Monday, December 31, 2012

Raspberry Pi finally arrived

I first signed up to order a Raspberry Pi in February. The huge demand and delays meant my order did not get processed until July 27 - two months after my credit card had expired. I ordered again through a different company and paid by bank transfer. Now 5 months later, I have a Raspberry Pi and it is plugged into our TVwith HDMI and has a wireless keyboard/mouse and Wifi connection. I have configured it so I can access it remotely from anywhere and the next step is to learn some Python programming on Codecademy or find some software for it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a Safe Merry Christmas Nerds

Today's Computer History Daily Quote by The Printed Owl says:
The term "nerd" comes from an original spelling "knurd." The term is originated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the late 1940s. Students who party and rarely study are called "drunks," while students who are always studying are known as "knurds" (drunks spelled backwards). The TV show Happy Days gives the phrase its national popularity.
So following this curious snippet of computer history is our Public Service Announcement:

Nerds, have a safe and responsible Christmas, because a "Drunk Knurd" may cause some sort of self-annihilation space-time paradox and we have only just recovered from the recent Mayan Calendar Apocalypse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are you a Geek or Nerd?

Last month the BBC featured an article: Are 'geek' and 'nerd' now positive terms? telling how Swedish campaigners are trying to force changes to the derogatory dictionary definitions of geek and nerd:

    noun /gēk/ 
    geeks, plural
    1. An unfashionable or socially inept person

      • A person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest
        • - a computer geek
      • A carnival performer who does wild or disgusting acts

      noun /nərd/ nurds, plural
      1. A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious
        • - one of those nerds who never asked a girl to dance
      2. An intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical discipline or profession
        • - he single-handedly changed the Zero image of the computer nerd into one of savvy Hero

    When I was at school in the 80's, the definitions were a good fit. The "nerd" was the guy who spent his lunchtimes in the library studying. He lacked social skills, was boringly studious and went on to become a pathologist. Personal computers were new then and us "geeks" hung out in the computer lab whenever we could. We were a little unfashionable and eccentric and did not get invited to parties.

    From xkcd: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language 
    Now many (rich and) famous geeks and nerds are almost worshipped by the masses hungry for their latest electronic creations. A lot of the top rating movies and television shows feature geeks and nerds as heroes. The terms now have more positive meaning. New Zealand geeks got their own second level domain in 2003. is "a place for geeks to share what they've done, who they did it with and connect with great companies and communities".

    Geeks vs Nerds

    My "Geekly" playlist on GrooveShark:

    Geekly by Peter Murray on Grooveshark

    More reading:
    How to tell the difference between Geeks and Nerds: 7 steps.
    Essential Nerd Movies

    Friday, December 14, 2012

    Rugged ultraportable 2.1 speaker

    The Boombot is a smart ultraportable 2.1 sound system in a ruggedized industrial package. Designed as a headset replacement for on-the-go quality sound the Boombot wirelessly connects to mobile devices. The steel reinforced belt clip and water resistant shell encourage the user to pick it up, clip it on and add a soundtrack to their life in motion. With the built-in microphone and three simple buttons the Siri-compatible Boombot offers speakerphone functionality too.

    Find out more on the Kickstarter Project and Boombotix website.

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Pinokio - lamp, robot, friend?

    Pinokio is a humble anglepoise lamp created by Shanshan Zhou, Adam Ben-Dror, Joss Doggett with the ability to be aware of its surroundings and behave in an attention seeking manner.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Wednesday, November 7, 2012

    Luxury pop-up camper

    When I was 10 years old, I had a surprise holiday at Waingaro Hot Springs with my grandparents in a pop-up camper. It had a solid roof over the main living area in the trailer with pop out canvas sections for the beds at each end and an awning on the side. It was great fun and probably looked similar to this:

    Pop-up camper design has come a long way over the years as this video of the Opera (inspired by the Sydney Opera House) shows:

    More about the Opera at

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Solve Puzzles for Science

    Protein structure prediction is one of the hardest problems in biology today. If we can predict how the amino acids in proteins fold to form their structure, we can then use that information to design drugs to target diseases or design new proteins that help prevent or treat diseases like HIV, Cancer and Alzheimer's.

