The Technium

Still Out of Control

I wrote Out of Control 27 years ago (1994). That is a long time in the past for a book that promises to talk about the future. A lot in our world has changed in that time, including our attitudes about the future. Far too much has happened in the world of technology to be summed up in this note. But it is fair to wonder how well my book has held up for the past 25 years. Is Out of Control still valid? Is it worth reading today? And what might I have written differently given what I know today? What, if anything, would I change?

Beyond some typos there is nothing I felt I got wrong or incorrect. The principles I labored so hard to describe and explain are still valid and I believe still useful. In fact, I think they are more useful now than ever before. Today we are creating dozens of new synthetic systems each year, and the knowledge I collect in Out of Control can serves as helpful guidance. The biggest change in the last 27 years is that the benefits for decentralized systems, for distributed power, and for mechanical smartness is much clearer now. Whereas before the topics in Out of Control — such as emergence, beehives, hive minds, ant algorithms, social robots — all seemed like cute esoteric ideas that belong in a philosophy class. Now they are correctly perceived as essential, utilitarian, foundational notions at the heart of the internet, and especially to crypto. Two decades ago when I spoke of these things they seemed far away and speculative; now when we speak of them, they seem almost cliched. For instance now everybody knows that the wisdom of the crowd can be useful.

The fault of the book is what it missed, what it does not talk about. There was a chapter I did not write about how the economy is an artificial distributed system, almost like a video game, and almost like an organism. I had notes for the chapter, but it was too big for an already too big book. I didn't explore or deal with the system of news and information, or social networks, which now seems like a huge oversight. That would have been a logical thing to do. If I was rewritting the book today, I would include a chapter about the ecology of information.

One thing that really surprises me is that Out of Control is not more out of date than it is. In most fields of science, a book written 27 years ago would be horribly out of date. While I am happy that the examples and the specific cases I used to tell the story of emergence still work, my stories only do so because the field itself has not advanced as much as I would have expected. Today in 2021 in each of the 24 chapters in the book, I could now add an equal amount of new material to bolster my arguments. For instance many ideas that were mere notions in a notebook are now in research labs, and many of the ideas in research labs are now commercial products. But weirdly, there have been no major breakthroughs or hugely disruptive ideas in these departments in the last many decades. The one exception is the refinement of neural net deep learning, which has worked much better than anyone predicted it would. I should add that if I were writing the book today, I'd devote several chapters to neural nets (which I did briefly mentioned) because they have become so important to the chief new technology in the world: artificial intelligence. In fact, in case it is not clear, neural nets are the prime example of bottom-up, distributed, decentralized, emergent systems. They are a perfect example of all the things I wrote about 25 years ago in Out of Control.

Despite the great success of neural net deep learning, most of the other things that we did not understand 27 years ago we still do not understand today. We have the same holes in our understanding. We still do not have good grasp on how to build systems that can bootstrap — or upcreate — their own complexity to greater levels. We don't know how to program evolutionary systems to evolve their own evolution. We don't even have a decent theoretical idea of why exotropic systems work — that is why they endure and grow. We don't have working measurements for complexity, or even a working framework for making artificial life. Had you asked me when I was writing Out of Control in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I would have guessed back then that we would have answered at least one of these questions by now. But alas, these are still unknown.

We do know some things now. I feel confident to say that overall one big thing we collectively know now is that the nine principles of how to make complex things that I describe in the last chapter of Out of Control really do work. We really can make complex things built from simpler things that work, as one example. It is clearer to even non-scientific people that complicated machines have many similarities to living organisms, and that we prefer it that way. Again and again in the past two decades we've seen how very basic decentralized bottom-up systems have succeeded and progressed much further than we guessed. Even if a completely decentralized system may not take you all the way to what you want to accomplish, the bottom-up is usually the best way to start. These are the kind of lessons that have seeped into the culture and are taken for granted today.

I think Out of Control played a part in getting these kind of ideas accepted and mainstreamed. I am particularly grateful that the Chinese language edition of this book arrived in China when it did. It was perfect timing. The Chinese edition came at a time when Chinese entrepreneurs began to make large complex systems from scratch, and the deep research I drew upon was helpful to them as they experimented. In America, my book arrived too early. It was published before the internet really started. It got very few book reviews and was ignored at that time because tech was considered boring and unimportant. By the time the internet was growing rapidly, the book was forgotten. Now is different because people have been educated to appreciate emergence. Also other books by other authors have been published on these ideas. Out of Control now sells more copies than when it first came out.

There is a saying in the publishing world that the shorter the book is the more it sells, and the longer the book is the shorter the sales. Out of Control is a long book, but it would have sold much better if it were at least half as long. However if I were to re-write it today it would be even longer. So I am very grateful to any and all of my readers who stuck with this long book. It is dense, not easy to read. I thank you, reader, for staying on this journey with me. I hope my research is useful to you. And to new readers, I wish it was shorter!

The Technium

The Tiny Web


In 1988-9 I led a project to make an electronic version of the Whole Earth Catalog. The Whole Earth Catalog was a compendium of thousands of user-reviews printed on cheap newsprint and mailed to subscribers. It was an early pre-internet printed on paper. The idea, in 1988, was to take this venerable Catalog of ideas and products, and to be able to quickly search for, browse, and navigate through them in a non-linear non-book way. So this Electronic Whole Earth Catalog would have not just be a digital copy (as merely scanned online), but would want to be an interactive, non-linear, new thing.

A year earlier, Bill Atkinson, one of the co-creators of the Macintosh at Apple, inspired by an LSD trip, released HyperCard. This as an app for the Mac that was organized around the metaphor of  3x5 cards. Words on cards could be linked to other cards, in a million different ways. The text was hyperlinked. You can surf along the links from one idea to another. More importantly, you could make up as many cards and links as you wanted. HyperCard was the first consumer instantiation of Ted Nelson's idea of hypertext and hyperlinks. Today we recognize this hyperlinking as the web. But in the case of HyperCard this linking all happened within the confines of one computer. This tiny web was not connected to the internet.

Besides offering HyperCard for free to any Mac user, Apple had also just released an Apple CD-Rom drive. Now anyone could access the immense storage of data available on a new device called a CD-Rom.  A CD contained an insane amount of data — like 190 MBs! The problem for Apple was that there were zero CD-Roms all ready to play, so who is gonna buy an expensive CD driver? This chicken and egg problem of needing developers to create content for a new device or platform is now a standard biz development challenge. Steve Jobs was a huge fan of the Whole Earth Catalog, and he would later rave about it in his Stanford commencement address, but he had already left Apple. Another fan of Whole Earth at Apple was Mike Liebhold. He correctly assessed that the Catalog was kind of ready-made for hyperlinking. And it was vast, so it could fill a CD-Rom. And it was still popular. He approached Stewart Brand and us at Whole Earth and after a few meetings Apple decided to fund the creation of an hyperlinked version of the Whole Earth built on HyperCard and issued on a CD-Rom. This Catalog CD, Apple believed,  would be one of the reasons to buy an Apple CD-Rom Driver.

