MAKE: Magazine, A Must Have!

A MUST HAVE for fellow tinkerers, hacks and geeks!

Friday afternoon I was chatting with a coleague when I saw this magazine on his desk:

Make Voluem 1

Immediately intrigued by the image of a kite tied to a title that read “Aerial Photography Now With Kites!” and additionally drawn in by such cover stories as “Backyard Monorails” and “iPod Tricks” I asked if I could borrow the magazine.

Upon closer examination I noticed the magazine is published by O’Reilly. How could that be a bad thing? Naively believing this would be a magazine I would read only a few articles from I promised the coworker I would return it to him on Monday.

That night I started flipping through the mag and looking at the articles. After going randomly to three or four I realized I was going to read every article in this magazine (those of you who know me will understand how sinificant that is.)

Full of intriguing articles such as “Desktop Rail Gun” and “XM Radio Hacks” this premiere volume of MAKE shows a lot of promise. If you, like I, have a need to know how things work and like a glimpse into cool things going on out there (such as the “Fab Lab” at MIT) then you need this magazine!!!

Well, I’m going to go back to reading about “The Open Source Car” but you can expect to hear more about MAKE from me in the future. For now, they currently have three volumes out which can be purchased individually through Amazon (also through the MAKE website, but cheaper through Amazon.) You can also subscribe through Amazon or MAKE’s website.

Here are some links to get you started:

MAKE: Magazine at

From Amazon:

Volume 1: Premiere
Volume 2: Home Entertainment
Volume 3: Cars and Halloween
Subscription to MAKE

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Screw Your Neighbor

One of my favorite pastimes is playing poker with friends. Quite often someone will teach us a new game, we’ll have a great time playing it, then we’ll forget all the rules before we play again. In posting these rules I hope to keep track of some of these games.

Also known as Cuckoo, Screw Your Neighbor is not really poker, but this is a great game, especially with a big group. The game is played in rounds and the deal rotates. The objective is to not have the lowest card at the end of each round. You don’t need to have the highest card, you just don’t want the lowest.

3 to 10 (or more) players. More players will make for longer games.

How to play:

Each player places two equal stakes directly in front of them. The stake can be a quarter, dollar, chip, or whatever folks are comfortable with.

The dealer deals one card face down to each player (starting with the person to their left, as usual.)

Each player looks at their card. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player in turn can either keep their card or trade with the person immediately to their left in hopes of getting a higher card. Aces are always low in this game.

If a player is asked to trade they must, unless they hold a king, at which point they can show the king and block the trade. If a trade is blocked, the player who wanted the trade must keep the card they are holding.

The dealer has the final option trade but must trade against the deck if they decide to.

After the dealer trades the round is done. Everyone must show their card and the player, or players with the lowest ranking cards (aces are always low and suits don’t matter) must place one of their stakes into the pot.

After a player looses twice and has no stakes in front of them they are said to be “on their face.” A player who is on their face can continue to play (and even win) until they loose one more time.

The next round begins with the next player to the left, dealing as above. Play continues until only one player is left in the game. They win, and collect the pot.

Hints: Don’t forget you can block a trade if you’re holding a king.
If you are holding a low card (say a 2) and someone trades with you for a higher card (say a 3) you can rest easy and keep the higher card since you know you don’t have the lowest card on the table.

Variations: If playing with a large number of people (7 or more) we usually do not allow a player to continue after loosing both stakes. This keeps the games a little bit shorter.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Google’s Getting Suggestive

It’s always fun seeing what the folks at Google are up to. While there are several cool things in the lab at Google, I think Google Suggest is particularly interesting.

As you enter search terms in suggest mode (which looks surprisingly familiar,) Google makes some educated guesses and offers some additional words to narrow your search.

Google offers this description:

What is Google Suggest?

As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google’s “Did you mean?” feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type “bass,” Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include “bass fishing” or “bass guitar.” Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like “progr,” Google Suggest might offer you refinements like “programming,” “programming languages,” “progesterone,” or “progressive.” You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse.

After trying suggest on a few of my common search terms it seems like the suggestions could be useful for narrowing down searches, but I think the bigger advantage may be helping less savvy computer users understand the power of Google and get better, faster, more accurate results.

Check out Google Suggest at

Technorati tags: , , ,

Better Weather Forecast

So I, like most people tend to default to the easiest, most memorable sites on the web. As such, had been my preferred site for local weather for quite a while. At first the site was great, but as time passed, displayed more ads, then animated ads, then popup ads, then animated popup ads, then more animated popup ads. At the time of this writing is showing nine ads on the local forecast page which additionally pushes the actual forecast so far down the page I have to scroll to see it.

While working at Boston University I stumbled upon a much better alternative. While checking some background information on a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) grant I stumbled across the site for the National Weather Service’s site. offers the same kind of localized forecast as with no (none, nada, zilch) ads. Check it out. Enter your zip code in the box on the left of the page and click go. You will be taken to a 7 day forecast with current conditions, satellite images, a graphical “Forecast at a Glance” and a detailed 7-day forecast all free of commercial intrusion.

Since we’re already paying for this through our taxes I think it’s about time we start taking full advantage of it. I think you’ll agree this is a much better site to get your weather from.

Technorati tags: , ,

How does the gas pump shut off

So being a very curious person I can’t stand not knowing how things work. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Google, I can usually find a fairly quick answer. So when I got a burning curiosity to know how gas pumps shut off when the tank in my car is full (and my credit card is empty) I was surprised I couldn’t find a quick answer.

My favorite site for this type of thing is They are very comprehensive on most topics I have pursued there, but have barely more than a paragraph on the topic.

Not being satisfied with my initial findings I moved on to more advanced search techniques (really I just kept trying different search terms in Google.) From there I came up with this article from (you’ll have to page down past the article about sleeping birds.)

The short story on this is basically there is a small vacuum tube that runs down the spout and has an opening near the tip. The pumping gas produces suction on the vacuum tube and when gas gets high enough in the tank to cover the end of the tube it increases the vacuum on the other end of the tube which trips the shut-off.

Think about it this way: if you were sucking air through a straw, then someone put the other end of the straw into a cup of water you would notice that it became harder to suck. With any luck at all, you would stop sucking before you filled your lungs with water, just like the gas pump stops before it fills your shoes with gas.

For a better explanation, here is the article from Another interesting article from Husky describes the technology, as well as goes into more detail as to why it sometimes fails (as well as describing why their nozzles are the best, of course.)

All-in-all a very elegant, low tech solution requiring no electricity, sensors, floats, or any other fancy gadgets; one that has passed the test of time.

Technorati tags: , ,