Friday, 25 November 2011

Re-purposing an old laptop

I just rediscovered a draft post from 2011 that I had forgotten about..  may as well post it now.


Old laptops are dirt cheap on eBay these days, and while they may not have touchscreens, quad-core processors or gigs and gigs of RAM, they can still be used for a bunch of different purposes, depending on your needs.

I've been experimenting with an old Toshiba Tecra 8200 to see what I can get it to do.

First problem is that it doesn't have a lot of memory. 128Mb to be precise.
Second problem is that it's got a Pentium processor with not-a-lot of gruntage.

That limits options for what operating system we can run.  It was either something ancient, like Windows 98 (SE, of course), or DSL (Damn Small Linux) which at least has some modern functionality and networking.

So, I opted for DSL and sure enough, it installs and boots up straight off CD.  It detected the built in ethernet port, and the wireless straight away - although attempting to use the wireless connection causes a totally epic fail of a system lockup, complete with old-school graphics glitching..  Nice.

Still, on a wired connection it seems to work ok.  

The web-browser is basic, but functional, and of course terminal / SSH works just fine, so the machine would make a good terminal / basic web browser.  It's also a pretty reasonable resolution screen so it'd make a good digital photo frame, if the case was redone a bit.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A step towards proper "Help me ObiWan Kenobi" holograms.

So, I've seen this a few places now, some researchers in Japan have created a "True 3D" display similar in appearance to the holographic displays we've been promised in SciFi for years and years.

I am not entirely sure how air molecules can be excited to create plasma by targeting lasers, without the lasers being dangerously powerful. Perhaps it's a resonance thing.  Need to read up on it.

What I want to know is can I build one using two £2.50 laser pointers and a fish tank? :-)

Probably not, but it's a nice idea to add to the "I'll never get time to do this" pile.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Weekly Links #4

Ok, so I just realised I didn't publish this last Friday.
Time just sort of got away from me - slippery stuff that it is.

Anyway.. Some cool stuff that I found on the interwebs this week..

The Rolson 28600 Gaming Toolkit - A toolkit specifically designed for fixing games consoles.  This is a genius idea, and although, judging by the reviews, the quality of the tools seems a little bit suspect - it's still interesting.

On a similar tool related theme - Make your own handles for micro-screwdrivers - An instructable on how to make your own handles to improve the torque on micro-screwdrivers, so you can actually un-do screws with them rather than just get annoyed and jab violently at whatever it is you are trying to fix.
Looks good!!!

Nutella and banana ice cream. A food hack  (Or Recipe, as they used to be called)  Sounds really good and surprisingly low-calorie. I must try it at some point.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Weekly Links #3

Some interesting stuff this week, but not a huge amount as I've been pretty busy.

Microsoft Augmented Reality system - based on a bunch of Kinect units, some micro projectors, and some very clever code to link it all together - the projectors act as a kind of flash-light onto the virtual world, overlaid on top of the real world. The real clincher is at the end of the video, with virtual bouncy balls rolling around on a real desk, and into a real drawer.

First manned flight of an octocopter.  Quadrocopters are all the rage at the moment, for their size and maneouverability - however e-volo have taken it a step further, added more rotors and a seat, and made it flyable. It's very obviously a first generation prototype, made from wood, gaffer tape and a fitness ball, still controlled with a standard model plane controller, but it works and they lift off the ground.

"No, I don't know what
 you want for tea!"
Siri equivalent for Android - SpeakToIt Assistant is free, does a lot of the things that Siri does, and also appears to do some stuff that Siri can't do - "Where is the closest Sainsbury's" for example.   It can be used to write emails or SMS, search for music, answer random questions ("How big is Mars" was one we asked, and were very surprised when it told us the estimated mass of Mars)  It also can do searches, calendar related tasks, and in theory, translations, although we couldn't get that to work.   The developers appear very open to ideas, so suggestions for future features stand a good chance of being listened to.   All in all, pretty good fun.  Whether it's actually faster or more useful than the standard text-based interfaces, I don't know.

Make your own mini Arcade Cab - exactly what it says on the tin - how to make your own mini arcade cabinet!

"Do a barrel roll" - In Google Chrome, do a google search for Do a barrel roll.  It's pointless, but actually pretty funny.  In a really geeky way.

Concatenating CSVs the easy way

I was recently asked how to 'merge' a few CSV files into one, and if there was a script or tool that could do that. Lets say you h...