{U}sable{D}evices Site update

Due to the slow progress posting and adding information to the Wiki, here is a brief status update on the  {U}sable{D}evices site.

A lot of effort has gone into the Wiki establishment, and it is now starting to get past the mostly self inflicted issues in implementing the wiki semantic data structures, forms, pages and templates to assist with central changes to groups of pages. These changes are already visible, but won’t be promoted until a they are a bit more presenatable and populated with more information. If you want to give any feedback, or contribute, please jump in!

As the only current interest in the forums is spammers, the forums have been disabled until I find a better anti-spam solution, as dealing with the spammers has been a big timewaster. Does anyone have any suggestions beyond the built in phpBB options?

The Server Internal Error 500 messages have reduced to a trickle. If you run into one, I would really appreciate it if you contacted me with what you were doing at the time!

All of which has slowed posts here on the blog, not to mention all those new projects I have been planning! 

In short, progressing slowly, groundwork mostly in place, and the really interesting content will start to trickle out.

{U}sable{D}evices Wiki – collating and sharing useful information

One of the goals of this site is to share information, and of course that should not just be any information, but ‘useful stuff’.  With the Internet and growth of the information society or whatever buzz words spring to mind, there is a huge volume of information available. Lots of it is readily accessible and good quality, but a lot is hard to find, or easy to find – if you know what to look for or where to look, or information is easy to find, but only in bits that are widely dispersed and would benefit from a central summary.

This site is attempting to build a community to reduce these issues. I am making a start by collating the Inspiration posts onto the Wiki. This will provide a summary list view and detailed pages, as well as add the Semantic MediaWiki enhancements (web 2 features) and allow easier re-use of the information.

This site is not trying to be a repository, not trying to be a “web directory”, although there will be aspects of both, but trying to provide useful “stepping stones” to find targeted/structured information for people at all skill and knowledge levels. It is up to the readers of this site to see if this approach has any merit, to modify the approach, and hopefully join in and build the community.

The inspirations on the Wiki will soon be followed with more technically focussed information in several areas, so please keep an eye on the {U}sable{D}evices site, as these will be valuable resources to help you get started, and please join in with reviews and contributions.

Contact emails and legal and copyright information.

Email Contacts:

  • Site issues:                                webadministrator at this site usabledevices.com
  • Content and other matters:    spanner888  at this site usabledevices.com

Legal and copyright.

These matters are guided by the sites core goals:

  • open community sharing, lets all help each other.
  • unrestricted access

The general intent for different content on site is:

  • Blog content Copyright UsableDevices.com 2011
  • Wiki and forums are treated as community created content that is publicly shared.
  • Projects: Each project community will select an appropriate licence, preferably open with attribution.

Attribution for each of the above would be a nice courtesy on re-use of any content. This is important for the warm fuzzy feelings and encouragement, but more importantly helps the originating community know of improvements or re-use for different purpose.

If you wish to re-use something and the above do not suit, please contact us to discuss alternatives. This site has no wish to mandate, dictate or force the use of any particular Open Hardware or Open Source Hardware approach nor any other perspective or licensing scheme. Such restrictions conflict with open sharing goals.

While it is clear that these are necessary and provide useful support, the current state of copyright, licensing, patents, design registration etc, when applied to work that contains documents, photos, circuit and PCB designs is a horrible mess!   Research work for this site must have gathered enough information for “50” posts on these matters. Some summary information will be posted in due course.

The approach of open sharing, thus non-restrictive, does not prohibit individuals or businesses licensing for commercial use. It is my personal opinion that for disadvantaged individuals and communities, that there are clear needs for both open non commercial and open commercial licences.

Site Errors

The biggest remaining issue in my building this site is the Wiki, Blog and statistics (PiWik) are giving fairly frequent “500 Internal Server Error”. So if you experience one, it would be great if you can provide details of what you where trying to do (page) and the date/time + time zone, or if you have any suggestions to fix this on a WordPress/MediaWiki site, I would really like to hear your advice.

