Mini Surgery

I remember hearing the following question:

Q: An alien comes down in a spaceship and hands you a small oblong gizmo. He tells you that it will resolve all national conflicts, cure all known diseases, and grant immortality. Do you:

  1. Present it to the President of the United States?
  2. Present it to the President of the United Nations?
  3. Find a screwdriver so you can open it and see what’s inside?

I guess we know what Russell’s answer would be.

Brainwagon Radio: Small Webservers and Telescope Making

Where your noble host apologizes for his infrequent podcasts, and goes on to describe why he thinks small devices are interesting as webservers, with some suggestions. Also, the history of his involvement in telescope making.

My interest in these small webservers are for implementing an idea that I’ve been calling a digital homestead: a small, self-sufficient presence on the web. I’ll probably expand upon this more in the future.

Links from the show:

  • I wrote about some small devices suitable for serving small websites yesterday. Try looking at polkadot ninja for an example of a website which runs entirely from a small device.
  • My infrequently updated website is due for a freshening update. Previously I just handcoded the pages, but it’s obvious that it would be good to use some different software. Can anyone recommend a CMS and/or Wiki that would be the foundation of a good community website? The simpler the better. If you have some suggestions, send me an email.
  • Target has a 10% coupon you can use to order the Mac mini. Haven’t tried it, don’t know about delivery, just saw it on

Errata: I know the word is “metropolis”, not “metrolopis”. Chalk one up for Spoonerisms.

Cheap Hardware Projects

If anyone has been following this blog for any period of time, you know I’m a bit of a gizmo freak. It’s not that I have the latest and greatest cell phone or PDA. Actually, I’m pretty much a cheapskate, and I don’t like tossing huge sums of money just following the latest trendy thing. I do, however, like to find bargain equipment that I can use to do something interesting (in other words, hacking gadgets). A couple of possible future projects have crossed my Inbox this week, and I thought I’d write them down here so I can remember them, and also pass them on to you.

Slashdot ran an article on a New $149 NetBSD Single Board Computer Port. The TS-7200 is an ARM processor based board which draws about two watts. It has 10/100 Ethernet, a CompactFlash slot, 32M of SDRAM and runs at 200Mhz. Cute, small, and low power, the perfect sort of thing to run a small embedded webserver. You could hook some external drives via the USB port.

In the comments, a reader mentioned the Linksys NSLU2 network storage device. It’s a tiny little computer designed to convert USB drives into network storage. It has two USB2 ports and an Ethernet port. The idea is simple: plug in the drives, configure the device via its embedded webserver and voila! You have shared network storage. It costs a low $80, and most importantly, runs Linux and is hackable. Check out for more information. As an example, the polkadot ninja runs the thttpd daemon on one of these little boxes. Cool!

Buffalo Technologies has a cute gadget called the Kuro Box which is a power PC box with space for an internal hard drive. It costs about $160, a bit more than the NSLU2, but since you can mount an ordinary drive internally, the overall cost should be comparable.

Three neat boxes, all capable of running a webserver.

I wonder if you could actually run WordPress on them…

The Problem with Podcasting

It’s been about a week since I last put out a podcast. I wanted to do one today. After all, I’d hate to think that some of my subscribers would be disappointed by the lack of my cheerful “Welcome to Brainwagon Radio!” appearing on their personal mobile listening device.

But there is a problem with podcasting. You can’t lie as easily.

Today, I’m tired and I’m grumpy. I don’t really know why. I’m not really worried about it. I know I’ll break out of it soon. When I’m tired and grumpy, it’s still possible to do some text blogging: scan my personal blogrolls, look for harmless, goofy stuff to post, and just post it.

But when you are podcasting, you have to lie convincingly. Nobody is going to tune in repeatedly to listen to someone who sounds depressed unless you pay them $120 an hour. Lying convincingly is a skill I don’t possess in any great measure, and to even attempt it takes more energy than I’m likely to be able to muster.

But tomorrow dawns a new day. I’ve got my usual Weight Watchers weigh in, and then, who knows? I hope everyone is doing well, and soon the dulcet tones of my deep voice will be booming over the Internet. Until then, take it easy.