MAKE's open source gift guide
November 27, 2006 10:57 AM   Subscribe

There are a lot of gift guides for the holiday season, but Make Magazine's open source gift guide skews towards the cool, techy, but also hackable products. Lots of great things listed including: display images in your bike spokes with a POV kit, an open source media server, control your house lights with perl, and free planetarium software.
posted by mathowie (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by kaseijin at 11:15 AM on November 27, 2006

please make suggestions here or on make, i'll read both and add other items, hopefully the guide will "never" be complete...
posted by ptorrone at 11:30 AM on November 27, 2006

the open-source media portal looks really cool, but it's an absolute bummer it's windows-only. Sort of makes you scratch your head, given it's mission of providing a free solution for a combo DVR/Streaming Media.

I'm currently jonesing to buy an old xbox to convert it into xbmc (which media portal was born from). I'd recommend adding this as an item on the Make gift guide as well, because it's soooo Make: to repurpose old tech like this. I hear nothing but raves for xbmc.

MythTV (free, linux-based) probably also deserves a mention.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:02 PM on November 27, 2006

I was getting all ready to snark on this since Mr Torrone is involved in it and for some reason he generally annoys me, however this list actually has some fairly cool looking things on it. Software radios sound like all kinds of fun.....
posted by public at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2006


Your Make:Blog, over the last year or so, has devolved into pure noise, with little or no signal. Reposting the same projects day after day, most of which are either using hardware sold by Make:, or are about the idiot flavor of the month (Zune and Wii, currently). Hyping the fuck out of "Maker" culture bullshit will get you nowhere. There is only one Cory Doctorow, please stop marketing your magazine as if there were more of him.
posted by blasdelf at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Man, blasdelf. Tell us how you really feel.

Asking Metafilter for criticism is probably like asking Shirley Jackson to write you into a short story.
posted by namespan at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2006

I wouldn't go quite as far as blasdelf in panning the Make:Blog, but it has declined in quality. I'd prefer to see fewer postings of higher quality than 30 posts a day on the same thing.
posted by bshort at 1:14 PM on November 27, 2006

mcstayinskool: XBMC is indeed very good. It has two major issues, both of which are hardware-related: the XBox is pretty loud, so it's a bit intrusive, and it's not fast enough to decode anything past SVCD-quality. (SVCD is roughly VHS extended-play quality.)

Neither of these issues is fixable by the XBMC folks. Within the constraints of the hardware platform, it's about as good as you could possibly get. Regardless, it isn't quite up to normal home audio/video standards.

The best hacks don't look hackish, and unfortunately XBMC doesn't quite get there... the hardware platform just isn't _quite_ right for that purpose.
posted by Malor at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2006

Lotsa cool stuff there, I will be digging in to a few of these ideas.

Malor : and it's not fast enough to decode anything past SVCD-quality. (SVCD is roughly VHS extended-play quality.)

Gotta disagree with you on this point. I stream divx and xvid content all the time to my Xbox with XBMC. The quality with a good encode is on par with my DVD player. I don't ever use SVCDs because I think they look terrible, so maybe we are talking around one another on this point, but with the right codec, XBMC can deliver excellent results.
posted by quin at 1:46 PM on November 27, 2006

I feel like Make the magazine has undergone less of a decline than Make the blog, but yeah, I do feel like there has been a bit of a quality drop-off in both recently. As others have mentioned, the push towards the kits recently has been especially annoying; it's seeming more and more like Assemble would be a better name for the magazine.

The iBump is a particularly nasty example of this: the latest magazine devotes two pages to this project, only about one third of which is devoted to a sub-Popular Electronics level explanation of how the circuit is designed. An unannotated schematic is available from the website only, and no board layout is given at any point. Nowhere is there any discussion of the design process, how the power supply is designed, or even what an active filter is and how it works. It's nice to have a good-looking finished product, but one point of making things is that the process of construction teaches you something or builds new skills. I can't see the iBump teaching you anything other than how to solder.
posted by monocyte at 2:02 PM on November 27, 2006

I like the Make blog, but it does sometimes feel like trying to drink from a firehose. I see tons of cool stuff from other blogs I wouldn't have found otherwise, but I have noticed the Make kits popping up which do feel kind of like an ad, since they push sales on the store. But the other 90% of the blog is high quality stuff.

