EricSkiff.com Open Source Everything

24Nov/081

Making a DIY Robotic Arm

I stopped in at NYC Resistor Saturday night looking to really start learning how to program electronics using the Arduino platform, and started taking apart the twitchie kit that I'd bought from Raphael to hack on.

It turns out that Bre was already in the middle of a similar project, and had fashioned a DIY robotic arm out of servos, a twitchie board (which uses the same firmware as the Arduino Lilypad) and Popsicle sticks. We joined forces and put together this amazing little thing:


Things - Eric Skiff and Bre Pettis created a Popsicle Stick Robotic Arm from Bre Pettis on Vimeo.

We hacked an old Atari joystick to control the arm, and each servo is manipulated in turn as you press the red button. It really was a ton of fun to bring this project together, and I'm amazed at what we did in a few hours. Huge thanks to Bre for having the hardware all set to go and to Raph for his awesome Twitchie kit and all his advice along the way.

If you'd like to embark on a similar project, here's the code for SuperRobotArm v0.2.

Bre is debating keeping the popsicle stick aesthetic or making a slick laser-cut body, and is taking votes via comments on his blog. Let him know what you think!

By the way - this video is part of Bre's excellent "Things" series, where he features a new awesome thing each day. You can check out the archives at bre.blip.tv, or Subscribe in itunes to get new episodes as they come out!

27Mar/071

PodCampNYC has moved – Video Walkthrough of the New Yorker Hotel

PodCampNYC hits my elevator
PodCampNYC, a new-media unconference I'm helping to organize, has grown beyond our wildest dreams!

We've made a decision as a group to move to The New Yorker Hotel to accommodate everyone and provide the best event possible. Join us April 6-7 to learn about podcasting and all things new-media, and to meet some of the best and brightest in the field.

Laura Allen and I got a chance to walk through the New Yorker yesterday, and I've assembled a quick video to give everyone a sneak peek of the space. We've got more than 100 sessions scheduled, so there's a lot of rooms! Check out this screencap of the draft schedule:

PodcampNYC draft schedule in Google Calendar - this is both scary and awesome!

The sheer number of sessions is almost overwhelming, but as I put sessions in place last night, I realized that the sessions are so strong that each room could be it's own conference in and of itself. I'm incredibly proud to be part of this right now!

Watch the video walkthrough:

10Sep/063

Reflections on Podcamp Boston, Day 1

Podcamp is awesome.

I could simply end this post right there, but I suppose that's not much fun, is it?

Well, there's been so much that happened today that I almost don't know where to begin. People have come from Kansas, NYC, London, and elsewhere to join in the new media love-in that is Podcamp.

I'd admit to being a bit shortsighted about this event. When I first heard the idea for Podcamp, I didn't quite get how Barcamp, a multidisciplinary unconference about all things geek (including podcasting) would look if you filtered it down to just Podcasting and Vlogging. If you took out all the non-podcasters, who would come?

Christopher S. Penn and Chris Brogan had the foresight to realize that the Barcamp model is by nature self-exclusive. Because it's an extremely technical event and everyone who comes is expected to present, people will refrain from participating for fear that they've got nothing to say. With podcamp, those who are new to podcasting are instead encouraged to come and learn.

The more inclusive atmosphere has created a ton of participation. At last count, nearly 400 people had registered for podcamp. Andrew and Joanne of Rocketboom are here (and yes, Amanda is here too, but those hoping for drama and subsequent mud-wrestling grudge matches have so far been disappointed ;).) C.C. Chapman is here. Steve Garfield is here. Chris MacDonald is here. These are mini-celebrities of the new media world, and yet they're all completely down to earth, hanging out and chatting with everyone late into the evening.

The panels I've attended have been excellent, and I'm looking forward to catching the ones I missed via podcast later.

While I've been writing this, I've also been prepping the "warm up" show for tomorrow that will be played over the sound-system while everything gets set up. Speaking of The Alternative Music Show, tonight, Chris Penn asked if I had some shows with me to play during the after-event. Considering I was hauling nearly everything I own, I would have been ashamed if I hadn't brought a few episodes with me!

While we all chatted, ate, and drank, songs from C.C.'s warm-up and the GlitchCast Rewind editions of The Alternative Music Show played from the speakers. It was strange to hear music that I was so incredibly familiar with coming out of bar speakers all night, and a very nice touch to the evening. Several times, people came over to me and asked who someone was because they really liked them. I love getting instant feedback like that!

Okay, I've got to crash so I can get up tomorrow for day two! I've said it once, I'll say it again. Podcamp is awesome!

9Sep/060

Conference rule number 1: you can sleep when you get home.

I'm currently on my way to Podcamp Boston. It's just past 7AM and I'm already winding past hartsdale, crammed into the only half-a-seat left on the bus when I arrived.

