This Robot Barfs Comics!

See the original posting on Hackaday

If there’s one thing that’s more fun than a comic, it’s a randomly generated comic. Well, perhaps that’s not true, but Reddit user [cadinb] wrote some software to generate a random comic strip and then built a robot case for it. Push a button on the robot and you’re presented with a randomly generated comic strip from the robot’s mouth.

The software that [cadinb] wrote is in Processing, an open source programming language and “sketchbook” for learning to code if you’re coming from a visual arts background. The Processing code determines how the images are cropped and placed and what …read more

Managing React State With Render Props

See the original posting on DZone Python

Brief Introduction

Over the years, React has evolved with different patterns and techniques to solve two fundamental problems:

  1. How to share and reuse code.
  2. How to manage unidirectional state.

In early versions of React, there was the concept of mixins. These ended up being a fragile solution. Mixins were eventually deprecated and a new pattern emerged called Higher-Order Components (HoC). A HoC helps solve our first issue of sharing and reusing code in a maintainable and composable manner.

A Middle-Aged Writer’s Quest To Start Learning To Code For the First Time

See the original posting on Slashdot

OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: The Economist’s 1843 magazine details one middle-aged writer’s (Andrew Smith) quest to learn to code for the first time, after becoming interested in the “alien” logic mechanisms that power completely new phenomena like crypto-currency and effectively make the modern world function in the 21st Century. The writer discovers that there are over 1,700 actively used computer programming languages to choose from, and that every programmer that he asks “Where should someone like me start with coding?” contradicts the next in his or her recommendation. One seasoned programmer tells him that programmers discussing what language is best is the equivalent of watching “religious wars.” The writer is stunned by how many of these languages were created by unpaid individuals who often built them for “glory and the hell of it.” He is also amazed by how many people help each other with coding problems on the internet every day, and the computer programmer culture that non-technical people are oblivious of. Eventually the writer finds a chart of the most popular programming languages online, and discovers that these are Python, Javascript, and C++. The syntax of each of these languages looks indecipherable to him. The writer, with some help from online tutorials, then learns how to write a basic Python program that looks for keywords in a Twitter feed. The article is interesting in that it shows what the “alien world of coding” looks like to people who are not already computer nerds and in fact know very little about how computer software works. There are many interesting observations on coding/computing culture in the article, seen through the lens of someone who is not a computer nerd and who has not spent the last two decades hanging out on Slashdot or Stackoverflow.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Collaborating in Fortnite

See the original posting on Boing Boing

Fortnite is popular for tons of reasons, but chief among it is the “battle royale” style of combat — 100 random players dropped on an island, foraging for defenses and weapons, and killing each other until only one is left standing. There’s no in-game chat, so you have to assume that anyone you encounter is a threat. In such a situation, it’s necessarily dog-eat-dog, yes?

Nope. As Robin Sloan — one of my fave writers and thinkers — discovered, it’s also possible to hack a form of cooperation.

It works like this: Sloan unlocked an upgrade that lets you display a “heart” icon above your head. So he tried using it as a single-bit mode of game-theoretical communication. When he was dropped into the game, upon encountering another player, he’d refrain from shooting — and instead toss up the “heart” icon.

At first, it didn’t work. The other player kept on killing him anyway. Until …

Then, one night, it worked. And, in many games since, it’s worked again. Mostly I get blasted, but sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, the possibilities bloom. Sometimes, after we face off and stand down, the other player and I go our separate ways. More frequently, we stick together. I’ve crossed half the map with impromptu allies.

When it works, it is usually because I have a weapon and my potential ally doesn’t. When (shockingly) I do not blast them and (even more shockingly) do not pull a bait and switch, a real human connection is established, on a channel deeper than any afforded by the interface. Then, very reliably, when the other player acquires a weapon of their own—sometimes it’s a gift from me—there is no double cross.

It’s never not tenuous. You both have your weapons out. Sprinting down steep trails, my ally’s footfalls crunching loud in my headphones, either of us, at any time, could flick our wrist and end the other’s game, collecting their stockpile of weapons and resources.

But we don’t!

When they’re successful, these negotiations are honestly more nervy and exciting than the game’s most intense shoot-outs.

As Sloan points out, being able to forge a detente in a situation where robust communication is impossible has some interesting real-world implications. One, as he notes, is that it refracts the “Dark Forest” theory of Liu Cixin, which argues that the reason we haven’t encountered any other intelligent life in the universe is that they’re keeping their heads low. They’ve decided that, given the possible hostility of other alien civilizations, and given that robust intergalactic-intercivilization communication might be impossible on first contact, the universe is essentially a game of Fortnite: If someone spots you, they’ll zoom in for the kill.

