40 tips, tricks and hacks to Join the Geek Elite

There was a time when owning a Smartphone was all it took to set you apart as a geek. But the world has changed. Gadgets have changed.

With an Android or iPhone in almost every pocket you need to work harder to elevate yourself to a more advanced level of supreme geekiness that part-timers just can’t reach. Here are over 40 tips, tricks and hacks to ensure you’re never outdone when it comes to things to make, do or know about gadgets, tech and geek culture. Get ready to join the Geek Elite…

Geek Elite

Model pictures David Venni Art direction Alex Fanning Stylist Charlotte Adsett Hair & makeup Emma White Turle Model Bruna at Nevs Words Will Findlater,Marc McLaren, Mark Wilson, Mic Wright Clothing this page swimsuit Marc by Marc Jacobs; disco pants, American Apparel; shoes, www.simmishoes.com

Make

The Elite Geek doesn’t just own an arsenal of gadgets, they should be able to hack, modify and utilize their tech to level-up their life…

Darwin-OP Deluxe Edition

 €8800 robosavvy.com

This 18intall, open-sourcehumanoid comes packed with sensors and party tricks such as ‘soccer mode’. But to learn how to build your own, try the robo-projects overleaf…

Make Robots

For the Geek who loves to build things, there are few bigger thrills than making your own robo-buddy. Nick Veitch explains why???

The act of pulling disperate parts together to create something that is both unique and, ideally, able to fetch a beer holds a real allure. While the occasional Lego Architecture project is diverting, the ultimate aim is nearly always to build a robot. Sci-fi visions of bleepy humanoids leave many dreaming of building a personal Johnny Five, but projects like that represent a small proportion of the homebrew robot scene.

The first robot I ever saw up close was just an arm. All it did was play chess, using a system of sensors to work out where the pieces were. Even though I’d played computer chess before, there was something captivating about this thinking machine and its ability to interact mechanics.

And so, an obsession began. In the early days it was tough to find sensors, controller’s and motors, but we’re now on the cusp of a golden age for robot hobbyists. According to the international Federation of Robotics, there are about 200 companies registered as robot manufacturers, but tens of thousands of companies that manufacture robot parts and components. This year even saw the arrival of the InMoov, a robot hand you can download from thingiverse.com and 3D print.

Of course, robo-projects often demand soldering, tinkering with servos and a spot of coding, but there are easier options for the beginner. you can take a crash course in micro-controllers and electronics by using kits such as the Boe-Bot ( €90, milinst.co.uk)- but the novice- friendly projects we’ve included below will offer a grounding without getting you knee-deep in electronics.

With the robot scene today feeling a little like the homebrew computing revolution of the 1970s, this is the perfect time to build your ticket to early- adopter cred and – whoknows? Steve Wozniak notoriety.

Entry Level

6-in-1 Solar Kit

 €15 red5.co.uk

This entry-level kit isn’t what we’d call a classic robot (it has no brains at all). But it does provide a valuable insight into the basics of how a moving machine works. The kit provides a power source (a solar cell that generates a tiny amperage of about 3V, depending on the light) and a motor for bestowing physical movements on your creation. Although these parts are connected in the same way each time, the motor can be hooked up to a variety of things to make ‘robots’ that behave differently. Give it some wheels to make a car, or attach some legs and the motor will vibrate and shake your robot ‘dog’ along. Not exactly a personal K-9, but it’s a decent start all the same.

Step Up

Velleman Robotic Arm Kit with USB

€ 45 maplin.co.uk

‘Proper’ robots require a brain to function, but such machines can be a little pricey. A good halfway house, then, is a robot you can attach to your laptop or computer to provide the thinking. This kit is well designed and you’ll end up with a very useable robot arm. It isn’t for those who are afraid of using a screwdriver and takes two or three hours to build, but once completed it’s the matter of all it can reach. A handy USB interface attaches it to your computer (Windows only_, and some basics but serviceable software will see you through getting it to do things. if you want a challenge, try programming it to complete a ‘towers of Hanoi’ puzzle.

Big Brain

 €235 mindstorms.lego.com

Mindstorms proves that Lego is no mere toy- geeks have built machines that solve Rubik’s Cubes, sort laundry and draw pictures using it. The NXT 2.0 possesses three servo- driven motors, a light sensor, camera, two touch sensors and an ultrasonic rangefinder. It isn’t enough to build a Cylon, but it’s a start. The NXT brick houses an LCD screen and the microprocessor brain of your creations and connects to the sensors to make stuff happen, while configuring the robot is easy due to a visual programming language (Mac/PC) that lets you drag and drop commands into a useful sequence. In spite of being ‘just’ a plastic toy, the NXT is as close as it gets to real robotics without having to mess around with electronics.

