Whoah! I landed all three stickers this month. I think I need to come up with an equally awesome reward.
This month was a bit of a deviation from the usual monastic experience projects. ‘This is Capital City’ was a collaboration with ‘counterpilot’. An interactive theatre performance that has been in the making for over twelve months. Here, the audience carried a phone that played narrative at various places around the Brisbane Powerhouse. I used Estimote iBeacons for indoor positioning, this worked better than earlier GPS versions. I also coded up a system for mixing soundtracks live, based on the position of the participant. More details (and source code), here.
I was wandering around a local library up here in Cairns, a little forlorn. I had realised how spoiled I was for library access in Brisbane. UQ Library, State library of Queensland, even our little local library 5 minutes walk around the corner. When suddenly a wild Tufte appeared. I was so excited I may have even yelled Whoo!
Visual Explanations by Edward R. Tufte had been in my reading list for a long time. It is excellent. The layout mirrors what you would find in a book on art, rather than a science or statistics book. The two opening chapters were the best. The first showing how spatial data located the cause of the 1854 Cholera epidemic. The second showing how the misrepresentation of data led to the Challenger shuttle tragedy.
Manage to scrape out another 52.6kms for October. But it is getting hard, we have entered the monsoonal ‘build up’. Humidity and heat are really ramping up. That haze on the mountains below? It is just going to get thicker and thicker till I am running my way through thick soupy air.
This guide will show you how to update your Edison and connect it to your local wireless network.
Downloads. These sort of guides always start with downloads. Grab the latest image from Intel, at the time of writing this was the 2.1 Yocto complete image.
You will also need the phone flash tool lite (for uploading the image to your Edison). It is available for Windows, OSX and Linux.
NOTE: The drivers for OSX, El Capitian don’t exist yet. If you are on OSX and trying to flash your Edison, you will need to use Yosemite or another operating system.
Unzip the downloaded image, install and start ‘Phone Flash Tool Lite’.
- Start with your Edison unplugged (we do this later).
- Press the browse button, navigate to and select the ‘FlashEdison.json’ file in the unzipped image.
- On OSX select ‘CDC’ as the configuration, for windows leave it set to ‘RNDIS’.
- Press ‘Start to Flash’.
- When prompted, use the socket labelled ‘OTG’ to connect the Edison to your computer.
When completed, unmount or eject the ‘Edison’ drive from your computer and switch the cable from the ‘OTG’ socket to the one labelled ‘CONSOLE’.
- Open up a terminal. (On windows you will need to install PuTTY).
- Run ‘screen’. Where XXXXXXXX is the device’s unique name (you can use tab to autocomplete this):
$ screen -L /dev/cu.usbserial-XXXXXXXX 115200 –L
- At the blank screen, press enter.
- Use ‘root’ for the login.
$ configure_edison --setup
- Follow the prompts to set the default password, unique name and wireless access for your Edison. When successfully completed your terminal will read something like.
Done. Please connect your laptop or PC to the same network as this device and go ...
From here we can SSH into our freshly minted Edison and create!
$ ssh root@http://edison.local
P.S. The package manage for the Edison is ‘opkg’, it works in a similar way to apt. Here is how you upgrade the packages on your Edison. First add the following to
src/gz all http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/all
src/gz edison http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/edison
src/gz core2-32 http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32
$ opkg update
$ opkg upgrade
Dear Michael Candy,
This is a difficult fan letter to write, because we worked together and well… And ahhh. How to explain it? Do you remember primary school and you were making your first friends? Did you ever have a silly argument and not talk to each other for a while? That is kind of what happened when our paths parted.
Still this is a letter that I have to write. You see, when I started building a family tree of influences I encountered someone who ignored (and even went out of their way to avoid) mentioning an important influence. I think these two had some sort of falling out, but the lack of acknowledgement really bothered me; way more than it should have. I didn’t want my series of love letters to fall into a similar trap.
So here goes.
I think you are the most important influence in how I work, and shape my career. For a brief moment in time our paths overlapped. The things we built were exhilarating. Most people have to jump out of planes to get the kind of adrenalin hit I got from the sheer terror I felt in the middle of our projects.
Each time, they got bigger. More ambitious, and like clockwork, around the middle of the project I would hit a wall of self-doubt. “Shit. What if I can’t make it work?” But we always managed to scrape out the other side. Not always completely unscathed, but it gave me confidence. You gave me confidence, I can code things, I can make things.
