Sci-Fi for the Tech Addict – Part 1 3D Printing

The ORDbot Quantum 3D printer (Bart Dring, Wikipedia)

I visited the Restart Project‘s Restart Party at Camden Town Shed for BBC Tech feature, and met some brilliant people who voluntarily fix whatever comes through the doors – be it broken printers, TVs, cameras or even stereo radio cassette players.

Talk that evening was of technology, the joy of fixing things & sci-fi. One of the electrical geniuses (genii?) was rather interested in 3D printing. And as I have read a lot of science fiction books, it seemed natural enough to recommend to Francis a reading list which I thought he’d find interesting.

It’s not the first time – a few years back I chaired the Science Museum’s FutureWorld event – people mentioned specific tech and I recommended books that complemented their area of interest. So I’m going to do the same thing – but online – I hope you like it.

Welcome to Science Fiction for the Tech Addict Part 1! I’m also going to add real life links too for those who want to know more about the technology itself.

PART 1 3D printing concepts: Science Fiction

Idoru – by William Gibson* : Cyberpunk espionage novel written in 1996 exploring what happens when the virtual world can mix with the real world. There’s elements of 3D printing here, but not in the way you’d think.

Makers – by Cory Doctorow* : 3D printing takes a more central role in this 2010 novel about a bunch of entrepreneurs who create a ride. The ride appears to take on a life of its own as more people become aware of it and interact with it. The book hits on very interesting points about how widespread 3D printing might affect society.

Altered Carbon – By Richard Morgan* : Written in 2002, this far-future ultra-violent detective/thriller’s concept has echoes of what society might be like if matter was entirely and completely replicable. Some might say it’s a bit of a stretch from 3D printing, but I reckon it’s a logical extension of the ability to create 3D objects.

*click ’em if you like ’em, these are Amazon Associate Links – if a link has a * by it, clicking might result in a very small payment – which therefore helps me have more time to write posts like this!


PART 2 3D printing in real life: Science Fact

Makerbot : all you need to start your own (pricy!) 3D printing workshop.

Shapeways : 3D printing service which also sells 3D patterns for other people to print out.

UK Hackspaces / Global Hackerspaces : Sociable member-run spaces where people tinker. Some have 3D printers to play with. I’ve visited both the London Hackspace and the Nottingham one so far – both are populated by wonderfully friendly people who have a lot of time for anyone who is interested in this sort of thing.

Maker Faire : fabulous carnivals filled with people making stuff. There’s a mini one in London’s Elephant and Castle next month where you can learn to design in 3D printing.

Of course there are so many more resources online as 3D printing becomes more and more commonplace.

If you have any requests for science fiction based on some of today’s tech ideas, let me know in the comments area and it would be a pleasure to dredge the old brain for something just right for you. Alternatively if you’ve read something that you think should go on the list, please tell me as I’m always looking for new books to read!



Quick Click Blog

View from BBC Click's Office by LJRich.

View from Click Towers

…And the reason I’ve been so utterly busy is partially explained by the picture, which is the view from BBC Click‘s offices at BBC TV Centre!  Wow!

I’m putting together some packages (which is what we call the 4-minute features in the programme) which will be transmitted across the whole world!

Some of the more techy readers may well have seen me pop up on a couple of episodes already – and you’ll be able to see me on the iPlayer on the coming edition, talking about gadgets with Spencer Kelly, Click’s main presenter, in the soon-to-be-revealed Click Lab.

I am chuffed to bits to be at the BBC!!!!!  As I (and others) would say on Twitter: “Woop!  Woop!”

CD!! CD!!! CD!!!!

Wow, I can’t believe it! I’m holding in my hands my FIRST grown-up looking CD!  Here it is:
I am soooooo excited

I am soooooo excited

This CD “wot I wrote” has 4 meditation tracks on it, I think the style is formally described as “new-age” or “extremely chilled”.  Each track has been composed, produced, and mastered in my lovely new studio!_

I’ve also uploaded a sample of the tracks on to myspace – if anyone knows a sexier way to get an MP3 file to talk to wordpress, please let me know, I’m still relatively new to all this blogging lark, and quite happy to benefit from someone else’s experience and/or knowledge.

