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At the Open Source Developer's Conference 2012, Gavin Smith gave a talk "How to make anything. Or: Robots, Paint, and Lasers". Gavin is from Robots and Dinosaurs, the Sydney Hackerspace, where he can make anything using 3D printing, laser CNC and electronics.

This video was shot on my Looxcie Point Of View camera, mounted on my left ear. The advantage is that my head moves the camera. The disadvantage is that my head moves the camera. I tried the camera stabilisation on youtube, and it seemed wrong. Let me know if you can think of ways to improve the quality. The link up the top is to an OGV 100megabyte video file. The original MP4 is available on the Internet Archive but its over 400 Megabytes. Email me or leave a comment if you'd like the link.

I need that Arduino inventor kit, along with a 3D Printer, and to be able to make those amazing laser cut wooden boxes.
Below is the video Gavin showed of "My little piece of privacy"

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At the MooresCloud product launch, inventor Mark Pesce spared 10 minutes in the stairwell to talk about his networked lamp platform.  MooresCloud, is a playful lamp with a LAMP stack, which means it runs Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database and Python or Perl programming language -L.A.M.P. - it can talk to other networked things.
You can find out more at, and support the project on Kickstarter

This is my first interview using my POV wearable Looxcie camera, and my apologies, but it wobbled a lot. I'm also new to video editing on linux, so I used Openshot until it failed, and then exported video to avidemux to edit the final version. Unfortunately I lost quality in the process. I'll put up a better edited version later. For future videos I'm looking at mounting the camera on my glasses instead of on my ear. It should wobble much less.

Youtube is taking longer to upload so this is hosted on the Internet Archive.

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Inventor Mark Pesce has launched MooresCloud, a lamp with a LAMP stack, which means it runs Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database and Python or Perl programming language -L.A.M.P. Mark spoke to me in the stairwell of the Fishburner's building in Sydney at his product launch, about playful smart devices that talk with you.

My apologies for the squeaking stairwell door on the end of Mark Pesce's parting words: "You can have the smartest dishwasher in the world, but if it can't talk with anything, who cares?"  You can find out more at, and support the project on Kickstarter

I'll be posting the Point-Of-View Looxcie version of this interview soon.

IMGP4038 IMGP4037 IMGP4036 IMGP4035 IMGP4034 IMGP4033 IMGP4032 IMGP4031 2012-10-05 19-28-54.141
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Derren Brown poses...

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Derren Brown poses in the press room at the 2012 Olivier Awards at The Royal Opera House on April 15, 2012 in London, England. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Today I did a firmware update for my twin tuner DTV2000DS TV card, and was soon prompted for the latest Ubuntu 12.04LTS kernel firmware update. I updated, and rebooted. Now all my tuners work! MythTV sees 4 tuners, and Kaffeine sees 3 tuners. A test recording on MythTV was weirdly slow and wrong, so I might stay with Kaffeine for now.
Three TV tuners working, I just have to wait for something worth recording like Derren Brown Investigates next week on SBS1.

I bought a Leadtek Winfast DTV2000DS twin TV tuner DVB-T PCI card for $55 in August 2011, in order to make my desktop a Digital Video Recorder, or DVR. I'd researched online that it was supported by Ubuntu, and PCI seemed safer than USB. I figured a USB dongle could be knocked as it sticks out, whereas PCI is safely inside the case.

The LeadTek Winfast DTV2000DS twin tuner has the af9015 chipset, and worked really well.

MythTV is an all-singing, all-dancing, super-duper TV recording and playback centre, which has a backend that runs all the time, ready to record. It also has a frontend that only runs when you want to record stuff, or play video. Its supposedly like a free TiVo.

I followed the tutorials, and I made it work. The test was to run VLC, open a channels.conf file which had TV station frequencies for Sydney, and see TV show up on my PC. Then I just had to install MythTV, which was again, just following an online tutorial.

Then, after 2 weeks of DVR heaven, I got sick. While I was stuck in bed, I realized that MythTV can be set up as a network service, which would let me watch TV on my laptop, in bed. I changed one line in the configuration, and restarted it. MythTv refused to start up again. I changed everything back exactly as it was, but that didn't make it work. In fact it would never work again for over a year, but I'd get it out every now and again and tinker. I cleaned out the mysql database and tried weird advice from the forums, but it never worked.

I gave up, and tried other software. Kaffeine was the best. It doesn't have all the cleverness of MythTV, but it has a simple interface and just works. So I've been using it all the time, while occasionally taking a poke at solving my MythTV problems. I managed to get MythTV to see the TV guide from the shepherd utility, but no signals. I didn't mind, I had a $55 DVR, and I could save the recordings and edit them, delete them, transcode, archive, whatever I wanted.

