Vote for TinyEnormous! wired/sparkfun/ponoko contest

Sparkfun, Ponoko, and Geek dad from wired have all teamed up to create a contest for us makers. The rules are simple: design something that uses sparkfun’s parts and Ponoko’s cutting services. The top ten coolest designs get picked by a panel and then the best one gets picked by an online vote! I have submitted two ideas and I really hope at least one of them makes it into one of them made it into the the top ten! I was surprised by how few people entered, but I guess the whole line about…

Submit a photo, render, sketch or scribble on a napkin to the GeekDad pool on Flickr (and tag it ‘ponoko’) or leave a description of it in a comment below before the end of the weekend

…was too daunting for some people! Regardless, I put two entries into the contest. One is a laser cut beer vending machine that is designed to retrofit an old dorm mini-fridge into a beer vending machine(!), and the other is a physical progress bar.

Here are pictures of the (very) rough prototypes. The beer vending machine should be pretty self explanatory.

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What do vendors gain by making closed hardware?

I have a Hp mini netbook, an xbox, a canon 7D dslr, a canon powershot point and shoot camera and an iphone.
The netbook is a hackintosh.
The xbox has a mod chip so it can act as a media server.
The powershot is running CHDK which enables an intervalometer and motion detection.
The iPhone is jailbroken so I can run non “approved” apps on it.
I paid full price for all of those devices and I haven’t caused any direct monetary loss for the producers of those devices. I consider that a win-win situation. The hardware manufacturer makes good hardware, and then I am able to do something with it that was not initially considered by the manufacturer. I paid for it, I should be able to modify it.

When I bought the 7D I knew that there was a ‘hacking’ effort underway and I was looking forward to some day when it would bear fruit. I have checked in every few months since then and I finally realized that instead of bearing fruit, Canon has killed the tree. With each consecutive firmware update, canon has locked the hardware down more and more. They have made it harder to develop for and now it is at the point where development has stopped. How does this help canon sell even one more camera?

I honestly don’t expect them to go out of their way to help us hack their hardware. I do expect them to help their bottom line by making innovative hardware cheaply, and making it as flexible as possible so that huge numbers of people buy it. Their continued efforts to encrypt and lock down the firmware on their cameras confuses me because their cameras still have a lot of flaws. The time that their programmers and engineers put into “locking the gates” could have been spent adding audio levels, reducing shutter effects, or enabling a record time greater than 12 minutes! As a law abiding purchaser of their hardware I am really offended. I am offended that they went on the attack instead of graciously acknowledging that their cameras are the focus of some innovative creative people. I am also saddened because I can not think of a way that it is good for the company, or the consumer, or the industry. This seems like equal parts greed and ignorance.

If you understand why they do this, I would love to hear it. If not, then I’m sure canon would love to hear it.

Public Relations Department
Corporate Communications Division
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042