Actually, there’s another, deeper, reason I’m really excited by this, because it’s only a small (some might say very small) step on the musical ladder in the big scheme of things.  I think this CD (and showing it to you in public) symbolises an acceptance of the musical part of me, which for a long time (and for very complicated reasons) I rejected for a while. I think there is also a big helping of nerves involved in actually going for it, creating a product and placing it in the market place.  What’s very odd to me is that I’m quite comfortable standing on stage / on TV chatting to a bunch of people I don’t know, but this blog post makes me feel incredibly strange, vulnerable and exposed.
Oh well.  Too late for that now.  The next step is for me to put the envelope with 5 CDs in the post to CDbaby, who will then hold the copies for purchase, and convert tracks to MP3 for digital download.
inside the Jewel Case

inside the Jewel Case

...and the back

...and the back

… right, I’ve been brave.  Now to self-medicate with chocolate and tea.

Dell Latitude on the Orient Express

Very Civilised way to travel

Very Civilised way to travel

Here’s a picture of what a bunch of tech journalists look like on one of the most luxurious trains in the world. Come to think of it, old bean, it’s not every day that geeks like me get invited on the Orient Express to find out about the Dell Latitude ‘E’ series… I also filmed a special Geek Chic one-to-one session with a Dell Jedi which should be out on youtube as soon as humanly possible, and yes, dear reader, I shall indeed stick a link here just for you.

Annie Mole, esteemed underground blogger and I both arrived at Victoria Station earlier than everyone else.  I was incredibly excited by the thought of going on the Orient Express, although it was probably uncool to blurt loudly “ooooh!! I’m going to go on the Orient Express!!!!! Woop! Woop!”, where “Woop” is an approximation of a train whistle.  I’m pretty sure I overheard someone say “Yeah, I’ve been on the Orient Express before” in an unexcited monotone.  What????  Well, I’m pretty certain that if I was ever lucky enough to catch this train again, I would probably have infinite “Woop”s remaining for the second time, I can tell you.

Right, back to the tech.  These are the E series Latitude notebooks, which boast a longer battery life, not just because of battery quality, but also because of new power management software tools and components which drain less juice inside.  The motherboard is inverted (i.e. upside down!) to improve accessibility and heat conduction.   The E series also have Zinc hinges and Magnesium Alloy casing (Yeah!! Metal!!), and a backlit keyboard function, useful for late night surfing (whatever you do on a computer in the dark).

Spooks-watchers and Bond-fans will appreciate the Remote Delete Service, which (if selected) will totally wipe your computer the next time it connects up to the internet after it’s been reported stolen.  Oh, and while the gun-sighting credits and dancing girls are still on your mind’s screen, it’s also worth mentioning that once this process starts, it cannot be stopped  even if you format the disk, as it’s burned into the bios.  And if that’s not enough spy-tastic talk, there’s GPS tracking within 10 metres (1 in 4 Dell laptops with GPS are recovered, apparently).  Finally, there’s the on-screen flag saying “This machine has been stolen”, even if you didn’t get the hint when you bought it from that dodgy-looking bloke.  In Cash.

Video to come: Markus from Dell tells us all about his Torture Chamber…

…and here’s a little gallery of the day. 

Nowhere is hot anymore when you’ve been to Dubai in July

cooling water fans and overheating passengers

Dubai Airport: cooling water fans and overheating passengers

OK, don’t try this at home, but hypothetically open the oven door on maximum heat, climb in (see, it’s hypothetical, I doubt you could fit unless 1. you’re really small and/or 2. the oven is really big).  Whilst looking out from inside your oven, try and imagine feeling cold again.  You can’t, because it’s so ridiculously hot your shoes are melting.

That’s Dubai, outside.  My body (and possibly yours) would register any temperature above 30C as Stupid Hot, including the 55 degree hit that smacks me in the chest on walking outside in the daytime in Dubai, UAE.   Landing at 11.30pm doesn’t let you off the hook – there’s no escape from the heat as it was a bonkers night time 35C! Just to give you an idea, the airline luggage labels on our cases had effectively melted to the handles in the 1 hour we’d been on the ground. 

“Don’t worry”, our intrepid (and well travelled) host said, “Your blood will thin at this temperature and you’ll be fine.” (EEEEEEWwwwWWW!)

Those first few breaths outside the airport’s fans were unbelievable, but intoxicating.  This place reminds me of Las Vegas a little, full of construction and contradiction.  I want more. 

Here are some piccies:

Xmas in July Technology Event

Xmas in July ? Srsly?

Get that loop tape out...

Ho, Ho, Hold on a minute, it’s not Yuletide yet…

Christmas in July is an odd occasion, foisted on us by various technology manufacturers, and I expect it may happen in other genres, too.  It’s an event where press and buyers look at what’s on offer for this festive season, and in July, there’s enough time to get the stock ready for December delivery.