Make Money from Apps

You’ve poured enough cash into Apple’s App Store -isn’t it time to siphon some off for yourself? Here are three ways to reverse the monetary tide…

#1 Crowdsource a Song on your iPhone

Sezion Studio

€free

Aided by the presence of more musicians than the annual Guns N’Roses reunion barbecue, Sezion’s iPhone app turns songwritting into a crowdsourced online collaboration. Record your vocals/guitor/sax’kazoo (delete as appropriate) into your phone, edit it, upload it and then choose from parts submitted by others to compose a multi- layered rock opera to be shared directly via Facebook or Twitter. You’ll be the subject of a major- label bidding war before the final chord has finished ringing, perhaps.

Use it with…

iRig PRE

 €30 ikmultimedia.com

Sezion supports adaptors such as iRig’s new PRE, which allows you to use any microphone with an XLR connection- handy if you don’t want you recordings to sound like a symphony of bees trapped in a watering can.

#2 Sell your Photos

Foap

€ Free

Uploading your Smartphone snaps to instagram might make feel like a photographic artiste but it won’t give you the bank balance of one. if you reckon your pics are worth paying for, Foap’s iPhone app provides a market place from which to sell them just tag your photo, upload it and wait for the cash to start rolling in. you’re not allowed to add filters to hide your lack of talent and Foap take 50% of any money you make, but even that’s got to be worth more than a few ‘loves’ on instagram.

Use with…

Eye Scope for iPhone

 €30 firebox.com

The iPhone’s digital zoom only degrades the quality of your pics so invest in a proper optical zoom lens instead. The Eye Scope magnifies up to 8x and even comes with a mini tripod to keep your shot rock-solid and in focus.

#3 Make Your Own App

Self-taught bedroom coder Simon Read started work on the first New Star Soccer game 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until he ported it to Smartphone’s that it began to make money. So just how do you make a game that can rake in up to €7000 a day?

Make your idea straightforward

“Start by creating something simple that is fun to play. I began by making a basic Flick Kick Football-style game, which became the aicade mode in the finished version. Even if it’s not successful to begin with, keep improving it, in the past, NSS never made much money at all, but after a long process of refinement, it became a hit.”

Make the most of what you’ve got

‘I’ve seen so many games that just try to create a PC game on a phone with an on-screen joystick. For me, those are just awful – they’re a real pain to play. If you’re going to make an app, forget about the old control methods. If you get it right, it’s more fun to play with a touchscreen or motion control anyway.”

Keep gameplay short- and long

“With mobile games, I think it’s important to have two-minute play time. You should be able to do something fun but put the phone back in your pocket two minutes later. With the NSS career modes you can play for play for hours but its split into bitesize chunks. That’s show it becomes addictive.”

Keep all options open

“I used a cross-platform code called Monkey to write NSS, which makes it much easier to build the game for iPhone, Android and Flash at the same time. i think one of the reasons NSS has done will is that it’s free to play on Flash sites, which effectively advertises the mobile version.”

Stagger your charges

“NSS on iPhone is free for people to try, and then you’ve got a very cheap 69p purchase to unlock the career mode, and finally the additional items to buy within the app. I think around 40% of people who download the iPhone version pay to unlock the career mode, but half of the revenue comes from Starbux in-app purchases.”

Make Raspberry Pi Projects

Phones and tablets are fun, but to earn your Elite stripes you need to spend some time on the Pi – a €30 PC built for bedroom programming…

What you get??

The processor

At its centre is a single-core ARM processor running at 700MHz with 256MB RAM. That’s close to the original iPad, albeit a little slower.

HDMI out

Display is handled by an HDMI port, which also carries sound. The video processor is capable of very smooth 1080p playback.

RCA video

It has an analogue video out for composite connections, and also a headphone socket.

USB2.0

The Pi has two USB sockets, although it’s recommended that you use a powered hub to connect peripherals for stability’s sake.

Power in

A microUSB port is used for power. You have to buy or borrow a power supply. Or you can get geekier still and make a battery pack.

SD card reader

There’s no hard drive, so buy an SD card and burn a copy of Linux to it in order to get the pi booting. Most cards up to 32GB work.

Ethernet

You can use a wired Ethernet port to control the Pi remotely or stream songs and videos. Most USB wireless, dongles will also work.

GPIO pins

General purpose input/output connectors are designed to hook up other hobbyist hardware. Such as Arduino robot parts.