I bought a USB digital TV tuner with an IT9135 from DealExtreme for $11.20, and then paid $5 on ebay for an aerial socket converter so I could connect it to an outside aerial. I bought this for my parents, but linux was too hard for them to use, no matter what the interface. I could get it working on my desktop as a 3rd tuner by following the tutorial.

Then the Ubuntu 12.04 update came out, and killed my device drivers. No TV recording has been possible since then. I've also been very ill for the last 4 months, so I haven't had resources to put into solving it.

I finally had the time and energy to attack the problem again last week, and I can get the USB IT9135 tuner working. Amazingly, not only does it now work with kaffeine, but MythTV now works. I can hardly believe it! Kaffeine sees a single tuner, but MythTV sees two tuners.

The DTV2000DS has the error message in /var/log/dmesg:

[ 11.257035] dvb-usb: found a 'Leadtek WinFast DTV2000DS' in cold state, will try to load a firmware
[ 11.268782] dvb-usb: downloading firmware from file 'dvb-usb-af9015.fw'

[ 13.380141] af9015: bulk message failed:-110 (63/0)
[ 13.380145] af9015: firmware download failed:-110
[ 13.380164] dvb_usb_af9015: probe of 3-1:1.0 failed with error -110
[ 13.380200] usbcore: registered new interface driver dvb_usb_af9015

I seem to have some kind of firmware problem, but I don't understand it yet. The firmware is the most recent, just downloaded last week with the firmware for the working IT9135 tuner.
Can anyone help me make my DTV2000DS work?

It might be good to get the whole media centre hived off onto a Raspberry Pi $35 computer, but that could be messy if I can get my PCI card going again.

broken phone

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Nokia N95 8GB

Nokia N95 8GB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have an old Nokia N95 8GB handed down to me when a friend updated her phone. Its worked really well and I downloaded all kinds of apps. It was ready for 3G when I signed up. However, now the screen either flickers or goes blank all the time. According to the web forums, its most likely a damaged cable from the keyboard half to the screen half of the phone. For the price of getting it repaired, I could buy a cheap Android phone. 

My immediate concern is backing up my data. The phone's 8 gigabytes is visible as a flash drive when I plug it into my Ubuntu PC, but the phone numbers and sms messages and calendar are not. I've been searching for solutions. Wine on linux will run Nokia Suite but it doesn't work. I have XP on a vmware virtual PC on my linux box, but I upgraded the operating system to 12.04, and for now, vmplayer can't install the kernel modules it needs to work. I have an old installation of XP on a laptop partition, but the Windows Intaller is broken, and won't let a new version of installer install, much less any other software. It needs to be wiped. 

I tried a lot of Nokia Symbian s60 apps for backing up or synchronising. None of them worked. I eventually found a reference to They have a web server set up that speaks the protocols of many types of phones. I didn't have to download an app, just use their settings in the Nokia sync tool, and register as a user on their site. The service is free, supported by advertising on the site. After much messing around, I managed to sync my phone number contacts to the web site, and export them to a comma separated file I can see in a spreadsheet, or maybe import into my next smartphone. (I have copied them to my SIM, but last time I lost numbers that way). The calendar synchronised as well, and phonecopy have an option for me to synchronise with my Google calendar, which I have wanted for a long time. Its just a shame I found it after my screen cable started dying. 

I also want to back up my sms messages, but the phonecopy method just gives me a system error. 

Update: Phonecopy emailed with advice, and my sms and mms messages are now backed up and safe!

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is supposed to be released later today, hopefully it won't be too long before unlocked models are on the Australian market.

Talking frogs

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These are amazing value for very little dollars.
frog1.jpgclick to buy frogs

They record and store 30 seconds of sound when you press the left button. They play back the sound when you walk past them triggering the light sensor in the eye.

This has endless possibilities. Children talk to the frog and he talks back. Teenagers can set the frog up where it won't be noticed and play practical jokes when people trigger the phrase they've recorded. A friend and I set up several of these frogs in a big cloth pyramid in a shopping mall art exhibition of Interactive Sculptures, with a different sound for every direction. My favourite was "hey you!".

Talking Pyramid

The insides come out easily to be made into a new talking object, whether you want your garden gnomes to talk, or a movie poster to be interactive - anything can talk!

I imported a whole bunch, and have sold or given away almost all of them. If I imported more of them, would you buy them?

A SMD (surface-mount device) FTDI chip, on the...

Image via Wikipedia

Toydeath are running a Circuit Bending workshop at the end of January 2011
It will help Toydeath get to the USA and we will be presenting at Dorkbot NYC!

