writes "With the holiday season coming around, I have to consider what's best for my Son, who is in his early teens, when it comes to giving gifts which are fun, challenging, and career oriented. In the past, racing style video games were popular choices, but I don't want (expect) him to be able to play video games as a career.
He is currently taking courses in school which are introductions to computers and programming. He is familiar with programming concepts from playing around with Scratch for many years. He also likes the idea of tinkering with robot like devices, even though there is little he has available to do so right now.
When I'm doing stuff with my Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards, he always develops an interest, but doesn't quite "get it" when I try to explain the details of what I'm doing with them. Maybe I'm explaining it wrong, or maybe he needs to learn it a different way, perhaps with a collection of hardware add-ons and project documentation which I normally don't use myself.
I would like to encourage the interest he develops, without initially overwhelming him with too many details. Either that, or he is a lot like me when I was growing up, and needs to do a little discovery on his own using these microprocessor based systems, which could lead to a more positive self esteem and appreciation for learning.
What I'm thinking of doing is finding something which merges robotics and computer programming. My first thought is Lego Mindstorms, but I don't know if/how powerful that system can become. I'm hoping to find something that can start off easy, but at the same time, the major investment in components doesn't go to waste because it can be outgrown too quickly.
I've checked on Arduino and Propeller based robot kits, but unless someone else can provide details on their personal experience with them, I think they may have a discouragingly steep learning curve to get started.
Any information will be useful. Are there relatively unknown, but useful kits out there. Is a "piecemeal kit" a better choice, with certain book purchases and a collection of individual components ordered from SparkFun, Jameco, etc? Are Lego Mindstorms a powerful and really good value kit for the money?"
writes "I'm in a situation where I'm eligible to get out of my Sprint contract early without an Early Termination Fee. I have till Oct 30 to decide. Since mobile phones and plans appear to keep improving every 90 days or so, it's easy to get lost when picking the best bang for my money.
What I'm looking for is a media phone that is cheap and "hackable" with a reliable carrier. I use the term "Hackable" somewhat loosely. In other words, I want a phone that, even though it might have some features locked, I want to be able to unlock those features without buying expensive software from the carrier to do it. I want to install my own ringtones (MP3 preferred) through a simple USB interface or something similar.
Also, can anyone recommend a carrier with good web browsing services without requiring expensive access plans like with the Treo or Blackberry? My current Sprint phone has WAP access, and I'm aware that "flip-phone" access to the web is charged a smaller monthly fee than PDA based access. I cannot simply surf anywhere I want on a WAP plan. I understand some newer in-phone web services are not only faster, but allow access to more conventional websites. Like maybe surfing Slashdot on a RAZR screen."