Jetro's blog

Review - LEGO Power Functions Ideas Book

Yoshihito Isogawa is already a household name when it comes to clever LEGO Technic and MINDSTORMS contraptions. He gained international recognition in the AFOL community with his LEGO construction guide Tora No Maki[ [1]. nitially the book was published by Isogawa himself as a PDF file, but the book really became famous when No Starch published a print version in three volumes as The LEGO Technic Idea Book [2].
His next No Starch title was The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book, in which he applied the same principles used in his LEGO Technic book to the (limited) inventory of the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 retail set 31313 [3]
This time Isogawa has prepared a two-volume set of books called The LEGO Power Functions Idea Book. In a sense the book is a cross between his original LEGO Technic Idea Book and the MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book, in the sense that on the one hand the setup of the book is heavily inspired on the former, and like the latter, most builds now also include an inventory of the parts that are necessary to build it. Even so, true to form, the book does not contain detailed building instructions of the models. Each model is built with pieces in a wide range of colours, making it easier to see what parts are used and how they are connected. Pictures from different angles of each build provide enough information to “reverse engineer” all of the contraptions for even the most inexperienced builder. Aside from the introduction the book has virtually no text. The images speak for themselves.

Review - Medieval LEGO

I’m a big Castle fan, so when I read that one of the new titles no starch press were releasing in September was “Medieval LEGO” I was even more curious to see the book than with many of their other excellent LEGO related titles. I have since received a copy of the book. So what is it all about? Well, this is the official description no starch press gives: 
Castles and kings, battles and treaties, famine and plague, intrigue and invasion!
Medieval LEGO takes you through real English history in the Middle Ages with a unique twist, with every event illustrated by a tiny little LEGO scene. With contributions by medievalists and scholars, this book brings medieval history to life in a fun, kid-friendly way.
Inside, you’ll learn about events like the Battle of Hastings, the chartering of Oxford University, and the signing of the Magna Carta. You’ll witness the Great Fire of London, the Black Death, and the Great Famine, and you’ll read about famous historical figures like Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William the Conqueror.
Grab your broadsword and turn the page to join the adventure.
My review
The book is a beautifully bound, 18x18cm, 124-page, hard-cover production. The format is quite different from other LEGO related books no starch has published. The books feels quite small which in a way gives it a special value: it almost feels like a little treasure to be kept on display on a coffee table (I’m going to need a couple more of those tables if they keep this up!). The book consists of a series of short descriptions of significant fact in the history of England. Each story is presented by a scholar – professors and teachers of medieval history – and is illustrated by one or more LEGO renditions of the fact that are described. 
The scenes are for the most part quite simple, but beautifully photographed scenes that don’t so much stand out for their complexity in terms of building techniques, but have the steady quality of a children’s story book. I can just picture this book sitting on my grandfather’s bookshelf, for him to read me one of the stories each time I visited him. 
Despite the attention to detail, and the care with which this book has been put together, taking a closer look I can’t help but feel something is missing. While the descriptions of the significant historical moments is obviously well researched, the book definitely isn’t a page turner. Some of the images are quite nice, but overall they also fail to attract my attention beyond the 5 minute read of your average coffee table book. Still, I’m keeping it on display! 