Apple assigned some ace programers to the project (like Tim Oren and Ted Kaehler) and we assigned a project manager and editors (Like Keith Jordan, Kathleen O'Neill,  Richard Schuffler, among others), and then began the huge task of digitizing images and re-keyboarding all the text (since nothing was digitized before). Everything was squeezed onto virtual 3x5 cards. We were even able to add sound files in the music section. Then the really fun part began of designing the user interface. How do you navigate through this ocean of material? How do you see how much of the catalog you have not seen yet? When do you leave a section? What does "going back" mean? How do you get back to somewhere you've been? To someone today who grew up on the web, these kind of questions seem obvious or cute, but in 1989 we wrestled with them. How do you search for anything? Oh, you need a search engine, which we made.

The final product had maybe 4,000 cards and was the largest set of HyperCards made and the largest hyperlinked document before Tim Berners-Lee got the world-wide web going a year later.  The EWEC never sold very many copies, in part because Apple never sold very many CD drivers. And of course once the web exploded, the Electronic Whole Earth Catalog was seen as a tiny self-enclosed web — not the world-wide version you really wanted.  But for a short time, those of us who worked on it were able to experience that weird/wonderful experience you get surfing along a string of links, following a flow state as you explore a vast possibility space at your own speed and interests.

I recently dug up my only copy of EWWC,  and made a copy it for the Internet Archive. Some folks there uploaded it with a Mac Plus emulator, and so you too can now enjoy the Electronic Whole Earth Catalog online at the Internet Archive. Download and play like you were back in the 1980s.

It's thrilling to see it 30 years later. No color, tiny pages, slow.  It was the Tiny Web —the web before the web.

P.S. I onced asked the Apple crew why, after having invented HyperCard — a hyperlinked web — they did not go onto make the world-wide web distributed onto the internet.  They were all net savy. Their answer boils down to this: 1) A few people had tried a web on the internet (Owl and others) and they failed, and 2) Apple could not see a business case for doing so. What would you sell?

The Technium

The Water and Oil Planet

One of the most worrisome graphs in the world is the correlation between the rise of cheap oil and the rise of living standards — or what we might call progress. Almost all the modern trends we tend to applaud, from rising population, to lengthening lifespans, more leisure, more choices, all depend to some extent on cheap energy. If we didn't have an accessible 200-year source of cheap energy we would not have been able to feed billions of people, build tall buildings, or run factories, or fill roads with cars and trains.

Thought experiment: imagine our planet had no significant natural reserves of coal or oil. To build any structure we use wood or earth and muscle power, either animal or human. We could make some windmills and watermills to harness wind and hydro power. We could make some wood-fueled steam powered engines, and build primitive factories. These are both limited in power and limited in the amount of fuel that can be gathered each year. We probably would have discovered electricity, but without cheap power to generate it at scale, it would be difficult to smelt copper for wires to make motors, and of course even harder to supply the power to run them. Motors might have remained in laboratories.

Earth has other sources of non-carbon energy such as nuclear, and solar, that are relatively unlimited. The question is, could science — and the development needed to support it — have progressed enough in a wood-world to achieve the mastery of nuclear power without all the easy wins that hydrocarbons and oil produced? Could you make enough equipment and metallurgy, and other equipment needed without cheap energy, in order to discover the principles of nuclear power? Same for wind energy. Would there be a viable path in a wood-steam-punk world to reach cheap solar panels?

In other words: is oil needed for progress? Can we imagine a planet in another galaxy that has no hydrocarbon fuels ever reaching advanced science? We might imagine a planet that for some geological reasons has tons and tons of steam geysers, or waterfalls every block. Perhaps you could extract enough cheap power in this centralized way to reach nuclear or solar. But maybe the power is not portable enough. Perhaps for civilization, you need not just a water planet, but a water and oil planet.

It is clear to us now that you can run an advanced civilization without burning hydrocarbons; in fact, we'd now say that any advanced civilization would not be burning hydrocarbons at all. Plentiful oil and coal is just a scaffolding technology, needed to build a civilization that can then run without it. Our tiny blue dot of a planet in the black vastness tells any distant observer that life has a good chance of blossoming there. But if we wanted to ascertain whether it was capable of developing a technological civilization, we may need some way to detect whether it contains internal hydrocarbons.

BTW, there is a minority theory that the huge deposits of oil on this planet are not biogenic — that is fossilized life — but rather geogenic — that is created by non-living planetary processes. The chief proponents of that theory — called the Deep Hot Biosphere — are Thomas Gold and Freeman Dyson. Whether this theory is true or false does not change the seemingly vital necessity of plentiful hydrocarbons on this planet in our own story of progress.

The Technium

The Bigger, Better Boom

Twenty five years ago, when I was co-editing Wired, we ran a controversial article called the Long Boom. This was a scenario forecasting 25 years of economic and cultural prosperity. (It also included 10 Scenario Spoilers that could disrupt the longer boom, which some people find eerily prescient today.) Today, on a global level, and on average, the living standards of most inhabitants of the planet were improved in the last 25 years. They were not improved equally, but they did get better. In that sense the Long Boom arrived, although many of the expected breakthroughs and  forecast innovations did not happen.

The next 25 years are very likely to be an era of global progress that will exceed the achievements of the last 25 years. The next human generation will experience -- on average, and in aggregate -- living standards and possibilities that will reach a record high level for this planet. The distribution of this progress will still be uneven, but all regions will experience more advancement than they have in the past. Given the dire past year, this seems like a wildly optimistic claim. I'll call this the Bigger, Better Boom.

The evidence for near-term global prosperity -- on average -- is already happening. Each of the seven trends I list here are large forces that happen only once on a planet. Each of them have a huge momentum behind them that is not easily derailed. And they will accelerate and deepen in the coming decades. These seven forces are like a tailwind that will drive progress and prosperity, and are worthy of being optimistic about.

1) Total Urbanization
Today’s widespread middle class living standard is the result of several one-time events for the planet, such as mass migration into cities, the movement of women into the formal working economy, and pervasive automation of labor. The first driver of optimism is therefore simply a continuation and completion of the on-going industrial revolution. While modernization has already played out in the developed countries, it has not saturated many developing parts of the world. That will change in the next 25 years, as almost everyone alive will experience modernity.

