Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shady Lea Art Studios Open House

Tis the season to support local artists and craftspeople ! The Shady Lea Mill, a local southern Rhode Island treasure, is having their annual open house. A great place to visit and maybe, just maybe, find that one of kind Christmas gift you've been searching for.

DEC 4th and 5th, 2010
Noon to Five

The historic Shady Lea Mill, situated on the scenic Matatuxet River in North Kingstown RI, houses over 40 artists, artisans, and craftsmen and women working in various media. This 13th Year marks the biggest 2-Day Event in The Mill’s history. On Saturday and Sunday December 4th and 5th from noon to 5pm, The Shady Lea Mill will host Open Studios for each artisan to showcase his/her skills. Just in time for holiday shopping, some of Rhode Island’s many talented residents open their doors to the public and offer a wide array of hand made local gifts. Featuring one of a kind pottery, metal sculpture, painting, mixed media collage, glass blowing, hand made pewter frames, photography, woodworking, jewelry and classes in art, guitar making and furniture building.

As an addition to this year’s event, the artists of Shady Lea Mill are again asking guests to bring non-perishable food items to fill North Kingstown Food Bank’s empty shelves and gently worn jackets and coats your family members have outgrown . There is a great need for these donations this year, and with the holidays approaching, the Open Studios is a great time to get people together in donating to this hard-working local charity. Collection bins will be placed at every point of entry. Food items of greatest need are proteins – peanut butter, canned meat and fish, beans, etc.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Peek Email Devices Bricked

I enjoyed my Peek Classic while it lasted. Every Peek Classic and Pronto is now a brick after the company was dropped by their wireless provider. Peek is switching to T-Mobile for service but many users will be without service for days or weeks. Peek is offering existing customers newer Peek9's with similar hardware and new software for $1 plus S/H. A fair deal if not for the gap in service.

I've switched my email to my phone and my Peek is now in my graveyard of electronic gadgets. My Samsung 451C phone's email interface is poor at best so I'll be switching to new phone in the near future.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Amahi Home Server Plug Edition

A $99 Sheevaplug, a USB hard drive, and some free software equals an easy to use and VERY LOW POWER home server. What I'm talking about is the Amahi Linux Home Server, or what Amahi calls a HDA, for "Home Digital Assistant." Each HDA delivers all the functionality you would want in a home server, while being as easy to manage from your web browser.

The Amahi HDA advertises a wide range of features including:

  • Share your photos (or any files) with any device in your network
  • Centrally store all your music and videos
  • Quickly backup your computers
  • Run applications to co-ordinate your household (e.g. shared calendars)
  • Securely access all your 'stuff' when you are out, whether at work, a friend's place, or out of town!
The setup was quick and painless. I reformatted a 750GB USB drive I had been using on my WDTV Live media player and configured one large boot partition and a 2GB swap partition. Using a simple install script, I copied the latest rootfs image to the drive, changed my Sheevaplug to boot from the USB, and just booted into Amahi. I installed the code I received when I setup my Amahi profile and I was up and running.

The Amahi HDA is already configured with and  running the NAS software so my next step was little more than copying my media onto the server. I intend to try more of the other home server features and I will post my experiences. Is this a free competitor to Window Home Server? We'll see.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yankee Steam-up October 2nd

Yankee Steam-Up

For model makers, Machinists, Engineers & Historians
Saturday October 2, 2010
Countdown to Steam-Up:
1300 Frenchtown Road, East Greenwich, RI 02818
Steam & Compressed Air for Models.
Licensed Boilers & Licensed Engineers.
New Englands Largest Steam-Up Boiler.
Giant Working Steam Engines & Hot Air & IC.
Admission, $15.00         Exhibitors, Free
All Steam-Up Proceeds go to Upkeep of the Museum
Free Parking         Food on Grounds at noon
Phone: (401) 885-0545,
Web Site:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Big ideas from small packages

Sometimes, it's the smallest things that get my mind racing. My current project (not telling yet) is based in a Sheevaplug, literally a 5 watt Linux server hidden in a wall wart!