When I’m in the workshop, building, I occasionally get stuck on a problem. My thought process still quickly switches to “What would the Candyman do?”. The answer often is just removing self-doubt and fear. Why can’t I drill here? Why can’t I cut that? What am I afraid of? Why don’t I just…
One day, I suspect you will be world renowned, and I really look forward to being ‘that guy’: Oh, Michael Candy? Yeah, I knew him before he was famous. No big deal. But we kinda hung out and talked about tools and built things.
I hope you are well. I still smile when I catch up with your blog and see what you are working on.
Whoops. Fell of the documentation wagon for a little there, it seemed like the only way I could land some of my coveted create stickers.
Finally! Not one, BUT TWO create stickers, one each for August and September. My performance would be enough to make any HR manager rub their hands with glee. ‘Yes. Excelent. All these forms ARE allowing you achieve your full potential’. Scoring all the stickers in a month always seems possible, but ends up just outside my grasp. Oh and there is nothing that will put me in a worse mood than feeling like I have squandered a day. The opposite is also true, nothing picks me up more than a productive day at the computer or in the workshop. If I get to the end of a day exhausted, you will still find me grinning content.
In August I drifted off on a tangent and created analogue.js. It simulates the output of mechanical typewriters on webpages. I was shooting for a digital embodiment of some of Tom Sachs’ and Van Neistat’s analogue ethos. So it seemed fitting that I test out analogue.js by porting the van.neist.at museum over to it. I also created a reinterpretation of Tom Sachs’ Ten Bullets microsite.
In September I made a floor lamp, book case, beside table and charging station thing. I followed style ideas and techniques from the short film ‘Love Letter To Plywood’. Sachs’ idea of painting the plywood first and displaying all the construction ‘scars’ was a challenge. It forces a slow and methodical thought process along with a considerable amount of care. Removing the ‘Ahh, I will just paint over that mistake’ crutch was rewarding. The experience reminded me a lot of some of my forays into Haskell.
Two create stickers. Exhausted, but grinning.
Still chipping away at a pretty great read.
Missed my September kilometre quota by 2.2kms. But still managed to clock up 100.8kms for August and September combined. It is going to be a long hot slog to the finish line.
Dear Alexander Calder,
This is the first fan letter I have written posthumously, and I’m worried that it might become awkward. But I’m going to push on, mostly because I find writing such a powerful way of learning. I guess that is why they make you write essays at school.
In many ways I’m here because Tom Sachs sent me. I was watching a lecture by Tom when he casually dropped “… all the evidence or what Alexander Calder would term ‘the scars of labor’”. I paused the video and looked up your work. The first photograph I found of your sculptures was instantly familiar. I had spent a couple of minutes mumbling stuff like “I have seen this… Where I have seen your work?” when it smacked me in the face. I ran to the bookcase and dug out the textbook ‘Introduction to Algorithms’.
On the cover, staring out at me was something you created in 1959, Big Red. It was one of those shattering moments that brought me right to the existential ledge. I had spent hours of my undergraduate years studying from Introduction to Algorithms. Why had it taken me over fifteen years to finally consider the cover? It was here I realised the world was filled with dimensions that I had been completely oblivious too. I was hooked. Why was your work on the front of my textbook and who were you?
I found one of the answers from Thomas Cormen, an author of Introduction to Algorithms.
We chose it because it’s a tree drawn the way that computer scientists draw trees. We were hoping to find a Calder mobile with both red plates and black plates, but we couldn’t find one.
The harder question of who you were took much longer. But the more I dug, the more I liked what I found and the more I noticed an unseen thread through my life. Building mobiles in primary school, visiting sculptures in Canberra and Sydney. I’m pretty sure at one point I even had a toy car that sported your livery. As someone who was born five years after your death, it was easy to accept the praise around your work. I mean to be able to look back on my life and easily recall instances of your cultural influence? I think that carries a fair weight, especially considering I live on the other side of the planet.
The fact that you were first a mechanical engineer was cool. But I’m biased on that front, the thing I enjoyed learning most was your attitude. Just doing what you loved. You created a huge volume of work, I saw someone estimate it at something like one a day for twenty years? And your attitude towards the ‘establishment’ seemed to reinforce that. Ignoring what you called ‘hubbub’ and even refusing to call your work art? Sticking with just ‘objects’ and letting others label your efforts? I think that is what really set you apart.
Each time I write one of these letters, I’m left with at least one unanswered question. I wonder who the unnamed engineer was that inspired you into mechanical engineering? Was it something they built? Was it who they were? Why you got into engineering and the tension between your early career and lifelong profession would be a fascinating story. Especially as someone who struggled with early career tensions of their own and is desperately trying to find their calling.
