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Geek Crafts: Geeks Show Their Artistic Side

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 25-05-2011

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Over the last several years, two equipment-heavy stereotypes have formed out of the ether and the Internet: the DIYer and the geek. The stereotypical geek comes armed with soldering irons, sci-fi shows on DVD, and encyclopedic knowledge of multiple branches of science, while DIY enthusiasts carry glue guns, a lot of yarn, and books about reinventing t-shirts. They may seem diametrically opposed, but closer examination of the two reveals an overlap that contains both crafty geekery and deeply nerdy art.

Inspired by Geek Canon

[Photo: 'Angry Angel' on Flickr]

Amigurumi is a popular subset of the fiber arts, wherein cute things (usually animals, but sometimes inanimate objects) are rendered in knitting or crochet and stuffed. The amigurumi world didn’t know what it was missing until this 3.5-inch Boba Fett came along, created by Flickr user Angry Angel/Etsy shop owner Lucy Ravenscar. She sells crochet patterns for a wide variety of Star Wars denizens, including Darth Vader, C-3PO, and ewoks (it seems she specializes in Wicket).

My Little Pony, in addition to entertaining millions of five-year-old girls (and, with the Lauren Faust cartoon reboot, a growing contingent of 18-to-35-year-old guys), also provides many artists with adorable pony-shaped canvases ripe for customization. Inspired by Battlestar Galactica, DeviantArt user Spippo created My Little Starbuck.

Colorwork in knitting stereotypically takes the form of snowflakes, Nordic stars, and simple geometric shapes. A growing contingent of geeky knitters, however, would rather their blankets and sweaters be emblazoned with more current–or time-traveling–fare. This TARDIS blanket, made by Carrie Fritsche, is both available as a free pattern and is warmer on the inside.

The Internet Comes to Life

[Image: Allie Brosh]

Allie Brosh of hyperboleandahalf enthralled the grammar sticklers of the Internet with her April 2010 post on the habits and characteristics of the alot, a creature that resembles a mix between a bear, a yak, and a pug. When faced with a phrase containing the grammatical error “alot”, Allie re-imagines the sentence as could be applied to a big furry squash-faced animal.

The artists and crafters of the Internet went wild, up to the making of a (sadly, infrequently-updated) website ilikethatalot.com, which collects various versions of the grammar animal. This awesome watercolor, created by redditor MoonMonstar, received enthusiastic support from Allie, who happens to be a redditor herself.

In the three-dimensional realm of the crafting world, Alix Banegas of arixystix creations rendered the alot in plush. Then, true to the conventions of the Internet, she posed him with her cat.

[Photo: Alix Banegas]

Geeky Formulation

Many craft forms are surprisingly digital in execution, which means much of their planning is facilitated by judicious applications of graph paper. Knitting and quilting patterns often resemble a very geometric form of color-by-numbers. The pattern for this Fiery Phoenix quilt, created by instructables user, was created using Microsoft Excel, with support from MATLAB to make sure the flame effect was properly randomized.

Knitting machines are catching on in installation art: the clock that knits a scarf makes a point about creative potential, while a wind-powered model allows Mother Nature to express her crafty side. The Interactive Knitting Machine (above) displayed at Dev Camp 2010, however, takes the robot-knitter to the next level. Powered by viewers’ breaths, the machine dyes yarn in a pattern determined by the strength of the blow and the specific straw blown into, and then knits the yarn into a collaboratively-knitted piece with a colorful signature from each of many, many co-creators.

The stage curtain at the Oslo Opera House may look like it’s been Photoshopped, but it’s actually a piece of textile art made by Pae White called “Metafoil”, is as real as its component cotton, wool, and polyester fibers. Created by a computer-controlled loom from a scanned image of crumpled aluminum foil, the enormous curtain knocks viewers off balance, reminding them not to take superficial images for granted and always take a closer look.

Nerds the world over have succumbed to the soothing radiance of UV-reactive substances of all varieties. But while fluorescent paints and dyes make wearable glow possible, they also use a great deal of water, chemicals, and labor to obtain results. A new development by the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore could render the conventional dye process obsolete: dyes, colorants and other materials, when fed to silkworms in the last four days of the larval stage, become integrated into the worms’ silk cocoons.

The technique could potentially be used to introduce many other compounds and properties into silk, creating a wide variety of functional fabrics. So it’s not just about the surprising stuffed toys or using tech to generate textiles – that intersection between craft and geek leads to fascinating applications of both art and science.

How have you applied non-standard nerd knowledge to your geeky endeavors? Answer in the comments!