These kinds of events are where technology companies show off what they have,  journalists talk about the products,  then retail buyers / distributors buy the products so eventually they end up on the shelf / online for the general public. 

I took my trusty camcorder with and filmed a little for you.

RSS Readers / Can’t see the link? Click here

Tucano Laptop Bag

Tucano Laptop Bag

If you want to know what the present was in the video, it was this laptop bag from Tucano, I’m rather impressed actually, as it fits my monster Rizeon Laptop even with its gigantic 9-cell battery on the back and my powerpack too.

…I’ve taken it into QVC with me (I’m here all day today, WiFi blogging naughtily from the Cafe when I’m not on air – ahh, I love the smell of coffee and free internet).  I even remembered to take the tag off, too.  That label was a monster though, one of those plastic fastenings that don’t respond well to teeth or keys and you have to find proper scissors.  That said, I’ll probably take this case to Dubai with me tomorrow, depending on whether I go hand luggage only (toothbrush, credit card, laptop, camcorder, N95, powermonkey), or whether I should risk the wrath of the Conveyor Belt of Doom and actually attempt a suitcase, which (at this late stage) normally involves panic packing.

For those glamorous capsule-wardrobe types (I love you, I wish I could do it too), you might not know about Panic Packing, so here’s a quick breakdown:

Panic Packing Stage 1: the entire contents of last minute TK Maxx (sale, of course) purchases are crammed unceremoniously into a ball and sat on until they just about fit in a suitcase that looks like it’s been through several warzones.

Panic Packing Stage 2: panic re-packing, i.e. realising that nothing useful, practical or indeed wearable has been packed and it’s a good thing you remembered to pack your credit card.

Stage 2 normally (and rather disappointingly) happens on arrival at the destination. Ho hum. 

Here’s the gallery:

… and if you want more info,
Here are the Links…
Overboard waterproof stuff  Voix  mp3 stuff  Etymotic headphones/ear protection
Tucano Laptop bags  Gear4 more mp3 stuff  Supersmoker electronic cigarette
Solio solar-powered charger  Pocketsurfer internet surfing with sim
Loc8tor device locating device  CMS Self-encrypting Hard Drive
Here’s the  Flickr Gallery
I’m only going for a few days, see you soon.

One Night of Knitting

Cat Heaven

Cat Heaven

The last time I knitted was probably when I was 6 or 7, my grandma did the “casting on” for me, and I could only knit a few rows and not purl at all.  I couldn’t even spell “Purl”.

Imagine my surprise when the good people at Qype invited me to an evening of “Stitching and Bitching” as it’s apparently called in the more hardcore knitting circles.

Here’s a little photo diary of our night at  I-Knit  – I was pretty impressed with what I managed (considering knitting isn’t really compatible with Windows), but there were some amazingly talented cohorts, including Gemma from  Will I pick up a ball of wool and continue?  Who knows…


Well, I now know about “frogging” (which is not as unsavoury as it sounds), stocking stitch, and something I may never conquer, moss-stitching.  *sigh* despite my best intentions, I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly obsessive high one gets from knitting, the sweet sound of the needles and soft yielding of the yarn …Right, off to the Tech Christmas in July event tonight in case I get too domesticated.


So, here’s a little clip of the capabilities of the new JVC MG-MS100 SD card camcorder: 



Can’t see the link? click here

Anyhow, I’m just about to finish a DS9 Episode, then it’s off to work…

OMGTV: 48 Hours on QVC in 4 days! Apologies in advance…

This was Soooooo dangerous

This was Soooooo dangerous

So here I am, back from China.  It was utterly fantastic and I promise to do a final post about the last part of the trip, which included Harley Davidsons, hiking down a cliff/up a mountain and Far East Electronics. 

Right now, though, something more pressing beckons…

In fact, I am actually rather apprehensive about it….

…AAArrrgh!!! what’s that coming over the hill?  It’s one of the most insane televisual tortures ever invented – lurking for 24 hours at a time – known as the TSV or Todays Special Value on QVC, this is the multiple-appearance-required featured-low-price-item repeated throughout the day from 0000 the night before to 2330 the night after. 

I tremble mentally at the thought, and by the end of the night I may well tremble physically from caffeine overuse.  Yes, Starbucks et al, rub your collective hands in glee as another addict publicly falls off the wagon with dismal regularity*.