But what if the same logic that allows for low-bandwidth-communication in Fortnite also allows for first-blush cooperation with an alien species?

The stakes of taking that risk are of course existentially rather higher than in a game of Fortnite, heh. But the fun here is, as Sloan points out, in pondering ways that two opponents might say “Hold up. Let’s do this a different way.”

Not a bad lesson for inter-human life here on Earth, frankly.

Go read the whole essay — it’s terrific!

This movie about a 1300-year-old family business is the most sublime thing you’ll see today

See the original posting on Boing Boing

Built in 718 AD, H?shi is the second oldest ryokan (hotel or inn) in the world and, with 46 consecutive generations of the same family running it, is hands down the longest running known family business in history. But, after 1300 years of tradition, change is in the air. The H?shi ryokan, in Komatsu, Japan, is a beautiful space that has a beautiful story, told well, in this short video by filmmaker Fritz Schumann.

Linear Clock is a Different Way to Look at Time

See the original posting on Hackaday

There are usually two broad user interfaces for clocks. On the one hand you’ve got the dial clock, the default display for centuries, with its numbered face and spinning hands. The other mode is some form of digital clock, where the current time is displayed directly as alphanumeric characters. They’re both useful representations of time, but they both have their limits.

Here’s a third model — the linear clock. [Jan Derogee] came up with it thanks to the inspiration of somewhat dubious run-ins with other kinds of clocks; we feel like this introductory video was made with tongue firmly planted …read more

Battlefield V’s creators: female characters are ‘here to stay’

See the original posting on The Verge

The reveal of the new WWII first person shooting game Battlefield V prompted a strong reaction from some fans, but not exactly in the way its developer, DICE, might have intended. Online, a contingent of disgruntled players has been pushing back against the “inaccuracies” of the game, specifically the developer’s decision to include female soldiers on the frontlines. But DICE has a message for these angry voices: their female characters aren’t going anywhere.

On Twitter, DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson addressed the dustup. “First, let me be clear about one thing,” he says. “Player choice and female playable characters are here to stay. We want Battlefield V to represent all those who were a part of the greatest drama in human…

Continue reading…

Interview with Scotty Allen, host of the Strange Parts Youtube channel

See the original posting on Boing Boing

My Cool Tools podcast guest this week is Scotty Allen. Scotty is a nomadic engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer and storyteller who orbits around San Francisco and Shenzhen, China. He runs a YouTube channel Strange Parts, a travel adventure show for geeks where he goes on adventures ranging from building his own iPhone in China to trying to make a manhole cover in India.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

1080P HDMI digital camera video microscope ($299)

“So one of the things that I have gotten an outsized amount of value from over the past year has been this microscope that I bought here in the electronics markets in China. It’s a no-brand-name microscope that I got from a little tiny microscope booth in the market, and it’s really been this incredibly high-leverage tool for me, and I didn’t realize how much I was missing out until I bought it. It’s been really great for doing detail work. And I use it for really small soldering work on iPhones and related circuit boards … It’s a binocular microscope. It’s not super high magnification, but because it’s binocular you get depth of field, and so you can really see well. So you can look through the microscope and work underneath it with tweezers or a soldering iron or other tools and in great depth see what you’re doing.”

“ is an online tool that I use for collaborating on the videos I’m making. And it’s a really simple tool … The short version is that you can upload a video to it, and then you can share that video privately with other people, who can then go in and leave comments. You can even draw things on a specific frame of the video using some drawing tools. And then you can have threaded conversations on each of the comments you leave, and multiple people can leave comments, et cetera. And that, at face value, is super simple, but it really allows remote collaboration on videos in ways that there really aren’t very many other good tools for. In fact, I don’t think I’ve found any other good tools. I come from a software engineering background, and we have some great tools there now that have been built over the past 10 years for doing things like code review where you can do something similar, where you can go in and leave comments on a particular line of code on a change someone wants to make. And so I come from that. I come from running a remote software team prior to doing Strange Parts, and so I was really hungry for all of these tools that I’d used as a software engineer. And so is one piece of that. It’s sort of that feedback piece of, ‘Hey, I did this thing. Can you give me feedback on it in a detailed way that’s sort of context-based on the part you’re talking about?'”