The LEGO Adventures Book 3

No starch press has a whole new series of LEGO related titles ready for release and HispaBrick Magazine kicks of its series of reviews with the LEGO Adventure Book 3. I’m a big fan of the series (as are my kids) and parts one and two left us hungry for more. 
The LEGO Adventure Book series has evolved quite a bit since the first part came out in 2013. The formula is still the same. Megs acts as our host and takes us from one scene to the next, visiting builder after builder. Chapters are introduced and tied together with brick built comic scenes that provide the entire book with a single story line, making it both fun to read (especially for kids) and an attractive reference for inspiration and techniques.
Comparing the three volumes, the building explanations have evolved very positively. They are becoming ever clearer (better contrasts and parts angles) and it’s increasingly easy to see what parts are needed to build each model. Most of the builds are explained using photographs of the physical part, but a few of the models are digital renders with ditto instructions. Each section uses a different colour to frame the pages, making it easy to find the part of the book you are looking for.
As with the previous two titles, the book has a little of everything, providing inspiration for different kinds of builders. In this edition Peter Reid shows how to build a space robot Birgitte Jonsgard and Craig Mandeville provide ideas for your LEGO City.
Stephan Sander (interviewed in HBM019) shows how to build cars in a larger scale and Jason Railton takes us to the Steam Fair. You can even learn to build your own food, courtesy of Alex Bidolak or a complete orchestra with the help of Matija Puzar!
I’m particularly enamoured with the first chapter with builder Patrick Bosman. No surprise there as I’m a fan of historical themes and Dutch to boot, but the replica of a street in the Dutch city of Dordrecht, including building instructions for a 17th-century house are beautiful while at the same time giving you the feeling “I can do this as well!” And that’s what these books are all really about: no over the top building techniques but lots of useful ideas and tips anyone can use to improve their own LEGO constructions.
For me the book is a must have, but only one of a series of titles I’ve set my sights on. Want to know more about upcoming LEGO related books? My next review will be in HispaBrick Magazine 023 in just a couple of weeks.

Review: 60092 Deep Sea Submarine

The new deep sea exploring subtheme expands the horizons of the City theme to include the bottom of the sea. It has been several years since we last saw divers of this typeand even more if we only look at Town/City sets. The first wave of this subtheme consists of 6 sets and the 60092 Deep Sea Submarine is a perfect starter. The two smaller sets are little more than minifig packs with accessories and the two largest sets are more than double or triple the price of this one. In addition, the entire action of this set takes place below sea level..

Let's have a closer look at the contents...

Review 21119: The Dungeon (Minecraft)

As a complete Minecraft novice I had to let my daughters put me up to speed about this “exciting universe” of what some have called “unending virtual LEGO”. My first encounter has been through the 21119 – The Dungeon set.

With 219 parts this is the smallest set in this year’s LEGO Minecraft lineup. As is to be expected in this theme, the bricks included in the set are mostly basic – lots of 2x2, 2x4 and some larger bricks as well as a fair amount of plates. There are some “special” bricks though, including a number of small printed plates and tiles to build the mini zombie that goes in the cage (spawner as I learned reading up on the game) and a second one with the spare parts. The set does, however, come with three minifigures – Minecraft style. The square heads of Steve and the two zombies fit well with the Minecraft theme, but don’t feel quite “LEGO”.

No Starch - Humble Bundle 2

No Starch Press, publisher of a wide range of LEGO related books, has teamed up with Humble Bundle (again!) to provide the new Humble "Scholl's Out" Bundle -  a selection of ebooks designed to keep kids (and adults) busy and interested during the holidays. In adddition to books on Arduino, Scratch and Linux, the promo includes The Art of LEGO Design, The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2, The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder's Guide, and the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book.


Review 31031 - Rainforest Animals

31031 Rainforest Animals is one of those new sets that immediately make you think "cute!" LEGO has been offering sets with built animals for a long time, but some of these sets have a special something that make you like them even more..

In part this is due to the colour palette  which works really well with the kind of animals that were chosen and also the obvious character of the parrot that adorns the front of the box addds to the interest of the set. opens to LEGO clone bricks

The the Steering Committee has sent us an exciting press release concerning some important developments in the LDraw system of tools. HispaBrick Magazine 022, which will be published on May 1st will contain additional information on this subject, but we wanted to let you know as soon as possible: is going to allow digital replicas of LEGO clone and custom bricks in its official parts library. This decision has been taken by the Steering Committee yesterday.

In the past had a policy which allowed only representations of parts manufactured by the LEGO group in its official library. This forced part authors to offer their own creations on personal websites and prevented the addition of bricks developed by competitors such as Mega Bloks or Enlighten Brick to the LDraw library.

