Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Review: Eccentric Cubicle

Ok, so it's been a long time since my last review. Good thing Manfred doesn't take books back that don't get reviewed in a reasonable time...Anyway here goes - my review of Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris.

This is the second book in the O'Reilly MAKE series that I have reviewed and I have to say this one doesn't disappoint, although for different reasons than Making Things Talk.

When I heard about Eccentric Cubicle, I assumed it was all about projects/hacks for cubicle dwellers to make their work environments more fun. However, that's not really the case, since deploying most of the projects in Eccentric Cubicle in a corporate environment would result in an unsolicited appointment with the HR department. To be honest, I'm not really sure who the target audience is for the book, but I enjoyed every page of it.

Making Things Talk is a terrific primer for anyone wanting to get into microcontroller/ubiquitous computing development, while Eccentric Cubicle is mostly about building various contraptions out of wood, metal, plastic...whatever, really. Most of the projects seem pretty complex to build and possibly beyond the skills/patience of many readers, but, unlike Making Things Talk, they are pretty "low-tech". I doubt that I will ever build anything from Eccentric Cubicle, (I mean - really - when would I need to build a missile launcher for paper messages or a carrot-scaled (or finger) guillotine), but I sure had fun reading about all of them. The projects are all clever and a bit whacky and many describe techniques, materials, or designs that would be applicable to other things., which I think is one of the main values of the book.

I get the impression that Harris is a politically incorrect, punk rock, danger-loving DIYer but I mean that in the nicest way possible. It doesn't hurt that he's a West Coast Canuck like me! The language and style of the book keeps things interesting and the projects in the book are like small-scale, surrealist, post-modern monster garage builds, some of them well into the dangerous category. Regardless, there is incredible attention to detail and Harris is obviously a talented craftsman who seems to like doing things "because he can" (or because he really shouldn't).

Despite the fact that I probably won't build any of the projects from the book, there are loads of techniques, tactics, tips, and small hacks that I will use whenever possible. Specifically, use (and abuse) of tools, sourcing materials, and project design.

In summary, if you are a "MAKER" or wannabe/poseur (like me), you will want want to read this book.

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Victoria, BC, Canada
This is our travel blog for our summer 2010 trip to France and the UK.