Save Your Computer Data With Raspberry Pi and a Mason Jar
Jul14

Save Your Computer Data With Raspberry Pi and a Mason Jar

When one thinks of a mason jar it is typically in the context of a Pinterest project, or a glass container filled to the rim with sweet, sticky raspberry jam. Some of us in the digital age have found a new and far less messy use for mason jars. Technically it still involves raspberries— not the delicious bright red berry, but the Raspberry Pi minicomputer. The Raspberry Pi has been touted by some as the worlds smallest computer. While this may not technically be correct it is easily one of the smallest, most accessible computers for do-it-yourself computer enthusiasts. This minicomputer innovation has allowed users to put computing power into increasingly smaller devices at a relatively low price point. Building a mason jar data storage center using Raspberry Pi is an easy and fun project to get in touch with your inner geek. Essentially, the end product is a Raspberry Pi, housed inside a mason jar, that is running BitTorrent Sync to keep files in sync between your devices. BitTorrent Sync works in a similar fashion to Dropbox, and the Raspberry Pi-compatible version is aptly named Raspberry Preserve. The developers chose to use BT Sync, which is free to use, due to the decentralized nature of the BT network, as well as to keep the price of the project as low as possible. The Pi can also be attached to optional LEDs which will blink or remain lit to signify when data is being transferred. BitTorrent Sync is a software program that functions much like a peer-to-peer network, except the peers are the various devices you would find in your home: cell phone, laptop, desktop and in some case, television set. Once the Raspberry Pi jar is complete, it is able to store any files that are wirelessly shared with it. Simply move your family vacation pictures to a synced folder on your device and it will be synced to the hosted node of the Pi. From there, it can be accessed on any device you choose. The Raspberry Pi data preservation device is a DIY project that digital enthusiasts are sure to love. It’s also a great reminder that there is still room for creative innovation in the modern...

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Google and Mattel Introduce New & Improved View-Master!
Mar02

Google and Mattel Introduce New & Improved View-Master!

One of the most popular retro childhood toys just received a major upgrade! The beloved View-Master, which has been around in one form or another since it debuted at New York’s World Fair in 1939, has undergone a huge change and is now joining the world of virtual-reality gaming. Over the past couple of decades, the popularity of the View-Master has declined because so many high-tech gadgets had come along to compete. Toy company Mattel finally decided to change that by partnering with Google to update the classic toy. Now, the View-Master has become a tool for virtual reality fantasy and game play.Similar in some ways to the popular Oculus Rift gaming device, the new and improved View-Master resembles the style of the older model, but with a thicker, more modern feel. To play it, you simply download the View-Master app onto your phone and then connect your phone to the device. Designed for ages 7 and up, this new technology opens up doors for both entertainment and education. With it you can take virtual field trips to far away places and learn interesting new facts as you play. For instance, the San Francisco tour takes you to popular tourist attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also go back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and see the ancient lizards up close. As you view the 360-degree photography around you, informational texts will pop up to tell you more about what you are seeing. This partnership between Mattel and Google is still fairly new, but even more exciting things are planned for the near future. For instance, Mattel plans to add even more gaming features to the new View-Master, including fun interactive treasure hunts for kids. The company plans to integrate old photography footage from the toy’s archives, so classic favorites will likely be available as well. Right now the toy is only compatible with Android phones, but that is set to change before the item hits store shelves later this...

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Inventor of Apple’s Mouse is Retiring – And Has Some Things to Say
Nov04

Inventor of Apple’s Mouse is Retiring – And Has Some Things to Say

After working 35 years as a design engineer, Jim Yurchenco has decided to retire. Yurchenco’s interest in design began back in the 1970s when he was enrolled at Stanford University. It didn’t take long before he found his passion at the design school’s workshop for students. This became the norm for Yurchenco throughout his career–spending time in the shop and exploring design ideas. A few years after school, Yurchenco was offered a job by David Kelley, a friend from Stanford. This began a lifelong career at Ideo, which was called Hovey-Kelley when it began. Not long after he was employed at the company, Steve Jobs gave Hovey-Kelley a call and asked them if they would work on designing a low-cost, functional mouse similar to the one he had seen at Xerox that gave him the idea. Yurchenco was assigned to the project and used concepts from an Atari video game machine, optics and gravity to develop the first Apple mouse. Later, the same internal components were used for the mouse that was packaged and sold along with millions of Macintosh machines. The design process for the mouse and other projects at Ideo were often formulated through simple, hands-on construction. For years, paper, pencil and a calculator were used to quickly build prototypes, a process that came in handy later when Yurchenco worked on the Palm V. The master designer has advice for the younger generation of designers that are just beginning their careers. He said that he always asked a lot of questions of many different people until he had a firm grasp of knowledge about how something was made. A designer can learn a lot about a process when they visit multiple workshops and watch the same thing be built using different concepts and...

