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Meet Wanda

If you are using Gnome, press [Alt] + [F2] then key in free the sh

Benevolent dictators for life

A few leaders of the Open Source community are given this improbable title. Slackware creator Patrick Volkerding, and Guido Rossum who gave the world Python are two of them

A look at a how open source design ideas that are treating waste as a resource, and neat ideas on useful things you can make with PC components

Open design and free culture

Sriram Sharma

pen source is a much maligned buzzword, if you go by an essay written by Richard Stallman (Why open source misses the point of free software). It respectfully corrects Wired magazine author Neal Stephenson, in a cultural critique that stresses on the difference between free and open source software. Whats the distinction? Free software is gives you the freedom to run, study, change, and redistribute code. Open source is well, a buzzword, and a development methodology. There can be specific licensing agreements that limit what can be done with that code, Mali-

cious features, such as spying on the users, restricting the users, back doors, and imposed upgrades are common in proprietary software While the Android OS is free, the services that run on it are not: this came as a rude shock to Android fanboys when Cyanogen received a cease and desist letter from Google for distributing a modified Android firmware that also bundled access to Google apps such as Gmail and YouTube. Running Android on a device does not mean you get access to all applications.

Curd is open source

Finding low-cost, high value tech products that arent neutered in anyway is an endless and often fruitless quest.

Part of my anticipation for Android has to do with my love-hate relationship with Apple I like my iPod Touch, which came as an engagement gift, but if it werent for Windows and IBM, my family would have not been able to afford a PC when it did. As a veteran tech journalist, it feels sinful to support products that are expensive, incompatible, and full of proprietary software and connectivity screwups. iPods wont work without iTunes, and transferring videos is a pain. But its amazingly fast. I was able to tap and see around a hundred photos in less than ten seconds. its very responsive; an iPhone user has a typing speed of 83 words per minute! And the apps! I havent purchased a single app yet (I dont use credit cards), and juggle with about three

34 Digit | April1 2010 |

Binary Blobs
Binary Blobs are mysterious pieces of code, (possibly closed source), injected into Open Source projects, with no documentation or explanation

Read an interesting article on e-waste at


Watch your loved ones admiring themselves!

sonous to the environment. Instead, they can be refurbished, repurposed, and crafted to make value out of scrap. Harshit Patel, who runs Techshop. in, an e-commerce site that sells computer hardware, and also has an e-cycle program on the web site, agreed to give me a glimpse of the recycling industry in Mumbai, which, according to a 2007 Guardian article, employs around 2,50,000 people. Dead computers and their galaxy of components have in them a number of rare earths and precious metals (gold, palladium, neodymium, etc.) worth recycling, but also contain a number of toxic substances that can spill into the ecosystem. The laundry list of toxic chemicals include: arsenic, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These are being eliminated by many manufacturers, and Greenpeace has been keeping tabs on everyone including Apple and Nintendo. E-waste is a serious problem, a PTI wire story from 2009 reports that

A cool and interesting application for old hard disks

free Brain Age clones whose demo versions are very generous. Theres tremendous value to be unlocked from usage, and loyalties are made through products that deliver. My dad still uses an iPod Shuffle that I got for him five years ago. It still works. If my employers were to give me any notebook of my choosing, Id go for the highest end Macbook, the best computing experience, but since I finance my own tech, I have an Acer Aspire netbook with a 12-inch screen that I purchased for Rs. 24,000, four months ago. Its now available for Rs. 19,000, and getting more obsolete by the day. Where am I going with all of this? Well, its an enquiry into everyones double standards. As a tech journalist, Ive reviewed everything from game controllers to graphic cards, motherboards and processors, laptops and phones and games. My idea for Switchklick comes with the realisation that when computers get junked, they can be poi-

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e-waste from discarded computers, TVs and mobile phones will cross 8-lakh tonnes by 2012. According to a greenpeace report, India generated 3.8 lakh tonnes of waste. Only three percent of it is recycled, says Nitin Gupta, CEO of Attero Recycling, one of the few Indian companies that legally processes e-waste. Attero Recycling has been given permission for import of 8000 metric tonnes of hazardous e-waste from UK and USA, but reiterates on a best practices page that the focus will be on domestic e-waste recycling. They have been organizing collection drives in residential areas and have a direct number that anyone can call to dispose of electronic waste. But the problem does little to address the informal industry that handles 97% of electronic waste. fb_contest

Recyclism and Makers

Cory Doctorow, co-founder of, has a has free to download
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A wiki-like approach to maps, this project is a Open Source approach to mapping the face of the Earth

Open Design
Experts are contemplating the introduction of Open Source philosophies to Industrial Design as well, the movement is called Open Design

science fiction novel that tells the story of two inventors who reprogram seashell robots to toast, and Elmo dolls to drive cars. Sound too novel? Theres a hacker artist from Dublin called Benjamin Gualon, who has founded the movement of recyclism, and has been creating unique ways to hack old hardware and extract more functionality out of them. His most interesting project is The RES: made a totally unique object of beauty and joy a custom

can be repurposed. An artist from New Zealand has turned circuit boards into lamps. 62 ways to use a dead computer, a book by Randy Sarafan, shows ways in which you can reuse and downcycle a computers components. Notable ones include: A gamer guitar thats amped up using a computers power supply, a keyboard lamp, earbud speakers, phone safe, gear

Garbage for good health?


at it. What more could you ask for?
rock band kit out of 8-bit Nintendo consoles and a bunch of gamepads. Each gamepad handles one particular sound: bass, drums, synthesizer, percussions, etc. Surely our country of out-of-work electronics engineers can make things like these for cheap! Older computers can be refurbished to boot on Linux, or they

Join the revolution, share your green secrets, learn from others, save our planet, and win exciting prizes while youre

clock, PDA doodler, Scanner table, and the Portable Amplifier made out of a desktop PC. Its a really neat book, and it just scratches the surface! If you want more ideas, theres as well!

