Cybernaut 

Tinker, tailor, solder, Wi-Fi

I take a certain amount of pride in my ability to take things apart, fix them, and put them back together in a functional yet most likely warranty-voiding state.

To date I’ve "fixed" a guitar amplifier, toaster oven, dishwasher, washer-dryer, Playstation controller, five disc carousel CD changer, computer, toilet, sink and vacuum cleaner. If any of my screwdrivers fit, I’ll take almost anything apart.

I’ve had a few failures, usually because I couldn’t spot the problem as easily as I could spot a broken wire, stripped cog, dry bearing or burnt fuse.

As a tinkerer I’d probably rate myself as average, and I acknowledge that there are some things that I wouldn’t dare touch because it would cost far too much to replace. However, I’d jump at any opportunity to take my tinkering to the next level. Luckily there’s a new magazine out to show me the way, reducing the chance by 75 per cent that I’ll one day electrocute myself – allowing for normal human error and basic incompetence.

It’s called Make: Technology on Your Time – www.oreillynet.com/oreilly/make/ – and it’s full of cool do-it-yourself projects.

In the first issue the list of projects includes a do-it-yourself camera stabilizer for $14, kite flying aerial-photography, making 3D pictures using digital cameras, and a whole lot more. A Web log on the site also includes instructions on how to make a low frequency FM transmitter for $20, how to use your PocketPC as a Wi-Fi phone, and how to boost the power of your iPod FM transmitter.

There’s nothing for sale on Make, just advice on how to turn gadgets into other gadgets, or do more with the gadgets you already own.

O’Reilly publishing fills the magazine / newsletter by mining a number of online sources and tech logs that already provide similar ideas for do-it-yourself projects, so Make is the place to discover those mad scientists and inventors as well.

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hotmail

I got a pleasant surprise in my Hotmail Inbox this week – space. And lots of it. Good to their word, Microsoft rewarded my 10 years of loyalty by increasing my Hotmail storage to a whopping 250MB. That’s about a quarter what a Google Gmail account offers, but it’s a full 125 times what was in there before.

That little bar that tracks my mailbox usage, the one that was perpetually stuck in the red thanks to my reluctance to delete emails from friends and family members, and people I want to stay in touch with. It’s completely clear, as I now have more than 248MB to fill however I choose.

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