Some 90% of the planet’s inhabitants will be living in urban areas, relying on large-scale infrastructure to provide water, food, shelter, transportation, education, and health care. We will complete the urbanization of the planet, with the bulk of its inhabitants living in urban areas, defined as within 20 km of a hospital or health clinic. Urbanization provides the benefits of density, such as higher bandwidth, and more diverse jobs. These improvements are desired by most young people around the planet. Ask them what their dream is and they will tell you they want t-shirts and sneakers, an air-conditioned room with plumbing and wifi, and a job doing something of their choosing. Total urbanization is more than just making life convenient; dense urbanization leads to more, faster innovation, and prosperity for all, including those outside the urban area. Most importantly, this wide-spread modernity, while an end in itself, is an enabling force that supports and enables the following six forces for optimism.

2) Universal Connectivity
For the first time on the planet, all adult beings will be connected together. The penetration of connected devices is likely to reach 100%. This vast connection creates a huge continuous audience, a planet-scale market, and potentially unified global movements. A start-up in a small country has a greater chance than ever of having a vast billion-person customer base. Vast global audiences not only finance mega cultural creations, they also provide hundreds of millions of niche markets, a boon for creators, art, and commerce in any town on the planet. Global commerce increases, the global exchange of culture is enhanced (K-pop and K-dramas everywhere!), and best practices are spread around the globe. Universal connection is a new tool for harnessing the resident genius in 8 billion people no matter where they live.

When all adults on a planet connect, they can cooperate at a scale and speed never before possible. Existing large institutions are also enhanced by this acceleration, while entirely new forms of collaboration are now possible. In the next two decades we will likely witness at least one grand project created by one million people around the globe working together on it in real time -- a feat enabled by universal connectivity. When all 8 billion people are connected together we have more of a chance to prosper together.

3) Ubiquitous AI
Up until the industrial revolution anything that humans made, including cities and roads, had to be made with the energy of organic muscles (human or animal), which was drastically limited. With the advent of cheap artificial power, we could erect tall skyscrapers, vast continental railroads, immense factories, and mass manufacturing -- all way beyond what meat muscles could do. We have started to do the same with our natural thinking muscles, by seeding the world with artificial intelligences. A zoo of hundreds of different species of new types of mind will be working with humans to solve problems. These non-human minds (sometimes with bodies we call robots) will do work humans don’t want to do, or can’t do. Humans and AIs together will co-create new desires and new jobs. The long-term driver of progress -- automating physical jobs -- will continue, and then begin to take over non-physical chores as well. The three chief consequences of AI will be the liberation of humans from their unwanted jobs, the explosion of new services and formerly impossible products that are co-created with AIs, and new occupations and desirable tasks for humans. AIs and robots are designed for efficiency and productivity, while these millions of new human jobs are primarily tasks where inefficiency is tolerated. To excel in innovation, entrepreneurship, art, caring, hospitality, science and discovery, humans must try things that don’t work, embrace failures, encourage small talk and playfulness -- all inefficient. Efficiency is for robots. Ubiquitous AI is the most optimistic force we can imagine.

4) Sustainable Energy
The industrial revolution was fueled by burning a limited supply of easy to get cheap carbon. The world’s population, and market economy boomed in parallel to our discovery and use of carbon fuel. That was a one-time boon for progress. In the coming decades, we will switch to unlimited energy from solar, wind, hydro and nuclear. We can double our energy efficiency simply by decarbonizing the economy. In fact we can achieve 50% of what we need for climate change simply by powering all of our machines, furnaces, and vehicles with electrons instead of oxidation. We will use electric heat pumps instead of burning carbon in furnaces, electric motors instead of hot jet engines, cool electric cars instead of polluting gas engines, and LEDs everywhere. In addition to helping with climate change, electrifying everything will yield countless opportunities for business and employment in redesigning transportation, shelter, and civic infrastructure. Since so many of us will live in cities (which increases sustainability), this trend also raises millions of opportunities for the greening (and increased quality) of urban life.

5) Accelerated Innovation
In addition to the speedups brought by dense urbanity and universal connectivity, new learning tools are accelerating the velocity of innovation, which accelerates prosperity. This is a cause for optimism. The technologies of AI, advances in the scientific method, and rampant use of prosumer media like today’s YouTube, accelerate the speed and spread of knowledge. YouTube and Youku (in China) in particular are underappreciated learning accelerants. It’s not just make-up tutorials and workshop maker videos. Brain surgeons upload their latest techniques to YouTube which other brain surgeons watch, then innovate on, and share their videos within days. Almost every scientific talk or industry presentation is recorded and shared widely, and oftentimes analyzed and explained by another YouTube video. Until now deliberate, systemic innovation has been hit or miss. Sometimes seen in science and engineering; more recently imported into tech businesses. But intentional systemic innovation was still absent in government, education, military, social services, and civic infrastructure. Now for the first time innovation is being applied deliberately and effectively throughout society, and it will be expected.

Innovation in any field is the new norm, at least the norm to aim for. Best practices for innovation, universal connectivity, and new media including the augmented realities of smart glasses -- even better video teaching -- provide the tool for accelerated learning. These tools are starting to give us metrics to measure real learning, and thus ways to optimize learning in different situations. In particular, education itself will be amplified by AI, tech, and globalization, till learning overflows the confines of schools and is more embedded for lifelong learning in work and personal life. When learning accelerates everything else does as well.

6) Bio-Engineering
For the first time we will engineer biology, both of ourselves and other species, existing and invented. This has been a long promise of technology -- and it will take centuries to fulfill -- but the force is already beginning to work. Witness the speed at which we humans created Covid-19 vaccines, and the tremendous life-and-death difference they made. Our response to the pandemic should be a cause of optimism rather than despair. Much of this success is due to our collection of genetic data at a huge scale which will continue and accelerate. Further Increasing control of living systems at their foundational level will provide great progress in our own longevity and wellness. But this revolution also gives us powers to create new materials, new forms, new goods, new foods that we’ve only dreamed of before. One small example is deathless meat grown from animal cells, which has a different ecological footprint and the potential to taste even better than natural meat from killed animals. In the next two decades we are likely to be able to sell proxy fish grown from fish cells, and begin the elimination of harvesting wild fish before their extinction. Establishing vast no-fishing wilderness parks in the ocean would be a tremendous boon to the planet. The benefits of biotech are much slower to happen than other tech, but much greater in impact. The arrival of biotech may be the best reason to be optimistic.

