The Dawesome Digest #6 — made in England.
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The Dawesome Digest

Issue number six; tip and toll not included.

There's a great little book called Taxi Driver Wisdom that contains beautifully laid out quotes from New York Taxi drivers. Taken out of context these words take on whole new meanings. My favourite is without doubt "I see more of what's happening around me because I'm not concerned with looking for a parking space." For me that says a lot about how important it is to try new things, to constantly be moving forward and the fun to be had from venturing down new paths rather than standing still or looking for a way to fit in.

I recently wrote a little blog post on Medium on how a little bit of naivety is a good thing. Curiosity — exploring new paths — is fuelled by naivety; without it we just wouldn't bother to try new things. As usual this issue of the Dawesome Digest contains an eclectic mix of things born out of naivety and the realisation that not knowing something is not a bad thing but is actually an exciting jumping off point for what may lay ahead.

Anyway, I think this is your stop... you want a receipt?

Happiness at Dconstruct

The Happiness Machine — my connected printer that prints out random happy thoughts from random people — was recently on display as part of this year's Dconstruct event in Brighton. The theme this year was communicating with machines so the organisers asked to borrow the Happiness Machine so visitors could interact with it between the talks.

This was actually the first time I'd deployed it at a venue without me being there to set it up. Thankfully because I was using the fab Electric Imp I was able to create a special iPhone app for the organisers to use to set the machine up in about 10 seconds flat! No hassle with routers, wires or any of that stuff. It just worked.

I'd also designed a new case for it too, printed on my Makerbot Replicator 2 in nuclear green PLA. This was made possible because of the advances Makerbot have made with their Makerware software. In the past when I'd tried to print something this size it always ended up warping and curling at the edges. Now that's no longer a problem.

I'm now looking at doing other things with The Happiness Machine, including maybe a range of products. For now though, if you're having an event and feel The Happiness Machine would be a good fit then please get in touch.

Information is Beautiful Awards 

I'm really pleased to announce that my Digital City Portrait for London, created for the mobile telecoms company EE, has been shortlisted in the Information is Beautiful awards in the data visualisation category.

This was the first piece of commercial work I did when going solo just over a year ago and was a lot of fun to work on. I'd never worked with this amount of data before — over six million rows of data just for the London piece and figuring out how you could turn that amount of information into something beautiful was without doubt a challenge, not least creating something were my Mac was able to process it!

If you like the work I'd really appreciate your vote. Head on over to the Information is Beautiful site and cast your vote with a simple click.

The Accidental News Explorer for iOS7

I've had a new version of The Accidental News Explorer app in the works for some time but when iOS 7 came out I decided it was time to finally finish version 2.0 and get it out there.

For those who aren't aware of the app, it's a new way to discover the news based on the idea of serendipity. You search for a subject, get back articles around that subject but then you can spin-off and tap the related topics button to begin exploring new subjects you might not have otherwise discovered. You may start with Obama but eventually find yourself reading an article about Twerking. Or something. I've had people email me to tell me they were so engrossed in the app they missed their station on the train.

This new version allows you to save to Pocket as well as Instapaper, is optimised for iPhone 5 and iOS 7 and has a load of interface and performance tweaks. I also love putting in some hidden little details that wait to be discovered; when reading an article try shaking the phone. The page will reload with a simpler, cut-down view, as if you've shaken away the unnecessary parts of the page!

You can download the app from the App Store.

Appearance on the Bitchcast

Stacey Mulcahy, a friend of mine in New York who goes by the Twitter handle @bitchwhocodes has recently started up a series of video interviews called the Bitchcast. Stacey very kindly asked me to be the guest on episode four and we talked about design process, making apps and why I think free apps are evil, working with clients and how I balance commercial work with my own projects as well as other things that may or may not be interesting!

It lasts about thirty minutes, features a lovely red sweater and is best enjoyed whilst sipping a cup of Earl Grey with a Baroque inspired custard cream biscuit.

Watch episode four of the Bitchcast.

Cashier Number One Please

Cashier Number One Please is my all new shop were you can find some limited edition prints waiting to find their way onto your walls.