    Foldit is a computer game that uses our pattern recognition skills and puzzle solving abilities to fold proteins and use these for training the artificial intelligence programs.

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Custom one man band

    An amazing one man custom built orchestra. In this video, Diego Stocco not only builds his own instruments, but composes and plays the full orchestral piece.

    Diego Stocco - Custom Built Orchestra from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

    As seen on ada fruit industries blog.

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Learning to Code

    I'm proud of my 10 year old son who has completed the JavaScript Fundamentals Track on Codecademy as part of Code Year.

    He has also completed 99% of the Web Fundamentals Track, 36% of the Python Track and 11% of the JQuery Track.

    I am lagging behind him with only 86% of the JavaScript Fundamentals Track complete and none of the other topics started yet.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Caine's Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge

    Last year Nirvan Mullick discovered Caine's Arcade - a cardboard game arcade built by Caine Monroy during the summer holidays in his dad's auto parts shop in East LA. Nirvan was Caine's first customer and he invited heaps of people to a flash mob to play and Caine's Arcade went viral.

    This year to follow up, Nirvan and the Imagination Foundation are following up with the Caine's Arcade Global Cardboard Challenge on October 6.

    Go play!

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    How monsters are made

    During our travels in New Zealand we visited the How to make a Monster exhibit at the Waikato Museum.

    Featuring animatronics, props and special effects from movies such as Inspector Gadget 2, George of the Jungle 2, Peter Pan and Pitch Black, the display highlighted some of John Cox's Creature Workshop's work.

    Inspector Gadget hands

    George of the Jungle gorillas

    Animatronic head

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    We are all related/connected

    Next week I will be in New Zealand catching up with relatives I haven't seen for four years (and some I have not met yet).

    Here is an interesting video explaining how we are all related.

    We are all connected.

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    Modular electronics

    My kids were playing with a Cambridge Brain Box snap together electronics kit this morning. They also have a Logiblocs Super Inventors Kit. Here is another modular electronics system for learning.

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Space camper

    My son went with his class to Space Camp Turkey for 3 days last week. He had an amazing time with a shuttle simulation, the 1/6 gravity machine, multi-axis trainer, manned maneuvering unit and Zero-G wall.

    Sunday, April 29, 2012

    MuzGadget Bro-in-law Pushing the Limits

    MuzGadgets Bro-in-law Phil is training to do the Christchurch Airport Marathon in a wheelchair. Follow his progress and the cause he is supporting at P.U.S.H.

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Learning from MacGyver

    Students at Freyberg High School in Palmerston North, New Zealand are learning what to do in life-threatening situations from MacGyver reruns.

    During screening of the MacGyver epsiodes, computing teacher Gareth Bell pauses the video to ask if the science behind what MacGyver is doing will work in real life. Afterwards, the students try to repeat some of the experiments with varied results.

    As previously posted on MuzGadgets, MacGyver episodes are available on YouTube (but not in all countries).

    Seen on Stuff.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Solar panels from grass clippings

    Plants naturally convert solar energy and now scientists at MIT have found a way to extract the molecules responsible for photosynthesis and use them with a stabilizer to keep them "alive" and harvest electricity.
    This video describes how the process could be used to provide very low cost energy to remote and developing places.

    As seen on Inhabitat via DesignTaxi.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Fabricating origami pop-up microbots

    This fascinating video shows the detail of fabricating millimeter scale robots with laser cut pieces sandwiched together and then folded into the 3D shape like pop-up origami.

    As seen on

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Sonication - healing with focused sound waves

    Ultrasound for medical imaging has been used for a long time now, but focused ultrasound in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging produces some amazing breakthroughs in non-invasive surgery.

    Watch this inspiring Ted Talk from Yoav Medan.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Getting geekier - upskill with these online learning sites

    Looking to improve your geek skills this year?

    Here are some online tech education resources that look interesting:

    Get any gadgets for Christmas?

    Greetings of the season!

    While I didn't get any gadget loot this year, I am thankful for my loved ones who gave me:
    • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    • 50 Architecture Ideas You Really Need to Know
    • Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things
    My son got a solar robotics kit and a Logiblocs Super Inventor Kit. We got our daughter a mineral exploration kit and we had fun digging semi-precious stones out of a block of plaster. She also got The Lego Ideas Book.