7) Generational Handoff
The world-wide Boomer generation will be retired and made redundant in 25 years. The next generation will come of age. This is good news for the world, because the young have better ideas, and the ambition to see their change come about. All around the world this new generation will have grown up studying the same curriculum in school. Their textbooks always include math, science, history, literature, and usually these days, English.

They will be accelerated learners with access to free online encyclopedias, libraries of books scanned for free, and the entire universe of video tutorials. Universal real-time language translation in ear pods -- which will be available in a few years -- will unleash the skills of billions of this generation. Many fantastic youths in far-flung places may have all the coveted skills required by a remote employer -- except the skill of English. With universal real-time translation this is no longer a problem, and they can easily join the global economy -- raising the prosperity of them and everyone else. For the most part this generation has their goals set by the best on the planet. They know what is possible. If generational history is any guide, this global generation will be very civic-oriented and will be eager builders. They are more optimistic than Boomers and won’t be asking permission. One survey by the World Economic Forum asked 26,000 young people between the ages of 18-35 whether the world was full of opportunities or struggles. Over 70% of those millennials were optimistic, believing (correctly I’d say) that there were more opportunities than struggles.

A caveat: I am talking about the state of the world and its future on average global terms. Even an extremely healthy person will have local ailments and small injuries on their bodies every day. In fact some of the healthiest people on the planet -- professional athletes -- have constant pains and injuries as a consequence of their extraordinary achievements. Local harms are the norm. In the same way, even in a world of indisputable progress not all regions will experience the same health. Parts of the globe may suffer war, disease, famine, unrest in times of prosperity. It may be very bleak in some areas, where pessimism seems totally appropriate. History suggests these bleak times are temporary, and that on average, better times will come. The case for optimism is a longer-term view, and a bigger-place view. Based on the evidence, we should be able to picture progress at the scale of two decades around the planet for the average person, even if there are scars of inequality throughout it.


Note: This is half of an essay originally published as Kevin Kelly: The Case for Optimism on WarpNews, on 02/08/2021.

Cool Tools

2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Kevin's picks

Instead of suggesting the best products that I encountered this year, I want to suggest the best products I know about and still use today. Think of these as golden oldies, that are still golden.

This $10 painting app is the best $10 I have ever spent. It enables my iPad to become an art studio. I paint with Procreate every evening to make my daily piece of art. The app includes different “brushes” which turn the stylus into different kinds of media -- say a pencil, or an ink pen, or an oil paint brush, or a calligraphy brush -- so I get a whole studio of different art supplies. I can paint with textures, mask edges, replicate and manipulate basic digital functions like copy and paste. And there is a large Procreate community offering custom brushes, and tutorials. Powerful tool, and cheap.

I use this free app on my phone to identify plants and flowers. Aim the phone camera at the unknown botanical and it will quickly offer an identification of the species, or second best, the genus. It gives an answer about 95% of the time, including domestic and wild plants. Once you get an ID, you can look up more info about it on the web.

This app will identify a bird from its song or chirp. Even if the bird is hidden, or not close, this app will usually identify the species. In the app you can play a pre-recorded bird song of that species to confirm it is correct. Merlin can also ID two bird sounds at once in the same place. It’s free for iOS and Android.

Pilot G2 Mini Pen
My go-to pen is the Pilot G2 gel. It lays down a very smooth, very dark line. This popular pen also comes in a mini-version which is shorter than the regular ones, which makes it perfect for carrying in my pocket. I have a Pilot G2 mini in every pants and jacket I own.

Chevy Bolt
I love our electric car. We bought a Chevy Bolt because it was way cheaper than any Tesla at the time. It is the best performing car I’ve ever owned. It’s powerful, agile, and quiet. We are very happy with it. The joy of never visiting a gas station can’t be measured. There are more EV options now, so we might not get a Bolt if we had to buy one now, but there is no way I’d go back to a gas car.

Cordless Glue Gun
Workshops have gone cordless. Every power tool made is now available in a cordless version, which makes it faster to get, and easier to handle. One of the last tools to go cordless is a glue gun. Like other cordless tools, being cordless makes it easier to work with, particularly if you are sharing it, or working on something large. It is really liberating to have no cord while gluing. This one needs Ryobi tool batteries, or an adapter for other brands (I use it with Dewalt batteries).

Airpods Pro
These earbuds work perfectly with an iPhone. The audio is sterling, and the built-in microphone works amazingly well. I use them to listen to podcasts while walking and to have distant conversations while walking. They are pricey, but hassle free, so worth it to me.

Cool Tools

Windell Oskay, Robot Designer

Our guest this week is Windell Oskay. Windell is the co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, where he designs robots for a living. You can find Windell on Twitter @emsl.



Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes: 



This year I worked on a photography project, doing a lot of close-up photographs of objects. This kind of photography is about 5% photography technique, 5% lighting, and 90% cleaning. While compressed gas dusters work fairly well, there is a sense in which they just move dust around. And, more conventional tools like microfiber cloths tend to leave their own debris. I ended up using a type of cleaning gel or “universal dust cleaner” as they brand it. It is basically the same stuff that is sold as “slime” in toy stores, but wrapped up in corporate IT-department friendly packages. Nominally, you can clean things like keyboards with it. But as a tool to trap and remove dust for photography, it’s remarkably good.



This is a classic 6 inch/150 mm steel ruler, or “machinist’s scale”. It’s marked with inches on one side — subdivided into tenths and hundredths — and millimeters on the other. Mitutoyo is one of the most respected names in precision measurement, and this particular ruler is simply a joy to use. I use other scales of this size, but this one is just a little thicker and has eight perfectly square sides. It has a better surface finish (precision ground with satin chrome plating), and has markings that are just a little finer, and easier to read. It feels like they could charge $100 for the same thing and get away with it, but it’s about $15, and worth every penny.



Mitee-Bite is a manufacturer of workholding equipment for machining. They make a wide range of extremely specialized tools for holding chunks of metal — sometimes really weirdly shaped chunks of metal — in place while CNC machines do their thing. I’ve found their little catalog to be one of my most frequent references when designing setups for machining, but also in just designing parts in the first place. There are so many clever tricks that they use to build strong mechanical structures, and there’s a lot to learn from them.



Ask a whole lot of telescope lovers what the best “first” telescope is and you’ll probably hear about the Orion XT8, well and above any other suggestion. It’s a Dobsonian, meaning that it’s nearly instant to plop down on a sidewalk and start observing. It’s big enough to let you see all kinds of amazing things, and upgradeable, if you get into it.
Cool Tools

Making a Simple Storage Case Rack

What was your favorite tool this year? Why? It doesn’t have to be a new tool just one that comes to mind when asked this question. Send me your answers (with a pic, if possible). I want to do a round-up of readers favorites for 2021. I’ll pick one of the respondents and send them a copy of my tips book.


