What do we call the friends on the internet we've never met in person?

Twitter / benhuh: @bre "Friends with Internets"

Yesterday I met with Kio Stark, an expert in stranger interaction design. We couldn't figure out what word you use for people who have become good friends on the internet. I asked twitter and got a mix of responses.

There were a few "efriends" suggestions, but overall the response was that internet friends can just be called friends. Ben Huh stated it really well when he said, "Friends with internets," which is to say they are friends.

If you'd like to follow along and join the conversation, join twitter and follow me and put an @bre in your response. It's fun to have conversations using the internet!


Automated Wire Strippers by Oomlout

Oomlout recently uploaded an awesome automated wire stripper device. I love it. I want to make one sometime soon!

In his bio he explains that he is the proprietor of a proud history of solving lesser problems. Be it an origami bowl to make Smarties more accessible, or an elaborate machine to shave seconds off an already easy task.

He's applying that technique of solving small problems to wire stripping!

When you're building circuits on a breadboard there is nothing more annoying than having to measure, snip, and then strip both ends of each and every piece of wire. Well perhaps there are greater annoyances but that does not mean that this problem should go un-addressed. Addressed it has become, and if you too have a few stepper motors, a hand-held wire stripper and a bunch of nuts and bolts your life, too, can become easier. For all of you crying overkill, we do have a small ulterior motive, at we manufacture a number of kits that come with pre-stripped wires hence the need for semi automation. This version is the much improved brethren of version one. Let's get to stripping. (that doesn't sound quite right)

I'm  fascinated by automation and motion control. I watched these videos multiple times! Make sure to check out his other projects at his site. They are also totally awesome.

One of the great things about thingiverse is that folks have the option of sharing their work under creative commons and open source licenses. This work is published under the Attribution - Share Alike - Creative Commons license so you can make a copy and change things as long as you attribute Oomlout for his work and release your work under the same license. Zach did a really great job implementing the licensing options on thingiverse. You can even set a default license if you know that you will probably release all of your work under a specific license.

Sharing work and allowing other people to build on it is a really special thing. When someone takes the time to make something that you designed and gives you attribution it's a great feeling.


Rapid Prototyped Stingray

Stingray Swimming from Greg Marra on Vimeo.

I recently met Greg Marra at ROFLthing. He is doing awesome work at Olin College. I found this sweet video of a stingray automaton that he and his team made in a rapid prototyping class. I asked him some questions about how it works, he got back to me and brought me up to date on the project.

We decided that the undulating motion of a stingray would be pretty tough to build, but provide a unique thrust mechanism compared to a "normal" fish.

The primary structure of the stingray was printed on a 3D printer out of ABS plastic. The printers we have can only print 10x10x10", which gave us a tough size constraint for individual components.

Stingray Motion Visualization from Greg Marra on Vimeo.

Inside there is a single gearbox driving a steel line shaft that runs down the entire length of the stingray. The line shaft is keyed, and along the shaft there are 8 cam wheels keyed to be slightly offset from the one before it. Each cam wheel is asymmetric so that as it rotates lifts a "finger", which is then pulled back down by a rubber band. Each finger is joined by a partial gear with the finger on the opposite side, so they both rotate up in unison.

The project had a two week time line from assignment to deadline. Our team planned very carefully, splitting the project into many different components, but agreeing on how they would all fit together in the end. This let each person work independently, yet be sure their element would integrate into the final product. Using CAD software let us visualize all of the components together and test different designs for the best aesthetics and functionality.


For now here's an amazing pdf of it that will blow your mind and make you wish you were in engineering school with this team. I've asked them to upload the design files to thingiverse. I want to print this thing out on our reprap! I am really impressed with this project. It's artistic, connected to the natural world, and rapid prototyped. AWESOME!


Firefox Add-On Class was AWESOME

Firefox Hacking Workshop

The firefox add on class was awesome. We made an add-on in class to make your internet full of blinking LEDs. Alicia has documented it over on the NYCResistor blog!


You'll have these EVERYWHERE!


Secret Cafe 1.0 and Secret Cafe Ice Cream (Shh)

Homemade Ice Cream, originally uploaded by Dave Lifson.

I decided to convert my apartment into a restaurant for my friends and friends of friends. I have a 1.5 bedroom apartment and so I moved into my .5 bedroom (slightly bigger than a closet) and made my bedroom into a decent sized dining room.

I've spent the last two weeks obtaining the infrastructure to make it happen. Before this week, I was a guy with two bowls, 1 mug, and a bunch of jars and now I have things like a big soup pot and 20 wine glasses. I made a table and I found chairs on craigslist and the folks at the dollar store know me by name and I'm now well versed in the sale structure of target. It's a significant investment. I feel like I just acquired a lot of the things I would have been gifted if I had gotten married.

My friend Grace Piper was the head chef for the first one and it turns out that having a chef to collaborate with made the whole thing run really smoothly. She schemed up an excellent menu. You may know her from the videoblogging series that she's put out over the last few years, Fearless Cooking. She also introduced me to the coop here in Brooklyn, which I'm going to join!

We started the evening off by making home-made ice cream. This was actually the only thing that I brought to the meal as a recipe. Grace gets all the credit for the actual meal and the scheming involved!

Here's my recipe

Secret Cafe Ice Cream (Shh)

Makes 2 cups of ice cream. Serves 1-4 depending on how decadent you are.

  1. Fill a 2 cup measuring cup with 3/4 of a cup of whole cream. I used organic everything which is kinda expensive but, hey, it tastes amazing.

  2. Add 3/4 of a cup of half and half. Also organic. (Honestly, you could make the whole thing out of half and half, but I decided to err on the side of luscious decadence.)

  3. Add about 1/2 cup sugar. I used organic granulated cane sugar. Mmmm.

  4. Add the seeds of a vanilla bean. You cut open the bean and then scrape all the seeds out. The mushier it is, the fresher. (Take the left over seed pods and put them in your sugar jar to make your supply of sugar taste amazing!)

  5. Then pour this into a medium sized ziplock bag. Put this bag into another bag just like it. Make sure to let all the air out.

  6. Put this capsule of yum into another gallon sized ziplock bag.

  7. Fill up the bag with ice and dump about 1/2 a container of salt onto the ice. (Science note: This lowers the melting point of the ice and makes it coooooooold!)

  8. Wear gloves or wrap the bags up in a t-shirt and shake and smoosh it. If your ice has sharp corners, don't get too aggressive or you'll puncture the bags with the ice. (We learned this the hard way!)

  9. Keep shaking for about 15-20 minutes.

  10. Once the ice cream starts firming up keep going for a few more minutes and then take out the ice cream packet, rinse it and put it in the freezer for an hour or two.

  11. Moan as you eat it knowing that it's basically pure fat and sugar. (We served it over a hot and steam apple crisp!)

It turned out that this was a good ice breaker activity (pun!) and so we made the ice cream and then stuck it in the freezer for a few hours which let it firm up even more.

While we let that sit in the freezer, Grace and I served butternut squash soup, yams with molasses and ghee, curry with rootabegas, basmati rice, and lots of garnishes. The place smelled amazing!

I lit the place with candles. I love looking at people in candlelight! The photographers in the crowd had a challenge though.

I learned a lot and have some ideas for future secret cafes! I'm also considering doing a weekend pancake brunch. Right now, as the secret cafe moves into it's beta stage, I am only going to be inviting friends and friends of friends. If you are a friend or a friend of a friend and live or visit NYC and would like to get on my email invitation list for the secret cafe, drop me a note at and I'll put you on my list for invitations!

Update: Photos and video from grace!

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