These antique phones are precious, private Alexa vessels

Amazon’s Alexa may be in ten thousand different devices now, but they all have one other thing in common: they’re new. So for those of us that prefer old things but still want to be able to set timers and do metric-imperial conversions without pulling out our phones, Grain Design is retrofitting these fabulous old telephones to provide Alexa access with no other hints of modernity. There’s even a privacy angle!

The phones themselves (spotted by a BoingBoing tipster) are genuine antiques, and not even the mass-produced Bell sets you see so often. I personally love the copper-plated model, though I certainly wouldn’t say no to the candlestick. Dick Whitney, who runs the company, modifies the hardware to make room for an Echo Dot inside. Pick up the phone and speak, and Alexa answers, just like the operators of yore! Except you can ask Alexa anything and it won’t
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What the newly revised copyright law lets (and doesn’t let) you do with your gadgets

You think you own your phone, but you don’t. Copyright law prohibits you from modifying its software in certain ways, opening you up to a voided warranty, cancelled service, or even a lawsuit — but that’s slowly changing as the government acknowledges the need (and arguably right) to repair our own devices. A favorable decision from the Copyright Office gives you considerably more freedom with your gadgets, but it’s far from an ideal solution.

As a brief bit of background, the law that prevents you from, say, installing third-party software on your car or sideloading apps onto your Amazon Echo is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s meant to make it illegal to circumvent digital copyright protections on software and media, but it’s been used for much more than that. Companies started stashing all kinds of things behind digital locks and therefore controlling the only means that
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Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)

There’s no shortage of interesting electronics kits out there to occupy an idle Sunday, but with this one you get a phone out of the bargain. The MakerPhone is a kit looking for funds on Kickstarter that lets you assemble a working mobile phone from a number of boards and pieces, and the end result looks about as wild as you’d expect.

For about a hundred bucks, you get a mainboard, casing, LCD, wireless module, processor, and all the other pieces you need to make a basic smartphone. You’re not going to be browsing Instagram on this thing, but you can make calls, send texts, and play Snake. Remember when that was enough? This is purpose-built hardware, of course — you won’t be putting it together cap by cap — but it’s not exactly plug and play, either. You’ll need a soldering iron, snippers, and some Python chops. (Not delicious
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How to Make Homemade Gin in the Instant Pot

Gin may be flavored vodka, but it’s the best of the flavored of vodkas. However, since the only requirement for calling something “gin” is that the primary flavor is “juniper,” you can make your own with a simple infusion, and you can use the Instant Pot to do so very quickly.
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The 10 Best Ways to Boost Your Home Wifi

Wifi is one of the most important developments in the evolution of the internet—no one wants to be chained to a desktop—but it’s also one of the most frustrating. If you’re plagued by slow speeds, bad reception, and other wifi issues, here are 10 ways you can power up the wifi in your home.
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NASA’s Open Source Rover lets you build your own planetary exploration platform

Got some spare time this weekend? Why not build yourself a working rover from plans provided by NASA? The spaceniks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have all the plans, code, and materials for you to peruse and use — just make sure you’ve got $2,500 and a bit of engineering know-how. This thing isn’t made out of Lincoln Logs. The story is this: after Curiosity landed on Mars, JPL wanted to create something a little smaller and less complex that it could use for educational purposes. ROV-E, as they called this new rover, traveled with JPL staff throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, among the many questions asked was often whether a class or group could build one of their own. The answer, unfortunately, was no: though far less expensive and complex than a real Mars rover, ROV-E was still too expensive and complex to be a class project. So JPL engineers
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This MIDI-powered robotic music box is the good news I needed this week

It’s been a bit of a tumultuous week, to put it lightly, but one must always remember that no matter how dire things look on the global stage, there are always makers working obsessively to create something beautiful and useless — like this MIDI-driven, robotic music box. Tinkerer and music box aficionado Mitxela (via Hackaday) was pleased by this music box that takes punch cards or rolls as input, rather than having a metal drum with the notes sticking out of it. But who wants to punch cards all day to make a music box go? These things are supposed to be simple! Mitxela first made a script that takes a MIDI file and outputs an image compatible with his laser cutter, allowing cards or paper strips to be created more or less automatically. But then there’s the question of wear and tear, storing the strips, taping them together
Continue reading "This MIDI-powered robotic music box is the good news I needed this week"

This MIDI-powered robotic music box is the good news I needed this week

It’s been a bit of a tumultuous week, to put it lightly, but one must always remember that no matter how dire things look on the global stage, there are always makers working obsessively to create something beautiful and useless — like this MIDI-driven, robotic music box. Tinkerer and music box aficionado Mitxela (via Hackaday) was pleased by this music box that takes punch cards or rolls as input, rather than having a metal drum with the notes sticking out of it. But who wants to punch cards all day to make a music box go? These things are supposed to be simple! Mitxela first made a script that takes a MIDI file and outputs an image compatible with his laser cutter, allowing cards or paper strips to be created more or less automatically. But then there’s the question of wear and tear, storing the strips, taping them together
Continue reading "This MIDI-powered robotic music box is the good news I needed this week"

This robot can solve a Rubik’s Cube in .38 seconds

 When future generations look back on 2018 what will they remember? Not much, I suspect, except for this amazing robot that can solve a Rubik’s cube in .38 seconds. The video, above, shows the cube in an unsolved position and then the actuators jump into action, slamming squares into place like some kind of crazed version of Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness. Created… Read More

Create the unholy DIY union of Alexa and Furby this weekend

 As we approach the End Times there will be great signs and portents. They say the dead will rise and walk the earth. Great fire will come from the sky and burn the wicked and the good alike. A Furby will speak in the voice of Alexa. The Turtle of the Universe will cough up her young to pass judgement on our collective consciousness. At least one of those things has just come true. In this… Read More

HoloKit is like Google Cardboard for augmented reality

 The revelation behind Google Cardboard was that if you put your phone close enough to your eyes, it’s basically a VR headset — but it’s not quite that simple for mixed reality setups like Microsoft’s HoloLens. Or is it? HoloKit is an extremely clever DIY solution for a quick and dirty augmented reality experience with a bare minimum of equipment. Read More

Stop Storing Your Knives in Drawers Already 

Knives are some of the most important tools in the kitchen, yet there are people who keep them in drawers, where they clang around, knocking into each other, getting all dinged up and sad. Do not do this. There are much better ways to store your knives, and some of them you can even make yourself.
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Stop Storing Your Knives in Drawers Already 

Knives are some of the most important tools in the kitchen, yet there are people who keep them in drawers, where they clang around, knocking into each other, getting all dinged up and sad. Do not do this. There are much better ways to store your knives, and some of them you can even make yourself.
Read more...