I'm always amazed and intrigued by people who have the knowledge and creativity to make something useful out of what seems like nothing. Although I hate the movie I always remember the moment in "Under Siege" with Stephen Seagal when he makes a bomb using the galley microwave and some gasoline. Shows like "Junkyard Wars" are endlessly enthralling. I loved Odessey of the Mind when I was in middle school although building remote control vehicles from scratch to deliver tennis balls to targets was so stressful to me that I ended up yacking all over the car on the way home from the competition. The ingenuity of the Apollo 13 engineers in fixing the oxygen leak with found parts and duct tape is so amazing to me.

Mabye it is because we live in a culture that tells us that everything home made is inferior and the sleek, manufactured look is what makes something function well. Mabye this culture in which all our food is prepackaged makes us think that everything must be that way. We see form over function, or mabye we see form as integral to function to the point that we actually interpret design as function. Form is often integal to function but form dictates function only in a basic sense. By subsituting design for form we are subsituting the minutea for the global, not seeing the forest for the trees. In order to work something doesn't have to subscribe to the ideals of design, it only has to be "about right" in most cases.

WiFi has brought this open creativity to the larger masses. People are modifying Wifi equipment left and right to serve their purpose and to me this is one of the greatest democratizations of technology I've seen. It shows that electronics is no longer limited to the pristine labs run by super intelligent engineers, but something that anyone can have a part in.

I recently built up a freeware 802.11G accesspoint (thanks Ed for the help) using OpenWRT and Bluebox. This is software developed by individuals for free use and anyone can modify it. I had problems with the connection so I surfed around and found plans for antenna reflectors to boost my signal strength from this website ( http://www.freeantennas.com/ ). I built them up in 1/2 an hour from cardboard, superglue and tin foil. They took my signal from being marginal to excellent and took my internet surfing from plodding and barely adequate to screaming fast.

I just read this page on Slashdot describing the first "Wifi Shootout" at Defcon in Las Vegas wherein the contestants try to beat each other in the distance over which they can connect via Wifi. This was '03 so I' sure the distance is much, much further now. Here is the quote:

"At the first annual WiFi Shootout at DefCon in Las Vegas, Adversarial Science Lab won the contest to shoot a wireless signal across the Nevada desert, with a distance of 35.2196 miles. The antenna was built from metal poles, window screen mesh, cardboard, duct tape, and aluminum foil! According to the official contest page, the antenna was designed the night before the contest, its component parts were purchased for $98 at Home Depot, and the next day it was built completely from scratch in the desert, on the side of the mountain, in the rain."

I think this is awsome. Mabye it isn't as cool as saving astonauts in outer space but it's pretty darn amazing.