Red Bull Flugtag Portland

Off all the competitions for poorly performing human powered flying machines, the Red Bull Flugtag is one of our favorites. Honestly, it’s the only one we can think of, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less enthusiastic about giving flight to half baked ideas. Today was the Portland round of the international event. Teams have to submit an application for their craft in advance. The vehicle can have a maximum wingspan of 30 feet and a weight with pilot of 450 pounds or less. Power is from muscle or simply gravity. The vehicle also has to be easily retreivable so they can get it out of the water. Judging isn’t just for distance, but for creativity, too.

Flickr users [pdx-kate] and [Jabin] have uploaded images and video from the day: The winner was Team Yakima’s big wheel that flew 62 feet. Second place went to Greased Lightning at 55 feet. Third was the FreeBallin sneaker which you can see in flight here. The People’s Choice award went to the Space Balls Winnebago, which we unfortunately can’t find a very good picture of. You can read more about each individual entry on the results page.

Embedded below is the video of the current US record holder: a banjo that went 155 feet in Nashville. The next US event will be September 6th in Chicago.

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Making art with Javascript

Mozilla coder [Aza] is connected to the past and the present: he wanted to celebrate the release of Firefox 3, but pines for the days when one could use small amounts of code to make compelling art. As a way of addressing both things, he has released ContextFree.js, a javascript port of [Chris Coyne]’s Context Free Art. Users can visit Algorithm Ink, where they can draw various compelling designs with just a few lines of script. ContextFree.js compiles the scripts and turns them into visually arresting geometric designs. Users can also browse through designs made by others, easily save them as JPGs, or even modify them by adding their own bits of code. What’s more, it’s not out of the question to use this to generate random images on a website, creating a unique visual experience for every single visitor. You all know what we want to see, though: JavaScript gurus working some real magic with this. Better yet, said gurus can play around with the core open-source code and make something truly their own on the most fundamental level. Definitely check out the video above to get an idea of how easy this is.

[via Waxy]

Progressive MyRate hackable?

Progressive Insurance announced that it will be rolling out its MyRate plan nationally. You participate by plugging a monitoring device into the ODB-II port on your vehicle. Once every six months you upload the collected data from every trip you’ve made. You’ll receive at least a 5% discount and maybe more based on your driving habits. In some states though, you could actually have your rates raised. Progressive will show you the direct impact your driving behavior has on your rate.

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Hexapod CNC bot

With all the 8 legged beasts lumbering about and hosting sausage fests, it’s nice to see the robots with 6 legs actually being productive. [Matt Denton]’s hexapod robot CNC router is quite an impressive piece of machinery. The B.F. Hexapod was built using Hitech’s HSR-5995TG which are much higher torque than similar sized units. Each foot is ball joint mounted to ease terrain adaptation. Only recently has [Matt] started playing with CNC. First, he did a pen plotter proof of concept. Now The bot can mill 3D surfaces in polystyrene. It’s still a little course and will probably always be a bit imprecise since it’s not bolted down. He’s also still planning to convert it from standard 1/8inch bits to 3mm router bits. We’d love to see this bot working away at an intricate bas-relief. Having no fixed work envelope really opens up the possibilities for machines like this and Hektor. Video and final product are embedded below.

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Embedded LED Pong table

There are few things that are enduring and axiomatic in life, but one of the things on our short list is love of Pong. Designer [Moritz Waldemeyer] apparently shares our obsession: you may remember the LED-lined stage uniforms he designed for OK Go, but this concept for a Pong table is certainly older and arguably several times more awesome.

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IKEA Linux cluster

Building a render cluster doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money, even if you’re buying brand new hardware. [Janne] built this 6 unit cluster inside of a 6 drawer IKEA Helmer cabinet. He wanted the cluster to be low power and low cost. After finding a good price on 6 65nm Intel Core 2 CPUs, he found 6 cheap Gigabyte motherboards. The memory on each board was maxed at 8GB. With 24 2.4GHz cores consuming 400W, the power consumption and cost isn’t much more than a high end PC. Each board is running Fedora 8 and mounts an NFS share. Dr Queue is used to manage the render farm’s processes. [Janne] says jobs that previously took all night now only require about 10-12 minutes. The estimated capacity is 186Gflops, but plans are already in motion for a12Tflop version.

His site also has plans for an underwater camera housing like our recent post. If you want to see more IKEA abuse, check out IKEA Hacker, even if it’s not very technical.

[via Hackzine]

[UPDATE: yep, we duped ourselves]

Media streamers: buy or build?

The market is flooded with new media streamers, but which one is for you? One of the cheapest and easiest options is the unambiguously titled Netflix Player. With an active account, the Netflix Player streams movies and television shows from their online library (currently around 10,000 videos). It connects to the internet via 802.11b/g WiFi or ethernet, but delivers low-quality video if your connection speed is less than 1Mbps. It costs $99 plus at least $8.95/mo for a Netflix subscription. It runs Linux so hopefully we’ll see some hacks for it soon like we did with previous Roku products. A fine device, if you want to stream movies and nothing else, but if you want to stream data from other sources, like a network, usb hard drive, or (gasp) bittorrent, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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