Archive for April, 2006

Weather data sources

I've been looking for some weather data sources that don't require web scraping.  Here's what I have.

It's good to note that there are a lot of really great sources of data at Yahoo's developer site.  This includes traffic data, a dcent map api, search functionality and more.  Google maps has a map api as well.

Bluetooth Logo and Karl Bickel

Bluetooth/Bickel

I walk past this poster by Karl Bickel almost every day.  One day, to my surprise, I noticed that the artist's signature looked a lot like the Bluetooth logo.  A quick side-by-side comparison of the tiny blue logo on my cell-phone and the poster confirmed the match.  I also found this example of Karl's signature (it is in the center of the image).

A little bit of internet research revealed that the Bluetooth logo was supposedly constructed from Nordic runes that represent the initials of the Danish king Harald Blåtand after whom Bluetooth was named (see this wiki article).

Anyway, I found no mention of any connection between Bickel's signature and the Bluetooth logo on the internet.  Has anyone noticed this before?

DIY/Technofear/SPIMES

I am currently reading Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things.  On pg. 23 he talks a bit about how metrics should make the inner workings of technologies more apparent to this user.  He says "There are many ways to make these metrics impinge on my behavior — by making things cost more or less, of course, but also making their workings more obvious, giving me a stake, and putting them closer to my fingertips." (p. 23)

This reminds me of the various ideas present in Why Things Matter, by Julian Bleecker.  Specifically, it reminds me of the How Stuff is Made project.  This project attempts to embed "manufacturing processes, labor conditions, environmental consequences and so on" within an object itself.  Bleecker refers to this process as giving an object an "embedded event history" and is relevant to his discussions of "blogjects" (see Why Things Matter).

Anyway, all of these concerns, along with the growing DIY craze (note the rise in public popularity of Makezine, Hack-a-day, Endgadget, Instructables and others) lead me to believe that people are beginning to have a different relationship with technology.  There is a growning sense of empowerment that comes with education (i.e. how do I take fix my own ipod) that is facilitated by the multimedia capabilities of the internet.  Of course there has always been a hacker sub-culture — Popular Mechanics and Popular Science have encouraged hacking for quite a while, but this seems more extensive.

Hopefully this more empowered relationship with technological "things" will result in better artmakers and will encourage technological creativity in formerly tech-wary students.

Art/Design/Interaction

My recent adventures in following the bibliographic paper trail have led me deep into the forest of interaction and design theory.  I am currently trying to make some connections.  The old "is it art or is it design?" question continues to come up.  These categories are quite inadequate and will never fully describe a field or a made object.  But somewhere at the root of the desire to categorize an object or field is the desire to categorize the maker's intent.  Anyway, much of the design theory I have been reading (M. McCullough, Digital Ground) is quite concerned with interaction.  As an self-classified artist pursuing a degree and Time and Interactivity, theories of interaction are quite interesting to me.  

In Digital Ground McCullough says "Embodiment is a property of interactions; latent embodied abilities exist [in the user]; and good interactive technology lets us exercise these abilities."  This, of course, seems to be a legitimate desire — design interactive technologies that are intuitive and don't require the user (participant/subject/spectator/interactivant/actor) to learn a new skill in order to access the art project.

But I am left wondering how much of these interaction theories should be "designed" into my art.  I suppose it is content driven.  I suppose there will be situations when the interaction should be intentionally difficult in order to prove a point.  In any case should have a clear sense of what role they are supposed to play, not matter how complicated or unnatural the interactive gesture is.

This seems to be a perpetual problem.  How much instruction do you give a participant and how much should be left for them to discover?  Will a project fail if the participant fails to discover the richness of an artists obscure interactive technology?

The answer to questions seeking an "always" seems to always be "sometimes".

PIC Processor – Beginnings

So, I got my first PIC processor(s) today.  I now have a PIC16F84A and two PIC18F232(? … need to double check this).  I was able to install MPLAB, and it successfully communicated with the PicStart Plus.  I also installed Microchip's C18 C comiler.  There are several others to try, but I think I will attempt to get one working before I try out the others.

Power for the Gumstix

I have spent a good deal of time figuring out how to power the Gumstix for portable use.  Initial tests with 3 AA (~4.5 V) batteries proved ineffective.  A standard set of alkaline batteries from Radioshack gave me about 1/2 hour of performance.  After that, the voltage diminished and fluctuated, causing the Gumstix to reset sporadically.  The same low voltage problems attended the use of rechargable (what type?) AA batteries.

I am now looking into several other power options.  Randell et al. were able to achieve 6 hours of continuous power using a 750mAh Lithium Polymer battery.  I am looking into the following battery/charger combinations.

It is a bit pricey, but should work.  I will update my findings on the Gumstix Resources page.

I Wear Your Heart on My Sleeve

I would like to create a completely portable battery-powered device that sniffs wireless chat conversation in public places such as a coffee shop and displays theose conversation on a custom garmet.  I desire to continue my exploration of public/private, the everyday, technology/communication etc.  Previous (documented) work to this end can be found here, here and here.

The majority of the wireless sniffing will be done with one of my Gumstix 400xm-bt computers.  Much of that programming work is already done.  The more difficult part of the project is figuring out how to power and control an interesting output device.  I will also have to figure out how to move Gumstix-generated i2c commands down to the controller (most probably a pic processor).  Here's a list of parts I am looking at.

The Serial LCD is only 0.56" x 1.75".  This is not really large enough to make a dynamic display that would be viewable by any kind of audience in a public space such as a coffee shop.  Perhaps some sort of a magnification strip would be needed?  The LED Matricies vary in size.  The large tri-color matrix is 2.38" x 2.38", while the two color matrix is only 1.25" x 1.25"  I would need several of these smaller ones.  I would like the entire display to be wearable (and readable hopefully) on my upper arm.  That puts my target display dimensionsat about 2.5" x 5".  In this case 2 x the three color LED matrix could work.  2 x the Red LED matrix would also work and might be easier to tackle as a first LED matrix control project.  Could also create a matrix of cloth-embedded LEDs such as this tank top by Leah Buechley.  But that might be a bit more difficult to read.