shape as dry erase markers and much cheaper. I bought a pack of 8 for $5.49.

The total cost of my light pen: $9.22
The total cost for the entire project: $39.20

Cost of a standard electronic whiteboard: $2,000

Now I needed the software to run my whiteboard. I have a mac and Johnny's Wiimote Whiteboard software is written in C# for Windows. Luckily some smart people ported the software to java and also created an OS X native version. I used the OS X version.

The light pen was constructed with lots of trial, error, solder, and electrical tape. You can see in the video demo, I taped the contacts to the battery and later just shoved it in and recapped the bottom of the pen.

One cool thing I learned while surfing discussions about the light pen is that you can test your IR pen using a camera phone. The camera phone will pick up inferred light. You can see this in the video of my light pen.

Here is my light pen up close:


Here is a demo of the whole set up:


Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Geekgasm Scale

What exactly is a geekgasm?

Well, it's that spontaneous "Oh, Cooool..." moment you got when you first saw Tom Cruise scrubbing video with his multi-touch screen in Minority Report. It's seeing Jonny Lee Miller opening an umbrella in a high school hallway, checking his watch, before the "sprinkler test" he set the night before is activated fulfilling every high school geeks fantasy #1.

The Urban Dictionary defines a geekgasm as:
"A fit of intense geekly joy, happens when a geek runs into someone or something exceedingly geeky not seen every day, or when they get uber excited and riled up; When a geek goes into geekstcy, Has a geek-on; What makes a geek go crazy; When a geek has reached his or her geek climax; The equivalent of a sexual orgasm for a geek."

A good definition, but it begs the question: What factor or combination thereof will cause a geek to achieve the state of geekgasm? To answer this, I have come up with what I believe to be the 4 core factors that contribute to something being geekgasm worthy. These factors are:

1. Information Overload: This satisfies the geeks insatiable desire for information. Real-time information, about the most detailed aspects of all the systems the geek comes in contact with. If you have ever tailed your system log just to stare at the all the random debug information your apps are generating, you know what I'm talking about.

2. Instant Gratification: The geek wants it and they want it NOW. No waiting for 6Mbit cable internet. The geek NEEDS 12. They needed that DVD screener of Jurassic Park 4 yesterday. The geek lives in a world of quick references, one click checkouts, and instant messaging. If there is a way to make it faster, simpler, and closer to the geek's finger tips this will definitely lead to more geekgasms.

3. Control: Above all else the geek wants control. Not only does the geek want to tweak, update, and personalize everything, they want to be able to do it from anywhere at anytime. We once lived in the world of "the electron and the switch". Now we live in the world of the touch screen and the transistor. Things are getting smaller, faster, and easier to control. Why I would want to control my bedroom light from my cellphone, I don't know, but it's definitely geekgasm worthy.

4. Hackability: There is nothing more annoying to a geek then a system that is locked down with assumptions about how the geek is going to use it. If the geek wants to modify a toaster to read slashdot through a text-to-speech translator, then the toaster manufacturer had better have made the outer casing easy to remove and the internal circuitry easy to replace. If a geek wants more information, instant gratification, or control from a device they will find a way. If that device is not designed for easy modification beyond its intended use, well this is why hacking is unfortunately so often associated with breaking the law.

For geeks, these 4 factors are a good way of judging any new device or technology (you probably already do this). For designers, engineers, marketing gurus, webmasters, etc.. If you want to be the next cool thing for geeks, speak to these factors and you can't lose. (well you can always lose, but hey at least you'll be recognized for trying and maybe even end up with a cult of purists who will use only your technology until they are grudgingly forced out of it years later when everyone has gotten bored of writing ports and/or drivers.)

Admittedly the examples I used are specific to computer geeks, however it may be possible to apply these factors creatively to other forms of geekdom. I have not explored this.

Maybe some time soon I'll review a few technologies and devices using the geekgasm scale.

Do you have any suggestions, comments, factor's to add? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Post

Hey people viewing my blog. This is going to be my geek blog. Seems to be a trend now-a-days so here we go.

Really this exists because I realized that I worked on so many projects that I have forgotten a lot about how I achieved them. So this blog will detail all the "how to"s and the trials and errors.

Topics you might find here:

Mac Hacking
Hardware Hacking
Reverse Engineering
Social Engineering
Web Design
Web Programming
Your Mom
Electronic Music
Electronic Graffiti
Modding Everything
Linksys WRT-54G
Rants about Rants
Geek Sex
Sexy Geeks
Hacking the Mind
Impressing Your Friends (Friend)
And So Much More......