[Phillip Torrone] pleads for companies to open source discontinued projects

[PT] just published an editorial calling on manufactures to transfer knowledge about products they are discontinuing by making them open source. He makes his case on the basis that millions of dollars and innumerable man hours go into developing these products, only to be lost when the company decides that the project is no longer (or maybe never was) profitable. We have to say he’s got a point. Granted the answer to “why not?” is that companies don’t want to give any help to their competitors. But just think of the opportunities lost to society when we can’t build on the work of others.

Now [Phillip] doesn’t stop with his plea for new policies. He goes on to list and defend a few products that are already dead and buried, for which he wishes the secrets had first been shared. These include the Palm V personal data assistant, IBM’s Deep Blue, Sony’s robotic toys/pets, and several others. For what it’s worth, we can think of one company that’s a shining example of this; the source code for Doom, which id Software released for non-profit use more than a decade ago. Good for you id!

ChronoTune: listen to radio by year, not by frequency

The ChronoTune is a radio that plays sounds from different eras. This project was developed as an entry for the Redbull Creation Challenge by some members of i3Detroit, a hackerspace in the motor city. It allows a user to turn the dial to tune in a new moment in history, but they can also listen in on the present day. They’ll be greeted with the sounds of a tuning radio, followed by music or audio clips common to the period displayed on the dial.

As you know from the last contest entry, each project must use an Arduino to qualify. It reads a rotary encoder attached to one of the knobs on the front of the case. This doesn’t directly move the tuning needle. Instead, it’s attached to the guts of an inkjet printer to move it back and forth. This lets the radio tune itself if need be.

The audio is played from several sources. There is an MP3 module that allows for longer clips, but there are also some ISD voice recorder chip modules that play back shorter clips. If the dial is tuned to present day, an FM radio module tunes in a station over the air.

Having trouble reading that dial? Don’t worry, there’s a simulated Nixie tube display sticking out the top of the case to provide a digital readout of the currently selected time period. Check out the video after the break to see the team walk us through each part of the ChronoTune.

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The start to finish of an interactive exhibit

[Andrew & Deborah O'Malley] were tapped to created an interactive exhibit. The mission was to show that social problems take continual support from a lot of people before they can be solved. The piece needed to be architectural in nature, and they ended up building this touch-sensitive model building with individually lighted windows.

The project log that the [O'Malleys] posted shows a well executed battle plan. They used tools we’re all familiar with to achieve a highly polished and pleasing result. The planning stages involved a virtual mock-up using Google SketchUp. The details needed to order the shell from a fabricator were pulled from this early work, while the team set their sights on the electronics that shed light and that make the piece interactive. The former is provided by a Shiftbrite module for each window, the latter comes from the Capacitive Sensing Library for Arduino. Despite some difficulty in tuning the capacitive grid, and getting all of those Shiftbrites to talk to each other, the exhibit went swimmingly. It’s not hard to imagine how easy it is to start a conversation once attendees are attracted by the seductive powers of touch sensitive blinky lights.

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