TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 98 Online

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: MacTech Online

Danger, Will Robinson

by Jeff Clites, online@mactech.com

When I sit down to program, I always know, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my efforts are ultimately targeted to the screen, the disk, or (if I'm feeling adventuresome), the network. But in the end, it's a very passive endeavor. My programs produce information -- maybe images or sound -- but, not action; they don't make things move. But they can. This month, we are going to find out about hooking your Mac up to the outside world, in a more visceral way than just attaching a printer. It's a hands-on subject, so roll up your sleeves and get ready.

Make Your Own Friends

Robots. They're as close as you can get to a computer with legs, and they can have almost as much personality as a Macintosh. I first saw a fun robot called CHiP at Macworld SF in January. It's a little blue car with two wheels and two sensing bumpers, which you can program and then run either tethered to your Mac or autonomously. The Hyperbot web site has a QuickTime movie of CHiP navigating a maze, to give you an idea of what he is like. There are also facilities for attaching additional sensors to CHiP, so for instance you could attach a light sensor and have him hide in the shadows. CHiP is still under development at the time of writing, but when finished it should be available through BeeHive Technologies, the makers of ADB I/O, reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

Hyperbot
http://www.hyperbot.com/
BeeHive Technologies, Inc.
http://www.bzzzzzz.com/

Another fun place to get your feet wet is with LEGO® robots, built from LEGOs® augmented with a few electronic parts. The Caltech ICOBotics(tm) site has Macintosh software which lets you write programs for your robots, using an iconic language. ICOBotics(tm) is intended to be an educational tool, and it would be a great way to introduce kids to programming, letting them learn the fundamentals (control structures, subroutines, etc.) while seeing very tangible results.

ICOBotics(tm) for LEGO Dacta® Home Page
http://www.micro.caltech.edu/icobotics/

There are also a number of pages on the web devoted to those seeking a more hands-on approach. Some of them are specifically geared (no pun intended) to the hobbyist roboteur, but the same general principles apply to building any sort of device which moves -- so even if you don't want to build R2-D2 a brother, you still might have fun adding computer control to your doggie door. A good place to start is Dan O'Sullivan's Physical Computing page, a hand-illustrated guide to the various components involved in hooking a computer up to the outside world, focussing on communication through the serial port and targeted toward artists. Matthew McDonald has a large compendium of useful information on hobby robotics, and there is a well-organized FAQ for the comp.robotics.misc and comp.robotics.research newsgroups. For the latest news, stop by Robotic.com, which prominently displays a "made with Mac" logo.

Physical Computing
http://www.itp.tsoa.nyu.edu/~alumni/dano/physical/physical.html
Info on Hobby Robots
http://www.cs.uwa.edu.au/~mafm/robot/index.html
Robotics FAQ
http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/robotics-faq/TOC.html
ROBOTIC.COM
http://www.robotic.com/

For further technical information as well as supplies, start with FerretTronics. They sell controllers for servo motors, and their web site has a step-by-step guide to using their package to build the circuitry of a robot or other device, including Mac-specific information. They also have free Java-based Mac software for interfacing with their controllers, and examples showing how to drive them from AppleScript or Future BASIC.

FerretTronics
http://www.busprod.com/ferrettronics/

For programming of embedded microcontrollers, Crossbow by Peripheral Issues is a Macintosh cross-assembler and IDE which allows you to target a wide range of chips, and Interactive C by Newton Research Labs is a programming environment created for the MIT LEGO® Robot Design contest, and it can compile instructions on-the-fly for quick development. You will also want to look into the Handy Board, developed at MIT as well. It's a controller board for experimental mobile robotics, and should be programmable in either of the above environments. By the way, it was designed on a Macintosh (don't forget to tell your PC buddies), and they provide links to the circuit-design software used.