Use the coupon DAWESOMEDIGEST to get free shipping till the end of November.

Most of the prints are created from a combination of data+code, usually with the wonderful Processing. I would say Processing is the main tool I use these days and in fact Photoshop is pretty much only ever used to export images into the correct format. However Processing is not just the tool I use to create these images but is actually a thing I use to make other tools with. Right now as I write this I have a tool I've made that is grabbing thousands of bits of data via the New York Times api and creating a file crammed full of data to be used in an upcoming project. No longer do we have to use the tools that are made by other people. Now we can make our own bespoke tools. 

Raspberry Pi for the Whole Family

I've had a Raspberry Pi sat in a drawer for well over a year. After recently finishing some client work though I decided it was time to dust it off to see what I could finally do with this great little computer.

After all the revelations of the NSA, Prism et al there's been a lot of discussion about creating your own personal cloud, so your data is stored on servers you own and run rather than say with someone like Dropbox. Now I like Dropbox very much — it's at the core of my workflow and has been since the very early beta. I really have no problem with it. But as I was thinking about what to do with the Pi I started to think maybe it would be kind of cool to have my own Pi powered Dropbox.

After some Googling I discovered OwnCloud, an open source alternative to Dropbox that you can install on servers or even on the humble Raspberry Pi. So after a lot of Googling and following various guides I had OwnCloud up and running with 1TB of storage hooked up to my Pi. Awesome. Or so I thought. 

The sync speed was so painfully slow it rendered the whole idea unusable. After 24 hours it hadn't even synced 1GB and my Dropbox folder was currently sitting at 70GB. This just wasn't a viable solution. I'm sure OwnCloud will get there but in my experience it's just not to the level of Dropbox yet.

So it was back to the drawing board. Or should I say back to Google. Then I found BitTorrent Sync - an app that has come out of the BitTorrent labs that allows you to sync folders from one machine to another, securely and without going through anyone else's server. If you have two computers you can quickly and easily set it up and yes even on a Raspberry Pi.

I already have offsite backup that I've been using for years in the form of Backblaze and I also have Time Machine running backups on the hour (you can't be too careful). But backup for many is not the norm, including my Father-in-law who is quite a way through his project to seemingly print out the entire Internet. Like many he has his precious photos stored on his laptop. If the hard drive dies he loses all those photos forever. Now however thanks to the £30 Raspberry Pi and BitTorrent Sync he now has fast, secure, offsite backup that runs in the background, silently backing up those photos, all for free. 

Meanwhile his mission to print out the Internet continues...

Burgers. Lots of them.

A sneak-peek of a work-in-progress for a well known Manchester based restaurant known for it's amazing jaw-breaking burgers. A little algorithm that generates hundreds of abstract burgers, all of them different, all of them completely fat free.

Will be released as a four colour limited edition screen print.

Talks in November

November will be a busy time for talks at various events.

On Wednesday 6th November I'll be in Sheffield to speak at Curated By alongside Kate Moross, Joe Malia, Tom Stuart, Max Whitby and Patrick Bergel. From the website:

Graphic designers and the surrounding disciplines use of technology has changed and now includes technology as an outcome as well as a method of collecting data and quantitative research. It is an area of invention and holds exciting opportunities for the future of our discipline.

Some tickets are still available.

The next day I fly to Berlin to speak at the Ciclopes festival then at the end of November I'll be at the Edinburgh School of Art and then finally I'll be doing my last talk of 2013 at the wonderful Handheld conference in Cardiff.


A few things I've bumped into since the last issue...
The beauty of mathematics (via Paul Neave), the lesser known posters of Jean-Luc Godard, Transfoner from Natasha Jen, software extracts 3D models from photographs, MIT's self-assembling robots, Bare Conductive's TouchBoard, killer window management on the Mac, should your product connect to the Internet of Things?, perfect small notebooks for your desk.
Thanks for reading this issue of The Dawesome Digest. If you liked it please feel free to hit one of those share buttons below. Until next time, happy making.
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