Bilbio-mat is an awesome yet simple used book vending machine

You’ll find this used book vending machine at The Monkey’s Paw in Toronto, Canada. For two Loonies you can buy a random book from the machine’s hopper. Silly? Absolutely. But as you can see from the video after the break, the act of buying a book this way is a lot of fun, and we always like to see the insides of a machine like this.

[Craig Small’s] creation looks vintage, and the chugga-chugga and mechanical bell that accompany each sale go along well with that appearance. Of course the machine is new. A trio of hoppers behind the façade hold stacks of books at a forty-five degree angle. Each stack is raised one at a time by a winch and pulley. Once the top book on the stack is high enough to slide into the dispenser chute the winch stops and the bell rings. A simple solution to dispensing something that is not a standard size.

Because the Biblio-Mat is meant to clear out the discount books, slight damage caused by falling down the chute won’t even be noticed. And if you end up really loving the book you can digitize it by running it through one of these.

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Google Books team open sources their book scanner

It’s no secret that Google has been scanning hundreds of thousands of books in the hope of recreating the Library of Alexandria. Publishers and authors really didn’t like that idea, so the Google books team is doing the next best thing: they’re releasing the plans for a very clever book scanner in the hope others will pick up the torch of creating a digital library of every book ever written.

Unlike some other book scanners we’ve seen that rely on an operator manually flipping pages, this linear book scanner turns the pages automatically with the help of a vacuum cleaner and a cleverly designed sheet metal structure after passing them over two image sensors taken from a desktop scanner.

The bill of materials comes in at around $1500, but according to the official design documents this includes a very expensive scanner, something that could be replaced in true hacker style with a few salvaged flatbed scanners.

After the break you can check out a Google Tech Talk presented by [Dany Qumsiyeh] going over the design and function of his DIY book scanner. There’s also a relatively thorough design document over on a Google code page.

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Hackathon results in the Facebook book

[Jeremy Blum] and [Jason Wright] pose with their project at the end of a 24 hour hackathon. The Facebook headquarters in New York City held the event as part of their Summer of Hack program. As an homage to the hosts, the hacking duo decided to create a physical book and populate it with the virtual Facebook. And what do you call such a creation? The Face(book)^2.

The video after the break gives the best overview of the hardware, but here’s the gist of it: They started with the largest hardcover book they could find, hollowing out its pages to house their own hardware. When you open the book it calls back to a computer over an Xbee link with a request for data. The python script on the computer pulls the newest from a Facebook feed, sending it back to the book to be displayed. There is a graphic LCD and four character LCDs built in for this purpose. There’s also an accelerometer which is used for detecting page turns when the cover is jostled. The rest of the interactivity is provided by a few tactile switches mounted next to the smaller LCD screens for navigation and the ‘like’ feature.

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Book Review: Eight Amazing Engineering Stories

We’re big fans of [Bill Hammack], aka the Engineer Guy. His series of engineering videos dredge up pleasant memories of watching Mr. Wizard but spin to the adult science enthusiast. The most resent season (he calls it series #4) scratches the surface of the topics covered in his book Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, which was written with fellow authors [Patrick Ryan] and [Nick Ziech]. They provided us with a complimentary digital copy of the book to use for this review.

The conversational style found in the videos translates perfectly to the book, but as with comparing a novel to a movie, the written word allows for much more depth. For instance, we loved learning about how Apple uses anodization to dye the aluminum used for iPod cases. The same presentation style makes the topic easily understandable for anyone who took some chemistry and math in High School. But primers a sidebars offer an optional trip through the looking-glass, explaining the history behind the process, how it compares to natural materials, and what trade-offs are made in choosing this process.

Some of the other topics included are how CCD camera sensors, lead-acid batteries, mems accelerometers, and atomic clocks work. As the book progresses through all eight topics general concepts the complexity of the items being explained advances quickly. By the seventh story — which covers the magentron in a microwave oven — we’d bet the concepts challenge most readers’ cognition. But we still enjoyed every page. The book would make a great pool-side read. It would make a great graduation gift (too bad we missed that time of year) but keep it in mind for any science minded friends or relatives. You can see [Bill’s] own description of the book and all its formats in the clip after the break.

TLDR: Buy it or give it as a gift

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[Engineerguy] explains how a CCD works

[Bill] is back with another fantastic video explaining a piece of intriguing hardware. This time, he’s explaining how a CCD works. For many of us, these things are part of our daily life, but aside from the fact that they capture an image, we don’t put much thought into them. [Bill]  breaks things down in a way that we really enjoy. Fast paced and detailed, yet simple enough for even non-engineers to follow. This time, however, he’s also promoting his companion book which includes tons more information, not only on the construction and function of these ideas, but the underlying scientific principles.

The book, called Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, covers the following items:

  • Digital camera imagers
  • tiny accelerometers
  • atomic clocks
  • enriched uranium
  • batteries
  • microwave ovens
  • lasers
  • anodized metals

We’re excited about the book and it looks like they’ve worked really hard to deliver a quality product. Great job guys.

Hidden bookshelf switch

So you don’t have any secret passageways in your house, but if you’ve got a bookshelf this secret switch can add some fun to your routine. [Brandon] saw a commercially available version which was out of stock when he went to order so he set out to build his own.

He’s using the switch to operate a lamp. The donor part for the hack is a lamp dimmer which you’ll find at the big box store. This is really just a pass-through wall plug with an extension cord. By cutting the dimmer module off of the extension a push button can be used to connect and disconnect one of the conductors in the line. Make sure you use a push button rated or mains voltage!

To make the push switch work with a book [Brandon] bend a bracket which will slide into the spine of a hardcover. We love his homemade press brake (angle iron, a sturdy hinge, and a chunk of 2×4) used when shaping the bracket. Once everything’s in place nobody will ever know there’s anything special about those books.

Not your ordinary LED book light

diy_led_book_light

[Steve Hoefer] is not a huge fan of traditional table lamps, so he set off to build a reading light of his own that was more aesthetically pleasing than the standard fare. He thought it would be pretty appropriate to construct his reading lamp out of a book, and we’re inclined to agree.

He stripped the pages from an old book he found at the thrift store, then built a plywood frame to fill in the recently vacated area. A second frame was built inside the first to support the installation of some warm LED strips as well as the acrylic sheet he used to diffuse the light. A whisker switch was installed in the corner of the frame, which turns the lights on when the book is opened. The lamp puts out about the light equivalent of a 40W bulb, and can be “dimmed” by simply adjusting how far the cover is opened.

It looks great on his bedside table, and like some of his other book-related hacks, it’s quite useful as well!

Be sure to check out the video of the light’s construction we have embedded below.

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