Crossbow
http://www.periph.com/crossboweb/Crossbow.html
Interactive C
http://www.newtonlabs.com/ic/
The Handy Board
http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/handy-board/

For the rest of the parts you might need, the Internet Robotics Sources page has an extensive list of commercial (and other) links, and the Mondo-tronics' Robot Store claims to have "the world's biggest collection of miniature robots and supplies," and is worth visiting just to see their cute web design.

Internet Robotics Sources
http://129.79.254.195/l/www/robotics/world.html
Mondo-tronics' Robot Store
http://www.robotstore.com/

Now, when you tell you friends, "my Mac can beat up your Mac," you'll really mean it.

Respect for the Elderly

If you are anything like me, you hate to give up a good Mac which has served you well, even after you've purchased a new one. So you've saved Old Faithful, but what now? Fortunately, there's a lot you can do with an old Mac -- from the silly (yes, we've all heard of the Macquarium) to the practical. Jeff Weitzman's Great Ideas for Old Macs page has a bunch of suggestions, such as using old Macs to set up email and ftp servers for an intranet, or using them to run a book tracking system in a school library. To find software for your early Macs, go to Jag's world, which has an extensive list of shareware which runs on older Macs, and even has instructions for "How to Get Your Compact Mac on the Web." Finally, there's the Low-End Mac page, which has all sorts of information on older Macs and also tracks current Mac-related news.

Great Ideas For Old Macs
http://weitzman.net/classicmacs/
Jag's World
http://www.eden.com/~arena/jagshouse/jagshouseone.html
How To Get Your Compact Mac On the Web
http://www.eden.com/~arena/jagshouse/GetYourCompactMacOnTheWeb.html
Low End Mac
http://come.to/lowendmac

Just Because

While we are on the subject of the fun and unusual, I have to point out the Oddities Curios & Rarities for Macintosh web site. It has nothing to do with programming per se, except to drive home the point that necessity is not the only mother of invention. It is full of all sorts of downright weird software -- things such as Sim-Tofu, Psychomatic, and Kant Generator Pro. It all makes you wonder what you would do with that much free time.

Oddities Curios & Rarities for Macintosh
http://www.mac-curios.com/

These and scads of other links are available from the MacTech Online web pages at www.mactech.com/online/.

 
AAPL
$94.72
Apple Inc.
+0.78
MSFT
$44.83
Microsoft Corpora
-0.01
GOOG
$594.74
Google Inc.
+5.27

