CarveWright: Digital Woodworking

Image of CarveWrightDigital woodcarvers, CNC for the home shop is here! CarveWright is a computer controlled router that can handle wood up to 15 inches wide, 5 inches high and many feet long. It comes with software that uses a “clipart” paradigm so you can combine ornate patterns and then “print” them to wood (or plastic or other soft materials.)

Sears Craftsman has issued the carver as CompuCarve and you can see their ad on YouTube.

I’m tempted to say that this could be a revolutionary product for home woodworkers. Woodworking has always had an element of danger (spinning saws) and an element of manual skill. With tools like the CarveWright it could become a form of output where the skill is in the use of the software not the struggle with the medium. Wood will become plastic – something to be molded as if it had no grain to cut along. For that matter, the CarveWright can be thought of as the first affodable 3-D printer (though it is being marketed to woodworkers first.) Just as CNC has had a dramatic effect on design and manufacturing, now affordable devices bring engineering into the home. What could you do with an all-material 3-D printer? Would you be buying plans for a stove instead of the stove itself?

I have fantasized about replacing all the dangerous tools in my shop with one CNC router big enough to do any shaping from undressed wood. Now that a scaled down version exists, I’m scared the craft of woodworking will fade away like typesetting. Why have a dangerous table-saw when the CarveWright will rip wood, and will do so safely (though slowly)? Am I afraid that anyone will be able to do projects I struggled over? Will it be like the 80s with desktop publishing and all the ugly newsletters and typesetters helplessly complaining? (Looking at the examples on the CarveWright site certainly suggests that bad taste dominates initially.) Or will it turn out just to be another shop tool that gathers the dust of good intentions?

The Most Unusual Books of the World

Image of Sculptural Book

Shawn sent me this link for the The Most Unusual Books of the World. Loyal readers will have seen my Text in the Machine experiment on Flickr (where there is a photoessay).

McMaster’s archives actually have a number of English fore-edge painted books that were, apparently, popular gifts in their time.

I’m trying to imagine a visualization tool that would show you selected passages cut sculpturally out of a 3D book.

Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader

The e-book that seemed to be dead as an idea is back. Sony has their Reader which uses e-ink to offer a more paper-like reading experience.
Image of KindleAmazon has just announced the Kindle which has a keyboard and can EV-DO free wirless access so you can order material from Amazon without connecting to your PC. The Amazon video mentions that you can automatically get newspapers and updates from blogs.

I’m guessing one of the real strengths of Kindle is Amazon – that they will have the best content and with EV-DO they will have easy access to content wherever you can get a connection. On the other hand the Kindle looks dorky (not that the Sony looks much better.) As they say, WWAD (what would Apple do?)

To be honest I thought the e-book reader as a device was dead after the last round of devices like the Rocket eBook.  I figured tablet PCs and PDAs would make dedicated readers obsolete – we do after all read lots of pages off screens already. See Cory Doctorow on Ebooks: Neither E, Nor Books. But, I was wrong … it seems the big guys think there is a market for such appliances.

grockwel: Research Notes

Rockwell’s Face

Welcome to,  or the new version of grockwel: Research Notes. Why the change? Well … it was time to upgrade and it was time to bring my research and personal pages together in one place. Thanks to Shawn for all the work figuring out how to move a blog that has been going since 2003 – images and all. Please redirect your links and RSS readers here.

In the next month will also be moved here and the interface coordinating.

Digital Scholarship and Digital Libraries

Image of Slide

At the beginning of November I was asked to give a keynote for a Digital Scholarship/Digital Libraries symposium at the beautiful of Emory Conference Centre. My talk was titled “The Social Text: Mashing Electronic Texts and Tools” and my thesis was that we needed to forge a closer relationship between scholarly projects and digital libraries. This is a two-fold call for change:

  1. Scholars develop new methods to analyze and study texts need deeper access to the digital libraries that hold the texts they want to study. On the one hand we need to be able to discover and aggregate study collections that span (often incompatible) digital library collections. On the other hand we need to be able to plug in our tools instead of using the analytical tools built into the publishing engine. I proposed that we look seriously at OpenSocial as a model for hosting social applications.
  2. Scholars editing or creating digital texts need to be willing to accept a much more prescriptive set of encoding guidelines so that their texts can be brought into large digital library collections which then could make the discovery and gathering of study collections possible. Smaller scholarly craft projects will not scale or play well over time – that is a function digital libraries should lead.

A copy of the slides in PDF is up for FTP access. The file is 15 MB.

Flock – The Social Web Browser

Flock ScreenI’ve been experimenting with Flock – The Social Web Browser. It to have integrated support for social network sites like Flickr and Facebook. The interface is confusing, perhaps because of everything it is trying to do, or my not getting it. Some of things it does are:

  • Let you see your Flickr photos in a bar across the top so you can drag them into other services.
  • Upload to social network sites.
  • Track your Flickr and Facebook friends.
  • Read blog feeds.