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.

Arcade Fire at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Last night I went to see Arcade Fire play at the Gexa Energy Pavilion that used to be called the Superpages.com Center , the Smirnof music center before that and the Coca-cola starplex amphitheater before that. This was the first time that I ever went there to see a show and walking around kinda gives me the feeling of being at the state fair with many of the same iconic fair concessions being deep-fried all around the venue. The stormy weather that rolled through the area just before the gates opened kept most people off the lawn area and under the mostly water proof roof that covers the seats at the Gexa Energy Pavilion.

In the last six years since Arcade Fire last played in Dallas at the much smaller venue Trees they have received several Grammy awards and have seen an explosion in popularity with their 2006 album Neon Bible and their 2010 followup The Suburbs. Opening acts for Arcade Fire were Schmillion and Okkervil River; both from Austin. I didn’t hear much of Schmillion but I really liked Okkervil River and will be getting their new album when it comes out on May 10th.

Arcade Fire’s set was an energetic line up of the hits that the crowd would riot if they didn’t play and a nice mix of deeper cuts and newer songs off the latest album. There really wasn’t a “time to go pee” song in their lineup and carried the energy through their final song Wake Up from their 2004 debut album.

Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler told stories about missing ‘warm rain’ that he remembered from growing up in Huston being reminded by the warm rain that blew through Saturday afternoon during sound check. He also talking about going to a French restaurant with his wife and band member Regine and seeing Dallas Mavs player Tyson Chandler coming in to eat  dinner and asking the waitress about the dishes that they served then saying ‘no thanks’ and walking out. Who doesn’t love a good crepe?

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.

Foursquare & Gowalla Need City Managers

It has been almost a year since geolocation services like Fourspare and Gowalla came into the iPhones of nerds (myself included) that made the annual pilgrimage to Austin Texas for South by Southwest Interactive. The Austin based Gowalla had a significant marketing presence at last year’s conference while Foursquare was stronger out of the gate, being the must have app for SXSWers looking for the hot parties and the who’s who’s of the tech world each night and filling out their badge sashes with the all-night benders that are a SXSW staple. Gowalla picked up steam throughout last year, and now many people (myself and most of my friends) use both apps whenever they remember to check-in somewhere.

Continue reading “Foursquare & Gowalla Need City Managers”

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

Thoughts about the new WordPress 2.9 Update

Yesterday WordPress released an early Christmas present for all us bloggers with the update to 2.9. The update is mostly chocked full of bug fixes and improvements to the wordpress code. Below is a breakdown.

1. It’s faster: Although not a listed improvement, many users, including myself, are seeing that sites are running faster with the 2.9 upgrade.

2. Built in Image Editor: WordPress now includes a basic image editor including crop, edit, flip, rotate and scale images all available through the media library and when uploading/inserting images into posts.

3. Batch plugin updating: Now more updating each individual plugin site wide, under tools, in the update tab, a new option to update all plugins at once makes managing multiple sites more easy and the updater checks to make sure the plugin updates are compatible with your version of WordPress.

4. Oembed support: no more embed codes for inserting videos. Just paste the url for the video on its own line inside your post and the video will automatically be embedded. Currently all the major players like Youtube are supported with more providers coming.

5. Sitewide Trashcan: No more accidentaly deleted posts or comments; the new trashcan saves the posts for thirty days.

Below is a WordPress video highlighting some of the new features.

The Internet and Stupid people.

Below is a post I wrote for discussion in my Mass Media and Behavior class about Stupidity and the Internet.

The topic of stupidity and its suspected growth has become a topic for conversation in the culture. Movies like Idiocracy and the documentary titled “Stupidity” have investigated the roots and imagined the possible future world of idiots. I think what lies at the root of the issue is a lack of critical thinking about our lives and the world around us.

In Idiocracy, Mike Judge shows us his vision of the future we’re headed for as people become mindless zombies and are beholden to the large corporations that infiltrated the government. I personally would enjoy having a Brawndo-esk energy beverage piped into my home, but not replacing water as in the movie.

I hate to go on a education bashing rant as I aspire to become a teacher, but I feel that there is a lack of using critical thinking skills as a way to examine the world. In school we are taught the scientific method as a way to test our hypothesis about a science experiment but that valuable analytical process isn’t applied to other arenas.

Everything we’ve learned and discuss in class involves looking beyond the first glance and analyzing the issues and motives of the people who bring us the news and entertainment.

I think the internet and the growth of new media can lessen the brain drain of TV with the larger variety of content the reaches targeted audiences and engages audiences better. Certainly spending countless hours watching cat videos on YouTube isn’t going to expands one’s horizons, but it is the interaction through the internet that engages people. A recent study from the University of Stiriling showed that avid facebook users had an increase in working memory capacity versus control and social networking and youtube study participants.

It was in colleges where the internet was born and raised and academia as a whole has a vested interest in seeing knowledge spread and the internet not become a vast wasteland. Most teachers dislike Wikipedia, but I see that as a missed opportunity for academia to open the gates spread the knowledge for the betterment of society. Projects like MIT’s open course ware are all about sharing the mountain of accumulated knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton was famously quoted as saying “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He was referencing the great minds that had come before him and their learning making his discoveries possible, and I think that the internet can be a tool to help others jump up on our backs and see farther.

Newspapers and the Internet Today

Below is a post I wrote for discussion in my Mass Media and Behavior class about newspapers and their role in the digital age.


Newspapers like other old media formats has had to find ways to coexist and continue to be profitable in the digital age. The subscription and classified revenue models that newspapers subsisted on for decades is in rapid decline as subscriptions continue to drop because more and more people are getting their news from internet and TV.

With the growth of ebay and craigslist the money that newspapers would get from classifieds ads has been drastically decreasing as well as more and more advertisers are finding better success and higher engagement with internet advertising putting more strain on newspapers.

Today it was announced that the New York Post is going to close its bureaus in New York, Chicago and Las Angeles; another strike for newspapers. With the growth of the internet the number of news outlets has grown and the pace that information travels is something that Gutenberg could have never guessed. Even now the 24 hour news networks are having trouble keeping up with breaking news and more and more people are using twitter where breaking news can travel the globe in seconds. MSNBC has recognized this shift and partnered with a leading twitter account, “BreakingNews”, to share content and assets with each other.

The way that people access the news has also changed, RSS readers and search engines are huge sources for new content and News Corp has recognized an opportunity to profit. News Corp signed a deal with Microsoft and their new search product Bing.com that will give Bing exclusive access to indexing News Corp content. News Corp has been vocal in their opinion that search engines should be paying newspapers for access to their content and the deal with Microsoft told to be worth one hundred million dollars could be the first in a wave of print publications that begin to limit access to their content. Several newspapers have tried subscription models with minimal degrees of success.

There has been a rash of newspapers going out of business or consolidating, reducing competition and consumer choice in print, but blogging more a viable reality than ever. It’s odd, colleges are reporting an increase in the number of journalism majors yet regular jobs in the media are on the decline. There is a twitter account called “themediaisdying” all about reporting the painful death of old media. The opportunity is for journalists to dive deep into topics that interest them and they can become their own boss. A battle that has yet to be tried out in the courts is in matters of freedom of the press, where reporters need to keep secret their sources and the court system will someday have to create the water test of what nowadays can be counted as the press.