#1 Always-On Media Streamer

Apple TV too limiting? StreamHD media from any networked or online source…

Ingredients

Raspberry Pi Model B €30

HDMI cable €4

4GB SD (class 6) € 8

SD card reader (if not built into your PC) €1

MicroUSB power supply €10

Ethernet cable €2

RaspMC software €free

Total €55 (€48 minus cables/ card reader)

1. RaspbMC is a Linux OS that boots into the XBMC media centre software. Plug the SD card into a reader on a Windows PC, download the installer (bit.ly/raspwin) then extract and run. NB: this purges the SD card.

2. Attach your PC’s keyboard, monitor and mouse to the Pi and Plug in an Ethernet cable. Put the SD into the Pi and hook up the microUSB cable. The first boot looks scary, but if successful the Pi should update itself from the net. It may reboot a few times.

3. Once restarted, navigate via the keys to System> Settings. Services and turn on ‘UPnP’ and ‘UPnP control’ and ‘Airplay client’. Hit escape to return to the menu, go System>System Info and note IP address.

4. Turn off the Pi, unplug everything. Hook it up to your TV via HDMI then unplug in the Ethernet and power cables. Grab the Official XBMC Remote app for IOS or Android and run the ‘Add new host wizard’. Add the host for XBMC at the IP address from step 3 and you can then control the Pi, with your phone. Just select Videos or Music to add libraries from a USB drive or your home network.

Ingredients

Raspberry Pi Model B €30

HDMI cable €4

4GB SD (class 6) € 8

SD card reader (if not built into your PC) €1

MicroUSB power supply €10

Ethernet cable €2

RaspMC software €free

Total €55 (€48 minus cables/ card reader)

1. RaspbMC is a Linux OS that boots into the XBMC media centre software. Plug the SD card into a reader on a Windows PC, download the installer (bit.ly/raspwin) then extract and run. NB: this purges the SD card.

2. Attach your PC’s keyboard, monitor and mouse to the Pi and Plug in an Ethernet cable. Put the SD into the Pi and hook up the microUSB cable. The first boot looks scary, but if successful the Pi should update itself from the net. It may reboot a few times.

3. Once restarted, navigate via the keys to System> Settings. Services and turn on ‘UPnP’ and ‘UPnP control’ and ‘Airplay client’. Hit escape to return to the menu, go System>System Info and note IP address.

4. Turn off the Pi, unplug everything. Hook it up to your TV via HDMI then unplug in the Ethernet and power cables. Grab the Official XBMC Remote app for IOS or Android and run the ‘Add new host wizard’. Add the host for XBMC at the IP address from step 3 and you can then control the Pi, with your phone. Just select Videos or Music to add libraries from a USB drive or your home network.

#2 Network-Attached Storage and Media Server

How about a low-power, always-on server for accessing media anywhere in the world?

Ingredients

Raspberry Pi Model B € 30

USB hard drive €50

4GB SD card €8

MicroUSB power supply €10

Ethernet cable €2

Squeezeplug software Free

USB Image Tool Free

Total €100

1. As well as streaming your music and video, the Pi can also work very nicely as a media server or NAS box for storing it. To start, download Squeezeplug (squeezeplug.eu). Extract everything from the Zip file.

2. Squeezeplug has no installer file, so if using Windows, you’ll need USB Image Tool (alexpage.de/usb-image-tool) to burn the disc image to your SD card. Mac users should try ‘dd-gui’ (ginger beardman.com/dd-gui). Burn the image to the SD.

3. Put the SS into the PI. On first run, hook the Pi to your monitor and keyboard. Turn the Pi on. It asks for login details: enter username ‘root’ and password ‘nosoup4u’. Choose ‘Raspberry Pi’ from the next setup screen. Reboot by typing ‘shutdown-r now’.

4. Plug in the USB drive with all your media files on it and attach the network cable. Reboot the Pi abd type ‘setup’. From here, install MiniDLNA from the media library option, ignore everything else- just unplug your monitor and connect via a UPnP client (BubbleUPnP on Android is very good) and all the music and videos on the USB disk will be added automatically to the library.

#3 Build a ZX Spectrum

It’s no surprise to learn that one of Raspberry Pi’s big backers also made the Speccy classic Elite. Seems as good at time as any to relive some childhood memories…

Ingredients

Raspberry Pi Model B €30

MicroUSB power €10

4GB SD card €8

Powered USB Hub €6

Keyboard & Mouse €10

Optional TV/ monitor with HDMI in from €50

Total from €64

1. The Free UNIX Spectrum Emulator (FUSE) runs on most Linux PCs and allows you to play Spectrum games. Large libraries of these are at world of spectrum.org. But first of all, you’ll need a desktop OS from raspberrypi.org.

