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.
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.
The the LDraw.org 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:
LDraw.org is going to allow digital replicas of LEGO clone and custom bricks in its official parts library. This decision has been taken by the LDraw.org Steering Committee yesterday.
In the past LDraw.org 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 LDraw.org 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 LDraw.org Steering Committee
Packt 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.
In the latest issue of HispaBrick Magazine we included a review of the 42030 Remote Controlled Volvo L350F Wheel Loader, a collaboration between LEGO and Volvo. The following video shows some insights into the design process of this great set:
DK publishing has been so kind as to send me a copy of the “LEGO® Play Book” for review. The book sports the subtitle “Ideas to bring your bricks to life”. It is a beautifully bound, 200 page hard cover edition, in line with other LEGO related DK books. However, I was more interested to see the little blurb in the bottom right corner of the cover: “More than 500 build and play ideas from LEGO® fans”. A book made by fans – but what fans?
The table of contents (which spans 4 pages) gives a very clear answer to that question. The book is split up into 5 themes sections and next to each section you will find a LEGO avatar of the fan/builder in charge of the section together with a short bio including such information as their age, job, LEGO specialty and favourite brick.
So who are these fans? The section “once upon a time”, is presented by Barney Main – if you don’t immediately recognise one or more of the names of the fans, I encourage you to do a quick google search for their names (e.g. Barney Main LEGO) and you will soon discover these are not “just” a couple of fans, but a select group of specialists in the different fields. The builds go from large (a castle) and detailed (a close-up of the construction of an arrow slit) to small and simply ingenious (a pair of “angled plates” on a neck bracket turn a minifig into a flying fairy). But what stands out especially in this section are the brick built creatures and characters in this section.
Next up Tim Goddard with “A small world” dedicated to microscale; a great introduction to building small, but with maximum effect. Then Pete Reid and Yvonne Doyle “Go wild!”, building animals of all sizes. Rod Gilles takes on “Things that go bump in the night” with spooky builds that also provide ideas for plenty of other uses. Tim Johnson closes off with “Wish you were here” (any section that uses the title of one of my all-time favourite Pink Floyd songs can only be great), building the holiday season. I was especially interested to see his Holiday Postcards which are a kind of 3D mosaics.
The book is full of interesting ideas. There are no very special building techniques, but then again that isn’t the aim of the book. It Is, however, a real eye-opener to the fact that you can go a very long way with a handful of relatively basic LEGO elements.
A recurring feature in the book is a section called “Handful of bricks” in which the builders suggest constructions related to their specific themes with a small predetermined set of bricks that is the same for all of them. The selection of bricks for this section is listed on the very last page of the book and is indeed a collection of common elements in small quantities that any fan is likely to have in their collection. While the builds are not especially brilliant, they do provide extra inspiration and a sense that anyone can build something cool without the need for either a large collection or specialised elements.
The book has already been adopted by my kids (meaning I effectively no longer own it) and ever since they got their hands on it there have been little LEGO sketches everywhere, trying to mimic many of the ideas provided in the book. The book is also visually attractive meaning it has been read and reread on multiple car trips and new and inspiring ideas are being discovered by the new owners on a regular basis.
How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Toy Industry
According to the press release from Random House Business Books, “Brick by Brick is the fascinating account of the iconic toymaker LEGO and its rise, perilous fall, and spectacular rise again to become the world’s fastest growing toy company.” The book was written by David Roberson, an innovation specialist, with the help of Bill Breen, a writer who has helped to make the text more accessible.
Despite its brick-decorated cover, the first impression of the book might not make you want to immediately buy it as a valuable addition to your LEGO book collection. The fact that the book is written by a former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management, published in the Business Books catalogue and that it “details the unique innovation guidance system that allows managers to channel the company’s creative endeavours” may not inspire much confidence that you will actually enjoy the contents.
However, even before turning to the first page there are several hints that the contents are worth reading: David Robertson made more than a dozen trips to Billund and conducted interviews with Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen and LEGO CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp as well as dozens of other senior managers. He also met Adam Reed Tucker (for all intents and purposes the originator of LEGO Architecture) and Steven Hassenplug (one of the first 4 AFOLs who were brought aboard to help in the development of the MINDSTORMS NXT).
Despite rumours to the contrary, I seriously doubt anyone really believed the Lord Of The Rings theme was finished after a single year. However, none of the early rumours pointed to anything remotely similar to a ship in this theme. The fact of the matter is that the pirate ships used by the army of the dead are only a marginal (though not unimportant) part of the story as a whole, but a ship allows for a different kind of construction from what we have seen so far in this theme. The piece count is relatively low for the largest set in a theme, but the set contains a number of rather large pieces (the hull parts and sails) that give the set a considerable volume. In addition, the set comes with no less than 9 minifigures, many of which are exclusive to the set.