🛠 Cool Tools Honorable Mentions 🛠

Awesome maker tools and materials that didn’t fit in the podcast!

Alex Glow
2 years ago

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly on their podcast, Cool Tools — which is exactly what it says on the tin. We ended up with a focus on livestreaming tools, which I use to broadcast video to Facebook and YouTube 3–4 days a week for Hackster.io.

Since a half hour only lasts so long, here are some more sweet upgrades for your maker toolbox!


Disk Inventory X: I use this all the time, to find out what’s eating up my hard drive. Working with video leaves me with lots of large files; the graphical interface and simple, robust controls help me track down the culprits. I can easily move old space-hogs to backup drives.

LightBlue Bean: I left this one out because, sadly, it’s been discontinued. But it’s one of my favorite little microcontrollers ever! And it’s been opened for development, so you can still have a go at making one! (Fingers crossed…) Bluetooth LE, 3-axis accel, RGB LED, temp sensor, removable proto-board, tiny size, coin cell power, Arduino on your phone: it’s perfect for robotics and wearable tech. I’ve used it to create electronic tattoos and mindfulness wearables, and to upgrade my smart hologram camera (hologrammera?).

Face-language: OK, here’s a weird one. I’m bad at remembering people’s faces, so I created a synesthetic system that turns facial features into syllables. I can combine a person’s most striking attributes to create a unique name that encodes their facial structure, hair, and more. I don’t have it memorized yet, but just thinking about it causes me to pay more attention, aiding memory. (I feel weird sharing my exact system, but I’d assume that creating your own is most effective anyway.)


Litiholo: In the podcast, I mentioned “polaroids” —instant tools that make complex projects fast and beginner-friendly (for example, IFTTT for IoT, or Pikazo for neural-net style transfer). Litiholo is perhaps the best example, providing kits that make it really easy to create true holograms from small objects. It uses lasers. It’s awesome!

DIY Instant Holography - Today, I visited Holo Land. This is a wondrous place, a friend's home stuffed to the brim with 3D imagery and light…

“Bike leather” (used bike inner tubes): Used in the harness for Archimedes and my Merlin Armor utility belt, this stuff is fantastic. It’s slightly stretchy, looks and works a lot like leather (no hemming!), and puts the “cycle” in “upcycle”. 😉 I’ve threaded LED strips through it and cut slits to create a cool, somehow ssssnakelike wearable light effect. I got a bunch for free by hitting up a local bike shop and asking if they had any used ones.

Special mention: Codes of Conduct

In my line of work/hobby, these are invaluable, but tend to be an afterthought. They help everyone have an awesome time and focus on the fun stuff, and you don’t have to write them from scratch. Having helped start Ann Arbor’s hackerspace and Hackster.io, from experience I recommend adapting one or more existing codes to suit your community. The JSConf code is great for in-person events, and the Rust language has a solid CoC for online.

To address a few common objections: When we were working to get the Noisebridge CoC passed, people complained that “one rule” (Be Excellent To Each Other) had sufficed for years. However, that wasn’t really the only rule: people weren’t allowed to sleep there — lest we violate the lease and lose the space — or be rowdy on substances.

Some also argued that the code would be used to unfairly target them, and that due process would suffer. To those people, a code should be especially useful, since it outlines clearly what is and is not acceptable. If someone thinks that their social challenges put them at risk, they should find comfort in having extra protection against complaints (if they’re following a few reasonable rules).

On “radical inclusion”: while this is a wonderful ideal, if you don’t exclude abusers, you tacitly exclude (or endanger) anyone vulnerable. There’s no great shortage of talented jerks, but if you have a CoC, more awesome people will feel comfortable in your space. While you can’t guarantee peace, it demonstrates that you care.

Finally, as a community leader, you can fix situations without becoming a target: just point to the (metaphorical) sign on the wall. Plus, things will go way easier if there’s a defined process when the feces hits the fan.

Alex Glow
The Hackster team's resident Hardware Nerd. I like robots, music, EEG, wearables, and languages. FIRST Robotics kid.
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