2. From the desktop OS, open Accessories> LX Terminal. Type ‘sudo apt-get install libx 11-dev’ to download the files required. Next, you’ll need to download FUSE (bit.ly/FuseLib). Save them to your home folder (Pi by default), then right click and ‘Extract here’.

3. You should see two folders open up. Open the terminal again, type’cd libspectrum-1.0.0′. Next, type the following three commands:’./configure’, then ‘make’, then ‘sudo make install’ -but all without the quote marks.

4. It will take a while, but well done – you’ve compiled and installed a Linux program the hard way. nerd.Type’cd./fuse-1.0.0.1a’ an dthose three commands again. Drop any games you download into the FUSE folder you just created, type ‘fuse-no-sound’ into terminal and press F1 to load an old favorite.

Done Those? Try These…

Android 4.0ICS

The most exciting project currently is a port of Android Ice Cream Sandwich to the Raspberry Pi, it doesn’t meet Google’s official hardware requirements for the OS, but hackers have it running smoothly and are preparing a full release. Who needs costly smart TVs or Ouya consoles?

RoboPi

What is the prime directive for a cheap general purpose computing board? To be a robot brain, of course. FishPi is works in progress that will eventually (they hope) be an aquatic robot that can navigate the Atlantic autonomously, like a tiny ghost ship collecting a samples for all of eternity.

Smart glasses

Google and Apple may be about to take their war into eyewear, but the Pi is there first. Will powell hooked up a couple of his Pi is to a pair of Vuzix AR specs and a Bluetoothmic to create a piece of software that subtitles conversations with foreign language speakers. It’s a Star Trek-style voice recognition universal translator for € 60.

Pi in the Sky

One of the more common uses for the Pi is as a cheap controller for time- lapse photography. No street stills for Dave Akerman, though, which sent his up in a high-altitude balloon, where, 30km up and in temperatures of- 50c, it snapped from near space. Pics at daveakerman.com

Make a Super Charged PC

Anyone can stroll into an Apple Store and drop a month’s wages on a Mac Pro- but only the Geek Elite can build something better, for less…*

Case

Building a PC without a case is like baking a pie without pastry- messy and pointless. Our PC pastry of choice is the Corsair 600T (€140, scan.co.uk). It comes with plenty of expansion room and two 200mm fans to keep things cool. A dial on top will boost the fans if you’re really crunching pixels.

Motherboard & CPU

The brains of our binary-busting monster are a 3.2GHz, quad-core Intel i7 3770K processor and DZ77GA-70K motherboard ( €250 and  €195, intel.co.uk). That processor sits near the top of the Ivy Bridge hierarchy, so throw in a CPU cooler too. Noctua’s mighty dual-fan NH-D14 (€65, noctua.at) should do it.

Graphics

When it comes to graphics, don’t accept half measures. NVIDIA’s frankly ridiculous GeForce GTX 690 (€ 880, geforce.co.uk) is the fastest card ever made. With dual GPUs and 4GB of onboard RAM it’s a bit like jamming two nuclear- powered PS3s into a silicon sandwich. No wonder the cooling fan’s the size of your face.

Built It? Now Add These?

Hazro Hz30Wi

From €550 hazaro.co.uk

This 30ln, 2560*1600 IPS monitor has almighty 178 degree viewing angle, while a 1000:1 contrast ratio makes it great for video and photo editing. A 6ms response time isn’t bad but hardcore gamers may want more.

DayZ

€free dayzmod.com

This zombie survival MMO might not test the graphics to their limits, but DayZ is the hottest game around. It’s a mod for ArmaII Combined Operations, available on Stream for €25.

Samsung SH-B123L

€55 scan.co.uk

With most software and games available to download, an optical drive is no longer essential-but they do make it easier to install your OS. They’re also as chip, as this 12x Blu-ray drive proves.

Storage

Pairing two separate types of storage gets you the best of both worlds, Windows7, games and anything that needs to run quickly are loaded on to a 128 GB Crucial M4 SSD(€80,cruicial.com/uk). A more capacious, slower 1TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (65, dabs.com) handles movies, music and photos.

Memory

Want your PC to multitask like a workaholic octopus with a lengthy to-do list? You’ll want to pack it with a shedload of RAM. We’ve gone for 16GB of Crucial’s Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3 RAM (complete with blue LEDs, €155, crucial.com/uk), which should keep things running smoother than a butter-slathered otter.

Power

Of course, without a power supply you might as well fill the case with hair. Corsair’s T*750M power supply (€90, scan.co.uk) delivers 750W of juice and has a modular system that allows you to remove any cables you don’t need. After all, with that big window on the side of the case, you will want it all looking neat and tidy.


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