A stripped down printer serves well as a laptop stand

Open Source Design

Afghanistan is a war-torn country, with no telecom regulatory authority or much of a telecom industry in the first place, it was the perfect testing ground for Volunteers from Add a couple of fans and you have a cooler ready the MIT Bits and Atoms lab. and acrylic, chicken wire, stainless They built a wireless network in woven mesh and window screen have Jalalabad, Afghanistan out of locally been used as reflective materials. sourced junk pieces of board, These ghetto reflectors boost the wire, a plastic tub, and oil cans. range of the wireless network to a This is an open source open range of one kilometre. The locals design initiative, which means that are using the infrastructure for anyone can copy this design to build video Skype, and Google searches. their own wireless network. The I believe that distributed ownwiki also provides reflector designs, ership without any legal payback configuration files and instructions obligations may spawn a richer way that anyone can use to turn a Linksys of looking at work, and of knowledge wrt54GLs router into a Fab-Fi. dissemination. says Poonam Bin According to the Fab-Fi wiki, the Kasturi, founder of nodes use Linksys WRT54GL wireThe site sells affordable a kitchen less routers running OpenWRT 8.09.1 waste composters which can convert (Kamikaze) firmware. Signboard

Youll nd some really powerful magnets in your hard drive

36 Digit | April1 2010 |

Open Prosthetics
An ex-marine who served in Iraq started the project, an example of Open Design efforts. The project hopes to make access to advanced prosthetic designs universal

No, the Beer is NOT free, but ex Red Hat employees let you customize the packaging, and it is a favourite drink at tech company parties

organic waste in about 100 days. For a thousand rupees, you can get Bada Khamba, a kitchen waste composter that can manage waste generated by a family of five. The product writeup claims that it is odour free and doesnt attract pests and flies. Even better, anyone can hire a local potter, and clone Daily Dumps designs and run your own franchise. There is no royalty structure stopping you from doing so. Bada Khamba was designed by Poonam Bir Kasturi, a graduate of NID. Her passion is to demonstrate simple alternative practices in the cycle of production and consumption., her TED bio reads, and with DailyDump, she wants to make composting a national habit. My interest is to try and change behaviour and creating a large centralised business is not the priority. So when you set such a goal, then you view traditional ideas of competition, market share, wealth etc. through new lenses. What do I have to lose? If I fail, they will all say, ha, these non-management types dont know how to read a balance sheet. But if composting becomes a national habit, without one large business house but lots of micro-enterprises, then the purpose of Daily Dump is well served. Quite a few businesses that use Daily Dumps open source design, ex-Digit Asst. Editor Karan Manral runs Green Essentials, based in Taleigao, Goa which sells composting pots, herbal solutions and indoor plants. Its one of the dozen odd businesses that use Daily Dumps open

source design, which has a wide range of products. Which brings us to It already has a dozen unique ideas that Ive created. I have plenty more in my head, but not enough time. I think there is a market for geeky collectibles, CPU and RAM sticks can be fossilised in acrylic or transparent plastic, fashioned into key-chains. In the long run, I would like to come up with a recyclists cookbook, full of original and amazing ideas to make something new and unique and personalised out of junk. Many of these ideas will be simple to implement, while some will be good enough to be saleable.

The raised keyboard makes it comfortable to type

Designs from Switchklick

Lantern: Made using parts from a desktop hard drive, a keyboard, and a candle light holder. It gives a mild hue when used with a candlelight. Will try to upgrade it to a USB-powered LED light to see if its better. Printer tray: A discarded printer tray can be use it to rest your laptop or netbook. Not only is it ergonomic, a ten degree angle between the surface of your table and your laptop is more than enough to provide ample ventilation for your CPU fan.
Add the piece of junk youd otherwise throw away...

...and it makes it easy to use

Bathroom Mirror: The HDD platter is shiny, and reflective. It can be used like a mirror. Cup Holder: The hard disk block has solid grooves, it can be used as a cup holder. You wont have to worry about spilling your coffee again. Accupuncture Keyboard Footrest: You need two keyboards

for your feet. Preferably mechanical keyboards, they make a loud klickety sound and feel really good! In the meanwhile, the following five documentaries will change the way you consume: The Corporation Home Manufactured Landscapes Addicted to Plastic The Age of Stupid
The author is a technology enthusiast and is actively involved with e-waste and recycling initiatives. He is an avid Digit reader and regularly contributes to our web site and magazine

Express yourself with your toolbox

38 Digit | April 2010 |