Microsoft’s attempt at an Arduino killer — feels like a gimmick

Microsoft has thrown its hat into the open source hardware hobby market. Their offering is called the Gadgeteer. We’d love to tell you all about it, but the big M didn’t make it very easy to find out about the device and it’s addons. When we set out to find what processor is running on the board we were happy to see that they do call it an Open Source Hardware project, but no schematic is posted. When we did finally navigate to the hardware documentation it’s a file that must be downloaded and you’ve got to agree to their licensing before grabbing it. So that’s as far as we went, and now we’ll go back to using more open tools.

For those of you who aren’t scared off by the lack of openness, the first thing you’ll notice about this board is that it’s full of connector headers. Instead of the small rows that Arduino uses, the Gadgeteer is meant to use ribbon cables to connect to various breakout boards. You can program for the platform in C# using the .NET framework. This means using Microsoft Visual Studio for those that are already acquainted with the platform. But regular readers will note that we’re always looking for Linux support in our IDEs and you won’t find that here.

[Thanks Hrasdt (and several others) via Slashdot]

Did Microsoft steal the Kinect?

In 2009, while Microsoft was busy designing and marketing what would become the Kinect, [Carlos Anzola], an inventor, tinkerer, and self-ascribed geek from Bogotá, Colombia, had been working for years on a nearly identical gesture interface for the PC. His creation, the Human interface Electronic Device, or HiE-D – pronounced ‘Heidi’ – was capable of gesture recognition years before Microsoft would release the Kinect.

After developing his gesture recognition device in 2007, Microsoft showed interest in [Carlos]’ device – going so far as to request a prototype. Microsoft suggested that he should apply for a patent on his technology. [Carlos] did just that, sending in patent applications to both the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization a mere two days before the announcement of Project Natal and a full seven months before Microsoft applied for their Kinect patent.

Since the release of the Kinect, [Carlos] has been showing the HiE-D around Bogotá and has put a few videos of his technology up on Youtube, one of which can be seen below. You can also check out his Youtube channel for some great demos.

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Microsoft Points algorithm cracked… they’re out $1M

Looks like someone figured out the algorithm that Microsoft uses to generate unique codes for their alternative currency: Microsoft Points. We were always a bit baffled by the need to do this sort of thing (Disney dollars, tokens at arcades, etc.) but figured it’s just a grift to get you to spend more dough. Looks like this time it may have come back to bite them in the ass with early loss projections somewhere in the $1-$1.2 million range.

But as most of you know, it’s not just an algorithm that can cause this kind of havoc. Whomever figured out how to crunch the numbers apparently packaged the method into a nice GUI and distributed it over the Internet. Check out the video after the break to see that not only will it give you a code, but you can verify that it works at the click of a button. Microsoft is taking steps to invalidate all of the ill-gotten redemption codes, but we wonder how effective they can be at it. Surely they already had contingency plans for this and we wonder if the company didn’t also carry insurance against this kind of loss.

Try as we might, we couldn’t turn up a press release on the subject. If you know of any, please be kind and leave a link in the comments.

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CES: Microsoft Hacks Up Next OS as SOC

With the Pre-CES Keynote made by [Steve Ballmer], the announcement came that the next iteration of their operating system being available in SOC specific form.  This will lead to windows being able to run a very diverse hardware set in a much more efficient manner than it does right now.  Microsoft displayed 4 different versions of what the next generation prototypes are from 4 different manufacturers but there has been no work done yet on the GUI for SOC as [Ballmer] was very clear to mention that more than a couple of times.  Some photos of the prototypes can be found after the break!

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Open Source Kinect contest has been won

Adafruit Technologies has announced the winner of the Open Source Kinect contest. [Hector], who we mentioned yesterday has won, providing both RGB and depth access to the device.  Some of you were asking at that time, why the contest was not over yet. Well, Adafruit had to verify. The image you see above are of another user[qdot], verifying the drivers on his machine.

What is interesting is how Adafruit has chosen to close this contest. Not only are they giving [Hector] his prize money, they are also donating an additional $2,000 to the EFF who fight for our right to legally hack and reverse engineer our own equipment.

[Hector] is being generous as well, using his prize money to help pay for gadgets to hack with some teams he is involved with, mainly the iPhone Dev Team and the Wii hacker team “Twiizers”

Kinect open source driver demo and hacking


The competition for the first Open Source driver for the Kinect is heating up.  [Marcan42] has released a driver that does video and depth.  He was able to do this without an Xbox and you can see it in action after the break. [LadyAda] has been hard at work as well, recording and dumping the data, and even writing a “hello world” that utilizes the motors in the Kinect.
We don’t know for sure how [Marcan42] recorded his data, but we can see [Ladyada] is using a high speed Beagle USB 480 to record the data going both ways between the Xbox360 and the Kinect.  That’s the kind of toy we would like to have sitting around. For those who don’t know what all the fuss is about, there’s a contest to see who can get an open source driver out there first. The prize has grown every time Microsoft says something bad about it.

[thanks Rapps]

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Woot lights and mice transplants

[Nathan Long] sent in two fairly simple mods he’s been working on. The first is the control of Woot-off Lights via LPT port. A computer checks Woot for the Woot-off logo, and if the logo is spotted, on go the lights. It’s really just a twist on the LED/Arduino email message system, but the creativity is nice.

His other modification is the stuffing of a Microsoft Intellimouse inside of a Logitech Wingman. With the goal of giving the old PS/2 mouse USB capabilities and removing the terrible ball. For those that are asking themselves “why bother? Terrible ergonomics, no scroll wheel, etc.” [Nathan] claims it’s for Quake 2 nostalgia, to each their own we suppose.