That's my own fault of course... I cut my commute famously close this morning, leaving at 5:45 for a 6:30 bus. That sort of stunt might fly during rush hour, but by 6, my subway train hadn't even left the station (we live at the end of the line). I hurtled down corridors and up flights of stairs with the heaviest bag I've ever packed.

But it's worth it.

As we rode out of NYC, the black sky turned to inky blue, and then almost suddenly to grey as a huge red sun appeared at the horizon. I always forget that sunrise is constantly duking it out with sunset for title of "most beautiful thing that happens around you every day, but most of us never notice."

We get around thirty thousand of these things in our lifetime. How many have you really seen? I can count maybe 5 great sunrises that I've been awake and aware to appreciate.

Allow me, if you will, to share my geek glee with you for a moment. Part of the reason I was up late last night, aside from packing nearly every piece of production equipment, puppet, and cool gadget I own into a giant suitcase, was that one of my co-workers was handing off the holy grail of geeky equipment.

Verizon PC5220 card

We've got 2 EVDO wireless access cards (basically, highspeed cell-phone modems) where I work. One is with our President at all times, and the other rides with one of our field workers. I called this incredible individual, and not only did he graciously offer to let me take it for the weekend, he personally drove it out to me in Astoria in the wee hours of the morning, acting like it was no problem at all. He was all smiles and "don't worry about it" at 1 AM after a long day.

Sometimes when people are class acts, it just kinda shines through in everything they do. I need to get him a bottle of wine or something!

So, that means that, yes, for once I'm actually posting this from the bus, rather than writing and saving it up to post later. That's nifty and all, but the real beauty is that I won't be contributing to the inevitable bandwidth clog that podcamp will bring. Barcamp cripples any facilities wireless simply by virtue of the fact that there's a hundred or so geeks all online at once, but us podcampers will also be adding rich media like audio and video to that mix, and you know it's going to be a miracle if anyone can get online on the wifi at peak times.

Now I just need to figure out how to share the EVDO bandwith over my wifi in ad-hoc mode... Hmmm.

30Aug/060

So many events! I need a Time Turner!

Hermione's time turner from Harry Potter

(A replica of Hermione's time-turner from the Harry Potter 3. )

Why is it that all the events I want to attend here in NYC happen on the same Wednesday evening?

Tonight, I'll be heading to the Video 2.0 event, but that means I'll not only be missing yet another NYC podcasters meetup, but I'm also going to miss a NYLUG (New York Linux Users Group) presentation with Ajai Khattri talking about Gentoo Linux.

If these events were Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I'd love to be at all three!

While I'm wishing for the magic ability to be everywhere at once, I'm bummed that I'm going to have to miss MarCamp - the ad-hoc, barcamp style marketing conference on Sept. 26th. If you're out on the west coast and involved in podcasting, blogging, or any type of marketing, I'd really suggest making it to this event. I know a bunch of people are heading out that way a bit early for the Portable Media Expo, and it would make a great first stop!

Speaking of the PME, I'll be skipping that as well, instead pouring all my energy into Podcamp in Boston on Sept 9th-10th and BarCampNYCII here in the city Sept 30-Oct 1st.

Phew! That's a lot of events, and a lot of links! Wish me luck, it's going to be a fun month!

2Jul/060

Win Ewan’s Stuff – Everyone Gets A Prize

Ewan Spence, our friend and fellow TPN podcaster is moving, and has to shed some of his stuff. For £5 (roughly $10), you get entered in a raffle for his best geekery and best of all, everyone wins! You might get some VHS tapes or you might get an mp3 player and freakin' digital camera! Either way, you get the excited "kid on christmas" suprise of opening that envelope and seeing what's inside. Here's his post:

Win My Stuff - Everyone Gets A Prize

So I’m moving house. And it’s from a house into a flat, with much less storage space. And that means I’ll be throwing out a huge amount of stuff, from arcane videos, random cassettes and DVD’s, books, gadgets, stuffed toys, old and classic PDA’s, mobile phones… And I can’t be bothered setting up a car boot sale.

So I’m going to create a massive prize raffle. It’s this simple. Paypal me £5, your name and address, and I’ll put together a pacakge of some of the best stuff I’m giving away and send it to you. I want to give all of this a good home, and I’ll keep picking stuff till I reach the weight limit on standard postage. If you want to enter more than once, then feel free.

20Jun/067

July 4th is for us. Declare independence from mainstream media

This July 4th, turn off your tv and turn on to independence.

We're declaring our independence from Mainstream Media! We're reporting news you won't hear on "the big 3." We're playing great artists that clear channel's computer playlists have ignored. We're creating outstanding video content free from the shackles of the 30 minute timeslot!

Who are we? We're just like you! We're creative individuals who were sick of being force-fed the same focus-group distilled junk year after year.

