The other news is of course that Openthing will be at Makerfaire in Newcastle on the 12th/13th March.

A team of us are going down and we’ll be helping people to make Hacker Wallets and showing the Niftymitter, with some exclusive new sleeve designs, as well as Clampalamp, the clampable lamp.

I’m pretty darn excited but there is so much to do..

In the run up I’m doing a drop in session at the Electron Club next Saturday at 3pm – any Glasgow based Makers would be very welcome there for a wee tea party.

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Guts updated to v0.3

I’ve also updated the guts source. both the Guts v0.3 and Home v0.2 are now consolidated into their own .zip archives, containing all source needed to make that version (including old but valid documents). I’m finding that the best way to operate now is to simpoly start a new version by copying all the data into a new folder and keeping everything together that way. Quite an obvious discovery, but new for me nonetheless!

Both guts v0.3 and Home v0.2 are residing in the Hack & Adapt page at the moment rather than being proper releases as I am awaiting a few key details. But both are largely there.

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Niftymitter home development

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A few belated photos from Niftymitter Home v0.2, spurred on by Ben’s email. Simply hacking in a potentiometer for volume control. I built it out from the PCB with a little cardboard. The trimcap is accessible through the hole – have still not sussed out how to get a nice control knob for it, any ideas appreciated.


Have uploaded the latest housing layouts here.

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Coming at some point: wallets

I have been making up wallets on and off for while now ever since Nina at the Electron Club showed me how to do them using acetate PCBs from old keyboards and gaffa tape. The gaffa didn’t last very long so I quickly progressed to insulation tape and machine stitching. In this latest version I’ve refined the stitching a bit to be more robust and got hold of a massive acetate map from the recycling centre in Dundee, so the next 10 or so units are going to be significantly more mappy rather than keyboardy..






Nina developed hers from the numerous wallet designs on instructables, so I guess this wallet layout can broadly be traced back there. But wallets are one of those curious items lodged in the ‘maker’ realm, along with things like laptop cases, throwies and flash drive hacks, that undergo constant remixing so the attribution part of licensing becomes a bit of a (total) nightmare.

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Things are afoot…

Niftymitter & Radios @ Common Thread from Open Thing on Vimeo.

Common Thread @ Southside Studios

Niftymitter Home v0.2

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I know things have been very quiet here – I am quite a bit busier with musical activities at the moment and am otherwise chasing paid work, which sadly has meant that Openthing is taking a back seat currently.

I have however been meeting up with fellow freelancer and Open Design advocate Brian Loudon of Loud1 Design. We are working on developing a new project together, hopefully to be disseminated through here and as such I am delighted to welcome him as an author here on Openthing.

So things are just on hold for a bit, but not gone.

Thing are also afoot again with a Glasgow Fablab, so that’s another distraction..

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The maker’s bill of rights – revised

One of the first things I referenced when I started this project was the ‘Maker’s Bill of Rights’ document that Make Magazine published some time ago – a kind of set of standards for makers of open objects such that said objects can be sure to be repairable and hackable. As with most things to do with open design, this seemed to be mainly geared towards open hardware, ie. electronic design, but the tenets are basically good. The document goes like this [the original is here]:

The Maker’s Bill of Rights

If you can’t open it, you don’t own it: a Maker’s Bill of Rights to accessible, extensive, and repairable hardware.

  • Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.
  • Cases shall be easy to open.
  • Batteries should be replaceable.
  • Special tools are allowed only for darn good reasons.
  • Profiting by selling expensive special tools is wrong and not making special tools available is even worse.
  • Torx is OK; tamperproof is rarely OK.
  • Components, not entire sub-assemblies, shall be replaceable.
  • Consumables, like fuses and filters, shall be easy to access.
  • Circuit boards shall be commented.
  • Power from USB is good; power from proprietary power adapters is bad.
  • Standard connecters shall have pinouts defined.
  • If it snaps shut, it shall snap open.
  • Screws better than glues.
  • Docs and drivers shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at
  • Ease of repair shall be a design ideal, not an afterthought.
  • Metric or standard, not both.
  • Schematics shall be included.