This workshop is for artists and musicians or anyone who would
like to get into electronics. It will suit musicians who are
interested in making unique and cheap electronic instruments and
microphones. Installation Artists will find the skills to make
interactive circuits etc the workshop will cover

· Soldering
· Construction of audio cables.
· Assembling electronic circuits
· Circuit bending and toy modification. Modify an electronic toy to
create your own instrument!

Hands on and great fun, students would walk away with a basic
understanding of electronics and your own electronic instrument
and/or kit! All equipment and components provided.

It will take place on 29 and 30 of Jan 2011
11am to 4pm both days

This is a special workshop to help Toydeath get to the USA for a tour and cultural exchange. Please book at our Fundbreak page

updating the blog

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Its time to update to the latest version of Movable Type. Things may be a little wonky here until its finished.

Nikki's box of wonder close-up

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Here's a close up view of the ice cream van and the scenery going past it on Nikki's box of wonder at the Interactive sculpture exhibition in Ashfield Mall.

Nikki's box of wonder

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Nikki built a box that did amazing things for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield Mall. Nikki's box emitted a stream of bubbles while the scenery of Sydney rolled past a toy ice cream van. She has a peep-hole that revealed a miniature celebrity disco, and a marble run that opened a draw to reveal a fortune card. There's even a water feature on the side.

Neil's Aliens

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Neil built a group of things from another world for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield Mall.The aliens sensed a shadow from the wands and then vibrated around the table
You can hear Neil describing the workshop and his sculptures in this interview.

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Final videoof how Liz built a self-playing foosball table from found objects for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield Mall.
You can hear Liz describe the workshop and her sculpture in the interview.

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Liz built a self-playing foosball table from found objects for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield Mall.

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Liz built a self-playing foosball table from found objects for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield Mall.

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Liz built a self-playing foosball table for the interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns and exhibited at Ashfield mall during the World Cup soccer tournament.

You can hear Liz talking about her sculpture in the interview.

Julie's doll with a heart

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Julie created a sculpture of a doll that breathes through a diaphragm as its heart visibly beats faster and faster, as part of the Interactive sculpture workshop run by Ian Burns with Ashfield Council. The video shows her sculpture being exhibited in Ashfield Mall.

Julie's breathing doll

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Julie created from an old waving Santa, a doll who breathes and has a bright beating heart that you can hear and see. The interaction has a surprise ending.

Bharti's interactive quilt 2

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Bharti combined electronic interaction with her love of quilting for an interactive quilt. Light sensors made from light dependent resistors trigger LEDs and birdsong. From the Interactive Sculpture workshop exhibition in Ashfield mall.You can hear her interviewed about her quilt and the workshop.

Bharti's interactive quilt 1

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Bharti created an interactive electronic quilt at the Interactive sculpture workshop and showed it at the exhibition in Ashfield mall. You can hear her interviewed about her quilt and the workshop.

Angela's bin bomb part 2

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Angela's moving wheely bin again, from the Interactive sculpture exhibition at Ashfield mall, organised through a workshop run by artist-in-residence Ian Burns.

Angela's bin bomb part 1

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Angela's wheely bin, complete with "Ashfield council" label, reacts to people as they approach it. It either moves towards them or away. Angela's "bin bomb" was part of the Interactive sculpture exhibition at Ashfield mall. Angela completed a 6 week workshop with artist in residence Ian Burns.
Her bin is powered by a remote control car, which is driven by a $6 CPU programmed in BASIC, reading light dependent resistors to detect the shadow of approaching people.

Interactive Sculpture Overview

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An overview of the Interactive Sculpture exhibition in Ashfield Mall. Ian Burns ran a workshop sponsored by AShfield council where he taught and facilitated the building of interactive sculptures from found objects by local residents
You can see other videos and the photo gallery, and hear the interviews.

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Last week I visited Dorkbot Sydney at their Serial Space headquarters in Chipendale to see people doing strange things with electricity. Dorkbot has branches in cities all over the world. Technological artist Fred Rodrigues has created a musical instrument out of power tools, computer and an electronic keyboard.

I spoke with Fred Rodrigues at the Dorkbot meeting and recorded some of his demonstration and performance.

Fred's recent projects include,, and, as well as some electronic engineering work on both incarnations of dj smallcocks vinyl arcade. Fred Rodrigues is also a director of




Interactive sculpture interviews

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International artist Ian Burns ran a six week workshop in interactive sculpture as artist-in-residence with Ashfield Council. I participated in the workshop and interviewed Ian Burns and the other artists on the day of the exhibition of our artwork in Ashfield Mall. You can see the videos and photo gallery elsewhere on the site.

IMGP1528 Liz's sculpture
IMGP1534Julie with her breathing doll
IMGP1526Neil with his aliens
IMGP1543Bharti with her quilt
IMGP1575Ian Burns on the left, with most of the worskshop

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