A repository for the various ideas I have and don’t have time to pursue. Some will be seen to, most will be lost, some might be cool for others to play with. If any gets substantially developed it will probably get promoted to it’s own static and/or post.
* Treadle generators — Having played with old treadle sewing machines, there is an incredible amount of energy available in a reciprocating treadmill/flywheel mechanism. Wouldn’t it be cool to build a generator mechanism out of them? I’m not sure about generation capacity or cost, but it seems like it would be an excellent developing world/emergency alternative. I’ve seen a couple off-hand mentions of this sort of thing, but never a product.
* I really want some general shop (wood and metal) skills, but don’t have the space or time to properly develop them. Especially metallic machine parts and finished wooden furniture.
*Smelting/Casting. I’ve always thought it would be cool to learn to hand smelt/cast metals, but don’t really have much of anything to do with it. Maybe if I could find an artist type with things to make. Doesn’t seem that difficult.
* DIY small-scale tack welder. Big inductive toy with crimp contacts for doing small-scale metal bonding.
-Apparently there are now commercial products like this: WELMA 2000 (vendor page appears to be down at time of writing) about $160, and not available in the states.
– Best would be a two stage pedal-operated getup like the ones that were used in old-school tube manufacturing.
* I’d like to make another pass at learning languages, it seems like one of those things that once you can do you can do. Hawaiian would be fun as a novelty.
– Have Learn Hawaiian at Home, done a few lessons. Fun!
* I would like to learn one of the “Post-C C” type programming languages well enough to really use it. D and Go both have at least one thing I find terribly wrong with them design wise, but they both appear to be better designed than C++, and I can put up with that, so either would be an worthwhile. I’m currently picking up some Vala, and it seems to be the best suited for my needs of the bunch.
* Classical computing toys built in (possibly symbolic) unusual media:
– I’ve always wanted electromechanical (clanky TTY style), mechanical (clockwork),or even steam (ooh steampunk) Turing machines, that use ACTUAL paper tape (or, for easier implementation, magnetic tape). The best would be a universal machine that could be set to obnoxious long-running tasks as installation art.
– A small computer built from 74-series TTL with a small low-drop (so that after the LED it would still be reliable logic) LED attached to every pin so it literally displayed its state on the pins at all times. It would be [i]mesmerizing[/i] with a slow clock.
-Cellular automata made out of biological (or biologically suggesting) substrates:
—game of life display made from transparent cells filled with different colored algae with different nutritional requirements; change the display by adjusting the nutrient flow into the cells. Even better if it could be made with semipermeable membranes between the cells so that it actually implemented the rules inherently, with the initial state set by seeding populations and/or nutrients.
— A similar game of life display, made from an automated chemical/biological testing machine (one of the ones that is basically a CNC mill with a micro-pipette head) and a microplate. Either do it by adding/removing colored liquid from the cells to vary the display, or do it continuously refreshing by running a colorful reaction (presumably, catalyst in the cells, reagent in the fluid) which will return to it’s original color (and and volume: release something as a gas?)unless refreshed.
— Either of the game of life ideas above would make a damn nifty display for arbitrary input, but it loses the bemusingly artistic properties.
* In the next couple years subcutaneous e-paper displays should become an option. Maybe use an inductive programmer to both charge and change it to facilitate encapsulation. I’m not terribly inclined to get a tattoo, but a little section of programmable e-paper over the bicep would be fucking cool. Even more sci-fi would be getting some nerve snares or other little implantable potential monitors to get limited mode-setting internally.
* In the “vintage sewing equipment” line of thinking, it would be really fun to make modern style clothing using techniques and equipment developed before an arbitrary date (1950?). Especially using pre-serger/overlock seam technique: French seamed cargo pants ftw! This would also address my ongoing frustration with finding quality cargo pants that aren’t “pre-distressed;” I prefer to come by my clothing damage the old fashioned way. Also, cargo pants that haven’t had a run in with a grinder in a sweat shop look surprisingly classy now that most of them come distressed.
* I’ve seen some Calvin and Hobbes stuffed Hobbes projects (Watterson, likely rightly, didn’t merchandise). I want to make one. Fabric, not crochet, and definitely “adult view” Hobbes. Something similar to silent orchid’s design.
* I see a nice strategy for building modular cluster (live)provisioning tools using GNU Stow, preferably tied in with Warewulf3. The base image would remain untouched, but Stow and some NFS/SSH magic should allow easy (even semi-transparent) software loading, and because of stow’s isolation properties it would be easy to track/change dynamically. I’d like to try it, but there is no time.
* I’d love to make or buy a Semi Virtual Diskette mechanism that emulated an Apple SuperDrive which could be dropped in to any 800k or 1.44M Mac. I don’t think it would be that hard to forge the drive protocol, most of the logic is in the (S)IWM on the motherboard, and the connector doesn’t have too many pins.
* If I ever find myself designing and teaching a programming classes of moderate size, I’d like to get into the habit of, early on, offering the class miniature rubber duckies for Rubber Ducking. One of the best things a programmer can learn is that if you can’t explain it to yourself, it shouldn’t work. If you can explain it to yourself, it probably does.
* Low-bandwidth non-disruptive notifiers: devices to communicate small amounts of information to the user without interrupting the user’s activity, or other nearby individuals. We’re starting to see HUDs, but that isn’t the only option, perhaps a bracelet with a physical transducer facing the sensitive inner wrist, signaling braille or more characters.