Jetro's blog

Review - The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book

The second No Starch Press title of the season (after Tiny LEGO Wonders) is also about tiny builds, but with a completely different angle. Chris McVeigh presents a series of miniature builds that serve (mostly) as Christmas ornaments.
The book contains 15 builds. Each build starts with a nicely set picture of the model, followed by an inventory with LEGO part numbers. 
The step-by-step instructions that follow are clear and easy to follow and always on the same festive, light-green background.
The book has a contents page, but there is no visual reference to the models and I found it quite challenging to remember the difference between the Barrel, the Ball, the Bow and the Lantern, to name several of the “ball-shaped” ornaments in the list. The fact that all the pages are the same colour makes it slightly less easy to locate the start of each model.
There is really only one page with text in the book, the Introduction, which is a kind of postcard to the reader and an invitation to mix up the colours and check out the author’s website: for more ornament designs.
Of course I did, and I was surprised to find that most of the designs in the book are already available as free downloadable PDFs on the website, although for the most part with different names. Only the last three models are not (yet?) on the website [1] and they are also some of my favourites: the computer, the camera and the burger. 
The great thing about these builds is that with a few exceptions they use standard parts that are easily obtained. They also include a couple of nice building techniques, but at the same time, these are simple though fun builds.
The book is beautifully bound in a hard cover and looks like a perfect holiday present. 
[1] It turns out thses models are in fact on the website, just not in the Ornaments category, but under Tech and Food!

Review - Tiny LEGO Wonders

It’s that time again: No Starch Press kicks off a new series of LEGO themed books and the very first in the series is Tiny LEGO Wonders. 

Goodbye Seymour Papert

Last Sunday, July 31, Seymour Papert passed away at the age of 88. Papert was the first LEGO Professor of Learning Research and inventor of LOGO, the first programming language for children.

Seymour Papert worked closely with LEGO on the development of the first generation of LEGO MINDSTORMS, but that was not his only contribution to the company. His theory of learning, called constructionism, had a profound impact on what is now known as LEGO Education.

On the occasion of his death, HispaBrick Magazine has republished an article from HBM016 about the evolution of LEGO MINDSTORMS in which Seymour Papert plays an important role.

You can read the article here and download HBM016 (or any other edition of the magazine from our dowloads page

Upcoming LEGO titles

no starch press is presenting its line-up of LEGO related books for this summer, kicking off with a book by Mattia Zamboni, titled Tiny LEGO Wonders.
You might recognise his name from an earlier no starch press title we reviewed as he prepared the beautiful building instructions for The LEGO Build-It Book (1 and 2) with models by Nathanael Kuipers (reviewed in HBM017 and HBM018 respectively).
Build-it books seem to be all the rage as some of the other titles that will be released shortly include Geeky LEGO Crafts – 21 Fun and Quirky Projects and The LEGO Christmas Ornament Book.
Stay tuned for more information on all of these and some other exciting titles soon to be revealed. And remember, you can use the discount coupon code HISPABRICK on any of the upcoming titles to get a 30% discount!!

42056 LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Set number: 42065
Set name:    Porsche 911 GT3 RS
# of parts:    2704
The growing size of the Technic flagships appears to be an unstoppable trend. The LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS completely obliterates all previous records for size and sets the bar almost 50% higher than the previous model. In a couple of months even that record will be history, but until then I can boast I have the largest official Technic set ever.

BlueSmartControl - Automate your LEGO creations

Recently I’ve had a chance to test the latest versión of an exciting new platform that allows you to control your Technic (and other motorised) creations via Bluetooth. The product is called BlueSmartControl or BSC as the developers abbreviate it. Up to now, the product wasn’t commercially available, but recently a Kickstarter camapign was lauched to fund the product and so I decided write an entry on our blog.