Recently I received a typewritten letter. Not printed, but typed on an old school mechanical typewriter. I can’t even remember the last time I received something that had come off a typewriter. Maybe a school report from when I was a kid? This typewritten letter was the catalyst I needed to condense a bunch of half formed ideas into a project. My fourth curiosity…
Mechanical typewriters are awesome. Despite excellent legibility, there are all kinds of uncertainty that adds imperfections to your work. How hard you press the key, translates to how well the ink transfers to the page. How the ink bleeds on the page differs depending on character and with variations in the fibres of the page. Oh and typos. There is no hiding those suckers on a mechanical typewriter. You either throw out the whole page, use correction tape or just straight up type over the error. While word processing on a computer scrubs away all these scars and replaces them with the chiseled perfection of a bank statement.
OK. So I was going to show a video of a mechanical typewriter, but I couldn’t get past this amazing commercial for IBM’s Selectric typewriter:
Loads of people have attempted typewritten fonts for a computer. For example, take a look at ‘Brother Deluxe 1350’. At first glance it looks roughly like it has come off a typewriter, it has ink bleeding and some of the characters are mishit. But, you know that clammy sensation creeping into your mouth right now? That is taste kicking in, it is telling you that something isn’t right. It is telling you that this is terrible fake. If we pull out the letter ‘e’ and type it over and over again, it completely shatters the illusion. Each keypress is not unique and the whole typewriter effect has been destroyed. All we have ended up with is some badly rendered characters.
The author of Brother Deluxe has actually done a pretty awesome job given the tools at hand. The problem actually lies in the way a computer renders typesetting. Font authors are only ever given one way to represent a lower-case ‘e’. They have no way of expressing all the subtle variations that a mechanical typewriter generates ‘e’.
Some people get around these constraints be generating images where each keypress is unique. Oh. Oh. Oh. And this is where I finally get to use my favorite 90’s argument against flash. “But, that breaks the web… Man.” Images are large to send and search engines can’t read the content. Not to mention being time consuming to create. I just want to peck away at my keyboard and have each key-press rendered uniquely like a typewriter.
Analogue.js is a canvas based typesetter that does just that. Add the 'analogue' class to your element and analogue.js will do the rest. Analogue replaces existing HTML elements with a canvas. It then generates a unique ink-strike for each key-press, along with any misalignment. It even occasionally smudges a character or renders transpositional typos. The underlying font is a digitised version of IBM's Selectric typewriter ('Courier New'). As a result, this paragraph will never have two page views the same\*. Open up a couple of tabs and check it out.
Tom Sachs and Van Neistat inspired this analogue approximation for website text**. So I threw together a more comprehensive demonstration based off their work, ‘Ten Bullets’.
If you wanted to give analogue.js a whirl, the source code lurks on github.
* Given enough characters written on a page. I haven’t worked out the exact number of permutations. But there are many.
** With a bit of Jeff Atwood thrown in to make sure it preserves the googlebot love.
Well that was a flat month. A load of distraction to scare off focus. The chuck on my cordless drill jammed right in the middle of the month and was off on repairs for a whole week. It dragged me into a bit of a funk. Every time I would look around and say ‘I know! I will…’ I ended up blocked by not being able to drill something. Still. I managed to pop out the other side with a pipeline full of work for August.
I wanted to finish the setup of my workshop this month. I came really close, but I just have a couple of details I want to finish off before declaring it done. However I did restore and upgrade my workbench. I am surprised by the improvement it has made to the whole workshop. At the end of July, the workshop it officially became my ‘happy place’. It reminds me of that scene in Fight Club with the penguin, you know. The narrators power animal? Damn. I need a power animal. My workshop needs a power animal.
The old workbench got some strengthening, plywood drawers and stainless steel slides. All my hand tools are now organised in some tough cases from Dewalt. They are watertight, ideal for stopping my tools from rusting in the tropical humidity. I added a plywood shadow board for all my consumables and lighting. It is so nice to finally be able to get at what I need without rummaging for 10 minutes through various milk crates.
In the end I spent a week designing, planning and ordering for future projects. Plus cranked out improvements to TriggerTracker for the upcoming show at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Distractions struck here too. Spent my research time diving down a whole new alley in my influences chart.
Back on track this month, clocking in 71.3 kms. For a couple of weeks there was a new super yacht moored in the marina, ‘Serenity’. Each time I ran past, I imagined it belonged to Joss Whedon and that he was hiding inside writing a second season to Firefly.