Making a Simple Storage Case Rack
On the Shop Hacks FB group, member Riley Schatz posted a pic of his simple solution for a rack to hold his plastic storage cases. Many of us have these plastic cases and there are numerous projects online and on YouTube for building more elaborate racks. This is the simplest to date, little more than some scrap 2x4s and plywood hung below a workbench.

Review: Amazon Removable Compartment Professional Organizers
Speaking of multi-compartment storage cases, Amazon just recently (I think) began offering cases under their Amazon Basics brand. Being something of a collector of these cases, I decided to get one and try it out. I got the smaller 15-compartment case (8.3" L x 13.3" W x 2.4" H). They also carry a 19-compartment case (16.5 x 13.2 x 2.4). The 15 case is $17.80, the 19 case is $20. The case I got is much small than the Stanley, Harbor Freight, and other cases that I have (which are closer to the 19-compartment case). I purposely went for the smaller case because I want to use it to house game components and didn’t need the larger size. In terms of features, the removable trays are a must-have for me. They have a nice compliment of small, medium, and large trays. In terms of quality, these cases are on par with the Harbor Freight ones. Like the Harbor Freight cases, they are made of heavy-duty polypropylene. The latches are the weak spot on the both brands, with the Amazon ones being nearly identical to the HF closures. Even with medium use, I’ve had the latches on two HF cases fail. The Amazon cases are comparable, but HF still has them beat on price. Their (full-size) 20-bin case is only $10 (as low as $8 on sale) and their deeper 8-bin case is $15 (as low as $11). The only reason to recommend the Amazon cases is if you want the smaller size.

Using Wire Ferrules

Here’s an electronic component I’ve never even heard of: the wire ferrule. In this brief Collin’s Lab Notes, Collin Cunningham introduces us to these stranded wire-end connectors and how to use them.

Flat Panel Speakers Made from Foamboard
This is more of a project recommendation than a shop tip. On the AmplifyDIY channel, they build these cheap (a few hundred bucks) and easy-to-make flat panel speakers using little more than insulation foamboard, a pair of exciters, and a mini power amp. They results are very impressive. Also: Be sure to check out the follow-up video. In it, he tests out different shapes, panel treatments, adding a second exciter to each panel, and other tweaks.

Why You Need a Vise in Your Workshop
In this Essential Craftsman video, Scott explains the virtues of a vise and why you need one in your workshop. In our new house, there’s a big gaping hole in the wooden workbench in the garage where the vise appears to have been unceremoniously ripped out. I’ve already spotted a sweet small bench vise with an anvil at a local antique store. I’m looking forward to buying and restoring it soon.

Making a Spray Can Shaker
In a recent Adam Savage video, he extolled the virtues of a drill-powered paint mixer. The one he linked to on Amazon can be found here. You can also easily make your own.

How to Tune Up a Cheap Chisel
In this videoAnne of All Trades shows how to properly sharpen chisels, especially how you can sharpen cheap ones and get them closer in sharpness to more expensive tools. I especially appreciate that she demonstrates how to hold and use your body to get the right angle and pressure on the blade as you sharpen

Switchplate Identifiers
We just moved into a house that has these crazy 4-switch light and fan panels in the bathrooms. Unlabeled, a newbie can do a lot of speculative switching before finding the one you want. So, not surprisingly, these 3D printed switchplate symbols have caught my eye. As soon as I get my 3D printer set up, I might be printing some of these.

Maker's Muse

[caption id="attachment_39452" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Wait for it... Wait for it...[/caption]

Shop Talk
In the response to my “Put the Dang Tools Back!” in the last issue, reader John M writes:

“I’ve been working on the "put the dang tools back” for years now. Coming up on three years since the last shop move, the problem that looms the largest is that there is no “back” to put things until you create one. The last move went from 3,000 sf to 1,600 sf, so it’s been tricky. Making the job harder is the need to be functional over the need to be organized. Yes, taking the time to organize will make the work easier, but that job needs to get finished NOW so we can pay the rent! Needless to say, instead of spending my limited time pursuing personal projects, I tend to spend it cleaning and organizing. Somewhat satisfying, but not as much as other projects.“


Also in response to "Put the Dang Tools Back!,” Cool Tools reader LarryA2010 writes:

“Good advice. Easier said than done. I have projects at varying stages, piles of tools and materials, and other stuff strewn about my workshop and I hate putting things back. I do keep some tools and materials organized though. I have a worktable made from a solid core door on top of two wood filing cabinets which hold folders of sandpaper and other useful items. Most-used tools are in a simple tool caddy on the floor. Two old bureaus hold sets of wrenches and other large tools. Plastic totes hold unfinished projects. Solvent cans are in a row on the floor next to my chair with a strap wrench on top to tighten them so they don’t evaporate. I still have tools and small materials covering much of my table, and tools and materials spread all over the floor. I can’t get myself to organize them. One thing I do have that I keep in order is this really useful Alvin, Spin-O-Tray, Rotating Desktop Organizer on top of the desk. It makes it easy to replace often-used small tools after I use them.”

The Technium

Pets, Aliens, Spirits, and Slaves

There are roughly five different models we can adopt for our relationships with AIs. In the future our lives will be packed with thousands of different species of AIs, so we'll relate in multiple ways depending on the type of AI were are using at the time.

Pets. Many, if not most, of the AIs we encounter will feel like pets or working animals to us. They will be engineered to be smart in specific, useful ways. Just like some of the animals we have selectively bred for our pets, these AIs will be optimized to respond to our emotions and gestures. They will have limited autonomy, not straying too far from their purpose. While bred to excel in certain jobs, they will lack awareness and intelligence in other dimensions outside their expertise. For example they might be really good at translation, but not navigation. This will summon our most common complaint about them: they are dumbschmarten. They are geniuses in some things, and idiots in others. We'll swear at them, "how can you be so dumbschmarten?" MIT researcher Kate Darling has written an insightful book about this model, The New Breed. She argues that we already have a well-proven extensive framework in law and cultural norms dealing with the behavior of pets and work animals owned by humans which can be used for AIs and robots. And like the domesticated animals in our lives, these AIs will have recognizable variations and personalities. We'll prefer one particular individual over another of the same type.