21305 • The Maze Review

Without a doubt, the old-school mechanical mazes, where one had to carefully navigate a ball through a treacherous path, were among the most common items on the children's Christmas wishlists for decades. While nowadays less common in their original wooden form, thanks to the LEGO Ideas programme they have recently been reincarnated as a new LEGO set.
If you are familiar with the originals, the similarity of their LEGO counterpart has surely not escaped you. The colours, the layout, the wheel controls at the sides, and even the rotating mechanism are precisely reconstructed, and offer the very same functionality.

LDraw All-In-One-Installer 2015-02

A new version of the All-In-One-Installer for LDraw has been release (2015-02), which contains pudated versions of a number of programs and the latest LDraw parts library. 
This is the full announcement::
An updated version of the LDraw[1] All-In-One-Installer, in short AIOI, has been released. 
The AIOI supports Windows XP (Home and Pro), Windows Vista or higher (all versions). On 64-Bit Operating Systems it will install in the "Program files (x86)" folder. The Installer will NOT run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT Ver 4, 2000, or XP below SP2. 
It contains the following changes:
Upgraded to LDraw Parts Library 2015-02
Upgraded to LPub3D
Upgraded to LDCad 1.5
Added LSulpt 0.5.0
Added tons of OMR-Models
Lets you decide the location of the LDraw parts library
You can download the AIOI from: 
Many thanks to all the programmers who contributed to this release. 
Willy Tschager 
( Content Manager)
[1] LDraw is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes. You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations.

WeDo 2.0


CES (Computer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas is always an excellent reference and a showcase for the new technologies that will appear in the coming year. This year is no different. LEGO have just announced  a new product: WeDo 2.0

WeDo came to market in 2009, geared towards starting robotics with primary school children. The first version of WeDo had a USB tether or hub to which 1 motor and 1 sensor or 2 sensors could be connected. The software runs on a computer that acts as the brain of the gadgets that are built with LEGO elements that are mostly from the System catalogue (stackable rather modern "Technic").

Version 2.0, which was presented today, comes with several important updates to this earlier platform. The main novelty is the fact that the new hub is not tethered, but rather a kind of intelligent battery box (for standar batteries or a separately sold battery pack) which connects to the computer via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). 

This makes it possible to program the hub, not only via a computer, but also from a portable device (iPad/Android tablet) or even a Chrome Book (the latter in the second half of 2016).

Also new is the way motor and sensors connect to the hub. At first glance, the canbles already look wider than usual, but upon closer examintation it is clear to see that the connector type used is very similar to the one you see in MINDSTORMS. :
In the following image you can see all the electronic elements in the set: the hub, a new motor and two sensors. The sensors are said to be more advanced, but it remains to be seen whether that is because the software now includes options that were already available in Scratch or because they are really better.
The software for WeDo 2.0 can be downloaded free of charge, but LEGO also offers a paid curriculum pack with +40 hours of lesson plans.
It looks like the price of the new set will be around €160, which sounds quite good, taking into account the technological update, the fact that the software is now included and the larger number of elements that in the first WeDo set. 2015-02 Parts update now available

We have received the following annoncement from the LDraw Team:
The 2015-02 LDraw[1] Parts update has been now been released. This adds 439 new files to the core library, including 218 new parts and 15 new primitives.
This update includes another batch of improved and corrected parts. This is largely due to the work of Roland Melkert with the 'libfix version' of LDCad. Significant effort has also been expended by Magnus Forsberg to inline dithered colour subfiles (a now obsolete technique).
Thanks are once again due to all the part authors who created or corrected parts for this release. The reviewers also play an important role in keeping files moving through the tracker and deserve just as much credit.
You can preview the new parts in 2015-02 here, download the zip-file update or Windows install package here. Alternatively you can use the LDView menu option File | Check for Library Updates... to install the update.
The LDraw Team
[1] LDraw is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes. You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations. 

