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Kensington WiFi Finder

What a great idea, Since it takes time to boot your PC, why not make a keychain (well, large keychain) sized device to seek out wireless hotspots for you? Kensington thought so and made the first such product, the Kensington WiFi Finder. It claims to work with 802.11b and 802.11g networks. But, it only seems to see my home network (802.11g) when i'm actively ising it with my laptop. While this may be acceptable in geek-infested spots, it will do little good in hidden wireless corners fo the word where nobody is actively surfing.

I will hold judgement until after this coming weekend's trip to the bay area, but my faith is limited.



P.S. it was free after rebate, and no tax from eCost.com so I shouldn't complain, except that I'm contributing to blatant consumerism in this overgadgetized world.
( Permalink... | 11/17/2003 11:27:00 PM PST )

12$ + parts + GPL'd Software = A camera you are brave enough to take everywhere.

Digital cameras are great, after the initial investment, they are essentially free to use forever. The batteries are typically rechargeable, the memory reusable.

On the polar oppsite end of the spectrum is the dispsable camera. Crap photos, pay for the camera and pay for development, what a drag. Thanks to the kind folks at ritz camera, we have entered a whole new era, the "disposable" digital. You buy it for 12$ fill it with pics and return it, paying more money still for prints and a photo CD.

But some kind hackers noticed several months ago that behind the "do not remove this sticker" label is a 10 pin interface, of which 4 pins are standard USB. A few months later still, and we have Software for all platforms to liberate your photos and reuse the camera.

So 2 days ago I got the camera when I noticed that they are finally being carried on the west coast. I would have gotten more than two, but the kind guy in the sotre "warned" me that a new model with a LCD screen is supposed to come out by the end of the month for 19$. (they could be lying to minimize the geek uprising, but that seems worth waiting for)

Now, time to make the interface: I had hoped to wait till I got home to make the download cable, but I was so distracted by the 12$ camera that I had to make the cable immediately. The website with the interface instructions suggested soldering on a USB interface, but that seemed way too time consuming. So, I made a challenge for myself. Download the pictures in 15 minutes or less.

I ran to the supply room for equipment. A cheap broken ruler, some tape, and some scissors. Combined with a broken USB mouse i thought I woudl find Success.... And I was so beautifully right.

1) grab ruler. try to cut it with scissors but instead break scissors. try breaking it by putting weight on it at the edge fo table. IT works but it isnt the right width. ignore precision and try again. After 3 tries it should break to the right width.

2) put a piece of sticky paper on the ruler piece, insert into slot in camera, and draw lines where the conductor pins 10, 9, 8, 6 lie.

3) cut mouse cable near the mouse end. Strip about 2 inches with your teeth. Cut away strengthening string and grounding wire. Strip each of the four inner wires again with your teeth, you want about 1 inch on each wire. Twist the stranded wire so it doesn't fray and short out.

4) tape main part of cable to one end of ruler. wrap each of the wires around the back of the ruler, lining it up with the sharpie lines. tape on both sides, leaving only enough room uncovered for it to make contact. Repeat for all 4 wires.

5) add some more tape for good measure.

6) insert into camera, plug into computer. (it really just worked. fortunatley, the thick part of the wire mad enough pressure to keep the wires in contact with a few wiggles to get it right.) Project Time? about 10 minutes.


10 minute model (clear tape separates the fraying wires)

Better Interface

When I got home I repeated the approximately the same process but with a bit more care. This time I used plastic from a CD spindle, and some foam doublesided tape to make it the right height with enough pressure to make perfect connectivity. I drilled two holes through the plastic and added a zip-tie to aid in stress-minimization on the delicate cable. This only took about 30 minutes, again with brilliant results.


30 minutes of work brings the special edition interface. Note the solder-reinforced cables and reinforcing zip-tie.

Closing Comments

This isn't a brilliant-quality camera. In fact, for anyone who doesn't have a real digital camera I would suggest a 3 megapixel camera from a reputable company way before this. It's only draw is the price, the fun of "hacking" it and the fact that you can be brave and take it to a water park, the bar, or dirty activities like caving (spelunking) without fear.

I intend to buy several more, and give them to friends mand strangers at small parties. When they are done with them, I will ask them to put them into the "communal camera bucket" and I'll take them home and process them to the web. More about this project to follow.


The back of both cables.


Our Beautiful camera and it's interface cable. A happy marriage of cheapness and ghettoness

P.S. I got in on this SO before slashdot did their article. I was all over it on Monday. I'm way more l33t than j00.



Cropped from 1.3 MP camera output. Click to see full image.
( Permalink... | 11/12/2003 07:23:00 PM PST )

feedback loop of scientific discovery

Imagine that Time Travel is infact possible, both backwards and forwards, however to travel to a point in time, a device must be placed there such that you can go back to it from the future. So, the earliest moment you can go back to is the instant where the first version of the device is built.

Wouldn't it be concievable that people from the future would bring technological advances back to the first instant possible. Wouldn't that open a feedback loop where the technology of the furthest possible future would be brought to the near-present? Technological advance coming out of the device would appear instantaneous. One day in the near future we may all wake up to a compleletly new world. Granted, it might take some amount of time for the new technology to spread through the world. Just think about it, tomorrow could be very different than you expected.
( Permalink... | 11/08/2003 01:11:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

Microsoft's Evil Hacker Iconography

Gotta love this security bulletin from the japanese microsoft site. Who knew that the generic MSN people icons could look so sinister.


One of several entertaining images on this microsoft security page.
( Permalink... | 11/01/2003 11:31:00 AM PST )
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