„We have dropped the restrictions in favour of a wider LDraw experience and believe that clone bricks will affect the building style of our users in a positive way“, said Willy Tschager, member of the Steering Committee. „With LDraw you might use bricks in colours LEGO never moulded and the results are stunning. I guess this will be much true also for some awesome windscreens one can for example find in Mega Bloks 6859 - Call of Duty Hovercraft“, Tschager adds.

In a first round LDraw part authors will submit custom bricks they have designed over the years, such as “Plate 2x2 with studs underneath” or female torsi. Later mainly 3D-counterparts of Mega Bloks, Best-Lock Construction Toys and Kre-O by Hasbro, which have been prepared in the foresight of this allowance. “But it's not limited to those … there are also great pieces in military sets from Kazi or Sluban”, the Steering Committee welcomes the new entries.

The LDraw Parts Tracker, an online system used by the community to review and certify unofficial parts, has been adapted and will offer the possibility to brand the uploaded files according to the manufacturer. Nonetheless the different libraries will be joined, once the users have become familiar with the additions and start mixing LEGO bricks with the clones. By then parts will be distinguishable only by the new !SYSTEM meta-statement in the part-code. Also more general construction toy parts (that don't connect with LEGO) are planned for inclusion in the library in the future: Lincoln Logs, GeoMag (for which a new magnetic connector primitive is in development) and Meccano.

There are also talks with the LDD - LEGO Digital Designer development team at LEGO. „We hope LEGO will joins us in our attempt to add value to the overall building experience, as they did back in 2007 with the development of the so called Lego Universe Mode in their LDD software: In addition to some 1400+ bricks you could suddenly build in any colour, even in colours that haven’t been produced – like transparent tires. Something LDraw could do right from the start in 1995. Nowadays the LDD Extended Mode is normal business and not a hack for LEGO Universe designers. We bet the same will happen to clone bricks in LDD“, Tschager said. There hasn't been a breakthrough in the negotiation so far, but at least signals of cautious opening.

The LDraw System of Tools is a popular system of free software tools for modeling LEGO creations in 3D on a computer. The parts library that is central to the programs is under continuous maintenance and extension by the LDraw community since 1997. LDD as a virtual building experience attracts several million people each year to build a huge range of amazing creations. 

LDraw Content Management
On behalf of the Steering Committee 

Review 10692 Creative Bricks

LEGO launches a “new” theme of ‘basic’ sets that have their very own page on the website: As explained on that page, LEGO classic is oriented towards developing creativity and each set contains a mix of classic bricks together with some special parts. The set is completed with a brick separator and a small booklet that announces 7 different builds as examples of what can be done with the set.

Review 10246 – Detective’s Office

Set: 10246 Detective’s Office
Number of parts: 2262
Minifigs: 6
From the very day I saw the first modular LEGO building I fell in love with the concept. The size and level detail of that building, and all subsequent ones, the stories they tell, the fact that they are all such different styles and yet fit together perfectly – it felt like an AFOLs dream come true. And yet, till this very Detective’s Office I never built (or owned) a single modular building. Why? The answer is easy, and if you know anything about me you can probably guess at least some of the reasons. 

