Woot Arduino Printer

I recently bought the Ardunio inventors kit from Sparkfun to play around with the Arduino and I’ve been looking for a project to make with it when I saw DangerousPrototypes Thermal Twitter Printer based on their web platform. I thought that I could build upon that and use the Arduino and add and LCD to it.
Enter the finished product

It uses the Arduino, Arduino Ethernet Sheild, a serial enabled LCD, and thermal printer from Sparkfun. It works by scraping a couple of twitter rss feeds and outputting the results. The LCD parses the @wootoff twitter account and formats the results to start with the price. It checks for updates about every minute. In my next version I’d like to add a last call notification to the display.

The printer works in a simpler function and pulls tweets from the @wootchatter account that are also displayed on Woot’s community forum. I use several variables to save the last printed tweet and check it each time that the rss feed is parsed to make sure that it is not printing the same tweet every minute. In the next version I’d like to make some better formatting of the tweets to make them more readable and stand out more.

Starring At The Bar

Now that I have some stability in my life, I’ve been thinking and wanting to spend more of my time and attention on the things in life that I am truly passionate about. It’s mostly nerdy things, wanting to blog more and start yet another podcast or three, get back into computer programming, maybe learn an instrument like piano or how to play the guitar that i got for Christmas years ago, gathering dust in the corner.
I get inspired by great content and the people that are behind it, but at the same time, while listening to great audio podcasts like Radiolab, I imagine the eight year old version of myself starring up at the monkey bars on the school playground; the bars seemed just out of reach, but at the same time, a lifetime away.

There are great podcast like You Look Nice Today and Radiolab that while listening I am just amazed at the level of production and the amount of time that has to be put into each episode.  There is an almost dibailitating thing by spending too much time watching and listening to everyone else’s work, especially when I’m are just starting out and don’t have a body of work to show, that scares me from taking the first step in creating something of my own. I think of shows like Radiolab and This American Life as the shows that all others are judged by and the little lizard brain that I spend way too much time listening to and following it’s advice has scarred me into inaction much of my life.

I get these fits of energy and focus, where I am able to shut out the voice in my head and actually create something, anything with my mind and hands. There is usually a process that envolves me buying yet another domain name in hopes that this time (about the 70th time) that I will actually make something and keep up with it. A podcast that maybe goes 6 episodes or a new blog with 4 posts is my normal tolerance to stick with something. I feel at times as a litterbug on the internet, littering the web with these scraps of content that exist forever, never to decompose.

This single blog post is something that I have kept coming back to and rewriting for almost a month. Each and every time, starting by reading and deleting most of the words that I somehow thought were good and descent writing on one of my sleepless nights, but I have to come to a point where I can let my work out and let it stand for me, and in a way that is a very vulnerable thing.  Maybe I should just click publish.

Buddypress 1.2 Comes Out

Buddypress is a great plugin (and to say it’s just a plugin is to demean it somewhat) that was originally built for WordPress Mu installations, but the new version 1.2 now works with standard WordPress installations as well. I’ve used Buddypress to build a site I started called PodcasterTech.com and really like the community functionality and built-in forum feature.

With the update to 1.2 also a new default Buddypress theme is released, and I immediately switched over. The new default theme was exactly the look I was going for when I installed Buddypress and tried to squeeze out of the old default theme. The new version is also easier to install and increases the social interaction features with greater support in the activity pane. It incorporates some twitter like features like @username support.

Download it and try for yourself at  Buddypress.org

Revision3 Launches an Online Sitcom

At the end of this week’s Diggnation (episode 221) Kevin and Alex show a trailer for a new show Revision3 that is launching on October 7th.  The show, Web Zeroes, is a departure from the normal variety and current events programs that make up the rest of the Rev3 lineup.  The show is centered around three best friends living in Houston, TX that aspire to become internet superstars. Check out the trailer below.

Where did all my followers go?