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Six Iconic Prototypes That Changed Our World
Oct23

Six Iconic Prototypes That Changed Our World

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” The following are among the one percent – and they changed our world. Super Soaker Like most ingenious inventions, the super soaker came about purely by accident. Lonnie Johnson, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was prototyping a water-circulation heat pump. When one of his experimental brass nozzles went kerplooey, he had an idea. He built an air pump shotgun using water instead of bullets. After seven years of thwarted salesmanship, his invention was bought in 1990 by Larami and sold as the Power Drencher. Two million were sold the first year.     Atari 2600 The Atari 2600 was created under questionable legal circumstances. Magnavox owned the rights to any Atari hardware produced during the 12 months after July 1976. So Atari engineer Al Acorn migrated to the mountains of Grass Valley, California, where he worked with Cyan Engineering to build the console in three months for $500. In June 1977, safe from the clutches of Magnavox, Atari announced its invention and proceeded to revolutionize the 1980s.       Push-Button Phone The original 1948 push-button phone worked essentially the same as a piano. Bell Labs engineering wizards gutted a Western Union 302 rotary phone and installed 10 buttons and 10 metal reeds, like wires. Pushing a button would pluck a wire, producing a particular sound. Although ingenious, the technology was unable to cope with consumer demands until the solid-state electronics of the early 1960s.       Moog Modular Electronic music was in its infancy when Bob Moog asked Herb Deutsch to help him build a smaller, better music synthesizer. The duo assembled a Rube Goldberg labyrinth of circuits and oscillators and other bits of electrical magic. With the help of a 35-cent doorbell button, the two build an analog articulation synthesizer that would become the indispensable tool of everyone from Stevie Wonder to Dr. Dre.       Mobile Cell Phone The first cell phone cost $3,995. In 1973, Motorola unveiled the DynaTAC, a brick-sized portable phone that was built in a mere three months. Engineers worked furiously to scale the cell phone down from its original dimensions, 10 times the size, and eventually packed all the necessary technology into a 4.4-pound box.       The Apple I And, of course, no list of this type could ever be complete without including the Apple I, the first personal computer to truly grab the public’s attention. Steve Wozniak had the skills and Steve Jobs had the charisma. Together, they fundamentally changed society – and did so from their garage. They built their...

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8 Video Games to Get Your Kid into Engineering
Oct16

8 Video Games to Get Your Kid into Engineering

With science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field jobs on the rise, many parents are looking at ways to give their kids a head-start. These 8 video games utilize math and engineering skill sets to get kids thinking about complex problem solving at a young age. Kerbal Space Program The goal in Kerbal Space Program is to build rockets using various space junk and engines provided. If the rocket is well built, it will launch off of the planet into space. If it’s poorly constructed, it will explode on its journey. Learning to figure out which materials are best for each building scenario is the challenge. Minecraft No list would be complete without the block building smash-hit, Minecraft. Players are let loose in a world of limitless building possibilities and Lego-style blocks can be built into whatever a child can dream. World of Goo Just like physics problems in high-school classrooms, World of Goo challenges players to use popsicle stick like materials to build bridges across stretches of land. Amazing Alex Amazing Alex is geared towards kids and helps them use their knowledge of household objects to problem solve. Floating balloons and rolling balls are basic physics principles that are combined in complex ways to help Alex make his way through the world. Fantastic Contraption In principle, Fantastic Contraption has players build simple vehicles with cogs and sticks to traverse mazes and pathways. The free game starts easily with 2-wheeled cars solving the easiest of puzzles, but quickly shifts into building other-worldly looking vehicles to scale mountains. SpaceChem Cleverly disguised chemistry training, SpaceChem uses the principles of basic chemical bonds to encourage players to solve a series of mazes by breaking and forming chemical bonds with items on-screen. Patterns Like an upgraded version of Minecraft, Patterns uses triangles instead of blocks to build a limitless number of objects. Players can use triangles and the souped-up object builder to create and interact with anything their heart desires. Banjo Kazooie – Nuts and Bolts A throwback to the Nintendo 64 game of the same name, the latest iteration of the Banjo Kazooie franchise has players build complex cars out of found materials to complete challenges. With no instructions on how to build the right car for the job, players are forced to think outside of the box to come up with wacky and sturdy...

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