This strange and barbaric practice requires complete and utter knowledge about one’s chosen consumer electronics product, combined with an ability to cope with sustained sleep deprivation and an unreasonable determination to get to the end of the day without a) saying something inaccurate on air, b) falling over and/or breaking stuff on air or c) swearing and/or stripping off on air.  Needless to say, some manage it, and some don’t.  The ones who don’t tend to end up on youtube**. 

Do I look like this? Srsly?

Do I look like this? Srsly?

Yes, dear reader, it’s not just one TSV I’ve been booked for on the 27th July, but two – the second being on the 31st.  Thank goodness the products are nice techy ones, I’ll sneak some piccies on once the embargo is lifted.

So, until midnight on the 27th (i.e. Saturday night) I’m gonna get my head down and study hard.  I will not watch any telly, I will certainly not attend any parties, and I’m definitely not going to do anything non-TSV related…

…Although I am accidentally holding in my paws front row tix for Batman on Friday at a very big cinema.  Yes, I think it’s important for my research that I attend this movie for observational and research purposes.


*Double Tall Wet Skinny Latte please.  I fall off the caffeine wagon every morning when I realise there’s milk and tea in the house, then I imagine the sound the kettle makes when it switches on.  This generally happens before my eyes are open.

**Yes, of course there’s a clip I’m thinking of.   If you want to see it, leave a comment and I may be persuaded to post the offending link.

from Clunk to Funk – Cisco Re-invent the Router

super routerI was absolutely fascinated the day I went to see Linksys/Cisco launch their new router.  After failing to get there on time due to 

1) not leaving on time – my fault,

2) getting off at Paddington Station instead of Lancaster Gate   – also my fault    and 

3) realising that there are, in fact, no less than 3 different Craven Hill Gardens dotted around a 100m radius   – hmm, possibly not my fault that London is a ridiculous maze designed to rob anyone of their navigational ability and/or their will to live…

– but, let’s face it, it’s probably my fault for not knowing that in advance and planning for it accordingly. 

from brain to paperNo matter; I turned up late, frazzled and thinking how on earth I’d be able to write something interesting about a new router, after all, if you have broadband, you probably know all about routers, boring boring boring snore.

But no! Wake up!!  Thank goodness this wasn’t a crusty presentation about connecting your laptop up to the “Interweb” and the wonders of wireless networking.  After all, it turns out most of us do that anyway, and we don’t need to be told about it – in fact, a recent YouGov poll showed that 54% of UK women who were surveyed were already surfing wirelessly, gaming wirelessly and printer-sharing (oh yeah, baby, we’re officially living in the digital age).

Instead, we were told the story of how a new router design was formulated, including making it work better without those big aerials – paralleling the disappearance of mobile phone antennae – and (mynearly there favourite part of the presentation) being treated to a sneak peek at concept sketches, the sort of thing consumers never get to see…  asking nicely resulted in being provided with a couple of these pics to show on the blog!

I don’t think I realised just how much work is involved in re-designing a device that already exists – and I’ve been working in the tech and gadget industry for years.

Yes, the electronics business has finally realised that us tech consumers are getting more savvy – we realise that something can look good and work properly at the same time – it’s the i-concept we’re locking in to and Linksys/Cisco have fully commited to this with their new router.  Here’s hoping that the trend for making functional things look good will continue to roll out across the industry – after all, the technology is finally around to back up the aesthetics, and I, for one, will welcome the change.

By the way, there’s some new software called LELA that comes with this router – it’s also been developed to be more intuitive… I’ll get to play with that in a few weeks’ time, and report back accordingly. 


Well, I’m off to China soon, hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog whilst I’m there – depending on whether I can get a sim card with data, I may even be able to Flickr some pics onto the web using Shozu, recommended by my nokia-picture-blogging pal BlackPhoebe– it’s exciting and daunting at the same time – can’t wait.

Until I go away, though, there’s a completely bonkers schedule to wade through… I’ve got a packed out telly-heavy weekend, with a selection of choice graveyard shifts ranging from midnight Friday night through to midnight Saturday night (and a few in between to guarantee the desired amount of sleep deprivation).  

Happily, I’ll be arriving at QVC in good time for the shows, as

 1) I’ll leave in good time,

2) I’ll get off at the correct station, and not somewhere miles away, and

3) I’ve been to QVC UK about a bazillion times before, so it would be really, really dense to end up at the wrong QVC even though there are a few different studios (like the one in Philadelphia, USA, for example),

– but,let’s face it, anyone could mix up “flight BA169” with “district line”, after all, they almost rhyme…