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Make: Technology on Your Time (volume 3) Mark Frauenfelder (Editor)
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN:0-596-10080-9
224 pages
£ 9.95
Published: 26th July 2005
reviewed by Greg Matthews
   in the September 2005 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

When this book first dropped into my in-tray for review, I was overjoyed. I had recently discovered this series on the O'Reilly book store at the UKUUG conference in Swansea. After poring over them I had decided to buy volumes 1 and 2; one for me and one for a friend (after I'd read it of course). Now, volume 3 is in my clutches too.

First of all, this isn't exactly a book so much as a quarterly magazine. Only three editions so far but each one has been jam packed with fascinating articles. The problem I have now is to give you an idea of its content.

Make is aimed at the sort of people who are driven to take stuff apart and put it back together again, preferably in new and bizarre ways. If the warning ``No user serviceable parts inside'' just makes you even more eager to open it up then this magazine is for you. Finding new uses for old and new technology is the main thrust, as well as articles on DVD copy protection, Open Source, tools, welding, electronics, anything that could interest the hand those that caught my fancy in this issue are the alternative uses for old VCRs (in this case, a cat food dispenser) and of course, the ``Night Lighter'' potato canon which can fling spud plugs up to 200 yards! One of the other projects is actually a whole series of ideas and howtos for hacking on your car, such as making it into a WiFi hot spot or connecting your MP3 player to the stereo. This was less interesting to me as I don't use a car much, but the instructions on brewing your own bio-diesel were fascinating and went into some detail on the actual chemistry involved.

The projects don't take up all the room in this weighty volume (almost 200 pages). Lots of it is given over to short articles and reader contributions. This issue is worth buying if only to read about the scientists from all over the world who are still convinced that there is something to learn from the Pons-Fleischmann effect (cold fusion), and their attempts to recreate it in backyard laboratories. Also noteworthy are the Canadian students that attached a petrol engine to a shopping trolley, and a short article on how to connect a disposable digital camera to your computer for an ultra cheap, lightweight reusable camera (ideal for kite photography - see volume 1).

I can't tell you how much I like this magazine. Of course I have the odd complaint; the articles have a US slant so prices are all in dollars, measurements are in feet and inches and many of the suggested materials suppliers are unlikely to ship to Europe. Also, the computer references tend to be a bit Mac-centric although Linux is often mentioned too. On the other hand, instructions are detailed, explanations are clear and technical details are rarely glossed over. I even like the adverts, for instance; the first advert of this issue is for an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag reader, and the third is advertising a USB powered Linux server the size of a matchbox as well as offering bounties for people porting applications to it. That said, there is very little advertising and I wonder if that will have to change.

There isn't enough room here to fully describe the contents of the this magazine, I hope I've given a flavour. It costs 9.95 from O'Reilly and subscriptions are available at $49.95 (promotional codes don't work for overseas customers). Alternatively, you can subscribe to an online only version for $26.95. The era of disposable technology can't last, this magazine shows you that it can be reused and recycled by applying your imagination. Get making.

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