I'm not a super tinkerer, often times I'd rather pay someone for the final product than solder circuit boards all day, but I can usually find completed versions of the projects featured in the magazine online.
posted by mathowie at 2:36 PM on November 27, 2006

wow, ok - duly noted to everyone who posted feedback about the MAKE site. i'm always looking to improve the site. i'll work harder. i don't care for wii and zune hacks so much, but our readers send them in and that's how the blog works. if 90% of the site is good, that's not so bad, but i'll keep at it.

as far as the kits go, it's the holidays so there are a couple kit posts a day as we add new ones to our store. we spent a lot of time and effort to do something new with open source electronics. i'm excited about it, no other magazine or site has really tried to do something like this for a very long time. we won't please everyone, but i try my best.

regardless, the site and kits might not be for everyone. if a better site comes along that covers what you like better, it's easy to not visit.

lastly, monocyte - please read the ibump page and the FAQ on quaketronics, or email me - there is a lot of information you must have not seen.
posted by ptorrone at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2006

I read the iBump page on the Make website, which contained the schematic and test tones and after your post I read the quaketronics web page and FAQ. I have to say: I'm still not too impressed. Maybe the microstrokes are setting in again, but from what I can see the FAQ mostly presents performance characteristics and setup questions; great if you've bought an iBump or need to decide if it's right for you, but not much towards understanding how it works, how it is designed, etc.

Let me present a counterexample: Andrew Huang's glowstick article from Make 01. This is sort of an unfair comparison: bunnie got four times the space in which to discuss his project. The article also swings to the other extreme in terms of technical difficulty: I can feel the eyes glazing over when looking at the FPGA block diagram. But this article is constructed such that the reader takes something away from reading it even if (s)he doesn't build the project: at a superficial level, what a FPGA and microcontroller are and what sort of things they can be used for, and at a more involved level some understanding of the design process or the concept of a ring oscillator.

By comparison the way the iBump is presented is a dead end; there's almost nothing to take away from the article if you don't decide to buy one. The basic building block of an active filter is almost, but not quite laid out, and it would seem that this would be the ideal place to expand upon. I'm not asking for Horowitz and Hill, just something on the order of the sidebars in bunnie's article.

There's a lot of spleen-venting going on here, so I'd like to say that I do like the magazine very much. It's just that it's gone from loving to liking lately, and if these trends continue, heeeeey... I have to say that your suggestion that

regardless, the site and kits might not be for everyone. if a better site comes along that covers what you like better, it's easy to not visit.

makes me incrementally less hopeful in this regard. Should recipients of the print version of your magazine cancel their subscriptions as well then? From my point of view I'd prefer to keep giving you the money in exchange for a quality magazine...
posted by monocyte at 5:59 PM on November 27, 2006

Well with the blog, the thing that really kills me is how the comments are listed in the wrong order. Every site has their comments with the oldest first, newest last. This is not a standard that should have been changed.

Also, I have to say my admiration has declined significantly since going to the MakeFest. It looks a lot more interesting in the pictures than it was in person. It's also part of the reason I didn't buy the most recent print magazine (number 07). The other reason of course being that it had to do with botany and not electronics.
posted by o0o0o at 6:16 PM on November 27, 2006

monocyte - email exactly what you want to see with the ibump and i will get it posted, MAKE works both ways - we can add more information to the web site, since the last issue went to print we've added 2 more docs for the ibump and we will add more can you a little more specific than "something on the order of the sidebars in bunnie's article".?

as far as the site in general, we cover what makers send us, you can send projects in too.

o0o0o - i will see if i can change that (the comment), we've never had a complaint, but i'll look in to it - in fact, it should be flipped now, go check.

in make 07, the cover doesn't mean there are -only- botany projects we had: penny powered led, srl, digi-comp, arduino (os mc), firmware hacking with the cvs camera and mounting it to a rocket, weather proof wifi, moster midi, midi primer and more... but yah, we had some how-to extract dna articles too.

you know anyone here who snarked in could have just emailed or commented on MAKE or called me at any time - i would have done my fulfill the requests.
posted by ptorrone at 7:45 PM on November 27, 2006

To cut through some of the snark...

I was getting a feeling Make was losing some steam around 5 or 6, but I agree with Phil that 7 was great. The variety and quality of projects convinced me to renew.

Make can only do so much, in my opinion, and I think even more than laying out specifics of circuits or specifics of plans, its main purpose to me has been to start putting together parts of my own projects that have been kicking around in my head, and work to inspire new ideas.

Keep up the good work, Phil
posted by davidnin at 9:13 PM on November 27, 2006


Thanks for fixing that. It's much, much better now. You did however leave this part in:

"Newest comments listed first."

I guess I'll have to re-evaluate Make 07. Thanks again.
posted by o0o0o at 12:57 PM on November 28, 2006

>>"Newest comments listed first."

rats, ok - not sure why it still says that. i will look into it. thanks for the comments.
posted by ptorrone at 12:03 AM on November 29, 2006

paging ptorrone...
posted by roboto at 11:47 PM on November 30, 2006

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