Aliens. More advanced AIs might be thought of as artificial aliens. Their smartness can be encased in degrees of self-awareness and consciousness. Like Spock or Data in Star Trek, their intelligence will be significant, but also non-human-like, or alien. This alienness is actually their chief attraction, because they think differently. Even if their cognition doesn't wow us, the fact that they have an alien — different — approach makes them a good collaborators. These AIs need a sufficient human interface in order to keep us comfortable working with them. They will be conversational and will mirror our behavior. As we elevate the level of self-awareness and consciousness in these alien AIs, they become more difficult to work with. They can exhibit more attributes of mental dysfunction caused by self-reflection. The price of an alien AI collaborator will be their unfathomable thought process; always surprising us (good and bad) by their reactions. At the same time, some humans will find an affinity for their alienness and will develop careers as AI Whisperers. They will be comfortable working with them, and will be able to get the best from them, which other people will find magical.

Spirits. Many religions around the world perceive spirits or gods that inhabit places, buildings, and objects. This spirit animation is understood to be energetic and lively, but not necessarily highly intelligent. Many of the objects, structures, and systems we make in the future will have mild AI in them that can animate them in a lively way. They can adapt, learn, probe, respond as a living system might. Their intelligence is slow and diffuse, but persistent. It is distributed in the system, and therefore hard to eliminate or even damage. In this way, this kind of AI is like a spirit god inhabiting an old tree, or even a lamp. It has an enduring presence, and can respond to new things, adapt to injuries and assaults, and will persist for a long time, but otherwise it is obscure and vague. The primary purpose of these spirit AIs is to protect the system, and it will collaborate with us to the degree that we cooperate with it. We can imagine an AI spirit god in say the security system of the power grid, or in submarine, or even a piano. Keiichi Matsuda wrote a short essay that explores the idea of using the god metaphor for AIs.

Slaves. A well-worn model for relating to AIs will be to treat them as servants and slaves. To the extant that they are obedient and capable, they act as servants, doing the dirty, hard, unsavory jobs that need to be done. For some humans, these AIs are the perfect servant or slave because they are unambiguously not human, and therefore not deserving of our kindred compasion. They can be considered disposable, interchangeable, and without feelings. They are machines, and so we can excuse any harsh treatment of them. Whatever human-like characters they may gain — such as some levels of self-awareness — these will be cast as mechanical. No matter how much they grow or learn, they will be considered to be made not born, so will always be a machine, and a servant or slave to us. The problem with the master/slave relationship is that it is toxic to us. The AIs might not be bothered, but our human souls are corrupted when we treat sentient beings like slaves. People who mistreat animals will mistreat people, and people who mistreat AIs will also mistreat people. For this reason, we should educate and try to minimize the slave/servant mode of relating to AIs.

Overlord. In science fiction movies the sole model for powerful AI is to become our overlords. In these scenarios the AIs keep getting smarter until they exceed us in brainpower, then they take over and kill us. This mode is often called the Superhuman mode, or the Singularity. While a few prominent tech leaders believe superintelligence is a possibility, I think this mode is highly unlikely and the fear of it is totally misguided. I wrote a long essay on why superintelligent overlords won't happen (see The Myth of Superhuman AI); the gist of the argument is that superintelligence (as defined in this context) is a distortion of what intelligence in humans actually is. The major human accomplishment of making many varieties of AI will be overcoming our ignorance of how our own minds work. We will discover that the Superhuman Overlord breaks the engineering rule that you can't optimize everything in all directions and that any real creation — including cognition — must entail tradeoffs. But just as Superman is impossible in real life, yet the myth and archetype of a Superman endures, so even if the Superhuman AI is impossible, its mythic role will endure. There might be times when we feel we are subservient to an AI overlord, even if we aren't, so this mode is important to recognize.

The types of relationships I don't expect us to carry on with AIs are the classical human-to-human ones of friends, parent/child, co-workers, or lovers. I believe we'll reserve these for other humans. I suspect the first attempts to replace humans with "friendly" humanish AIs won't last. For instance, telephone call centers or retail stores that replace human operators with AIs that sound exactly like humans, will find that ordinary people will prefer to talk to a really intelligent alien rather than an almost-human. The small gap between real and fake feels weird in someone trying to pass as a human, while it is almost charming in an alien. Over time, designers will make AIs more alien rather than trying to fool us into thinking they are 100% human, in part because we are hard to fool this way. At the same time, as we fill the world with myriad new kinds of AIs, I can certainly imagine other models of relationships emerging beyond the five outlined here. If I have missed one that is already latent, please make a comment.

Cool Tools

Put the Dang Tools Back Where They Belong!

If you have tips, tool recommendations, favorite maker jargon/slang, or feedback, please share with me.


Put the Dang Tools Back Where They Belong!
Recently, in moving into and setting up our new house, I’ve gone for a driver or a drill bit several times and the exact one I need is missing from the index. This happens to me far too often. So, instead of doing the job at hand, you end up having to go on a holy grail-like quest through your house and shop in search of the missing tool. There’s a reason why people often outline the tools on their workbench pegboard, to visually remind themselves that a tool is not where it’s supposed to be. Too often, in the heat of a project (or its cyclonic aftermath), we don’t want to take the time to do a thorough clean up and re-org. And so we pay for that during the next project when we don’t find things where they belong. So, be kind to future you (as Adam Savage puts it) and PUT THE DANG TOOLS BACK!

Matching Any Color
Via Kevin Kelly and Recomendo comes this tip:
“Mixing a specific color by hand — I want to make this particular shade of green starting from primary colors — is a super skill that artists acquire and is much harder than it looks. I watched many YouTube tutorials to learn how to do this with paints and this one by Draw Mix Paint was the best method for me. It’s still more art than science.”

Ten 3DP Tips from a Seasoned Maker
On Alexandre Chappel YouTube channel, he offers up ten top 3D printing tips. His advice includes:
* Upgrade to a .06mm nozzle.
* Increase perimeter (wall thickness) over infill to improve part strength and reduce print time.
* Don’t get distracted by all the fancy filaments out there – most everything you print can be done with PLA.
* Use glue stick for better bed adhesion.
* If you have a large or complicated part, print out a small section of it to test fit and function before committing to a full print.
* You don’t have to 3DP everything. Create hybrid objects with 3D parts and conventional hardware (bolts, screws, threaded rods) – saves time and adds strength.
* When designing parts, avoid support structures as much as possible.
See more details and the rest of his list here. [H/t Kevin Kelly]

Which Hole Saws Are Best?
Todd of Project Farm did his usual admirably-thorough testing on a number of hole saw brands, from DeWalt, Irwin, Bosch, Milwaukee, Lenox, Morse, and others, testing 13 brands in all. He tested for material hardness, speed of cut, accuracy of cut, chip dispersal, and wear on the bit. Three different thickness/hardnesses of metal were drilled. In the end, the best performer was the MK Morse brand with carbide teeth. Proving that expensive doesn’t always mean best, the MK Morse only costs $8.45 (compared to other brands costing upwards of $40). Todd also found that the Milwaukee Dozer ($9.45) performed very well, as did the Irwin (at $8.42).