With Niftymitter, I have a check against all these things, save for the limited use of glues in places, but this document seems to acknowledge them as sometimes unavoidable. I consider a trim tool to be a specialist tool, so am working on getting rid of that (currently need it for tuning niftymitter). Still, the emphasis is clearly on electromechanical design, and not general product design, so I think a more generic version is needed for Open Design (and perhaps a less Americentric title):

An International Standard for Open Design

If you can’t open it, you don’t own it: a standard for accessible, extendable, and repairable products.

  • Products shall be easy to take apart to the lowest level and put back together without damage. This should ideally be doable by hand alone.
  • Ease of repair shall be a design ideal, not an afterthought. Components, not entire sub-assemblies, shall be replaceable.
  • Products shall use materials and components commonly available to the intended user.
  • Product documentation will actively facilitate alteration of materials or production processes by the user.
  • Any consumables should be easily accessible and replaceable.
  • Mechanical fasteners are better than glues.
  • Special tools are allowed only for very good reasons, and should be easily obtainable unless for the same good reasons.
  • Design documentation including any software shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at
  • Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included, as well as operating and assembly instructions.
  • Design documentation will be supplied in its native format as well open formats.
  • Metric.

Undoubtedly I will add to this as I think of stuff, but have put in the key things I have learned from Niftymitter, and prioritised things as I see them. Niftymitter doesn’t meet these standards yet, but the eradication of glue is a key update for the next version.  Comments welcomed.

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Niftymitter mic first model

Here is my first model of Niftymitter Mic – a cordless mic vresion of niftymitter in response to Nathaniel’s testing.


My initial sketches, done at some point during the symposium.



The mic would be behind that dotty bit in the top left, so you can hold the thing like a dictaphone. I guess it might be good to have the mic part detachable to clip on, but that could just complicate matters. I think if you wanted to do that you;d be better plugging a clip on mic with its own amp into the niftymitter, as was done in the hacking kit.


The bottom opens up to push out the battery tray or circuit box, which are stacked lengthways next to each other.


In the Niftymitter mic arrangement, the cricuit box would be expanded to include an electret mic as described by Tetsuo Kogawa and Andrew. Andrew wanted to add a phantom powered mic socket, but I don’t see that as very necessary. As he said, it would not be that hard to hack a Niftymitter home to do that, but that means that you then can;t plug in a stereo audio signal. Maybe you could have a switch to switch between the two modes.




There is a fold out hook on the back, here made with a big paperclip. I think wire is quite good as it means you can bend the hook to fit the thing you are hooking onto, and it is easy to replace if and when the metal fatigues from repeated bending.


You could also stand the mic on a desk like this.

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Niftymitter home developments

Before I came up for the exhibition I did a bit of quick layout development on Niftymitter Home in the hope that it might be ready for the exhibition. It wasn’t, but things are in a good place I think:

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It sits quite well in either horizontal orientation – which is how the 0.24 versions seemed to fall.

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It is a bit thicker as the circuit board has been rotated, which is perhaps why it sits quite comfortably in this vertical orientation too.

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The sleeve somehow ended up too long when I was doing the laser cutting. I could lose a good 5mm off the length. This is the cavity at the bottom through which one can push out the battery tray and circuit box.

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And here are the controls from the front: tuning, volume and power, from left to right.

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It didn’t sit that easily in this orientation due to the weight of the cable.

So the layouts are pretty close, the circuit box needed a lot of rejigging and I still need to check that this actually worked. The bigger issue is getting the volume and tuning controls working, still need a good solution for the knobs/dials, I’d rather not use off the shelf knobs/dials, and there don’t seem to be any trimcaps designed for these in any case. I think a glued solution may be the only way to go here.

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In the exhibition + Nathaniel’s results.

Hello. I am in the exhibition space in the Dalhousie building at Dundee University from 9-5 today and tomorrow, do pop in and say hello. This morning I have been mainly re-broadcasting Solid Steel in the exhibition space and working up a version of niftymitter with a built in mic in response to Nathaniel’s results. It occurs to me I may not have posted Nathaniel’s results, so here they are in the card form that is used in the exhibition. Nathaniel’s responses were beautifully hand written and drawn out, using the niftymitter mainly as a cordless mic.

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There are currently exams being sat in the Dalhousie building, and was wondering if anyone in the exam might pick up my broadcasts – only if they were very confident and have time to listen to radio 2 during the exam I suppose. I guess niftymitter could be put to dubious use as an aid to cheating in exams though..

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