Inside the SheevaPlug there’s a 1.2GHz ARM embedded processor, 512MB of DDR2 memory, 512MB of FLASH storage, gigabit ethernet, SD card support, and two USB 2.0 ports. Plenty of horsepower and the right I/O to field some pretty interesting applications. This version is the reference design but a reduced subset can be deployed for roughly $50 a plug.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Peek Classic

The Peek Classic is a simple inexpensive email (and texting) hand held. Think of it as what the original Blackberry's were like but only thinner, lighter, and cheaper. My first reaction was, "What's the market for such a niche product?" Now here I sit, a Peek owner and fan. What it does, it does very well. I check my email at a glance and feel more connected on the the go or at the client site then I even imagined.

Sure, a smart phone would give me the same experience and more but until the cost and commitments are lower. I'm sticking to a prepaid phone and my little Peek. I use a $30/month prepaid for all my calling and pay $16/month for Peek email. That's more than I'd like and I've seen a $10/month deal I missed but it's cheap considering how often I use the Peek.

Straight Talk Prepaid Cell Phone (Part 2)

This is a good time to followup on my review of Straight Talk prepaid cellular service and the Samsung 451C cellphone. So I'll get right to the point, Straight Talk continues to provide the excellent coverage and quality I was accustom to from my previous provider, Verizon. This isn't unexpected given that Straight Talk runs on the Verizon CDMA network. For the price, this is a clear winner and I expect more people who value ... well VALUE to move to prepaid in the future as the big networks continue to push costly long term commitments and expensive smartphones.

As for the Samsung 451C, this phone has great sound quality and range, average battery life, and a nice slider keyboard for texting. I bought the phone for the internet features and this is where Straight Talk and the Samsung fail miserably. The browser is so slow as to be unusable and Straight Talk disabled Java on the phone making it one of the dumbest phones around. Even reading Gmail on this phone was so painful, that I had to find another email solution but that's a subject for my next post.

So if you are looking for basic cellular service and great reliability at price that's hard to beat, go Straight Talk but choose one of the cheaper phone since the data features are minimal at best.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My first "real job" was working for a machine vision guided robotics startup and ever since I've been hooked on robots. OK, there is a bit of boyish love of toys there as well but robots have a magical appeal I don't feel just writing software. So it's not surprising that when I recently came across artist Mike Rivamonte's metal sculptures of robots and spacemen, I was mesmerized by every tiny detail.

I'm normally not an art lover. That's my wife's strong suit and our home is beautifully decorated with her photos, artwork, and collectible finds. Not that I could afford one of these works but I think we could lose one vase for one of these bad boys. Doesn't everyone's home need a little retro techno cool?

Monday, March 1, 2010

MONOCHRON - Ultimate Pong Clock

I've seen a number of cool retro clocks recently but the MONOCHRON takes top honors. The folks at Adafruit have produced a really beautiful open source kit but the clean industrial design by Amanda 'w0z' Wozniak sets this clock apart. Nice job ... gals.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snow Leopard Olympic Glory

Ghanaian olympic skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong "The Other Snow Leopard" has overcome some incredible odds just to make it to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Don't assume Kwame is the "Eddie the Eagle" of 2010 ... the man can ski. Granted, the odds aren't in his favor but we're pulling for you Kwame.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Straight Talk Prepaid Cell Phone

I was getting a little tired of my Verizon cell phone plan. Two phones for $69.99 with 700 shared minutes and unlimited mobile to mobile. Problem is the bill was over $86 after the added Verizon and government surcharges/taxes. That's a lousy deal in anyone's book. I decided to try prepaid since I hate contracts. When I spoke with Verizon they just wanted me to sign up for two years to get a new phone etc. No thanks!

My new phone is a Samsung R451C running on Straight Talk. The service is surprisingly good and is said to run on the Verizon network. Straight Talk has an unlimited plan for $45 but the $30 plan more than enough for me. For $30, you get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 30MB of data. The phone and service is fine but forget about the web features. Straight Talk disables Java on the phone and doesn't support apps or games. Do yourself a favor and buy a cheaper phone.

I am disappointed that Straight Talk crippled the phone. I was looking forward to writing my own apps and trying about mobile web development.