The Glue Donut
On the Infinite Craftsman’s Instagram account, Tom posted a fabulous little solution to a problem that lots of us have encountered. You’re holding something with one hand and you need to open the top of your carpenter’s glue with the other. The plastic nozzle is not conducive to such a move. So, Tom 3D printed a little ring that goes underneath the lip of the nozzle so that you can push the donut to push up the nozzle. I assume Tom will eventually have these for sale in his online store. He usually makes his clever shop solutions available as “small batch” products.

Etching Glass with a Transfer Mask
Laser-etching glass has a reputation for being difficult. According to Mike Clarke on his YouTube channel, it doesn’t have to be. The trick he says is using vinyl transfer mask (also known as transfer tape). You can get this online and at any vendor that sells sign-making supplies. You simply apply the mask to the glass where your image will be and let the laser etch through the tape. After etching, you use water to clean off the remaining tape. This process results in much finer details in the etch. See Mike’s video for full details.

Notable Quotables
“Making (in the physical sense) is about taking large chunks of material and making them smaller in precise ways.” -Jamie Hyneman

Mistakes Were Made
In the last issue, we identified Andreas Spiess as Swedish. He’s Swiss! Apologies, Andreas.

Shop Talk
On Cool Tools, reader Dom writes:
"The "Watch Your Step” tip reminds me of the story of Cheaper by the Dozen by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr who used motion studies to reduce workers’ movements and fatigue. They’re the reason there’s a person who hands the surgeon things while they’re working."

Cool Tools

Library of Babel / Marco Polo / Pumpkin Carving / Periodic Table of Elements

This is a test run of a new format we are considering for a weekly series. Feedback and comments appreciated!

Library of Babel experiment
Marco Polo App
Pumpkin Carving Kit
Periodic Table of Elements

Cool Tools

Perfect power strip/Dune/Set Pose

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Perfect Power Strip
This power strip from Powlight was just what I needed for my workbench. It has 12 AC outlets with surge protection arranged in two rows and 4 USB charging ports. The cord is 8-feet long. — MF

Excellent movie
5 stars for the new movie DUNE. It’s the most exquisite world building (worlding) I’ve seen since Star Wars. Crisp, inventive, plausible and coherent. The soundtrack and cinematic style are appropriate to the world. The story is forceful and mythical. I want more. After you watched it once, but before you watch it again, this long Max Read annotation will fill you in on the Dune book/movie references. I watched it streamed on HBO, but it would be worth seeing it in a theater. — KK

Free online drawing mannequin
Set Pose is an online drawing mannequin that you can adjust and use as a 3D model reference. There are presets like running, sitting, playing sports and combat poses that you can select, and even some props like a sword, bike, and chair. This is perfect for me because I always have trouble drawing dynamic poses. — CD

Artsy postage stamps
Sending a hand-written letter by post is a sure way to stand out. Part of that signal is the postal stamps, and in recognition of this role, the US Postal Service issues trendy artsy stamps for a stylish accent. Right now you can get Espresso stamps (weird), Droids stamps (collectibles), Hip Hop DJ stamps (edgy), Western wear stamps (vintage!), and Otters in Snow stamps (soooo cute), all ordered online, sent to you by mail, of course. These are Forever stamps that dont need extra postage when the rates change. — KK

Spend money consciously
Here is a 6 minute read of Japanese philosophies that’ll help you spend money consciously. These were all new to me. Currently practicing Chisoku — being content with what I already have. All of them are perspective-shifting. — CD

What is Bitcoin and why does it matter?
Andreas Antonopoulos’ full-time job is explaining Bitcoin to people who don’t know anything about it. If you watch his two-hour video, “Bitcoin Explained in the Bitcoin Basics Workshop,” you’ll know more about how Bitcoin works than 99.9% of the rest of the people on the planet. — MF

The Technium

Class 1 / Class 2 Problems

There are two classes of problems caused by new technology. Class 1 problems are due to it not working perfectly. Class 2 problems are due to it working perfectly.

One example: many of the current problems with facial recognition are due to the fact that it is far from perfect. It can have difficulty recognizing dark skin tones; it can be fooled by simple disguises; it can be biased in its gendering. All these are Class 1 problems because this is still a technology in its infancy. Much of the resistance to widely implementing facial recognition stems from its imperfections. But what if it worked perfectly? What if the system was infallible in recognizing a person from just their face? A new set of problems emerge: Class 2 problems. If face recognition worked perfectly, there would be no escaping it, no way to duck out in public. You could be perfectly tracked in public, not only by the public, but by advertisers and governments. “Being in public” would come to have a different meaning than it does now. Perfect facial recognition would probably necessitate some new varieties of public commons, with different levels of disclosure. Furthermore, if someone could hack the system, it’s very trustworthiness would be detrimental. A faked ID could go far. We don’t question perfect tech; when was the last time you questioned the results of a calculator?

Another example: Self driving cars. Self-driving cars don’t self-drive very well. They are getting better, but for the next several decades their problems will be Class 1 problems of imperfect function. We will demand near perfect results from robot-drivers (a higher standard than we demand from human drivers), so all the hard problems of detecting edge cases, acts of god, and the weird behavior of human drivers will prevail. Eventually, the tech will be perfected, and then we will encounter its Class 2 problems. In the Class 2 regime, driving a car yourself may be outlawed as too dangerous. The imperfections of human drivers may be incompatible with perfect robot drivers. When the system fails (say from a solar storm) its perfection may not permit it to degrade gracefully to accommodate less-than perfect drivers. A well-functioning robot car infrastructure might lead to more intersections with pedestrians; we might become more comfortable walking alongside silent automobiles that never crashed -- until they did.

Class 1 problems arise early and they are easy to imagine. Usually market forces will solve them. You could say, most Class 1 problems are solved along the way as they rush to become Class 2 problems. Class 2 problems are much harder to solve because they require more than just the invisible hand of the market to overcome them.