Review – 41062 Elsa’s Sparkling Palace

With two Young girls in the house singing “Let it go” at every opportunity, the LEGO rendering of their favourite Disney story simply had to end up in our house. It took a lot of restraint on my part not to build the set myself, but we had a great building session all together and although I didn’t get to build anything I had my hands full as supreme brick finder and instruction page turner.
The box for this set felt a lot smaller than I had anticipated, but size isn’t the same as quality and since this is a licenced set the price/size ratio was likely to be less favourable than that of other sets. Since the two intended builders have very different ages (4 and 8) and very different skill levels, I split the set up into the main build (Esla’s palace) and the complements. The set contains two instruction booklets, but both my builders needed book 1 at the same time so one used the paper version and the other used the digital version. The experience met with mixed feeling – good on the one hand because each one could build at their own speed, but on the other hand the colours shown in the digital version are sometimes quite different from the parts available in the set, causing some confusion while building.
The complements of this set are rather cute: Olaf the snowman is very well characterised and means the set has 3 minifgs – the other minifigs are of course Ana and Elsa. Elsa is really cool, but my very demanding jury decided her hair was way too short. The cape she wears tends to turn around her neck quite easily and so half the time she wears it like a kind of bib. The sled is a great little detail and the ramp actually works quite well together with the sled. The skates and skis that come with the set allow Ana and Elsa to have lots of fun in the snow. It’s a good thing there is a spare skate, because they are tiny and get lost quite easily.
The palace itself had me puzzled for a while: why are the stairs not secured at the top – the slightest movement will collapse them. Then I had a look at the back of the box and it turns out that is actually a play feature! The kids love it. Elsa arrives at the palace to find a wall of ice and magics the stairs into shape. The kids didn’t like the fact that the only way to get to the top floor of the palace is by flying there. There are no stairs or ladder that lead there, but they quickly built one out of their own LEGO parts – that’s the great thing about LEGO sets: you simply customise anything you don’t like. 
Inside the palace there is an ice-cream bar – another favourite of the kids. And the icicles on the tree are also a really nice touch. All in all the set was a big success. Ana and Elsa are now part of the considerable Friends family that lives on their LEGO table, ready to find out what snowmen do in summer…


Set: 40145 LEGO® Store
Parts: 413 aprox.
Minifigs: 1
Price: Not applicable
We've all dreamt of having a reproduction of a LEGO® Store in bricks, well, it is already real!!!
This is an exclusive set with 413 parts, whose essence is like the Creator sets one, simple and fast building with generic bricks.
The set includes five parts bags, three plates, a small sheet of stickers and the book of instructions.
As mentioned before, in relation to the construction there is not much to tell, a simple construction, a brick over another and not much more. The set is basically walls and some stuff inside, but despite this, the result is really worth it, since, with a few parts the result is great. The best are the details; they have not forgotten to reproduce the Pick a Brick, shelves with sets (this is where the stickers do their job) and some sets built.
Despite the simplicity, it is a great set, you can add color to any City diorama, and complements the LEGO® City Truck (3221).
Building: 6 (easy)
Playability: 7 (fits perfectly in any diorama)
Parts: 5 (generic pieces)
Price: Not applicable (exclusive, not known how to get it)
Final Mark: 8 (due to the charm and the desire to have a LEGO® Store)

Review - LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials

Packt publishing has recently entered the list of publishing houses that carry books about LEGO. So far they have a single title related to the EV3, but a second title is scheduled to be released in January.
The first title is "Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials". Before going into the contents of this book, I'd like to highlight that the digital version of the book is available in several formats: PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle, so you can read the book in the format that best fits the device you use at any time. I cannot say anything about the physical book as I have not had it in my hands. As can be expected, the programs that appear in the book can also be downloaded from the publisher's website
The subtitle of the book "Create and program complex autonomous robots using the third generation Lego Mindstorms kit" doesn't provide many clues as to the contents, but promises an interesting book.


LEGO MINDSTORMS EssentialsPackt Publishing is one of the many publishing houses that has decided to offer LEGO MINDSTORMS related books. I have just received a copy of LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials which at first glance offers a very complete though basic overview of the EV3 elements and the on-brick programming feature after which it moves on to an introduction into programming the EV3 with Java.

The original price for the eBook with sample code (PDF and ePUB formats) is around $18, but until January 6th you can get any Packt title for just $5

If you feel the book is right for you, go ahead and take advantage of the offer. If you want a more in depth review, come back in a couple of days and I'll let you know what I think of the book.


Book Cover

Anyone who knows the name Yoshihito Isogawa will immediately associate it with clever colourful contraptions made with stock LEGO pieces. When No Starch Press decided to print Tora No Maki, his LEGO Technic Idea book, it was an immediate success, despite the fact that most of the information was already available as a free PDF download. Idly leafing through those books is a visual pleasure and a source of inspiration for all kinds of mechanical solutions.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book is based on the same principle, but applied to the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, or rather, to the inventory of the EV3 Retail set (31313). Although the book includes a few very simple programming instructions it doesn’t teach programming. It also doesn’t include instructions for abuilding any robots. So what is the book about?