My hosting services advice is that most likely something to do with .htaccess (Linux hosting). I have not manually edited any of the site .htaccess files, although admin settings for WordPress permalinks and caching plugin have updated the files. Also spent a fair bit of effort bedding down the site and fixing a heap of email and site technical issues. Content issues will be tidied up “as time permits”, or for the wiki probably needs to be blown away and re-installed to easily fix all my property/type errors (did not RTFM). You can respond by commenting on this post or via the contact link.

Community events on the wiki

A “Community Event list” has been started to list key information on interesting ‘special’ events related to creating, making, tinkering, hacking, or your own  community.

These events, may be organised by local communities, but are not ‘local’ community events, they special events, that are widely advertised, open to others and hopefully share the outcomes.

It is linked in the main navigation on the left hand side.

The list format and content is very much in test stage – this is my first Wiki, let alone leaping into using Semantic MedaiWiki extensions.

A rough to do list is:

  • to link in the data entry form,
  • add several views of the events for example a list / table and calendar styles, and
  • keep adding in more events.

A key theme of {U}sable {D}evices is Community Sharing, which goes hand in hand with contributing, so please jump in and add to the Wiki, or discuss changes.

More projects from way back

It’s hard to resist the bargain bin – found an alarm clock module.
Now it has extensions for alarm control plus a radio power supply and FM stereo converter. Still in use today!

Alarm clock
Bargain bin alarm clock - with addons

I designed and built an archery sight for blind people – electronics worked, but the optics failed 🙁
I really wished I could use an FPGA for this project, but the cost was in the thousands of dollars! I should have used a PIC – but the idea never entered my mind – that was a “computer” – not a logic controller! In the end I moved all my logic into an EPROM.

Archery sight transmitter
Archery sight transmitter
Archery sight receiver
Archery sight receiver

I bravely promised a friend it would be much cheaper and better to build a kit metal detector for some serious detecting. I tried two different kits – both were total failures with my build – sorry Dave 🙁

Metal detector - Electronics Australia
Metal detector - Electronics Australia
Metal detector - Elektor
Metal detector - Elektor

About this site

This site is about helping others learn, have fun and create, just like others have helped me. I hope to fill some holes in currently available information, and actively promote a sharing, open to all, unrestricted community access to the information and projects on this site. Plus I will promote some community projects and share some of my personal projects, and there will be plenty of stuff about using devices in one form or another.

Sharing implies open to ALL regardless of your:

  • artistic or technical focus, or just want/need to do stuff
  • experience
  • goal: just use an existing shared project/tool, design your own, or participate in a joint project,…
  • favourite hardware – analogue, digital, CPLD, FPGA, PIC, ARM, ATMEL, ….
  • favourite programming language(s), editor, compiler, SVN, ….
  • approach to licensing, copyright, patents
  • flavour of Open Source (OSS, OSH, OSHW, ..)
  • operating system – aim to be Cross Platform
  • use of closed source software or hardware or tools
  • thoughts on hackers, hacking and hackerspaces
  • country, culture, ….

Unrestricted access:

The use of content on photo and video sharing (eg embedded or linked) as well using popular social media sites is minimised on this site, as these are often not usable due to the computing platforms available to many people, or just ‘not accessible’ in many locations.

This is just one small step in trying to help more of the community access this content. It would be great if other sites would consider this approach, or provide alternate access to content, as this is a significant problem for large numbers of people. Later if we can identify ways to ensure access for all, this could change, so please send in your suggestions.

One final, but major part all inclusive, unrestricted access is to increase access to these devices/projects for those in developing countries or other socially and financially restricted groups by promoting really cheap and accessible, but useful projects. ie people can source parts easily worldwide, or scavenge local parts or substitutes, as well as access to the tools and techniques to build the projects.

I encourage everyone to create and GIVE BACK by documenting and publishing.

Why the name UsableDevices?

  • it is getting hard to create unique names
  • lately a lot of devices I use have been broken, unreliable, noisy, or just aggravating, and I had considerable difficulty fixing them, often only resolving the issue with the community help.

About me? See:- Historical Stuff & Recent Projects under {Devices}

Comments on this post should be directed to one of the forums.