Take cell phones. The first versions of consumer cell phones were too big, they only worked in some places, they had frustratingly short battery life, and their rings and talking on them were disruptive. Most importantly only the rich could afford them, in a new inequality. At the time many saw these problems as inherent in the technology. Yet years of intense market forces fixed most of those problems, making smartphones that silently vibrated, and had quiet text, and became so cheap and ubiquitous every adult on the planet has one. Unlike computers, they rarely crash, are easy to operate, and are extremely reliable. They just work. The cell phone quickly jumped into Class 2 problems.

Whereas once the problem was “not everyone has this technology that doesn’t work very well” now the problem is “everyone has this technology that works very well.” We now contend with a technology that is present everywhere, all the time. Billions of people around the globe are connected 24/7, which allows all kinds of information, ideas, as well as rumors and disinformation to ricochet and touch everyone in an intimate way. The technology can suggest, recommend and “guide” us through the billion-eyed cacophony of everyone talking at once. Mob fears and beliefs can take over. Whispers are amplified and distorted as they cascade through friends of friends.

The difference between Class 1 and Class 2 problems is that Class 2 problems cannot be solved by the market alone. Entrepreneurial spirit and the profit-mode are perfectly capable of solving most Class 1 problems. But Class 2 tech has already been perfected, and is ubiquitous -- it works and everyone has it. What can the market do in this case? Making it better and selling more aren’t options anymore; those are saturated. What can the market do if facial recognition works perfectly and is everywhere? If robot drivers are the default? If everyone is connected to everyone all the time? These kind of system challenges require a suite of extra-market levers, such emerging cultural norms, smart regulation, broad education, and reframing of the problem. These are soft, slower moving forces that are currently not given the attention they deserve.

To deal with ubiquitous accurate facial recognition when it comes (and it will come) requires a societal consensus on what it means to have a face that is both personal and public, to re-evaluate what public or private even means, to ensure symmetry between watchers and the watched, and to encourage expansive ideas around the very notions of identity of any type. A lot of this work is beyond the realm of dollars, and will take place in schools, courts, forums, communities, tweets, congresses, books, and late at night. When technologies reach the state that they work extremely well and become ubiquitous, their problem domain shifts from the realm of quick cycles powered by money, to the slower cycles of cultural imagination. To solve the problem of perfect facial recognition demands an expanded imagination, society wide, with new and different ideas about our face and identity.

The latest fashionable tech is crypto. While the math behind blockchain is utterly reliable the implementations so far have many Class 1 problems. Crypto is hard to use, easy to trip up, biased to early adopters, an energy hog, and of marginal utility except to make money. But all these problems will be overcome by entrepreneurs. Someday blockchain will be ubiquitous and boring. It will be perfected and its wide-spread adoption will enable many thousands of new types of organizations and relationships that we can’t even imagine today. Blockchain tech could unleash collaborations of several million members working on one project in real time, or orgs that are far more leaderless than today. When crypto succeeds that way, it will graduate to Class 2 problems. At that point, entrepreneurs alone won’t solve those. These new problems will require a social imagination to revision what orgs do and what they are for, to re-imagine what transparency in a group means, to re-evaluate the role of money, or even the meaning of money. These in turn will launch new social expectations and norms of behavior, and in turn as a consensus forms, new legislation to codify the norms.

Class 1 problems are caused by technology that is not perfect, and are solved by the marketplace. Class 2 problems are caused by technology that is perfect, and must be solved by extra-market forces such as cultural norms, regulation, and social imagination.

Cool Tools

Any Shaped Hole with a Regular Drill?

Are you building any cool haunts or elaborate costumes for Halloween? If so, please send me pictures and I may run them in the coming weeks.


As always, if you have tips, tool recommendations, favorite maker jargon/slang, or feedback, please share with me.

Any Shaped Hole with a Regular Drill?

Here’s some fascinating proto-CNC cutting from the 19th century. The parser (or passer) drill was a bow-type drill, held against your belly, that used a template to cut a shape into wood (for things like inlay work). In this Pask Makes video, he forges his own parser drill and tests it out on several template designs (that he also fashioned). I especially appreciate that he uses simple tools (blow torch, belt sander, anvil) to create the drill. And the resulting drill bit, which can be chucked into any electric drill, works beautifully.

[caption id="attachment_39285" align="aligncenter" width="600"]The parser drill profile. The parser drill profile.[/caption]

Tip Reminder: Tape for Holding Small Parts

Here’s an oldie but goodie. When you’re disassembling many small pieces of hardware, use the sticky side of a wide piece of painter’s tape to hold the parts securely on your bench. You can even organize and label them to make reassembly easier. And don’t forget the trick of sticking wide painter’s tape to your benchtop to act as a disposable palette when mixing epoxies. [Image from the Acme Tools’ Instagram]

App for Nesting Vector Files

Via Donald Bell’s Maker Update, I learned of SVGnest, an open-source, browser-based app for figuring out how many parts you can fit onto a sheet of material for laser- and CNC cutting. It can set shapes within shapes and you can even adjust for the kerfing width between objects.

Protecting SD Cards for Use in Raspberry Pi

On Andreas Spiess’ YouTube channel, the ever-clever Swede Swiss looks at options for protecting SD cards used in Raspberry Pi computers. SD cards are a cheap and common storage solution, but they’re not really designed for constant write cycles. Also, the cards can be corrupted if the Pi loses power and is not properly shut down. To overcome these issues, Andreas looks at several solutions and the option of using an SSD (solid-state drive) instead.

Watch Your Step
Several lifetimes ago, I was a manager in a hammock-weaving shop. One of the other managers was absolutely obsessed with efficiency. At the time, his constant examination of every footstep, arm gesture, and repetitive motion seemed over-the-top and compulsive. But I’ve never forgotten the basic idea he harped on: to be mindful of the steps you take, the order and location of tools and materials around you, and your execution of the task at hand – always asking yourself: “Is this the best way to do this?” This was also the guy who used to say “Work the cube,” meaning to consider and utilize the full volume of a give workspace. I’ve never forgotten that, either.

Doodling on a Theme

In a recent video, Bill Mullaney of the YouTube channel, Bill Making Stuff, offered up some useful advice on what he does when he wants to spark and sustain his creativity. In talking about the joys of keeping a sketchbook, he offers a fun drawing exercise. He creates a grid across two pages and starts anywhere on that grid by doodling a creature or object (he likes drawing robots). After doodling the first robot, he picks some aspect of it that he particularly likes and carries that over to the next square. Drawing the second bot, he carries a favorite part of that into a third square, and so on, until the entire grid is full. Wonderful idea. Cool Tools‘ Mark Frauenfelder does similar doodling on a theme.

Noteable Quotables

“Don’t fight forces, use them.” - Buckminster Fuller

“Let glue dry!” - Laura Kampf


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