FindDay #20

Every Friday I share the five coolest things I’ve found on the web in the last week.

1 – Super 73

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lithiumcycles/the-super-73

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I ran across the Super 73 on YouTube, and it was so cool I was willing to suffer through 6 minutes of ultra-hipster-douchebag video just to check it out. Fortunately the videos produced by the people actually building the thing are more tolerable, so that’s what I’ll embed here.

I linked to the (now complete) Kickstarter campaign page because there’s not a lot to see of the Super 73 on the manufacturer’s website right now. They’re currently pushing the more affordable “Scout” model, which is cool but I don’t like it as much as the original 73. There is an updated version of the 73 in the works, but it goes the same “hub motor” route as the Scout which makes sense as a product but is less interesting to me since I’m not interested in the bike as a product, but as a design.

You see, I’ve been noodling on building (or converting) and electric bike/motorcycle for years. Ever since I rode a Zero I’ve lost all interest in owning another gasoline-powered motorcycle, but given the cost ($10k+) it seemed like building one was more realistic, and building an electric bicycle might be a great starting point. Where I get stuck on this is deciding if I want to try to find a suitable frame and modify it, or if I want to try to build one from scratch. The former is kind of expensive and seems clumsy, but the latter requires design skills that I’m not sure I have yet.

When I saw the Super 73 I was immediately reminded of my little brother’s old minibike, but converted to electric power; perhaps you see the resemblance?

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This isn’t Justin’s bike, but one like it

This got me thinking about how I could build a similar bike based around the proven design of the “boonie bike“, to create something like the Super 73 but less expensive and built from more commodity parts.

This isn’t a criticism of what Lithium Cycles is doing. Their bikes are expensive, but when you consider that they are essentially built by hand by people living in California, the cost is understandable (honestly if they are paying their workers a living wage in that part of the U.S., the only profit they probably make is whatever discount they can negotiate on parts). If you have the means I think it would be great to support their work, but in my case I can’t justify spending $3200.00 on a bicycle (that’s more than the cost of my first two motorcycles combined), and I’m probably not alone in that regard.

So the Super 73 inspired me to create an electric bike drawn from the same inspiration, but designed to be built by people who have more time (and/or sweat) than money. I want to avoid incorporating fixed-cost parts in the design that limit the ability for a builder to offset cost with scavenging skills. This might be the perfect justification to resurrect my work on turning automotive alternators into traction motors…

2 – Leonardo’s eBooks

http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Arundel_MS_263

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The British Library has scanned and published a number of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and you should probably drop what you’re doing and spend some time exploring them.

3 – Darktable

http://www.darktable.org/

I’m trying to include at least one piece of excellent open-source software in each weeks list, and Darktable is a great addition to that tradition.

screenshot-2

Simply put, Darktable is an open-source photography application along the same lines as Adobe’s Lightroom or Apple’s Aperature (RIP). I don’t know enough about digital photography to say whether or not Darktable can replace these products (I’ll leave that to experts like you) but based on comparing the features, and given the performance, stability (and of course reduced cost) that comes with being an open-source application that runs on Linux, I think it’s worth checking out.

It’s also another example of a well-designed, polished open-source application and I’m excited to see more of these coming about. For the work I do, brutal, ugly tools are fine but I know that this alienates many potential Linux users. So it’s very exciting to see more and more tools that not only look and work better, but also expand what Linux can do into new and creative areas.

4 – Neurable

http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/bionics/brainy-startup-neurable-unveils-the-worlds-first-braincontrolled-vr-game

neurable-2

Aside from looking incredibly cyberpunk, Neurable’s accessory for the HTC Vive VR system takes us one step closer to William Gibson’s vision of the matrix by allowing the user to interact with the virtual world using only their mind.

There have been a number of products released recently that allow some level of input using brainwaves, but due to the way these systems work they are limited to somewhat “coarse” levels of input that are more associated with the psychological state of the user than their deliberate intentions. Neurable is taking a different approach, using the same signals and similar sensors, but processing the data in such a way as to be able to extract choices the user is making and mapping this to actions inside the simulation.

Based on the article linked, it actually works.

It’s hard to exaggerate the potential applications for this technology. Neurable is accepting applications for developers who would like to receive a kit to develop such applications.

Personally I’ve been avoiding the “mainstream” VR systems because they are rather proprietary and typically require expensive, closed hardware and software which I think limits the utility of the technology to entertainment for the wealthy. That said, Neurable’s technology appears to work with Linux, and HTC has at least claimed an interest in supporting Linux as well, so this might be a setup tantalizing enough to get me to move beyond the smartphone-based HMD’s I’ve been experimenting with so far.

(via Adafruit Blog)

5 – TinyFPGA A1

https://www.tindie.com/products/tinyfpga/tinyfpga-a1/

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I’ve discussed my strong feelings about the value of getting more people into FPGA development so I won’t repeat that here (this FindDay is already longer than it probably should be). What I will say about TinyFPGA is that if you have any interest at all in learning about FPGA, the barrier to entry just got a lot smaller.

One of the hardest things for me about getting into FPGA development has been wrangling the tooling, and aside from producing an incredibly cheap piece of hardware, the people behind TinyFPGA have also produced some great introductory material to get new developers up and running and seeing results in a very short amount of time.

(via. [https://www.tindie.com](Tindie email newsletter))

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