Colour-Code Your Way To Timber Satisfaction

As Hackaday writers we see the insides of as many hackerspaces as we can, and some of us make it our business to be members of more than one within reach of our homes. Thus it was that a simple but extremely elegant hackerspace lifehack came our way, courtesy of our friends at Milton Keynes Makerspace.

MK Makerspace have found a home within another group, the local MK Men In Sheds is a charitable organisation providing workshop and social space for hackers of an older generation. Together the two combine to offer both a huge range of experience and a comprehensive array of tools and machinery.

Order imposed upon the chaos of the MK Men In Sheds woodstore.
Order imposed upon the chaos of the MK Men In Sheds woodstore.

Woodwork is a strong component in the life of any Shed, and at Milton Keynes the Shed has been particularly successful in attracting donations of surplus timber. The stock of freely available mixed pieces of wood has almost everything you could wish for when working on casual projects, but despite continual sorting efforts had become an unmanageable pile among which it was often difficult to find the piece required.

Step forward MK Men In Sheds member [Ricky] whose solution was nothing short of inspired in its combination of simplicity and effectiveness. A large rack has compartments, each one of which has a coloured label. Along the front of the rack is a simple ruler calibrated in coloured blocks, and it is the work of a moment to offer a new piece of timber up to the ruler and place it in the compartment with the appropriate colour. Now any member with a need for a piece of wood  can easily select an appropriate one, and return any usable offcut for easy selection by the next.

This may be a simple piece of work, but its value as a lifehack in a communal workshop is immense. It brings to mind a piece we published a couple of years ago, about how a vibrant hackerspace follows a good wood shop. Never a truer word was spoken for people of all ages.

Hack Your File Hierarchy with Johnny Decimal System (Dewey’s Older Brother)

Most of us have our fair share of digital debris. After all, with drives measured in one-million-million byte increments it’s tempting to never delete anything. The downside is you may never be able to find anything either. [Johnny Noble] must have gotten pretty fed up with clutter when he decided to formalize and publish his own numeric system for organizing everything he comes in contact with. It’s called Johnny Decimal and it’s actually pretty simple!

This is of course a play on words for the Dewey Decimal system. Dewey is one of a variety of information organization systems used by libraries to sort the books on their shelves. It’s based on moving books into sets of fixed, predefined categories which are uniform across all users of the Dewey. To locate a volume the user composes categories of increasing specificity to build a number which specifies the approximate space a particular book should live in. Each individual volume has a slightly more verbose assigned number which includes the author’s name to reduce confusion in cases where there are multiple works. Wikipedia has an instructive example which you can see here.

Johnny Decimal

Johnny Decimal works similarly but [Johnny] has a specific method he’s devised for the user to create their own categories with somewhat less specificity than Dewey. This makes it less onerous for the user to adapt to their needs, and if it’s easier to use it’s more likely to be used. I won’t spoil the process here, go read his site for instructions.

Ok so why bother? [Johnny] hints at it, but part of the point is to force the user to think about organization in the first place. With no system and an endless torrent of incoming files it’s easy to end up with the giant “~/Downloads” of doom and never improve from there. But with a clearly defined system (which is easy to execute!) the bar to improve things gets much lower. Certainly the thought of a well-organized file system gives us the shivers!

If you’re interested in implementing it in your own systems, the Johnny Decimal site has many pages devoted to explaining how to put together areas and categories, how to handle running out of buckets, the process for developing your own system, and more. If you try it and have luck, send us a note! We’d love to hear about anything you discover. If you’ll excuse us, we’re off to go fix up our parts bins with a marker and some sticky notes.

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Movie Encoded in DNA is the First Step Toward Datalogging with Living Cells

While DNA is a reasonably good storage medium, it’s not particularly fast, cheap, or convenient to read and write to.

What if living cells could simplify that by recording useful data into their own DNA for later analysis? At Harvard Medical School, scientists are working towards this goal by using CRISPR to encode and retrieve a short video in bacterial cells.

CRISPR is part of the immune system of many bacteria, and works by storing sequences of viral DNA in a specific location to identify and eliminate viral infections. As a tool for genetic engineering, it’s cheaper and has fewer drawbacks than previous techniques.

Besides generating living rickrolls and DMCA violations, what is this good for? Cheap, self-replicating sensors. [Seth Shipman], part of the team of scientists at Harvard, explains in an interview below a number of possible applications. His focus is engineering cells to act as a noninvasive data acquisition tool to study neurobiology, for example by using engineered neurons to record their developmental history.

It’s possible to see how this technique can be used more broadly and outside an academic context. Presently, biosensors generally use electric or fluorescent transducers to relay a detection event. By recording data over time in the DNA of living cells, biosensors could become much cheaper and contain intrinsic datalogging. Possible applications could include long-term metabolite (e.g. glucose) monitors, chemical detectors, and quality control.

It’s worth noting that this technique is only at the proof of concept stage. Data was recorded and retrieved manually by the scientists into the bacterial genome with 90% accuracy, demonstrating that if cells can be engineered to record data themselves, accuracy and capacity are high enough for practical applications.

That being said, if anyone is working on a MEncoder or ffmpeg command line option for this, let us know in the comments.

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What’s happening at LIFE.hackaday lateley

corkIf you haven’t been over to LIFE.hackaday lately, maybe you should check it out.

You could be learning how to be a hero with a wine cork, or how to easily break string without scissors(or your teeth). Need new ways to mount your tablet? We’ve got you covered. However, the story that is probably most important right now is how to keep your ice cream from getting that freezer burnt section on the top.

Announcing LIFE.hackaday

life-logoOver the years we’ve had a tons of tips sent in that were more along the lines of “lifehacks”. Simple little tips to make life better. While we would occasionally squeeze them into hackaday, many got left behind. Now we’ve created an entire site called LIFE.hackaday that we’re filling with all these great ideas. Finally, a place for all those docks people send us!

Occasionally, there might be something that we feel works for the “classic” hackaday and “LIFE.”, in which case, we may just mention it here. We hope that by creating another site, we can give people the “lifehacks” they want while keeping hackaday focused on hardware hacking.

We have some other tricks up our sleeve, but they aren’t quite ready to be revealed yet.