Many twitterers awoke Friday morning to find that they had a significant drop in the number of people following them. On Thursday, twitter admins pushed several changes through the system to help identify and clean out spam accounts as well as clear up some lingering database issues that reported incorrect data for some users.  I, myself, saw a drop of more that 60 followers following the recent change.  As one might imagine, the sudden and drastic change in follower count alarmed and angered many users.  I feel these users don’t really “get” twitter and are fixated on increasing the number of followers they have, but I feel they are really missing out on what twitter can offer to those who engage in the community and provide useful content.
Twitter Fail Whale is back
Creative Commons License photo credit: playerx

Having been a twitter user since January 2007, I can regale new users of a time when there was free access to the public time-line, and the top users were almost exclusively the nerd famous, with the top user with the most followers switching back and forth between Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose.  Those times are now just a distant memory as twitter has become infiltrated by spammers and self branded social media experts. Not long after twitter integrated the trending topics section into the main site design, did those topics become the opponent’s flag in a online capture the flag game where spammers latched on to twitter and spew forth their wares in attempts to gain the recognition of being on the trending topics list. Trending topics is a whole other issue as its usefulness has decreased and doesn’t give any back story as to why something is a trending topic. When you click on a trending topic in hopes to find out why it is a trending topic, you are bombarded with dozens of users tweeting out that same question as well as an alarming amount of users that send out tweets just listing all the trending topics in hopes that someone will click and follow them.

Fighting spam is something that twitter has to be very proactive in if they are not turn into a myspace of friendster. If twitter were a comedy club, spammers would be hecklers shouting out nonsense in attempts to get attention. The spammers feel they have a right to be there, but are ruining the show for everyone else that came to the show. To the people dismayed at their loss of their fake followers, I say get evolved, and engage users; if you provide value to people they will follow you.  The true value of twitter is in the conversation.

Wordcamp Dallas this Weekend

This weekend is the second year for Wordcamp Dallas.  The two day event is being held at the UT Dallas School of Management. I didn’t go last year and I signed up months ago and have been counting the days till the geekout event this weekend. I really like the power that WordPress gives me to mange my content and I use WordPress on most of my sites. I think it will be a great opportunity to meet with other geeks and since its at UTD its my home turf. It will be a great networking oportunity (even though I really hate the “N” word) and hope to learn some things to help step up my game. I’ll be blogging and twittering  a lot this weekend, so let me appologize right now.
Logo
Wordcamp Dallas

New Year’s Resolutions

It may by April, but with a quarter of this year already behind me I have a better idea and a better chance of keeping with my New Year’s Resolutions. More of a todo list than normal resolutions.
(in no particular order)

1. Start my own business
2. Loose weight
3. Start video podcast
4. Graduate college
5. Pay down credit card debt
6. Learn to play the guitar. (real kind, not just the rockband kind)
7. Brew my own beer
8. Apply to grad school

Makerfaire this weekend

This weekend is the second annual Makerfaire Austin at the Travis county fair grounds. I went last year and really liked seeing everything and whole community of Makers there. This years Makerfaire in Austin promises to be even bigger and better than last year. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the robogames competition and the eppy birds. Last year I spent most of the day walking around and visiting booths, but this year I want to go to some of the sessions.

Big Changes

There have been  a lot of big changes going on in my life. I got a new job and I am headed back to college in a couple of weeks. I am getting back into programming and have spent the past few days working on servers and refreshing my programming skills. Right now I’m installing xcode tools on my iMac so I can try doing some coco apps. I have been to Fry’s twice in the past two days needing to pick up parts and books on PHP and Facebook programming. Back to the grindstone.

Twitter Withdrawl

I have been going through some twitter withdrawl lately with the downtime and loss of IM intergration as Twitter goes through some scalability issues as the micro blogging service becomes more and more popular with people. I like to use Twitter through GTalk on my blackberry because I don’t have the cost of using SMS on the phone. But with the rapid growth this feature has been turned off leaving me to only use Twitter through the web interface or twitterrific on my MacBook. One of two things will happen: 1. Twitter comes back to full service 2. I buy iPhone 3G (just another reason why)
Also, tommorrow is the release of Firefox 3 and their attempt to break the record for the most downloaded program in one day. I have been using RC 2 and 3 and have really like the improvements in speed and I haven’t noticed the memory leak problems that I have had in the past with Firefox 2. Go to http://spreadfirefox.com to join in the fun.