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7 Essential Things Every Geek Should Know or Own

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 09-05-2011

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[Photo: Pop + Shorty]Happy Geek Pride Day! May 25 is here, and while the date coincides with other events such as the 1977 theatrical release of Star Wars: A New Hope, Towel Day, and a celebration of Terry Prachett’s Discworld, it’s a day to bask in being a geek. But just to make sure, you may want to check the GeekTech list of things a good geek should own or know. If you have or know a few of these things, congratulations. If you don’t, see this as a shopping list of what you need.

(And a special thanks to those who contributed ideas via our Facebook page!)

A Geek Should Own…

Flash Drives: Any self-respecting geek should have some form of portable drive. And not just one or two–you should have an entire collection of them. You should know then how to partition your flash drive properly. Your flash drives should contain a collection of system utilities and perhaps a Linux installation or two (hat tip to Joe S. on our Facebok page for the tip!).

My box o’wires. Yours needn’t be this messy!Cables-Lots of Cables: Having a box of miscellaneous cables is great. It isn’t only useful for finding a spare in case a cable goes missing, but you’ll also have cables for just about any unforeseen circumstance. You’ll probably find the box will be mainly made up of Ethernet cables, but this is good for wiring up your whole house.

Don’t forget to put a cable in your bag (be it a USB or a specific charger cable) just in case your latest cool gadget, laptop, or otherwise runs out of juice, or needs hooking up to a PC.

A Home-built PC: Nothing shouts Geek cred like a homemade computer. Not only are you proving how well you can navigate yourself around a PC, but it also means you got to pick what went inside–faster RAM, big memory, impressive graphics and maybe more than one monitor are just a few examples of how cool a geeky homebuild is. You should have just about every screwdriver imaginable, as well as an anti-static wrist-strap set (hat tip to Simon on our Facebook page for the tip!).

A Soldering Iron: Because…well, why not? You never know when you’ll have to hack together some hardware. (Hat tip to Joe S. on our Facebok page for the tip!)

Geek Tech blogger Chris Brandrick modelling a geeky Threadless tee.A Geeky Tee (Or Two. Or Twenty.): Chances are, you’ll wear your geekiness on your sleeve–literally–with a geeky tee. A geek slogan or motif or something to do with geek culture are all legitimate and potentially cool. If you’re looking for a cool geeky tee, there are plenty of places online to find good ones: Pop + Shorty has a couple of sweet t-shirts aimed at the fashion conscious geek, and Threadless occasionally sells some great geek-friendly designs too.

And of course, it never hurts to add some geeky buttons. If you’re a Web designer, you might appreciate this one (pictured at top).

Should Know

How to Code: All geeks should have even a basic degree of coding knowledge. Depending on what coding you find most interesting–be it computer programming or Web design–you should be able to lay down the basics from memory. For instance, if HTML is your thing, you really ought to know your img src from your a href. If you know the HTML basics–plus a little about CSS and how it works–you get bonus points.

Keyboard shortcuts: Knowing your way around the keyboard is pretty useful, especially if the time comes when your mouse stops working and you need to stop what you are doing and shut down (and we have all had those kinds of mouse issues). Plus, keyboard shortcuts are mega useful in programs such as Photoshop–they save a ton of time.

On the desktop, the best of you will know how to rotate screen (and know that not all computers can do this, as it depends on the graphics card), bypass the recycle bin, run the command prompt as an administrator, or create your own shortcuts. Then there are all the neat shortcuts available to a savvy time-saver in web browsers too (here’s a good one for mainly IE users: type a word into the address bar, then press CTRL and enter).

Any other ideas and suggestions? Leave a comment!

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Happy Geek Pride Day!

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 06-05-2011

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Happy Geek Pride Day! That’s right; today (May 25) is an actual holiday of sorts celebrating one of nature’s finest creatures–the geek. And as you might expect, we here at PCWorld’s GeekTech blog have a couple fun stories up our sleeves to observe the occasion (we had to do something–we have “Geek” in out name!).

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. What got you into geekdom? What’s your favorite part of being a geek? Any nerdy role models? What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done? And how do you plan on celebrating this illustrious occasion? Tell us in the comments!

And after you do that, why not take a few minutes to get to know your GeekTech bloggers?

Finally, we’d like to take a moment to say thank you to all our readers who have made blogging for GeekTech so much fun. If you’re a regular reader, thank you for the support, and for helping us grow. If this is the first time you’re visiting the blog, welcome; we hope you like what you see here–we like to think that we’re just getting started. :)