On July Fourth, declare your own independence from Mainstream Media. Turn off your TV and turn on your computer. Plug an MP3 player with great music podcasts into your stereo while you barbeque. Watch an indie movie or a video podcast. Read news that's not being reported on CNN.

Just use your favorite tagging tool on July 4th to search for "July4us" to find other blogs, podcasts, and shows declaring their independence, and changing the face of media. Here's some handy links:

If you're a podcaster, please include the promo below in your show to help spread the word, and encourage people to go "mainstream free" on the 4th!

I love that this idea isn't tied to anyone's show, and we can all join in by using the tag. I deliberately don't say my name or showname in the promo for that reason.

Original credit for the idea goes to Bryan Person, Chris S. Penn, and the rest of the New England Podcasters list who brainstormed!

UPDATE: Rocketboom correspondent, vlogger, and all around awesome guy Steve Garfield has popped in to stake his rightful claim to the original july4us concept. Right on Steve, sorry to misplace the credit for the amazing idea!

7Mar/060

Radio Free Burrito

Wil Wheaton, who I'll simply describe here as an excellent writer and blogger with a very interesting past, has started a Podcast. He's calling it Radio Free Burrito, which is a nod to the original name of his now famous blog "Where's My Burrito," which eventually became WilWheaton.net.

Wil's embarking on a week of daily 10 minute podcasts, and asked for a logo inspired by the RKO Radio Picture logo. Since it was 12:30 in the morning and I had nothing better to do (*cough* SLEEP *cough*) I whipped one up.

Looking at it this morning, I still like it, which is the major hurdle for me. I have a hard time seeing anything I'm working on clearly until I step back and look again, whether it's music, video, or graphic design. I'm pretty happy with this!

Filed under: art, podcasting No Comments
24Jan/060

BarCamp, SXSW, Texas, and other crazy words

John and me presenting at BarCampTwo weeks ago, I participated in an ad-hoc un-conference called BarCamp (photos). BarCamp was basically my ideal conference: plenty of space (generously donated by CollegeHumor.com), lots of good presentation tracks, brilliant people, and no vendors pushing Schwag and products you don't need. Best of all, it was free - the only rule was that if you came, you had to present.

I decided to present on the same thing I was working on at the time: figuring out how to make MySpace work for the GlitchCast the same way it works for indie bands. I was learning how to "game the system," and I'd written some open source code to do just that and was treating the entire operation as an experiment in marketing.

John Resig was planning on presenting something similar and got in contact with me, and soon we were collaborating via wiki on "Subverting Social Networks." It turns out that John's actually a brilliant coder and had written and studied tons of these little apps, so we'd had a great mix of shared experiences and differing points of view. We worked together at BarCamp to shape the presentation, and I think it came out pretty well. Our talk was pretty well attended, and we got some great discussion and some good laughs.

It turns out that there was a prize for favorite presentation, and in the after-event voting, John's and my presentation won! Considering the caliber of the other presenters and topics, I'm somewhere between surprised, flattered, and ecstatic. The prize is a ticket to the HUGE interactive, film, and music festival South by SouthWest (SXSW Interactive) in Austin, TX. It turns out that Sara was planning to head to Virginia that weekend anyway, so it looks like I'm going. John unfortunately had to decline due to costs (travel to TX and hotel are still factors).

I'm super excited to get to meet more amazing people on the bleeding edge of the internet, music, and culture, and I think it'll be a great venue to talk to people about The GlitchCast and my latest crazy venture (which I'll announce here soon, I promise!)

By crazy circumstance, it turns out that Marianne, Colleen, Carol, and Robin will all be in Austin for "Staple" just a few days before! What are the odds? Looks like we'll be passing in the air unless you guys want to stay in Austin a few extra days.

I just want to take a final moment here to thank the organizers of BarCamp for putting together such a brilliant event. The orchestration of everything from the space to the sponsors was herculean, and I've seen $300 a day conferences that had 1/10th the value that was packed into those 2 days in Tribeca. I'm still going back through and processing everything I learned, and now I get to continue my adventure.

5Jan/065

1000 friends

Well, 1000 people who know about the GlitchCast is certainly not a bad start. I've been getting tons of request to check out artists and play them on our show, and I've already found some great ones including Jonathan Hape, My Little Radio, and Chris Ayer. They'll all be featured in the next GlitchCast.

I think I'll take a break for a few days and get in touch with the people I've friended in this batch, before continuing on the list of people I'd like to add. I've had some great contacts from amazing Americana and bluegrass artists, some really good rock bands, and even a goth band.

I'm actually kind of surprised - after 1000 adds, I haven't had a single person say "who are you and why did you add me?" Everyone's been checking out the info page, clicking "add" and messaging with words of encouragement or requests to be played. It sounds like there's a real demand for music podcasts, especially in the indie music scene. Very cool.