April 06, 2015

Margvelous Issue #2



Howdy partners. This week we're covering some of my curious fascinations, favorite gadgets that I use daily, and other oddities. The bad weather's finally taken a break for the year, plants are growing, and kids are once again out destroying mailboxes with baseball bats. Let's dive in.

1. The Air Up Here

Ever wonder what’s in the air that you’re breathing? I did, so I went out and bought myself an Air Quality Egg (AQE). Out of the box, the AQE measures NO2, CO, humidity, and temperature levels. The data is offloaded and stored onto a free data warehousing service called Xively.

So what have I learned so far? Well, for one, the NO2 levels near my house are significantly worse than the national average. And that’s not uncommon for Chicagoland. Time to get the tinfoil hat out.

2. Beer Data

I’ve been working for the past several weeks on an in-depth analysis of beer data; basically, a beer recommendation engine. This is an extension of an older project I did that took a shallower look at some of the same numbers, but now uses other data sources joined in to take a more scientific look at the problem.

If you have Tableau, you can begin exploring the project right now. Or, if you can wait a few weeks, there’ll be a D3 visualization up for you to take advantage of.

From Reddit: The region that you live in has a lot to do with what you drink. Ever wonder what beers people are checking in on Untappd?

3. What’s in my pockets? ;)

I’m not a utility belt kind of guy, but I do carry around a fairly nice assortment of tools in my pockets when I go out. Here’s a collection of the cool, high-quality stuff that I’ve got with me on a daily basis

  • Moleskine notebook

    What can I say? I’m an analog guy in a digital world. For all of my sketches, notes, and grocery lists I carry a Moleskine around to offload my brain.

  • Space pen

    They say the Americans spent a million dollars developing a pen that would work in outer space, and the Russians just used pencils. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but this pen compacts to fit nicely in my pocket, then folds out to a larger tool when I need it.

  • 3D printed wallet

    My dog’s eaten four of my wallets in the last month. So, rather than go out and buy one, I printed one. Here it is, in all its glory: And if you want to get the design: 
  • Leatherman Skeletool

    Weighing in at x pounds, the Skeletool is the lightest, most versatile tool that had the features I wanted. The Skeletool includes pliers, a knife, a screwdriver with changeable bits, a carabiner, and a bottle opener.
  • iPhone 6+

    I’ve got my phone loaded up with all sorts of useful utilities, but the apps that are in high circulation are Evernote, Scannable, 1Password, and Recorder. Between these four things (as well as some default iOS apps like the camera tool) I’m able to offload just about anything in my mind into digital format.

4. Cool Software

  • Open Refine (formerly Google Refine)

    This is a great tool for quickly exploring, transforming, and flattening data. Spreadsheets, CSV, TSV, and JSON are just a few of the data types accepted. There’s also a great list of extensions for the tool here.  
  • Rhino for Mac

    Here’s a cool tip for folks interested in getting into 3D design: Rhino for Mac (currently in beta) is completely free. At over a thousand dollars for Windows users, this is a great find. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll last, but it’s definitely worth getting.
  • Social Graphs

    Ever wonder what your email social graph looks like? Look no further.

5. Classes, Events, Speaking Engagements

A few months ago kicked off the beginning of a series of engagements, classes, and other events that I’ve be running on behalf of SpaceLab. Having already spoken at the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs Conference, met with Dale Dougherty, and run some local classes at SpaceLab, I’ve still got a pretty nice event lineup teed up over the next several weeks:
  • IOT In Your Home

    Tomorrow! Tuesday, April 6th. We’re building out a custom sensor array that will feed its data into a centralized dashboard. Immediate projects include temperature and light sensors, as well as simple detection for doors being open and closed.

  • Mini Maker Faire Year 2 Planning

    Thursday, April 16th at 7pm. This year we have over 50,000 sq/ft of space available at the Local 597 Training Center for August 22nd. Come on out and help us brainstorm exhibitors, speakers, and more!

  • 3D printing

    Saturday, April 18th at Forest Park Library. Learn how 3-D printers work and produce small objects! Jay Margalus from the maker lab SpaceLab will introduce attendees to the wonderful world of 3-D printing! 

  • Explore the Oculus Rift (SpaceLab Members ONLY)

    Friday, April 24th at 7pm. I’ve picked up an Oculus Rift 2 Devkit, and wanted to test it out with some fellow SpaceLabbers. This is a SpaceLab members only event. 

6. 3D Printing for the Week

  • This is the first wallet design I took a crack at printing last week, and I must say, I was sorely disappointed. The whole thing fell apart when I was trying to loosen the hinges, and overall, I didn’t see the design lasting very long anyway. Huge piece of junk. Hinge is nearly impossible to get loose.
  • Here’s the wallet I’m currently using. It takes a credit card or business card for a lid, and has a loose compartment on the inside for storing money, cards, or whatever else you want.
  • Easter is over, but this bunny origami print is still too wonderful to keep to myself. We had guests over for Easter, and many of them sincerely thought it was origami until they looked closer.