TV-B-Gone universal remote control ($25)

“The TV-B-Gone is a universal television remote with one button, and the button turns any TV off. So this is a cool thing made by a close friend of mine, Mitch Altman, who I know from Noisebridge hackerspace, and I actually owned one long before I knew Mitch. It was given to me as a stocking stuffer at Christmas one year, probably like 10 years ago, something like that. … for the first long while that I owned it, I didn’t really use it very much, but now it has become indispensable because I’m traveling a lot more, and when you’re jetlagged and you’re in an airport on a layover in the middle of the night in Russia and there’s a blaring TV in the corner that nobody’s watching, the TV-B-Gone is a great way to solve that problem. So in short, you press the button, it takes up to 15 seconds, and it will cycle through all of the off codes that are programmed in it for all of the different televisions. So you just point it at the TV, and it’s great for just sort of calming an otherwise unbearable airport lounge.”

Shoe cover dispenser ($114)

“The one I have kind of looks like a suitcase. It’s maybe two feet by one foot by like six inches tall, and it’s that silver material, silver metal that they make briefcases in the movies for carrying large amount of cash in sort of look. It’s got a handle. And on top, it’s got an oval-shaped hole that is slightly larger than your average foot, or your average shoe, and the idea is that you stomp your foot down through the hole and it applies a shoe cover over your shoes automatically. You don’t have to touch anything. You just step in it and then step out, and now you’ve got a shoe cover on your shoe. … I ran across it on a factory tour. I visit a lot of factories here in Shenzhen, and I was at an LED factory that was making LEDs. They were trying to keep dust down, and one of the ways they do that is by having everybody wear shoe covers. So there are a number of factories that will do this, and you can tell how fancy the factory is based on whether you have to bend down and put the shoe cover on yourself or whether you have one of these automatic shoe cover machines. And so this LED factory was the first time I’d seen this, and it blew my mind. It was a special purpose thing that was so clever and so well made.”

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $342 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Don’t Flake on Your Fish—Feed them Automatically

See the original posting on Hackaday

We get it. You love your fish, but they can’t bark or gently nip at your shin flesh to let you know they’re hungry. (And they always kind of look hungry, don’t they?) One day bleeds into the next, and you find yourself wondering if you’ve fed them yet today. Or are you thinking of yesterday? Fish deserve better than that. Why not build them a smart fish feeder?

Domovoy is a completely open-source automatic fish feeder that lets you feed them on a schedule, over Bluetooth, or manually. This simple yet elegant design uses a small stepper motor to …read more

How sensors are giving us another way to peek inside our bodies

See the original posting on The Verge

This ingestible sensor has bacteria inside that is programmed to sense blood in the gut, and then wirelessly deliver that information.

The bacteria, molecules, and chemicals in our bodies hold important clues about our health, and scientists are creating sensors that can tap into this information in the easiest way possible. These are sensors that can be swallowed to warn of gut trouble, implanted to monitor how well an injury is recovering, or just sit on teeth to track the state of your mouth.

The gut sensor is about the size of a pen cap, and it’s filled with bacteria that scientists genetically engineered to detect a compound in blood called heme, and then glow if heme is present. The sensor can pick up the glow of the bacteria, and then ping a smartphone app. (In the future, it could pick up other compounds, too.)

The sensor has only been tested in pigs so far,…

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An Ultrasound Driver With Open Source FPGAs

See the original posting on Hackaday

Ultrasound imaging has been around for decades, but Open Source ultrasound has not. While there are a ton of projects out there attempting to create open ultrasound devices, most of this is concentrated on the image-processing side of things, and not the exceptionally difficult problem of pinging a sensor at millions of times a second, listening for the echo, and running that through a very high speed ADC.

For his entry into the Hackaday Prize, [kelu124] is doing just that. He’s building an ultrasound board that’s built around Open Hardware, a fancy Open Source FPGA, and a lot of very …read more

Biasing That Transistor: The Emitter Follower

See the original posting on Hackaday

We were musing upon the relative paucity of education with respect to the fundamentals of electronic circuitry with discrete semiconductors, so we thought we’d do something about it. So far we’ve taken a look at the basics of transistor biasing through the common emitter amplifier, then introduced a less common configuration, the common base amplifier. There is a third transistor amplifier configuration, as you might expect for a device that has three terminals: the so-called Common Collector amplifier. You might also know this configuration as the Emitter Follower. It’s called a “follower” because it tracks the input voltage, offering …read more

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