Review - Bansky

Skyhorse publishing has brought out another LEGO & Art related book. In his new book "Bricksy – Unauthorised Underground Brick Street Art” the artist Jeff Friesen presents his personal vision of street art with a touch of ABS.
Bricksy presents a critical view of society that goes beyond merely reproducing works of art in lEGO: each of the creations adds another layer to the original work of art by street artist Bansky. With this extra touch, often between comical and caustic, Jeff Friesen's pictures become works of art in their own right.
The building style of the creations, although not the main aim of the book, is always of excellent quality. In addition, beneath each of the vignettes there is a thumbnail image of the original Bansky artwork that inspired it and often also a short caption. At the end of the book there is a complete list of Bansky originals with larger images and links to online locations where you can see them even bigger. There is also a FAQ with questions (and answers) about the creative process behind Jeff Friesen's photographs.
If you would like to see more of Jeff Friesen's work you can visit 2015-01 Parts Update Now Available

The LDraw Team has sent out the following announcement:
The 2015-01 LDraw Parts Update has now been released. This update includes 502 new files in the core library, including 338 new parts and 34 new primitives.
This update includes an unusually large, but welcome, proportion of improved and corrected parts. This is largely due to the work of Roland Melkert with the 'libfix version' of LDCad. Significant effort has also been expended by Magnus Forsberg to inline dithered colour subfiles (a now obsolete technique). Most of the obsoleted subfiles will be released in a future update.
You can preview the new parts in 2015-01 and download the update from the Latest Parts page.
The LDraw Team
Want to know how to use these parts? Check out our step by step tutorials in the back issues of HispaBrick Magazine!

Review 41100 - Heartlake Private Jet

Heartlake city is expanding and part of that expansion includes a brand new airport. There are two sets in this section of Heartlake City, the Heartlake City Airport, which features a complete terminal and a large airliner, and the smaller Heartlake Privaye Jet that comes with a metal detector and x-ray luggage checkpoint. 
I’ve never been a big fan of LEGO planes in general – creating a realistic plane in many cases “requires” the use of very specific and very large parts. Take for example the wings of the passenger plane that comes with the airport (Bricklink #93541), a single piece that consists of both wings joined by a middle section. The Heartlake Private Jet also includes a couple of these larger parts, specifically for the cockpit and the tail section of the plane, though due to the smaller size of the plane they are of course also smaller. This kind of part does make the plane look more realistic, and there are smaller parts too that have an equally specific use: the engines to name one. Still, seeing those specific large parts in a set has always held me back from acquiring any of them. 
This time there was good cause for revamping our Heartlake layout and going with the holiday spirit of the moment we decided to give it a go. The single booklet that comes with the set starts with the smaller accessories to the set: the metal detector gate and the luggage checkpoint; two simple but very nicely designed elements that really make the set mode complete (even if private jet plane passengers are unlikely to have to go through either one of these security measures).
The little seat that comes with the luggage checkpoint once again drives home what to me is one of the biggest issues with the LEGO Friends minifigs: they can’t really sit down without falling off quite easily. My little helpers weren’t too bothered about this though: the seat was removed and security personnel will simply have to stand.
Construction of the private jet starts from the bottom up, and in this case the wings are built using several parts giving them a very nice look. The cockpit takes a single pilot, held in place in the standard LEGO Friends way, by means of a panel with center divider. The central section can take 2 VIP passengers in comfortable first class chairs placed opposite one another. The rear section is a mix between cargo area and kitchen for the flight attendant.
Oddly enough, the sticker that is applied to one of the panels that separate the passenger section from this service section is decorated with what looks like perfume bottles on a shelf. Some kind of food and drinks would have been more consistent with the kind of plane it is on. I can’t imagine being offered perfume at a discount during a private jet trip.
I complained about the engines of the plane, but that isn’t entirely accurate. They are actually made up of three separate parts and look absolutely great on the plane. I also loved the front landing gear which can swivel and so the plan can taxi comfortably to the runway.
Of course the ultimate test for the quality of any set is the reaction of its intended audience. Suffice it to say half of the population of Heartlake has been given a tour on the newly acquired plane and there is still a steady stream of passengers coming in every day. The set is an absolute success and a great addition to the diversity of Heartlake City.

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&