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Airmail 1.4 - Powerful, minimal email cl...
Airmail is a powerful, minimal mail client.It was designed to retain the same experience with a single or multiple accounts and provide a quick, modern and easy-to-use user experience. Airmail... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.1.12 - Monitor and co...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.37 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.9 - Fo...
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update is recommended for MacBook Air (Mid 2011) models. This update addresses an issue where systems may take longer to wake from sleep than expected and fixes a rare issue... Read more
FileZilla 3.9.0.1 - Fast and reliable FT...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface.Version 3.9.0.1: MSW: Fix installation issue with locked DLLs... Read more
OS X Yosemite 10.10 DP4 - Developer Prev...
Note: This is a Developer Preview. You must be a registered Apple Mac Developer to download this update. OS X Yosemite is Apple's newest operating system for Mac. An elegant design that feels... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.6 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
SpiderOak 5.1.7 - Secure cloud backup, s...
SpiderOak is a multi-platform secure online backup, storage, access, and sharing solution engineered for the consumer and small businesses. You must first sign up to use SpiderOak. Running natively... Read more
Espionage 3.6 - Simple, state of the art...
Espionage offers state-of-the-art encryption and plausible deniability for your confidential data. Sometimes, encrypting your data isn't enough to protect it. That's why Espionage 3 goes beyond data... Read more
calibre 1.45.0 - Complete e-library mana...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat L...
Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat Learning Library Sale Posted by Ellis Spice on July 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
MyTaskList Review
MyTaskList Review By Jennifer Allen on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: EFFECTIVE IF PLAINUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s not the most stylish of task management apps, but MyTaskList has all the features you could... | Read more »
FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines Review
FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines Review By Jennifer Allen on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRICKY FLYINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A tough game of careful thrusting and navigation, FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines... | Read more »
MTN Review
MTN Review By Jessica Fisher on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ADORABLE, SERENE, AND AMUSINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad MTN is an adorable, talking pet mountain that is less game and more zen garden.   | Read more »
Fly High with Ninja UP! Now Available o...
Fly High with Ninja UP! Now Available on the App Store Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Bio Inc. Review
Bio Inc. Review By Nadia Oxford on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SICKENING - IN A COMPELLING WAYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Bio Inc is about orchestrating the medical destruction of a single person. If that doesn’... | Read more »
HELMUT Review
HELMUT Review By Andrew Fisher on July 21st, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRUNDLE SIMULATOR 2014Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad HELMUT is a fun, fleeting time-sink that offers a momentary distraction and nothing else.   | Read more »
Walkr Review
Walkr Review By Jennifer Allen on July 21st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ORIGINAL WALKINGiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Walking is a bit more exciting thanks to this planet building/discovering sim reliant... | Read more »
Zombie Commando Review
Zombie Commando Review By Jennifer Allen on July 21st, 2014 Our Rating: :: MINDLESS SLAUGHTERUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Briefly fun but ultimately forgettable, Zombie Commando will scratch an itch then be... | Read more »
Swords & Poker Adventures Review
Swords & Poker Adventures Review By Jennifer Allen on July 21st, 2014 Our Rating: :: SOULLESS POKER PLAYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swords & Poker Adventures is a mishmash of Poker and RPGing, but it lacks... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Retina on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1829 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $170 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished Mac minis for up to $150 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 2.5GHz Mac... Read more
Twelve South HiRise For MacBook – Height-Adju...
If you use your MacBook as a workhorse desktop substitute, as many of us do, a laptop stand combined with an external keyboard and pointing device are pretty much obligatory if you want to avoid... Read more
Why The Mac Was Not Included In The Apple/IBM...
TUAW’s Yoni Heisler cites Fredrick Paul of Network World whoi blogged last week that the Mac’s conspicuous absence from Apple and IBM’s landmark partnership agreement represents a huge squandered... Read more
Save $100 on 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros, plu...
Adorama has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: - 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB MacBook Pro with Retina Display: $1199 - 13″ 2.... Read more
Blurr it 2.3 for iOS – Quickly Blurs Selected...
Hyderabad, India based TouchLabs has announced a new update of Blurr it 2.3, their photography app for iOS users. Blurr it allows you to blur part of the image to hide potentially sensitive or... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only... Read more
Amazon Announces Kindle Unlimited: Unlimited...
Amazon.com has introduced Kindle Unlimited — a new subscription service which allows customers to freely read as much as they want from over 600,000 Kindle books, and listen as much as they want to... Read more
New Linksys Wireless Range Extenders Boost Wi...
Linksys has announced its new lineup of Linksys Wi-Fi Range Extenders. Consumers often experience a weak wireless signal in some parts of their house or apartment caused by blocking elements such as... Read more
MacBook Airs available starting at $719
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2013 & 2012 MacBook Airs in stock today starting at $719. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: 2013... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr *Apple* Engineer - IT - Requisition #: -...
For more information about TIAA-CREF, visit our website . The Apple Engineer will provide engineering and third-level incident support for 300- 500 MacOS desktop/laptop Read more
*Apple* Systems Administrator - DISH (United...
…satellite service provider, and Dish is currently looking for an experienced Apple /Mac Systems Administrator. Apple systems administrator will be responsible for Read more
*Apple* Systems Administrator - DISH (United...
…satellite service provider, and Dish is currently looking for an experienced Apple /Mac Systems Administrator. Apple systems administrator will be responsible for Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.